Author's Note: I almost hate to finish this one, if only because I have no clue how to handle Two Days and Two Nights (and I must confess I had been looking forward to writing this one). Season One is nearly done and Iíll be taking a hiatus when that happens to get some other stuff done.
Thanks very much as always, reviewers. I do hope youíll enjoy Tripís predicament here!
T’Pol didn’t need her scanner to tell her that Commander Tucker was in bad shape. Captain Archer all but thrust him into her arms and the Commander himself could do little more than vaguely orient his collapse in the direction of the closest bench.
She responded with the first priority Phlox had suggested: water. Tucker drank it eagerly for the first few swallows, then turned his head away.
“You require further hydration,” she said.
He shook his head. His breath was coming fast and shallow and he looked distinctly uncomfortable.
“I think he’s suffering from heat stroke,” Archer offered. “And some badly bruised ribs. Drink up, Trip, you need the water.”
The commander’s eyes had shut and his ruddy, sunburned complexion had taken on a peculiar tinge. His expression twisted and he suddenly raised himself up a little in order to vomit what little he had managed to drink over the side of the bench. There wasn’t much to it, but it smelled disagreeably of bile. T’Pol was grateful he had managed to miss her.
“Sorry,” he muttered, sinking bonelessly back down onto the bench.
T’Pol scanned him. His body temperature had reached nearly forty degrees, he was dehydrated, his heart was racing, several of his internal organs were clearly stressed, and he had two hairline fractures of his ribs, as well as the extensive bruising Archer had suggested. “You require intravenous hydration, Commander,” she said, and fished in the kit Phlox had provided her for scissors.
She cut his right sleeve open. He didn’t react in the slightest. She took his right hand in hers and tapped the back of it lightly, trying to raise a vein to little effect, before attaching the automated needle port over what appeared to be the most likely spot and letting it establish a sterile connection. “Ouch,” he muttered, though it sounded more like an afterthought than anything else.
She attached the IV and got the drip started, aware that Tucker was staring up at her, his blue eyes dulled by pain or fever or possibly even dementia. T’Pol found it oddly unnerving, though she wasn’t sure whether it was because his eyes held no hint of their usual sardonic intelligence, or because of the strange raptness with which he seemed to be regarding her.
“Commander?” she asked.
“Do you require something?”
He smiled a little. “Just glad to be home.”
Clearly the man wasn’t entirely rational; this wasn’t even Enterprise yet, let alone Earth.
“Why aren’t we heading up?” Archer asked.
Reed answered. “Our next window for evading the Torothan orbital detection grid won’t open for another eighteen minutes, Captain. We need to stay low enough to evade detection until then – especially since I just blew up one of their gun emplacements. I’m sure they’re looking for us.”
Archer looked tense. “Trip needs sickbay. Can’t Enterprise run interference?”
“If we trip their orbital detection system, we face a much higher risk of a firefight,” T’Pol said. “It would be most unfortunate to escape death on the planet only to be blasted apart in a shuttlepod.”
“Your science officer is correct,” Zovral said. “I know how the Torothans work. Believe me, if I had not guided your people here, they would not have been able to find you at all.”
Archer threw an askance look at T’Pol, who merely raised an eyebrow. She saw little point in debating the usefulness of his assistance. Technically, he was correct, though the Torothans had been at least as helpful by starting to fire on Archer and Tucker when they had.
“I guess we owe you our thanks, then,” Archer said to Zovral. “Though I must say it took you long enough.”
“We were fighting for our lives!” Zovral boomed, but then he softened his tone. “But of course, Captain, I am extremely sorry that your hiding place turned out to be less than secure. It was never my desire to put you and Mr. Tucker at risk.”
“I’m sure it wasn’t,” Archer said, but there was a definite edge in his voice, and looked over at Tucker with concern. The engineer was still lying limply on the bench, panting and watching her with heavy-lidded eyes as she scanned him again. His core temperature had dropped slightly but his vital signs still concerned her. She wet a cloth and smoothed it across his face and hair in the hope that evaporative cooling would help.
The engineer closed his eyes and sighed.
“He probably shouldn’t be allowed to fall sleep,” Archer said.
“I’m not asleep,” Tucker protested, without opening his eyes.
“You appear to be much better acclimated to desert conditions than your Chief Engineer, Captain Archer,” Zovral observed.
“Trip took some pretty vicious hits in that geskana match,” Archer said. “I’m sure that was a factor in his condition.”
“Indeed,” T’Pol said. “Mr. Tucker has two fractured ribs in addition to significant bruising.” Tucker's eyes opened wide at that.
“Ah, but Commander Tucker was having a wonderful time in that match! He played with gusto! And surely a fractured rib is a fairly minor injury, easily healed?”
“Yes, as compared to nearly dying of heat stroke,” T’Pol said, and got a surprised look from Archer and from Tucker as well. She had perhaps allowed herself to sound a little testier than was her norm. “Dr. Phlox said that he had warned both Commander Tucker and Lieutenant Reed to avoid temperature extremes until he could confirm that their bodies’ thermal regulatory systems were fully recovered from the hypothermia they suffered recently.”
Archer grimaced. “Actually, Trip didn’t want to go. I pretty much pressured him into it.”
“Not your fault,” Tucker grunted, turning his head to bare his neck further for T’Pol’s ministrations with the wet cloth. “Next time, we’ll take a camel with us.”
Archer laughed. “Good idea.”
