Author’s Note: I’d like to say thank you to TWL and wallflower over at Smallvillevirtuality BBS, who keep asking me for more of these stories (in spite of not being Trek fans), and to all the wonderful people at HoT and fanfiction.net who have reviewed my stories. I do read all of the reviews, and I really do appreciate them. Constructive criticism is always welcome. And yes, there will be another story after this one.
Trip whistled cheerfully as he walked down the corridor towards the mess. Finally after months of heartache, he and T’Pol both seemed to be on the same page. Both wanted to try and have a relationship. True, it wasn’t the best situation, since they were currently posted on different ships, but hopefully he could fix that with Jon’s help. He frowned thoughtfully. Except how to explain to Jon that he wanted to come back, after he had insisted on the transfer to Columbia in the first place? He shook his head, deciding to worry about that later. Right now, he was just going to enjoy the fact that T’Pol wanted to be with him.
And he wasn’t certain why she hadn’t wanted to talk about whatever was bothering her that morning, but they were going to talk tonight. She had promised to tell him more about this bond they had. And he had promised to listen to whatever she said with an open mind and not to go storming off like he had yesterday. Though why she thought he might do that, he wasn’t sure. Whatever she had to tell him couldn’t be that bad, could it? He pushed his doubts away, focusing on the positive--she said she cared about him, something he’d thought he’d never hear from her for the longest time.
He reached the mess, and headed over to check out what Chef had made for lunch. Deciding on a chicken sandwich and a cup of coffee, he headed for his favorite table, where Malcolm already sat, trying not to look at Hoshi who was sitting with a group of other female crewmembers, laughing at something one of them had just said. Trip observed his friend’s distress, and hid his grin quickly. “You look like the Captain told you that you couldn’t play with any of the ship’s weapons for a month, Malcolm.”
Lt. Reed glanced up at his superior officer and slouched in his chair. “It would have been kinder. How am I supposed to work with any of the female crew after what happened with the Orion women? It’s, it’s, it’s embarrassing, that’s what it is.”
Trip took a bite of his chicken sandwich, watching as Malcolm surreptitiously stared at the comm officer across the room. “Aw, Mal, they’re not goin’ hold it against ya. The rest of the men on board didn’t exactly behave any better, not even the Cap’n. The ladies know it was the pheromones that caused everyone to act that way.”
“This from the only male on board who wasn’t affected by their pheromones.” Malcolm answered glumly, twirling his spaghetti around his fork listlessly, as he snuck another peek at Hoshi‘s table, wondering what the women found so funny and why they kept looking over this way. “Why weren’t you, anyway?” He asked, curious. He’d heard that the only two not affected were Trip and T’Pol. Could it have something to do with her? he thought. He knew there had been rumors the year before about the two of them, but there hadn’t been any juicy gossip about either one for months now, not since Trip had come back alone from Vulcan after going there with T’Pol.
Trip’s grin vanished, as he tried to come up with a believable excuse. “Well, I don’t really know. Maybe I wasn‘t their type,” he finally said, knowing that sounded really lame.
“Any male with a pulse was their type, sir, and I believe that you qualify on both counts.” Malcolm pointed out, eying his friend as Trip nearly choked trying to laugh and swallow his bite of sandwich at the same time. “Anyway, that’s not what I heard Lt. Hess tell Hoshi as I was passing their table at breakfast.”
“Oh?” Trip asked, worry creeping into his eyes even as he carefully put a bland expression on his face. “What’d she say?” Trip had forgotten that one of the Orions had made a play for him yesterday in Engineering before Kelby had smashed the controls. Of course, with everything that went on afterwards, he was amazed that he remembered as much as he did.
“She said that one of them seemed real interested in you and was trying very hard to make you interested in her. Then Kelby and you got into a fight after he damaged the warp controls, and the woman disappeared during the melee.” He paused, watching his friend closely. “So why didn’t she effect you? You were certainly close enough to her, especially since they seemed to effect every male on the ship whether the Orions came in contact with them or not.”
“I don’t know, Malcolm. Maybe it’s something genetic or, or, or maybe it was what I ate for breakfast. Who knows? I’m an engineer, not a doctor.” Trip responded defensively, taking a huge bite of his sandwich to avoid having to talk again for a minute or two while he chewed. He realized that everyone was going to be wondering the same thing, considering the ship’s gossip mill. T’Pol and I really need to talk and come up with a plausible explanation for that, or else we’re going to have to tell everyone about the bond between us. He was certain that she wouldn’t approve of the second option, at least not yet. And he didn’t really want to share it either. It was something special, just between them, and he’d like to keep it that way as long as possible.
“Well, I’m sure Phlox will want to examine you thoroughly to try and come up with an explanation. And T’Pol too. Examine her, I mean.” Malcolm corrected himself at Trip’s odd expression. Though he didn’t believe Trip for a second, especially after that look, he decided to let it pass for now. “Maybe you’re right about them.” He nodded his head in the direction of Hoshi’s table at Trip’s confused stare. “But somehow I can’t help but feel as though they’re laughing at me. I mean, they keep looking over here.”
“I’m sure you’re just imagining things,” Trip offered, glancing over towards Hoshi’s table as another round of laughter carried across the room. “For all you know, they could be sittin’ there tellin’ dirty jokes or something.”
“Then why do they keep looking at me?” Malcolm asked petulantly, as he continued to toy with his plate of spaghetti.
Trip shrugged, swallowing the last of his sandwich. “Who knows? It’s a fact of life, Malcolm--no man will ever understand what goes through a woman’s mind.” He finished his coffee and stood. “I got to get back to the engines. Don’t worry so much. It’ll all blow over in a few days.” He clapped Lt. Reed’s arm in a show of support as he passed by to dispose of his plate and mug before heading back to work.
Malcolm looked over to see Hoshi staring right at him, as the ladies around her dissolved into laughter. “God, I hope so,” as he slouched down in his chair again and pushed his own plate away, having lost his appetite.
T’Pol had spent her morning shift on the bridge focused on the data she had been collecting before the Orions had come on board. It helped to keep her mind off the worry that Trip would reject her once he learned of her addiction or worse, consider that as the sole reason for her affection towards him. For an instant she wavered in telling him about it, but she knew that would accomplish nothing. Tonight he would learn about it, and hopefully he would listen to her explanation and not storm off like he had after she told him about the bond the day before. He had promised to listen, after all, but still…
Her reverie was interrupted when Lt. Reed came back from his lunch nearly 10 minutes early, muttering under his breath about women laughing at him. He took his station, sending his relief away, and still appeared to be distracted to T’Pol’s eyes. She watched him for several minutes, as he continued to mutter to himself. “Is there a problem, Lieutenant?” she finally asked, after trying to avoid eavesdropping.
Reed raised his head and noticed T’Pol at last, then blushed as he realized that she quite probably had heard everything he’d been saying. “No, Commander, I’m sorry. Everything is fine,” he told her. Just then Hoshi returned from lunch, still giggling at something as she exited the turbolift. Malcolm’s gaze drifted from T’Pol to Hoshi, and then down to his station as his blush deepened again. Hoshi, stifling her laughter, smiled over at Malcolm before he looked away, and went on to her station without comment.
T’Pol watched this curious exchange in silence. Evidently whatever was bothering the lieutenant had to do with Ensign Sato. Clearly he did not wish to discuss it with her, especially with the ensign there. And the ensign was apparently unaware that the lieutenant had a problem concerning her. T’Pol wished for a moment that Trip or even the Captain was there, they would know how to handle this situation better than she did. Then she got a hold of herself, putting down her distraction and this illogical wishing to her lack of meditation and the bond. T’Pol decided that at the end of the shift she would recommend to the lieutenant that he talk to Ensign Sato about whatever she had done that was troubling Lt. Reed, knowing from experience that putting it off likely would cause misunderstandings later.
A few hours later, when the end of shift came, Lt. Reed held back at his station as Hoshi Sato left with Travis Mayweather, not wanting to share a turbo lift with her right then. After she’d gone, he finished up the busywork he’d been doing, and headed for the lift and found himself sharing it with Commander T’Pol instead, who had also hung back. He was surprised when she pressed the hold button on the turbolift. “Commander?” He asked puzzled. “Is there something wrong?”
“No, Lieutenant. I simply wished to speak privately with you for a moment. I observed that you avoided Ensign Sato’s gaze the whole afternoon. And you seemed quite upset when you returned from lunch. I presume that such agitation was caused somehow by the ensign.” He started to speak, but she continued. “I am not trying to pry into your affairs, Lieutenant. I am simply trying to do my job as First Officer. If I may make a suggestion, you should try speaking to the ensign about whatever it is that is troubling you. It is the only way you will work through the problem.”
“I’ll keep that in mind, Commander.” Malcolm replied. “I’m sure I’m just imagining things and that it is nothing really.”
T’Pol felt that perhaps Trip or the Captain would have been more effective at convincing the Lieutenant of the wisdom of what she had suggested, but she had tried her best. She nodded, accepting what he said, then released the hold on the lift.
Trip signed off on the last of the reports on the repairs for his shift and sat back in the chair, stretching his arms with relief. He looked around what had been his office (and was now Kelby’s) and found he’d missed Enterprise’s engine room. Oh, Columbia’s was nice, nearly identical in fact, with a few upgrades the boys at Jupiter Station had thought worth putting in (several of which he’d already removed since they were interfering with the engine running properly and was part of the reason, in his opinion, why she’d been so long gettin’ out of Spacedock). But it wasn’t home, not like Enterprise’s engine room. At least the crew here understood him and didn’t ask for transfers just ‘cause he expected them to work hard. Of course, he allowed, part of that might have been that I was a mite unwillin’ to make any friends there ’cause I afraid that I might get hurt again. He looked around the office again and thought, I have got to get transferred back here and quick. Columbia’ll be back for me soon.
He stood, stepped out into the main engine room and gave it one final look over, satisfied with the progress of the repairs, and then turned it over to beta shift. He waved to several of them who greeted him as he passed, his mind now on his meeting with T’Pol in her quarters. First a quick shower and change of clothes in his quarters, and then their little get together. Maybe I ought to stop by the mess and bring our dinners? he thought to himself a short time later as he showered. Deciding it couldn’t hurt, he hurriedly dried himself off and dressed, slipping on a pair of loafers before heading for the mess hall, smiling, hoping to surprise her. He wasn’t sure that he would be successful, but he’d try. The bond seemed determined to tell him whatever she was feelin’ whether he wanted to know or not. And if he could feel her emotions, then she certainly could feel his…
He knew that she had been kind of jumpy all day, emotion-wise, though that might have had to do with the fact that she hadn’t exactly been meditating the night before. But what we were doin’ was a lot more enjoyable, at least for me. Or he could be misreadin’ what he was gettin’ through this bond of theirs. He was hardly an expert on Vulcan mating bonds, even if he was currently a participant in one.
