Dear Readers: This is a continuation of my story Epiphany, as requested by ya'll. I was hesitant to write this story, since I feel that it's been done so often and in much better ways. But, you insisted and I caved into peer pressure. Its dialogue heavy and action light (actually, action non-existent), but it's the talk I always wanted them to have.
As before, I assume you've watched the show through Terra Prime, TATV doesn't exist and you've read Epiphany.
As always – many thanks to my beta justTrip'n!
"…raise core temperature…"
"…responding to antibiotics…"
Everything was white. There was nothing to see. A low groaning pulled him from unconsciousness. Was that me?
Trip Tucker could hear the quiet rustling of animals in cages. Smell the faint twinge of antiseptic. It was familiar. It was sickbay.
Memories seeped back. The cold storms. Cutting his arm. Falling down that damn hole. His face scrunched in frustration. No wonder he ached everywhere.
He still hadn't opened his eyes when he felt it. So faint, he wondered if he was imagining things. It had been so long. But, there it was again.
He pulled his eyes open. The lights were dim, so he didn't have to squint to see her. She was standing at his bedside, light haloed around her hair. Where had he seen that vision?
"What time is it?" he whispered.
"22:35," she said softly.
"It's late, shouldn't you be meditating?"
The air felt thick around them. Thoughts swirled around his head, too many thoughts for one mind. This isn't the time for all that—or place. Trip lifted his hands toward his face, but stopped. They were wrapped in some kind of plastic mittens, filled with warm goo.
"Dr. Phlox is treating them for frostbite."
He rested his hands at his sides and looked up at her. He remembered where he had seen that vision.
"Down, on the planet. I thought…" He let out a breath, "you saved me."
Incredibly, she reached and brushed a stray hair from his forehead.
Her eyes clung to his as thoughts littered her mind. This is neither the time nor the place.
"I do believe I hear my patient is awake, humm?" Phlox appeared from behind the partition. T'Pol abruptly pulled back. If the doctor had noticed the contact, he made no indication.
"Let's check on those hands, shall we." Phlox loosened the straps around Commander Tucker's wrists and pulled the mittens off. Blue, slimey goo covered his hands leaving them wrinkled like too much time in the pool.
"Are they gonna be OK?" Concern colored his voice. "I won't make a very good engineer without ‘em."
"Not to worry Commander. You suffered no nerve damage. I'm merely treating the epidermis. In fact, we can leave these off now."
Phlox wiped the regenerative gel from Trip's hands. He also removed several small bandages from Trip's face and ears where the frostbite had been setting in. The doctor pulled a scanner from his coat pocket and ran it over Trip's chest, then nodded jovially. "Yes, you're healing nicely Commander. I would like you to stay overnight, but you should be able to return to light duty tomorrow."
Trip smiled at his stern tone, "Sure thing, Doc."
Once he'd gone, Trip glanced back to T'Pol and the air filled with unspoken words.
"You should rest now," she suggested.
"But, I'll see ya tomorrow?"
"Yes." she confirmed.
Trip watched her go. She hesitated at the double doors. One last look and she was gone.
His eyes open. He's not sure where he is, but it doesn't seem to matter. He's lying down in an impossibly soft bed. Turning his head, he sees her. Their eyes connect and after a long moment she opens her mouth to speak. His fingers softly touch her lips, quieting them. He doesn't know if this is merely a dream or otherwise. Either way, he doesn't want to break the spell. Without words, she understands. He gathers her into his arms –her head on his chest, her hand over his heart. Her hair tickles his nose as he drifts off to sleep surrounded by the sent of orange blossoms.
The day had been long, but Trip managed to not over-exert himself. Of course, he didn't really have a choice. Phlox had sent a department-wide memo to all the engineering staff that Commander Tucker was restricted to light duty, and all personal were to ensure he complied. Failure to do so would result in a very through annual physical examination. Trip certainly couldn't blame them. No one wanted any of Dr. Phlox's ‘little helpers' any closer to them than absolutely necessary.
