The Thrill of the Hunt: STaD, September 2, 2015

Disclaimers:

  • Trip, T’Pol, and Star Trek: Enterprise belong to Paramount, even if Paramount has forgotten all about them…

  • This is an extrapolated story, taking place in the days before the Season 3 Xindi story arc, and containing mild potential spoilers for S4E20; “Demons” and S4E21; “Terra Prime”.

The Thrill of the Hunt

 

“Just keeping in practice,” he murmured, slipping three palmed credit chits into his pouch, He slid into the booth and scanned the datapadd.He brushed his hand over the vials to be sure they were still secure. The tingling in his fingers had nothing to do with the chill of their frozen contents.

It was the thrill of the hunt. Even back when he would have starved, if he hadn’t learned the pickpocket’s art, it was there. It’s what kept him coming back, again and again, despite the risk of losing his career and enough credits that he wouldn’t ever have to go empty-bellied and homeless.

He could never quite let go of.the thrill of the hunt Even deep-space exploration, or the possibility of a suicide mission, couldn’t compare.

That’s what brought him here, with these precious vials, to this dive bar in Toledo, Ohio. He’d never been here, and he’d never come back; that was part of the deal.

He didn’t ask questions, either. That was a good way to lose thish gig, and the thrill that went with it. No business of his why Josiah’s cohorts wanted these samples, or any of the others. No business of his what made the Chief Engineer and the First Officer’s genetic material so valuable. It was his business to get past the Denobulan doctor, and deliver what was ordered. That was the thrill. He could get in and out of the cryo storage in less than a minute, now, and he had ideas to shave another twelve seconds off that time, if he was asked to make another pass.

He was still untangling the delivery. That was the sticking point, and it rankled him that there might be nothing he could do about it. He’d managed to send one order back to Earth with a packet Amabassador Soval himself had consented to carry. No one even suspected that one of the items in that packet contained DNA from every member of Enterprise’s command crew, painstakingly gathered and preserved.

He didn’t know if they’d want anything more from him. They’d narrowed the scope each time, and wanted more specific material. It had been down to Trip and T’Pol, this last time. Was that all they wanted, or would they focus on another two, the next time? Always a male and a female, or was the gender simply accidental? He hoped so – women only made up a third of the crew, so, if they were looking for bigendered pairings, he’d run out before he’d gotten through most of the men, if they didn’t want repeats…

But this new mission might bring new opportunities. It was rumored that the Captain was negotiating hard for a military assault team. That would mean new blood, maybe even a few more women…

All conjecture,but it was a way to pass the time, while he waited, and he knew he’d look like he was brooding . Thrill of the hunt.

“Hey, baby. You look lonely – want some company?”

He looked up, and there was the signal, red, white, and blue buttons, in sequence, on the mules wide-open neckline. He grinned – she was what his mother would call ‘a working girl’. If he played this right, he might get to make another kind of delivery tonight, too.

“Yeah, baby, I’m lonely. Can I buy you a drink?” He held out a hand, which she took, and let him pull her down into the booth beside him.

He took her order and tapped it into the padd along with a refresher for himself, enjoying the way her generous curves fit against him, and noting the tiny swell at her hip where she kept her credit chits. Thrill of the hunt….

She didn’t ask about the goods – no, that would come later, when they were alone. He figured she’d tuck the vials into her large handbag, and no one would see anything more than a paid sex worker leaving one satisfied traveler, and moving on to the next.

They drank, chatting about nothing, flirting and touching, getting more brazen as they went along. She was talented; when her hand crept into his lap, he knew he was going to enjoy carrying this hunt through to the end.She was pretty, and personable, and she was a professional.

It was like dancing, or picking pockets. She added the thrill of another hunt to what might have been a simple transfer of goods.Time to take this hunt somewhere more private, and glut on the spoils…

“Wanna come back to my room, love?” He toyed with a credit chit, and spoke just loudly enough to be heard by those at neighboring tables, or passing by. Even if it wasn’t necessary, he was going to play it as if it was deadly serious, for the practice, and the thrill.

He slurred his words as if he’d had a few more than was wise; likely everyone would think he was just another businessman about to learn that liquor and working girls didn’t mix. An everyday event, in places like this, not even worth noticing.

She smiled, and played with his fingers, pulling them to her low-cut top, stroking them over the bared upper swell of her breasts as she urged him to drop the chit into her cleavage. “Nothing I’d like more, baby, and it’s going to be a hell of a night!”

He led her to his room, happy that the samples were frozen and in a stasis tube. He only had twelve more hours before he was due back on Enterprise to prepare for the Xindi mission, and he intended to use every one he could in this thrilling second hunt.

Questions and Answers: STaD September, Day One

Disclaimers:

  • Trip, T’Pol, and Star Trek: Enterprise belong to Paramount, even if Paramount has forgotten all about them…

  • This is an extrapolated story, occuring after the events in S4E20 “Demons” and S4E21; “Terra Prime”. Spoilers for those episodes; also for S4E19: “Bound”, and S3E15:Harbinger.

This story is rated PG-13 for nudity and mild suggestiveness.

Proceed at reader’s discretion.

Questions and Answers

Trip stared at the wardrobe, then stretched his index and middle fingers out, together, and ran them lightly over the Starfleet insignia on an untilitarian jumpsuit, then its twin on one of T’Pol’s sleek form-ritting outfits, and Jon started to wonder if he was going to try to fit into that the way he had her underthings. But Trip’s fingers kept moving, along the row, touching everything, as though he needed that to confirm where they were going, all the way to the back.

He pulled out a set of Vulcan robes, and Jon recognized them – the ones T’Pol had worn every time he’d seen her at the Consulate, and whenever she needed to present a Vulcan image. He wondered if she just had the one set; then he wondered if Trip had the answer to that question. Never mind; he wasn’t jealous. Just – concerned.

Trip drew the robes into his arms, his eyes closing as he brought them close to his nose to inhale deeply. “Awww, hell, pepperpot….” A tear leaked out of the corner of his eye; he didn’t seem to notice it.

“Trip – tell me what happened to T’Pol. Jon was surprised that he sounded angry. But he pretended not to notice the way Trip was sniffing T’Pol’s clothes, and added, “If I have to, Commander, I’l make that an order.”

Trip opened his eyes as another tear fell. This time he lifted those paired fingers, caught it up, and stared at his wet fingers. “I don’t wish to cry,” he said, in a tone that suggested he wasn’t paying any attention to Jon.

The door chime sounded; Trip jumped, eyes widening. “Don’t let them – “

“Come in,” Jon said, watching his friend, and trying to figure out what the hell was going on here. Did Trip have what T’Pol did? But she hadn’t seemed irrational; she was weak and clearly miserable, but definitely herself..

Could be aitffecting Trip differently, because he was human?

“These aren’t your quarters, Cap’n -”

“They’re not yours, either. And yet here you are, and so are all your clothes – would you care to explain that, Commander Tucker.”

“No.” Trip turned to the door. “She’s gone, Doc- disappeared, right in front of me – couldn’t stop it, wasn’t fast enough to go with her -”

“I don’t think he’s coherent.” Jon said. Trip reached over to drop T’Pol’s robes on the bed, and then turned back to the wardrobe, removing a second set – he’d seen Trip in these, that night in the Captain’s Mess, and at their baby’s memorial. He’d wondered, both times, where and when Trip had come to own a set of Vulcan robes, but something kept him from asking. Truth is, he wasn’t sure he wanted to know.

“May I scan you, Commander?” Phlox was treating Tripthe way he related to the very private Vulcan woman whose quarters they were in. “While I run my scans, perhaps it would be efficient, if you will inform me precisely what happened.”

“Cap’n – can you assist me? I don’t quite seem to have the knack; usually, she helps me – damn damn damn – who the hell took her, and where is she?”

“Perhaps a deep breath, Commander.” Phlox took advantage of the moment to watch both the scanner and Trip, so Jon went as slowly as he could, to give the doctor more time. “I need to know exactly what the circumstances of the disappearance were.”

Trip breathed deeply and smoothly. He was calmer than usual, and less animated. “We were on the bed, trying some neuropressure – “

“While you were naked?”

“Captain, please. We need the information; that detail isn’t relevant. Please, Commander, go on.”

“The K’Vortah posture was providing some relief; but -she – was too weak to sit up straight. We were arranging the cushions and pillows to facilitate proper positioning – and then – the smell, the smell – too much – “

Trip retched and sagged; Jon held him up and pivoted him to the end of the bed as his knees gave out. Phlox passed the cushions and pillows, and Jon got Trip propped up, and the bowl back under his chil just before the nevitable happened.

“What the hell’s going on with him, Phlox?”

”A moment, Captain.” When Trip finished, more or less, Phlox asked, “Commander – were you involved in a meld when the separation occurred?”

“A meld? Yeah, you could call it that, I guess, in a manner of speaking. Not exactly what it was, but close enough….you gotta get her back here, Cap’n, before it’s too late!” He grabbed at Jon’s arms, his nails digging in, and he was shaking and staring. Phlox moved in with a hypo; Trip didn’t seem to notice, or to really even be here. “Dangerous – too dangerous, if the smells are right, and they learn the truth -”

The hypo hissed and Trip went limp. Phlox helped Jon settle him against the cushions. “Better he remain here, at least until he wakens, Captain.” There was a note of gravity in his tone that suggested he had an idea what was going on here, and that it was serious.

“Why? And what does whether they were melding have to do with this?”

Phlox held up his scanner, and touched two patterns on its screen. “This is Commander Tucker’s brain scan. The upper pattern is the Commander’s; it shows agitation and hyperactivity, but no obvious damage.”

“Then what the hell is this?” Jon pointed to the second pattern, which twisted into and then away from Trip’s, then back again. He had an idea,but he wanted Phlox to tell him something he liked better.

Phlox didn’t cooperate. “That pattern, Captain, belongs to Commander T’Pol.”

Promises and Choices: #StaD for May 31, 2015

Disclaimers:

This story is rated PG-13 for sexual suggestiveness.

Promises and Choices

The man stood in one of the many sheltered places and stared out at the windswept plain. It had been his habit to come here, weekly, since his return to his homeworld. He had not realized how deeply a place could settle into one, become, against all logic, a part of oneself.

But it was so of the Fire Plains. They were a part of him, and he of them, and here he found a solace and grounding that eluded him, else. He came here to ponder his people; those who had lived and died untold ages ago – no, that was not true, for the statuary’s ages had been long since determined and verified in 17 disparate ways. There was no doubt that they had been created 15 centuries prior, nor that they’d eroded into something very different, perhaps, than what their unnamed creators had intended.

But Kov found comfort in allowing himself to think there was no means of determining their age, just as the sculptors had disappeared into the sands of history. It was a delusion that wouldn’t be easily suffered on this world, but he had lived nearly a decade away from it, learning of the wider universe, of other species who thought and felt and lived differently, and of himself.

So he came weekly to the Fire Plains, at a time when they were most often deserted, and there he pondered the nature of his soul, his passion, and whether he was willing, still, to be the hidden t’hy’la of a man who would not claim him openly, wouldn’t even admit the nature of his desires.

Kov stood in his favored spot, and confronted once more his emotions regarding the man he would claim most eagerly. Time was growing short. Soon, within the next several years, those of their age would be undergoing the pon farr. He couldn’t leave it to chance, or to Koss to choose, indefinitely. He must assure he had a suitable mate; he was certain it couldn’t be a woman – he had never had the slightest pull in that direction.

