"Hematology, Perspiration, and Lachrymal Angst: A Syllabus to Not Belaboring the Minute Details"
Author's Note: Going forward, italics will represent mental conversation unless otherwise part of an obvious verbal dialogue.
It was the cold that woke him. Sleeping with T'Pol was a sweltering experience on multiple levels, not the least of which was her natural body temperature. He never used to be cold on Enterprise due to its conditioned air and regulated temperature settings, but that changed when he began spending most of his time in her quarters, where the temperature was set closer to Vulcan standard. It did not require genius-level intelligence to deduce that his Vulcan bride was, therefore, missing from her bunk.
From the bathroom, T'Pol sensed his untrained mind weakly searching for hers and met him half way. I am here, Adun.
It's early, T'Pol.
You pass Chronometer Reading for Beginners. Shall we proceed to the Intermediate level? She reentered the room as she broadcasted her frisky thoughts.
Trip grabbed her when she got close enough and wrestled her freshly-showered self back into the bunk. He straddled her waist and held her hands against the mattress above her head. He grinned down at her beautiful face, complete with its sharply arched eyebrow. "Vulcan humor? You're zingin' me with Vulcan humor before coffee?"
"Vulcans do not possess a sense of humor."
"Ha!" Trip launched himself away and marched to the bathroom to immediately grab his toothbrush. Tell that to someone who isn't joined at the mind to a Vulcan! He finished quickly, dashed back, and dove into the bunk to resume his previous position, tickled that she hadn't moved away. He leaned down to rest his forehead against hers. "First ya freeze me awake, and then ya zing me." Guess it's a good thing I'm crazy in love with you. He pressed his lips to hers in what was meant to be an affectionate peck but quickly turned into a serious expression of deep passion.
Yes. I am very fortunate. She easily broke his grip so she could grasp the back of his head and pull him in closer. She opened her mouth to his seeking tongue, marveling at her body's physical reactions to his kiss. The spiraling passion. The tingling nerves, the racing heartbeat. The quivering, the trembling. The breathlessness.
Trip ripped his lips from hers and dropped his face to her shoulder, gasping for breath. Sorry.
Do not be. She quivered under him, panting lightly, attempting to calm the storm of her awakened passion and agitated mind.
That was one of the reasons you pulled away from me that morning, wasn't it? After our night together?
T'Pol nodded against the flesh of his nape. I was very confused. I could not handle the disorientation. She took deep, steadying breaths. It is...unsettling... for a Vulcan mind, to say the least. And my previous experiences did nothing to facilitate my acceptance of such an unnatural state-of-being for a Vulcan.
"Those damn small caliber munitions." Trip felt a gust of amusement cross their bond as T'Pol recognized his oblique reference to their discussion from the previous night.
Indeed. She appreciated his ability to keep the memories of Tolaris, Silik, and Rajiin from growing into dominance, somewhat surprised his human mind could compartmentalize them so easily and completely.
Trip lifted his head and stared down at her. He shifted to spear his hands into her hair and cup her head, scratching lightly at her scalp. "You could just ask me for help, ya know?" He smiled wryly. "That kind of disorientation is kind of universal."
T'Pol nodded again. I will attempt to do so. She pulled him down to rest flush against her and rolled them to the side so she could snuggle into his chest.
Trip rested his chin on top of her head. "Is Soval coming back today?"
Yes, but not until this afternoon.
"You up for going to the mess hall for breakfast?"
There was a long pause before T'Pol murmured hesitantly, "Not yet."
OK, but I'm bringing something back for you, so don't even try arguing.
T'Pol sighed. "Very well." She climbed out of his embrace and the bunk and began to light candles in preparation for meditation.
Trip followed her out of the bunk and headed for the shower. He was rinsing the shampoo out of his hair when he felt her mind sink into the half-relaxed state he associated with her current attempts to meditate without him. It was the equivalent of running the warp drive on only four injectors. You could do it, but the ride was bumpy, nowhere near as fast, and bound to breakdown.
