Day 8

Title: Day 8
Author: tarotgal
Fandom: Star Trek: Enterprise
Rating: G
Pairing: None
Disclaimer: Not my characters. I wish they were mine. I definitely don’t get paid for this.
Summary: Vulcans don't sneeze, but they do get curious.
Notes: Written during my 13 Ficlets in 13 Days in 2016 project for webmeistro

Captain Archer had been tired after that last mission. Beyond the fact that the planet's inhabitants had not been happy to see them, the away team had also nearly accidentally overthrown a local political system and disproved the existence of a god. It had taken a lot of tricky work and a good helping of luck to sort the mess out without doing even more extensive damage to the population. Archer had been worried they might not succeed, but they'd managed to pull it off at the last second and make their escape. The long five days had taken it out of him, though, and out of his senior officers as well. And that was why he'd invited them all to dinner in his cabin that night.

Not everyone could make it; some had duties that couldn't be postponed and others were just too beat; Archer didn't hold that against them. He was exhausted as well. And that was probably why he would end up making mistakes later tonight. Trip and Hoshi had joined him for dinner and, just when Archer thought it would be just the three of them, T'Pol had arrived at his quarters as well. T'Pol wasn't usually fond of Archer's cooking attempts. Perhaps he had butchered too many Vulcan recipes; she never truly appreciated that he made an effort. Or perhaps she just didn't care for his cooking style. So the fact that she was here at all was big. Clearly she understood the importance of socializing and bonding with her fellow senior officers. That was something he never would have anticipated when they left Earth, years ago.

Dinner tonight was good, old fashioned, classic meat and potatoes with a variety of vegetables and legumes, some of which were so alien Archer couldn't remember the names of them. To him, classic didn't necessarily mean boring. Archer was a master of seasonings. A pinch of this here and a pinch of that there, and the dish would be mouth-wateringly delectable. At least, he hoped that would be the case today the case.

Just as happy to have guests as he was happy to smell the wonderful smells of his master cooking, Porthos ran about, getting underfoot more than once. He nearly tripped Archer up as the captain was bringing a bowl of vegetables to the table. “Hey, you wouldn't want these anyway,” Archer joked, angling the bowl enough for Porthos to see that the meat he wanted was not there; in fact, it wasn't quite ready yet.

“We're looking about five minutes,” Archer told the three of them. “Did you all get something to drink?”

“Yep,” Trip replied, glancing over at the others' glasses. “Can I pour ya somethin', Cap'n?”

“Sure!” called Archer, back at his oven. “I'll have whatever you're having.”  Trip was having red wine. So was Hoshi. T'Pol preferred water. Archer checked the mashed potatoes. They looked good, so he removed them from the burner keeping them warm and transferred them into a large dish. He took them to the table as well and went back for the steak. “Everyone, take a seat. Dinner is served!” he called, appearing at the table a moment later with three cut steaks on a platter.“Figured you didn't want one,” he said to T'Pol, who he knew was a vegetarian. “But if you want to sample, I can cut you a small piece of—”

“Your logic is correct. Thank you, but I will have more than enough to eat without that.” She helped herself to a large spoonful of vegetables and legumes then an even larger spoonful of the mashed potatoes.

Archer distributed the steaks and took a seat at what might have been called the head of the small table. The moment he sat down, an alarm sounded in his kitchenette. Somehow, he'd forgotten entirely about the rolls! A light stream of smoke billowed from the oven. He pulled the door open to retrieve the burnt dinner rolls and the air around him filled with smoke. His eyes stung, and he coughed as he closed the oven quickly. Despite the smoke, there was no active fire, so he quieted the computer's alarm and immediately turned the air circulation up in the room to its highest level. He shivered, feeling the air whip quickly past him, but it was better than his entire cabin smelling like smoke and burnt bread. “Sorry,” he apologized to everyone. He grabbed a loaf of bread from his food pantry cabinet and brought it to the table as a replacement. He'd been planning to make French toast of of it, but he could get other bread somewhere for that another time.

Everyone was busy helping themselves, trying not to look startled or as if they blamed Archer for the simple mistake. He wasn't the only one who was tired after that visit to the planet. As soon as the dishes made it around the table, everyone started eating. And as soon as Archer took a bite, his heart sank. Everything was still hot, which was good. And the steaks were done to perfection, it seemed. But he had forgotten some of the seasonings. He had even forgotten butter for the bread. Once again Archer sprang to his feet. “Hold it! Let me grab a couple more things...”

He raced back to the kitchenette and grabbed at bottles in one hand and the ceramic tub of butter in the other. If he hadn't been rushing, it never would have happened. If he'd just been more alert to begin with, it never would have happened. If he hadn't burned those rolls, it never would have happened. If he'd just remembered to close the lid on the container, it never would have happened. But his side caught the edge of the counter and he lurched forward. The butter dish fell to the floor and the other bottles went sailing forward, out of his hand, in the direction of the table. The fans at work caught the open bottle of pepper and sprayed it everywhere. It coated the food and the tablecloth, the floor and even his senior officers.

