With much gratitude: As ever and always, utmost thanks to my techno-lohtar, Sierra Phoenix.
Author's Note: Thinking back on the end of season three/beginning of season four, I realized Trip and T’Pol had made a tentative commitment to bridge the distance that had grown between them (“After this is all over, if you want to talk, I’m all ears”) and then before they could have their heart to heart the shit hit the fan, Nazis showed up, and Trip was held prisoner. Not only did we never get to see the kiss-and-make-up-ness of Trip and T’Pol’s new decision, but there was no fallout from Trip’s time in the hands of the Nazis, who historically never had the reputation of being gentle or kind. So I decided to address both dangling plotlines in one ficlet.
This fic was SUPPOSED to be a real juicy, angsty hurt/comfort biscuit, but it didn’t turn out that way, and in that sense I am sorely disappointed in it. It was not at all what I wanted, and WAY mushier than I can stomach, but given how many of my other fics were angst-fests, I decided to leave this one as is.
T’Pol could not say what made her go to Trip’s quarters so late in the evening. There was no logical reason for her to seek him out. A formal debrief was planned for 0800 tomorrow morning, and any professional curiosity she had about Trip’s experiences while in the hands of the Nazis would be answered at that time. Still… something restless within her would not wait that long. She needed to see Trip. She didn’t know why, but she knew it was necessary.
She hadn’t seen him since he got back to Enterprise. She heard about his return with an uncomfortable degree of relief when he came back aboard, but her duties had precluded her making a social call. When her duties were fulfilled for the day it was already fairly late and Trip had already retired for the night.
T’Pol should have left him alone to rest, but she couldn’t shake the feeling that she had to go to him. It was bizarre, inexplicable… and unrelenting.
T’Pol caved to her instincts so rarely, but she was humiliated slave to them as she stood outside Trip’s quarters, debating on whether or not to press the button to sound the chime.
She had been standing stock-still on his proverbial doorstep for five minutes. An eternity of stillness for a Vulcan. She should not have come and she should not disturb him. It was illogical to rouse him for nothing more than her emotional compulsion to ‘check on him’. That was a need born of human worry, and Vulcans did not worry.
T’Pol lifted her hand and extended her fingers tentatively toward his door controls. Just shy of the buzzer, she stopped. She should not wake him. For all the illogical there was in her very presence at his quarters, it was even more illogical to wake him. He had been through an unpleasant experience and would require rest. T’Pol sighed and made a compromise. She would not alert him to her arrival. She would enter quietly, satisfy whatever senseless drive it was that had demanded she see him, then leave with him none the wiser. It was no less damning to her Vulcan sensibilities, but at least she would not wake Trip.
Slightly troubled by her intrusion, T’Pol touched the computer panel beside the door and input the security override command. With a soft hiss the door to Trip’s quarters opened. It was a maw of darkness into which T’Pol softly and swiftly stepped.
His quarters were dark… expectedly. She stood just inside his door a moment to let her eyes adjust to the darkness. When her vision acclimated, the faint lighting emitted from the juncture of floor and bulkhead (eliminating all light sources, even for simulating night purposes, was dangerous on a starship where true dark was black as ink) began to filter through her eyes and cast paltry light and fuzzy shadows over the room.
T’Pol turned her eyes to Trip’s bunk, though she heard him before she ever saw him.
Trip was lying on his side, curled up on his bunk. The sheet of his bed only partially covered him. He was bare-chested, arms folded and tucked close to his body. He was a play of sparsely-lit features and dark shadows and T’Pol edged closer. She needed to see better.
T’Pol had seen Trip asleep far too many times for an unattached Vulcan woman like herself… enough to know he looked three times the innocent and endearingly peaceful when he slept. She was accustomed to a man of such irrepressible motion, electric intellectual energy, that to see him calm was like stopping a supernova at the moment of explosion and seeing the beauty inherent in astronomical energy.
When she was directly in front of Trip she stopped and gazed down at him, her eyes wide to use any light possible to study him. The shadows were greater than the light and from the right angle the arch of his eyebrows and the pinnae of his ears vanished into blackness. From here, he could be Vulcan.
But never Vulcan. He was and always would be too… alive. Too animated and expressive and raw to be as controlled and reserved as a Vulcan. A dangerous part of T’Pol cherished that about him, though she would never tell Trip she thought of him with such unconventional affection.
His breathing told her more than what she saw with her eyes, given the darkness. His steady respirations were the comfort she had been seeking, and the tense knot in her stomach began to unravel. He was alive. He was home. He was safe.
She should leave. She had looked upon him, her curiosity and concern for his safe return should be satisfied, and now she should depart as quietly as she had come.
T’Pol had almost gotten herself to move toward the door when Trip’s breathing changed. It hitched, it paused, then it came faster.
T’Pol stared down at him clearly in the clutches of a nightmare.
