-- Tucker --

Personal Log, March 15, 2153, Commander Charles Tucker, Starship Enterprise, NX-01.

Well, shit.

“Trip, what the fuck were you thinking? Were you thinking?”

I stood silently, waiting for him to finish, watching him pace back and forth, letting his anger out. Other people didn’t ever see him like this. To them, he was polished, composed, the very picture of a starship captain.

Not now.

His tone was getting violent, his words designed to shred my self worth and dignity.

What’s more, it was working.

“I can’t believe one of my own officers could be so mind-numbingly stupid! Honestly, Trip, I thought after the pregnancy debacle, you’d know better than to stick your nose in other species’ business!”

He paused, hands on his hips, and looking everywhere but at me as he sighed heavily. Licking his lips, he turned towards the window and continued his tirade.

I didn’t say a word.

Mashed potatoes and congealed gravy don’t really mix well.

I stared at my plate, trying to get the gravy to stay put long enough to actually get a decent amount of food on my fork while not entirely paying attention to some new protocol or regulation that Malcolm was prattling on about.

“--since, after all, it was proven in The People v. Captain Stefan Häagen that in the case of weapon failure due to local ambient radiation during a battle, the captain can’t be -- are you even listening?”

This gravy was being damn stubborn.


“What?!” I looked up at him, mildly annoyed at him for causing the gravy to fall off my fork yet again.

“You weren’t even listening.”

I waved him off. “Ambient radiation, Häagen-daaz protocol, yadda yadda….” I bent back to my plate, determined to get the gravy to mix.

He sighed and did that little eye rolling thing that he does and muttered something under his breath.

“My mother is not a watermelon, thank you.”

“I did not say that! I said that she was--“

I looked at him over my fork. “Said she was a what?”

“Nothing.” He developed a rather pressing interest in his pasta marinara and didn’t look up for quite some time.

I continued in my quest to conquer the gravy and we ate in silence for a while, until Malcolm started fidgeting in his seat, just itching to say something. I ignored him for as long as I possibly could, but the movement was starting to grate.

“For the love, just say it.”

“You don’t have to take it out on me just because you got reamed by the Captain.”

I paused in my gravy mission to look up at him in disbelief.

“Take what out on you? I haven’t said a thing --“

“That’s exactly it. You haven’t said anything. You’ve been surly and moody and just plain rude ever since you got out of the ready room a half hour ago. You completely ignored three members of your staff in the corridor and have barely said three words to me. I usually can’t shut you up.”

I stared, willing my mouth to move and say something, but all I was getting was my jaw going up and down. He tossed his fork down and shoved back from the table.

“I’ll see you later then, Commander.”

I watched him leave, tossing his tray into the alcove and walking out the door.

I looked down at my own tray.

I didn’t know gravy had a solid form.


Personal Log, March 15, 2153, Captain Jonathan Archer, Starship Enterprise, NX-01

For God’s sake, it’s like he’s two.

You know, I thought I could trust him to behave. I thought his intellectual curiosity would win out over his moral code. I thought my orders would be enough. I thought that he would listen to me, his captain and his friend.

I guess I thought wrong.

We don’t have the right to meddle in the affairs and traditions of another species. We can’t apply the ‘standards’ of human rights to them because they’re not human. He just couldn’t see past his own ideas of right and wrong to get that they’re not always the same with other species’.

Because we’re not the same.

Is it not obvious?

The differences are written all over our faces, our mannerisms, our patterns of speech. The technology, the culture, the traditions. Everything is different, nothing’s the same, wherever you go, one thing is constant.


Difference, Trip. Just as humans are different from one another, other species are different from us. That one thing will be the same wherever you are, wherever you end up. Technology will be based on different principles, the stars will look different, the language won’t sound right to your ears, your looks will draw the stares.

Everything is different, it’s part of why we’re out here, to discover all those differences. But we can’t do that if you try to make them all human.

It doesn’t work like that.

Nothing works like that, nothing’s that simple. You can’t just apply your own morals and virtues to every situation you come across. They don’t work out here, not all the time. Yeah, they keep us grounded, they keep us ‘human’, I suppose, but you can’t force them onto other people.

It’s bound to have consequences.

Like here.

You taught someone something they weren’t supposed to know, you showed them a world beyond what they knew, and they paid for with their life. You knew what you were doing was wrong, you knew it, and you still did it.

Your damn morals.

