Title: Sympathies and Symmetries
Author: Zane Gray (email@example.com)
Summary: As Sub-Commander T'Pol struggles to deal with her mental violation at the hands of the Suliban, she finds a measure of comfort from an unexpected source.
About the Story: This story is intended as a post-ep for Shockwave, Parts I & II. It's also a sequel to my story One Step Back, Two Steps Forward, and is a prequel to three others I've written, Time Enough, Differential and The Early Hours (reading the stories in the intended order is highly recommended). Sympathies and Symmetries takes place the night after the Enterprise escaped from the Suliban Helix, several hours after the conference with Starfleet and Ambassador Soval and an hour prior to Archer's late-night visit with T'Pol.
Commander Tucker lay in his bunk unable to sleep, his temples pounding despite the analgesic Phlox had given him earlier. Trip was bone weary, but his mind felt like it was hotwired to a fusion reactor as it struggled to come to grips with the events of the last couple of days.
Let's see... first there was the destruction of the Paraagan colony that left thirty-six hundred people dead, the concussion he'd suffered on the shuttlepod during the incident and then coming to in Sickbay with T'Pol watching over him and the Captain, Malcolm and Hoshi freaking out nearby. Then there was Starfleet canceling their mission, the Captain's sudden time-travel adventure and his disturbing knowledge of beyond-cutting-edge physics. Before he could catch his breath from all that, Trip had found himself building a pair of quantum beacons whose operation he still didn't understand. And then came their little excursion to the Suliban stealth ship, the subsequent attack and the disappearance of the Captain, followed by them all getting pushed around by Silik and his cronies and being locked in their cabins. Then Trip had kissed the manufacturer's warranty on his door com good-bye trying to contact the others, Malcolm had gotten voluntarily beaten to a pulp and they'd finally made their escape from the Helix by faking a core breach.
Trip thought briefly about all the damage he was gonna have to repair... fuck. Oh, but it didn't end there.
Shortly thereafter, the Captain had returned with amazing tales of life in the thirty-first century. Then there'd been Soval's expected arrogance to deal with... which Trip hadn't of course. Instead, he'd personally lost it on the Bridge in front of the entire senior staff... lovely.
And then, capping it all off, there was Archer's gazelle speech (gazelles?!) and T'Pol's little pro-Humanity pep-rally that not only caught the Vulcans off guard, but might also have saved their mission.
Frankly, just tallying that mental list freaked him the hell out.
I need a vacation, Trip thought wearily. Then he remembered his recent visit to Risa, and the burning humiliation he'd felt climbing out of the shuttlepod in his blues and a bathrobe under a pair of ever-observant Vulcan eyes, and decided that maybe what he really needed was to just be knocked unconscious for a month. Sleep, at least, would have been a welcome respite. But after three hours of tossing and turning in his sheets, that prospect continued only to taunt him cruelly, just out of reach.
Trip turned his head so that he could see the comforting blur of stars streaking outside his viewport... and then remembered that they were moving on impulse, still docked to the Ti'Kir.
He sighed heavily. The fact was, something else had been nagging at him too. And strangely, it was more disturbing to him than all of the rest combined. T'Pol just... well, she just didn't seem herself.
Funny how it always seemed to come back to her lately.
Not that her reaction would seem unexpected after the day's events. Just look at what a basket case I am, Trip thought. But it was more than that. First, Trip had been unable to call her this afternoon for more than an hour, when she should have been locked in her quarters like everyone else. When she'd finally responded, her voice sounded weak and... uncertain. She'd brushed off his concern of course, blaming the instability of his jury-rigged com. Then, when they'd kicked off their little uprising, starting with those two Suliban guards, Trip was certain he'd heard actual fear in T'Pol's voice as she struggled against them. He and Malcolm had quickly taken the guards out, but he'd caught her visibly shuddering out of the corner of his eye as they dragged the unconscious Suliban into his quarters. And then there was her decidedly miffed sounding comment about him taking so long to come to her aid. It had seemed offhand at first, and then they'd just been too busy for him to give it a second thought. But now... pissy little comments like that just weren't T'Pol's style. Even in stressful situations, he'd never known T'Pol to lose control of her emotions, even a little.
If I live to be a hundred, I'll probably never understand Vulcans, Trip mused silently. Especially her. Then he was struck by an unexpected wave of sadness at that thought, realizing just how badly he did want to understand T'Pol.
