Happy Birthday Captain by EntAllat
Summary:

Captain Tucker receives an uplifting gift from his crew. 


Categories: General Characters: Reed, Tucker
Genre & Keywords: General, Humor
Story Type: Story
Warnings: None
Challenges:
Series: None
Chapters: 3 Completed: Yes Word count: 2819 Read: 4031 Published: September 02, 2019 Updated: September 17, 2019
Story Notes:

I started this story years and years ago, meaning for it to be a gentle intro to a series of related pieces I was working on. Then just a whole lot of life happened – both good and bad - and I fell away from writing.

Then, without warning, my creative muse came back from her vacation and promptly demanded attention. This short, fun story seemed like an excellent way to shake the rust from my keyboard, warm up my writing muscles, and say hello to these characters and this world again.

As it turns out, even after significant editing, the timeline of this story doesn’t quite mesh with any of the others I have planned. So… here it is, just because and with no particular relation to anything else I’ve done, or any of the upcoming fics.

Update: I removed most of the 'ships and other character's histories from this final version of this story, to streamline it and since it's not part of the other series I'm working on. There's a hint of TnT here but I tried to leave the details vague for this fic.

 

Many thanks to my beta, Cap'n Frances.

1. Chapter 1 by EntAllat

2. Chapter 2 by EntAllat

3. Chapter 3 by EntAllat

Chapter 1 by EntAllat

CHAPTER ONE

Leaning over the tiny sink in the head, Trip determinedly splashed another handful of ice cold water on his face, as if the shock of it could scrub away the years. Were those lines around his eyes? He blinked blearily at his reflection in the mirror. Why hadn't he seen them before?

Trip sighed as he backed away from the mirror and fumbled around for a towel. Couldn’t he just call in sick today? Or call in old? At that thought he smirked and rolled his eyes at himself. He had no business calling himself old. He wasn’t even officially to the current halfway mark of a Human lifespan.

He stepped out of the head, suddenly chagrined at his bout with self-pity. There were at least a half a dozen people who would give him a hard time for even thinking he was old, including one Denobulan and several Vulcans.

Stopping at his desk, he let out a puff of breath. Problem was, he just felt old. And tired. The last four years - hell, the entire last decade - had been hard for the fledgling Federation.

First there was that war-not-war conflict with the Romulans, and the ever-present feel that it wasn’t really over, treaty or no treaty. Not even the last ten years could shake that feeling. Then last week they’d received word that Starfleet was officially designating the USS Franklin as lost, presumed destroyed. It’d been eight years since the Franklin had disappeared near the Gagarin Radiation Belt but a lot of the crew had held out hope it’d be found. Coming on the heels of the fourth anniversary of the USS Essex’s disappearance, it’d created a somber mood.

He shook his head. What this crew needs right now is something to celebrate. And that meant he had to stop feeling sorry for himself. Starting now.

He sat down heavily at his terminal, refreshing the mailbox and watched as the messages slowly filled the screen. Most were from Starfleet headquarters - if that third one was Commodore Stiles he was tempted to say it’d been lost in subspace - a few were simply addressed from Earth. One from Ireland. Another from Mississippi. New York? Jon must be back from Andoria if he was in New York. And one from Vulcan. He smiled a little at that one.

He’d save the personal messages for later and deal with the Starfleet communiqués now. With a stretch and a groan he shoved his chair back from the desk. Coffee first.

End Notes:

Next chapter coming next week...

Chapter 2 by EntAllat

Murmurs of ‘Good morning, Captain’ and warm smiles greeted him as he made his way to the mess hall. Ensign Carter’s badly concealed grin as Trip stopped to sign a requisition form confirmed his suspicions - there was going to be a surprise party. He cringed inwardly. At least this ship’s configuration had put the Captain’s quarters forward port, rather than forward starboard – he could take his time getting to the mess hall.

In fact

There was a liquid dispenser in the Doctor’s office. Coffee. He could put off facing the celebrations for just a little bit longer. 

A quick U-turn and a duck down a side corridor and moments later he was walking through the doors of sickbay.