He was uncertain it could be anyone but Koss. Or anyone but him, for Koss.

He spotted two figures moving out among the sculptures. They were too distant to make out the specifics of identity, other than that there seemed to be a slender, graceful female, and a larger male, lighter in coloring than was common. Something about the way they moved among the statues, lingering, their bodies seeming at times to – to merge – spoke of a freedom rarely publicly displayed.

Kov was certain that they were a pairbonded couple, perhaps just beyond their first pon farr, or readying for it, when Vulcans were likeliest to forget the proprieties that surrounded physical contact, and to respond instead in a more instinctive manner, as they Burned and forged their bond.

Perhaps there was an impropriety in watching, when they couldn’t know they were being observed; the position of the sun, and his location in a shadowed nook on the side of the cliffs overlooking the plains, would make him invisible, and he was too distant for even a Vulcan female to scent, even if he had not been downwind of them. However, Kov found something very agreeable in their freedom, their connection, something he longed for with his t’hy’la, who had thus far denied it, except in private.

Kov watched, as they explored, and watched as they made their way to the cliffs- and stood outlined at a viewpoint –

They were close enough now that he could see them, smell the stomach-twisting scent of female desire.

Close enough that he knew them. He’d met them, four years ago, on their ship. Trip Tucker was a skilled engineer, more intuitive and inquisitive than any other being Kov had ever met. He’d found the human as fascinating as Tolaris had found T’Pol, the quiet but intense young woman said to have, as an infant, dared to touch a flame, and who had served seven months, already, as a member of this human crew.

She was also the former Promised of his t’hy’la.

Tolaris had claimed her with jealous insistence, and it wasn’t until after he forced a meld on her, and Kov, as the most powerful melder on the Valkness, had been called to determine the extent of the crime, that he had learned her truth, and Trip’s –

She remained with Enterprise because she was Awakened, and couldn’t or wouldn’t leave the human engineer. It was likely, given that Trip knew about marriage customs on Vulcan, that he’d learned from her. With his insistence that regret was not an emotion anyone should experience if there was a choice, it was possible he had some part in her choice not to honor her Promising arrangement.

If so, Trip had been a better friend than he knew, and Kov had hoped, since, that he and T’Pol might find their way to one another, although it would certainly be difficult, given how much differed, between their two species. Difficult, but the connection between them was strong, and would likely grow stronger, if they continued to live and work in such close proximity to one another.

“Marry him?!” The exclamation, human and uncontrolled, rang out across the space between.

Kov knew the prohibitions against listening to private conversation. But, as they spoke, he moved slowly closer- so that, by the time T’Pol’s apology was made, and rejected, and the engineer walked off, leaving her alone, he was close enough to hear something he had never before heard – the sounds of a Vulcan woman sobbing.

The Vulcan woman Koss would marry, had sought to marry, and without telling him anything of his plans.

He wondered if he ought to approach her, if there was anything he could say that would comfort her, in this collision of a Vulcan life, and her own desires. He knew the nature of that conflict intimately well.

While Kov was still considering it, Trip came back, running, despite the heat, despite the dangers a human faced on this world. He didn’t stop until he reached the place where she stood, staring out at the plains and into her soul, tears still streaming down her face, which was turned away, although she must hear him.

“Oh, pepperpot,” Trip said, or perhaps Kov misunderstood, through his labored breathing. Foolish, and perhaps deadly, for one of his species to run so, beneath the sun, which was only slightly past zenith.

“You came back.” T’Pol spoke in a choked whisper, as she turned, quivering visibly. Her arousal odor ought to be more tolerable, here on the open air, but it seemed to overwhelm all other scents. It was a message any Vulcan male could read; could a human male do the same?

“Sorry – I left. Guess I could get – a hell of a lot better at – taking bad news.” Human fingers lifted in an ouz’hesta – Kov was fascinated, but not surprised, that this man would have learned the manner that was suitable to express affection, on this world. He had been curious about Vulcan ways four years ago; it seemed he had considerably greater motivation now – because, judging from the woman’s pheremone secretions, they were consummated mates.

T’Pol studied his fingers for a breath or two, then met them with her own, and they drew in a breath, together. For an instant, as Trip sank to one knee before her, their fingers joined, hers caressing their way through the first posture, Kov thought he felt a resonance.

“Marry me, pepperpot. They want you married, get married. To me, T’Pol, not to that guy who came to your door to coerce you.”

“You would marry me, Trip?” There was deep emotion in her voice. That, and her earlier sobbing, spoke of a woman who was, perhaps, in some sense, what she had once labeled the crew of the Valkness – V’Tosh Katur, a Vulcan without logic, at least as regarded the compelling blonde human. Kov felt no distaste for her compromised reason – what else should she be, with her t’hy’la?

“Well, you’re Cinderella, and I’m the Prince, remember? I married you in another timeline, didn’t I?” Kov wondered if these were things she understood, experiences they had shared. The human breathed for a moment, and Kov remembered what he’d said about regret. He was wise, and heeded his own advice. “T’Pol, you’re so deep inside me. We’re a team. I’d be honored to marry you- and, nothing between us would have to change, if you didn’t want it to. You can keep your own quarters, and live your life as you see fit. Let me help you out of this.”

T’Pol’s unsettled emotional state evident in the small shifting motions of her body, motions children were taught to still. Vulcan children – from what Kov had seen on Enterprise, if human children were taught such skills, they seemed to give it up in adulthood.

“Vulcan law would penalize me for any marriage contract entered into while my betrothal is still extant. By removing their objections to the pairing, Koss’s parents have renewed the obligation entered into when he and I were children.”

Kov watched her, fascinated – he’d never seen any Vulcan move so; there was something about it that echoed the kinetic nature of her mate, who turned half away, then back, then used his free hand to wipe at his mouth and through his golden hair.

Kov noted that he never broke the contact made by their fingers, as T’Pol’s danced through the second pose now, the quiver of arousal moving up her arms, into her shoulders. Her scent was thick in the air; he repressed an urge to cough, or move away, because he wanted, perhaps needed, to know what would be decided.

Would Trip succeed in convincing her? Would that change anything, for him?

“And you don’t have an opt-out option?” The human echoed her pose, then waited. His manner suggested he had an understanding of the nature and significance of such caresses.

“No.” But the young woman flinched, and Kov was nearly certain that she was considering the challenge, as he was.

“Are you going to be OK?” Trip rose to his feet, but maintained the contact, as T’Pol began to deepen the ouz’hesta to third pose, her fingers daring to move up over his hand, in a gesture inappropriate for any public place. “I mean, you won’t – ”

“I no longer need trellium to access my emotions, Trip.” Kov didn’t know what trellium was, but he understood that her mate was concerned for her well-being, and that she was not precisely telling him that she would be well.

He was certain that Trip knew it, as well, by the way he watched her, by the paired fingers of his other hand, with stroked down her cheek in an intimate gesture of affection that was unacceptable anywhere but in the privacy of one’s home. Koss had touched him so, last night, when they were together.

“What is this Koss guy going to think about – about who you are, now? How you are? I’m guessing he won’t be expecting a wife who yells at him when he pisses her off. Not that he’d have a clue what ‘pissed off’, means – or how short a temper you can have, sometimes, pepperpot.” He smiled at that, and the fingers not engaged in the ouz’hesta slipped beneath her chin, lifting it slightly.

“I attempted to – to warn him. He wasn’t interested in learning specifics. Therefore, he assumes the – risk.”

Human laughter punctured the quiet of the Fire Plains. “Serves him right. I hope he pisses you off plenty, then.” Trip drew his arm back toward his body, slowly, their joined fingers bringing T’Pol to him, yet still allowing her the space to break away, and maintain her distance. But the woman’s quiver had moved into her chest, now, and she made no attempt to resist as Trip brought her against his body, wrapping his other arm around her waist, curling over the swell of her hip.

Kov had never seen another couple embrace, so. T’Pol had grown daring, in the time since he had last seen her. It pleased him that his Chosen would no doubt learn that he’d contracted to marry a woman who wouldn’t comply to the traditional role of a Vulcan wife, if such actions defined her typical behavior. Perhaps, she wouldn’t even be acceptable.

Kov wondered if that would concern her, or be agreeable to her. Certainly, she had been pressured; the intensity of her interaction with her Chosen was the proof that she was not agreeing out of any personal interest in joining herself to Koss. She had spoken of negotiations, and of leaving again, with Enterprise.

Did Koss agree to her terms in that, with the intention of continuing their private relationship as though nothing had changed, between them? Could he truly believe that Kov would accept that, when he’d been willing to spend years away, because Koss wouldn’t terminate the Promising to this woman, this woman who was now preparing to formalize the pairing to benefit her mother?

As he watched his human friend holding the Vulcan woman, heard the sounds of their lips connecting in a way that was, at once, alien and intimate, Kov knew that he couldn’t go to Koss tonight, as they had planned. Couldn’t share the evening meal, and what would follow, without this interaction between Trip and T’Pol in his mind.

Something rare and beautiful was being taken from the man and the woman. Kov didn’t need to know the specifics of their connection, or the details of how humans pairbonded, to see and feel it in the way T’Pol’s head sank down to her mate’s shoulder, the way he applied neuropressure to her neck and face, the way she accepted his chaotic human emotions without any visible discomfort.

“When, T’Pol?” The question burst out, after a time of silence.

“When?” The woman tipped her head up to study her mate’s face, as though reading clues in its expression.

“When do you marry this guy?”

“It is customary for me to visit Koss at dawn, to inform him of my acceptance and readiness to formalize our parents’ arrangement. The rest of the day is traditionally spent in meditation, and, the following day, the ceremony will be held.”

“Can you wait a day to tell him?” It was the note that Kov remembered well, one that suggested that the human had an idea.

“What purpose is there in delaying, Trip?”

“To give us just one more day. Something to treasure, and hold onto. Something for when this is too much.”

The young woman made no comment on the illogic of his statement, or the emotion that clearly motivated it. “I will wait a day, Trip.” Her hand moved, with certainty, down the midline of her mate’s body, but her gaze never left his face, even when his breath caught. “It would be most illogical to waste a moment, when there is so much to treasure, and to hold to, and our time is finite.” Her whisper was throaty, and the man moaned softly, his desire scent rising to commingle with hers.

“Right here – out in the open? Where anyone can see? You sure about this, pepperpot?”

“I’ve never been so certain of anything, Trip. If I must live as a Vulcan wife, let me first have the abandonment of these hours with you – to be with you – as we are, as we have been, as I would choose to be, if things were not as they are. Let us – as you might say – ravage, relish, and revel, for every breath we are free to do so – beginning with this one…”

‘Awww, hell, woman -you’re damned irresistible when you go all citrus and sandalwood, when you quiver and get handsy….just wish it didn’t ever have to end….”

“Trip.”

“Yeah?”

“Be here, now,” T’Pol admonished. “Otherwise, we are wasting time, and it is currently our most precious resource.”

“Yes, ma’am.” They were sinking together down to the sandy floor of their vewpoint, heedless of any possibility that they might be observed. Were all human couplings this spontaneous, this unconcerned with discretion? Had she changed so much, or was the woman he’d met on the human ship only a mask, a camouflage to hide the untamed spirit of the infant who had dared to touch the flame?

“T’Pol?”

“Yes?”

“Shut up and kiss me.”

“I intend to do far more than that.”