Heading back to her quarters, carrying a tray with dinner for them both, he was relieved that he’d seen no one on the way, outside of the mess hall itself. No reason to give the ship’s gossip mill something else to chew on concerning him and T’Pol. Jon had been going into the Captain’s mess and tried to corral him into eating with him, but Trip had begged off, telling Jon that he had a previous commitment. Jon had been disappointed, and joked about making it an order, but let Trip go once he realized Trip was serious. Trip knew that his old friend had missed him; heck, he’d missed Jon almost as much as his beloved engines and T’Pol while he was on Columbia, and Trip resolved to make it up to him later. We could watch some water polo and drink a six pack or somethin’ later this week, if Jon’s up for it. And I could see how amenable he’d be to takin’ me back as chief engineer after I abandoned him and this ship a few weeks ago.
Reaching T’Pol’s door, he pressed the chime and hardly waited for her to finish saying ‘Come in’ before bustling into the room with the tray. She eyed the meal with curiosity. “It’s just that I know you wanted to talk, an’ it’s dinner time, an’ I figured you wouldn’t want to talk about this stuff in the mess hall, so I thought I’d save us a trip. Now we can eat and talk too.” He explained as he set out a bowl of plomeek soup and a salad for her along with a cup of still steaming hot chamomile tea and as a treat, a slice of pecan pie on her table. She pulled her desk chair over and sat down, while he made himself comfortable on her bed. His own dinner consisted of lasagna and a salad, pecan pie, and a tall glass of milk.
“We do not need to eat in order to talk, Trip.” She pointed out, though that didn’t stop her from taking a bite of the salad or appreciating his thoughtful gesture.
“Yeah, well, ya know… I was jus’ tryin’ to do somethin’ nice to kind of make up for the way I acted yesterday after you told me about the bond. I shouldn’t have gone off yelling like that at you, certainly not in the middle of Engineering.” He offered, taking a bite of his lasagna.
T’Pol took a sip of her tea. “It was understandable, and partly my fault. I should have informed you of the bond sooner and in a less public place. Then you could have ‘gone off’ without feeling guilty of having done so in front of your crew.”
Trip grinned at her. “Darlin’, to be honest, I don’t think they notice half the time when we argue anymore. The crew pretty much considers it typical behavior for us. Still doesn’t excuse what I did, though. I know you don’t like discussing stuff like that in public and all I did was call attention to us by yelling.” His expression turned serious. “But speakin’ of the crew, uh, well, Malcolm was askin’ me at lunch how come I wasn’t effected by the Orion women like the rest of the men.”
T’Pol glanced up sharply at him, setting her fork back down. “What did you tell him?”
“Well, I certainly didn’t tell him about our bond and that you’re somehow makin’ me immune to the wiles of half-naked women because of your physiology, if that’s what you mean.” Trip answered quickly. “But I really didn’t have a good explanation for him, and I’m pretty sure he didn’t believe me when I said I didn’t know why I was immune.”
She considered what Trip had said, realizing that it was a valid concern. If Lt. Reed was indeed curious why Trip was not effected, then it was undoubtedly making the rounds of ship’s gossip as well. She may not pay attention to the rumor mongering which went on, but that did not mean she was unaware of it completely. “We will have to come up with a logical reason for you not to be effected.”
“That’s what I was thinkin’,” Trip agreed. “Maybe…maybe we could say it had somethin’ to do with my being on Columbia? I mean, that’s about the only difference between me and everyone else here--I was on Columbia for several weeks.”
“How exactly would that prevent the Orions from effecting you?” T’Pol asked.
“It’s just a suggestion, T’Pol. Ya know, just throwing out ideas until we can come up with somethin’ we can use.”
She raised her eyebrow at him, but said nothing. Perhaps his time away from Enterprise could be to their advantage. Not his time on Columbia itself, that would hardly account for his immunity, but he had traversed a cable connecting two ships traveling faster than warp 5, albeit in an EVA suit, and that was something that had never been attempted before, could that possibly be used as the reason for his immunity? But Phlox would undoubtedly try and find a way to test that theory. A limited duration immunity which just happened to expire within hours of the Orions leaving? No, Phlox would not believe that either. She would have to give it some more thought. She had the feeling that they would have to tell Phlox sooner, rather than later, about the bond and ask for his complicity in whatever they came up with to describe Trip’s immunity. If he did not suspect something already. Phlox had found it very odd that out of all the human men on board, only Trip was immune, and the only other person to show an immunity was her.
Trip ate his dinner in silence, sensing her concentration, but not what she was thinking. He watched her face and marveled again that she loved him. He would wait until she was ready to talk about whatever she was so worked up about, because while this did concern him, both of them, it wasn’t why he was here.
T’Pol focused in on him again after several minutes of thought. “There are other things we must discuss, Commander.”
“Trip,” he corrected. “We’re alone here, T’Pol,” he gestured around the room, “we’re bonded, and we’ve made love. I think you can call me by my nickname in private at least. You certainly didn’t have any trouble using it in a public corridor yesterday.”
“Trip,” she started again. “There are a number of things which we must discuss. Not all of which are necessarily what you want to hear.”
“Like what?” he asked. “Does it have to do with that, whatcha call it? Pon fur? Or is it something else?”
“Pon farr. And while we need to discuss that as well, it was not what I was referring to.”
He leaned back against her wall, forgetting about his meal and unconsciously raising his own eyebrow in a fair imitation of her as he spread his hands out. “Shoot, then. What could possibly be so bad?”
She looked very much like she wanted to be anywhere else but here for a moment before pulling herself together, straightening her shoulders and staring directly into his eyes. “We need to communicate more effectively with each other, saying what we actually mean instead of saying one thing while meaning another and believing that the other will understand the intent.”
“You won’t get any argument from me on that one, T’Pol,” he assented. “When I think of how much heartache I’ve endured the past few months thinkin’ ya didn’t want me…” He shook his head and sighed softly. “We got miscommunicatin’ down pat. A little old fashioned straight talk between us certainly would be a change of pace. But I don’t see why tellin’ me that would make ya so nervous. I’m hardly in a position to argue with that.”
“I am not nervous.” T’Pol stated, shifting on her chair unconsciously.
“Yes, you are. I can feel it, sort of, in the back of my head.” He waved his hand towards his head as he spoke and answered one of her own questions by doing so. “Now you’re afraid and I think… surprised? You didn’t think…you didn’t know for sure that I could sense you through this bond of ours, did you?” He said wonderingly.
“I was uncertain as to the strength of the bond, yes, since you are, as you reminded me yesterday, human. I have never been in such a bond before and was unsure if it would be primarily one-sided, since your species is not strongly empathic, with you only able to access the bond in limited circumstances, such as a time of emotional stress.” She told him. “I see that assessment was incorrect.”
“No problem, darlin’, anythin’ to help.” Trip smiled at her. “But why are you still nervous and afraid?”
She shifted again, then realized what she was doing, and forced herself to stop. “I do not believe you will like what I have to tell you.”
Trip eyed her in silence. Definitely nervous, afraid, maybe even worried? What could possibly be so awful? “Well, you won’t know until you tell me. So go on.”
“Please remember your promise to hear me out and not to leave before I have a chance to explain.” Trip nodded, and crossed his heart, still unsure what could be so terrible. She noted the odd move, but said nothing about it. “Do you remember when we encountered the Seleya?”
“Yeah, psycho Vulcans killin’ each other ‘cause of the trellium they’d tried to line their hull with, it’s kind of hard to forget.”
“Indeed. As you recall, I was affected by the trellium as well.” She told him.
Trip wondered if that was what had made her so afraid. “Well, you didn’t go on any killin’ sprees, and you recovered just fine after a few days, so what does that have to do with anythin’?”
She sighed. Tell him everything, do not leave anything out. “The trellium gave me access to my… emotions, as you know. I found, once the effect faded, that I desired to experience those emotions again.”
Trip had grinned at the thought of his darlin’ wanting to experience emotions, then it faded as the full import of her statement hit him. “Wait. If the trellium caused you to experience these emotions, and you wanted to do that again, then…” His face darkened.
T’Pol watched the changing expression on his face with trepidation. Closing her eyes, she nodded. “I found a way to synthesize the trellium into a useable form to inject it into my bloodstream. In short, I became addicted to it.”
“Why would you do somethin’ that stupid, T’Pol?” Trip exploded, eyes flashing. “You could’ve killed yourself. And for what, just to experience emotions?” Horror at what could have happened to her laced his tone. “How could you do that to yourself?”
She swallowed, and took a sip of tea to calm herself, not looking at him. She had expected a reaction like this. “I found myself desiring to experience certain emotions more than others. Emotions caused by one particular individual.” She raised her eyes to his. “You, Trip.”
He sat there, mouth agape in shock. He was the reason she wanted to experience emotions? While pleased for half a second that he could have such an effect on her, he was still sorely disappointed by how she’d gone about accessing them. “Wait, so you’re saying this is my fault? That if I hadn’t caused these emotions in you in the first place, you wouldn’t have done something that idiotic?”
“No, Trip. It was entirely my fault. I chose to do it to myself, not you. The emotions I felt when I was around you were… pleasing… to me, and I wished to experience them again. Only once I started injecting the trellium into my system, I found myself needing to do it more and more.”
“How long? How long were you doin’ this to yourself? Since the Seleya? While we were fightin’ the Xindi and the Cap’n was gone? You put all of our lives at risk.” He backed away from her as she reached out to him, anger and disgust on his face. He could feel how he was hurting her through the bond, but this wasn’t something he could just forgive and forget. He wanted to leave, but didn’t, remembering his promise to her. “Are you still doin’ it?” He demanded, afraid of the answer.
With her head bowed, tears rimming her eyes as she tried to bring her emotions under control, she heard the shock and anger in his voice. She had reached out, hoping to comfort him or that he would comfort her, something, but Trip pulled away. Pain lanced through her, and she knew that she should not have expected anything different, but still it hurt. “No, I am not.”
“Why, T’Pol? Why didn’t you tell me sooner? Maybe I could have helped you.” He asked sadly. “Didn’t you trust me?”
“I do trust you, Trip. But you were dealing with your sister’s death, or rather not dealing with it, for much of the time I was addicted last year. I did not believe that you needed the added burden of knowing of my addiction on top of that, which is why I asked Phlox for his help when I decided to end my addiction.”
Trip sighed, closing his eyes briefly. “Just ‘cause I didn’t want to deal with Lizzie’s death, doesn’t mean I wouldn’t have been willin’ to help you overcome your addiction. You’re my friend, T’Pol, whatever else we might be now. And friends help friends.”
“I am sorry. Perhaps I should have told you. I was not thinking entirely logically at the time.” T’Pol admitted. “I regret that my actions may have put the crew into more danger than we otherwise would have been.”
He stared at her, hurt and anger reflected in his eyes. “And what about after the mission? I had accepted what happened to Lizzie by then, and was workin’ through my grief by that time. You could’ve told me then.”