Hoshi was the first to react. She cupped her hand to her nose and mouth, trying not to breathe anything in, but realizing too quickly that she had already lost that battle. Her eyes quickly shut and her nostrils twitched. “ih ih ihh ihhTChiii!” She was far from finished, however. “ihh ih ih IH T'Chiiii! Ih-CHII!

Trip was no better off. He'd been facing the disaster when it happened and had gasped involuntarily, trying to grab at the bottles to catch them, only to miss by a few inches and get blasted in the face. His burning nostrils twitched and his eyes leaked, his breath hitching in a series of equally involuntary breaths in. “hahhh hahhh HaShhhhooo! Shooo! HahShooo! HETShoooo!” He snapped forward, covering up with both hands at the last possible instant so he didn't sneeze onto the food. He pushed back in his chair, though, just in case.

Archer's own nose burned madly. As he retrieved the tub of butter, that thankfully had not shattered, he felt an intense urge to sneeze out the pepper he'd just accidentally inhaled. Quickly, he buried his nose in the crook of his arm. “ah-kihhhh... ahh hahh ahhKIJJSHHH!” The sneeze was stronger and more forceful than usual, so maybe that had done the trick, but his nose still burned from the irritant, so he didn't think so just yet. He tried rubbing his nose into his sleeve, rubbing the fabric hard against his nose, but it was no good. “Kihhhh Kehhhh kuh-HDJJJSHHHH!” Another sneeze shook him, and he leaned against the counter where, he was sure, a bruise would probably form on him for running into it earlier. His fault. This was all his fault. Just like, ultimately, the mess they'd made of that planet's belief system had been his fault. Although spilling a little pepper was hardly equal to nearly ruining a culture. “KAH-HDJJJIHSHHHHHH!” Spilling a whole lot of pepper, on the other hand...

Sniffling into his sleeve, he stumbled over to the wall to stop the air from circulating, but the damage had already been done. He could smell just a bit of the smoke lingering in the air, but mostly all he smelled was pepper. “KEHH-TJJSHHH!


ih ih ihhhh Chiii!


“I... I... Kahhh... Kihhhhhh.... I'm so... so... KIHhhhhhh... so s-sorr... EHJJJSHHHH! Sorry. Snrffff! I'm sorry,” he finally managed, snuffling into his wet sleeve. He wasn't sure how much more it could take until he had to switch to the other arm, so the next thought on his mind were tissues. He had some... somewhere, didn't he?” Eyes wet from the strong sneezes, he bluriedly looked around his quarters. Tissues... tissues... ah-ha! He spotted the box on a shelf above his bed and made straight for them. He pulled a half dozen out for himself then brought them to the table, guessing that he'd make more problems if he were to throw it and have it land in the bowl of mashed potatoes. 

Trip took a couple and so did Hoshi. When Archer offered it to T'Pol, she didn't move. At first, he thought she must be gathering all her energy and concentration and channeling it to keep her composure intact and her nose dry. But then he realized she was looking curiously around the room, her head cocking and eyebrows raising slightly each time anyone sneezed.

ihh ihhh ihh ih ih IhChiiii!

T'Pol cocked her head slightly to the right.


T'Pol's head went slightly left.

hhih Chiii!

Right again.

kahhhhDUHJJSHHXXX!” Archer sneezed right into a fistful of tissues. By now, his nose felt a little better. He set the tissue box down on the table where they could all reach it, if needed. He still felt sneezy, and that probably wouldn't go away for a little while. But it wasn't quite so urgent. “T'Pol,” he squeezed out, clearing his throat and sniffing. She looked in his direction but did not answer, and suddenly he worried that, perhaps, pepper does something different to Vulcans than it did to humans. “Are you all right?”

Her eyes closed for a moment as she gave a polite, affirmative nod. “Yes, I am fine. But I believe I should be the one to ask you that question. What is happening?”

“It's the pep-kihhh! Pepper. Snffff!” He scrubbed all of the tissues at his nose. “It makes us sneeze.”

One of her eyebrows raised. “Yes. I do not think I could have missed that if I had tried to.” And, from her tone, it sounded as if she had wanted to try to. But the intrigued look on her face, as she watched every single sneeze while her food got cold, gave her away. Perhaps she could not allow herself to feel emotions, but she was definitely as close to curious as Archer had ever seen her. And when she heard Hoshi's breath catch as another sneeze came, T'Pol turned to watch.

ihh ihhh Chihhhh! IhhChiiii!

T'Pol watched closely as Hoshi, tissue held to her face now, sneezed. “You all look uncomfortable. Would you like for me to call Dr. Phlox? Is there something he can do to help?”