So his day had been filled paperwork. Hopefully tomorrow he could return to his usual routine and get cracking on the phase coil refit. Getting his hands, and many other parts, dirty always seemed the best therapy for his ills.
He was lounging on his bunk in sweat pants and a comfy tee-shirt. Sinatra was playing softly in the background while he absently flipped through an engineering publication.
All day he had been on shift. He'd taken his lunch at the usual time and had had dinner with the captain. They'd talked about the upgrades Trip wanted and about Perdue's chances at the water polo championship this year. He never saw her.
Maybe they'd just missed each other. All day? She isn't avoiding me again. Is she?
The door chime brought him back to reality.
"Come on in."
T'Pol entered, still in uniform, and clutching a PADD tightly in front of her. Trip jumped up to greet her and she glanced way. Though the door had closed behind her, T'Pol hung near it, as if the visit would be brief.
"I've brought Lt. Hess's promotion letter for your signature." She extended the PADD towards him.
Trip took it gently from her hand. "Oh, then you agree with me?"
She had that expression on her face. The one she got when she was lost. He never liked that look. Trip turned to his desk and set down the PADD—by the picture of his sister. It was because of the woman standing in his cabin that he could even look at Lizzie's picture without breaking down. He wiped a hand across his chin, resolved. His course was set.
Trip stopped the music and faced his friend. "We need to talk—about us. I'm tired of this dance. We keep avoiding each other. Avoiding the pain. But, it's not going away. Let's just lay it all out—good, bad, and ugly." He expected her to bolt and he wasn't about to let her off that easy. Not this time.
Instead she took a deep cleansing breath. As uncomfortable as it made her, the issue he raised was no longer avoidable. With nothing to hold onto, T'Pol gripped her hands tightly to hide her nervousness. She stepped further into his cabin and sat on the edge of his bunk. "I agree."
That was unexpected. Trip had had an argument all plotted out and now he didn't need it. Alrighty then. Plan B. Trip sat down to her right, suddenly unsure of himself. He delayed by rubbing his hands on his thighs.
"Well then. This is my idea, so I guess I should start." He took a deep breath and closed his eyes.
This is it; time to take the plunge.
"I love you."
The words hung in the air between them a moment. Trip felt as if a weight had been lifted from his shoulders.
"I should have said it sooner, but, well…" He stopped to form a complete thought, "I tried not to. I've tried to stop loving you, I really have. But, despite everything that's happened …" Flashes of rejections and missed chances stung his mind. "Despite all that, I never stopped loving you. I know I said some mean things. I was hurtin' inside. That's no excuse; I know… it's just…" He looked her clear in the eyes, "I'm sorry."
Her eyes were liquid pools he could get lost in forever. "You needed a friend, but I . . . I couldn't take it. I thought if I got away it wouldn't hurt so much. And… well… we know how that turned out."
She didn't answer, nor did she stop him.
"Anyway," he looked down into his lap, "I just didn't want to admit to myself—maybe I was afraid to… hec, even your mom had me figured out before I did. I love you, and that's not gonna change."
Trip didn't expect her to answer in kind. That would probably qualify as a Vulcan meltdown and he'd have to call Phlox.
Her eyes darted away; she was at a loss for words.
A smile twitched on his anxious face, "I don't expect you to get all emotional on me or anything. In fact, I'd be really worried if you did."
She read acceptance on his face.
"I know this isn't easy, but it's important." He absently waved an arm. "If we're gonna move forward, we need to get us straightened out."
T'Pol absorbed his words. He had laid bare his soul to her; she would not dishonor that. A few more cleansing breaths and her thoughts coalesced.
"It was never my intention to hurt you. But I have. I have come to realize my words were poorly selected to convey the proper meaning." T'Pol paused.
