Notes: This is written for "Break Travis Month". It's a little bit more angsty than my usual stories, but considering the subject, LOL! Poor Travis. He and Trip go on a climbing trip that nearly turns tragic. To save Travis's life, Trip encourages him to...talk about anything and everything. Travis knows more about people than Trip (and others) believe.
Spoilers for ENT "Shuttlepod One", "Horizon" "Doctor's Orders" "Silent Enemy", "The Forge".
Rating: T for language
Pairings: TnT, briefly.
Please R&R. Thanks.
"Travis, the next time you go mountain climbing, we're gettin' you a parachute."
Lieutenant Travis Mayweather sighed and shook his head. "Commander, we got to the summit and back down without a scratch. Well, almost."
Trip Tucker sighed and looked out at the setting sun on the horizon. The brilliant reddish-orange glow touched the Silan Range and threw purple shadows in the valleys. He watched as the sky transformed into a velvety blue-blackness. In a matter of seconds, peace came over the land; even the birds ceased their chatter.
The silence was unnerving. A night on Redran Three was both comforting and terrifying.
"How's the pain? Anythin' else I can get you?"
Travis shook his head again and managed a smile. "I think the feeling's coming back to my limbs, slowly but surely. That's a good sign, right?"
"I think if you still couldn't feel anythin', that would be a very bad sign."
"Yeah, at least the pain reminds me I'm still alive, if not completely in one piece."
Trip sighed, "Don't worry. Enterprise'll find us and we'll be back on the ship before we know it."
Travis smiled and nodded a little. "At least we know the safety lines still worked. It could've been a lot worse."
Trip huffed a laugh. "Always the optimist, that's you. I hope our comm signal got through to Enterprise and Hoshi picked up on it. Then the Cap'n and Malcolm will come chargin' to the rescue in Shuttlepod One with Phlox in tow, and Phlox'll get you to Sickbay and take good care of you. Hoshi'll swear at you in fifteen languages about nearly getting yourself killed again, and T'Pol will calculate the odds of you actually makin' it through a climb without breaking a bone."
"Yeah, I wonder what the odds are of that. Makes me want to hang up my spikes and pietons sometimes."
"Why the hell do you keep doin' it, if all it does it gets you hurt?" Trip hadn't meant for the frustration to come through in his voice, but he was the senior officer here. Travis's safety was his responsibility, and thanks to him, Travis was lying on his sleeping bag on a ledge a hundred meters above base camp, unable to move from the shoulders down.
"Part of it's the challenge. Part of it's the adrenalin rush. You know, feeling alive." Travis chuckled, though there was a hint of strain underneath it. "It's the feeling of the ground under my feet, my hands. It's hard to explain it to someone who hasn't lived in a cargo ship for most of his life."
Trip leaned against the rock cliff and rolled the stiffness out of his shoulders. Travis had an interesting point; there were many things he'd taken for granted, like his life on Earth. The helmsman was a reminder that not everyone came from the same background, even if they were Human. You know what they say about when you assume something, Trip thought dryly. It only makes as ass out of you and me."Yeah, that's true. I didn't think about that."
"Sometimes there would be months between ports. Paul and I-we'd read about the places we were about to visit, but nothing compares to seeing the real thing. The Ice Caves of Andoria, the Janaran Falls on Betazed, the Singing Cliffs on Draylax...man, I remember the first time I saw them in person. Pretty awesome. You look at them and you think, 'Damn, the Universe does good work. I'm kind of insignificant compared to all this, and even when I'm gone, they'll still be there.' Gives you a new perspective on life."
Trip listened to the younger officer with a sense of awe. Even in the face of death-or at the very least, paralysis-Travis still looked at the bright side of the situation. He was no Pollyanna; the pain was etched on his dark-skinned face and if Trip gazed deep into his eyes, the fear within was more than obvious. How much of the optimistic bravado was genuine and how much was just a front for something else?