He quickly finished washing up and drying off, and passed by her quietly to grab clean clothes. He observed her silently as he dressed, noting the minute furrow to her brow, the dark circles under her eyes. Though he knew she was better today than she was two days ago, he still worried about her. It wasn't exactly something he could help. Once dressed, he crossed to the door, pausing only to lightly brush the tips of two fingers softly down her cheek, like a gentle breeze upon her face, before exiting her quarters.
Upon entering the mess, Trip immediately headed for coffee.
Trip looked over his shoulder and saw Malcolm standing behind him with an empty coffee mug. "How's it going, Mal?"
"I should be asking you that, mate," Reed muttered as he took his turn at the resequencer. "Coffee, black."
Trip sighed and rubbed the back of his neck. "'Bout like you'd expect, I guess. I'm just taking it one day at a time." He gazed sightlessly across the room, part of his mind drifting to T'Pol's. "Meditatin' a bunch."
Malcolm frowned. "You? Meditating? Whatever for?" He took a sip from his mug. "And since when?"
"It's kind of a long story, Malcolm." Trip quickly made his breakfast selections and piled them on a tray.
"You fancy sitting down with a bloke and telling it?" Malcolm gestured to a table where his own partially-eaten breakfast remained.
I will be fine, Adun. There is no need to neglect your friendships.
It's not you I'm worried about, darlin'. Just not sure I'm up to playing "Twenty Questions." Trip looked down at his tray, his lips twisting into a wry smile. Besides, nothing against him, but I much prefer your company over his.
"Trip?" Malcolm tried to get the engineer's wandering attention. "You alright?"
Tell him you will only answer three of his twenty questions.
Does that last one count?
Trip's smile widened at the rush of amusement sent by his Vulcan. He looked over and caught Reed's puzzled expression. "What?"
"I asked if you were alright. You sort of zoned out there for a minute."
"Yeah, I'm fine. Let's go sit." Trip followed Malcolm to his table and sat down across from him, looking disinterestedly down at his meal.
"So when did you start meditating, and why?" Malcolm asked before taking an enormously large bite from his jam-covered toast.
Trip listlessly nibbled at his cantaloupe. He methodically chewed and swallowed it. "Since the day after Elizabeth died." Trip pushed his plate away, his appetite quickly disappearing. "It's helping." He pressed the heels of his hands against his eyes when he felt a rush of grief crash over both his own and T'Pol's psyches. He lifted his head a few moments later and resumed picking at his breakfast.
Malcolm looked on with sympathy. "Paxton deserves much worse than he's getting, that's for sure."
"You'll get no argument from me," Trip grunted. He began eating a bit faster when he felt T'Pol's remaining psychological and neurological injectors start to fail.
Reed watched in fascination as Trip began shoveling food in his mouth with no evidence of care or interest in tasting any of it. Considering how apathetic he was when he first sat down, the Lieutenant was confused. "I'm not real proficient at the Heimlich Maneuver, Trip. Take care you don't choke."
Trip gulped his coffee to wash down his meal. "Sorry, Mal. I promised T'Pol I'd bring her some breakfast" he obfuscated. He piled his dishes back on his tray and rose from his chair.
"You've been stuck like glue to her for days now." Malcolm murmured the insinuation over the rim of his mug.
Trip dropped the tray back down with a clatter. He closed his eyes and took a deep, steadying breath. "Do you know how Vulcans grieve, Lieutenant?" he ground out between clenched teeth.
Reed quickly realized he might have just stepped out of line. "No, sir. I don't."
"They meditate...and meditate..." Trip opened his eyes and pinned the security officer down with a rarely-used glare. "...and meditate. It is the only method they have for dealing with grief."
Malcolm swallowed reflexively. "I apologize, Commander. I had no right to imply anything untoward between the two of you."
Trip unclenched his jaw. "No. You didn't." He picked up his tray and took a stride away, only to stop at Reed's shoulder. "For the record, Lieutenant, a meditation partner greatly facilitates the process. It's even why Ambassador Soval came up yesterday." He took another deep breath then leaned down into Reed's personal space. "She is my best friend, Malcolm. There is nothing I wouldn't do for her. Meditation is cake."
A subdued and chastised Lieutenant Malcolm Reed watched Commander Tucker dispose of his tray and stalk out of the mess hall, absently noting that he took only a tea bag with him; presumably Commander T'Pol's promised "breakfast."