Kov slipped away, not wanting to intrude further upon this interaction. As he made his way, careful to be silent lest she hear him, he considered what he had witnessed.

T’Pol would marry Koss, because it was a means to helping her mother, although Kov suspected that, ultimately, any help rendered would be soon enough undone, given T’Les’s assumed involvement with a controversial group. But perhaps T’Pol, who had been occupied elsewhere, knew nothing of the political and social unrest, or her mother’s role in it.

The marriage wouldn’t be a sexual one, unless Koss desired her at pon farr. All indications were that he wouldn’t; Kov was intimately aware of the direction his desires followed. Women had never held appeal to either of them. It was what had brought them together.

Koss wouldn’t demand that she be monogamous – certainly not once she returned to the human starship. It would be possible for she and Trip to continue their relationship – even the sexual aspects of it.

No. He was thinking in strictly Vulcan terms, but Trip Tucker wasn’t Vulcan. He remembered a conversation in the Mess Hall of Enterprise, where Trip and Lieutenant Reed had seemed -distressed – by the thought that Vulcan males need mate only once every seven years. Did he know of pon farr, now? He hadn’t then; of that, Kov was certain.

Perhaps, the human couldn’t separate the fact of her marriage from his own obvious emotional attachment to her. A species that mated so eagerly and frequently, without a life-or-death imperative driving the mating cycle, might not see the necessity for the legal security of a mate in Vulcan society.

Did Trip wish to marry T’Pol himself, as he had offered to do? Did he have reasons other than to spare her the marriage to Koss.? W Could a human and a Vulcan find enough common ground upon which to build a stable and sustaining union? Could they form a bond?

Had they, already?

What would it mean, to T’Pol, to marry Koss, if she was already bound to Trip?

Would she call the challenge? Could Trip survive it, if she did?

As he left the Fire Plains in his aircar, Kov debated whether he should take some action, to secure his right to his Chosen, to protect the right of his friend and the woman he clearly desired – the woman Koss would marry, in three days, if there was no change in the current circumstances.

Perhaps she wouldn’t call the challenge. She wouldn’t risk her mate’s life, Kov was certain of that. More, if her intent was to offer her mother some protection, then she was obligated to complete the Promising. It wouldn’t be logical to call the challenge.

But she clearly thought now in ways that weren’t solely logical. She’d found emotion, had apparently sought it out. She’d become more like his former shipmates than she might think.

He would speak to Koss. That much was certain. There could be no delaying, if his Chosen intended to marry T’Pol, and hadn’t informed him. It was his stubborn refusal to speak his truth to his own parents, and thereby negate the Promising, that had led Kov to join the crew of the Valkness, and he might still be with it, if not for the evidence Tolaris presented that there was indeed a danger in such emotional abandon, and if not forhis father’s terminal illness.

They’d renewed their connection, and it had seemed to be agreeable to them both. But that Koss would choose now to pursue marriage with T’Pol, and not speak to him about it, was proof that it was not what Kov had thought it to be.

Would it be intrusive, to offer himself to T’Pol as a potential champion? What would Koss choose, if Kov stood against him in the challenge, if the choice was to abandon the marriage, or face his own Chosen in the battle to the death?

There was a part of Kov that needed to know, and another that needed to simply believe that Koss would choose him, openly and willingly.

But Koss had never done that, and T’Pol, who was, at this moment, claiming her own Chosen openly and willingly on the Fire Plains below, would marry him to save her mother’s career. Her intention was admirable, logical, and Vulcan. Could a human understand? Could a Vulcan convince her that the situation was not as she had likely been told, or not wholly so?

Should he try? He had been clear, when he left Vulcan. If Koss would follow tradition, and his parents’ will, even when it was opposed to the reality of his being, then he must live with the consequences of his compliance. It was no different, now. If Koss wasn’t willing to state that he was drawn to males rather than females, thereby securing the right to choose a mate more in keeping with his needs, and freeing T’Pol to do the same, there was no point in any further connection between them.

Kov, not as bound as most Vulcans to emotional repression, wept in the privacy of his aircar, then returned to his father’s home to meditate. He could take no action, until T’Pol announced her intentions to Koss; it would violate her privacy to do so, and reveal to her and to Trip that he had watched them in a private encounter.

So he would wait until zenith, two days hence – and then, he would speak to Koss, and learn whether they were still Chosen, or whether he would, by necessity, need to Choose another.

“A Watched Kettle”: #StaD for May 22, 2015 (finally!)

Disclaimers:

A Watched Kettle”

She’s reading, deeply absorbed in the handwritten journal of her second foremother T’Mir, when the comm signals a private, privileged communication from the Vulcan High Command. The tone announces that this is a highest level clearance, one which would circumvent normal ship’s systems.

There is only one logical conclusion.

T’Pol is aware that she doesn’t want to answer it; as though her refusal will change the fact of the call, and what it means. But, as she once said to Commander Tucker, what she wants is irrelevant. The needs of the many outweigh the desires of the one.

She speaks briefly with Minister K’Evel, certain that her manner is clearly betraying her unease, but unable to repress the physical responses, or the emotional discord that triggers them. Minister K’Evel gives no indication of it, but there is no way she’s missed the lack of control. Would it be beneficial or detrimental to allow her to believe that it is a result of living and working with humans?

The communication is thankfully brief, and, once it’s concluded, T’Pol moves away from her work station. Perhaps it would be wisest to begin reviewing the encrypted information that accompanied the transmission, but she will admit to herself that she is agitated at the thought of doing so. Instead she brings forth her table, her cushions, and her candle, and attempts to meditate.

Each time her eyes close, however, there is a sense of – of something. She can’t name the emotions she’s experiencing. Nothing in her training has prepared her to do so. She has been fascinated by the diverse range of words the humans she lives and serves with give to their emotional states; but she often doesn’t understand the emotions to which they are referring. Vulcan are conditioned, from infancy, to suppress emotion, to separate it from thought and action, rather than to label and define and allow it into every action and thought, as her human colleagues do.

Perhaps it would be useful to be a human now. A human could feel freely, and define the emotions. A human might also know how to deal with them. A human wouldn’t be compelled by duty to their world to pursue a fugitive they were frightened to pursue.

Frightened?

Yes.

T’Pol is frightened. She doesn’t want to find Menos, face the man who escaped her. She has no interest in returning a man who doesn’t wish to return to Vulcan and live a Vulcan life. Seventeen years ago, she had never met a human. Her perspective was different; she did her duty simply because it was her duty.

Now, she questions. What is wrong, in Menos’ desire to live freely? Is it so different than her refusal to return home to be Koss’s wife, to assume her role as an adult upon her world, produce a child, and ensure the continuation of the species, and the stability of her culture…

How is Menos different?

Why does she fear facing him, as though everything she knows, everything she’s built, will collapse, if she captures him?

She sits until she can’t deny that the effort at meditation is a failure, that she is only becoming more agitated. She attempts to return to T’Mir’s journal, then showers, although she already has, this evening, and then goes to the Mess Hall, refusing to admit to herself that she’s hoping Commander Tucker will be there, because he will surely notice her unease, and offer solace even if he doesn’t understand it, and she can’t speak about it.

But he isn’t here, and, although she lingers, staring out the window at the stars, he doesn’t come. She return to her quarters, and begins to review the materials she’s been sent. She is only marginally successful at disregarding the unsettled emotions that will not be repressed, or even suppressed.

**

She can’t restrain the agitation. It grows in her, as she alternately studies the material, rises to pace restlessly around her room, then studies until the fear – yes, she will call it fear, although she’s certain that it’s more complex than this. Never before has she been so iexplicably resistant to completing a mission, and T’Pol can’t ignore the fact that it was the mission to capture Menos – this same man – that had led to her resignation from the Ministry of Security. She’s never completely understood that choice; only that it was necessary, that she could no longer perform the duties she’d been required to attend to.

Can she, now?

T’Pol stares into the flame, and sees only the shape of emotions she can’t fathom, emotions that are alive and moving in her, twisting her perceptions –

How do humans live, with this as their normal state of being?

Can she, if these unnamed and uncontrollable emotions won’t abate, won’t be repressed or even suppressed?

Meditation is not helping. It is 0530, still over 3 hours before her duty shift is scheduled to begin, and there is no logic in taking a third shower – but there is a solace she can’t deny in the hot water – something she never experienced before coming to Enterprise. She stands under the powerful spray, illogically willing it to drive the unwanted unnamed, uncontrolled emotion from her…

She stands until the alert says that she’s in danger of exceeding her hot water ration, and then prepares for duty. Perhaps it will help to speak to Captain Archer, to extend him the human courtesy of informing him, before he receives the call from Admiral Forrest, that Enterprise is going to be diverted and placed at the disposal of the Vulcan High Command. There is little she’s at liberty to say to him, and less she wants to discuss.

Perhaps, once she has informed him, she will be able to fully commit to the mission, and suppress the her unease…

Decided, she requests the meeting, but it’s awkward, and only increases the unsettled energy she’d hoped to alleviate. Captain Archer is displeased; he is illogically sensitive to what he sees as manipulation by her government. In human fashion, he focuses his displeasure on her. Twenty minutes after she leaves his Ready Room, she receives a message that she is relieved of duty until her mission, ‘whatever the hell it is’, is complete, and she’s been properly debriefed.

Relieved of duty, with nothing to focus on but the matter of retrieving Menos, T’Pol feels the upswell of emotions she can’t name, hints of memories that won’t resolve into her thoughts, where she can examine them. Surrounded by eighty-two other sentient beings, T’Pol retreats to her quarters, and, for the first time since she arrived here, feels completely alone.

**

Trip watches T’Pol while pretending not to – either he’s gotten really good at that game these last two years, or she’s too upset, and too busy trying to hide it, that she doesn’t notice. The way she’s hugging herself, seeming like she’s trying to hold herself together, and vanish in the mass of larger, blue-jumpsuited male bodies, says it’s not his covert Vulcan-watching skills.

She’s not just quiet, the way she usually is- she’s damned near silent. Withdrawn. Almost as though none of this has anything at all to do with her, rather than being her secret mission.

What the hell are they making her do, and why does she look like it’s a damned suicide run?

Why doesn’t anyone else seem to notice just how upset she is, how strained and miserable she looks? Can’t they tell how much this is bothering her? How ‘agitated’ she is?

But no one seems to. Trip pulls a quip or two out of his witticism toolkit, partly to shift the focus, partly to see if he can get anything more to go on than the non-information they’re getting from the Cap’n, and the non-anything from her. Mostly, though, to let her know that he’s here, and that he sees her. Sees that she’s -scared?

Cap’n asks her what she’ll need. “Cold weather gear, restraints, and phase pistols,” she says, and now Trip knows she’s scared. He’s scared, too, even while he covers for her by exchanging glances with Travis. Her voice is low and rough with a quaver that says she’s feeling way too much to be exactly rational. Finally, her eyes cut his way – but they never make it to his face.

Little Miss I’m a Vulcan; I’m Not Scared can pretend if she needs to. But Trip Tucker knows better, even if no one else does.

If only he knew what to do to make her feel better…or how to get her out of this mission…

**

She’s standing at the stovetop, staring into the steam from a whistling kettle that ought to have set this pretty, sensitive ears of hers on high alert. Instead, she’s just staring, her eyes vacant, as though she’s not seeing anything in the galley.

She’s shaking so hard she’s got her hands braced uncomfortably close to the heating element beneath the kettle, but she doesn’t seem to notice that, either.

