Title: Bending Fate
Setting: During the episode E2. Opening dialogue borrowed from the episode.
Disclaimer: I own nothing, not even the words – only the order in which they were placed. That said, the idea is mine – please do not repost this anywhere without my permission.
Author's Note: I decided to take a short break from a longer story I've been working on to address two points that keep popping out at me regarding the episode E2. Firstly, I always wondered why Lorian seemed so guarded about the circumstances of Trip's death, but seemingly divulged every other detail about his family's life, especially seeing as he was trying to prevent the circumstances that would in theory lead to his father's death. Was it simply a sore subject, or was there more to it? Secondly, I've also wondered idly at where Lorian got his name from, and the idea just snowballed from there.
Eventually I decided to try to tackle these two ideas at the same time and merge them into one story. I'm not sure how well it worked, but…well, here we are, you can be the judge. Feedback is always appreciated.
"You died. When I was fourteen."
Trip was caught off guard. He had faced almost-certain death on many occasions – including one very recent, very real brush with his maker – but it was a whole different animal to be faced with the reality that it would happen in the not-so-distant future. And it was particularly rattling to know that, for this man who was older than him but who was also his son, his death had already occurred.
"What happened?" he ventured in a quiet voice.
When he looked back at Lorian, he realized it was probably the wrong question to ask. He had spent years learning to interpret T'Pol's body language, and his particular observations of late had provided him with a wealth of knowledge on translating the Vulcan state of mind. As his son was half-Human, it made his demeanour that much easier to decipher.
Lorian was clearly uncomfortable. His open, almost cheerful personality had closed off abruptly, warning Trip of the sensitive nature of this conversation.
"I'm not sure we should be discussing your future." His tight, frank statement all but confirmed Trip's assessment. He couldn't help but notice that it was the same voice T'Pol had been using with him of late.
He didn't want to push his son, or make him uncomfortable enough that he would decide to leave, but Trip felt he needed to say something in acknowledgement. "It couldn't have been easy, growing up without the old man around." It was strange to feel a sense of guilt about something that hadn't even happened yet…at least not for him. His own voice was tight with emotion as he added, "I'm sorry I wasn't there."
He was trying to focus on the job in front of him, seriously questioning if he had made the right choice in pursuing this discussion, when Lorian spoke up. "You were a good father."
Trip glanced over and met his son's eyes, noting a release of tension in the other man's features. "It's strange, being able to tell you that," Lorian added, a touch of nostalgia tingeing his voice.
Trip watched him take a breath and relax, sensing a relief of some kind in the man before him. He seemed more at ease than he had been even before they'd stumbled upon this awkward topic.
Maybe his instincts weren't so bad after all.
Trip marvelled at how well they worked together. It shouldn't have surprised him too much – Lorian himself had admitted that it was his father's own logs that had been invaluable to his education, and even if he hadn't been around to help him learn, a good engineer's affinity with his work was not something that could be taught. It seemed only fitting that Trip's own instinctive connection to his engines should be passed down to his son.
Eventually their conversation, which had slowly resumed around shop-talk, began to stray back toward the curious, light-hearted interaction they had entertained before the deeper, more personal and uncomfortable issues had intervened. Trip began asking questions about the Expanse in the time before the Xindi threat, admittedly not a topic he had bothered much with until now. He learned about all the various upgrades and improvements he himself had made to the ship, and was both amused and amazed at the lengths to which his future self had gone to enhancing Enterprise's recreational offerings.
His son told him about the different species that had eventually fused with the crew and become part of their family, and Trip even heard about how a five-year-old Lorian had been ring-bearer at his Uncle Jonathan's wedding to the Ikarran trader, Essilia. It was then that Trip asked about his own future wedding to T'Pol. Lorian seemed much more relaxed and open now about their tragic family history, and described at length the details he had heard growing up regarding just how his parents had got together.
Trip idly wondered why Lorian seemed so open about these topics when they were no less future-sensitive than the situation of his death, especially if they were currently in the process of preventing those variables that likely led to that outcome in the first place. He quickly ended that train of thought, however, having a good guess at the true reason Lorian had refused to elaborate on that subject.
Once he finished interrogating Lorian as much as he thought possible regarding his future with T'Pol – hundred-year-old half-Vulcan or not, Trip acknowledged that no child wanted to dwell upon the more intimate aspects of his parents' relationship – he turned his queries back to his son.