"...I remember when Dad took Paul and me to the Skoras Pub on Telemachus Station. I think Lieutenant Commander Reed would really enjoy visiting there. I mean, they've got some really wicked ales that'll knock you on your butt if you're not careful. They've got a huge bouncer named Tituk...I mean, he's nearly seven feet tall, with three huge eyes and one mean-looking horn in the middle of his head. Arms about as big around as one of Malcolm's torpedoes..."
Trip chuckled as he rambled on. If he's telling me a story, it tells me he's at least conscious. It's when it becomes really disjointed that there's a problem. Or if he's silent. Then we're really in trouble. Trip promised every Deity that ever was, that he would never complain about Travis's chatter ever again. Dammit, Hoshi, answer the phone. It's getting chilly out here.
"...I mean, that can be a rough crowd over there...you learn pretty fast how to hold your own in a bar fight. You know, Doctor Cabral used to moonlight as a bartender at the 602 Club...she said it helped get her through medical school, and that she got to meet people that way...and man, did she get to hone her bedside manner...you know, two of the best professions in the world...a bartender and a doctor. I wonder if she ended up charging for her advice behind the bar..."
"Whoa. Doctor Jaime Cabral? Phlox's assistant? I didn't know she used to be a bartender."
"Yeah. She makes a mean Saurian Sunrise and she's got Hoshi hooked on her chocolate martini." Travis chuckled, but the pain made his voice sound weary and ragged.
"Keep talkin', Travis. I'm gonna see if we can warm things up a little. Sun's gone down, so it's gonna get cold real quick." He knelt and rummaged through both of their packs until he found a small two-man tent, and extra sleeping bag, heat flares and an extra blanket.
"You know how to put that stuff up, Commander?"
Trip laughed and rolled his eyes. "Granted, I'm not an Eagle Scout like Malcolm or the Cap'n, but I did go campin' with my dad, brother and uncle a few times. I can do it in a pinch, if I have to."
"That's good to know. Next time I rough it outdoors, I'll invite you, Captain Archer and Malcolm along. Make it a Guys' Weekend Out or something. Though I'm not sure about Phlox-"
"I think he might want to come along, even if it's to catalogue the wildlife and make cultural notes."
"He doesn't strike me as an outdoorsy kind of person, though."
"He was an medic in the Denobulan infantry, remember? I'm sure he had to learn some skills in their version of basic training."
Travis managed another nod. "Hm. I didn't even think of that, but you're right. Okay, Phlox comes too. Then Commander T'Pol and Hoshi can be in charge of the ship while we're gone."
"Couldn't think of anyone else the Cap'n would leave in charge of Enterprise," Trip agreed with a hint of pride in his tone. While they'd been chatting about the Enterprise crew, he'd managed to put the tent together, despite his shaking hands. The temperature had already dropped several degrees in the meantime.
Travis chuckled. "Yeah. She's something else, isn't she?"
Trip glanced over his shoulder. "Huh? Who? T'Pol? Or Hoshi? They're both smart and competent in their fields. Ask the Cap'n, or Malcolm."
"Yeah, they both are. Being with T'Pol's been really good for you, Commander. You've been a lot more relaxed lately, more-" Travis coughed, his body wracked with pain. Trip knelt by his side as he took another deep breath.
"Dammit. Don't you go out on me now. I've got to get you in the tent and it'd help if you were conscious enough for it."
"Okay, Commander. Don't know how much help I'm gonna be-"
"Think positive, Travis and keep talkin'. It helps keep me focused too." Trip managed to haul Travis up and half-carried, half dragged him towards the tent. "Oof. Geez-"
"Will you quit apologizin'? Stuff happens. If anythin', this is more my fault than anythin' else."
"If I'd checked the belay lines-"
"You did, remember? Just one lousy slip on my part-"
Travis sighed. "Like you said. Stuff happens. The Mountain Climbing Gods apparently has it in for me-"
Trip grinned as he managed to get Travis situated on the floor of the tent. There wasn't much room for anything-or anyone-else. It was going to be a tight fit. "But like you said, you still go back for more."