You expect the rest of us to pay for your morals? Your vision of human rights across the galaxy? You don’t get to make those decisions. That’s not your job.

I do, and it’s mine.

You don’t have the right to tell people what’s right for them. You don’t have the right to go behind their backs, and mine, and subvert their ways.

You took their child from them. Their child.

How could you not know better? How could Starfleet’s prized engineer not know better?

How could my friend not know better?

This whole situation makes me sick. Someone killed themselves because of you, because they couldn’t go back to their life, because of you. You. You did this. We’ve lost a potentially great ally, and you’ve got nothing to say for it. No defense, no apology, nothing. You wrote them a form letter, and only because I made you.

Where were your morals then, Trip?

I sat in my quarters, listening to my log on repeat, realizing just how much I sounded like T’Pol. When had that happened? When did her damn non-interference bullshit become my mantra too?

There was something inherently wrong with that.

I couldn’t take the sound of my own voice anymore, so I flicked the speakers off and left my quarters, wanting a little solitude to go with the late hour. I found myself walking the corridors at random, not having a direction or destination. It was nice, while it lasted.

The obs deck was in front of me, door wide open, just waiting for me to cross it. I stepped in, and walked over to a couch in front of one of the wide wall to wall windows. I sat down and leaned against the arm of the couch, watching the stars go by.

I didn’t hear her soft footfalls as she walked from the door to the couch, and leaned over the back a little, cocking her head and observing me in that detached Vulcan way.


I looked up at her, startled out of my reverie, and sat up slowly.

“T’Pol? What are you doing up at this hour?”

“I have been reviewing the scans, Captain.” She moved gracefully around the couch to sit next to me.

“Oh.” I’d forgotten that in the excitement of this latest scientific discovery, she’d taken to forgoing the meditation candle in favor of data readouts and PADDs.

“If I may ask, what bring you to the observation deck at 0200?”

“Just… couldn’t take my quarters. Needed a new place to sit and think.”

She nodded and we sat for a while in silence, both of us watching the stars streak past. One of Trip’s explanations for this effect floated up in my head, and I heard his voice as sure as if he was sitting next to me instead of T’Pol. The excitement in his voice as he explained his favorite bit of warp theory brought a small smile to my face, before I remembered just why I couldn’t stand my quarters.

“And just what prompted this reaction?” She spoke softly, keeping to the human tendency of ‘not breaking the mood’.

“What else? This whole cogenitor mess.”

She nodded, slowly, not saying anything.

“It’s just…. How could he be so stupid? How could he think what he was doing could have any kind of a good outcome? Did he think he was going to start a cultural revolution? A civil rights movement? Those don’t happen from without, they happen from within. I’d thought he’d learned not to mess with people he doesn’t understand.”

I sighed and leaned my head back, staring at the ceiling.

“You know, I thought he’d listen to me. Just this once. This one time, actually follow my orders to the letter. Not just because I’m his captain, but because I’m his friend. His friend. It’s like it doesn’t mean anything to him… the last eight years… nothing.”

“Perhaps you do not understand his intentions correctly.”

“I know what his intentions were! He thought that he was giving that thing a chance at a better life, but he ended up taking that life away. It’s just the same as if he’d pulled the trigger himself. He’s the cause. He’s the root problem, and he’s not even sorry. He hasn’t offered a defense or a reason. Just stands there thinking he did right. Well, he didn’t. He hasn’t done a damn thing right since we started this. He defied my orders, he lied to the Vissians, he lied to me!

I closed my eyes, trying not to think about how much it hurt to know that he lied to me, he betrayed me, and wasn’t sorry about it.

“Maybe… our friendship doesn’t mean that much to him anymore.”

“Perhaps. Or perhaps his belief in what he was doing meant more that friendship.”

“Same damn thing, ain’t it?”


Personal Log, April 8, 2153, Commander Charles Tucker, Starship Enterprise, NX-01.

He hasn’t said a word to me.

Sure, he gives out the assignments at the daily briefings, and he’ll go over reports and duty logs and such with me, but that’s not talking. That’s work, that doesn’t count.

It’s been almost a month, and he won’t talk to me, he barely looks at me.

This wasn’t how it was supposed to be.

We were friends from the moment we met, and we always told each other it wouldn’t end. Friends forever and all that sentimental crap. It was nice, you know. I had always been surrounded by people, but never had that one person whose approval meant everything. And then I did.

And now I don’t.

I don’t know what to do, this isn’t how it was all supposed to turn out.