"So…'Lorian,' huh?" He asked as he handed the subject in question the scanner he'd been studying, aiming for nonchalance. "Did your mother come up with that, or…?"
Lorian focused on the scanner readings. "I believe it was a combined effort. One of my mother's forefathers was named Loraan." He reached over and adjusted the pressure flow on the conduit in front of him. "You both approved of the name, but you wanted to add a bit of 'human flair,' as I believe you once put it." He looked over at Trip, raising an eyebrow. "This was the result."
"Well, I like it," Trip replied earnestly. He saw what he was beginning to identify as the 'Lorian half-grin' spreading across the other man's features. "What?"
Lorian just looked at him, eyes full of mirth. Trip's smile turned self-conscious. "What is it?"
Lorian shook his head in amusement and turned back to his work, bending over to tweak a connection. In a casual voice, he said, "So why don't you just ask me what you want to ask?"
Trip's response was guarded. "What do you mean?"
"What you really want to know," Lorian began, making one final adjustment and then pushing up off the console to stand straight, "Is why I'm not named after you." He turned to face his father, his teasing expression effective in demonstrating his lack of offence at the implication.
Trip looked down, grinning in embarrassment at his lack of subtlety. "Yeah, I…uh…" he shook his head at himself, forcing his eyes back up at Lorian. "I was wondering about that. It's just…everyone just sorta expected my first son to be Charles Tucker the Fourth, and I guess I thought so, too." Trip wasn't complaining, far from it – it didn't matter to him what his son was named so long as he was a good man, and he hoped his tone conveyed that. He was simply curious.
Lorian smiled just a bit wider. He took a step toward his father and held out the scanner for Trip to take. "You know, I asked you that once, when I was younger. You'd just finished telling me about the time that your grandfather took you and your father out fishing on his new 20-footer for the first time."
Trip got a faraway look on his face as the memory bubbled up to the surface. "Wow…I haven't thought about that in a long time. I couldn't have been more than thirteen or so. Three Tucker men out there for six hours, and not one damn bite."
A curious look stole across Lorian's face. "It's funny…but that's the same way you phrased it back then, too." His grin matched Trip's. "Well, after that – once I had you explain what exactly fishing was," he continued, earning a bark of laughter from his father, "I asked you if I was one of those 'Tucker men.' When you assured me I was, I asked why I hadn't been named after the three of you."
Trip's face fell. "I'm sorry that you ever had to question—"
Lorian raised a hand to halt the hasty apology. "I haven't finished," he said, maintaining an air of amusement that put Trip's parental fears at ease. "I asked you that, and you sat me down and told me that, growing up, you always felt like your name didn't belong to you, that you had to share it with others. You said it often felt like you were pressured into other peoples' assumptions and expectations because of that name in a way that your siblings never seemed to be."
Trip found himself nodding in agreement. "Yeah, I guess that's true. I did feel like that a little, especially when I was a teenager. That's when I started going by Trip."
"You used to let everyone think it was just a joke that stuck," Lorian commented, "But really it was about creating your own identity. It made you feel like you had control over your destiny."
Trip stared in baffled amazement. This man was virtually a stranger to him, yet knew more about him than even his closest friends. Hell, it seemed as if Lorian knew more about him than he did. It was hard to get his head around it all. He was a little unnerved, but at the same time a little comforted to know that he had shared such a close bond with his young son.
Lorian looked down, seemingly caught up in his memories. "Then you told me that you didn't ever want me to feel like my life wasn't my own." He met his father's gaze once again, and Trip saw a measure of vulnerability there in his eyes. "You said that my destiny had already been decided due to circumstance, but no one but me was responsible for shaping my identity. Even if my future path had already been determined, I could still get there on my own terms, in my own way."
Trip was saved from having to follow that rather profound, emotional statement by a member of Lorian's crew hailing over the comm. As his overloaded mind tried to process all these new revelations about himself and a son from a life he may never even know, he overheard Lorian being recalled to his ship.
Trip bid him a distracted goodbye, but out of the corner of his eye he saw his son pause at the threshold of the open hatch.
"You know," Lorian began, eyes taking in the Engineering of his youth, "You might not have had the opportunity to teach me much about all of this…but instead you taught me the importance of being my own man and making my own choices." He locked his eyes on Trip. "And that's something I've never forgotten."
Without another word, Lorian ducked out into the corridor, leaving Trip to ponder his magnificently bizarre existence.
