Author's Note: One could say this is a missing Trip and Kov scene, really, but I did manage to fit a little TíPol in there eventually. And many thanks, as always, dear reviewers.
As they left the mess hall, Kov said, “Is there any particular reason you’re curious about Vulcan sex?”
Trip began to cough. “Um, no, just curious. Same as you are about us.”
“I confess I’m a little surprised that an offworlder would know anything about our marriage customs. Everything is so hush-hush.”
“I think Commander T’Pol may have mentioned something about it once. You know, we should probably take a closer look at your injectors now that the relays are so close to being finished.”
“That would be great,” Kov said, and they steered towards the airlock. “She is a very attractive female.”
First Malcolm, now Kov. If Trip had ever doubted his private opinion that T’Pol was a hot babe, he now had objective evidence to support it. But he restricted himself to a noncommittal “Mmm.”
“It is quite unusual for a woman her age to remain unmarried. Perhaps that is why Tolaris has taken such an interest.”
Trip frowned. Tolaris had taken an ‘interest’ in T’Pol?
Well, and why shouldn’t he? All the better if she could meet a nice Vulcan guy she actually liked instead of some dude she’d been fixed up with in childhood and obviously didn’t. But he couldn’t imagine what she’d see in Tolaris. He had barely met the man himself, but he hadn’t particularly cared for him. But then again, he wasn’t a Vulcan woman. Perhaps they liked tall, dark and sullen.
Did that mean she might decide to leave Enterprise to be with tall, dark and sullen? He sure hoped not. They needed her here, as science officer.
As long as Kov was being so forthcoming . . . “Just how old would you say she is, anyway?” He followed behind the slightly portly Vulcan as they wound their way into the claustrophic engineering deck of the Vahklas. It made Enterprise feel luxurious.
“It would be quite impertinent of me to try to guess her age.”
Now he worried about being impertinent?
Kov stopped at an injector assembly. “Let’s start with the starboard one." So Trip waited while Kov tried to get the injector assembly to disengage. It didn’t look like an operation he performed very often.
“Are you interested in the Commander?” Kov asked.
Trip laughed. “Me? There wouldn’t be much point in that.”
“She’s so attractive.” Kov sounded wistful. “And available. You have no idea how rare that is.”
Trip said nothing, just watched and winced as the injector groaned its way into the access channel. Had this guy even heard of lubrication? Trip pulled out his scanner and knelt down to examine the part in more detail. Like the rest of their engine components, it could clearly use some tender loving care.
He’d have to warn T’Pol that even if she fell for Tolaris, joining him on this ship would be taking her life in her hands.
“The parents of the woman I was betrothed to disapproved of my decision to join the V’tosh Ka'tur,” Kov said. “So they found another husband for her. My parents agreed, of course. They disapprove of me too.” His face darkened.
“Well, then, maybe you should give Tolaris some competition.” Noticing the puzzlement on the Vulcan’s face, he added, “Take an interest in T’Pol yourself. Why should he have all the fun?” Not that Kov should really be spending time doing anything that wasn’t related to saving these poor engines.
“Oh, she isn’t interested in me. That much is obvious. She likes you, though. Or at least she finds you very interesting.”
Trip looked up from his scan in confusion. “Excuse me?”
“She watches you pretty intently. I couldn’t help noticing that when she came down to Engineering earlier.”
Trip snorted. “She’s just waiting to see me screw up.”
“Maybe. Of course, I couldn’t help noticing that you watch her pretty intently, too,” Kov said, with a hint of a smile.
Trip felt his face turn hot. “She’s my boss. It behooves me to watch her.”
“Ah.” Kov didn’t exactly sound convinced.
“She wouldn’t be interested in me anyway. I’m not Vulcan. And even if she was interested, which she isn’t, I can’t say I’m really willing to wait around seven years for . . . well, you know.”
“Oh, but it’s different for females. Their cycles accommodate to their mates’. We are quite fortunate to have two unbonded females with us on the Vahklas. They have been quite receptive about servicing our needs, especially as we attempt to reduce the length of our mating cycles.”
Servicing? Trip couldn’t hide his grimace. “Doesn’t sound very romantic.”
“It’s not,” Kov said, as if that should be obvious. He watched Tucker work for a few moments, then added, “Tolaris says the only place to find romance among Vulcans is in pre-Awakening literature. He’s considered quite an expert in the subject. Apparently his enthusiasm for it made his students so uncomfortable that he was asked to leave. He’s tried very hard to interest the rest of us in the classics, but I’m afraid I find ancient Vulcan literature only slightly more interesting than engineering manuals.”
Tucker stared up at him. “If you don’t like reading engineering manuals, how the hell did you become an engineer?”
“I’m not really an engineer at all. I’m a furniture designer. I was the closest thing to an engineer we could find. It’s been a challenge, as you can see. But at least I’m used to working with my hands.”
Trip’s eyes widened. These people weren’t just Vulcans without logic, they were insane! “Well, I’ll teach you as much as I can. But you can get into damned serious trouble with a warp reactor when you don’t know what you’re doing. I strongly recommend that you guys recruit a trained warp engineer.”
“Oh, we’ve tried,” Kov said. “Unfortunately, we have not yet found one who is interested in joining our expedition.” He cocked his head. “Would you be interested, Trip?”
“Thanks, but I’m very fond of my engines on Enterprise.” He took a deep breath. He was sure the last thing Kov needed was a lecture about how they were all going to die. “I guess you’ve actually done pretty well, considering what you’ve got to work with.” He stuck his tongue in his cheek. What would most help this gang survive the next year? “Tell ya what. When we’re done with the injectors, let’s do a quick review of your containment systems.”
Trip stayed quite late going over the basics with Kov, who was at least an attentive student, if less quick at grasping new concepts than T’Pol was. Before turning in, he decided to stop by the mess hall for a glass of milk and dessert, if there was any left.
Alas, there was no pie, but there was some bread pudding. It would do. He settled down with a tired sigh just as T’Pol entered with her usual Padd in her hands. He sometimes wondered if she was just being super-efficient carrying that thing around with her everywhere, or if it was her way of coping with the fact that she often sat alone.
He smiled in greeting but didn’t bother with his usual invitation. The tense set of her shoulders suggested to him that he would get a peremptory no.
She paused at his table anyway, after obtaining her chamomile tea. “Commander,” she said. “You’re up late.”
“I was giving Kov a little tutorial,” he said. “Did you know he’s not really an engineer?”
“No, I didn’t.”
“He’s actually a furniture designer, if you can believe it! They’re lucky they haven’t run into worse trouble. All those redundant safety systems you guys design into everything are definitely coming in real handy over there.”
“They are quite reckless,” she said. “In many ways.”
“They’ll be lucky if something doesn’t blow up. You have to admit, though, they have some interesting ideas.” He raised his eyebrows, ready for an argument to begin.
But she just said, “I suppose they do,” and left.
Trip stared after her. That wasn’t what he’d expected to hear.
And it definitely wasn’t what he’d wanted to hear, either.
Next installment: Rogue Planet.
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