When Pigs Fly
Genre: Drama, episode addition, references to T/T romance
Archive: Please ask me first.
Disclaimer: Star Trek: Enterprise is the property of CBS/Paramount. All original material herein is the property of its author.
Spoilers: Through "Awakening." References to events revealed in "Bound."
Summary: Trip Tucker and Ambassador Soval, working together in the aftermath of the embassy bombing on Vulcan, make enlightening discoveries about one another.
A/N: I really enjoyed watching the friendship forming between Trip and Soval in the Vulcan arc. It would have been fun to see more of it.
This is one of the stories I submitted to Strange New Worlds 10.
Thanks to my betas WenyaLudjin, slj91, and Jenna.
When Pigs Fly
July 3, 2154
NX-01 Enterprise: C. Tucker, acting Captain
For a moment, Trip thought Soval was going to pass out. Pale and shaken, the Vulcan swayed unsteadily as he backed away from the comatose corporal in the biobed. "Stel," he said softly. "Stel brought the explosive device into the embassy."
"That pencilneck from the Security Directorate?" Trip asked in astonishment. "V'Las's lapdog?"
Soval nodded wordlessly, then moved away, putting a hand to the wall of Sickbay to steady himself.
Trip turned to Phlox, who was barely keeping a lid on his outrage. "What does the High Command have against Syrrannites that could possibly warrant framing them for mass murder?" the doctor asked.
Trip's mind was already racing. He'd gone looking for a bomber, and instead uncovered a bombshell, in the form of a High Command conspiracy. How far did it extend? All the way to the Administrator himself? Trip might as well dangle some bait and see if he could find out. He crossed to a comm panel and thumbed it. "Tucker to Sato."
"Sato," Hoshi's voice said from the bridge.
"Hoshi, I need you to send a message to the High Command."
"Message only, sir?"
"That's right. I don't want to talk to any of 'em. Address the message to Administrator V'Las. Tell him we have compelling new evidence regarding the Embassy bomber, and we request that he and Chief Investigator Stel join us on Enterprise as soon as possible."
"Thanks, Hoshi. Tucker out." Trip took another look at Soval, who was still taking refuge against the wall, his back to the bright lights and very public arena of Sickbay. He looked so... vulnerable. It was a word Trip thought he would never have applied to the notoriously haughty old Vulcan.
He approached Soval, making sure not to crowd him. When he caught sight of the ambassador's profile, it was startling. Soval's mask of impassivity was gone, exposing the shattered expression of a man whose belief system was in a shambles, whose loyalties were in question, whose trust had been betrayed... and whose grief for his lost colleague, Admiral Forrest, still lingered.
"Ambassador?" Trip said quietly. "Perhaps you'd be more comfortable waiting in the conference room."
Slowly, Soval nodded. "Yes, Commander. Thank you."
24 hours earlier
"Ambassador Cranky is a good guy?" Trip shook his head dizzily as Archer pulled on the tan-colored jacket of his desert suit. "This is messin' up my whole belief system."
Archer zipped up his duffle bag. "How's that?"
"There are certain rock-solid, universal truths that I've always been able to depend on," Trip said. "Y'know, hell won't freeze, and pigs don't fly, and Soval is a bitter old grouch who has dedicated his cantankerous and condescending existence to bein' a roadblock to humanity, not a helping hand."
"He has pledged to support us in our investigation of the bombing," Archer said patiently. "And he has come bearing gifts— classified satellite data smuggled straight from the Vulcan Security Directorate."
Trip groaned. "Aw, I can't take much more of this. Next thing you know, someone'll be tellin' me that Koss is a stand-up guy."
Archer smiled as he gave Porthos a farewell pat. "Keep an open mind, Trip. Soval may surprise you."
Trip rolled his eyes. "Don't expect us to be best buddies or anything."
July 3, 2154
NX-01 Enterprise: C. Tucker, acting Captain
By the time they reached the softly-lit conference room, Soval had regained his composure, but Trip suspected there was still a lot of pain and emotion hidden just under the surface. With a quiet dignity to which Trip hadn't yet become accustomed, Soval crossed to the viewport and gazed silently out at the fiery orange-red world below.
Trip realized with some surprise that he and Soval had made the shift from adversaries to allies without any awkwardness or hard feelings. Maybe all they'd needed was a reason to stop sniping and poking at each other— a common goal.
Trip imagined that hell must be starting to cool considerably right about now.