"So you mean I wasn't an experiment?" A wry smile took the edge off his question. Experience had taught her harsh lessons. Now was the time to act on them. "The morning after we . . . were intimate . . . I was unprepared to deal with the consequences of my actions. I had behaved impulsively. Subsequently, I was… rude to you." She closed her eyes in shame.
"I kinda guessed that. As unforgettable as that night was, you did seem a bit… inexperienced. I figured there was more to the story than what you were sayin'."
Her eyes opened downcast. She focused beyond him, lost in thought. "Yet, you did not abandon me. While in the Expanse, I was forced to deal with truths about myself; I was overwhelmed. I did not expect the … intensity of your emotions in regards to me. It took time, but I have come to terms with this."
They sat a moment in quiet companionship. He gave her a moment to find her calm.
"Is that why you let me go to Vulcan with you?"
"Yes." She did not look at him; he had brought up another difficult subject. Perhaps this is what he meant by ‘ugly'.
She was retreating again. He needed to keep her talking. "Then why didn't you tell your mother about me?"
T'Pol expelled a long held breath, "I knew my mother held similar beliefs about humans that I had upon my arrival to Enterprise. I believed telling her about you in a letter would only serve to alienate you from her further. If she . . . got to know you, as I did, perhaps she would learn what I have."
His voice was a whisper, "And what would that be?"
T'Pol's eyes tipped up to look into his face. "That you are supportive. Thoughtful. Willing to learn new ways—to adapt." She stopped again. "And it would seem I made a correct assessment about my mother."
"Yeah, she finally started warming up to me." Trip's smile faded.
Sadness pulled on T'Pol's lovely features. "I was unaware of her… problems with the government . . . or of Koss's intentions." She shuddered, almost imperceptibly. "Standing at the Fireplains—telling you my decision to marry—was the hardest thing I have done—as I knew I was going to hurt you." The memory stabbed her chest like a lipau.
T'Pol's eyes squeezed shut; when they opened she was staring at the soft nap of the carpet. "With her death and the discovery of the Kir Shara . . . I was confused about who I was. So much of what I had been taught was wrong or skewed. I believed I needed to find myself before I could deal with us."
There was silence. He was waiting for her explanation; her justification for turning him away. She had to walk this path alone; would he be waiting for her at the end of it?
"It was never my intention to leave you permanently. But that is how you . . . justly . . . interpreted my words. I had hurt you again. I resigned myself to your leaving. And with you gone, I hoped I could regain my focus. But, as I have learned, your presence was not the source of my discontent. It was your absence. It was a mistake to exclude you—you are my bondmate."
When T'Pol finally summoned the courage to look up, she was relieved to see him looking back intently.
Trip knew her revelation had been difficult. He would cherish it for the rest of his days.
T'Pol watched as he lifted two fingers to the side of her face. His touch started just behind her ear, traveled softly down her jaw line to her neck. His fingertips burned a trail down the cords of her throat and T'Pol tipped her head back. Her eyes slid closed and a sigh escaped her lips.
It was a Vulcan touch of affection. How did he know to do this? Did it matter?
His fingers lingered on the hollow of her throat. Their mutual confessions brought the course of their thoughts to the near present. They shared the same sweet memory. The wounds of which were still healing.
Trip let his fingers drop and swallowed the lump in his throat. "She was so beautiful."
Unshed tears welled in his eyes. If he looked at her, they would fall.
"I hadn't really thought about being a father. I figured I'd be out here until they made me stop. But . . ." He straightened his back and sucked in a deep breath. "She really was beautiful."
T'Pol clutched her hands in her lap. "When I turned away from my betrothal—four years ago—I accepted that I would not marry or bear children. I would remain in space. It was what I wanted to do. I thought I would be satisfied with that life. Now . . ." She cast her eyes down to her hands which now lay still, palms open. "Yes, she was beautiful."
A long held question surfaced in Trip's mind and he decided to voice it. Besides, he was eager to change the subject.
"I have a question for ya—why me?"
She pondered his question; it was one she had asked herself. Very recently, in fact. Fortunately, she had found an answer.