The way she’s acting is starting to scare the hell out of him, too, and he tries again to break her out of it, before she hurts.

“It must not be true for kettles -”

She actually jumps, making a startled little squeak like a human woman who’s just seen a mouse, and she whirls into a defensive crouch, hands coming up to guard her face and belly, one elbow knocking into the tea mug he hadn’t seen till now, and the sound of it shattering against the deck plating makes her breath come hard and fast, her chest heaving, her eyes wide and still not here, not really.

“Hey, sorry – I didn’t mean to scare you. Just trying to make a joke – guess I figure that if I can tickle your funny bone – “

“’Funny bone’?” she echoes, and, even though it sounds involuntary, her breath starts to even out a little. She frowns and shakes her head. “Too loud -”

“I’ll buy that,” Trip agrees. “If I come over there and turn that off, you’re not gonna drop me, are you? Cause, for a small person, T’Pol, you pack a helluva wallop…”

She looks confused, her gaze flicking to him, then the screaming kettle, the door, the mug on the floor. “No,” she says, finally, in a faint voice – and her legs start to fold up under her –

“Hey – take it easy,” he says, jumping in to catch hold of one of her arms. Damn, she’s shaking so hard it’s almost like she’s in shock. What the hell does her damned government want her to do, anyway? “Lean on me. I’ll get you to a stool, okay?”

“Yes.”

On the way past, Trip shuts off the stove, and the kettle promptly goes from an angry shriek to a lower-pitched cry, and T’Pol sighs in relief, and leans into him. She doesn’t say anything; he thinks maybe she’s still more somewhere else than she is here. He wants to know what the hell’s gotten her into this state, but this isn’t the way to find out. Besides, with the way she and the Cap’n were acting earlier, it’s damned near sure to be ‘classified’. Wouldn’t be fair to try to get it out of her this way.

“What were you trying to do, test the theory? If so, I think you got the answer.” He chatters to give himself something to focus on besides how good she smells, and how natural it feels to have her weight against him like this. He guides her to a stool, and gets her settled.

“Theory?” She answers, but there’s something hollow in the word, like she’s only going through the motions here, and most of her is busy with something else. Like that damned secret mission.

“You know – well, maybe you don’t. ‘A watched pot never boils.’”

“That’s illogical. The pot would not boil; it’s the contents that are intended to do so. Nor would being observed affect the process.”

“Ahh, so you are still in there. It’s not talking about the science of boiling points, T’Pol. It means that if you keep watching and waiting for something to happen, it seems to take a hell of a lot longer than if you just- you know – went about your business.”

“The water in this kettle boiled despite my observation.”

Trip went over to it, slipped on an oven mitt, and lifted the kettle. “I’ll say it did. If you still want tea, I’ll start some more. There’s not even close to enough left here for a cup.” He doesn’t mention that she must have been standing there for a long time, for the kettle to be so close to empty.

“I wasted water – “

“No you didn’t. The galley’s got humidity sensors. When it gets steamy, the extra vapors are collected and returned to the ship-s”

“You don’t understand. The first reality every Vulcan child learns is that water is the most precious resource. It must never be wasted.”

“That’s the first thing you learn? Before gravity, even?”

“Yes. Vulcan is a desert world. There are very few bodies of open water; it must be drawn from beneath the surface.”

“So that’s why you can go days without – I’ve always wondered about that. Mind if I ask why you didn’t turn this off? “ He doesn’t look at her while he fills the kettle with enough tea for two; she won’t ask, but he;s got the feeling she needs not to be so alone, so isolated, while she wrestles with whatever this mission was.

Are they sending her off to hunt down a serial killer? No, somehow he can’t imagine that phasing her in the least. This is something else.

“I was watching the steam. It reminded me of – of home.” He voice is so soft, he can barely hear her., and he’s sure she was about to say something different.

He doesn’t let on, though. Instead, he gets the small broom and dustpan Chef keeps handy, and cleans up the broken pottery, The smell of loose leaf chamomile wafts up, mingling with the scent of T’Pol on the air, and saves him needing to ask what she’s drinking.

“Wanna know something? Sometimes, I borrow Porthos from the Cap’n. We’ve all changed some, out here, but a dog is still a dog, no matter where he is – or at least, Porthos hasn’t forgotten he’s an Earth beagle. I take him down to the cargo bay and let him sniff out bits of cheese- maybe don’t tell the Cap’n that part, OK? Beagles, you see, are famous for their noses – and that sound they make, too. It just makes me feel better, when I’m a little homesick, to play with a dog again.” She doesn’t say anything, but, when he stands up to dump the mess into the resequencing bin, he takes a quick peek, and she seems a bit calmer, anyway.

He doesn’t have to wait long; the kettle was close was boiling by the time he gets to the end of the cleanup. He ducks out, grabs two mugs, gets back just as the kettle starts to sing. He lifts it before it can assault her ears again, and fixes their tea while she watches.

“I didn’t know you experienced homesickness.” She sounds a hell of a lot better, like he’d given her something else to focus on, and she needs that right now.

Trip shrugs. “I love Earth. Left a lot of people I love back there. My folks, my big brother and baby sister, some really good friends…thing is, I love space, too. This is where I want to be, but it doesn’t mean I don’t miss where I’ve been.” He brings her the tea. “I saw some carrot cake out in the serving case. I’m going to grab it. I think there was some salad, and I know Chef keeps plomik broth handy – you want something?”

She shakes her head. “I’m not hungry.”

“You didn’t come to breakfast, T’Pol – or lunch, or dinner. Even you have to eat – I know enough science to know that herbivores like you need to eat more often than us omnivores, not less.”

“I’m not hungry,” she says again, a little more emphatically. A pause. “But I will have a piece of cake.” She looks up at him with lost eyes, eyes that seem to beg for understanding, or maybe absolution for what she’s about to do. Other than maybe Phlox, Trip’s the only one aboard who knows how sugars affect her, that having a slice of cake ois about the same as having a few stiff drinks, for her.

“All right,” he tells her. “You just sit tight. I’ll be right back -”

“I prefer to sit in the Mess Hall, where we may look out the window.”

“I’m game. Need a hand?”

“No.”

She sits at the table closest to the window, and Trip sets down his tea, then goes back to the serving case for two slices of cake. “Before you eat this, I want to tell you something.”

“Yes, Commander?

“Just that I’m not going to ask you about – well, about your mission. Not that I don’t want to know what’s it is that’s got you so scared -”

“I don’t experience -”

“Save it for the rest of the crew, T’Pol. You and I both know that you can feel just as much as any of us, so there’s no point in denying this one’s got you nervous. I’m not gonna ask, but I do want to tell you – I think you should consider taking backup.”

“You?”

“I’d do it for you in a heartbeat, T’Pol – but I’m not so sure I’m your best bet this time around. I seem to bring out – well, not always the best side of you, and I can tell you need to be at your best for this one. I think you should ask the Cap’n, or Malcolm, to go with you.”

“Why?”

He doesn’t look directly at her; she doesn’t like to meet eyes directly when she feels vulnerable. That was one of the first things he figured out about her. “Because whatever this is is already turning you into a wreck, and you haven’t even left the ship. I think you need someone with you who you can trust, if you need them.”

“I’m not authorized to include anyone else.”

“If the High Command could see what this is doing to you, they might not ask you to do whatever this is at all. Just tell me you’ll think about it, OK?”

“I will think about it.” She lapses into silence, focusing on the cake. Trip notices that she never looks out the window, not once. When she finishes she sighs deeply, and rises a little shakily.

“Hold on there, T’Pol. Like I’ve told you, I’m a gentleman. And a gentleman always walks a lady home when she’s had one too many.”

“I’m not a lady.”

“Oh, yes, you are. Let me walk you home.”

“You won’t – attempt to take advantage of my intoxication?”

“Nope. No gentleman would – not in any way. Your honor – and your secrets – are safe with me.”

He means it. Of course, there’s not much he can do about it, if she reveals a clue or two as to what she’s up to.

But she doesn’t. When they reach her door, she half-turns to him. “Thank you, Commander.” And then she slips inside, and the door closes between them. Trip stares at it for a minute or two, not sure if he helped, or just made things worse for her. Then he sighs, and goes back to the Mess Hall to clean up the remains of their snack.

**

She wants to ask Trip to go with her. She knows she would feel safer with him, for reasons that have nothing to do with logic and everything to do with her Awakened state.

Trip will always protect her. Of that, she has no doubt.

And Trip said that he wasn’t the best choice, that she should ask Captain Archer or Lieutenant Reed. Someone she can trust. He wants to go with her, wants to know what she’s doing. If he recommends another companion, he’s doing it to protect her.

She goes to the door, touches it. Illogical, to do so, to long for him to be waiting there. To consider asking him, anyway, even though his logic is unassailable. But what has logic to do with the churning of unnamed and inexplicable emotions within her? Logically, she should have no emotions regarding Menos. It had been her duty to apprehend him, and she had failed. Now, she has the opportunity to rectify the error that allowed his escape. Her duty will be completed, her full complement of six fugitives all returned home, to Vulcan, if she succeeds –

But she doesn’t want to capture Menos. She has a heavy resistance to the idea of even seeing him, of being on the same moon he currently inhabits. She’d hoped ingesting sugars might free her of the feeling, even if only for the few hours it would take them to pass through her system. But, instead, it has only sharpened her emotions, making the weight more oppressive, so that her chest and heart feel constricted, and it’s more difficult than it should be to breathe.

Trip is correct. She must not go alone. Her emotional state is chaotic, and her ability to complete the assigned mission is therefore compromised.

She nearly goes to him, to tell him about the feelings that are a threatening weight upon her, but doesn’t. Perhaps, her emotional chaos is driving her desire. Perhaps he’s correct, too, in his assessment that he isn’t the best choice for this mission. She remembers the Suliban cell, and her utter lack of control there – and that he responded to her, as well, in a way he didn’t seem to fully command.

Yes. He is correct, and wiser perhaps than he knows. Her own desire that it not be so is illogical, and the proof of her unfitness.

Still, if she asks him, she knows that he will go with her…

T’Pol gathers herself, and goes to speak with the Captain, before she can surrender to the other, more desirable, choice.

**

“Sorry to wake you up, Trip.”

It probably wasn’t a good idea to tell the Cap’n that he hadn’t been to bed, yet, that he’d been up with – well, maybe he could call her a sick friend. She sure as hell had looked sick – scared sick – and something more, something that made her want to get a little drunk, maybe get some relief –

“Trip – did I wake you up, or are you asleep on your feet?”

“I, uh – c’mon in, Cap’n.” He gestures into the dark room; it’ll look like he was asleep, not sitting on his bed staring out at the stars, wondering where the hell she’s going, and why, and what about it is tearing her apart. Wishing she’d said she wanted him with her, even if he knew it wasn’t the best choice. Knowing he wanted to be with her because he couldn’t bear for her to be so lost, so vulnerable, without him to protect her and keep an eye on her.

Jon pulls up the desk chair, and Trip stands there, not quite knowing what to do with himself, until the Cap’n says, “At ease, Trip. Sit, before you fall. I won’t be long – just need to let you know you’re going to get to play Captain for a few days.”

“Sir?” Damn. She asked him, maybe told him what she was up to. And he said yes – what man wouldn’t say yes to her? He should be glad, and he is – but, damnit, he wants it to be him.