“Doc?”

“I’ll be with you in just a moment, Captain. Just dealing with a small incident among my Fellebian land snails.”

“Incident?”

“It’s possible one ate the other. Nothing to worry about.”

“Uh… okay. Don’t worry about me, Doc.” Trip headed for the physician’s tiny office. “I’m just here for coffee.”

Doctor Phlox’s head appeared around the pillar as he leaned back. “Is the dispenser in the mess hall malfunctioning?”

“Nope.” At the sound of Phlox’s approaching footsteps, Trip hastily amended, “I just… thought I’d come see you.” He frowned at the dispenser. No mugs. Dammit.

“You’re avoiding the celebration.”

Trip hung his head. Busted.

“Captain.” It was a statement, not a question, and Trip could practically feel Phlox’s expectant and somewhat paternal gaze on the back of his head.

I could have asked any one of a dozen others to be my CMO all those years ago – someone who didn’t know me so damn well.

Turning slightly to look over his shoulder at the Denobulan – who, yes, was looking at him like a parent who expected to be told the truth about why he’d been sent home from school – Trip tried to rationalize, “I’m not avoiding it. I’m just… giving them a little more time.”

“Mm-hm.” Phlox wasn’t buying it.

Trip sighed and looked mournfully at the dispenser.

Phlox walked around the test tube-and-flask-cluttered desk and opened a drawer. “It’s a birthday party – one of the more delightful Human eccentricities. You’ve always been exceedingly fond of such things. Why the hesitation now?”

Trip side-eyed the doctor. “Fifty.”

“Ah.” Phlox produced a clean mug from the desk drawer and walked over to hand it to Trip, whose look of gratitude was genuine. “You Humans place too much significance on arbitrary numbers,” Phlox admonished. “On Elbirus Prime, you’d be one hundred and two. Twelve on Uridia.”

“Easy for you to say. Denobulans live a lot longer than Humans.” He closed his eyes and basked in the wonderfully familiar aroma of strong coffee as the dispenser filled the cup.

“As do Vulcans. Is that what this is about?”

Ouch. Trip removed the mug from the dispenser and sipped slowly to give himself more time to sort through an answer. What was bothering him, anyway?

 “Trip.”

“I don’t know, Doc. I guess this time I’m just thinkin’ more about everyone we’ve lost. The passage of time.” He paused. “My parents are gettin’ a lot older – that’s hard to think about.”

Phlox sat on the edge of the desk. “There’s something to be said for thinking about everything you’ve gained as well. Friends. More family. Experience. Wisdom. I was the equivalent of your age when I first joined Enterprise.”

“Don’t you ever miss it?”

“Miss what?”

Enterprise.” 

“No more than I miss my days as a medical intern, or a medic in the Denobulan infantry. That was an incredible, if sometimes fraught, adventure. As was my time on Enterprise. But the last ten years have been a new adventure and the years to come will bring more still. I look forward to it.”

“Always an adventure.”

“Always.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.” Trip nodded. “And thanks for the coffee.”

“Anytime, Captain,” Phlox replied as the Human headed for the door.

 

****

 

Just outside the mess hall doors, he paused. Alright man, get a hold of yourself. Phlox was right. It’s only a number. After a moment he straightened up. C’mon! It’s a party! If not for yourself, do it for the crew.

He stepped through the mess hall doors to a raucous, “Surprise!!”

 

****

 

He had to admit, it was hard to stay gloomy when faced with a party. And pie. By his third time around the room, multiple heartfelt wishes and warm conversations – not to mention a generous sample of Crewman Lopez’s pecan pan dulces – Trip was feeling more like himself.

First Officer Malcolm Reed joined him as Trip walked away from a table of some of the younger operations crew, all of whom had been full of questions about Enterprise’sfirst year out.

“The crew has a gift for you,” Malcolm said, just loud enough to be heard by nearby tables. The room rapidly quieted, and suddenly all eyes were on the Captain.

Trip smiled. “That wasn’t necessary.” He nodded at the room full of people, “But thank you.”

“We’ll need a shuttlepod,” Malcolm said.