Strange. At first he'd hated her guts so badly he'd wanted to flush her ass out the Launch Bay at least once a week. Then, after the whole encrypted communications debacle, things had started to change between them. They'd actually somehow managed to tune into each other's wave-lengths - at least in part - and work well together. And now... Trip thought of her as a friend. One of his best in fact.
Heaving a sigh of frustration, Trip glanced over at the chronometer next to his bunk. 0130 hours... and all is definitely not well. Beautiful.
Feeling more than a little angry at the Universe, Trip tossed off his sheets and pulled on a pair of sweat pants. For a moment, he stood rubbing his temples in a futile effort to ease the pounding of his head. Then, without warning, Trip grabbed the nearest object he could find - an unlucky PADD on his nightstand - and threw it furiously against the bulkhead. It shattered... but did little to ease his frustrations.
The door hissed shut unsympathetically behind him as he stormed out of the cabin.
Less than five minutes later, Trip found himself pacing back and forth in front of another door. Her door.
Sacred ground. Forbidden territory.
Trip hovered indecisively for a moment, then impulsively raised his hand as if to ring the bell. But just before he did, he pulled his hand back quickly, chiding himself. She's probably sleeping, dumbass. Like you'd be right now if you had any brains left.
With a huff, Trip suddenly turned and stalked off... nearly colliding with Crewman Fuller in the process. He mumbled an quick apology and continued on, looking back over his shoulder just in time to see Fuller watching him with a strange expression as he rounded a junction in the corridor.
Perfect. You're a thirty-three year old Chief Engineer and a highly trained Starfleet Commander... and you've just been caught stalking the Science Officer in your pajamas. Nice.
Embarrassed, Trip marched angrily in the direction of the Mess Hall, which was honestly where he'd planned to go in the first place. After all... absent sleep, there was always pie.
Thirty seconds later - after checking carefully to make sure the corridor was empty this time - there he was, once again standing before the entrance to T'Pol's quarters.
Mr. Wishy-Washy. Door Number Three.
"Fuck..." He walked away.
"No... no... NOOOOOO!!"
He was back at her door instantly. Trip knew that voice anywhere. Something was wrong. Something was wrong inside her quarters. He hit the 'announce' button.
"T'Pol?" No response. He hit the button again.
"T'Pol, are you all right?"
"No... don't! Please, NOOOOOOO!!"
His fingers flew over the keypad, entering an override code known only to four people on the ship - himself, the Captain, Malcolm... and her. In moments the door flew open and Trip's eyes struggled to adjust to the darkness as he raced inside. The door hissed shut behind him.
Trip realized that a dark cloth of some kind had been affixed over the viewport... that's why it was so dark. Then he heard moaning sounds and his eyes found the cabin's small bunk. He could just make out her tiny form as it twisted frantically in the sheets.
"I don't know where the Captain is! Stop! NOOOOO!"
Jesus... she was having a nightmare. Or reliving a nightmare. Then she screamed in agony and Trip was moving, propelled by fear to her side. He sat on the edge of the bunk and touched her bare arm gently.
"T'Pol... it's okay..."
She flinched at his touch, becoming even more panicked. "No... NOOOOO!!" Her eyes were open but she wasn't seeing. Trip grabbed her hand firmly and palmed her cheek.
"T'Pol... you're okay! It's Trip... you're just dreaming! Come back to me here..."
Whether it was the sound of his voice or his touch, Trip didn't know. But gradually, she stopped thrashing beside him, her breath returning to a more normal rhythm. Her moans fell to mere whimpers and then, after several long moments, her eyes finally seemed to focus and see him.
"Commander...?" She was clearly dazed and disoriented.
"T'Pol... are you okay?" The worry in his voice hung heavily in the room.
She looked around and swallowed dryly. "We are in my quarters. Why are you in my quarters?"
He stammered nervously for a moment until he could get his brain going again.
"I... I was... going by outside and I heard you crying out. I was... I was worried that something was wrong with you..."
Embarrassed, Trip tried to pull back his hand and stand. But T'Pol's grip tightened, refusing to let him go.
"NO! Don't..." She seemed to be fighting an internal struggle. "Don't go."
The unabashed need in her voice, the desperation, cut through his indecision. "Okay."
T'Pol became suddenly embarrassed... ashamed. Trip saw this... and suddenly also noticed that she was wearing a pair of silky pajamas. Her top had bunched up under her breasts. They both realized at the exact same moment that her belly was exposed... that she was shivering.