I know all the things everyone said about our relationship. The rumor mill busted more than a few gears on it. I was his ever faithful sidekick, following him around like Porthos or something, just waiting for the slightest bit of attention. Then there were those who thought that we weren’t really friends at all, and it was all some elaborate prank we were pulling on the whole of Starfleet. Or we were secretly lovers, stealing kisses in the corridors during the day and making the decks shake at night. Guess who was the bitch?


They had a freaking field day when he stopped talking to me altogether. Oh, the stories they had.

It all stopped, after awhile. The rumors, at least. It turned to curious glances when they passed me in the halls and whispers when I sat down in the mess. It bugs me more than it should.

And I can’t talk to him about it. He’s cut me off.

It hurts more than I thought it would.

“No. My engines. They’re gonna stay mine.”

“Honestly, Commander, I don’t know why you’re being so stubborn about this.”

“Because they’re mine, Lieutenant.”

“You didn’t have a problem with it a few months back.”

“That was because it was life or death. This? This isn’t life or death. This is you wanting to play with the cannons. My engines will have no part in this.”

“The Captain ordered it.”

“That’s nice. Have him come talk to me.”

I turned around and walked away from him, heading towards my office door. Exactly three seconds later – I counted – he followed.

“It will work a lot better if you’re helping rather than fighting it.”

“Oh, so glad to know you have faith in my abilities, Mal. The answer’s still no.”

He sighed and stood in the doorway with his hands on his hips as I shuffled PADDs around my desk – I needed to get organized in a serious way.

“Commander –“

“No!” I looked up at him, irritated. “Mal, just accept it. The warp engines – my warp engines –are not for modifying the cannon output. No.”

He sighed again, shaking his head.


As he left Engineering, I started counting, timing how long it would take Archer to call me to the ready room for my latest transgression. My mental bet was three minutes.

I was over by eight seconds.

I stood in the ready room, waiting for him to turn away from that window and address me. It took precisely 15 seconds.

“So. Is this some sort of payback, Trip?”

I wasn’t quite prepared for how tired he sounded.

“No. It’s just me exercising some common sense, for once.”

He snorted a soft laugh.

“For once.”

He turned in place and faced me, leaning back against the wall.

“Trying to tie the engines into the cannon matrix like the impulse engines is suicide. I don’t care how many safeguards he’s programmed or how many simulations he’s run. I won’t have it done to my engines.”

“Suicide, huh? Interesting choice of words.”

I rolled my eyes impatiently.

“It would blow the reactor. Kill us all. The added stress from the cannons would overload the dilithium matrix, making the plasma flow fluctuate out of control. The breach would be within seconds of firing. There’s no way to program around it, I don’t care what Malcolm says.”

Honestly, he wouldn’t be able to program his way out of a paper bag. But hey, what do I know, I’m just the chief engineer.

“Malcolm sounded pretty convinced it would work.”

“You really want to risk blowing the ship based on his conviction?” The whole notion was pretty fucking ridiculous.

“I’d rather not have to risk anything.”

“So why am I even in here?”

“Because you’re going to make sure it’s not a risk.”

“I can’t do that! Did you hear a word I said? It. Can’t. Be. Done.”

“Malcolm says otherwise.”

Malcolm doesn’t know warp mechanics as well as he thinks he does.”

“Make it work, Trip.”

“I can’t.”

“First time for everything, hmm?” His eyes watched me carefully, waiting to see what my reaction would be, whether I’d blow up or get his point, but his voice was oddly even.

“And what the hell is that supposed to mean?” I looked at him, waiting for an answer, and he took his sweet time giving me one.

“First time you’ve admitted you can’t do something.”

“What?” I was so confused, I could barely get the word out of my mouth.

He waved a finger at me and pushed hard off the wall, taking one solid stride into the room, and not looking at me for a moment.

“Ever since I’ve known you, you always thought you could do anything. Never said no to a challenge, no matter what it was. Engineering feat? Sure. Bit of rogue warp theory? Bring it on. Drinking match? Let’s go. Civil unrest? Why the hell not.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

“You’re actually drawing a parallel between that and this?” My confusion grew, and I’m sure it was all over my face at this point.

“Yep, because you see, Trip, it hasn’t changed you. You’re still the same old cocky sonofabitch who thinks he can do anything and get away with it. Except now, right now, you’re saying you can’t do something. First time I’ve ever heard those words come out of your mouth. Too bad they didn’t come out months ago to a certain member of a certain alien species. ‘I can’t’. You’ve never said it to me, and I doubt you’ve ever said it to yourself.”