T’Pol looked away. “You were busy overseeing the repairs to Enterprise until Captain Archer ordered you to take leave. And then when we were on Vulcan, between trying to explain the nature of our relationship with my mother and Koss demanding I marry him to aid her reinstatement… I did not feel it was an appropriate time to bring up the matter.”
He rolled his eyes in exasperation. “Sounds like a convenient excuse to me to avoid tellin’ me the truth. So Phlox helped you end your addiction, and now you think ‘cause you’ve admitted it to me, that everythin’ can go back to normal between us? You lied to me, to the Cap’n, to the crew, T’Pol. We trusted you with our lives. People died while you were addicted. Maybe they wouldn’t have if you’d had your head on straight.” A thought struck Trip. “Does Jon know what you did?” Then he shook his head, answering his own question before she could. “No, he couldn’t. He’d never have trusted you as first officer again if he did.”
“Only Phlox and you know, Trip. I was… I am… ashamed of what I did. I believed I could control the reaction. I was wrong. I am still suffering because of my actions last year. The trellium caused a degradation of my neural pathways that will remain with me the remainder of my life. I will never regain the emotional control I had before I was exposed. I am not trying to excuse my actions, only to inform you of them.” T’Pol still didn’t look him in the eyes, feeling his anger over the lies and the loss of life radiating from him.
Another thought came to Trip as his emotions raged within him. We encountered the Seleya before our first time. Does that mean… was she… “When did you start injectin’ yourself?” He asked in a far too calm voice.
T’Pol squeezed her eyes shut, knowing that he had come to the crux of her dilemma in telling him of her addiction. Taking a deep breath and opening her eyes after forcing a calm over herself, she faced him. “As you have no doubt guessed, it was shortly after our encounter with the Seleya.”
“So what we did last year, here in this room,” he continued in that calm voice, tightly reining in his anger, “that was what, because of your need to feel these emotions? Were your feelings for me ever real, T’Pol? Or just another one of those emotions induced by the trellium? Did you ever really love me?” He asked softly, aching inside. Wanting to know and yet not wanting to at the same time, afraid of her response.
“I… have cared deeply for you for some time, Trip. Long before we ever entered the Expanse. If you recall, you once accused me of being jealous of your relationship with Corporal Cole. If you think back, you could possibly recall other times when I displayed a similar reaction prior to our Xindi mission. I do not know, however, if I would ever have acted upon those feelings without the events that occurred in the Expanse. Not only the trellium,” she told him as he started to interrupt, “but also the encounter with our descendants. Yes, I know that was after our ‘first time.’” She agreed to silence the protest he was about to make. “But I am referring now to my actions after that point in time. One member of the original crew of Enterprise remained alive on Lorian’s ship when we met them… me. I went on board the other Enterprise and had a conversation with my older self. It seems that she could not imagine having lived her life without having you as her husband.”
Trip’s thoughts spun at that revelation, momentarily sidetracked. “Wait, you’re telling me that you were still alive on that Enterprise when we encountered it? And I’m just findin’ this out now? Why didn’t anyone tell me this sooner?” Trip wanted to know. “I could’ve gotten the story on our romance straight from her rather than secondhand.” He thought back to that mission, remembering how proud he had been of his boy, Lorian. If only he’d known she was still alive…maybe he could have told her that she’d done a fine job of raisin’ their son after his death. If only…
T’Pol shook her head slightly. “She did not wish to speak to you. That is why no one informed you of her presence. She thought that it would be too painful after so long without you there to see you again, in the prime of your life, while she was over a hundred years older.” She paused. “She also did not wish to relive her husband’s death, and seeing you would have brought those memories to the surface again.”
He reflected a moment on whether or not he’d want to see someone he loved very much after they’d been gone for decades, looking like they hadn’t aged a day, and could maybe see how someone might not want to, though he wasn’t so sure he’d pass up the chance to see his sister again, if it were possible. Even if he was old and decrepit. But he wasn’t T’Pol either.
His anger still simmered over the rest of what she had told him, however, and he wasn’t sure that he could forgive her, not yet anyway. But thinking over what else she had said, he did recall a few other times when it had seemed like T’Pol was almost possessive of him or jealous whenever he was around some pretty alien female, and all of them were from before they had entered the Expanse.
“Look, T’Pol, I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to forgive you for what you did last year. You literally put all of us in danger because of your addiction. You were in command when you were addicted and there were people who died on your watch. Maybe you could have saved just one of them if you hadn’t been addicted, maybe they all still would have died. But we won’t ever know that, will we?” She started to speak, but Trip held up his hand to stop her. “No, I’m not going to fly off the handle or go storming out of here. But it’s not going to be something that I can brush off either with something like ‘it’s okay, everything’s all right’ either. It’s a matter of trust, and right now I’m not certain I can trust you. Even if we do have this bond. I’m going to have to think long and hard about what you’ve told me.”
She bowed her head again. In some ways, this calm Trip was far worse than the yelling Trip she had expected. Her heart aching, she replied. “I understand. If you decide you wish to break the bond, we will still need to go to Vulcan. I am not skilled enough to do that without causing one or both of us irreparable harm.”
Trip’s heartache echoed hers. “I’ll let you know.” He replied, not looking at her. “I guess I ought to be goin’, unless you have anything else you want to tell me.”
“There are some ways to shield our minds from each other so we are not constantly feeling the other’s emotions, which you will need to learn, and a few other things we need to discuss as well, if… if you do choose to keep the bond. But it can wait for a short time.” She told him, staring at the monitor on her desk.
“Right. I’ll take these dishes back to the mess, if you’re done, that is.” He got up from the bed, gathering up the now cold remains of his own meal and the uneaten pecan pie slice, and set them on the tray. At her brief nod, he retrieved her cold soup and half-eaten salad and her slice of pie as well as their cups, and rose to leave. “I guess I’ll see you around then.”
She nodded again, still not facing him. Trip walked out of her quarters, carrying the tray, and T’Pol curled into a ball, not moving, just staring at the monitor, in agony inside. This evening hadn’t gone well at all. She didn’t know why she had expected it to be otherwise, but she had. It hurt worse than when he’d said that his life didn’t revolve around her last month when she’d gone to discover if she was the reason for his transfer. She wasn’t sure how to mend this rift between them. She sat there, not moving, for most of the night, before finally crawling from the chair into her bed, where she lay staring out at the stars until it was time to get ready for her shift, trying to determine if there was any way this night could have been worse.
Trip, scowling, walked to the mess and disposed of the dishes and uneaten food, then headed back to his quarters. He didn’t notice the crew who scurried out of his way as he walked through the corridors, lost in thought, the pain inside stabbing him through his heart. He lay down on his bed, after kicking off his shoes, placed his arm over his eyes and cried softly to himself.
Last night, for the first time in months, he had felt as if his life was moving forward again. That he wasn’t stuck in the same old rut, and that he was ready to face the future with someone else, someone who loved him. And now less than a day later, he felt as though she had stabbed him in heart, shattering that possible future together. Because how could he trust her, believe her now when she said that she loved him? And if he couldn’t trust her, how could he spend his life with her? And while his heart told him that he loved her and the rest shouldn’t matter, in his mind, it did.
Eventually he fell into an uneasy sleep, having a dream T’Pol telling him that she truly did love him, only when he went to hold and kiss her, she would slip away, reminding him in that cold tone she used to use when they first shipped out that Vulcans don’t experience emotions such as love. He pursued her through several dream locales, and finally, he managed to grab hold of her and pull her close, intending to prove how much he loved her. But she produced a sharp knife and plunged it into his heart, and left him lying there, his life bleeding away as he pleaded with her to help him. Again she reminded him that she was Vulcan and could not love. That dream snapped him awake in a cold sweat, and he couldn’t go back to sleep after that, even though it was only midnight.
Trip tossed and turned for nearly two hours and then gave up. He slipped on his shoes and padded down the deserted corridors to a turbolift, then another quiet corridor until he came to the familiar caduceus inscribed doors, and entered sickbay. “Doc? Are you around someplace? He called quietly, not wanting to set off Phlox’s menagerie in the middle of the night.
The Denobulan doctor, grinning, poked his head out of his office, where he’d been reading a fascinating paper on the medicinal uses of an Altairian desert snake in one of his interspecies medical journals. “Ah, Commander Tucker. Having trouble sleeping again, are we? I thought the neuropressure sessions with Commander T’Pol took care of your insomnia.”
“Hi Doc. Yeah, I was havin’ a few nightmares and was hopin’ that maybe you could give me a light sedative. I got a few hours sleep earlier, but we’ve got a lot of work to finish up still on the engines, and I’d just as soon do it with a clear head.” Trip told him. “Don’t want any accidents like we had in the Expanse.”
Phlox ran his scanner over the weary human in front of him. “Hmmm.” He said as he compared the results to a previous scan. “It should be safe enough, since you haven’t been overdoing them like you were last year before you took my advice and tried the neuropressure. But if you don’t mind me asking, Commander, why don’t you simply ask T’Pol for a session if you are having a problem? You seemed to get along well enough a few days ago in Sickbay, and I’m sure she wouldn’t mind.”
Trip nervously ran his hand through his hair. “Ah, well, that’s just it, Doc. The nightmares, well, kinda involved her and I really didn’t want to explain that to her.” Trip admitted.
“Hmmm. I see. This wouldn’t have anything to do with why you were immune to the Orion pheromones, would it, Commander?” Phlox asked, glancing over the readings again as he prepared a hypospray.
“What? No! It was just some nightmares… please, Doc, could you just give me the sedative?”
Phlox turned, holding the hypospray in one hand and his scanner in the other, watching the commander fidget. “You know these readings are very interesting, Commander. Your brainwave activity has increased significantly since the scans I took of you before you left for Columbia. Particularly in this one area--right here.” He used the hypo to point to a spot on the scan.
Trip looked at the image on the scanner, not seeing whatever it was that the doc found so interesting. “So? Am I sick or somethin’, Doc?”
“No, no, Commander, you’re healthy as a horse, as you humans say,” the doctor cheerfully informed him.
“Then what’s the big deal?” Trip asked, confused.
“This area on a Vulcan, Commander, is responsible for their telepathic and empathic abilities.”
“I’m not a Vulcan, Doc.” Trip pointed out, wondering if he ought to look in the mirror for pointed ears since he seemed to have to keep reminding people of that fact. “And last time I checked, I didn’t rate all that high as either a telepath or empath.”
“True, true, you’re not Vulcan. But I do find it interesting that out of the whole crew, the only two people on board not affected in some way by the Orion pheromones are you and Commander T’Pol, who does happen to be Vulcan. And now your scan is clearly showing an increase in activity in this area, almost to a level comparable to that of a Vulcan, Commander, when I detected no such activity in any scan I took of you before you left this ship. I was wondering if you and the Commander would possibly agree to some tests…”
Trip rubbed his eyes with one hand wearily, then crossed his arms. He was tired, and definitely did not want to have right now another discussion about Vulcans or this bond or the Orions. “Look Doc, are you goin’ to give me that sedative or not? I really just want to get some sleep, that’s all.”