Swallowing hard, Trip quickly broke the moment, pulling T'Pol's sheets up over her to the relief of them both. When he looked up, he saw that she was watching him like a deer caught in headlights.
"T'Pol... what happened? Did... did Silik do something to you? Did he hurt you?"
T'Pol suddenly rolled away from him to face the bulkhead. She pulled her arms and legs in tightly, assuming a fetal position. Trip sighed, trying to figure out what to do. Then, on an impulse, he lay down behind her.
"My mama used to do this when I was little," he gently assured her. "When I'd wake up in the middle of the night from a nightmare, I crawled into her bed and she snuggled me like this."
He began stroking her shoulder softly. Against her better judgment, T'Pol's body pushed back into the reassuring warmth of him.
"Vulcans... Vulcans do not have nightmares."
She'd expected a different response. She tried again to placate her sensibilities. "Vulcans do not snuggle."
Frowning, T'Pol's mind continued to spin off balance. And then, as Trip's hand moved up to gently massage the tightened muscles of her neck, T'Pol felt her body beginning to relax. For twenty... maybe thirty minutes they lay together silently, as Trip continued his ministrations. T'Pol closed her eyes, focusing on his soothing touch... letting her mind empty of concerns. It was not unlike meditation.
After a long while, Trip finally spoke. "I meant to tell you earlier... I mean, I wanted to let you know how much it means to all of us that you stood up to Soval. That you stuck up for us like that. I know it probably wasn't easy."
She opened her eyes in the darkness but didn't reply. Trip eventually became uncomfortable with her silence. "I should go."
Then... as he swung his legs over the edge of the bunk, Trip leaned over and placed a quick, chaste kiss on the back of her head.
"I'm glad you're here, T'Pol. I just wanted you to know that."
As he moved to leave, T'Pol sat up, pulling the sheets up over herself shyly. "Commander..." she began.
Trip turned back to her. "We don't have to talk about this. I mean... if you don't want to. I know Vulcans don't like to talk about their feelings."
She nodded, unable to do anything else.
"But if you ever do want to... to you know... talk..."
She found herself nodding again as his voice trailed off.
"Well... I guess that's what friends are for." He smiled warmly at her. "Sweet dreams, T'Pol."
And then he was gone. T'Pol lay back on her bunk and stared at the ceiling in wonder. Then she spoke softly in the darkness.
"Vulcans do not dream..."
Outside her door, Trip just stood for a moment, mesmerized. Then he slowly turned in the direction of the Mess Hall. After all... sleep would never find him now. And there was still pie. But as he ambled down the corridor, just one thought occupied his mind...
Whaddya know... girl's got an outie.
In the days that followed, his Engineering staff would come to note that a very long time passed before Trip's mysterious grin faded.
An hour later, T'Pol lay quietly in the darkness of her cabin, still staring up at the ceiling. She carefully pondered the events of the last two days, the recent course of her life, her decision to remain on the Enterprise, the importance of her friendship with Commander Tucker and her relationships with some of the others. For so long she had tried to dismiss these Humans... to convince herself that they were irrational... illogical. Now, she found that she no longer had the energy or the desire to do so. And, strangely, her ordeal earlier in the day suddenly seemed more... tolerable. She knew that, with time, she would get past it.
T'Pol rolled over on her side and touched the skin of her arm, tracing the path Commander Tucker's fingers had traveled. For just an instant, the corner of her mouth curled up. Then she closed her eyes and made an effort to simply rest. But rest was the best she could do. After all... sleep would never find her now. She wondered absently if there was any pecan pie in the Mess Hall.
Then the door com rang again. T'Pol sat up, weary but suddenly wishing to see his face once more.
When the door opened, Captain Archer entered instead. T'Pol was disappointed. There was something in her commanding officer's expression... something needy... that she found disturbing. And yet, she was oddly amused. If I live to be two hundred, I will never understand these Humans...
"I can't be certain, but Crewman Fuller might have seen me coming in here..."
--- FIN ---
If you liked what you just read, be sure to read Time Enough, Differential and The Early Hours, which are the next stories in this series. And in case you haven't read it already, One Step Back, Two Steps Forward is the prequel to this story. Watch for the next installment in this series, Objects in Motion, coming later in 2003.
Best wishes as always!