He was practically in my face at this point, his tone scathingly accusatory, and his words harsh and blunt. Every sound I heard was a verbal punch to the gut, and it hurt.

“That’s what you think of me?” I tried to sound defiant, but my voice came out quiet and thin.

“Yes, Trip, that’s exactly what I think of you. You never think twice about what you can and can’t do, it’s like the rules that everyone else has to go by don’t apply to you. And I let you get away with it for a long time, because you were my friend, you were good and charming and all those things that disarm people and make them like you, and then you went one step too far.”

“I went one step too far?! I didn’t go far enough!” I took a step forward, meeting his hateful glare and standing toe to toe. “She should still be alive.”

“Yes, she should, and she would be, if it weren’t for you and your damn morals.”

“My morals? Why are they mine? What happened to yours?”

He took a step back, and turned his back to me.

“I know as much to keep them to myself, which puts me one step above you.”

I snorted disbelievingly. “Right, because you’re so much better than me.”

He spun around and pointed at me threateningly.

I am better than you!

I flinched at the volume and the venom, but didn’t back down.

“Since when?”

“Since you stuck your nose where it didn’t belong. Since your actions made someone commit suicide. Since you took away that couple’s unborn child. Since you started applying your goddamn moral code to every species we run across! Since you stopped realizing that we’re not the most important species out here!”

“I did what I thought was right.” I struggled to keep my tone calm and level, and wasn’t too sure I’d pulled it off.

“I know you did, but you --“

“You don’t know! I thought I was right. I thought I was helping. I thought I was making a change for the better.” Whatever front I’d managed to put up was falling fast, and my guilt was showing, plain to see.

I turned from him, and started pacing the confined space.

“When you told me it committed suicide, I felt awful. Worse than awful. I knew that it was my fault, and that I was the only one to blame. Every day I think about it, and what might’ve happened if I hadn’t tried to step in, if I hadn’t taught it to read. Why was I right and they were wrong? What made human rights so special? Every day. Every day I think about what I did. And every day, I feel sick about it. Every day I think about how my actions have to change, how my beliefs have to change. How I have to change. And I wonder if I can do it.”

I stopped pacing and stepped directly up to him.

“So don’t tell me that you know what I thought. You didn’t know then, and you don’t know now.”

I turned and left, anything he might have said cut off by the quick close of the door.


Personal Log, April 9, 2153, Captain Jonathan Archer, Starship Enterprise, NX-01.

I can't believe I just had that argument. With him, of all people.

What's worse, is that I believed the words I said. The more he said, the more angry I felt. I'd never felt that way. Since this whole mess started, my anger and my pain have just festered, and I didn't know what to do with them. So I got used to it. The pain. The hurt. They became my companions. They just stayed in me, eating away at whatever semblance remained in my mind of our friendship.

And I don't really care. It's that that gets to me now.

Every word he said, every little petulant look, every insistent conviction in his voice pissed me off, just proved me right because he still – still! – wouldn’t back off his goddamn pedestal.

And then he said that he was wrong. That he felt bad.

I still don't care, I still don't feel like I should pity him. I still don't think that he truly believes what he did was wrong. I still don't think he realizes how much his actions can affect others. I still don't think he really cares about my thoughts, my feelings, anything I say or do.

I still don't think that I matter that much to him. If I mattered at all, if my words meant anything, this wouldn't have happened.

The fact that he betrayed me hurt more than the fact that he'd disobeyed my orders. I thought I meant something. I thought I could keep him from fucking up another first contact, but I guess I was wrong.

Wrong then, wrong now. But...

But the derision in his voice when he talked back. The disbelief that he was wrong, and that for not interfering, I was better.

Am I better? Not so sure anymore.

He said that he did what I would do. How was he so sure that it was? I don't know what I would've done. Taken the safe road? Take the path less traveled?

Would I have helped her? Or would I have stepped back? Let her be used?

He's insistent that he was right. I'm insistent that he's not.

Maybe neither of us are.

This was not right.

Nothing about this was right. I shouldn’t have been feeling like this.

His words shouldn’t have still been in my head. I shouldn’t have been thinking about it.

I believed what I said. Every word of it. My words and my reactions were justified.