“There's nothing sniff, sniff nothing he can do,” Trip told her. “We've just got to sneeze it out. Sniff! Sneeze until there are no sneezes left, you know?”

T'Pol shook her head. “No, I don't know. Vulcans don't sneeze.”

At this, they all turned to look at her. Archer was the one who spoke, though he had to clear his throat first. “What do you mean Vulcans don't sneeze? It... it... isn't kehhhhh an emo... emo kihhhhhh!” Up went his tissues, “kehhhhhhh HIDJJJSHHHH! It isn't an emotion. It's an involuntary reaction.”

“Not for us, apparently.” She picked the tissue box up and angled it at him.

“Thanks.” He took a few fresh tissues and wiped at his nose.

It was their turn to look intrigued. Trip leaned forward a little in his chair, his hand on his thigh. “Vulcans really don't sneeze? I mean, what about when they catch colds? Can you even catch colds?”

She hesitated for a moment before answering. “We eliminated what you call the common cold centuries ago, and we cannot catch human colds. We can still get sick from other things, but, when we do, we do not sneeze. The entire act is foreign to us.” 

“I can believe it,” Hoshi said as she wiped a tissue back and forth at her nose. “The word 'sneeze' isn't even in the Vulcan language as far as I know.”

But Trip shook his head. “This is impossible. Everyone sniff sneezes.”

“Given that Vulcans do not sneeze, your statement is illogical.”

“Friendly wager? I bet you Vulcans can sneeze, like the rest of us, under some circumstance.”

She smiled slightly and nodded at him. “I will happily accept that bet, as it is impossible for me to lose.”

“Okay, but if ya do, I want that bottle of Vulcan brandy I happen to know you have in your quarters, that you've been savin' in case you need a gift for some dignitary or ambassador.”

She nodded in agreement. “And when I win...” she trailed off, and Archer had the impression she didn't want to say what it was she wanted. “I would like you three to tell me what a sneeze feels like.”

Hoshi piped up. “You don't need to win a bet for that. I can—”

“Deal!” Trip declared, quieting Hoshi. “Right... so how do we do this? Looks like using pepper is out.” He thought for a moment. Then he leaned forward, elbows both on the table, pointing across it at T'Pol. “You're sayin' that if I took something small and feathery and tickled your nose with it, you wouldn't sneeze?”

“That is correct.”

“Prove it.”

“Do your worst.”

It took them a while to locate something appropriate in Archer's cabin, finally deciding to use the soft, fraying tassels on the corner of a pillow. It wasn't ideal, but it had a better chance of working than anything else. Archer wasn't about to head back to the planet and track down a bird feather just so Trip and T'Pol could settle a bet. T'Pol humored them by slightly rubbing the tassel back and forth under her nose. There wasn't so much as a twitch.

“You're probably doin' it wrong.” Trip marched around the table, grabbed the pillow, and moved in to give it a try, though he looked awkward about it. She stood to accommodate him, though that almost made it worse. They were so close, face-to-face, and Trip looked foolish as he gripped the dangling pillow by its tassel. “Uhh... maybe...”

“You are merely testing a theory,” she told him encouragingly. “You have my permission to  try whatever you like.”

The chief engineer's hand almost shook as he raised the tassel and pushed the end into her nostrils. Nothing whatsoever happened. He moved it around, twirling, twisting. He pulled it out and pushed it back in again. Again, producing no hint of a result.

Finally, he pulled it out and tossed the pillow back in the direction of Archer's couch. “I did try to tell you,” she said.

But Trip shook his head. “Just because I can't make you sneeze doesn't mean you can't. I want to hear it from the doctor.”

“That can be arranged,” Archer said, amused now that the urge to sneeze was dying down for them all. Maybe this was just the tension-reliever they'd needed. Really, it was kind of funny, now that he thought about it from the other side of things. He pushed the button on the console. “Dr. Phlox?”

After a few seconds of waiting, the reply came. “What can I do for you tonight, Captain?”

“We have... um... a point of contention, and we were hoping you might be able to settle the matter. We were, uh...” he glanced over at his officers, watching him intently, and chose his words carefully, not wanting to sway the doctor one way or another. “We were discussing Vulcan sneezes.”

“Vulcan... is something wrong with T'Pol?”

“No, she's just fine.”

“Well, if she's sneezing, she's not okay. Vulcans never sneeze.” T'Pol shot Trip a look of vindication, and he shook his head slowly, still not ready to believe it.

“Not even when they're sick?”

“I've never heard of it happening. I would be surprised and worried to see such a thing. T'Pol—”

“T'Pol isn't sneezing. The rest of us, however, had an unfortunate encounter with some pepper. We're all right now, though.”

“Good to hear. Let me know if you need me to send tissues.