Trip blinked. “I’m sorry, what? A shuttlepod?”

Malcolm just smiled enigmatically and stepped through the mess hall doors. Trip gave a slightly baffled glance at the beaming crowd, and then followed his first officer out the door.

He had to jog a bit down the corridor to catch up. “It’s in the shuttlepod?”

“Not exactly.”

“Malcolm.”

“I'm sorry, Captain, but the crew has sworn me to secrecy.”

 

****

 

Trip stepped into Shuttlepod Two and fought a sudden urge to look under and over everything. Clearing his throat, he hoped he looked like a responsible adult, rather than the twelve year-old he suddenly felt like. “I don’t see anythin’ in here that wasn’t here yesterday.”

Malcolm just smiled and sat down in the co-pilot’s seat, “I didn’t say it was in the shuttle. Just that we needed one.”

“Excuse me, sir,” Ensign Tyss ch’Hashan said, stepping past Trip to the pilot’s seat. Commander Katherine Hess followed, shutting the hatch behind her.

Trip looked at each officer in turn as the young Andorian started the pod’s engines. “Where are we going?”

“Outside the ship, obviously,” Malcolm teased. Katherine chuckled. Tyss bit back a nervous smile.

Trip gave Malcolm a look.

“It’s where the crew’s gift to you is. Captain.” Malcolm said, his back to Trip.

Ever so gently, Tyss brought the pod up and away from the bay’s floor. A moment later, the gravity mesh disengaged, the pod bay door opened and the shuttle gracefully dropped away from the ship.

Still standing near the rear hatch, Trip narrowed his eyes and considered each of his officers. Commander Hess looked like she was about to start laughing, Ensign ch’Hashar looked increasingly nervous, and Malcolm, damn him, looked nonchalant. Trust a Section 31 agent to be able to keep a secret.

“You said it yourself. It belongs there,” Malcolm added, flipping a few switches and shooting Tyss a quick look. The Andorian responded by tilting the shuttle a few degrees, keeping the ship out of sight.

“What?”

This time Malcolm swiveled all the way around in co-pilot’s seat, to look at Trip for a moment before answering with a question, “Do you remember the day you got your command?” His hand rested on the comm button, but Trip could still see the slow blink indicating an open channel.

Ah. This is for the crew. Okay, fine, I’ll play along.

Trip slowly sat down on one of the side benches, “Yeah.” He smiled. “It’s not somethin’ you forget,” he added with real feeling.

Malcolm nodded. “Do you remember what you said?”

Trip frowned. “What I said?”

Malcolm simply nodded again.

Trip looked at the ceiling, shook his head, and searched for a memory nearly ten years old.

Chapter 3 by EntAllat

“We’d gone up to the shipyard to have a look at her…” Trip’s voice trailed off.

 

There had been four of them in the tiny inspection pod that day, Admiral Gardner, Admiral Archer, and two others whose new pips on their collars still shined slightly brighter than the ones that they’d fastened every day for the previous ten - himself and Malcolm, newly Captain and Commander respectively.

The day had been bittersweet. The pinning ceremonies weeks before had been followed closely by far too many memorial services — so close to the end of the war that the gross unfairness of it stung all that much more. Then came reassignments, some of those scattering friends to different ends of the quadrant. There were a lot of changes and a lot of goodbyes. It was all a bit much to take in.

Most of the battle-damaged NX-class was being repaired, refitted and, surprisingly, reassigned with new designations under the shiny new banner of the United Federation of Planets. In fact, only one NX-class ship was not undergoing any changes at all, and they were reminded of that fact as the inspection pod floated by. Enterprise was now considered a historical monument.

 

Historical monument. Trip winced at that, and implications of what it meant for those that had crewed her.

 

He’d thought about teaching at the Academy first and then had given serious thought to Soval’s suggestion of joining the new Federation R&D group on Vulcan. Very serious thought. But that was before he’d been told a command was his if he wanted it.