He cleared his throat. "If you'll excuse me, Ambassador, I have to go check on..." His mind chose this moment to go utterly blank. He mentally smacked himself in the head. "Hell, there's gotta be something I have to check on— I'm in command. I'll just get outta your hair now." He turned to go.
"You need not leave, Commander," Soval said. "Though I appreciate your consideration."
Soval? Appreciative? Trip could imagine snow starting to fall in hell... pretty little flakes piling up in drifts, giving the hellfire-tenders fits.
He stayed, but he wasn't quite sure what to do next. Soval glanced back at him. "You are curious about what you saw in Sickbay."
Damn straight. But a certain sub-Commander had long ago made clear to Trip how obsessively private Vulcans were. "I don't want to pry."
"You have uncommon self-restraint, Commander," Soval remarked, straight-faced. "Ordinarily, I find humans to be virtually helpless in the face of their curiosity."
Trip cocked his head. "Let me think about that a minute. It might turn out to be a compliment."
Soval's eyes sparkled, and Trip got the impression the old Vulcan was amused. He resumed his contemplation of his homeworld. "The time of keeping secrets, for me at any rate, is past."
Trip chewed his lower lip. "Y'know, I've heard a lot of nasty names applied to you. Used a few of 'em myself. But 'deviant' never came up."
In the viewport's reflection, he saw Soval's lips quirk up, ever so slightly. The Vulcan equivalent of a gale of laughter, no doubt. "Then we must certainly add it to the list," Soval said dryly.
Good gravy, Soval has wit, too? Trip was picturing hell as a veritable winter wonderland now. Icicles hanging from pitchforks. Demons building snowmen. Skaters doing figure-eights on frozen-over brimstone.
"So what did melders do to get saddled with that reputation?" he asked Soval.
Trip frowned in confusion. "Come again?"
"The belief that melding is a shameful act was invented and disseminated by the High Command, in order to discourage the practice," Soval said matter-of-factly.
Trip was appalled. Soval continued, "Another dissuasive tactic was the notion, supported by credible but faulty data, that the melding ability is a genetic rarity." A faint tinge of disgust colored his voice. "The High Command's subversive campaign was so successful that melders were openly persecuted, and forced into hiding. Skilled melders were few, and self-taught practitioners lacked the training to perform the procedure safely. This gave rise to the High Command's third weapon: Pa'nar Syndrome."
It was simple enough for Trip to guess. "A made-up disease, to make the made-up stigma even worse."
Soval nodded. "Pa'nar is supposedly an incurable neural disease spread only through mind-melds. Once diagnosed, an individual is forever branded. In point of fact, the neurological damage is caused by a lack of proper training on the part of the melder. The condition has been known since Surak's time, and is quite curable. But the 'disease' known as Pa'nar better served the High Command's goal of turning melders into pariahs. The melders themselves unwittingly aided in their own condemnation."
Trip knew the VHC was low, but this scenario Soval had revealed was almost incomprehensible. "So what's the truth?" he asked.
"I believe, as the Syrrannites do, that mind-melding is the heritage of every Vulcan— that we all have the ability," Soval replied. "With the proper training, any Vulcan would be able to touch minds with another."
Any Vulcan... T'Pol? That was much too intriguing a notion for Trip to ignore. To touch minds with T'Pol, and reveal their feelings for each other once and for all—
A fat lot of good that would do him now, with her married. Maybe it wasn't such a good idea after all. Trip filed it away with his other hopeless T'Pol-dreams... the thoughts and images that came to him unbidden, haunting him about a future they'd been on the verge of sharing together, but would never have now.
Damn it all, he hadn't figured on falling even more in love with her after she got married.
"Why would the High Command want to keep melding such a big secret?" he asked Soval. "What are they so afraid of?"
"As you saw in Sickbay, melds reveal truths," Soval replied. "Skilled melders would pose a threat to those who have been concealing truths and spreading lies, on a planetary scale. Naturally, one would begin to wonder what other truths have been hidden, what other deceptions have been presented as truths... and why."
"Melders would level the playing field," Trip said thoughtfully. "Truth would be worth something again."
"Precisely." Soval gazed out the viewport at Vulcan once more. "There is a rumor, which I have yet to confirm, that all Syrrannites have the ability to meld... that they have been trained by those among them who possess the proper skills. I admit— privately, to you— to being curious as to the truth of this rumor. It is intriguing to contemplate... an entire community of melders, as Vulcan was purported to be in Surak's time."
"Not a whole lot of secrets in a society like that," Trip remarked with a smile.