Are you feeling better?
Me? Disbelief was evident on Trip's features.
You were angry with Lieutenant Reed.
Trip sighed. Not angry. More like frustrated. Mostly upset 'cause him bringing up Paxton bothered you. And that just made what he insinuated about you seem more out of line than it probably was.
As they approached the doors to sickbay, T'Pol glanced over to him. "Do you recall a conversation we had, while in the Expanse, regarding the crew's propensity to gossip about our relationship?"
Trip frowned. "Sure."
"Do you recall the nature of my position on the subject?"
Trip stopped and planted his hands on his hips. You said, as senior officers, if we were involved in a relationship it wouldn't be anyone's concern.
It wouldn't be any of Lieutenant Reed's concern.
T'Pol reached out to open the doors to sickbay and looked at him over her shoulder as she entered. "It still isn't."
Trip followed after her, deep in thought, a bemused expression on his face.
I guided you here.
Trip merely nodded in acceptance, still somewhat distracted by his previous thoughts.
What is troubling you?
Trip leaned back in his chair and sighed. It's all small stuff.
I'll explain later.
Dr. Phlox settled behind his desk and waited for one of them to clue him in on the reason for their visit.
Trip glanced to T'Pol. "What first?"
Phlox's eyes opened wide.
T'Pol tipped her head to the side. The bond. Knowing of its presence will facilitate the doctor's assistance in the other matter.
Trip nodded once again before turning back to the ever watchful Denobulan. "T'Pol and I share a permanent Vulcan mating bond," he stated bluntly.
Phlox evinced no shock or surprise; he merely nodded calmly and clasped his hands together atop his desk.
T'Pol lifted an elegant brow. "You knew."
The doctor smiled somewhat sheepishly. "To one aware of the existence of such things, there were ... signs."
"And you never let on..." Trip quietly murmured in admiration.
Phlox focused on T'Pol as he explained. "It has been my experience that Vulcan pathology and pathobiology are inherently private."
"You are also aware of the social implications?" T'Pol calmly inquired.
Phlox glanced over to Trip and smiled before answering. "I am. That, too, is a matter of doctor/patient confidentiality."
The diminutive Vulcan tipped her head in acknowledgement. "We appreciate your discretion."
Trip nodded vigorously. "What she said."
Dr. Phlox sighed in rueful consternation. "I will, of course, need to get new baselines for the both of you. The mind and body are so inter-connected in Vulcan pathobiology, your bond is sure to be a factor in future diagnoses and treatments."
Trip frowned and tugged playfully at his ear. "Not Vulcan."
"Your mate is. And without her, we would not be having this discussion."
Trip's lips twitched. "Yeah, I'm an idiot. Good point, Doc."
Phlox smiled gently. "Was there more you wished to discuss before we commence your exams?"
Trip glanced over at his wife. Exams first?
"You should probably do what you need to do to get your baselines now," Trip cautioned. "We're probably gonna need to meditate right after our visit."
It was Phlox who sported a frown this time. "I see," though he clearly didn't.
Approximately forty-five minutes later, the three of them were once again seated in the Denobulan doctor's office. Phlox sat and looked at the pair of them with an air of expectation on his face.
T'Pol sat ramrod straight, eyes downcast, and waited for her bondmate to begin.
In contrast to his Vulcan, Trip slumped back in his chair, legs stretched out in front, entwined hands resting on his belly. He sighed deeply. "So did you find anything wrong with us?"
"Wrong?" Phlox's eyes widened perceptibly. "Not at all. There were changes, naturally, but I wouldn't call them wrong." He gave them a brief overview of his findings and advised them not to worry.
"Hadn't even occurred to us to worry 'bout that, Doc. We'd probably know before you anyway...if something was wrong," Trip remarked softly. "So we weren't."
Phlox's features softened. "Then why don't you tell me what's really bothering you, Commander."
Trip looked down at his hands and began to fidget lightly. "I need to know exactly what the Trellium abuse did to T'Pol," he requested quietly.
Phlox glanced over to Enterprise's First Officer before answering, "The synaptic pathways to the emotional centers of her brain have been irrevocably compromised."
Trip cleared his throat. "Yeah, she already told me that. What I don't know is what any of that actually means."