“A camel?” Zovral asked.
“Mr. Zovral, if you could please take over the helm now,” Reed said. T’Pol noted that he continued to hover closely behind the man, as was appropriate. Who could say how tempted he might be to serve his own agenda at their expense again.
She took out the scanner. Tucker’s respiration and heartbeat had both slowed; his temperature had also dropped another half degree. By her judgment, he was now out of danger. His eyes had slipped shut again.
“Come on, Trip!” Archer said. “Stay with us.”
“Ready for that coma now,” Tucker muttered.
T’Pol, perplexed, looked to Archer for explanation, but Archer just shook his head. He reached over and shook Tucker’s leg. “Not yet!”
“I don’t believe it would be dangerous for Mr. Tucker to sleep at this point,” she said.
“That’s my girl,” Tucker said, and sighed.
“No offense, Subcommander, but I’d rather Phlox made that judgment,” Archer said. “Commander!”
Tucker didn’t respond.
T’Pol could see that Archer was anxious, so she took the damp cloth she’d used earlier, wet it with cool water from the pouch, and reached under Tucker’s shirt to swipe his abdomen with it.
“Gah!” Tucker flinched violently. His eyes flew open and fixed accusingly on hers. “What the hell are you doing!”
“Keeping you awake, as per the captain’s wishes,” she said. She pushed his shirt up further and expanded her reach. He had a mostly firm, pale belly punctuated along the line of his trousers by a rather large belly button. “The evaporative cooling will help to reduce your body temperature.”
“Okay, okay, I’m awake, T’Pol! That’s enough.” A fine sheen of perspiration had appeared across his forehead: it was a good sign that he was indeed rehydrating.
“Take a deep breath and try to relax,” she suggested, continuing to caress his belly with long, smooth strokes.
“I can’t while you’re doing that,” he said. His voice sounded strangled, and indeed his whole body had tensed up. Belatedly, she realized that he was also developing a rather prominent bulge in his trousers.
She quickly drew back. Apparently a Human male’s belly was an erogenous zone. At once embarrassed and oddly intrigued – she had not read of this in the literature – she said, “My apologies, Commander. But I would suggest that you attempt stay alert until you are safely in sickbay.”
“Don’t worry, I will!”
Archer chuckled. “If I were you I would have just laid back and enjoyed it. It’s not every day you’re going to get a sponge bath from a Vulcan.”
T’Pol resisted the impulse to frown. Surely that went without saying? But from where he was sitting T’Pol doubted the captain could see the full extent of what had just occurred. Tucker just grimaced and looked anywhere but at her.
Silence fell. The little craft banked and zoomed.
Humans were generally more affected by long silences than T'Pol, but as this particular silence stretched on she began to feel the need to say something, anything. “Would you like to try a little water by mouth again?” she asked softly.
His eyes met hers again, just briefly, and he nodded.
“And we’re safely through!” Zovral announced. “You could never have done this without my experienced navigation, Captain!”
Archer smiled grimly at him and then scowled over at her for good measure. She had noticed that the captain seemed to most resent her warnings about engaging in a dangerously ad-hoc manner with new cultures when they proved prophetic.
Reed hailed Enterprise. When Ensign Sato responded, Archer started issuing orders.
T’Pol held the water pack for Tucker as he drank. This time he stared at the water pack rather than at her. It made him look a little cross-eyed.
T’Pol had encountered Human male sexual interest before, of course. While on Earth she had been asked on dates several times. One particularly bold suitor, a scientist who had just delivered a presentation about Human culture mores at the Vulcan embassy, had come to her afterwards and asked her if she would like, “purely as a scientific exploration of human culture, of course,” to explore Human sexuality with him. He had assured her that he was an expert and that she was unlikely to have as fully satisfactory an exploration with anyone else, but she had demurred. Vulcans did not engage in casual sex, she told him, not even out of scientific curiosity.
Judging from Tucker’s behavior now, however, he was unlikely to make a similarly bold suggestion. Perhaps he truly meant what he had said on various occasions about being “a perfect gentleman.” Or, more likely, his arousal had merely been an autonomic reflex, rather than a symptom of any particular desire for her. Indeed, given how persistently he would pester her over minor things like that handshake, or trying a piece of pie, that was the likeliest explanation for his obvious embarrassment now.
This was of course for the best, since she hardly wished to be sexually importuned by an undisciplined Human engineer who had made no attempt to hide his enthusiasm for sexual congress with the first interested and eligible female he met on Risa, assuming they ever actually got there.
Tucker, whose color had improved a great deal, rolled over on his back, away from her, to stare up at the bulkhead. She folded the damp cloth into a small, neat square, wrapped it in a sterile bag, and stowed it carefully back into Phlox’s kit even as the shuttlepod was pulled up into the ship.
They were safe from the Torothans now. She thought about reassuring Tucker of that, but decided it was a ridiculous impulse. He already knew. The man was fine. He would no doubt recover quickly.
She stared down at her own lap, waiting for the moment they could disembark. It was most peculiar, how disgruntled she felt.
Indeed, she had seldom felt more eager for her evening meditation.
Next installment: Two Days and Two Nights.
Like it? Hate it? Just want to point out a typo? Join the discussion now.
Disclaimer: Star Trek in all its various forms and its characters are the property of CBS/Paramount. No copyright infringement is intended by the authors of this site, which is solely for the purpose of entertainment and is not for profit. This site is owned by CX and was opened to the public in February 2008.