"Accessing thoughts and memories is only one use of mind-melding," Soval replied. "Healing melds are employed to assist in an individual's recovery from serious illness. Melding is a form of communion between friends and family. And a meld greatly enhances a mating bond."
"Mating bond?" Here was another new concept. And this one sounded seductive... and a little scary.
"A psychic connection that forms when two Vulcans establish a relationship of sufficient intimacy," Soval explained. "When couples marry, they spend their first year together in order to facilitate the formation of their bond."
Fascination and uneasiness warred for supremacy inside Trip's head as he tried to imagine it. "So they can read each other's thoughts?"
"It is more a sensing of each other's presence in their minds, even when they are separated by great distance. The bond may be empathic or telepathic, depending on the natural mental abilities of the individuals involved." Soval studied Tucker with interest. "You are frowning, Commander."
Trip shifted uncomfortably. "The idea of having somebody inside your head... I find it a little disturbing, is all."
Soval's expression softened, revealing an unexpected wistfulness. "But when that mind bound to yours belongs to the one you cherish above all others, its constant presence is deeply satisfying... as vital as breathing." His eyes seemed to focus on something far away, his face taking on a glow of contentment that Trip had never seen from him before. Then Trip realized Soval was looking into the past, seeing memories from long ago.
"You reach out with your mind upon awakening, to touch her presence in greeting," Soval went on. "You feel her mind embrace yours, as you fall asleep at day's end. And to mind-meld with your bondmate is to experience the deepest of connections. It is a profoundly intimate joining of thoughts, memories, emotions. You become two halves of one heart, one soul..."
Trip watched as Soval's eyes slowly refocused on the present... on Enterprise's conference room, and Trip. Those eyes were warm with reminiscence, but also held a poignant sadness. "You've shared this with your wife," Trip said quietly. "But she's gone now."
Soval nodded. "After she died, I wished to be as far from Vulcan as possible. I was distressingly pessimistic; the High Command thought me ideal for a posting on Earth. I volunteered for service at the embassy there. I thought my posting would last but one year..."
Trip studied Soval, much as the Vulcan had studied him earlier. "Ambassador, I'm beginning to think your insufferable reputation has been greatly exaggerated."
Soval arched an elegant eyebrow, the very picture of dignified innocence.
Trip was intrigued. "Tell me more."
"The High Command has, in recent years, become increasingly enamored of the power and influence it wields over both Vulcans and other species," Soval explained. "Its members are encouraged to use deception and persecution to maintain that power and achieve their objectives. It would be ill-advised for any member to openly profess a significantly different viewpoint other than utter superiority."
Trip felt a chill go through him. "Or to engage in an officially deviant practice."
Soval regarded him calmly. "Of course."
Trip leaned heavily against the sill of the viewport as the ramifications of the mind-meld in Sickbay became horribly clear. He'd been so focused on getting the information about the bomber from that comatose kid from the embassy, he hadn't cared a whit about whatever embarrassment Soval might experience from engaging in an allegedly "deviant" act. Soval's reluctance had seemed petty at the time anyway, when measured against what could be gained. If Trip hadn't pushed him...
Even though Soval had made the final choice to perform the meld, Trip couldn't help feeling responsible for what the cost might be. "What's gonna happen to you when V'Las finds out our evidence came from your mind-meld?"
Soval shrugged faintly, just the barest tilt of his head. "Irrelevant, considering the critical importance of the information."
Vulcans! Trip clamped down on his exasperation, keeping his voice quiet and even. "It's relevant to me."
Soval inclined his head in appreciation. "To work for the betterment of my world, I have, of necessity, lived more than one lie. I find it a relief to cast off the lies at last, and instead use truth to serve my people, and yours."
As the old Vulcan turned back to view the planet below, Trip found himself adding another term to the group of shiny new words he was using to describe his evolving regard for Soval: respect. Who'da thunk it? He looked past the ambassador, out the viewport, letting his eyes drift up from Vulcan to the endless blackness of space.
As he peered back and forth, Soval watched him curiously. "Commander... what are you doing?"
Trip smiled to himself. "Looking for flying pigs."
July 5, 2154
NX-01 Enterprise: C. Tucker, acting Captain
Outer periphery of 40 Eridani A system, beyond Vulcan's orbit
It had taken all the self-control Trip possessed to give the order to break orbit and leave Vulcan. He knew full well that Administrator V'Las's ships were waiting to bombard the Syrrannite encampment on the Forge. He knew that Captain Archer and T'Pol were down there, along with hundreds of Syrrannites— all defenseless sitting ducks.