"You have given me two distinct gifts that no one else ever offered. First, you gave me choice. All my life, I have been told where to go, what to do and who to be. When presented with an ultimatum to return to my duty, you made me realize that I have a choice. And it is mine alone. No other has done this for me." Trip's eyebrows lifted in surprise. If he had known then that reading her mail would eventually lead to this day . . . well, he probably wouldn't have believed it.
Any hesitancy T'Pol may have felt previously had melted. Trip's pleased expression bolstered her confidence stronger than any drug. With each revelation the next became easier to vocalize. "Secondly, your . . . love . . . for me is unconditional. You have never asked me to be anyone other than who I am. Even when encouraging me to learn of human culture; it was not to change me, but to share with me. And you have learned my culture in kind. So now I would like to know—why me? Why do you . . . love me?"
Trip gave a little smile. The word still sounded foreign on her tongue. He thought carefully about what she had told him. It was a valid question, and one he had given a lot of thought about recently. Fortunately, he had come up with an answer.
"Because I know you didn't mean to hurt me."
He let out a small sigh, "Yeah, it did hurt, and I said some mean things that I never should have. But deep down I knew you didn't do it on purpose. I think what hurt most is you wouldn't talk to me." There was no anger in his voice, only concern. "You wouldn't let me help you, be your friend." Trip rolled his tongue in his cheek, "Thing is, I've gotten to know you so well, sometimes I forget you're Vulcan. It now occurs to me that, maybe, you didn't know how to have a friend."
T'Pol turned her eyes away, ashamed of her past actions. Trip reached over and slipped her hand into his. "A friend is someone you come to for help. A person you trust with your secrets. Or, someone to just listen and not judge."
He leaned down slightly to catch her eyes with his. "One of the things I love about you is your strength. In the face of resistance, you stand strong, unwavering. I forget that means in private too. I don't want you to be afraid to talk to me T'Pol. A lot has happened between us. I'm not gonna get angry with you; not for being honest with me. I'm past anger. I just want you in my life."
"Looking back on it—you're my match. I've dated other women, you know that. But none have challenged me like you do. When I was a kid—for the longest time I'd get into trouble at school, goofing off. It was my third grade teacher, Miss Beeres that figured out that I was just bored. She got me into advanced math and science classes. I was the youngest kid in the model rocket club. I need challenges to be happy. And you . . . " He holds her eyes intensely to his. "You're the best challenge ever. With you, I'm not always right. And I like it. I love arguing with you. I do my best work when you're the one pushing me. I don't think there's anything we can't figure out, together. And somethin' tells me, you'll always be a challenge."
The smile that had graced his face softened into a look of melancholy. "And like I said before, I love your strength. Watching you marry some other guy was the hardest thing I've ever done. Yet, I was so proud of you; for being so strong. I'd like to think I'd have that strength to do the same thing for my mom. So I couldn't be angry with you. The situation yes, but not you."
His lips twisted into a small smirk as the next thought came to his mind. "Then, there's the fact that you've gotta be the most beautiful woman I've ever met." T'Pol lifted an eyebrow.
He gently reached up and brushed back the hair at her temple and let out a soft sigh. "Intelligent. Strong. Beautiful. All good reasons to love you." He leaned in. "You wanna know the real reason?" Her eyebrows twitched in silent question.
His voice was pitched low, for her ears only. "Cause with you, I feel whole. As if there was this empty place inside I didn't know about until you filled it. And without you, I'm miserable. I need you. Down on that planet, I thought I was dying. If you hadn't saved me I probably would have. The whole time I kept thinking of all these things I had to do, reasons not to die. And I realized, after all the crap that's happened to me these last two years—you're all I have left that's worth living for."
He tightened his fingers around her hand. "We have a chance to get us straightened out. And I'm not gonna pass it up. I need you. I love you."