“Thanks, doc.” He headed back to the table and sat down. “I guess that settles the matter.”

Trip didn't seem too happy with this, but he gave in, throwing his arms in the air. “Fine.”

T'Pol nodded again. At least the nice thing about Vulcans was that, when they won bets, they didn't rub your face in it. “I have seen many humans sneeze, though never quite as much as tonight. It does not seem to be something one can control, though some people try to do so, and it does not seem very pleasant. Yet, afterward, there seems to be...”

T'Pol searched for the word, but Archer thought he might have it. “A a sense of relief? Maybe even pleasure?”

She nodded slowly.

“That's usually because the sneeze is over,” Hoshi told her. “There's a tickle or pressure that builds, and it kind of takes over. So it feels good to finally get that out.”

It was obvious that T'Pol could see the logic in that explanation, but it was also obvious that she wanted a deeper understanding. If she couldn't have firsthand knowledge, then maybe she could have the next best thing? Grinning, Archer grabbed the pepper and thrust it in Trip's direction. “Go on. Show her.”


“It was your bet,” Archer reminded him. “It's only fair.” He added, “Don't make me give you an order.”

With a sigh, Trip grabbed the bottle. He had to know that Archer would never order him to do this, but he didn't need any more arm twisting. “Fine. Unless... Hoshi?”

She held a hand up. “Oh, I've had enough pepper for today, I think. This is all you, Trip.”

Resigned to this, Trip shook a fair amount of pepper into his palm. After a few deep breaths to build up his confidence, he bent over and pressed his nose to his hand. He breathed in lightly, not wanting to snort the whole thing up at once. A few tiny breaths of the pepper made his nose twitch and wrinkle. “hehh!” Interest flashed in T'Pol's eyes and she watched him unblinkingly. “See, I hehhh I feel it right heh here.” Trip pointed to his nostrils. “It's all tih tihh ticklish. Hehh! And I c-can't control heh! HEH! my breee-hehhhhh! breathing!” That was all Trip could describe before his eyes fluttered shut and his nostrils went wide with the deepest breath yet. “HEHHHH!” He wavered there, and for a moment, all four of them thought he might not actually sneeze.

Just as Archer was going to suggest a little more pepper, Trip snapped forward, his hand up and ready, trying not to block his face so that T'Pol could see as much of the sneeze as possible. “H'Shhhoooo!” He took a slow breath, which came out more like a sigh of relief.

Kindly, Hoshi passed him a tissue, waving it against the back of his hand, which he took one-handedly and rubbed quickly at his nose. “Sniff! Sniffff! Got it?”

T'Pol did not have it. “I think I understand a little more, but I am not sure that I will truly understand unless I feel it for myself.”

Hoshi jumped up from her seat and pushed it around the side of the table so that it was right next to Trip's. “Sit here. Put your hand on his chest. Or... better yet...” Coming around, Hoshi stuffed a few tissues into T'Pol's hand.

Slightly stunned, T'Pol went over and sat, stiff and straight, in the chair. She looked down at the tissues, not exactly certain of what she was to do with them. “Commander Tucker, do you need...”

“Not... just... yet...” He took another sniff of the pepper in his hand and immediately breathed out hard in an involuntary reaction, sending pepper in all directions.

Hoshi jumped back too late. Her eyes closed and she snatched a tissue from the box. “ih ihh ihh ihhhhhhh-Chiii! Trip, you were supposed to be the one sneezing, not me!” she laughed.

Trip's sneeze took longer. After his nose refused the pepper, it still twitched. Each breath in and out trembled, and he grabbed for her free hand, putting it on his chest so she could feel the gasps as the build-up finally came. “hehhh hehhh ehh! Ehh-hehhh... hehhhhhh... HEH!” Then he grabbed her other hand and held his palm to the back of her hand. He guided both her hand and the tissues it held to his nose and mouth. “HEH Here it... HEH cuhhhhh comes! HEHHH-Shumphhhhhhhh!” He sneezed right into the tissues. Sniffling, he opened his eyes and blinked back tears the sneeze had been strong, but it had definitely felt good. Her hand on his chest rose and fell as he took and released a deep sigh of relief.

“I think I understand now,” she said, her voice flat but soft. Slowly, she pulled her hands back.

“Wait.” He took the tissues from her and wiped at his nose. “That's better. Sniff! Bless me.”

T'Pol cocked her head again. “What does that mean?”

“Now that's a long story,” Archer said, breaking whatever the heck that had been. “Let me reheat the food before we explain.” They handed him their plates.

Trip quietly blew his nose and sniffed again, clearing himself enough so that he'd be able to taste his dinner. T'Pol had taken her seat across the table from Trip again, and he grinned at her. “One day, I'm going to find something that makes you sneeze.”

T'Pol smiled back. “I would very much like to see you try.”