NO LASTING EFFECTS
Summary: Post "Precious Cargo," Trip and T'Pol are on an away mission together and arguing even more than usual. Trip gets clumsy and requires some Vulcan nursing. TnT UST/angst and romance, sort of. No canon was harmed in the writing of this fanfic. This just barely keeps a T rating so if you dislike adult themes, steer clear.
Disclaimer: All things Star Trek belong to CBS/Paramount.
"I believe you have positioned the drill two centimeters off the coordinates I specified, Commander."
"And I do not wish to have to adjust the rest of our sample grid just to accommodate your error. Please correct its position."
"By two centimeters?" Trip said. "Do you realize what degree of error we're talking about here?"
"Obviously I do, or I wouldn't ask you to reposition it."
"You're kidding me."
"I am not."
Tucker scowled and pulled the drill. "Maybe you'd better show me exactly what position you have in mind here. I'd hate to be off by even a micron."
"I believe you are fully capable of reading your scanner and placing a drill according to the coordinates supplied."
"Really? You think?" He repositioned the drill. "How's this, Subcommander? I'd sure hate to be wrong again."
She checked her scanner. "That is acceptable."
He started the drill on its controlled blast cycle; a pulse of red light flowed to the ground. "Is there something we need to discuss? Because it seems to me you've been riding my ass even more than usual recently and I'm getting pretty damned sick of it."
T'Pol didn't even look at him, just enunciated in highly frosty tones, "I have never 'ridden your ass,' Mr. Tucker. Frankly, I have difficulty visualizing how one could perform such a feat even if one wished to."
"After one and a half years on this ship you still don't know what 'riding someone's ass' is? I thought you were a faster learner than that. It means being more critical than usual, which in your case is saying a lot."
She said nothing, just waited as the blasting stopped and he engaged the mechanical component of the drill. Trip was now convinced that she was indeed upset with him about something; otherwise, she would have zinged him back.
"See?" he said, ratcheting it up. "That was me riding your ass. Just to demonstrate, in case you were still confused."
"Thank you." Her voice was heavy with sarcasm. The mechanical component stopped, as it had been preprogrammed to do. She started her scan.
Trip grimaced. Yup, something was definitely up. He scratched his head, trying to figure out what he'd done to piss her off lately. Nothing came to mind … unless it was the captain's chair. And that had been weeks ago now.
"Is this about the chair?"
"The chair?" She sounded perplexed as she focused on her scanner. Because phased energy could alter the physical state of the dilithium they were looking for, they had to stop and switch to mechanical drilling before each scan. She nodded at him to begin another phase burst.
Tucker flipped the switch. This had to be the most boring grunt work he'd faced in months. He almost wished the drill equipment would break down, just so he'd have something more interesting to do. Archer had put them on this detail mapping a dilithium deposit they had detected from orbit on this pleasant Minshara-class planet. He'd ignored T'Pol's suggestion that her skills would be better used leading the science team that was surveying the planet's ecosystem. He'd also ignored Trip's suggestion that Malcolm was the one who really enjoyed drilling holes into things.
Archer had explained that Starfleet badly needed to find sources of dilithium and they were the two best people for the job. Now Trip began to wonder if he hadn't actually thrown them together because he'd noticed more tension than usual.
"The captain's chair. I know I probably got a little rude about not helping you with the sensors and all, but that wasn't really me, you know, it was that singularity thing."
She stared at him. "Commander Tucker, you appear to be convinced that I am responding emotionally to some situation between us. I assure you that this is not the case."
"So nothing I've done or said recently has bothered you in any way? Your snippiness is simply because of some bug up your ass that has nothing to do with me at all?"
"If you are perceiving any "snippiness," it must be a projection of your own emotional state."
"I don't think so. Somehow I've managed to do something that offends you. But I don't know what it is. The logical thing for you to do is to discuss it with me so we can move on."
Her eyes narrowed. Apparently she was actually considering his proposal. "Are you sure you really want to hear my frank opinion?"
"Very well. Since you ask, I felt your behavior in your recent adventure with the Kriosans' future First Monarch warranted a formal reprimand. The captain disagreed."
Trip's mouth dropped open. "A reprimand? I was kidnapped! Not to mention I might have saved her life! What the hell makes that worth a reprimand?"
"As I said, the captain felt I should let it go. I did."
"I ask again: Just what the hell did I do that warranted a reprimand?"
She drew herself up to her full height. "After what happened with the Xyrillians, I would have expected you to have learned your lesson about engaging in intimate activities with alien women you meet briefly in the course of duty. In this case, the diplomatic repercussions could have been extreme."