Trip panted. T’Pol could see, in the little light available, Trip suddenly tense in his sleep.
T’Pol did not interfere until she heard him whimper.
Before she could think about her actions, T’Pol knelt down in front of him. “Trip…” she whispered.
He didn’t hear her, or maybe he did but without the desired effect, because his breathing became even faster and his body visibly shook. Lines of distress marred his attractive face.
T’Pol frowned in the safety of darkness. “Trip,” she repeated, and she reached out a tentative hand. Her fingers and palm cupped gently around his shoulder.
Trip’s eyes snapped open and he flinched away from her touch. A strangled cry escaped him and T’Pol, startled, jumped back.
Trip blinked a moment, disoriented, then he fixed his eyes on her standing in the middle of his darkened quarters. He squinted. “T’Pol?” he asked hoarsely.
She felt, quite suddenly, very foolish. “Yes.”
Trip was quiet a moment, regaining his bearings, then he reached over him and pressed a button. Light flooded his quarters from a small, but comparatively bright, lamp near Trip’s head and T’Pol’s inner eyelids momentarily flicked over her corneas at the harsh change in illumination.
Trip blinked up at her, groggy and baffled. “What… what are you doing here?”
T’Pol almost stammered. “I… I wanted to see you.”
“In the middle of the night?”
T’Pol cast her eyes downward in a fair imitation of guilt. “I… apologize. I should not have disturbed you. I will see you in the morning.” She turned to go with considerable haste.
“Wait!” Trip called after her, and reflexively she froze. After a few seconds rooted in her spot she turned and looked at him, wary and vulnerable for having been caught in such a senselessly emotional act. She knew Trip would see her visit for just that… an emotional act. He knew her well enough to know.
Trip was watching her, concerned. “You okay?”
T’Pol would have laughed if she’d been human. “I came to learn if you were well.” T’Pol regarded him a moment. “I… I didn’t get a chance to see you when you were rescued.”
When he didn’t give her the standard ‘I’m all right’ her attention became razor-sharp. It was a telling omission. She knew Trip well enough to know.
Trip squirmed under her gaze. “I appreciate that… I mean, worrying.”
“Vulcans don’t-,” she began, then stopped herself and took a tentative step closer to throw his own question back at him. “Are you okay?”
When she moved toward him, like a magnetized reaction, he moved away. He didn’t have anywhere to go and ended up, essentially, curling up in the corner. He didn’t seem to realize what he was doing… it was pure automatic response.
T’Pol noticed. She stopped cold in her tracks, un-Vulcan pulses of worry racing through her veins.
Trip gave a wan smile. “I’ve been better. Just tired.”
That was a lie. He was hurt. Scared.
A flash of something primal, something akin to anger, sparked in her. “What did they do to you?”
Trip’s expression tightened in discomfort. “Why didn’t you wait to drop by engineering in the morning to see how I was doing? Why the late night visit?”
T’Pol was lost for an explanation… for him and for herself. “I… I do not know.” She hesitated awkwardly. “I felt the need to come here.”
The unexpected admission made Trip look at her. His expression was gentle but he was still balled up in the corner like a wounded animal.
“Why are you afraid of me?” T’Pol asked in a small voice.
Trip blinked, puzzled. “Afraid of you? I’m not.”
“You retreated like you are.”
Trip only then seemed to realize he was in a defensive position and forcibly relaxed his body. “Sorry.”
“Are you injured?”
Trip grimaced. “Phlox already cleared me.”
He had been to see the doctor already. He’d needed the doctor’s permission to leave sickbay. That was telling. So very, very telling.
He responded to her. He always did when she said his name. It was more intimate and affectionate than any human pet name she could bestow upon him. To Vulcans, private names were the privilege of only a sacred few in an individual’s life. She had never told Trip this, but he reacted to her saying his preferred name as though he understood.
T’Pol took a careful step closer. “Please tell me what they did to you.”
Trip froze, torn between wanting to give her anything she asked when she asked it of him with the use of his name, and the defensive need to push it away to protect himself from remembering.
“You know,” he finally whispered, “with humans, sometimes, we keep nightmares to ourselves to spare the ones we love. To protect the ones who love us from being upset about things they can’t change.” He looked long and meaningfully at her.
In the darkness, in the night, alone in his quarters, she would dare to bear her soul a little. “I would rather know. I would like to share your burden. Let me help.”
Trip studied her intently then purposefully scooted over on his bed to make room for her.
T’Pol went at once, graceful and silent as a cat. She sat down on the bunk beside him and she saw. This close to him, this close to the only light source in the room, she could see what he had not wanted to say. His torso was mottled with bruises, brown and purple and green.
He had been beaten.
T’Pol, aghast, lifted a hand to lightly brush her fingertips over a particularly vicious bruise on his ribcage.
Trip held deliberately still, resisting any reflexive need to retreat that he may have felt. “Phlox said there’s no internal damage… I’ll be all right, it’ll just take time for the bruises to fade. I’ll be good as new in no time. Like it never even happened.”