"It's a matter of principle. Prove the Mountain Climbing Gods wrong."
"Interesting attitude for a Boomer."
"Yeah, but my family's originally from Earth too. Guess it still runs in the blood, even though I feel just as home in a cargo ship. Kinda contradictory."
Trip laughed softly. "That's an understatement. Y'know, people don't know much about you, though you socialize with the crew all the time."
Travis winced again as he shrugged. "I listen when people talk. You never know when you might find something in common with them. How else do you think I met Malcolm?"
Trip zipped the tent flap just as the winds began to pick up, and he began activating the heating pads and flares. He noticed the switch from "Lieutenant Commander Reed" to "Malcolm". It was a subtle change, but he picked up on it.
"You never told me how you two met. I know you knew each other before Enterprise launched."
"We were in the same training group in shuttlepod piloting. I volunteered to show him some tips and tricks on handling the console. That was how it started." Travis chuckled. "He seemed so much older than he really was, even then. Of course, I hadn't known about his family history-"
"His dad. Admiral Stuart Reed, retired." Trip scowled. "I didn't know about that until we had to build the phase cannons from scratch and Hoshi had to find his favorite food."
"Yeah. Anyway, once he told me a little about that, a lot of things just made more sense. He's a pretty private person and he swore me to secrecy about it. I guess it was so different from my upbringing; I was a little shocked at first. But his dad wanted him to join the Royal Navy and my dad wanted me to captain the Horizon, so I guess we found more in common than I thought."
"Huh." Trip settled back and wrapped the thermal blanket tighter around him. The bitter cold reminded him of that harrowing time in Shuttlepod One, when he and Malcolm nearly froze to death. He gritted his teeth and thought, Damn if I'm going to lose Travis because I was clumsy on the way down and nearly killed both of us.
"What'd I say about blaming yourself, Trip? Don't."
Trip jerked upright at the sharpness of Travis's tone, but what caught his attention was the use of his nickname. "Trip", and not "Commander." Again, it was subtle, but he knew it meant Travis considered this serious enough to dispense with ranks. "I didn't say anythin' about—"
"You didn't have to. It's written all over your face." Travis sighed and closed his eyes. "They'll find us and get us back to the ship. You'll see."
Trip carefully reached over and put two fingers on Travis's neck. The pulse was still steady, but a lot slower than he'd liked. Travis hadn't reacted to the touch; Trip forced his anxiety back from a full-blown panic. "Hey, you need another dose of Phlox's 'special recipe'?"
He opened one eye. "How much of that stuff do we have left? We only took a standard medkit with us and I've already had three doses."
"Lemme look." Trip rummaged through the packs again and found the medkit. "We've got two more. I really think you should have a dose now."
There was a slight pause, then Travis nodded. "Okay."
Trip filled the hypo and administered the meds. It hissed against Travis's neck and the tension slowly seeped out of the helmsman's body. "How's that?"
"Better, thanks," Travis replied, but every word sounded like an effort. "Y'know, Trip-"
"When we get back, we oughta schedule another basketball game. Haven't done that in..." His voice trailed off as he tried to remember when they'd played.
"A year. We had a game in the cargo bay when the Cap'n got the news that Admiral Forrest died in the Embassy bombing on Vulcan."
Travis sighed. "Yeah. Now I remember. That was an awful time for everybody, but especially for the captain. Admiral Forrest was like a mentor to him."
"Like a father figure," Trip agreed. "He was a good influence on the Cap'n, I think."
Travis smiled and said, "Good influences. I think you all have been good influence on me for the past almost-five years...and maybe a bit of not-so-good influence, from you and Malcolm-"
"Hey! What?" He pretended to be insulted, but the smile gave him away.
"The Disaster Duo."
"That is not a fair nickname for us. It isn't our fault that shuttlepods don't agree with us."
"It happens every time."
"Not every time!" Trip reached over and shook Travis awake. "Hey. Stay with me. Don't go to sleep, Travis. Keep talking to me. You here?"