“Ever since I’ve known you, you always thought you could do anything. Never said no to a challenge, no matter what it was. Engineering feat? Sure. Bit of rogue warp theory? Bring it on. Drinking match? Let’s go. Civil unrest? Why the hell not.”

If I hadn’t been so damn serious, the look on his face would’ve made me laugh.

He was wrong, not me. This whole mess was his fault. Everything that came after it could therefore be laid at his feet. I had nothing to feel bad about. No blood on my hands.

So why was I feeling so cold and empty?

I sat in my quarters, reports and duty rosters spread out over my desk, my computer screen dark after being ignored too long. The argument kept playing over and over in my head, and I still found myself torn.

I didn’t care, and yet I did.

I didn’t care that my words hurt him, I didn’t care that I felt better and superior and morally right, and I didn’t care that I was being petty and vindictive.

But…. The pain he still felt after all this time about its death… his confliction, his regret.

That I cared about.

I got up and walked over to my bed, sitting down heavily. I idly picked up the water polo ball that was sitting on it and rolled it around in my hands. Porthos nudged my elbow, edging to get close to me. I lifted one arm, and he crawled next to me. I stroked his fur without paying him any thought.

I couldn’t get the words out of my head.

“You’re actually drawing a parallel between that and this?”

“Yep, because you see, Trip, it hasn’t changed you. You’re still the same old cocky sonofabitch who thinks he can do anything and get away with it. Except now, right now, you’re saying you can’t do something. First time I’ve ever heard those words come out of your mouth. Too bad they didn’t come out months ago to a certain member of a certain alien species. ‘I can’t’. You’ve never said it to me, and I doubt you’ve ever said it to yourself.”

I still think he acts like a kid. He thinks that he can get away with anything because he’s the charming southerner everyone likes. He’s never so much as thought ‘I can’t’ and that’s the problem. He doesn’t have boundaries, he doesn’t have limits.

Then again, that’s part of why I liked him in the first place.

He never took no for an answer. Nothing was out of reach. He never stopped to think he wasn’t capable, or that he couldn’t do something out of lack of ability. Anything was possible, as long as he tried hard enough.

Good quality in a co-conspirator. Bad quality in a subordinate.

He doesn’t always take my orders at face value. If they’re in line with what he wants, he’s got no problem following them. But if they don’t fall in line…. That’s a whole other ball game. He won’t listen. It’s always been this way. But I let it go, because he was my friend, but also because eventually, when it came down to it, he would follow my orders, he would do what his duty demanded of him.

This time, when it counted, when his duty demanded that he save a life, he didn’t. He tried to better that life, not save it.

The two things don’t always mesh.

Porthos whined, laying his head on my thigh. I pushed up off the bed, and tossed some food in his bowl. He jumped to the floor and started eating. I leaned against the edge of my desk, watching him.

He didn’t ask much of me. Food twice a day and a little attention. So why did others ask so much?

“Yes, Trip, that’s exactly what I think of you. You never think twice about what you can and can’t do, it’s like the rules that everyone else has to go by don’t apply to you. And I let you get away with it for a long time, because you were my friend, you were good and charming and all those things that disarm people and make them like you, and then you went one step too far.”

I know he went one step too far. Was it my duty as his captain to match that step, or was I right to leave him out to dry?

I sat down at my desk again, picking up a PADD, glancing at it, then tossing it down again. The reports and duty logs all start to run together after a point, and you stop caring. You read them, sign off, go through all the motions, but you don’t care about any individual report or log. There are too many of them. Nothing stands out.

Did I stop caring about Trip the same way? He wasn’t an individual anymore, he was just another crewmember who’d disobeyed orders.

But that doesn’t explain it all. It doesn’t explain why I still care now, whatever form that may take. It doesn’t explain why the betrayal hurt more than the actual act of disobeying the order. It doesn’t explain the pain of a friend’s casual disregard for your feelings.

I sighed, standing and walking to the door. Porthos looked up at me, curious about where I was going. I opened the door and stood to the side.

“Wanna go for a walk, boy?”

I walked into the mess hall, thankfully empty. Porthos followed me, his nails clicking against the deck plating. I headed over to the galley, looking for a midnight snack.

I opened one of the cabinets and pulled out a dusty bottle. Twisting it open, I poured a thin layer of golden bourbon into a highball glass. I held it up, eyeing it in the soft lighting of ship’s night. There was a soft whine at my feet, and I looked down to see Porthos anxiously shifting his weight from paw to paw, waiting for some food.