"I have a standing invitation to visit Krios Prime after Kaitama is made First Monarch. That doesn't sound like an extreme repercussion to me!"
"It is fortunate that it worked out that way. You could just as easily have been charged with assault. Indeed, you may yet be pursued for child support."
He laughed. "I'll tell you what, the real diplomatic disaster was what would have happened if I'd turned her down. That egg wanted some salt."
"You view your behavior as altruistic?"
"I didn't say that!" Trip said hotly. "Look. Maybe you Vulcans can't relate to this because you only mate once every seven years, but humans are pretty much ready to go all the time. And you people grow up knowing who you're going to marry, but we have to figure it out on our own and hope for the best. It can get pretty damned lonely when you have to go for months or years without any companionship that way and no certainty you'll ever find any. So if a beautiful alien princess decides she's taken a fancy to me, I might just go for it. I might even feel flattered. And I also don't see that it's anybody's business but hers and mine!"
T'Pol stared at him for a moment. "So you would argue that this is simply a difference between our species that I have failed to grasp."
"Yes!" Trip said. "Exactly."
She seemed to actually be considering his logic. "Apparently the Captain agrees with you."
"Of course he does!" Trip said, perhaps a little more vehemently than was necessary. For all he knew Archer was beginning to think his chief engineer was a hopeless slut.
T'Pol frowned. "Then apparently I am wrong to feel disappointed with your behavior in this situation. I apologize."
"Forget about it," Trip said.
But he couldn't. As the afternoon wore on, her use of the word "disappointed" kept playing over and over in his head. He couldn't quite figure out why it bothered him so much, but it did.
Technically, he had succeeded in his objective. T'Pol had stopped riding his butt. Instead she turned unnaturally quiet.
Apparently, in his brilliance, he'd managed to replace one set of tensions with another. And he liked this set even less.
x x x
T'Pol found it ironic that it had taken an outraged rant from Commander Tucker about his inalienable right to have sex with any female who offered to make her fully realize the terrible mistake she had made over a year earlier.
"You people grow up knowing who you're going to marry," he'd said, defending his dalliance with Princess Kaitama as some sort of biological imperative.
Yes, T'Pol had grown up knowing who she was going to marry.
But she didn't know anymore.
Had he somehow forgotten this? Yes, probably he had. Probably his advice about her nuptials had been just as casual as his mating with this princess.
To be fair, he hadn't understood much about Vulcan society at the time. And she had discounted everything he'd said anyway. Or almost everything. Besides, it was hardly his responsibility if she had made the wrong decision.
The point was that she had made the wrong decision.
They were coming up with just enough traces of dilithium to suggest that the next scan might discover something more significant. But as the sun began to lower on the horizon, they had yet to encounter a single deposit of any magnitude. T'Pol suggested that it was time to give up their drilling for the day, and Tucker nodded his agreement.
He had been uncharacteristically subdued all afternoon. When bored, as he surely must be, he was prone to picking arguments, or trying engage her in conversation of some kind. But she was relieved to have the unexpected peace; she had more than enough to occupy her mind already.
Her mother had recently suggested that it was not too late to try to attempt a rapprochement with Koss's parents. She had reminded T'Pol that if she discarded what might be her only chance at marriage, she might never have a child. Was she prepared to accept that consequence of her decision to stay on Enterprise?
Perhaps she should write her mother tonight, let her know that she was reconsidering.
Tucker broke down the drill while T'Pol reviewed all their results.
"Everything's stowed and ready to go," he reported.
T'Pol nodded. "Judging from our orbital surveys, it might be worth drilling a few outlying holes tomorrow." She pointed out a few locations on the screen. "However, I would expect them merely to confirm our finding that this planet's deposits are not concentrated enough to support a viable mining operation."
"Whatever you say," he said. "Personally I think it's kind of a shame to ruin a place as pretty as this with a mining operation."
She was surprised that a warp engineer would choose landscape over dilithium, but she saw no point in debating the issue with him. "We should check in with the captain," she said.
Archer was clearly disappointed with their report, but perked up when she suggested the additional drilling the next day. The man was a born optimist.
"Are you coming up for the night?" he asked. "Cutler's team in Shuttlepod Two wants to sleep over. Apparently Travis packed s'mores."
"I'll let Trip explain that one," Archer said. "So what's your preference?"
Tucker piped up. "I can't speak for T'Pol, but I'd rather stay planet-side."
T'Pol would have preferred returning to her cabin and a chance to write her letter and meditate in private, but she didn't relish another argument with Tucker. "That is acceptable to me as well, Captain."
"Fine," Archer said. "We're going to be surveying the outer moon. Communication may get a little patchy depending where we are relative to you."