“T’Pol came to see me. I’m going with her, as backup. So you get to run the show.”

“She tell you what this is all about?”

“Classified, Trip.”

“Course it is…Cap’n, you sure this is a good idea, her going off like this to run errands for the damned Vulcan High Command?”

“I don’t think she was given much choice, Trip. Remember, T’Pol’s not Starfleet. If we want to keep her here – and I do, even if you don’t – we can’t keep making waves. Lord knows, we get into plenty of trouble with the Vulcans just by being human.”

Trip tries another tack. He isn’t going to tell Jon about the little incident in the Mess Hall, and how her Vulcan mask slips, sometimes, or how scared she is. But he wants to know if the Cap’n can see her, read her the way he’s learning to. “She seem – okay – with this, to you?”

“Careful, Trip. I could almost get the idea that you care. Or are you hoping she doesn’t come back?”

“Well, I get along with everybody else. If something happens to her, who will I take my frustrations out on?”

Jon laughs. “She seems – okay. Serious about the whole thing – but T’Pol’s serious about everything. Meet me in my Ready Room at 0800; we’re leaving at 0845, and I’ve got a few things to cover with you. Now, I think we’d both better get some sleep.”

Once he’s alone again, Trip gets up and starts pacing. He wishes he knew if it’s good that the Cap’n isn’t picking up on her turmoil…

Mostly, though, he wishes he was the one going with her; or, better yet, that she wasn’t going at all.

**

T’Pol sits in front of the Captain, longing for Trip. As they near the planet, and the official beginning of her mission, her agitation is growing, and with it the heaviness, which is now accompanied by nausea. It’s not the indulgence in the cake; she’d allowed ample time for the intoxicants to clear her system.

It’s Menos – and it isn’t.

When she failed to apprehend Menos in the Risan jungle, she’d taken some time for intensive meditation, on Vulcan – where she had tasted the psychotropic nectars, and been changed by them. In the clarity that followed the tikkin-madness, she had resigned her commission in the Ministry of Security, and sought sanctuary at P’Jem while she attempted to resolve the course she wished to pursue in her life.

But now, as she briefs the Captain, T’Pol says, inexplicably, “They thought they were invincible.”

They? Her own thought is echoed by Captain Archer; and she corrects the misspoken word at once.

Then why can she almost see a second, shadowy figure following Menos, and fleeing her?

Was that how he had escaped her? Why doesn’t she not know?

There are too many questions, and no time now to answer them.

But, as they land and enter the establishment – less a trading post than a makeshift semi-permanent encampment, filled with the roughened clientele who don’t, in her experience, ask too many questions of those with whom they engage in business or personal dealings, she knows she doesn’t want to encounter Menos, wishes only for him to escape as he had before. Certainly, with two failures, the Ministry of Security will have little choice than to place logic above honor, and assign a more competent operative to the mission, if they insist that he must be returned to their homeworld.

Perhaps she can increase the odds of such an occurrence without alerting the Captain or Ensign Mayweather. She must limit herself to small, unobtrusive actions, but, if Menos is as attentive and wary as she remembers, he might notice, and slip away before she can follow – particularly, if she doesn’t rush to do so.

She turns her head within her loosened hood, so that her ear will stand out clearly. She makes no attempt to disguise the fact that she is searching, to alter her movements – movements that name her Vulcan. If he remembers her, they might go further, and identify her as the young woman sent to take him into custody. Surely he will flee, if he knows that she’s searching for him?

And then she sees him, through a small mirror, watching her – and instinct and conditioning she thought she’d eradicated take hold of her reflexes, spinning her despite her fear –

He wanted her to see him. Why?

T’Pol moves through the mass of beings separating them. Her training won’t allow her to simply let him vanish into the chaos of the room. But she restrains herself from taking the steps necessary to move quickly. Most of the patrons are male, and considerably larger than she; T’Pol allows them to thwart her, to push and pull at her, and, when she knows, by his scent, that Menos was near, likely huddled under the furnishing, she chooses to scan the room rather than look beneath the table, and report to the Captain that she doesn’t know where he is.

But humans are a most inventive species. Captain Archer leaps up onto a table, and makes the same piercing note he uses to recall his canine.

There is the discharge of an energy weapon, and a resultant shift of movement away from source and target. Surely, Menos will escape in the frenzy, and she can report her failure, and be done. With Menos, and the memories of – of someone else running.

Ensign Mayweather ends her hopes.

She’s going to have to face Menos, and her own unwillingness to do so.

**

“Come on, Malcolm. Trip’s not that bad.” Laughter from the Mess – he’d never realized that how easy it is to hear what’s going on out there. How often had the Cap’n listened in while he was in there- oh, damn- had he ever listened in while he and T’Pol were alone in there? Had either of them ever said anything incriminating, something that could her her in trouble with the High Command, and him with Starfleet? That might embarrass them?

“Captain Trip?” Malcolm laughs that supercilious British laugh of his. “The fact that he wants everyone to call him Trip in the first place ought to be enough to scare you, Hoshi. Captain Trip!” He actually snorted in derision.

Trip’s feeling a little hot under the collar, now. Breakfast had almost tempted him to feel better; now, though –

“He’ll probably take over the Captain’s Mess, keep Chef busy customizing lunch and dinner, show terrible movies every night, and not even assign anyone to clean up the spilled popcorn. He’s likely to divert all the ship’s energy to Engineering, and Captain Archer will be lucky if there’s a ship left when he and T’Pol get back from whatever she’s up to -”

That’s enough for Trip. More than enough. He snaps off the intercom; he’d been trying like hell to forget – forget that look on her face when he’d seen her on the shuttlepod stairs. She’d looked past the Captain, to him – and she was still lost. He could see it in her eyes.

He’s as sure that she hadn’t slept last night as he is that he hadn’t.

Only, all he has to do is keep the ship in orbit and in one piece, while she has to –

What?

What the hell is it she’s doing, anyway? What’s scaring T’Pol – T’Pol, who’d told him not so long ago that she’d never been scared of anything? Even if he remembered her lookin’ more than a little scared in that damned cave, when he had the phase pistol on her- even then, she’d found a way to get to her own weapon, held herself together well enough to get them all inoculated, keep them alive long enough for the Cap’n to get them out of there.

But she’s more scared now, by a long shot.

He’d spent the night pacing, and still, it didn’t occur to him until just now, why she’s so scared she’d wasted water and not even realized that damned kettle was screaming.

She’s not scared of this mission – or not exactly. Whatever has Miss Scared Half Out Of her Wits And Trying Like Hell Not To Show It so bothered she was guzzling carrot cake was inside of her.

Is it because of them -because she’s spent so much time living with them? Because of him, and whatever the hell the on-again, off-again, but growing friendship is between them?

Is he making life harder for her, or easier?

Why the hell hadn’t he begged to go with her, demanded she take him, and not the Cap’n?

Jon’s a helluva man, best friend Trip ever had – but he has a grudge against the Vulcans that goes a little beyond reason, and Trip had watched him dump it on T’Pol too many times to think that he won’t do it again.

“You haven’t always been so fair to her, either – “ But he’d stopped jumping down her throat for being Vulcan a while ago – after all, she doesn’t blame them for being human. It’s not that they don’t still lock horns about damned near everything, but it;s as people, now – and, to tell the truth, at least half of it is that she’s so much fun to fight with. She’s got a damned quick mind, a spectacular range of knowledge, and a perspective that challenges him to see things in ways that aren’t natural for him – and he gets the idea that he does the same for her…

And more, that she has as much fun as he does matching wits, even if she can’t or won’t say so.

But the Cap’n – he still translates everything about her through that damned Vulcan lens, still seems to want to blame her for everything her government does, even when she seems to go against them more often than not, these days.

And he isn’t going to notice that she’s in a state of emotional freefall unless she actually comes apart on him.

That scares Trip half to death, and made his stomach refuse the entire idea of breakfast. If she comes apart on a top-secret mission, she could get herself killed.

He should have gone with her. Oh, hell – he should have. Should have insisted.

Because now, too late, he’s damned sure that she’s in real trouble- and she might be going under before anyone else even notices she’s not swimming anymore.

“Oh, damn, T’Pol, I’m sorry.”

He wants to wait by the comm, hoping against hope she’ll call in, or the Captain will, or even Travis, so that he can – what? Tell her he knows she’s in trouble, the kind she doesn’t know how to deal with, and that he’ll be here, when she gets home? Tell the Cap’n to keep an eye on her, because she’s an emotional wreck right now?

“Oh, yeah, Tucker. I can see that. There’ll be rumors all over the ship that I’m a lovesick puppy she’s too emotionless to even notice enough to kick me out the airlock.”

But he’s got to do something to stave off the worry. He;s the Acting Cap’n, and he’s damned well going to act the part, keep morale up (maybe help with his own, in the process), do what he needs to do to take care of things.

And he can start with Malcolm. He’s tired of that damned military swagger and arrogance. More than tired. T’Pol seemed arogant, too, , at first, and sometimes she still does – but she’s Vulcan, not human, and Trip knows enough about her people to know that what seemed unkind at first was simply the difference in how their species communicate.

But Malcolm’s human, and ought to know better.

And, since he doesn’t, Trip decides to use his nervous energy to teach the Tactical Officer a lesson.

**

“…And I don’t deserve to be shot.”

Flashes.

He’s running; she’s running. Someone else is running.

There’s someone between them.

Running –

And then she’s being forced down, forced down to a stone bed, prostrate, struggling, screaming-

Her throat is raw from screaming –

“No one’s going to shoot you.” Captain Archer’s voice holds certainty and compassion.

Flashes –

Running.

One man.

Two men.

Her.

Running.

Being forced down to a stone platform, held there, writhing, thrashing, screaming through a raw throat.

“What about her?”

The words sear her with their truth, with meanings she can’t understand. Does Menos know something she doesn’t? Is it only his way of attempting to sway her? What of the hologram? Does he carry it as a ruse, or does he truly have a wife and children? What will be the consequences to them, if she returns Menos, as she’s been ordered? Are they innocents who will be punished by his incarceration, when they have nothing to do with his crimes, real or implied?

Flashes – too many flashes –

Her limbic system engages, seizes hold of her responses, her mind.

“You’re a liar!” Her voice is rough; her throat raw. She jerks up from her chair, her knife in her hand- when had she unsheathed it? What does she intend?

Is she going to kill him?

The straps. Yes. There are straps on his outer garment, with buckles. Buckles to provide a barrier against the acid on the landing deck, so she can get to his ship, search it –

Captain Archer is pulling at her, trying to hold her. “T’Pol!” She feels his fear, through the touch – he thinks she’s stabbed Menos. When the momentum of the freed strap thrusts her back, and he sees there is no blood, he releases her, and she cuts free another strap, then spins, the Captain moving quickly out of her path, asking her what she’s doing.

“He’s not telling the truth,” is all she can say, as she uses the straps to lash the buckles to the bottoms of her boots. Her mind replays the words of the station manager, ‘there’s a half-centimeter of acid on the landing deck.’

The buckles are slightly over a centimeter thick, and likely made of non-corrosive material. They should serve, if she moves quickly. She aima for the door – she’ll search, and then there will be answers.

She must have answers.

Behind her, the Captain calls, “Where the hell are you going?” He’s following her, but T’Pol won’t allow him to stop her.

She can’t. She needs answers.

“T’Pol!”

