In Pursuit of a Goal
Summary: Brief scene addition just prior to The Communicator. T'Pol makes an important decision, resulting from her challenges in apprehending Menos in The Seventh. This story is consistent with my prior RU stories and builds upon two ideas from my earlier story "A Morning in the Gym" at Trip/T'Polers. At least briefly reviewing that story (since it is more than six years old), might help explain the context.
Author's Note: I want to express my appreciation for all those who've shared such nice comments on my stories over the years. I've never been very good with one on one replies and have instead tend edto focus instead of writing my stories. I wrote this short, little TnT shippy story as a way to express my gratitude. I hope you find it enjoyable…
T'Pol concentrated on her breathing in order to occupy herself while Commander Tucker prepared their breakfast. He had not been pleased with Captain Archer's decision to exclude him from the away team currently studying the pre-warp culture inhabiting the planet below. When he invited her this morning, she agreed with some trepidation. The Commander had not been in... an agreeable... mood for the past two days.
Chef did allow the Commander to prepare breakfast for T'Pol and himself as long as there would be no discussion about what was taking place on the planet while in the galley. T'Pol was not certain if chef objected based on the possible contamination of an immature society – as she had – or if it was simply a matter of avoiding the Commander's tedious complaints. Fortunately, the end result was the same.
"Here you go," chef grunted before placing a bowl of sliced apples and edible flowers before her. A shaker of cinnamon was also set down before chef turned to focus on Commander Tucker.
"Needs more turmeric," chef chided him.
"Does not," the Commander replied.
"Suit yourself," chef answered with a shrug, and then added, "but you'll find out later, you need more turmeric." The grin chef flashed to T'Pol while walking away made her question whether more turmeric was, in fact, required or was simply a case of chef attempting to make an amusing commentary.
She put the exchange out of her mind as she brought a spoonful of the edible flowers to her lips. Chef raised no objection to her regularly consuming the garnish as there seemed no reason for Enterprise to stock them in the first place. Chef pointed out that garnishes were not part of the normal menu plan and the concept of flowers as a garnish was unlikely to be understood by non-Human races. She had to agree with that assessment. She assumed they were part of the meal when Commander Tucker first exposed her to them.
"It'll be a few more minutes," the Commander informed her while taking a seat facing her at the food preparation station. The simple stainless steel table and two stools was far less comfortable than the Captain's mess, yet Commander Tucker insisted on dining here this morning.
T'Pol pointlessly glared at the Commander when he reached into her bowl of sliced apples to extract one with his fingers. Because he wanted a slice with less cinnamon than she preferred, he ended up touching more slices than the single one he chose for himself. In return he just grinned at her and she was momentarily caught by those hauntingly – and strikingly alien – blue eyes. They were so foreign to her experience, they were impossible to ignore when trained upon her.
As she pierced another sliced apple with her fork, she considered just how different her interactions with Captain Archer and Commander Tucker had developed from her original assumptions.
Captain Archer objected far less strenuously to her appointment aboard Enterprise than expected, at least publicly. In fact, since returning from their first mission, he had resisted all attempts by the High Command to recall her to assign another observer. The Captain assured her he had Starfleet's full support that, if the High Command were permitted to place an observer aboard an Earth vessel, it would only be with Starfleet's approval and they would defer to Captain Archer's preference. Faced with the possibility of having no one aboard Enterprise, the High Command apparently relented. Instead they chose a more direct approach by applying pressure on her to, respectfully, resign her post.
For all the public support that Captain Archer expressed with Starfleet and the High Command, his actions when not being monitored by either Admiral Forrest or a Vulcan representative, were less positive. He nearly always dismissed her advice, regardless of how soundly grounded in Vulcan's far greater experience with exploration it might be, and sometimes disregarded her in front of junior officers. He rarely conducted himself in a way that left T'Pol confident he held her counsel with any regard.
T'Pol assumed Captain Archer believed Starfleet would ultimately cave to the High Command's insistence that Enterprise possess a Vulcan observer and would assign another if she left. Since he was able to dismiss her advice without consequence, he appeared to prefer a impotent observer to one that may prove more forceful. She recognized the tendencies in her own behavior well enough to know she would nearly always defer to a male in a position of authority. She simply lacked the will to defy those cultural norms.
She saw only one path forward – she would have to earn Captain Archer's respect by convincing him it was foolish to simply disregard her advice. She not only had been assigned to deep space vessels at a time when Earth was struggling to simply approach Warp 2, but her knowledge was built upon the centuries of experience distilled from thousands of Vulcan's finest officers. She only needed to demonstrate that knowledge in a way the Captain would value.
So far in her tenure, she had failed to achieve this.
Commander Tucker, on the other hand, proved far less of a challenge than her initial assessment. While he was more vocal about his displeasure with "the Vulcans", his ire seemed almost entirely directed toward those of her species he believed were holding back Human development. She had apparently sufficiently demonstrated to the Commander that she was not in that category, so their interactions settled into a more respectful ease than those with Captain Archer.
For example, he had objected just as strongly as Captain Archer to not knowing the details around her mission to retrieve Menos, but, unlike Captain Archer, his objections at least had some rational basis tied to the ship's operation. The Captain's initial reaction appeared to be simply annoyance that he was not permitted to know the details. Once she chose to share those details, his resistance faded. It did not strike her as a mature response to the situation.
"Here you go," Commander Tucker said, as he slid the bowl of quinoa toward her. T'Pol placed a smaller than normal, tentative serving into her spoon to judge the result. She had no idea if he used the proper amount of turmeric or not, but she did not find the flavor objectionable.