She covered his hand with her own. "You are correct in your earlier statement. As a Vulcan, I am taught to stand alone. I have . . . difficulty . . . confiding in another."
"Until I figure out how this bond thing of ours works, we're going to have to resort to old-fashioned talking."
"Finding the correct words may prove difficult."
"We seem to be doing pretty good tonight. Don't worry; we'll just stumble through till we get it."
She suppressed the urge to grin. He could be quite determined despite the obstacles. T'Pol gently touched his face, studying his features. "I also came to a conclusion, down on the planet, while searching for you."
His eyebrows lifted in question, "Oh?"
"I have been taught to work for the ‘greater good'; to put others first. But to provide for others, I must first provide for myself. When I set out to find you, it was for the rest of the crew. They needed your presence. When I found you, I knew . . . I had accepted that . . . I need you too."
A gentle tickle signaled at the back of their heads. By baring their souls they have opened their minds to each other.
Her fingers lingered at his jaw, "I am sorry it took so long to realize it."
Trip held up his right hand, index and fore finger extended. Hope. Comfort. Love. Without breaking eye contact, T'Pol slid her fingers into place against his.
The bond resonated with contentment.
Two lost souls set adrift in the fathoms of space, seemingly destined to forever wander alone, have united. At last.
"Stay with me?"
Her eyebrow subtlety twitched at his question.
"I mean… I just…," he pinched his lips in mock frustration, "I just want to hold you. It's been a long day and I'm exhausted. Besides, I've never gotten to just hold you all night." Part of him wanted to do more than to just hold her, but he didn't fully trust what had just happened. She really cared about him? It would take some getting used to.
Trip stood up to set his long forgotten reading material on his desk. When he turned to find her pulling down the zipper of her uniform, all higher-level functioning ceased. She deftly slipped from her jumpsuit and bent down to pick it up.
Maybe I should help her. Instead he found himself rooted to the deck plating. She slipped the black turtleneck over her head and approached him clad only in her undergarments. T'Pol tipped her head back to look up into his eyes as if to say "Well?"
Trip snapped out of his daze and swiftly pulled off his tee shirt. Should he leave his sweat pants on? Not when I'm about to snuggle up with a hot water bottle. He pushed back the sheet and crawled to the back side of the bunk.
She sat down carefully on the edge of the bunk, not quiet certain what it meant to snuggle. He wrapped an arm around her abdomen and pulled her back against his chest. She felt so good. His nose rested at the crown of her head and he inhaled deeply. He figured it was probably just the shampoo she used, but how he missed that scent. It was subtle, so you had to get close to smell it. He hadn't been this close in so long.
He felt her inquiry enter his mind. It was a wonderful sensation.
He explained. "In the fall, the orange groves are all in bloom. Trees are far as you could see, covered in blossoms. I remember standing in the rows as a kid thinkin' that this must be what heaven smells like."
T'Pol's eyes slowly open. The sound of deep, even breaths informs her he is still sleeping. His hand at her abdomen has slipped under her top, pressing flush to her skin. His scent fills her nostrils. She has difficulty recalling when she was last this content.
It is early; 0400 very likely. It is her normal routine to wake at an early hour and meditate before beginning the day. She considers disentangling herself to do so. His arm, seemingly by its own violation, tightens around her waist.
He is still recovering from his injuries and sleep is an important part of his recuperation. Waking him would not be prudent. The best course of action would be to remain where she is. Yes. She will continue to lay with her back pressed into his chest, his nose in her hair, their fingers entwined, and his arm tight around her.
Note: I just wanted to add—the Sinatra song that's playing when Trip is thinking of T'Pol is "In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning." This part, in fact:
In the wee small hours of the morning
Like it? Hate it? Just want to point out a typo? Join the discussion now.
Disclaimer: Star Trek in all its various forms and its characters are the property of CBS/Paramount. No copyright infringement is intended by the authors of this site, which is solely for the purpose of entertainment and is not for profit. This site is owned by CX and was opened to the public in February 2008.