“Yes, of course.” Phlox hid his disappointment that Trip wasn’t willing to talk. Pressing the hypospray to Trip’s neck, it hissed, releasing the sedative into his system. “That should give you several hours of dreamless sleep, Commander.”
“Thanks, Doc.” Trip replied, heading for the doors.
Phlox called after him. “You know, Commander, if you ever want to talk about anything, my door’s always open.”
“Yeah, I’ll keep that in mind, Doc. Thanks again.” Trip padded his way back through the ship to his quarters, already feeling the effects of the sedative. Maybe later he would talk to the doc about T’Pol’s addiction, that is, if Phlox would tell him anything, since there was that whole doctor/patient confidentiality deal. But given that he already knew she had had an addiction, maybe Phlox would be more forthcoming. It might help him sort through his feelings on the matter to get the perspective of someone else who knew about her problem and had been dealing with it for longer than a few hours. He yawned as he punched in the code for his door, and barely got inside before he felt as though he was going to pass out. He collapsed onto his bed, not even managing to remove his shoes, falling into a dreamless sleep.
On the third morning after Trip and T’Pol’s “talk,” a staff meeting was held. Repairs to the engines were nearly complete, and the remainder should be completed later that day. The crew had noticed the unusual behavior of the two officers, who avoided each other as much as possible, and one of the rumors circulating (though it was widely scoffed at by those who knew them best) was that Trip had asked her to marry him and that she’d refused. That didn’t stop the engineering crew from giving T’Pol cold stares and clipped answers whenever she ventured down there the past couple of days. They were still protective of their former boss, and she was clearly the cause of whatever was bothering him.
T’Pol arrived early to the staff meeting, having gotten very little sleep the night before. She hadn’t slept well at all since the talk with Trip, but had not yet gone to Phlox to try and get some relief. She sat quietly, absently staring at the PADD in front of her, not really paying attention to the conversation of her shipmates around her. She looked up as she sensed Trip about to enter the room, her eyes meeting his briefly.
Archer had been watching T’Pol from the corner of his eye, and he could see that something was bothering her. He followed her gaze when she raised her head and stared at the door a few moments before Trip entered the room and wondered idly if she’d heard him coming. Trip, for his part, sat on the opposite end of the table from her, rather than next to her as he normally did. That didn’t go unnoticed by the others in the room. Hoshi frowned, Travis wondered what was going on, and Phlox observed them closely, more certain than ever that there was some sort of link between the two, while silently wishing he could corral them both in sickbay so he could run more scans on them. Malcolm and the Captain, having seen them on quite friendly terms in sickbay just days before, both noted the rise in tension in the room with Trip’s entrance.
“Sorry I’m late, Cap’n. I overslept.” Trip apologized. He had been to see Phlox again the night before, requesting more sedatives, since every time he shut his eyes the past few nights, the nightmares with T’Pol in them returned unless he was drugged to the point where he didn’t dream at all. Last night she’d pulled his still beating heart from him and fed it to a lion as he watched helplessly.
Phlox had warned him the night before that he had no intention of continuing to sedate him night after night, and that Trip needed to work out whatever the underlying cause of the nightmares was. Trip reluctantly mentioned to Phlox that he’d recently learned of T’Pol’s trellium addiction the year before, and they’d had a prolonged discussion once Trip managed to get the doctor talking. Finally nearly two hours later, Trip got his sedative and went to bed with much to think about, and forgot to set the alarm in the process. He’d awakened only ten minutes before, and rushed through a shower and shave, skipping breakfast entirely and still ended up late to the meeting.
“That’s okay, Trip. We haven't started yet.” The captain replied. Since he was the ranking engineering officer and had been in charge of the repairs, much to Kelby’s displeasure, Trip represented that department at the meeting, even though Kelby was now Enterprise’s chief engineer. “How’re the repairs coming?”
“We should have Enterprise’s engines purrin’ like a kitten by lunchtime, if all goes well and we don’t have any more incidents.” He frowned as the memory of what Kelby had done to his beloved engine replayed again in his mind. He’s lucky I only slugged him a couple of times for doin’ that, after all the hard work I put into that engine to keep her runnin’ the last four years, even if he wasn’t entirely to blame for his actions.
Archer nodded. “That’s good, Trip. Glad we had your help fixing our engines.” He started to turn away, then turned back with a little grin on his face as if he just remembered something. “Oh, by the way, Captain Hernandez contacted me a little while ago. It seems they’ve been delayed at one of the planets they were exploring, and won’t be back to pick you up for another week and an half, rather than the end of this week. So you’ll have to put up with our hospitality for a few more days, Commander.”
“Fine, Cap’n. No problem. Though Commander Kelby might not appreciate my stayin’ as much.” Trip was glad for the extra time to work out what he wanted in regards to his relationship with T’Pol. He felt a brief surge of happiness that wasn’t his in the back of his mind at the captain’s statement, and glanced over at T’Pol. She didn’t meet his eyes, and Trip quickly scolded himself for forgetting what she had done and turned away before she caught him looking. He’d been thinking about what he wanted in every spare moment he had since their talk, and still hadn’t decided, though the talk with Phlox had helped him somewhat. And he wasn’t quite as mad as he had been the other night, so he could think a bit more rationally about it.
The meeting continued for another twenty minutes, with each of the department heads giving their reports in turn, and T’Pol informed them of a class M planet they’d detected nearby with what appeared to be ruins of an ancient civilization on it. Archer decided it was worth a look, and ordered Ensign Mayweather to set course for the planet, glad to do what he’d originally signed on to Starfleet for: exploring. The tension rose steadily throughout the meeting as Trip and T’Pol continued to carefully not speak to or acknowledge the other’s existence for the most part unless forced to do so. Unfortunately their behavior was noticeable to all of the officers in the room.
As everyone stood to leave, Archer spoke up. “Trip, T’Pol, could you two stay behind a minute?” They stood uncomfortably on either side of the table, neither looking at the other. Archer’s gaze went from one to the other, and he shook his head. “Do the two of you have a problem with each other?”
“No, sir.” “No, Cap’n.” they replied at the same time.
Archer gave them a disbelieving stare. “Right, so you’re telling me that when two officers are ignoring each other, and tension levels rise when both are in the same room, and everyone else notices their odd behavior, which has been mentioned to me on more than one occasion I might add over the past couple of days, then I should just assume that everything is perfectly fine, then.”
The two gave each other sidelong glances. “We don’t have a problem, sir.” Trip answered for them both.
“That’s good. Because I can’t have two senior officers on this ship behaving like a couple of moody teenagers who can’t get along. It sets a bad example for the rest of the crew. So whatever it is that you’re not having a problem with, I suggest that you work it out between you or I’ll have Travis set course for Columbia right now and drop you off there myself, Trip.” They opened their mouths to protest, but Archer continued. “That’s an order.” The two looked sidelong at each other once more, then acknowledged him and turned to leave the room. Trip paused long enough to let T’Pol go first, still a gentleman even if he was upset with her, then followed her out, heading for the turbolift to engineering. Archer sighed heavily and leaned back in his chair, thinking to himself. They better work whatever it is out soon, else how am I going to convince Trip to come back here?
After a long day in Engineering, fixing the remaining relays and fried circuits and giving himself a few minor plasma burns a couple of times, and then running a full diagnostic to make certain nothing was missed, Trip was beat. He just wanted to grab a quick bite to eat, and relax in his quarters before trying to get a full night’s sleep. Hopefully without any more nightmares. But it wasn’t to be. Just as he was about to step into the mess hall, he saw Archer, who suspiciously looked as though he’d been lurking in the corridor waiting for Trip to arrive. Jon invited Trip to eat in the Captain’s Mess tonight to make up for the other night, and refused to take no for an answer.
He followed the Captain into the secluded dining room, then stopped just inside the door at the sight of Commander T’Pol sitting at the table. He’d been so tired, he hadn’t even noticed her emotions growing stronger in his mind as he drew closer to her. “On second thought, Cap’n, I really just need to take a shower and catch some shut-eye…” he started to beg off, but Jon wouldn’t let him escape.
“No, no, Commander, I insist. In fact, I’ll make it an order.” Captain Archer cheerfully said, as he patted the back of Trip’s chair. “Now come over here, sit down and eat. Chef told me that neither of you have eaten very much the past few days, and Phlox is concerned about both of you. I certainly don’t want my officers to get sick from not eating properly.” Captain Archer told him, as he sat in his own place at the head of the table.
Trip’s shoulders drooped as he reluctantly made his way to the table and sat down. The steward came in, bringing a plate with juicy steak and mashed potatoes for Trip, and a large garden salad and vegetable soup for T’Pol. She appeared to Trip’s eyes as though she had no desire to be here at this moment either. Archer’s own meal was conspicuously absent.
Trip asked, puzzled, when the steward didn’t return with the captain’s meal, “Aren’t you going to eat with us, Cap’n?” T’Pol was curious about the same thing.
“Well, I’m expecting a call from Starfleet Command any minute, so I already ate. But don’t let that stop the two of you. Go on, eat.” Trip and T’Pol exchanged glances, both feeling very much like this was a set up, but they dug into their meals and ate in silence. Archer sat watching them for a few minutes, growing frustrated that his plan wasn’t working so far. He decided to get the ball rolling. “So Trip, I’m sorry about the delay in getting you back to Columbia, but it was unavoidable. You’ll just have to put up with us for a little while longer.”
“It’s all right, Cap’n. Been kinda nice seein’ everyone again, even if it’s just for a little while.” Trip cut his steak and took another bite.
Archer sighed when the engineer didn’t elaborate and was about to try to engage his other dinner companion in conversation when the comm chirped, and “Bridge to Captain Archer” was heard. “Archer here, go ahead.”
“Sir, Admiral Gardner wants to speak with you.”
“Tell him I’ll be right there. Archer out.” He stood, watching the two officers, who both suddenly looked as if they’d been given a reprieve. “No reason for the two of you not to finish your meal here together. I’ll be back in a little while.” With that, he strode out of the room, a slight knowing grin appearing on his face once his back was turned.
Tucker waited until the count of twenty, and then tossed his napkin on the table and set his utensils down. “Well, I’m really beat, so I think I’ll turn in.”
T’Pol frowned, “The Captain wished us to finish eating.”
“Yeah, but I’m not really that hungry. And I am tired. So are you, if I’m not mistaken. And what the Cap’n doesn’t know, won’t hurt him.” Trip quipped. He stood and headed for the door, then paused and looked back at her with a sly grin. “You comin’ or not?” T’Pol debated internally for a few moments, then rose from her seat, walking around the table as Trip headed for the exit.
He opened the door and was surprised to see one of Malcolm’s security officers standing on the other side with a phase pistol, who prevented him from leaving. “Excuse me,” Trip said politely, trying to step around the man.