“So, its cheese you want, huh? That’s all you ever want.”

I got up and walked over to one of the refrigerated racks. I picked a small chunk of cheddar and tossed it to him. He caught it neatly and waited for another piece. I shook my head and smiled softly.

“No, boy, or Phlox’ll have my head. He already thinks I feed you too much cheese.”

I moved back to my seat and pondered my drink. Should I really allow alcohol to be my solution?

Hell, I didn’t care at this point. I swigged it in one shot and poured another.

Bourbon had always been one of my favorite liquors. Elegant in its simplicity, but brutal on the way down. It didn’t try to hide its fire, but it didn’t make a fuss out of it either. It was plainspoken, and ruthlessly honest. Either you could hack it or you couldn’t.

Kind of like space travel. Or being a captain.

I’m not used to being unsure. I’ve always been on the safe side of confident, but always sure of myself and my direction. It’s an odd feeling to not see where you’re going.

I don’t like it.

I tossed back the bourbon, not liking the direction my thoughts were taking me. A light haze was starting to settle over my mind, numbing my senses just a little. I poured another thin layer of the drink and watched the liquid slide across the glass. I took a small sip, then drank the rest down. I held the bottle up, pondering one last drink, but decided against it and twisted the cap back on.

Closing the cabinet door, another couple bottles in the back caught my eye. Beer, a small local San Francisco vintage from a few years back. Reaching for one of the bottles, I remembered the trip out to the brewery for my birthday shortly before launch. Trip had been so proud of himself for remembering the place from years before, when I’d taken him and Lizzie when she’d visited. Spent the entire day there, wandering the vast building and the fields that surrounded it. One of the best days I can remember, just for its quiet good times and laughter. The easy talk and comfortable silences.

I put the bottle back, silently closed the door, and leaned my forehead against the cool surface.

I wanted my friend back.


Personal Log, April 9, 2153, Commander Charles Tucker, Starship Enterprise, NX-01.

You know, I didn’t think it was possible to feel worse. Sucks to be wrong.

It hurts to know he thinks that little of me. That all I am in his eyes is a cocky little bastard who slides by on little more than charm or I’m not worthy of a little effort.

He could try. He could try to see it through my eyes, figure out what I was thinking. But no, all he sees is what I did and how wrong it was and how much of a child I am because of it. A month, and it’s still all he sees when he looks at me. A mistake.

I’m more than that. And if he’d try, if he’d look beyond his own goddamn superiority, he’d see that. All he’d have to do is try.

This whole thing is one colossal misunderstanding, and neither of us will budge an inch because we’re too damn stubborn. Both convinced we’re right, convinced that morality is on our side.

I’m willing to try. At least, I think I am. I want what we had back. I miss having a friend who knows where I come from, knows my family, knows my history… because he was there. Is that enough? To miss it? Is wanting something enough to get it back once it’s lost? Or is it lost for good?

I wish I knew.

And if wishes were horses, beggars would ride.

I stepped into the empty mess hall, restless after thinking too much about the afternoon. Work hadn’t taken my mind off it, so I’d grabbed a book and headed to the mess.

After grabbing a cup of warm milk, I settled into a chair facing the windows. I tucked my legs under me and opened my book.

I wasn’t three pages in when I heard the galley door open.

I didn’t bother turning around, I knew who it was by the clicks on the deck plating. I tossed my book on the table and waited for him to grab a seat.

“Couldn’t sleep either?”

I looked up at him as he sat down across from me.

“Nope. Never can sleep after an argument, you know that.”

He leaned forward, arms braced and hands folded. He was as uncomfortable as I’d ever seen him. It wasn’t the best look for him.

“Trip, I just want to say--“

“Save me the speech. Let’s just move beyond it, alright?”

“No, Trip, it’s not alright. I don’t want this between us.”

I laughed, I couldn’t help it.

“If we both just drop it, there’s not gonna be anything between us. Back to old times.”

He looked at me with that borderline patronizing look of his, and whatever arguments I had on the subject left me.

“We can’t go back to old times. You know that as much as I do. We need to figure this out, we need to know what went wrong. Why it went wrong.”

“Why? I thought that much was obvious… I disobeyed orders.”

He leaned back in the chair, sighing heavily.

“It wasn’t just that Trip… it felt like you weren’t just disobeying orders, you were just throwing me aside – what I said didn’t matter. I’d said to stop, I’d asked you, not just as a captain, but as a friend, and you just… threw it aside. It was like our friendship didn’t matter.”