She turns halfway back to face him as the door opens to a forceful gust of frigid wind and sharp-edged snow. He’s her commanding officer; she must respond.

“He says he has a ship full of injector casings.” She turns away, into the cold, bare hands tugging at her hood. But she can still hear the human clearly as she moves off the entrance stairs, and onto the landing deck, moving in a quick sliding shuffle, so that she won’t lose her footing.

“But the platform’s covered with acid.”

No more time to argue or explain. The need for answers drives her on, her limbic system pulls her to Menos’ ship. She’d intended to search it anyway, when it was safe to do so.

Flashes, as she runs. Not frozen – hot jungle. Not dry brittle air, but so rank and thick she thinks it will choke her, drown her desert-evolved lungs. Running anyway. Intent on the mission. At the edge of limbic engagement, with no recourse. Fear rising in her –

Then the stone platform, the shearing pain, the emotions crushing her as she struggles – no one holding her now; she’s fighting herself, and what’s within her.

“But the platform’s covered with acid.” Captain Archer’s words echo. Acid. Emotion.

She must understand!

Into the craft – a small cargo vessel, only one hold. Containers of varying sizes and shapes; she ought to make a methodical search, but instead focuses on the large metal crates- these would house the injector casings, if he’s telling the truth. What they hold if he isn’t, she dares not speculate-

Too heavy to lift on her own – not for Menos, but she’s smaller, female – she stares from place to place, and finds a prising rod.

Cold – the metal so cold in her hands, like the stone beneath her; Risa had been hot, her phaser gripped tightly in a sweating, shaking hand, the heat not desert-dry and welcoming, but instead a potent, humid force –

One container.

Casings. Nothing else.

A second – she moves a casing or two –

Flashing – the running, the heat, the leaves slapping at her face. The man nearest stumbling, falling. The other turning, yelling, as though he had never been Vulcan, “Jossen!”

It is Menos. She sees his face, contorted around the other’s name –

An Elder, no – an Ancient – reading from an obsolete text. She’s forced down, the impact absorbed by the hands that hold her, won’t release her –

A third container. She wrenches it open, feeling the muscles in her shoulder straining nearly to the tearing point. She digs the bar into it, heedless, uses her hands –

Only injector casings.

Only memories she doesn’t understand.

Only the Captain, and Ensign Mayweather –

They don’t know how fragile her control can be. They can’t help her to understand the chaos of her emotions.

She sinks down against the crate, heedless of radiation, and, as guilt and despair and fear obscure all reason, she imagines that Trip is here, holding her, accepting her, making tea and human jokes –

But he’s not here, and she’s never felt more vulnerable and alone.

**

No sleep. No breakfast. No lunch.

Too many problems. Too many decisions. Too many calls from that damned Vulcan captain.

And way too much coffee.

And he hasn’t had nearly as much coffee as he has worries over T’Pol, and what she’s doing, how she’s doing.

How the hell could he have just sent her off with the Cap’n like that? The way she’d been last night, she would’ve almost for sure accepted having him along, and he could’ve kept an eye on her structural integrity. Cap’n does a fine job up there on the Bridge, and he’ll take as good care of her as he can – Trip knowa enough to know that Jon Archer likes her, maybe even sometimes wants her (though he’s sure the Cap’n has no idea at all what that can of worms is like once it’s really open…)

But he’s not an engineer. Not used to the type of complications a system as different and intricate as hers can present. She’s like the warp core – what most people think of as the engine is just the casing, the protective shell. They’ve no grasp of what makes the ship go; what’s ‘under the hood’, as Grandpa Chuck used to say.

Trip knpws what’s under the hood. Of the engines, and the beautiful Vulcan. It’s not just the protective layer of logic, strength, and curve-hugging uniform the Cap’n sees – she’s so much deeper than that. She’s a creature of passion as much as logic, and she can burn every bit as hot as that warp core…

She’s disciplined because she needs to be to contain her passions enough to function. Because, if she lets go or loses that famous control, she might shake herself apart.

The comm signals, and Trip jumps, stares around him, a little surprised to find himself in the Cap’n’s Ready Room.

“What now? Malcolm get a hangnail?” He sticks his tongue in his cheek, glad he hasn’t pressed the button yet. He tries to take a deep breath, but his chest is too tight, and he’s afraid his stomach might let go.

The comm signals again, and Trip stabs the button, letting himself imagine it’s Malcolm’s eye. “Tucker.”

“Sorry, sir, but Captain Tavik is calling again.”

“And let me guess. Whatever the hell he wants to talk about is ‘classified’, and he’ll only talk to the Captain, right?”

“”I’m sorry, sir,” Hoshi says, again. She really sounds it, to, even though Trip hears Malcolm snickering. Man needs more than a poke in the eye.

“It’s not your fault, Hoshi. Not unless you invented Vulcan secrecy, anyway.”

“What should I tell him?”

It hits Trip in the kind of flash he always takes seriously. Maybe that last cup of coffee had been good for something besides giving him a serious case of the jitters. “Listen, can you stall him another hour or so and come in here? I’ve maybe got an idea….”

He deals with three more decisions while he waits for her, and another dozen or so – three of which will gonna keep Malcolm Damneed Reed too damned busy for idle gossip and snickering, at least for the next day or so.

Finally, though, Hoshi comes back with the best damned news he’s heard since -well, before T’Pol dropped her bombshell secret mission on them. Trip forgets himself for a second, and lets out a whoop, grabbing Hoshi, spinning her around, kissing her cheek.

“Uh, Commander?” She’s embarrassed, and Trip splutters out an apology, but she twinkles at him a bit, and says, “I’m glad the big chair hasn’t taken all the fun out of you.” And then she’s gone, but he feels better – until he remembers how jealous T’Pol gets anytime he shows anything even in the same neighborhood as interest in any woman but her. He sure wouldn’t wish jealous T’Pol on sweet little Hoshi….but it had felt good to just be himself, good old impulsive Trip, for a minute.

But thinking of T’Pol thunks the weight right back on his chest. What’s she going through, right now? Are they wherever they’re going yet? Is whatever it is as terrifying to her as she’d thought it would be? What is it? Is her life in danger?

The comm chirps at him, and he sets the worrying aside as best he can, not being Vulcan. He needs to pull this off, so he dpoesn’t get her in any more trouble. Seems like the damned High Command of hers is just looking for an excuse to blame her for things – even things like P’Jem, which clearly wasn’t even remotely her fault. Damn, she was taken hostage right along with the rest of them; she hadn’t known anything about the listening post…and there’d been that one Andorian who took way too much of a shine to her…

He squares his shoulders andgoes out to the Bridge, where Hoshi has everything as ready as it can be. Now, he just needs to sell it….

Five minutes later, slumped in the Cap’n’s chair, Trip tries to decide whether to laugh his ass off, or hit something…a damned water polo score! All that for a water polo score!

“Malcolm, come with me.”

“Sir?

“I need a sparring partner.” And to try to stop worrying about a certain Vulcan in need….

**

Artistry in the Aftermath: #STaD for May 30, 2015

Disclaimers:

This story is rated Mature for Sexual Content and Adult Themes

Artistry in the Aftermath

In the aftermath of tragedy, in a secluded, candlelit room on a starship slowly circling the blue-green planet that had created it, two beings shared a bed dressed in sensuous silks. One, the human whose home planet revolved beneath them, unseen, was asleep, lying prone, with an arm behind the back of the other, who was born on a world sixteen light years from this one.

She took quiet comfort in the way his hand curled over her hip, in his soft almost-snoring, in his presence, here, in her bed.

She had need of that comfort, so alien to what might be found on her own world. She had need of his mind, and the way it lay open to her, while he slept, while he dreamed dreams that were no longer alien to her, because he was no longer alien to her.

“We have become one.” She spoke the words, and the truth, too quietly for his ears to perceive – there had been too little sleep, and too little comfort, in these last days. The void of loss would be there, still, when he woke, and, together, they would face it, would attempt again to learn the shape of what they were becoming, together, what they were, as the parents of a child artificially created –

Created, with a fatal, intentional flaw.

The pain of knowing – knowing the feel of their daughter, suckling; her weight, her scent, her face – a blending of them both, a confluence of species and attitudes – sliced into the young bereaved mother, through her.

“A pain like no other, the loss of a child…” That’s what his mother had said, when they met this evening, and they shared what they intended to do. She would know; she had suffered the loss of a child herself.

Humans comforted one another at such times. Vulcans attended to the necessary, and expected that the affected would resolve the emotions privately, and resume a logical and measured existence, as death was the logical consequence of life.

“Nothin’ logical ‘bout it!” The man’s voice was vehement, even in sleep. When he’d learned what had been done to their child, that she had been created as a tool, his rage had been –

Formidable, and frightening.

Utterly honest.

It had ended in tears, in sharing, in seeking the solace of the living, of sexual relations, here, in what had been her bed, but now, to her mind, was now theirs.

She must learn to attend more closely to her thoughts, now that it was, so that she wouldn’t cause him deeper distress than what he was already feeling. He was human; he couldn’t compartmentalize his grief. It flowed through everything, a tide, rising and falling like the ocean currents that were so much a part of him, and so alien to her, until she had Awakened to him, and learned their power and their beauty.

She studied the small ring that now decorated the third finger of her left hand. It was a human thing, this self-decoration, this offering of such jewelry to another as a token of love – an emotional state not required in a Vulcan marriage, but, she had surmised, highly valued in human pairbonding. She was still uncertain that she knew the meaning of the word, all that it conveyed – but the humans themselves seemed only slightly less confused, and each seemed to have their own definition, so perhaps this love was a deeply personal thing.

She loved this man and the child created from them, to the degree that she understood the term. The ring on her finger- a ring that had belonged to his sister Elizabeth, who was now dead, as their daughter Elizabeth was, brought surgings of emotional depth- tides and currents that sometimes, now, swept her away, uncontrolled.

She was driftwood, helpless to navigate such uncharted terrain. Helpless as these humans had been, when this mission began, when they flung themselves unprepared but ever daring into deep space, with no idea what they would find, but with an insatiable need to know, to act –

To feel.

She touched the small ring, feeling, remembering –

And then T’Pol began to draw, her pencil slipping across the page with sure and certain strokes, although her eyes were closed that she might focus only on the image held within her mind.

**

Falling –

He was falling….

Into grief, into joy, into love, into her –

It was a tangled net, but he wasn’t afraid. It would catch him, hold his weight, support him.

She would – as best she could.

Once, he’d never known she could do that, never expected that she would ever even want to.

Now, he knew she could – and knew, too, that she needed the same, that the nets within her were also tangled, and she was less able to trust in that chaos-

And more.

Both because of him.

How illogical was that? Must drive her nuts, sometimes….

He didn’t need to wonder. The vague sense of awareness deepened into memory, and dream, blending together, as his mind attempted to make sense of the last days, the last years –

To find meaning in what was terrible, and beautiful, and incomprehensible.

Back in the cave, way back there at the beginning. He didn’t trust her yet – she’d changed. She wasn’t his fantasy Vulcan from Fusion, who had walked through the doors when he was expecting someone else, then, after capturing him in her alien web, her endlessly deep hazel eyes, ran out, into the night, back into the Consulate –

But she’d never really left. She’d stayed, a fantasy made real, that one magic night, and everything he did after that had a hint of her, or a thread of her, or a flow, in it. He wasn’t the same as he’d been –

But then she’d walked into the Captain’s Ready Room. She’d stared, for just a second or two, but she was cold, distant, alien –

Reality was nothing like the fantasies he’d painted of seeing her again, learning her name, being with her.