“Sorry, sir.” The ensign responded, not budging. “Captain’s orders.”
“What?” Trip asked with a look that was half-confusion and half-dawning comprehension on his face. His voice rose. “What do you mean, ‘Captain’s orders?’” T’Pol had joined him at his side by this time, understanding and irritation blossoming on her face momentarily before her impassive mask returned.
The security officer, who briefly wished he had backup while facing these two, didn’t relax his guard as he explained, “The Captain gave me specific orders that neither you nor Commander T’Pol were to leave this room for the next three hours. And no one is to enter. So, sir, ma’am, I suggest you go back into the dining room, or I will be forced to make you do so.” Trip started to take a step forward, but the combination of a phase pistol pointed at his face and T’Pol’s hand on his arm caused him to back off.
“This is crazy! Why would the Cap’n order somethin’ like that?” Trip demanded of T’Pol as they stepped inside once more. The security guard kept the phase pistol pointed at him, just in case it was a trick until the door shut. “Aren’t you goin’ to say anythin’? After all, you’re just as much a prisoner here as I am.”
“I was waiting for you to stop speaking.” T’Pol answered calmly. “As to why the Captain did this, it should be obvious even to you. As he said this morning, we have been avoiding each other, even when we are in the same room. And he did order us to work out our differences. Clearly he intends for us to do so now, since we have not taken the initiative since the morning meeting to do so ourselves.”
Trip ran his hand through his hair, frustrated. “Of all the lowdown, sneaky…” He broke off. “Probably would have done the same thing myself, if our situations were reversed,” he admitted quietly. He flopped back into his chair at the table, pushing the meal away, then rested his elbows on the table and covered his face with his hands.
T’Pol joined him at the table. “We do not have to converse, if you do not wish, Commander.”
Trip raised his head, his blue eyes meeting her brown ones, considering the idea for a moment and then he grimaced, shaking his head in denial. “That won’t work. The Cap’n will know we didn’t even try if we walk out of here, still ignoring each other. If it’s bad enough that the crew’s noticed how we’re acting and brought it to his attention, that is, if he didn’t notice it for himself which I’m guessin’ he probably did, then I suppose we probably should talk.”
“Very well. Have you reached a decision concerning the bond?” T’Pol asked softly. She was grateful that Trip was at least speaking civilly to her. Maybe there was hope for them yet.
He sighed. “You sure don’t waste any time, do you?” He shook his head again. “I don’t know. My heart is tellin’ me one thing, and my head’s tellin’ me another.” He took a breath. “I talked to Phlox last night, you know, about your addiction.” Her eyebrow raised, but she said nothing. “He told me how it was for you last year. That the trellium messed you up pretty bad, and how your emotional control was pretty much in tatters.”
“Phlox should know better than to break doctor/patient confidentiality.”
Trip frowned. “I pointed out to him that you already told me about your addiction, and all I really wanted was to get someone else’s perspective on the situation. He knew more about what you were going through last year, at least in regards to that, than I did, so I told him that he was the logical one to ask.”
“That does not excuse his actions.” T’Pol stated. “I could have told you what you wished to know, Commander, without troubling the doctor.”
“Trip,” he corrected her. “But that’s just it, T’Pol, I was so mad about what you did, and the fact that you’ve kept this to yourself for over a year now, that I don’t think I would’ve listened to anything you said and necessarily believed it, at least not right after a revelation like that. Phlox has no involvement in what we got between us, so he had no reason to tell me anything but the truth.”
“Are you implying that I would not have told you the truth, Comm… Trip?” She wanted to know.
Trip reached across the table and grasped her hand tightly. It soothed an empty spot in his soul, feeling her skin against his, sensing her emotions even more clearly with the contact. “No. I’m tryin’ to tell ya that I was mad enough that I don’t think I would have believed what anyone said to me if they told me something like that, not just you. I was upset and angry. It’s taken me three days for me to cool off enough to even talk to you like this. I still am upset, T’Pol, about the lives lost. They were good people, they didn’t deserve to die. I can forgive you for just about anythin’ else, T’Pol, but not that. Not yet.”
“No, they did not.” She agreed, feeling his own emotions swirling around inside her mind, nearly overwhelming her. “And I do understand why it troubles you. But neither of us can change what has happened. We can only try not to make the same mistakes again.” Her eyes swam with emotion as she met his gaze. She had done a lot of thinking on their relationship herself the past few days, and decided she needed to tell him this irregardless of what he may decide. “I need you in my life, Trip. Not because of the trellium or even the bond, but because I cannot imagine living my life without you as a part of it.” She took a deep breath and reiterated what she had tried to let him know a few days before. “I… love… you, Trip.”
He was shaken to the core hearing her say that word, and he could feel the truth behind her statement through the bond. The last niggling doubt that had lurked in the back of his head, that even after everything had still told Trip that she didn’t really care about him and would leave him just like all the others, vanished. He closed his eyes briefly, told his mind to take a flyin’ leap, and followed his heart’s desire. “I love you too, T’Pol. I want you in my life. I… I want to keep the bond.” He smiled at her, feeling her pleasure mix with his. They sat there, holding hands across the table, and Trip could swear that he saw the corners of her mouth bend upwards slightly into a smile as he watched. “It’s goin’ to take me awhile, though, to come completely to terms with everything that went on last year, though. I just want you to know that.”
She leaned forward, acknowledging his statement and desiring more contact with him than just the hand holding they were currently doing. Trip could sense her intentions well enough now to know what she wanted. He met her halfway, and they kissed each other, her hand roaming through his hair while he stroked the side of her face and ear. The ache each had felt since their discussion a few days before receded as their minds reveled in the touch of their other half, enhancing their kiss until they were forced to pull apart for air.
When he sat back, a huge smile on his face, Trip really examined her appearance for the first time since he had entered the Captain’s mess. Concern marched across his face as he spotted the dark olive circles she’d attempted to hide and noted the sunken look to her face. “Have you gotten any sleep at all?” He finally asked.
“Vulcans do not need as much sleep as humans.” She reminded him.
“But they still need to sleep. And to meditate. And, quite frankly, darlin’, you don’t look or sound like you’ve done either in days to me.”
“How would you know?” She demanded, an edge of anger lacing her voice. “You have avoided me the past few days.”
Trip frowned, definitely worried now. “For one thing, you look like death warmed over to me. And for another, you’re letting your emotions slip into your voice for anyone to hear.” He gripped her hand tighter. “Geez, T’Pol, you’re supposed to be the logical one. Why haven’t you been takin’ care of yourself?”
“I did not wish to impose myself on you accidentally when you were sleeping while you were trying to make your decision.” T’Pol admitted. “Perhaps it was mistake to do so.”
“Hell, yeah, you were mistaken.” He brushed a lock of hair off her forehead. “Honey, I wouldn’t want ya to get sick just because you think I might still be mad at you. And if we ended up in that weird white space of yours together, then we’ll deal with it. But ya gotta get some sleep, darlin’, and you definitely need to meditate.” His concern and worry reached out to her through their bond, wrapping around her, along with his love. “Come on,” Trip said, standing, still holding her hand. “We might not be able to get ya some sleep, but at least we can meditate. If you want. I’m sure I could convince our jailer to get your candles or at least send someone for them.”
She rose, watching him, as she came around to his side. “We?”
He wrapped his arms around her waist, pulling her close, intending to never let her get away again. He shrugged. “Well, there’s not much else to do around here until they let us out, is there? I’m really not that hungry. And you need to meditate. So why not?”
“Are you certain about this?” She asked again. “Meditation requires one to remain still for some time.”
He gave her a bemused grin. “Is that a dare? I can sit still, if I want to, ya know. Besides it didn’t seem all that hard to get to that white space of yours when I was on Columbia. I was just thinkin’ of ya and bam! I was there.”
“That was the bond attempting to bring us back together, since we had not realized that it existed between us. If we had known of it, I would never have allowed you to transfer to Columbia in the first place.”
“Can’t live without me, huh?” Trip chuckled.
She pulled away from him, serious now. “It is a medical fact among Vulcans that bondmates cannot remain separated for long periods of time during the first year or so after their bond has formed. A separation of sufficient length during that time can have severe medical repercussions, possibly even leading to the death of one or both of the pair. That is why married couples are required to live together for the first year after their marriage, so their bond can strengthen naturally. Then later in their lives, they can withstand long separations if necessary.”
“Wait, so you’re saying that if I stay on Columbia, you could die?” Trip panicked, even more worried now. Guilt over his decision to leave Enterprise the month before was evident in his voice, as his grip tightened around her, and he was more determined than ever to find some way not to go back to Columbia.
“Or you. I am uncertain how our bond would compare to a normal bond, since you are not Vulcan. However, it is logical to proceed using two bonded Vulcans as a baseline for comparison to our own bond. Any deviations from the norm, of course, would be due to the uniqueness of our situation.”
Trip’s eyes glazed over. “You’re makin’ us sound like an experiment, T’Pol.”
“In a way, we are, Trip. As far as I know, ours is the first known mating bond between a Vulcan and a human. It is only logical that if other Vulcans and humans choose to follow our path in the future, they would use us as a basis for what to expect from such a bond.”
“So you’re saying that you wouldn’t be opposed to others knowin’ about this bond of ours then?” Trip asked, realizing that if people in the future were going to use them for a comparison, then they would have to know about the bond in the first place.
T’Pol sensed his hope that maybe they could tell some of their shipmates and his family about it, as well as his worry that she wouldn’t approve. “We will eventually tell others of the bond, but I do not know if this is the right climate for such news. Perhaps when we choose to leave Starfleet would be a better time.”
Trip sighed, “I don’t think any time will be a good time, darlin’. There are people who are goin’ to embrace our relationship and there are some that’s goin’ to hate it with a passion. We’ll be like the first interracial couples who moved into all-white or all-black neighborhoods a few centuries back. The ones who’ll hate it will make excuses about how what we got is detrimental to both of our races, an’ try to make out that one race is better than the other, when we’ve just got different cultural values and stuff like that. But there’s some good people out there too, T’Pol, who will defend what we’ve got. The people on this ship, for one. They deserve to know.”
“I agree. And it is likely that we will eventually have to tell them of our relationship, if they have not already deduced such. I simply do not wish to share our relationship with the entire crew at this time.”
Trip absently twirled his tongue against the inside of his cheek as he thought. “Well, what about Jon, then? I mean, I’m goin’ to have to tell him somethin’ as a reason for me wantin’ to transfer back here. Unless you want to transfer to Columbia. But there isn’t a position open there for you right now. And I don’t think Cap’n Hernandez will be as accomodatin’ as Jon might be in regards to us.”
“It is problematical to inform the Captain of our relationship, as you well know. He knows as well as we do the regulations in regards to fraternization between officers.” T’Pol pointed out. However, the Cap’n would need a reason to allow Trip to return. I suspect, however, that he would be glad that Trip wanted to return and would make it happen even without knowing the reason why, she thought to herself. “But I do agree that you must transfer back. Do you really believe that Captain Archer’s aid will be necessary in securing your return to Enterprise?”