Lorian found him on C-deck just as he was giving final instructions to Masaro. Trip glanced at him quickly, then turned back to the ensign and handed him a PADD. "Go grab Jensen. And make sure you triple-check those levels before you reconnect any of those relays."
Masaro nodded at him and then trained his eyes on their visitor – there was a wary, almost malicious look on the younger man's face as he regarded the silent figure standing a few meters away. A long moment later, the ensign turned and headed back down the corridor.
Trip watched him go, puzzled at the extent of Masaro's apparent hostility. The consensus among most of his Engineering staff was that, while rather bitter and resentful of their descendants' recent attempts to steal from them and leave them stranded, they understood where the other crew was coming from – they had all done questionable things in the name of this mission, things that were rather alarmingly close to home at the moment. Trip was the man's father, but even he didn't seem to hold as much resentment – much less anger – as he had just seen in the younger engineer.
Trip sighed and filed the observation away. He had bigger issues to deal with.
He turned back to his son. Lorian stood with his hands resting behind his back, face blank. "I see the Captain finally let you out of the brig," Trip said guardedly, crossing his arms.
Lorian nodded, dropping his gaze. "Archer told me I'd find you here."
"Did he now."
The older man regarded his father for a moment. "I wanted to apologize for firing on you, but I can't apologize for my other actions. Even if I was ultimately wrong, I did what I thought was right."
Trip looked down, mulling over the man's words. Slowly, he began to nod in understanding. "And that's what I taught you to do."
His words were clipped, an edge of bitterness tinged with regret. Lorian recognized it immediately, and hurried to correct him. "You misunderstand. This has nothing to do with you. Like I said before, you taught me to be my own man, to make my own decisions. I've never seen Earth, but everything I have done has been in the interest of protecting my family and all that they cared about."
He dropped his gaze, shoulders slumping just slightly. "Perhaps I was wrong not to trust you, but I've already failed seven million people. I did what I thought had to be done to make sure I didn't fail anyone else."
To Trip, this older man before him almost seemed to be seeking his approval, wanting a reprieve from the disappointment that no doubt reflected in his father's eyes. It was just a little disconcerting. He felt compelled, however, to put this man at ease, no matter what had happened.
"Look, I understand," he spoke, taking a step in Lorian's direction. "It's survivor's guilt. You'd be hard-pressed to find anyone on this ship who hasn't experienced it for all the very same reasons you have. And a lot of us would be willing to do just about anything to turn back the clock."
Lorian looked up, lips twitching at Trip's choice of words before sobering once more. "My mother told me that guilt was a powerful motivator."
Trip nodded. "That it can be. Trick is to learn to live with it." He paused, and then gestured up and down in Lorian's direction. "Or suppress it, I suppose." That earned a self-conscious grin from the other man.
A small voice in the back of his mind whispered its wonder that Trip was giving life lessons to a man who had lived so much longer and experienced so much more than he had…but such was the nature of life in the Expanse, he supposed.
After a moment of awkward silence, Lorian straightened up abruptly, clasping his hands in front of him. Trip noticed a PADD in his grip.
"When I was seventy-three," he began, reminding Trip once again of how strange this situation was, "I started experiencing symptoms of a very rare genetic disorder, fatal among humans. At the time there was no cure, but our doctor, Phlox's daughter, was able to devise a treatment using knowledge we'd gained from the Ek'Bak a few years previously."
He dropped his eyes to the PADD, nervously tapping it against his hand. "A good portion of our medical database was lost about ten years ago." When he met his eyes once more, Trip saw more emotion in his expression than he had in all their previous interactions combined.
Lorian held up the PADD. "After I recovered, I studied the treatment in depth. This is as much as I can remember. I hope it's enough."
He tossed the device to Trip, who barely had time to glance down at it when Lorian announced, "I'm needed back on my ship."
Trip watched the other man take a fortifying breath and turn away, heading quickly for the junction in the corridor. He came up just short of making the corner, bracing a hand against the bulkhead. Trip opened his mouth to ask what was wrong, only to be cut off as Lorian turned back around to face him.
In contrast to his earlier demeanour, he now looked the part of the stoic Vulcan. He gave his father a meaningful look.
"That survivor's guilt you were talking about? It wasn't just because of the probe."
Trip stood there watching as his son turned away from him once more. Before he could even fathom a response, Lorian was gone.