"Understood," T'Pol said. She turned to Tucker. "I assume you wish to join the others and their s'mores?"
Tucker shook his head. "No. I want to get a closer look at that pond we passed over on our way in. Care to join me?"
"No, thank you." It appeared she would get some time alone after all. She turned towards the shuttle. He hadn't volunteered any explanation of "s'mores," which was rather unlike him, but she could always look it up in the database.
Tucker raised his voice. "So you think she might be hitting me up for child support any day, huh?"
She stopped and turned back to him, surprised that he would wish to revisit that topic. "I would think you of all people would be familiar with the concept of an unplanned pregnancy."
His smile was clearly forced. "Oh, I'm quite familiar with the concept. But I'm guessing Vulcans aren't too familiar with the concept of fooling around."
T'Pol waited. It was clear she was about to get an explanation whether she wanted it or not.
Tucker's face turned red. "I figure that's got to be another one of those species differences. Because if you only mate every seven years, you're gonna use the time to really mate. But humans have a whole range of sexual activities that fall short of mating. We become sexually mature when we're really young. So for most of us there's a fair amount of fooling around … which is to say, finding ways to have a good time without going all the way … without risking something more … permanent."
"I am familiar with human birth control techniques," T'Pol said, trying to cut him off.
"That's not what I mean," Trip said. "I'm not worried about Kaitama coming after me for child support because we didn't have that kind of … relations. We just, you know, resolved each other's tensions in a highly pleasurable way. That's all. I mean, she's a princess. She's hardly going to throw away her virginity on someone like me." He licked his lips nervously and continued. "Besides, I seem to recall you being pretty keen on the whole crew getting a chance to relieve their tensions. I mean, you were the one who suggested Risa."
She stared coolly at him. Why did he think this was of any interest to her whatsoever? She was a Vulcan. She was a Vulcan who no longer had a fiancé because she'd allowed herself to get caught up in exploring the galaxy with these humans and their endlessly unresolved tensions. "If you are quite finished sharing your valuable insights into human sexual practices, Commander, I was hoping I might get some time for meditation."
"Of course," Tucker said, his face redder than ever. "I'll get out of your way."
x x x
He lay across a sun-warm boulder and stared down into the lake and thought longingly about how good just one of those fat speckled fish might taste fried up in a griddle with some butter.
Thinking of grilled fish was making him hungrier. It was past time for dinner by now but Starfleet ration packs weren't exactly anything to hurry up for, and T'Pol was probably still meditating.
Any other woman might be impressed by a guy who could catch and prepare his own dinner, but doing that here would no doubt just confirm T'Pol's concept of him as a ruthless oversexed barbarian.
Why the hell had he tried to explain? He should have left well enough alone. She'd just given him her blandest look yet, a look that communicated You Are So Much Less Interesting to Me than the Least Significant Particle of Dust on this Planet.
He sighed and shifted position. The sun was just beginning to set, and tiny insects were beginning to swarm around his face. They weren't landing and biting, thanks to one of Phlox's handy hyposprays, but they were still annoying.
He slid down off his boulder and began the walk back. The evening air was cooling and his instinct was to look for some wood and build a fire, though they could stay perfectly comfortable simply by sleeping in the shuttle. No doubt T'Pol would inwardly sigh at the cave man building his totemic fire. She'd probably fear he might insist on regaling her with ghost stories or, worse, more sex talk.
Ah, screw T'Pol. He wanted a fire. So he was a cave man. What the hell did he care what she thought? She could stay in the shuttle and meditate all night if she wanted. He would sleep under the stars. He loved sleeping under the stars. Well, except for the bugs.
He headed into the scrub, hunting up wood before the light was gone. There was plenty, and he filled his arms full. "That's a lazy man's load," he could hear his mother's voice warning him, and apparently she was right, because he didn't see his footing clearly with all that wood in his arms and tripped over a tree root.
He fell onto his own armload of branches, which wouldn't have resulted in any more than some bruising if one of those branches hadn't somehow jammed itself right up into his thigh.
"Sonofabitch!" he hissed. He pulled the offending branch out of his leg and realized he was bleeding fairly impressively, so he clamped his hand down over the wound with as much pressure as he could. His heart began to pound hard and fast, which wasn't very helpful of it. If he'd hit the artery he could bleed out in minutes. He fumbled for his communicator, fear of death just barely overcoming embarrassment. "Tucker to T'Pol."
"I think I may have a medical emergency here."
There was a moment's hesitation, probably over his equivocating. "Where are you?"
"In the trees west of the shuttle. I'm, um, bleeding a fair amount."
"Keep this channel open, Commander. I'm on my way."
To be continued…