Leaving was the correct command decision; Trip had the safety of Enterprise and her crew to think about. The Vulcan ships were kicking the crap out of them. But he still felt like he had abandoned the Captain and T'Pol. He wished for the umpteenth time that he had a way of contacting them. Then, resolutely, he pushed his concern down into his gut, where it could go back to gnawing at him.
He was ordering extra personnel to the decompressed section of C-Deck when he first felt it... a vague sense of foreboding. But he'd already gotten a damage report from Malcolm, and the injured had been moved to Sickbay. His people were on top of everything; there shouldn't be any surprises.
But the nagging sensation inside him only grew. As he restlessly prowled the bridge, Trip crossed to the science station, trying to focus on something else. Soval was attempting another long-range scan of the Forge to locate the Captain and T'Pol— again, no luck. The Vulcan ships had chased Enterprise too far out to pick up anything through the area's dampening field.
As he hovered beside Soval, Trip's nebulous unease suddenly ignited into crystal-sharp panic, spreading through his body like wildfire. He sucked in a breath of shock as he felt a horrific pain searing its way through his heart— but somehow he knew the pain wasn't physical. What the hell...?
As he angled away from the rest of the bridge, he noticed Soval's eyes flicking up, focusing on him with concern. "Commander?" the Vulcan said softly.
Trip knew his cover was blown with Soval, but for some reason, he didn't care. The rest of the bridge personnel, that was something else. He didn't want everybody in an uproar, not when he didn't even know what was going on.
The terror was overwhelming him, and the anguish in his heart was getting worse with each passing second. The notion that he was having an actual premonition of disaster was a bunch of hooey, but he had to make sure. "Malcolm?" he called, bending over Soval's console, as if studying the data there. "Ship's status?"
"Dr. Phlox reports that none of the casualties are in serious condition," Reed reported. "C-Deck has been repressurized and emergency bulkheads raised; damage control teams are inside now. All is proceeding apace, sir."
Trip couldn't get a clear view without giving himself away, but Reed's voice was calm enough. "Thank you." He was being assaulted by emotions now— helplessness, sadness, and a bottomless grief that threatened to swallow him whole. He shut his eyes, struggling to take a full breath.
"May I be of assistance?" Soval asked in a low voice.
"I don't know," Trip whispered helplessly. "I feel... I'm feeling..." The emotion had him tight around the throat now, making it difficult even to speak.
Soval rose. "Perhaps you would be more comfortable elsewhere."
Trip met the Vulcan's gaze and nodded. Steeling himself, he turned and started toward the captain's ready room, willing himself not to stumble. Soval fell into step with him, staying close by his side.
"We'll be in the ready room, Malcolm," Trip said. Amazingly, his voice sounded normal.
"Aye," Reed replied, hardly glancing up from his console.
The door to the ready room closed behind Soval just as Commander Tucker's knees buckled. Soval caught him, helping him into a chair. "Shall I call Dr. Phlox?" he asked.
Tucker shook his head, even as he grimaced. "No... no... this isn't physical." Indeed, the commander was in obvious distress, but the cause appeared to be emotional. Tears were welling in his eyes. When one droplet spilled down his cheek, Tucker rubbed at his face, then stared at his damp fingers in confusion.
He spoke haltingly, his voice filled with anguish. "It feels like— God, like when I first looked down into that trench in Florida, where my hometown used to be— where my sister's house used to be. I pictured her down there, trapped under the rubble, and I was terrified that she'd been waiting three months for me to get home and dig her out. And then it hit me... she wasn't down there. She was gone. She was dead."
He groped for words. "This isn't my grief I'm feeling. It feels like... somebody else's." He turned to Soval, looking completely at a loss. "What the hell's goin' on?"
Soval regarded the commander in stunned silence. Tucker's physical and emotional torment, coupled with his own halting explanation, seemed to indicate... But such an idea was ridiculous.
Surely Tucker could not be feeling the empathic resonance of a mating bond.
A human bonded with a Vulcan? It was unprecedented. Soval doubted it was possible.
Even if it could be true, the only logical candidate for a hypothetical bondmate would be T'Pol, and she was married— albeit in a bizarre, tradition-defying arrangement that had admittedly raised suspicion in Soval's mind that her wish to return to Enterprise involved more than her Starfleet career. Tucker and T'Pol would have conducted themselves with honor since the marriage; Soval had no doubts regarding their strength of character. But... there could have been a liaison between them beforehand.