“It can’t hurt any, T’Pol. If he needs me back here, I’m sure Starfleet will let me come back, especially since Columbia’s out of Spacedock now. That was the main reason why they wanted me over there, anyway. Any good engineer can take my place over there now. Columbia just doesn’t feel like home to me. Enterprise does.” He admitted. “Maybe ‘cause this is where you are, and where my friends are.”
T’Pol felt a warm sensation inside at his words. But she still was not convinced that telling the captain was a smart idea, and repeated her objection. “If it becomes necessary, then yes, we will tell the Captain, Trip. However, I believe that you should try and get the transfer back to Enterprise yourself first. The fewer people who know of our relationship at this time, the less likely it will cause problems later.”
Trip wasn’t happy with what she’d said, but he went along with it for now. “Okay. We’ll try it your way for now. I’ll request a transfer back to Enterprise tomorrow. Don’t know how successful I’ll be, but we’ll see.” He returned his attention to what they been discussing before they were sidetracked. “So shall I see if our jailer will get your candles?” His eyes twinkled as he gave her a small smile.
“It would be agreeable to me.” He let her sit down on a clear spot on the floor, and then went back over to the door and opened it once more.
The guard frowned, hearing the door swish open, and turned to face whichever one was attempting to leave. “Sir, I told you, I’m under orders not to let you leave,” as he pointed the phase pistol at Trip.
“Easy, ensign,” Trip said, making calming motions towards the man. “I just wanted to ask you to send someone to Commander T’Pol’s quarters to retrieve her meditation candles and her lighter. I promise we’re not going anywhere until the time’s up.”
The ensign wondered if it was a trick of some kind, but he could see T’Pol sitting on the floor away from the door. He considered for a short time, then agreed. “All right, sir. But step back inside. I’ll have the candles brought here momentarily.” Trip nodded amicably towards the man, and stepped back inside the door again.
A short time later, the door opened again, and there stood one of Trip’s crewmen holding T’Pol’s candles with the guard just off to the side. Trip thanked the crewman, taking the candles and lighter, and stepped away from the door. The crewman exchanged puzzled looks with the ensign after the door slid shut, both wondering what was going on.
T’Pol lit the candles after arranging them, and Trip sat down Indian style across from her. “Okay, so how do we do this meditation stuff?” He wanted to know.
“Focus on the flame and use to clear your mind of extraneous thoughts. Breathe as I taught you.” T’Pol told him, taking her own advice and concentrating. She calmed her own emotions, and felt his clumsy attempt at doing the same. “Relax, Trip.” She said softly. “Concentrate on the flame until you are a part of it.”
Slowly he found himself growing calmer as he tried to follow what she was telling him. He really wanted to shift around because his back side was going numb, but remembered what he’d told her about his ability to sit still and ignored the sensation. He refocused on the flame, trying to push the other thoughts from his mind. Distantly he heard her voice as she told him to close his eyes. When he did, he found himself sitting in the white space that he remembered from his daydream on Columbia, with T’Pol right in front of him, watching him closely.
“Very good, Trip. I did not expect you to reach this place on your first attempt at meditation.”
He smiled at her. “Piece of cake, darlin’. Like I told ya, I didn’t have any trouble gettin’ here when I was on Columbia. I do think you ought to try for a prettier locale, though. This is kind of borin’. Maybe some nice secluded tropical beach.” He waggled his eyebrows at her, thinking of some very particular things they could be doing in such a spot.
“The purpose of meditation is relaxation, Trip. Not that.” T’Pol told him, though she wondered silently to herself what exactly it would be like if they did do that. “However, I am open to your suggestion.”
Trip’s grin, if possible, got even wider as he told her, “I think I’m goin’ to like meditatin’ with ya, darlin’.”
A few hours later, the guard opened the door to let the two officers leave. He was surprised to see them sitting across from each other, both with their eyes shut, apparently meditating. The ensign wondered if he should disturb them to let them know they were permitted to go, when T’Pol opened her eyes and met his gaze. “You’re free to leave now, ma’am. And the Commander too.”
“Thank you, ensign.” He nodded and quickly left, eager to add what he’d seen to the ship’s gossip mill. Trip’s eyes opened just after the door shut behind him again, giving her a grin.
“You know we’re going to be the talk of the ship again, don’t you, by the time my crewman and that ensign get done talkin’ about us.”
She gave him what he considered a smile in return. “It is no one else’s business what we do together, Trip. Shall we return to my quarters to continue our discussion in a more private location?”
He stood, helping her to her feet, and then gave a small bow, gesturing for her to go ahead of him. “Lead the way, darlin’.”
The next night, Trip shifted nervously outside of the captain’s quarters, a bottle of Kentucky bourbon held in one hand. While he would’ve liked to spend the night in discussion with T’Pol again, she had remained down on the planet along with the rest of the away team, trying to determine who the aliens were who had once inhabited the planet and what had happened to them. Still, he had been meaning to talk to Jon for some time now, and with her gone, he couldn’t think of a better time. Finally, he pressed the chime, and hearing the Jon call, “Come in,” Trip entered with a smile on his face.
“Hey, Cap’n,” he greeted Jon, holding up the bottle of bourbon. “This bottle’s awfully full, and I was wonderin’ if you might be interested in helpin’ me remedy that situation. We could even watch a water polo match if you want.”
Archer grinned when he saw who walked in the door, setting aside the PADD he’d been reading as he scratched his beagle’s ears. Porthos, seeing Trip, jumped down from the bed and ran over to him, wanting to be petted by the engineer. Archer got up from his bed, taking the bottle from Trip, and headed over to get some glasses out while Trip was busy with the dog. “Now how could I turn down an offer like that?” Archer asked. “We should do this more often,” he added.
Trip greeted the dog, scratching behind his ears. “Hey, Porthos, how ya been, boy?” Looking up at Jon’s last comment, Trip felt a bit of guilt that he hadn’t tried to be there for his friend last year during the Xindi mission, but Jon hadn’t exactly gone out of his way to be there for him either. Of course, Jon was the captain and the one ultimately responsible for their success or failure, and for the lives lost during the mission. Trip realized now that Jon had been pulling away from the crew during the mission, trying to distance himself the same way Trip had from the memory of his sister’s death, so when some of them died, Jon would still be able to do what he needed to do to save Earth. Still the fault for the distance between them lay on them both. “Definitely. I’ve missed our boys’ night out, drinkin’ and shootin’ the breeze and watchin’ those matches you like so much. I still say that football’s better though.” He teased.
Archer laughed. “You’re just mad that Stanford wiped the pool with Texas in the championships last year.” He handed Trip his drink, “To old friends.” Archer sat down in his desk chair as he drank, and gestured for Trip to take the other. “So since you’re here, is it safe to assume that everything’s all right between you and T’Pol now? Or should I expect T’Pol to come after me too when she gets back from the surface?” He half-joked.
“That was a pretty sneaky thing to do, Jon, trickin’ T’Pol and me like that.” Trip told him.
“Well, I had to do something, Trip. It was fairly obvious to everyone that you two were fighting. Actually it was Phlox who suggested it. He seemed fairly certain that the two of you wouldn’t hurt each other, though Malcolm and I had our doubts that you’d come out unscathed.” He drank a bit more of the bourbon before continuing. “So, do you want to talk about it?” His face showed his concern for his friend and willingness to listen to whatever Trip might say.
Trip shook his head regretfully. “Sorry, Cap’n, it’s sort of a personal matter that we just needed to work out between us. Maybe if T’Pol agrees, we’ll tell you about it but otherwise I can’t, okay?” He offered as a sort of compromise when he saw the flash of disappointment cross Archer’s face. “But I’ll tell you, Cap’n, you might have been looking for a replacement science officer if we hadn’t worked it out.”
Archer snorted into his glass, giving his former chief engineer a skeptical look. “More likely I’d have to explain to Erica how her chief engineer ended up in a full body cast.”
“Hey!” Trip laughed at the image, even as he protested. “I can handle myself in a fight, thank you very much.”
“She’s stronger and faster than you, Trip. Even money says that she’d take you.” Archer pointed out.
God, I’ve missed this, Trip thought to himself, giving Jon a look of wounded pride which started the captain chuckling. It’s been far too long since we just sat around and talked. “Maybe so,” Trip allowed finally. “But then you’d have to have Malcolm put her in the brig and bring her up on charges of assaulting a fellow officer. And conduct an investigation of why I ended up that way. And quite probably still end out losing her. So I’m right anyway.”
Archer nodded in agreement with the engineer. They continued to drink and began reminiscing about some of their wilder exploits when they were still young officers. Their talk stretched well into the night, and both men were plastered before Archer brought up the one subject they’d avoided all night. “So…so…so when are you gonna tell me the real reason you wanted t’ leave? Does it…” he hiccupped. “Does it have to do with T’Pol?” he guessed.
Trip vaguely remembered that he wasn’t to discuss the bond with Archer. “Can’t say. Promised.” He looked down at his glass, noticing that it was empty and went to pour more from the third bottle they’d opened that night. He frowned as he realized that it was empty too. He got up to search the cabinets for something else to drink. His mind cleared long enough for him to remember the reason why he’d been nervous earlier. “But I was wonderin’ how’s Kelby doin’ as chief engineer? Is he workin’ out ‘kay?”
“Afraid that he’s better than the old miracle worker?” Archer asked. “He’s fine. But he’s not you. No one’s you, except you.” He watched as Trip tried to find another bottle but wasn’t having much success. “Why’d you have t’ leave? Nothing’s the same.” He was feeling a little bitter right now, thanks to the drink. “You ran off t’ Columbia. Abandoned me, abandoned Enterprise.”
“I’d love t’ come back, Cap’n. Biggest mistake of my life.” Trip told him drunkenly. “Never should’ve left her. She’s been good t’ me, even if she did break ma heart for a time but it’s all right now. ‘Cept I have t’ leave again.”
Archer didn’t hear him, lost in his own thoughts. “You shouldn’t have left. I needed you here.” Trip gave up searching, as Archer fixed his stare on the younger man. “You’re drunk, mister.” Jon informed him.
“Yes, sir.” Trip chuckled. “I am. So’re you.”
“Can’t be drunk. I’m, I’m, I’m the captain. Not suppos’d t’ get drunk.” He gave the engineer a pointed look. “You’re contributin’ t’ the delinquency of a captain.”
Trip laughed. “An’ you’re doin’ the same t’ an officer, sir.” He slurred his esses as he spoke. “I better get some sleep. Busy day tomorrow. It’s been fun.”
“Oh, so you’re jus’ goin’ t’ get me drunk and then run off, is that it?” Jon asked. “Fine friend you are. Go on, go back t’ your room. I’m goin’ t’ sleep,” he said as he shakily made his way over to the bed. Porthos had long since curled up and gone to sleep.