“You honestly thought that? How could you think that? How could you think that after all the years we’ve spent together, I would just throw it away? Jon, you’re the one person whose approval meant everything.”

I leaned back, thinking for a moment on how to word my thoughts.

“My entire life, ever since I started engineering, I was billed as a prodigy, a genius. It bugged me, but I never said anything, because it made my mom proud. But because of that, people steered clear of me. In high school, in college, at OTC, in the Fleet. But then… then came that damn pilot project. And then there was you. One person who didn’t buy into the Starfleet hype, who didn’t care about all the degrees and awards I had, only about what I could do with an engine.

“You think I’d toss that easily?”

“Sure felt that way,” he said softly, looking at the table and not meeting my eyes. I sighed and looked away for a moment before looking back at him.

“Jon, never. I didn’t think that it would do that much damage. I didn’t think that it’d take like that.”

“Doesn’t seem you really thought at all.” He said it with vague hints of dismissal and exhaustion with the whole situation. It was painfully obvious we’d both over thought the entire thing.

“That’s not fair.” I almost winced at the sound of vaguely childish whining in my voice.

“You know what’s not fair? It’s not fair that it felt so marginalized that it committed suicide rather than go back. It’s not fair that that couple lost out on a child. It’s not fair that you didn’t stop and consider what you were doing. Did it honestly not cross your mind that what you were doing was wrong?”

“It crossed my mind. Didn’t stay there, though.”

“I always thought you didn’t do anything without thinking it over. You know what the consequences are, you just don’t give a damn.”

“I did think it over. I thought the benefits would outweigh the risks.” I felt like I was just repeating myself over and over, and nothing was getting through to him, my voice was so tired and worn out. I was tired of this, this hostility between us.

“You were wrong.” I always hated it when he turned into Captain Obvious. Got old fast.

“Yeah, I was. And I pay for it every single day you don’t talk to me.” I never thought I could be just that tired with anything.

“That’s your punishment for this? The fact that I don’t talk to you is punishment? What about the fact that someone killed themselves because of you?”

“It’s that that bothers you the most, not that I disobeyed orders or betrayed you.” My voice was sounding raw with a tinge of sarcasm to my own ears. “The deaths of innocents stomps on your sense of right and wrong, and that gets to you more than anything I can do or say.”

“I think I know what bothers me the most, Trip. I’m the one that’s been thinking about it for the last month. You disobeyed orders, you went out on a limb, and when it broke, you just expected me to be there to grab your hand. I had a duty to stick to the orders I’d given, I couldn’t bail you out after you’d disobeyed me.” He was getting angry, his voice rising a little, and both of us were starting to backtrack to that day.

“I wasn’t expecting you to!” I was half insulted by his outright accusation. I would have been fully insulted, if I hadn’t known it was true to a point. Years of friendship could bite you in the ass – you lost the ability to lie about your feelings and thought processes.

“Oh, you weren’t?” He snorted a soft, cynical laugh and looked away. “You went against orders, and then had the balls to tell me you did what I would’ve done. What I would’ve done, Trip? I didn’t know what I would’ve done. I still don’t! So don’t sit there and tell me that you weren’t expecting me to bail you out. In some way, you were. You thought that you wouldn’t get called on it if anything bad happened. If anything bad happened. Like anything good would happen.”

“Something good could have happened, that’s why I did it in the first place. I thought I could help make a change--“

That’s not your call!” His voice rang loud in the quiet of the empty mess, and we both sat silent for a few moments.

“It wasn’t your call. You don’t get to decide what’s right for another species. We’re not the interstellar police, we can’t try to change everyone to fit our neat little ideas of right and wrong. We don’t get to make the call of what’s right for everyone, because it’s not the same for everyone. And you tried to do that.”

I thought his words over, the silence hanging soft and familiar over us.

“Lesson learned, the hard way.”

We looked at each other, stuck in a stalemate, neither one willing to fully concede their place.

“So, where do we go from here, Jon? How do we get out of this?”

“I don’t know. I’d say agree to disagree, but I’m not sure that it applies all that well here. Neither of us will ever be able to just ignore it and move on.”

“Elephant in the living room, huh?” I laughed softly, and he echoed me. “Look, I know I was wrong. I know that what happened was my fault.”

I looked up at him, and met his eyes.

“Don’t you think we’ve suffered enough?”

~[F I N]~