Author's Note: I'm ignoring TATV in this and thus giving some people the promotions they were due by now. Thanks to JustTripn for beta services.
Three weeks later Kendra finally got to do something outside of sickbay. The captain assigned her to accompany T’Pol and several others as they investigated an alien ship that had sent out a distress signal. Sensors hadn’t detected any life signs, so Kendra assumed she was going along to help determine how the aliens had met their fates.
But there were no alien crewmen. The small ship was empty, both of people and of any useful cargo. It had been stripped clean.
“Orion,” Lieutenant Commander Reed reported tersely to Commander T’Pol. “The weapons signature is unmistakable.”
T’Pol turned to Lieutenant Sato. “See if you can download enough information to allow us to contact their home world. We should attempt to let them know what happened to their people.”
“Which is what?” Kendra asked.
“We can safely assume the Orion Syndicate captured them to sell into slavery.”
“Oh.” Kendra had heard about the Orion slave trade in her briefing for this mission, but it suddenly seemed a lot more real.
“If the Syndicate is in this area we may be at risk as well,” T’Pol added, and hailed the captain.
“Are we really at risk on Enterprise?” Kendra asked T’Pol back on the ship, as they stripped out of their EV suits.
T’Pol regarded her. “With our level of defensive weaponry their favored method is to transport off a few members of the crew and then speed away. However, sickbay is in the most interior area of the ship. You may face lower risk there.”
“I didn’t ask because I was concerned about myself.”
“It would be a reasonable concern,” T’Pol said. “I was once kidnapped by the Orions myself. I have no wish to repeat the experience.”
“Oh. Well, maybe I’ll try to work up a little concern, then.”
T’Pol tilted her head. “This is your first deep space mission?”
“You appear less anxious about it than most new crewmembers.”
“Do I? I suppose it’s not like anyone’s waiting for me back home. If something happens....” She shrugged. She knew better than to tell a senior officer she sometimes fantasized about reuniting with her family in the afterlife, if there was one. Nobody wanted a ship’s doctor with a death wish.
“Commander Tucker told me about your family,” she said. “I grieve with thee.”
“Thank you,” Kendra said, surprised at receiving sympathy from a Vulcan.
“I believe the commander feels quite protective toward you,” T’Pol said abruptly.
“Does he?” Kendra couldn’t help but feel a little gratified.
“If we were not bonded, I would not be surprised if he pursued a relationship with you.”
Kendra smiled, amused. “I doubt that.” She was only a few years older than Tucker, but she felt ancient compared to him. True, he did sometimes give her the impression he found her attractive, but she suspected he gave everyone that impression. The man was a born charmer.
“I believe one might say that Commander Tucker has an open heart,” T’Pol said. She closed the locker door with a slightly excessive amount of force. “You’re also conveniently outside the chain of command.”
“But as you say, he is bonded,” Kendra said softly.
T’Pol looked pensive. Perhaps even a touch depressed.
“And I would never....” Kendra said.
The look T’Pol gave her was so grateful it was almost heartbreaking. Kendra wondered if Vulcans’ reputation for emotional control had been greatly exaggerated, or if this was related to material she’d found in T’Pol’s file.
Trellium-D. Was that how two so very different people had become so unhappily attached?
The next time Tucker came in for inaprovaline it was because he was going on the away mission and T’Pol wasn’t.
“What are you going to be doing?” Kendra asked, curious.
“Oh, it’s just a meet and greet and hopefully we can set up a relationship for buying deuterium when we need it. We don’t have any suppliers out in this region.” He lowered his voice and grinned. “I just hope it doesn’t involve eating any ‘essence of the male’.”
“Long story. Maybe I’ll tell you sometime.”
She smiled but didn’t say she’d like that, conscious of her promise to T’Pol. “How’s movie night going?” she asked casually.
He bit his lip. “I’m trying to behave. I ... I appreciate you pointing out to me what I was doing. I never wanted to cause her pain.”
“I don’t believe she would ever wish to cause you pain either,” Kendra said.
“I know. Though she sure as hell has a knack for it.”
“How so?” Kendra asked, honestly curious.
“Well, that’s kind of a long story,” he said. “Water over the bridge now, anyway.”
“Pity you can’t get past it, then.”
He frowned. “I told you, we tried. We’re just not really that compatible.”
“In what specific ways are you not compatible?”