The pause was much longer this time and Trip decided to let himself panic. "Yeah, still here."
"Tell me. Besides me and Malcolm, who else have been good influences on you? Shuttlepods aside."
"Uh...my mom, on Horizon. Captain Archer. Hope I'm as good a captain when I get my own ship-"
"Cap'n Travis Mayweather. Has a nice ring to it."
"-Doctor Phlox. Always...cheerful. Hoshi. She's...smart. And pretty. And puts up with my pranks. T'Pol...she's so...logical. Kinda pretty, too. Uh...sorry, 'bout that-"
Trip laughed and shook his head. "That's okay. T'Pol is pretty, you know, in that Vulcan sort of way."
"...Malcolm...keeps me from being too jumpy, impetuous. You...like a big brother. More than my own, sometimes." The words were jumbled now, muted by exhaustion and shock. "Wish that..."
"You wish what? Travis?" Trip felt a stab of fear and shook Travis's shoulder again. "You wish what? Hey, don't leave me hangin' like that! You gotta keep talkin' to me."
There was no answer, and silence finally fell in the tent.
"We've got you, Commander. Don't worry about anything. We're taking you to Sickbay."
The cultured British accent jolted Trip out of a doze. The sudden warmth made him shiver as it seeped into his bones. "What? Where'm I?"
"You both were bloody lucky. Another hour and we might have lost both of you."
Trip tried to focus, but opening his eyes took too much effort. He heard the familiar sounds of the Enterprise corridors as he was rushed to Sickbay, and felt the familiar vibrations of the warp core. It wasn't a dream; Malcolm was really here. They had been rescued; their friends had come for them.
"...I swear, I shouldn't allow you two to climb mountains without full rescue gear and a full medical backup. Which Mountain God did you two manage to piss off this time?"
The words "Mountain God" sparked a distant memory within Trip's brain. "Wait...Travis! Where's Travis, Malcolm? He's hurt-"
Malcolm still managed to sound both concerned and furious at the same time. "He's in the operating theater right now, Commander. Phlox is taking good care of him. You just concentrate on getting well yourself."
"But-" He fought to stay conscious, but then he felt a welcome warmth through his veins before more darkness overcame him.
The next time he awoke, he found himself staring up at the rivets in the Sickbay ceiling. It took a full minute before his brain registered that he was awake. Finally, the squawks and chirps of Phlox's menagerie filtered into his consciousness. The beeps of the biobed provided a strange counterpoint.
But he heard no one speaking. He expected to hear Phlox and Captain Archer, or Malcolm or Hoshi, but the lights were dimmed to represent the night shift. Of course, it must be very early the next morning, but still...
Trip turned his head with difficulty to look at the neighboring biobed. Time seemed to shift and he thought he saw Malcolm lying there, after their near-death in Shuttlepod One. Then he blinked and realized it was Travis.
"Travis?" He whispered hoarsely. Trip wasn't expecting an answer, but it was came, faint as it was.
"How're you feelin'?"
"Like hell. But I'm alive. Doc said that I'm gonna need some physical rehabilitation, but I should be able to walk and do things again."
"Good to hear." Trip blew a relieved breath. "You know, you were right. They did find us."
"Told you so. Captain Archer was in here earlier, and Hoshi. You were asleep, so you missed them."
Trip closed his eyes; Travis's words made him feel immeasurably better. "Oh."
"Malcolm said he was going to drop by after his shift, but it'll be a couple of more hours."
"Okay." Trip opened his eyes. "Hey..."
"You said you wished somethin'. After sayin' somethin' about me bein' like a big brother to you."
Travis's eyes were still closed, but he smiled faintly. "I dropped off in the middle of a sentence, didn't I?"
Trip smiled. "Like that hasn't happened before? But what were you gonna say?"
He murmured so quietly that Trip nearly missed it. "I wish that I was just as good of a friend to you all, like all of you are to me."
Trip chuckled softly and whispered, "You are, Travis. Believe me, you are."