T’Pol met his eyes, searching his soul for the buried truth. It was there, and it said a different truth than his lips.
An unexpected intensity flared in Trip’s eyes as he returned her steady look and began to talk. “I didn’t tell them anything.” It was important to him that she know that. Know it and believe it without question. “They wanted to know about Enterprise, but I wouldn’t do it.” His face set with fierce determination. “They wouldn’t get to you, and the others, because of me.” His fire ebbed, replaced by a humorless smile, and then he grimaced. “They didn’t like that.”
She felt outrage at those who had hurt him, at the primitive brutes who had laid hands upon him in malice.
A strangely happy light glittered in Trip’s eyes. “You’re angry. ”
If emotion was the salve to heal his battered soul, she would give it to him. “They should not have touched you.”
Trip ventured a hand out to meet hers where it traced his beaten side. He drew her hand gently away and entangled his fingers with hers. “Sound awful protective there, T’Pol… better watch that or you’ll out yourself.”
“Out myself?” she asked, allowing the intimate twine of their fingers.
Trip nodded. “Might let show just how much you care.”
He was baiting her, as always, but she felt him also bracing for the rebuff she had always ready to fling back at him. She realized now how brave he had always been… always throwing his heart at her, knowing it would probably be stepped on and tossed back to him, but again and again he cast it before her.
Humans had a daring Vulcans might do well to respect.
“It is no longer my intention to hide it from you,” she replied softly, her heart pounding in her side the entire time.
His shock momentarily transformed his face. He gaped in wonder and in fear that he’d misunderstood her. She returned his gaze steadily, willing him to see her sincerity. He had more than proven himself worthy of her… now it was her turn to prove she was worthy of him. She felt a fear she had never known before in all her life, terror beyond description, but a part of the fear was exhilaration.
It was unbelievably scary and invigorating.
How sweet the rush of staking her soul at the mercy of another.
Vulcans never experienced trust so purely.
Trip began to smile at her, and the wondrous and contented expression that overtook him made it seem as though he no longer realized he was wounded. He drew her a little closer. “T’Pol?”
“Ashayam,” she answered solemnly.
Trip frowned. “Ashayam?”
T’Pol used her free hand to gently trace the line of his jaw. She would make it hers. “It is Vulcan.”
“Kinda figured that… what’s it mean?”
Trip’s look was pure love. T’Pol was just as enraptured by it as she was terrified by it. She put herself at great risk to do this. His emotions could crush her. She would dance the edge of sanity forever if she took this path with him.
She could do it to have the elixir of his adoration. She had run from him for too long. She was ready to accept everything he’d been offering her for years. She had lived on a ledge and was finally ready to leap into the air.
Trip’s other hand cupped her face much as she cradled his. Did he understand how precipitously close they were to being in position for a mind-meld? Was that what he wanted? Their minds and souls tangled as one?
“Ashayam,” Trip repeated softly, and T’Pol shivered involuntarily at the word. She let her eyes drift shut.
“Please tell me you mean this,” he whispered desperately.
She opened her eyes to gaze at him, his face mere inches from her own. His hesitance was her fault… she had taught him caution with her past behavior. She would have to amend for the pain she had caused him.
“I…” she tried to speak the words, struggled to put force behind her breath, but she could only mouth them. She breathed the endearment without sound. If he read it on her lips and it was never spoken aloud, it could be the secret of the night, given to Trip alone.
Trip beamed. “I love you, too,” he said lowly.
T’Pol’s mind was racing at warp speed. Faster than light without the metal husk of a ship to separate her from the kiss of starlight.
Trip lay down on his bunk and drew T’Pol down with him. She went willingly and curled up into his side, careful not to irritate his injuries. She laid her head comfortably on his chest and wrapped her arm around his waist. When Trip snaked his arm behind her back and pulled her tighter against him she tangled one of her legs between his.
As one, they sighed.
Sudden clarity and understanding came over T’Pol like a wave. This was the perfect peace she had been searching for all her life. Every restless, questioning, uncertain query that had ever plagued her soul was put at ease in Trip’s accepting embrace. She never knew before what she’d been seeking in all her trials and travels, but now she knew. This was it. Her home had been shielded behind the most frightening emotional hurdle she had ever known.
She had finally dared to leap and wondered why she had waited so long. Trip hugged her to him, more possessive than any Vulcan male could ever be. Trip would never need the blood fever to be upon him to kill and die for her.
“Ashayam, ” he breathed the endearment again.
He claimed her with that single word. She became his with alacrity. T’Pol snuggled comfortably against him. It was decided and done. The difficulties that lay before them when the morning came, the hardships they would face for loving one another as they did, were unavoidable but surmountable. Any obstacle would have to crumble before the absolute certainty of the vow they had forged tonight.
Come what may, he was hers and she was his.
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