Phlox nodded. "Ah, yes. You are familiar with the concept of "stepping stones" in a stream or river?"
"Sure." Trip's brow furrowed in concentration.
Phlox smiled and continued, "Well, for the purpose of this explanation, there are "streams" in a Vulcan's mind; their emotions. At a very early age, Vulcans are trained to create stepping stones in their minds to facilitate the crossing of those emotional streams. Those stones are their synaptic pathways. They make controlling the "streams" easier, yes?"
Trip shrugged. "Makes sense."
"Yes," Phlox murmured, "but Trellium targets the emotional centers of the Vulcan brain. Commander T'Pol's use of Trellium eroded many of those pathways. She, in essence, removed those stepping stones."
"So she can't cross the streams," Trip muttered.
"Oh, she can. She just has to jump in and wade across the streams now."
T'Pol took that moment to break into the discussion, a somewhat plaintive tone in her voice. "May I remind you, Trip? The planet Vulcan is a desert."
Trip stood at the airlock and raised his hand in a split-fingered greeting when Ambassador Soval stepped through. "Live long and prosper, Tela'at."
Soval raised a brow at the surprisingly decent pronunciation and lifted his hand in response. "Peace and long life, Commander."
Trip smirked and gestured for the Vulcan to walk with him down the corridor. "Yeah, I've been practicing."
"Your efforts are commendable." Indeed Soval continued to be impressed by the young man whose interest in Vulcan culture and proclivities never faltered. Soval subtly gave the engineer a once-over. "You appear to be somewhat weary, however. Is my visit ill-timed?"
"No," Trip ruefully denied. "It's just been a draining day. Your help will, more than likely, help both of us today."
Soval's brows twitched. "I am pleased to be of assistance." His eyes immediately sought out T'Pol once Commander Tucker opened the door to her quarters. He found her already sitting before her meditation table, a candle flickering gently on top.
"Be welcome, En'ahr'at."
Without further ado, the three assumed the same positioning as the previous evening. Trip settled self-consciously behind T'Pol, resting his hands lightly at her waist.
Soval eyed the newly-bonded pair, easily noting the shadows under both sets of eyes, the slight slump in their postures. He met T'Pol's gaze. "Has the day been as draining for you as it has for Commander Tucker?"
T'Pol tipped her head slightly to the left. "Yes, but also enlightening."
"Indeed? How so?"
"Though I cannot say for certain without his clarification, I believe my adun has been unwittingly ruminating for most of the day on the third tenet to achieving balance in the Vulcan mating bond."
Trip leaned over her right shoulder. "I've been doing what?"
T'Pol turned her head to meet his gaze. "When you said 'it's all small stuff,' what did you mean?"
Trip reached up and rubbed his forehead. "Ummm...humans have a saying. You've probably heard it once or twice in the last four years. 'Don't sweat the small stuff.' Does that sound familiar?"
T'Pol nodded. "I have heard this phrase. 'Do not belabor life's minute details.' That is its meaning?"
"Right," Trip confirmed. "But that's not the entire saying. The whole thing goes like this: 'Don't sweat the small stuff. And it's all small stuff'."
T'Pol turned back to Soval. "I was correct," she stated with satisfaction.
Soval's brows rose high on his forehead. "Fascinating."
Trip scowled mightily, his confusion readily apparent. "Someone want to tell me what I did?"
Frankly, Soval was amazed. "You have unknowingly grasped the properties of the third tenet in its most basic form. You are a remarkable human, Commander." Had Soval hand-picked a mate for T'Pol, he had no doubt he wouldn't have been able to come close to finding someone as worthy as this human.
"Well, what's the third tenet?"
T'Pol again met Trip's gaze and held out her hand, paired fingers extended. "All is surmountable."
Trip automatically reached out with his own, savoring the sweet rush of feelings as their fingertips brushed together. "That's it? 'All is surmountable'?"
"Yes." T'Pol's lips twitched. She held out her other hand, and in it was a PADD she'd had hidden within her robes. "Are you required to take notes?"
Trip's mouth fell open in shock. "Oh. My. God." A grin slowly spread across his face. "No sense of humor...my ass."
The Story continues in Tucker Tenets.
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