He shook his head. “Just basic stuff. She’s Vulcan, I’m human. There are things you take for a granted in a relationship that you just can’t have. Like physical contact. I’m not talking about sex, just normal touch. Anything prolonged makes her really antsy. She can’t really stand to sleep in the same bed. She doesn’t hug. And when I’m around she never really relaxes. She needs a lot of personal space.” He scowled. “She’d make a really great pen pal.”
“These all seem like things that could be worked on if you were clear with her about what you needed,” Kendra said. “It’s not like you’re getting hugs from anyone else.”
He blushed, and she felt her own cheeks flush in response. “You don’t understand,” he said. “If she’s uncomfortable, I’m uncomfortable. Even when she’s at her most affectionate, there’s this part of her that’s just so ashamed for feeling that way, and she can’t hide it from me. I guess maybe if I were another Vulcan we’d be just hunky dory. Maybe it wouldn’t bother me so much. But I’m not, and it does.”
“How exactly did this bond form, anyway?” Kendra asked. From the additional research she had done – which hadn’t been easy, Vulcans guarded their facts of life pretty carefully – this one didn’t sound terribly functional.
He looked up at the ceiling. “Do I really have to spell that out?”
“So it wasn’t just the neuropressure. You’ve had sex.”
He nodded, clearly embarrassed.
“Has she gone through pon farr with you?”
“No. Phlox believes she probably never will as long as we’re bonded. Apparently the female reacts to her mate, and I don’t have any Vulcan mojo to set her off. Which is probably a good thing, because if we went through that together she might kill me.” He was trying to sound nonchalant about it, but Kendra noticed that his shoulders had rounded into a slump.
“It’s possible the experience of pon farr would improve the quality of your bond,” Kendra said, handing him a hypospray with a three-day supply of inaprovaline. “I’m sure it could be stimulated with the right hormonal regimen.”
“Forget about it,” Tucker said. “I need more of this bond like I need a hole in the head.”
“Are you sure? A fully-functioning bond might be preferable to an incomplete bond.”
“Might be. Nobody knows, right? Maybe a fully-functioning bond might fry what’s left of my brain. I think it’s safer to just leave well enough alone. I appreciate your concern, Doctor, but I’m done with this. It was hard enough giving up on it after the last round. I just really don’t want to even have to think about it anymore.” He lifted the hypospray up in a mock toast. “This is all I need and all I want.”
Kendra smiled apologetically back at him and decided to let it go. He was right – she had no idea what a full Vulcan mating bond might do to a human brain.
First, do no harm.
Kendra was staring at one of Phlox’s leeches and trying to decide whether it was dead or just very, very inactive when the call came in from Lieutenant Sato. “Sickbay, prepare for emergency transport!”
Kendra jumped to attention, then checked to make sure there wasn’t anything sitting on the portion of sickbay’s deck only recently designated for receiving transporter signals. Then she ran to the wall to call in extra help.
Captain Archer and Commander Tucker materialized on the floor. Archer was on his knees, bent over the blood-soaked engineer. In the time it took Kendra to approach a fresh crimson circle spread out beneath him.
Kendra’s heart began to pound. She programmed a hypo with plasma stabilizing compound and pressed it into Tucker’s neck, all but certain it would be too little too late. She scanned quickly to ensure there was no spinal damage. His vitals were plummeting. “Help me,” she told the captain, and they lifted Tucker up and onto a diagnostic bed. “What happened?” she asked, hurriedly getting the engineer hooked into a supply of oxygen and fresh syn-plasma while Archer, clearly familiar with emergency procedures, cut Tucker’s bloody uniform out of the way.
“A projectile weapon of some kind,” Archer said. “They hit him with at least two shots, maybe three.”
“Were you hit?” Kendra asked, afraid to remove her attention from Tucker for even a moment.
Miriam Saad, an exo-biologist who doubled as a medic in emergencies, raced in and Kendra told her to prep for surgery. Tucker’s vitals had stabilized at far too low a level for comfort, but if she didn’t find a way to stop the bleeding he would certainly die.
“I need room, Captain,” she said. She set up a sterile field over the patient. Saad worked with admirable efficiency, placing two sedator disks into position on Tucker’s forehead, then tucking warm blankets over his legs and arms. Kendra grabbed the laser scalpel from the tray Saad had laid out and headed into Tucker’s devastated abdomen.
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