Her name was T’Pol. Being with her – that was almost unbearable.

And now, he was stuck in a cave with her, with a man missing, and the rest of their party sick –

Sick, like their baby –

No, she wasn’t sick, not anymore.

She was dead.

Because she’d been made to die, made disposable.

Because some madman had thought that creating her with a death sentence was a logical way to prove his point.

“Nothin’ logical ‘bout it!”

Echoes, from faraway – back in the cave, where those damned rock people were? She was talking, but it was all gibberish. She was in on it, plotting, hiding in those shadows, consorting with the rock people to get all the humans killed –

Even him…

Pretending, always pretending, she was. Since she came back. Only time she stopped pretending was when they were all alone. Where no one else could see….

She’d slammed him into the wall of that cell, pinned him down, straddled and dry-humped him so hard it was damned near not dry anymore. She’d been as wild as when she bolted from that jazz club, with her running in circles and her “mineminemine!

Was that what she was saying, now? Staking another claim he couldn’t understand –

Gotta get the hell outta here – she’s stronger than me, too strong to fight –

But he was holding their baby girl, their little Elizabeth, who scarcely got a chance to live, and even less of a chance to love and be loved, to suckle at her mother’s breast, to smile at her father –

Me.

And her.

She was made from us.

Killed because she was.

Deep, dark cave….sinking down into the earth – only it wasn’t Earth. So much out here to be afraid of – aliens that came, killed everyone, pumped out what they wanted and left the rest. Rock people who took Evan, who wanted to take them all –

Except her.

Not to be trusted. Her ears said it all. Didn’t matter what her hands had felt like, rubbing that decon gel over his shoulders, again and again and again and again – no way she could claim that was logical, when one application was enough to do the job. Five times, though, her hands on his shoulders, caressing, testing –

Maddening.

After the cell, and her frantic not-so-dry humping. After the peek down the back of her panties, to that delicious swell of olive-tinted rump. After touching her ears – those gorgeous, sensual ears….

Damn – she’d made him hard, in that cell, and kept him that way. She’d known what she was doing –

So why did she seem so clueless?

Didn’t matter. Here they were, and he was playing right into her hand, by remembering. Vivid memory of her hand tracing him, learning him, bringing him right up to the edge – the edge of madness, of orgasm – and helping him to stay there, stay there until he thought he would burst with need – and then her mouth –

No!

That never happened.

But a part of him said that it had, that he could trust her, that she was his – his, beyond any and all doubt.

Beyond undoing.

And there was the baby.

His baby.

Her baby.

Their baby girl.

Their dead baby girl, Elizabeth, whom T’Pol had named.

No.

There wasn’t any baby, not anymore.

Only this phase pistol in his hand, set to kill, set to eliminate the threat the alien woman posed.

He squeezed his finger on the trigger as she stared at him, trying to pull her into her hazel eyes, her soul, and that was when he knew –

He’d killed his wife.

**

“I killed her!” He bolted up, and only her instant’s warning, through the bond, lifted her hand before a deep tearing line would have marred the image in her mind.

“Trip -”

He was sitting upright, staring at her, bathed in sudden sweat, his terror scent tangling with their desire, their couplings, their shared grief. He was shaking.

He couldn’t see her – he was lost somewhere between this reality, here in what was now their bed, and the dream where their daughter had become a phase pistol, which he had used to kill her, in the cave on Archer’s World.

“I’m here, Trip. I’m not dead. I’m here.”

“T’Pol? Pepperpot, that you – no, can’t be. I killed you – in the cave.”

“Shhhh,” she said, a soothing human sound his mother had taught her, in the short time they could be with her living child- his living child. Their living child. “It was a nightmare.”

She hadn’t known the word, a human word, until a Vulcan had forced his way into her mind, in an effort to make her his own, and twisted memory into dreams that weren’t real. She knew they weren’t, and yet, as she dreamed the images, altered and twisted to a shape of his choosing, she felt that they were, that things she didn’t understand were being taken from her, perverted into something else…

“A nightmare?” He looked around him, but, still, he wasn’t truly seeing, not yet. He hung poised between two realities, uncertain which was real…”No, felt too real. We were back in the cave with the rock people, and I was holding Elizabeth, trying to get us out of there, and I didn’t trust you, but the baby was dead, and then she turned into a phase pistol set on kill, and I – I shot you – “

“I know. And yet, I am here.” Fascinating, the way his mind moved through dreaming – like it was the rising tide, the shifting sands of the Forge – she dreamed only in series of images and motions.

The differences in their minds, made manifest in dreaming…

“I am alive, Trip.”

“But not Elizabeth…..”

“No. Not Elizabeth.”

He was crying, suddenly, his sodden eyes seeking the contact of hers, and the surge of emotion within him brought answering emotion forth in her, and, without conscious thought, they fell together, rocking, clinging –

And, as it so often did, it turned into more – into the flaring of need, kindled desires, proof that they were at least still alive, and that they had at least this….

It was tender, and animal. It was claiming, and surrender.

It was theirs.

While she was still rendered speechless by the torrents of sensation and emotion, he stroked her leaking breasts, breasts which wept milky tears for the child who would never again suckle there, and whispered, “I guess it isn’t logical that she could turn into a phase pistol, is it?”

She reached paired fingers to him, and pulled him down, filling her mind with what she desired –

For life.

For connection.

For relief of pressure, and anguish.

**

“You really want me to, pepperpot? Might make it worse; take longer, to, you know – stop – “

She couldn’t talk, not yet. Limbic system overload. But it was clearer than words, in her mind, where words weren’t needed. She longed for it, needed it for reasons she didn’t really understand. Not so long ago, she would have denied the longing, because it wasn’t logical, and she didn’t understand….

But she was different, now. She was his, and he was hers, and they were both different.

Her hand snaked up, the little claddaugh ring catching candlelight in its jade heart, and cradled the back of his head. Trip didn’t resist; a human guy could get his neck snapped if either of them forgot about Vulcan strength. But she only urged him down, not forcing.

His choice, then.

Her breasts wept for their baby, and he loved her for it, wanted to honor her love, that could provide nourishment for a child she’d never carried.

“Let me know if it hurts, or you don’t like it, pepperpot. I’ll be gentle….”

Her eyes glowed, her lips parted, her breasts leaked.

He lowered his head, her fingers tangling in his hair, quivering, her scent shifting with her need. He tried to remember how Elizabeth had held her tiny mouth – not right on the swollen nipple – no, that would hurt her,when she was so sensitized.

He wanted to relieve the pressure she felt, not cause her more pain.

Carefully, he opened his mouth, wrapped his lips around her burnished-copper areola.

T’Pol moaned, and sweet hot milk squirted into his mouth – delicious, tasting like her, like nothing else. He swallowed gingerly, and the change in pressure brought a cry from her, and her pheremones let go in a cloud of desire-scent tinged with fertile motherhood, with the need to nurture –

She shuddered, hard, arching up to him, thrusting the breast deeper into his mouth, her other hand clutching at the small of his back, the second demand even more insistent than the first as her legs fell apart and she opened for him –

Her mind, her soul, surged into his, leaving no doubt, erasing his caution, obliterating the lingering traces of the dream –

The milk let down, and he had to gulp to keep up, filling himself with the sustenance she’d made from her own body –

He gave himself to her, entered her pleading, hungry body, fed off her, and it was sensual, alien, familiar, profound- He shifted to her other breast, swollen tight, and she cried out, panting, as he drank, suckled, relieved the terrible pressure, answered her most basic needs – to be penetrated, and fertilized.

Gasping, shaking, her milk flowing into his throat, her stavril contracting around what was, in her language, his stavrit, and then he was over the edge, they were over the edge, and she was finding a different kind of sustenance in his ejaculation, accepting him with a wholeness and certainty no other woman ever had, and no other ever would, because there would never, could never, be anyone like this woman, this bond –

They cried together, after, and Trip scooped her up, as though she were helpless, and she wrapped her arms around his neck, still silent, unable to say a word in the wake of her orgasm. She would let him tend her, as though she needed the tending, as though he were the stronger, physically. She would accept the gift, and find solace in it, because it mattered to him.

Something moved and shifted in him, and he knelt before her, beneath the shower spray, and looked up into her eyes, so huge, so hurting, so filled, at the same time, with her emotions, most of which she still didn’t have names for, because her people believed emotions weren’t to be dwelt on.

“From here on out, pepperpot, we’re a team. I want you to know that. You need me, I’m here. I need you – well – I can’t speak for you, and I’m all done trying to make you do things or feel things that aren’t in your nature.”

“You need me; I’m here,” she whispered, and knelt facing him. “We will learn – together – how to be what we need. As we just did….” She captured his hand in hers, gasping a little at the contact, even with the water to mute the effect of the touch. By that, Trip knew that it was going to be a long and exhausting night, a night where they weren’t going to make up much for lost sleep, but they were certainly going to make up for lost time.

She pressed his hand to her breast – when had he gotten used to the fact that her heart wasn’t there? – and brought her other one, the one with Elizabeth’s ring, to wrap around him, tracing – and, damn, it had to be her, her mind, and her needs, because there’s no way, at his age, that he should be able to get it up again so soon, no matter how much he wanted to, but, damn, he was rising and hardening in her hand, and her lips turned up in the slightest hint of a smile….”As we will do…”

Maybe the floor of the shower wasn’t the most comfortable, or remotely logical place, for what happened next, but at least, when they finally helped each other up, they were clean.

There seemed to be no end to the desires, to the sharing. They grieved, in so many ways. They scarcely made it out of the head, to fall upon one another on the bench, then the floor, rolling with their need, their desires, their grief, to find themselves against the window, with the stars as witness to their sorrows and their ecstasies….

They slept there, naked and tangled, for a time, too tired to drag themselves back up onto the bed….

They awoke, together, only long enough to find the bed, to mate stavril to stavrit, for him to suckle the milk from her breasts, and bring the release, together….

“OW! What th’hell is that?”

She couldn’t speak to ask the question, but held it in her mind for him.

“A pencil – what the hell’s a pencil doing in your bed, pepperpot?”

He was staring at the pencil as though it was an engineering dilemma he needed to work through, but he hadn’t yet moved past it to find the sketch pad, which had been shoved up beneath the pillows. She withdrew it, silently, because she had no words, now, but filled her mind with a welcome to look and explore what she held, and the certainty that this was now their bed, their room, their home…

Together.

“What is this – a journal? Didn’t know you kept one, not the old-fashioned way, anyhow – “

She tapped the cover, lifted one edge a little – not enough to expose what lay within, but enough to invite him to find out for himself, to have the experience of discovering this part of her that he’d known nothing of, until now.

“You sure, pepperpot?”

T’Pol nodded, and kept her eyes on his face, uncertain how he would respond, hoping he would understand, know that she intended only to capture moments of power, and beauty, and not to intrude upon his life…

He lifted the cover on the first image – of him, as he had looked, in the moment he first saw their daughter, the way he’d studied her, while she, needing the verification of the scans, had gone to the displays at the foot of the cradle.

“Oh, damn, pepperpot – oh, damn…..”

He scrubbed at his eyes, then turned the pages, again and again, taking a moment to study each, in silence, now, and then moving on –

**

She never stopped surprising him. Every time he thought he had her figured out, had a handle on the ways she was different, and the ways she was the same, she turned his certainty on its round ear, and showed him something new, some deeper part of her.