Tucker certainly seemed unaware of any bond, if his baffled reaction was any indication. Could a connection have begun to manifest without his knowledge, or T'Pol's? If their relationship was emotional as well as physical, it was certainly a possibility.
The Syrrannite encampment had undoubtedly been attacked by V'Las's forces as soon as Enterprise left Vulcan's orbit. If T'Pol had lost someone close to her— her mother, perhaps, or even Captain Archer— her mental cry of despair would be intense enough to be felt instantly by a bondmate, even if their psychic link were nascent... and unconscious.
If this bond existed, it would be an extraordinary development.
Spotting a carafe of water on the table, Soval poured a glass and placed it in the commander's unsteady hand. It would not be proper to discuss the bond with Tucker, especially under these uncertain circumstances; in any case, T'Pol's marriage made the situation infinitely more complicated. In truth, Soval did not know whether to speak of it at all.
"It is possible that you have latent telepathic abilities," he finally said. It was a form of the truth, after all. "You could be sensing the emotions of someone at the Syrrannite camp, if there was an attack."
"I'm an engineer, not a psychic." Tucker sipped the water gratefully. His emotional agitation seemed to be easing; apparently the reverberation from the bond was fading. His concern remained strong, however. "Could this be some kind of long-distance mind-meld? Is somebody messing with me— trying to make me think the captain and T'Pol are dead, so we'll give up and leave?"
Wishing to allay the commander's fears, Soval replied, "On the contrary, I believe T'Pol is very much alive."
Tucker searched Soval's face hopefully. "You know something I don't?"
Soval mentally berated himself for his error. Now Tucker's curiosity was even more piqued. Carefully, he sidestepped the commander's query. "I know that if V'Las were foolish enough to harm them, it would be tantamount to an act of war."
Tucker scowled. "I don't think V'Las gives a damn if he starts a war. You said yourself that he'll do anything to get what he wants."
The commander's words were deeply troubling. They reminded Soval of V'Las's true reason for targeting the Syrrannites: to eliminate them as a possible obstacle to his goal of launching a war against Andoria. "If V'Las is allowing his emotions and personal desires to dictate his actions to the point of rationalizing murder," he told Tucker, "even the possibility would be justification enough for removing him from power until he is questioned by the rest of the council."
"That's a start." Tucker splashed water from the carafe on his face. He appeared steadier now. "I think it's ending, whatever it was." He looked pointedly at Soval. "You didn't answer my question, Ambassador."
"Soval. I am no longer an ambassador."
"Soval. How do you know T'Pol's all right?"
Soval could not help but be impressed by Tucker's stubborn determination not to be put off. "I cannot yet say with certainty," he replied, after a moment's pause. "You will have to trust me."
Tucker ran his tongue along the inside of his cheek. "I trust you. But I guess I should've known there'd still be times I'd want to strangle you."
Soval inclined his head in assent. "It is inevitable, when two disparate personalities become friends."
The statement seemed to please Tucker. "Did you and Forrest fight?" he asked.
"We engaged in spirited debate, Commander."
"Meaning, 'yes'," Tucker said, with some satisfaction. Soval arched an eyebrow, and the commander chuckled. "And feel free to call me Trip. I know Vulcans have no use for nicknames, but I also know now that you're not a typical Vulcan."
Soval dutifully attempted to accommodate the commander. "Trip..." His expression must have betrayed his discomfort, for Tucker laughed out loud. Soval shook his head regretfully. "I am afraid it is beyond me."
Tucker smiled. "When my mother wants to get my attention, she calls me Charles."
"Charles." Soval nodded. "More appropriate than a colloquial moniker. I shall use it... when I wish to get your attention."
Tucker stood. His eyes were still shadowed by the memory of his recent emotional agony, but otherwise, he appeared to be recovered. "I've got to get back to work. Shall we, Soval?"
Soval stepped to one side, allowing Tucker to precede him. "Indeed... Commander."
As the ready room door slid open, Tucker glanced back at Soval. "I look forward to the rest of that conversation about T'Pol."
"I shall not forget," Soval replied. But he hoped that the commander would first have the opportunity to speak to T'Pol herself. The bond would no doubt be severed by a priest, and that would be the end of it. But at least Tucker would have the satisfaction of learning from T'Pol that their connection had been strong enough to compel the bond's creation.
Unfortunate, he thought as he watched Tucker stride onto the bridge, that there will be no opportunity for them to explore such a unique connection.