Trip waved goodnight then unsteadily made his way to the door and down the hall to the turbolift. He eventually meandered back to his quarters, singing the fight song of his alma mater all the way, much to the displeasure of Malcolm whom he’d woke up as he went by the lieutenant’s quarters, and then passed out on the bed fully clothed when he finally reached his room.
When he awoke the next morning, Trip had a pounding headache and a nasty hangover. He vaguely remembered drinking with Jon until late into the night, but not much else. He was pretty sure that he hadn’t said anything about the bond, though what exactly they had talked about towards the end was definitely hazy. After showering and shaving very carefully, the scraping of his razor on his skin seeming to echo loudly in his ears, he headed to sickbay to see if Phlox had a hangover cure by any chance. Or at least an aspirin.
“Ah, Commander,” Phlox said in a joyful voice when Trip walked through the doors. “What can I do for you today?”
Trip winced, his head pounding, “Not so loud, Doc. I think I had a little too much to drink last night. My head’s killin’ me.”
Phlox smiled, chuckling. “Yes, I imagine so, Commander. The Captain has already been here looking for a hangover remedy this morning.”
Trip rubbed his bloodshot eyes, then whispered in an attempt to keep the pounding in his head at a minimum, “So can you give me whatever it was you gave him?”
“Certainly, Commander.” The Denobulan headed for his menagerie, and picked up a vial and a creature that looked like a cross between a lizard and possum to Trip, pressing down on its head until a small amount of clear liquid drained from the creature’s mouth into the vial. Trip watched, growing more nauseous by the second as the Doc went and mixed in several other ingredients from other creatures in the menagerie. “Here you go, just like my mother used to make.” Phlox said finally, holding the hangover cure out to Trip.
He took it hesitantly, never quite certain about some of the remedies Doc came up with, and he could’ve sworn he’d seen the Doc use… No, I am not goin’ to think about what’s in it. If I do that, I won’t be able to keep it down, he told himself firmly. He screwed his eyes shut, and swallowed the contents in one gulp, trying not to taste it as the cure went down his throat. “How long does it take to work, Doc?” he asked a few seconds later when he opened his eyes to see Phlox standing there, smiling kindly at him, and handed the vial back.
“Not too long, Commander. You should be feeling better within 15 minutes or so.” Phlox eyed the young man. “You seem in much better spirits, Commander. I take it that whatever was causing the nightmares has been resolved?”
“Not entirely, Doc, but for the most part, yeah. Enough that I don’t think I’ll be havin’ those particular ones at any rate. Cap’n said it was your idea to pretty much lock T’Pol an’ me into the same room together. Suppose I ought to say thanks. Though I’m not sure how you knew we wouldn’t hurt each other.”
“Good, good, I’m glad to hear that, Commander. Yes, I did suggest it. I am pleased to see that neither of you needed my services afterwards. The Captain seemed quite concerned about your continued well-being if he went along with my idea. I believe he was afraid that the Commander would harm you, and then he would have to explain what happened to you to Captain Hernandez.”
Trip grinned at the thought of his former captain trying to explain that to his current one, already starting to feel a bit better. “Well, nothin’ happened, so he’s got no reason to worry, does he? Still doesn’t explain how you were so certain we wouldn’t hurt each other, though.”
“I can see the signs of two people who are in love, even if they don’t recognize it themselves. I do have three wives, after all, Commander.” He gave Trip one of his extra wide smiles, pleased that his plan had worked.
Trip got defensive. “In love? Me and T’Pol? You must be imaginin’ things, Doc.” But Trip felt it was a losing battle, as the Doc kept right on smiling at him as if humoring him.
“If you say so, Commander.” He held a scanner up to the young man and took some readings. He studied them, seeing the same thing he’d pointed out to Trip a few days before. “The cure appears to be taking effect. And those readings are still present, Commander, that I mentioned to you earlier this week.”
The readings… Trip thought to himself, trying to recall what the doctor was talking about. His eyes widened, remembering suddenly. The bond! Is he…could he be picking up evidence of that? If he knows, then perhaps that’s why he was sure we wouldn’t hurt each other. “I’m still not a Vulcan, Doc. So how can you be sure that those readings mean the same thing in a human as it would for them?”
Phlox was glad the young officer was more willing to talk now than he had been the other night. “Well, to be honest, I don’t. But human and Vulcan neurochemistry is remarkably similar. If you and Commander T’Pol would agree to a few tests, I could satisfy my curiosity. Perhaps whatever caused this alteration in your brainwave activity is the reason you were unaffected by the pheromones of the Orions. It could be beneficial for future meetings between the Orions and your species, if the humans can go into the meeting without having to worry about being unduly influenced by the Orions.”
Trip frowned slightly. While what the doctor said made sense, somehow he didn’t think too many humans or Vulcans for that matter would go along with creating a bond between members of their two species simply to open negotiations with the Orions. “Well, Doc, I can’t speak for T’Pol but I’m not too keen on the idea of spendin’ more time in sickbay than I have to, no offense intended. And if those readings don’t indicate something’s wrong with me, then I don’t really see why more tests are necessary. Anyway, wouldn’t it be simpler just to have the Vulcans do any negotiations in the future? I mean, T’Pol told me that their biochemistry prevents them from being affected by the pheromones.”
Phlox hid his disappointment once more, though he was intrigued that T’Pol would discuss the reason for her own immunity with Commander Tucker. “Perhaps you’re right, Commander. Well, according to my scanner, you should be feeling back to normal. So if there’s nothing else, it’s feeding time…”
“No, no, I feel great. Thanks, Doc, again for the cure. And for convincin’ the Cap’n to trick us into talkin’ the other night. I really appreciate it.” Trip told him, heading for the doors, not really interested in watching Phlox feed all his creatures. “See ya later, Doc.”
“No trouble at all, Commander. Always glad to help my favorite patient.” Phlox replied, turning towards his menagerie to start feeding them.
Trip met T’Pol for lunch the next day, sitting at their usual table. She had returned, along with the away team that morning, and was now busy collating the data they’d collected from the planet over the past two days, trying to determine what caused the civilization there to be destroyed. Hoshi was still trying to learn the language, however, so progress was slow. T’Pol had the readings she had taken before they ever set foot on the planet (Captain Archer having become a bit more cautious about going down to uninhabited planets without conducting more extensive scans since the early days of their mission) to make certain it was safe for them to be there, and the various scans taken on the surface of the planet itself.
It had helped her block out Trip’s emotions somewhat, concentrating on this, since they still hadn’t gotten around to learning to shield their thoughts and emotions yet from each other. Every time she tried, somehow they ended up doing other things. Very enjoyable other things, but still… they needed to work on that before something happened to one of them because they were distracted by the other.
Trip ate in silence, waiting until she was done reading to bring up what was on his mind. Finally she put aside her PADD, and gave him her full attention. She knew he had something he wanted to discuss, as did she. “How’s it going,” Trip asked, nodding towards the PADD. “Any luck figurin’ out what happened to them?”
“Not so far. The background radiation levels are consistent with what would be considered normal for this type of planet, so it is unlikely that they destroyed themselves using thermonuclear weapons, as Lt. Reed suggested. Nor does it appear to be something he referred to as a ‘neutron bomb. Perhaps when Ensign Sato succeeds in learning the language we will discover something.’” She took a sip of her tea, “But that is not what you wish to talk about.”
“How did you… oh right.” Trip reminded himself. “You’re right, I don’t. T’Pol, I think Phlox knows about,” he glanced around the room, checking to see if anyone was within listening distance, then lowered his voice anyway, “our bond.”
She cocked her head. “Why do you believe that?”
“Um…well, he kind of took some scans of me a few days ago when I was havin’ trouble sleepin’ and noticed somethin’ peculiar. Somethin’ about an area of my brain have a significant increase in activity since I went to Columbia that I didn’t have before.” Her eyebrow rose as he explained. “And anyway, he said that on a Vulcan, that’s the area responsible for telepathy. He wanted to do tests on me. And you.”
“Indeed.” She sat straighter in her chair, a curious expression on her face. “I did not realize that evidence of the bond would be detectable by his scanner.”
“Well, apparently it is. He was talking about how ‘whatever caused it might be the reason why I was immune to the pheromones’ and that it’d be a benefit to future meetings between humans and the Orions if he could figure out how to give that immunity to other humans.” He leaned forward, setting his head on his hand. “I told him that I didn’t really want to spend any more time in sickbay that I had to, T’Pol. So no tests. But he still suspects somethin’ is goin’ on between us. He’s the one who suggested to the Cap’n that he lock the two of us together in a room until we worked out what was buggin’ us.”
“Perhaps we should let the doctor know of our situation then, Commander.” T’Pol finally answered.
Trip stared at her, dumbfounded. “What, we can tell Phlox but not Jon?”
T’Pol explained, “The doctor will undoubtedly continue to investigate our immunity to the pheromones. If he knows of the bond, then his investigation will cease. We can request that he treat the information as privileged between him and us. And we may have need of his services in a few years’ time, when I undergo my first mating cycle.”
“Why would we need Phlox’s help with your mating cycle?” Trip asked quietly. “I think we got the basics covered already. Unless you want to try and have kids then.”
“I do wish to attempt to have a family with you, Trip,” T’Pol responded just as softly. “But that is not the reason why we will need him. Pon farr, the Vulcan mating cycle, is a rather violent time. I fear that you will need his services to recover from the injuries that I will undoubtedly inflict upon you.”
“Inflict upon me?” He sat back, skeptical, crossing his arms. “T’Pol, honey, I know you’re stronger than me, but you wouldn’t hurt me and you know it.”
She sighed. This was not how she pictured telling him about this particular subject nor the place she would have chosen. But no one was close enough to overhear, so she continued. “Pon farr causes Vulcans to lose all restraint, all control over their emotions. We revert to our primitive state and must mate or die.” Trip was beginning to get worried, but his skeptical expression hadn’t left his face. “We are little better than animals at that time. I will not be able to stop myself from harming you, no matter how good my intentions are towards preventing that. It is quite likely that you will suffer broken bones at the very least during that time.”
Trip gave her an astounded look. He was wondering just what exactly he had gotten himself into when he said he wanted to keep this bond. “Broken bones?”
“At least. Possibly internal injuries as well.”
“Can’t we just avoid this pon farr thing or maybe water it down with lots of exercise or somethin’? I mean, there’s got to be ways to lessen its effect on you, right?” He asked. “You don’t seriously mean that unless you mate, you’ll die. It’s just a metaphor, right?”
She shook her head. “No. It is genetic, I cannot avoid it. The most I could do is try and temper it with meditation, but that will only help control the worst of the symptoms until I can mate. If I do not mate, then I will die. That is fact. You will need to increase your stamina between now and then in order to withstand the worst bouts of pon farr, as I will need to mate a number of times a day for several days.”
“Days? You mean, you an’ me? Doin’ it for days?” His eyes glazed over at the thought. “Just how often does this pon farr stuff happen, anyway?”