 

“I clearly remember when Jon told me that I’d been offered my first command – a second-generation NX refit. But it was a month before we got a look at her.” He looked down again, “Gave me enough time to think about it…”

 

It had been an agonizing few weeks as he realized that any decision he made would affect not just his life, but several others as well. In the end, it had been the dire need to send someone with the right background and experience (not to mention the now highly classified knowledge of the true nature of their Romulan adversaries) undercover into the Neutral Zone that made the decision easy. At least this way he was in command of a ship capable getting T’Pol out of there, if necessary. These days he breathed easier when she was in Federation space. Or back on Vulcan.

Watching Enterprise disappear from sight had felt like a profound statement on his life at that moment.

 

Trip sighed and shook his head. “Yeah, I remember that day. But what I said?” He frowned. “Admiral Gardner was the one doin’ all the talkin’ if I remember right. I don’t think I said much...”

“When you saw the name, Trip. Do you remember what you said when you saw the name?”

 

The name. Oh. Yeah.

 

Trip’s expression became far away. The memory — the ache of what had happened before the Xindi war and the warmth of the personal gesture by Starfleet — could still leave a knot in his throat even after all these years. “It took me more ‘n a minute to get over the name, but yeah, I’ll never forget that moment,” he said quietly.

Then he paused, bemused. “I remember now,” he laughed. “I said it just needed a couple of...”

Trip abruptly stopped, eyes slowly widening, and for a moment, he was speechless. When he found his voice again, he looked from Malcolm to Katherine and back again before he whispered, “You didn’t.”

Malcolm just folded his arms and raised both brows. Katherine had the good grace to look slightly nervous, and Tyss’s antennae quivered.

Trip stared for half a second more at his first officer before he bolted upright, grabbing the handholds above his head to contort his body and crane his neck to see out the shuttle’s topmost window. The ship was still just beyond what he could see through the window as he murmured, “I said… it just… it just... needed a couple of...” he trailed off as he craned his neck to catch a glimpse of his home for the last ten years.

At Malcolm’s nod, Tyss touched the pod’s controls, sending it into a roll that slowly brought the starship’s glistening hull into view. As the tiny pod lifted to make the lettering visible, three Starfleet officers held their breath while the Captain of the USS Pensacola stared at the hull of his ship.

“...a couple of PALM TREES!” Trip hooted as the forward saucer section dipped into view, the Starfleet designation flanked by two full color painted palm trees on either side, complete with coconuts. He turned back to his senior officers, utter joy evident in his wide grin. “There’s a couple of goddamned palm trees on the ship!”

As the cheering from the open comm link died down, Commander Hess broke in quickly, “We have replacement plating, sir. For when we head back to Earth...”

Trip swiveled around, “What?”

Katherine looked startled. “I just... we... thought... that perhaps Commodore Stiles and Admiral Archer might -”

“Admiral Archer will probably bust a gut laughing,” Trip interrupted. “And Commodore Stiles can kiss my a-”

“Captain!”

Trip turned an amused look on his scandalized friend, jabbing a finger at the window, “Those two palm trees are coming off over my dead body.” He grinned again. “All we need now are a couple of flamingos.”

Ensign ch’Hashar’s antennae swiveled stiffly forward and the Andorian murmured quietly, “Those are on the torpedo casings.” He avoided looking at Commander Reed, staring intently at the navigation console in front of him.

Anything the surprised First Officer might have said was drowned out by the Captain’s laughter.

 

****

 

As Hess and ch’Hashar stepped out of the shuttlepod and into the docking bay, Trip felt a light tap on his arm.

“It was the crew’s idea. Happy Birthday, Trip.”

Trip smirked. “The crew’s idea. You and I both know there were only three people who heard me make that statement.”

Malcolm shrugged, then smiled, conceding the point. “Fine. I might have mentioned it at some point. But they ran with the idea.”

Trip grinned and shook his head as he stepped out of the shuttlepod. “Best birthday, ever.” Half a second later he popped his head back into the pod, his face only inches from his startled First Officer’s. Trip’s grin was wicked.

“Just remember – it’s only eleven months until your fiftieth.”

This story archived at http://www.thedelphicexpanse.com/archive/viewstory.php?sid=527