"Did Capt'n say why you weren't invited along?" He asked but required T'Pol to assume he was talking about the away mission. "He told me he wanted to help out Hoshi and Malcolm," he added very shortly without even bothering to wait for her to properly chew and swallow her initial spoonful. "Said he wanted to help their careers," he continued, making a motion with his hand that she recognized as meaning he didn't believe Captain Archer's supplied justification.
"Development of junior officers is an important duty," she added vaguely before taking another spoonful to intentionally restrict her participation.
"I'm a junior officer, what about my career?" While T'Pol sometimes had difficulty picking up on certain Human emotions, sarcasm and a sense of rejection from the Commander were easy to discern.
This discussion was going to take more effort than she had expected – or preferred. She carefully placed her spoon next to the bowl and straightened up to return to a more professional posture than sometimes she took in the Commander's presence.
"You are a command officer – spending time following the Captain around a pre-warp culture so that you can contribute to his report is not something that will assist in your development," she said before realizing it probably was not the best tone to take with the Commander. "You should be spending more time on the bridge," she added in a softer, less lecturing tone, that hopefully would be less confrontational and more likely to be accepted in the genuine interest to help that it had been intended.
"Like when you and the Captain left on your secret mission?" he asked with a wry smile that she had come to regard as an attempt to provoke a response.
"Yes," she replied, doing her best not to reveal anything.
"I guess that makes sense," he said quietly and even barely audible to hear superior hearing. "That's probably why he didn't invite you along either – he could focus on Hoshi and Malcolm."
T'Pol assumed the discussion was over, at least for a few moments, since the Commander did not return her look and simply focused on his bowl to fill his mouth with two spoonfuls of quinoa. "Needs more turmeric," he mumbled, sending little bits of the cooked grain out of his mouth.
It was no surprise to her that Captain Archer chose not include her on the away team. Beyond knowing her opinion they should avoid accidentally influencing the society's development, and obviously rejecting it as was his wont, she was certain her emotional collapse while apprehending Menos ended up costing her what little respect Captain Archer had developed.
She would have to work harder to earn his trust. She would have to assume that he was willing to place his trust in her, at some point, and that he was just as willing to attempt to overcome the complications in their interactions as she was.
While considering what her next step should be on that course of action, she caught the Commander's glance and their eyes locked for the briefest moment before he looked away. The complications surrounding her interactions with Commander Tucker were not something she should confront, nor would she ever admit them to another, even if she desired. All her life, T'Pol struggled to control her primitive emotions. The discipline required to contain them came harder to her than to most others. Adding to her challenge was an indefinitely deferred bonding to Koss. Nearly all Vulcan females at this stage of their life were bonded and in a stable relationship that allowed a respectable way to address the base urges she struggled to control alone.
In the past year aboard Enterprise, her subconscious mind routinely created images of the Commander as an outlet for those urges. Twice her mind had even created scenarios similar to how she understood Humans to engage in sexual intercourse.
Suppressing these urges presented the only real issue to her interaction with the Commander. She assumed the focus of her attention was not just the fact that he was the only Human she felt at ease around, but also physical attraction. Beyond those blue eyes she found oddly fascinating, his scent was quite... disconcerting... and she often found herself struggling against the urge to approach him later in the evening when her nasal inhibitor's effectiveness diminished.
She suspected he reciprocated that attraction because during their early missions he apparently was quite intrigued by her ears. He touched, and even more inappropriately, stroked them on more than one occasion. She reprimanded herself for not immediately objecting, and while she originally tried to convince herself it was because he simply seemed curious, the intense pleasure she experienced was impossible to deny. Prior to that time she had been aware her ears were sensitive, but she had not known the extent until the first time he stroked them while applying one of the doctor's decontamination gels. The pleasure was so intense only then did she fully grasp why it was considered such an intimate act.
In her weaker moments, she wondered what it would be like to just surrender to these urges and allow him to stroke and caress her ears and neck until the pleasure became too overwhelming to endure any longer. An even more intense fantasy involved doing so while they both were unclothed so she could bask unhindered in his scent, at the same time providing him complete access to the neural nodes along her spine.
T'Pol inhaled and slowly released a deep, calming breath. She needed to dispense with such inappropriate thoughts. For the time being, she needed to concentrate on her goal of building Captain Archer's respect and confidence in her value both as an observer and advisor. Without that, she could never be an effective second in command and her efforts to resist the High Command's attempts to remove her from Enterprise would be futile.
At some point in the not to distant future, though, T'Pol would be required to leave Enterprise and return to Vulcan. Even if she were able to achieve her goal in earning Captain Archer's respect, her current position was never intended to be a long term post. Commander Tucker told her several months ago a key parameter when building Enterprise was the ship would require a major refit no more than three to four years after launch. She believed that would logically be the longest she could delay returning, as Vulcans rarely held the same post longer than the equivalent of five Human years prior to reaching the rank of Commander. A broad range of postings was needed to achieve career success.
Perhaps when the time came for her to return to Vulcan, she could approach the Commander about his willingness to indulge her urges? He seemed at least open to experiences with non-Human females. Her actions aboard this ship had not always represented proper behavior anyway and participating in a brief act of intimacy with a Human male was likely to be no less shocking, were it to be revealed, than submitting to a mind meld performed by a V'tosh Ka'tur.
She might even consider engaging in Human sexual relations so as to prevent the experience from being entirely one sided by focusing only on a Vulcan-like intimacy.