“Every seven years.”
“You’re puttin’ me on, right, T’Pol. This is a joke.” Trip decided, though he was beginning to remember something Kov had mentioned to him once several years before about a seven year cycle. “Very funny. You really had me goin’ there for a minute.” T’Pol simply sat there, not saying anything. “Come on, T’Pol. Just admit it’s a joke. Please.” The longer she went without replying, the more resigned to the truth Trip became. “You’re not joking? This really will happen to you?” He finally asked.
She inclined her head. “Yes.”
“Just how do you expect us to explain that to Jon if he doesn’t know about us? About the bond? We’re going to have to tell him before then.”
“As I said, it will not occur for several years. There will be ample opportunity to inform him of the bond between us before I enter the pon farr.”
He rubbed the back of his neck. “Well, darlin’, I think we’re goin’ have to tell him before that. I heard back on my request for a transfer back to Enterprise just before lunch.”
She eyed him, noting his nervous gesture. “They turned down the request?”
“Yep. I tried, T’Pol, but they just wouldn’t let me come back. Said I didn’t have a good reason to come back here.” He sighed heavily. “So we’ll need to let Jon know or else I’m goin’ to be back on Columbia in a few days, like it or not.”
T’Pol frowned, not liking the prospect, but she had no better alternative. “Tomorrow morning, then, we will go and speak with the captain.”
Trip nodded, wanting to hold her hand, but he held back since the room was still half-filled with the crew. They spent the rest of their lunch and then later that evening discussing the possible reasons the captain could use to request Trip’s transfer back to Enterprise.
Archer sank back into his chair, puzzled. This wasn’t really how he pictured starting his morning. And while he’d half expected the two of them to explain why they’d been acting so strangely earlier that week, this wasn’t exactly the explanation he expected. “You’re what?”
“We are bonded.” T’Pol repeated. Archer turned the statement over in his head again. No, it still didn’t make any sense to him. “We share a psychic link that enables us to sense the other’s emotions,” she elaborated, glancing over at the Commander sitting silently beside her, “and occasionally, thoughts.”
Archer stared in shock. While he knew that they were friends, perhaps even closer friends now that he and Trip were before they met T’Pol, this revelation still came as a total surprise to him. He hadn’t realized they were that close. And then there was the question of why they hadn’t mentioned this to him sooner.
Jon directed his attention to his best friend and asked the question foremost on his mind, watching Trip’s reactions closely. “How exactly did this bond form, Commander?” Trip’s neck and face flushed at the question. Bingo, Archer thought. They definitely were doing something he thinks I wouldn’t approve of.
“Uh, well, sir, you see…” Trip stammered out, thoroughly embarrassed, even though he’d known they’d probably have to tell all once they told the captain of the bond. Before he could finish, T’Pol interceded on his behalf.
“I believe it was a combination of things that lead to the creation of this bond between us, Captain. We often work closely together, and that, along with our friendship and the neuropressure sessions which I began administering to the Commander last year, laid the groundwork for the bond’s formation.”
Archer leaned forward, still curious. “But those things didn’t cause the bond to form, did they, Commander?” T’Pol’s face darkened slightly as she shook her head once in response.
“It got a bit more involved a while back, Cap’n.” Trip answered, sneaking a quick peek over at T’Pol. “We, uh,” his eyes roamed around the room as he responded, not sure how Jon was going to take this before he finally spit it out, “we were intimate one night. And we think that maybe kind of triggered it. But neither of us realized we were bonded until after I’d left for Columbia, sir, when we started havin’ these sort of shared dreams, I swear.” Trip held on tightly to T’Pol’s hand, uncertain how exactly Archer would respond. They’d made up for some of the time lost over the past two years in their friendship the other night, but there was still a chasm to fill in before they’d be as close as they once been.
Archer simply sat there for a moment, trying to take it all in as he studied his two officers. How did this happen without me so much as noticing that they were really more than just friends? Archer wondered to himself, followed shortly by the thought, maybe I did notice and didn’t want to admit it to myself because then I’d have to deal with it? His shock gave way to disappointment that Trip hadn’t said anything about his feelings for T’Pol to him, like he once would have done. Did we really drift that far apart over the last two years?
Archer remained silent as the seconds ticked by, just watching his two senior officers, who were definitely growing more restless the longer he didn’t respond. For a moment jealousy sparked in his mind that T’Pol had taken his friend from him in a way he could never compete with, then he pushed those thoughts away. Jon thought about how happy Trip had been the other day in sickbay. He’d been his old laughing, carefree self again, something Jon hadn’t really seen since before the news of Lizzie’s death. If that was the result of having a bond with T’Pol, he could hardly deny his friend that. He’d seen how Trip took hold of T’Pol’s hand once they were in the ready room, out of sight of the other bridge officers, and seemed to draw strength from the contact. And Archer had seen how T’Pol’s features softened more than once when the two of them were in the same room, and then he remembered his comment about her taking on Trip’s bad habits in sickbay just days ago and wondered if she really was. They belonged together, and he couldn’t and wouldn’t be jealous of that.
And he realized that just by telling him about the bond, they were risking one or both of their careers. After all, there was that rule about fraternization between officers, even though they were technically the same rank. It was regulations, even if this bond they now shared had most likely been precipitated by events before T’Pol’s commission in Starfleet, and so the legal waters were murky at best on how to apply it in this situation. Especially since they were in the chain of command. While he knew it was up to the Captain to decide if relationships would be allowed, somehow he didn’t think Starfleet would approve of this one, given the circumstances, if they found out about it. Or that the Vulcans would be all that thrilled either.
Archer finally sighed, and both officers in front of him waited for his verdict. “You do realize the trouble you could be in--we all could be in--if Starfleet finds out about this bond of yours, right?” Trip and T’Pol held each other’s hand tightly as they nodded in response. Trip started to answer, but Archer cut him off. “However, I don’t see a need to report your fraternization to Starfleet since you have, for the most part, been able to perform your duties without incident while you were both assigned here, and since you are now both on different vessels, the point is moot.” While Trip and T’Pol looked relieved to his eyes at the first part, they both had tensed up by the time he finished. Curious, he thought. Archer’s face softened with a genuine smile. “As your friend, I’m happy for you two. I just wish you had decided to work out your differences before Trip transferred off of Enterprise.” Oh boy, do I wish they had.
“There is one more thing, Captain.” T’Pol added. “While there has not been a mating bond formed between a human and a Vulcan before, it is likely, given the nature of the bond we share, that there could be severe health consequences if we are parted for too long, just as there would be between two Vulcans who are bondmates. Vulcans typically spend at least the first year after their bond is formed together, so that the bond can strengthen naturally and diminish the risk to themselves later in life should they be separated for extended periods of time.”
Trip swallowed and gave Archer a weak smile. “So we were kind of hopin’ that maybe you could talk Starfleet into transferrin’ me back to Enterprise…hopefully without mentionin’ any of this, if possible.”
Archer frowned as he leaned forward again. “I can’t deny that I’d love to have you back as chief engineer, Trip, but I can’t make any guarantees that Starfleet will agree to transfer you so soon, not without some sort of plausible excuse.” He paused. “So unless you can give me another reason, one which they will accept, I’m going to have to disclose what you have shared about your bond, like it or not, as the reason for your transfer request back to Enterprise. And even then I can’t guarantee that Starfleet would make an exception for you, especially since I would also have to tell them you broke the rules in regards to fraternization at the same time. And while it is within my rights as captain to overlook your indiscretions, provided you remain professional in your duties, Starfleet Command is less likely to see it that way.”
Trip and T’Pol had discussed this possible outcome before coming to see the captain about their request, and had given it some thought. T’Pol inclined her head slightly, and Trip nodded, then spoke up. Archer watched the silent exchange fascinated, wondering if they were really telepathically communicating, or simply just knew each other so well that they knew what the other would say. Trip cleared his throat and said, “Well, Cap’n, what we had in mind was this…” and then proceeded to explain their plan for getting him transferred back. Archer sat back, smiling, knowing that while he’d have his work cut out for him to accomplish what they wanted, he couldn’t be happier with the result if it meant he’d have his best friend back on Enterprise and back to his old self again.
Hoshi, Travis and Malcolm had watched Trip and T’Pol go with the captain into his ready room earlier, after requesting to speak with him on a private matter. Hoshi, queen of the ship’s rumor mill, began to wonder if the earlier rumor was true, if Commander Tucker really had asked T’Pol to marry him. It would certainly explain why they wanted to talk to him alone. She speculated to herself on the possibilities for nearly ten minutes before Travis asked, “What do you suppose they’re talking about in there?”
Malcolm Reed looked down at the young man at the navigation console, “Probably about something that is none of our business.”
“Oh come on, Lieutenant,” Hoshi said. “You know you want to know as much as we do.”
“Well, perhaps I do. But it’s pointless to sit here and guess. If they want us to know, they’ll tell us.” Malcolm responded, looking her in the eye. He’d finally taken T’Pol’s advice when he was helping Hoshi find examples of the aliens’ language on the planet and talked to her. She had blushed when he confronted her about why the women were all laughing at him, and admitted that there had been a computer glitch in the communication system the night before which had caused some pictures which had been intended for him, sent by his sister Maddie, to go to Ensign Cutler instead.
Ensign Cutler had looked through them, trying to decipher who they belonged to, but hadn’t been able to figure it out. So she had asked Hoshi to look into the transmission, and she had chanced to see his baby pictures herself while she searched for clues to whom they belonged. Liz Cutler had mentioned them at the lunch table, but didn’t know they were of the lieutenant because Hoshi hadn’t told her whose pictures they were.
Malcolm recalled getting the photos later that day, and knew exactly what some of those baby pictures consisted of. After turning several shades of red, Hoshi had told him that he looked adorable as a baby and apologized for causing him any embarrassment. He had shyly accepted her apology, and had taken the further step of asking her to movie night. And Hoshi had agreed. Though he’d also put an encrypted lock on those pictures so no one could access them again without him knowing about it.
“You don’t suppose they’re asking the Captain to marry them?” Ensign Mayweather asked the other two. “I mean, I heard this rumor that he asked her to marry him but she turned him down cold.”
“Don’t be ridiculous, Ensign.” Malcolm told him. “The two of them haven’t been more than friends for months now. Not since Commander Tucker came back from Vulcan alone, at any rate. That’s hardly a basis for a marriage proposal.”
Before they could continue the discussion, the door swooshed open, and the two commanders walked out, T’Pol heading for her station on the bridge, and Trip towards the lift to go to engineering, and heard Trip say, “Thanks, Cap’n, I really appreciate it.” He appeared to be oblivious to the stares of the officers on the bridge as he stepped into the lift and left, but T’Pol noted the looks. She simply raised her eyebrow, and all of them hurriedly turned back to their stations. She could feel Trip’s amusement at the looks on the crew’s faces in her mind all the way to engineering.
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