Title: Off and Away
Disclaimer: I lay claim to an obsession with Archer's engine boy, nothing more.
Summary: Another fluffy diversion from my fevered brain.
Off and Away
"Vulcans do not dance."--Tuvok, Voyager
They were like children. Undisciplined, unruly children who had managed to slip the bonds of authority and escape to the forbidden meadow.
T'Pol herself had no personal experience with emotions. As a native of Vulcan, she indulged in neither joy, nor sorrow, pride, or regret, love nor hate, but, after closely observing humanity for so long, she could identify this behavior as giddiness. She neither approved nor understood the sentiment that pervaded the new starship. Here they stood, on the cusp of a new era, setting out on a mission that could speed the growth of their young race or return them, forever, to the cradle. But did they confront the dawn of this new age with meditation, study and discipline, honing their mental and physical prowess in order to survive what was to come?
They did not.
Instead, they celebrated with dancing…with offensive music…and with an abomination Commander Tucker called munchies.
T'Pol caught site of him through the crush of bodies packed into Enterprise's galley. The room had been transformed for the night into PARTY CENTRAL, according to a loud, orange banner strung across the south wall. Ensign Sato's laughter rang out above the din as Tucker swung her into a flamboyant dip, nearly colliding with a table someone had ruthlessly shoved to the edge of the makeshift dance floor. The room was a chaos of color, sound and confusion. The wail of the music…the clatter of plates…the stomp of dancing feet…the sounds grated on T'Pol's superior eardrums, while the riot of smells drifting off the food table only strengthened her resolve to escape PARTY CENTRAL as soon as Captain Archer turned his back.
These people had only the vaguest concept of structure, hierarchy and chain of command.
Here sat the Captain, eating a hot wing and clapping at Commander Tucker and Ensign Sato's graceless, undignified performance. T'Pol picked at a plate of vegetables, mercifully unadorned by any of the veggie dip Lieutenant Reed had so strongly endorsed. T'Pol felt something akin to despair; she'd had Reed and the Captain's odious canine selected as the most orderly creatures on the entire vessel, yet he'd turned out to be as wildly immature as the rest. She pushed her chair farther into the corner, pinning Archer with her most regal glare. If it weren't for him, she would be retiring in her quarters, far from the screech and wail of this place. She had had no intention of appearing at this function until his fist crashed against her door, accompanied by a firm request/order that she socialize in PARTY CENTRAL.
When the Captain rose and made his way to the punch bowl, T'Pol prepared to flee. But, just then, Hoshi Sato stumbled off the dance floor and took the Captain's abandoned seat. T'Pol took in her flushed face and laughing eyes. She wanted to understand these people. It was her mission to understand them, no matter how unpleasant the task was. Her people were logical, and disciplined, and wise, but they were not explorers, merely gate keepers. The future of exploration lay with risk-taking humanity, the irrepressible child race who insisted on climbing out of the cradle early.
"You enjoy…dancing?" she asked curiously. Grappling with a shipmate, in public, was not an activity Vulcans considered recreational.
'Sure!" Sato giggled. "Trip's a hoot!"
A hoot...T'Pol thought she might be developing what humans called a migraine headache.
She eyed the linguist, raising one brow in disapproval. "You should avoid emotional entanglements on a mission such as this."
"Emotional entang…" Sato repeated, confused, then realization dawned. "Oh, no. We're just friends." She glanced across the dance floor, to where Tucker stood with Ensign Mayweather, laughing and trying to hang a spoon from his nose.
"Trip will either find some lucky girl and drive her nuts for fifty years…or get himself killed on some crazy, noble mission." The young Ensign sighed, troubled, then wandered off in search of nachos.
T'Pol was silent. Death was not something a Vulcan feared; it was a part of life, the logical conclusion, like the raising and laying down of the foot. But humans railed against the inevitable passage, and died with another escape plan forming on their lips. The thought disturbed her on a level she could not fully understand or accept. It was not logical, but neither was her awareness of him. It was there from the first, a crackle in the air sparked by the clash of divergent natures.
T'Pol was disturbed from her introspection by the scrape of chair legs as Tucker pulled out the seat next to hers.
"By all means, sit down." She quirked an eyebrow at him condescendingly.
"Thanks, Sub-commander Wallflower. Having fun? Did you try the fondue? " He swatted her barb away.
"No and no. There is nothing logical about losing a piece of bread in a pot of cheese, trying to stab it again, hitting your utensil against someone else's and laughing absurdly. It is unsanitary."
"I'll contact the fondue people and let them know you disapprove," he snorted. "In the meantime, let's dance!" He grabbed for her hand.
She pulled away, shocked. "No."
"What's the matter? Do I smell or something?"
He DID smell--everything did, to her Vulcan nose, even the walls. At the moment, he smelled like potato chips, Porthos and engine oil, but she ignored the question. He would probably be flattered that she noticed his odor at all…maddening, contrary man. Instead, she quoted the teachings of her childhood.
"Do not waste time in idle physical pursuits--the Oracle of K'Tal."
"If you never did, you should. These things are fun, and fun is good--Dr. Suess," he shot back.
T'Pol rolled her eyes. "One of your great philosophers, I'm sure."
The engineer got angry. "I think you're afraid."
She whipped her head around at his challenge. "Vulcans are far superior physically---"
He cut her off, rudely. "Not afraid you can't dance…" He leaned over and his lips very nearly grazed her ear.
"…You're afraid you'll like it."
Then he was gone, moving through the crowd toward the refreshment table. T'Pol sat unmoving for a moment before viciously stabbing into her raw carrots.
She suffered through the rest of the evening, enduring a sing-along, a conga line, and a flying champagne cork that nearly took her eye out of its socket. Finally, Captain Archer rose for a final toast.
T'Pol, hovering near the door, turned at the sound of her name.
"Wouldn't you like to give it the old college try?" the Captain's eyes sparkled. Tucker sniggered, and felt Hoshi's elbow dig into in his ribs.
Years later, light years farther, and long after Archer's crew should have heeded the homing call, T'Pol remembered this night and wished she had said more, perhaps warned them of what lay ahead. The Vulcan race had lived long and seen much, and they had glimpsed what lay beyond the known star systems. They had secrets, like all the old ones.
T'Pol thought a moment, then raised her glass of water.
"May you never lose your way."
Glasses clinked, and someone walking by PARTY CENTRAL might have heard the chant, "Here, here!" They might have heard the music resume as a lone Vulcan made her way down the hall.
She had secrets, like all the old ones.
Today is your day!
You're off to great places!
You're off and away!
---Dr. Suess, Oh, the Places you'll go!