She was a damned good artist. She caught the life, the emotion, the potency of moments – it was like looking at himself in a mirror, but more – because he wasn’t looking at himself, in those minutes, he was just living, and she had frozen the moment in time, in her mind, in detail.

There he was, with the look of panic on his face when Paxton’s henchman held a weapon to her head. She’d been so still; how had she even seen him then? Now the moment when they were reunited – she’d been focused on the baby, or so he thought, and on their escape, but there he was, with the relief, the love, the pain of the broken arm all etched in his face and his posture –

Now, him holding Elizabeth, their eyes meeting, then the hand grabbing his nose –

Too few, with her – and only two that were happy. His face in profile, the IDIC hanging beside his hand, Elizabeth watching him, with her mother’s eyes, one tiny pointed ear peeking out, his hand pressed up against the isolette –

His face, in the moment she died, there in the turbolift, sitting on the floor….

Then he was sitting beside her, his face streaked in tears and pain, looking lost and broken- and still, somehow, in every picture, he was beautiful in a way he never suspected he was, to her. He’d wondered if she cared what he looked like – never suspecting how deeply she saw into him, knew him.

Then the ring, in the foreground, held on his palm where she’d put it so she could read the sticky note he’d written in her language. His face, hopeful, trying to hold back while he waited for her to answer the question he ought to have asked her a year ago, after that first night, when she’d made him hers, made it clear that she was in fact jealous, that she wanted him, maybe even needed him – she’d been so needy that night, when she kissed him, even before, when her face and emotions were pushing and pulling at her. He hadn’t known then how lost she was, how the trellium had changed her, and still was changing her –

And then the joy, layered over sorrow and pain, and he was kissing her hand, Elizabeth’s claddaugh ring twinkling in firelight, on her ring finger.

Him sleeping, nude, right here in her bed –

Our bed, came an echo from her mind. Language; soon, now, she’d be able to talk again. She’d caught something in his face – something that looked younger than he was, and more innocent – he’d noticed the same in her face when she was truly, deeply asleep. But there was a little frown on his face, and a tear in the corner of his eye..

He turned to the last page – she must have been working on it while he slept, recalling the time they’d spent together –

“Damn!”

For a minute, that’s all he could say. He looked at her, knowing he was blushing as hard as she was. He wiped his mouth, not sure how she’d interpret his smile at her intense stillness combined with the way she was chewing her bottom lip.

What she’d drawn was her hand wrapped around his erection, the ring clear on her finger, and the first drops of semen erupting –

It was intensely detailed, intensely accurate, in that moment right before her lips had wrapped around him, for the first time.

“This is – it’s incredible.”

“I meant no invasion -”

He leaned in and kissed her deeply. “You’re a helluvan artist, you know…though I think you were, uh, well, a bit – generous with the proportions in that last one -” he cleared his throat, and tried to pretend the image didn’t turn him on, even though he was just as naked now, and she could both see and smell that it did.

“I assure you that I wasn’t. I’m a scientist, and a Vulcan, Trip. I do not ascribe to the human notion that the size of a man’s genitalia is a measure of his masculinity or sexual capabilities. I simply wished to – to -” Her words vanished again, lost in feelings and motivations she couldn’t articulate.

“Sshhh. You don’t need to try to explain it, even if you could. I’m not mad – I’m – well, tickled, I guess you could say. Honored, maybe. Definitely surprised. You never mentioned you liked to draw. How long have you been doing this?”

She got up, silently, and opened her wardrobe. She reached into the bottom, and withdrew a box. In it were more sketchbooks, neatly fitted in. She withdrew one. “This is the first,” she told him, and handed it to him.

He opened the cover, and smiled. “All this – because of me?”

Her face spoke for her.

There he was in Fusion – surrounded by his friends, and still obviously alone; playing along with Silas; covertly watching her; meeting her eyes; dancing with Natalie, but watching her –

The lines in these were uncertain, and there was a lot less life and emotion evident. There was the hint of the beauty of her later works, but she didn’t know enough, hadn’t lived with humans, used trellium, found and lost their daughter, made love with him, bonded him, married Koss, discovered the Kir’Shara; lost her mother; agreed to marry him –

“You’ve learned so much, pepperpot.” He reached paired fingers to hers, offering her first pose.

She met it, and her eyes had that enormous dilated quality that always made him feel like he could fall into her, get lost forever – the look that said that she needed to join with him, become one with him –

“I’m not the only one, Trip,” she said, as her fingers tangled in his, as her soul wound the bond in more complex patterns, and they fell in, together….

Interspecies Medical Exchange: #STaD for May 28, 2015

Disclaimers:

Phlox was preparing for the baby’s arrival when the comm engaged. “Tucker to Sickbay – c’mon, Doc, pick up, willya -?”

The tenor of the voice is universal, among Commander Tucker’s species. It’s a tone no physician could mistake – the note of trouble.

“Yes, Comman-”

“T’Pol’s on her way with the baby – ”

“Correction, Commander. She’s here.” The doors were slipping open, but not quickly enough for the disheveled Vulcan woman, who came in sideways, her face pale and taut with her efforts at control. Strangely, she was wearing Commander Tucker’s vibrantly patterned shirt, which hung oddly on her slender frame.

He’d once thought T’Pol pragmatic to the point of coldness. But the woman who halfway ran to the biobed was anything but.

“On my way to you, pepperpot. Hang on, you got this. Our little one’s a fighter.”

The comm disengaged, and the Vulcan woman drew a deep but shaken breath. Phlox adopted his best comforting manner; she was clearly out of her element, and struggling with anxieties she wasn’t prepared for.

“Well, now, T’Pol, I wasn’t expecting you for another hour and a half – what seems to be the trouble?”

“She’s burning up. She’s dying!” Her voice was sharp with panic.

She’d made the same claim when they located her with the child on the mining ship. Phlox’s scans didn’t agree, then; the baby had an infection of unspecified origins, but it wasn’t life threatening, and she was otherwise remarkably healthy, given her parentage.

Clearly, T’Pol needed more reassurance.

“The imaging system isn’t yet fully calibrated for her, but we can attempt it – however, T’Pol, you must place her on the biobed.”

“No!” A deep primal cry; she wasn’t in control of her emotional state. She wasn’t a Vulcan, now, so much as she was a frightened young mother, fretful for her child. Under the circumstances, it was more than understandable, but it wouldn’t help either her or the baby.

“The hand scanner will present a far less detailed image…” He trailed off as the child T’Pol held stirred; making a peevish little cry, and the woman, remarkably, pushed Commander Tucker’s shirt up to reveal her bared breast, and the baby turned in toward her body in an instinctive rooting gesture. T’Pol sighed deeply, her scent shifting as the infant latched on, swallowing rhythmically.

“You are lactating, T’Pol?” An unnecessary question, as milk pooled in the corner of the baby’s lips.

The young mother, who had only learned of her cloned daughter’s existence four days ago, didn’t look up from her study of her infant’s face as she suckled. Some of the tension left T’Pol’s body, as she sank down to the biobed. “Yes,” she said, softly, stroking the child’s cheek with paired fingers. Then her eyes shifted focus to the door. “Trip is approaching,” she whispered.

“Remarkable, “ Phlox commented, but he was almost certain that she didn’t hear him. She was relaxed, the nursing naturally accomplishing what he’d intended to attempt. Her fixed watch on the door and the way she rocked the child spoke of intense connection with her mate and their daughter.

She was strikingly beautiful, and, as the doors opened, her lips parted and her pupils dilated as her scent shifted again, to something richer, deeper, more mineral laden. It was a scent she only emitted in Commander Tucker’s presence.

Her human mate came straight to the biobed, showing no surprise at the inexplicable sight of his child’s mother nursing her. He bent to kiss the baby’s head; then leaned in to T’Pol’s upturned face, and kissed her deeply and with obvious passion. “Feeling better now that you’re here, pepperpot?”

T’Pol nodded, her fingers stretching to his, and Trip met them with his own. Fascinating, the way they were learning one another’s cultures, the methods by which they could cement their bonds.

Phlox had always thought the pairbonding of cultures such as theirs limiting – he had tried to imagine leaving two of his wives, and selecting only one for the rest of his life, and asking her, whichever she would be, to leave her other two husbands, and be only with him.

But to give up the network of relationships and connections that came with his wives, their other husbands, the children, the other spouses of his wives’ spouses, those children –

No, he could never be limited in such a way – he was a Denobulan, and not designed for such restrictive relationships.

But for the two Commanders and the child created without their knowledge or consent, this was clearly a deeply fulfilling, natural connection – and it was beautiful to behold.

“She’s got this idea the baby’s dying, Doc. Can you help her relax?”

T’Pol leaned into Trip as he sat beside her; Phlox noticed that he didn’t break their contact. The sensitivity of T’Pol’s fingertips, which had more than three times as many nerve endings as humans, was one of the many aspects of her physiology that were ‘classified and confidential’. But Commander Tucker clearly understood enough to offer her the sustenance of a particularly Vulcan contact.

“An imaging scan will likely ease your concerns, T’Pol. When the child has finished nursing – ”

“No.” It wasn’t as raw or instinctive, now, but it was no less inflexible.

“C’mon, pepperpot – you’re eating yourself up inside with worry. Let the Doc help.” Commander Tucker winced as his mate clutched his fingers; her grip was powerful enough to break fingers, if she forgot herself. But, at his pain response, she immediately loosened her instinctive grasp.

“I won’t release her, Trip, unless it is for you to hold her. Remember what you said in the Quilt Fort. I won’t squander a moment we might have with her, solely to ease my agitation.”

“Okay. No one’s going to make you let go, if you don’t want to. That’s a promise from me, okay?”

Phlox stepped back a little, and watched as T’Pol stared into her mate’s eyes and nodded, her face more open and vulnerable than she generally allowed. “Okay,” she murmured.

“Doc, can you get a detailed scan on our little sweetheart, here, if her mama goes into the tube with her?”

“Certainly, Commander. However, the biobed will not accommodate you all -”

“I’ll keep my eyes on what’s going on out here. You won’t even have to wait till she’s finished her snack.” He kissed the top of her head, again. “Let me take care of you, while you take care of her -”

“You’re injured, Trip.”

The human grimaced. “I’ll manage. I want to help you, and I’m not going to let a broken wing stop me, any more than I did when I changed her, or made us the blanket fort.”

A most determined and inventive man, Commander Tucker. As he would have to be, to have broken through the barriers that were so much a part of Vulcan life. He didn’t wait for an answer, but adjusted the back of the biobed so that T’Pol could recline and be supported as she nursed. “Doc, got a pillow to put under her arm?”

Phlox turned and secured the requested comfort measure. When he turned back, Commander Tucker was assisting his Vulcan mate to settle on the bed. He took the pillow with a smile, and tucked it under T’Pol’s elbow as she cradled their child. “Damn, but you two make a beautiful picture – gimme a minute, here…got my camera in my pocket….”

He fished, one handed, and retrieved what he was seeking. “I won’t ask you to smile, because there’s no way whatsoever you could look any more beautiful than you do, looking at her…” He snapped one-handed, shifted his position, then snapped again, and again.

“Commander Tucker.” Vulcans were purported to be a particularly patient species, but T’Pol had never been especially noted for hers, even before her trellium addiction.

That was clearly evident in her clipped tone – clipped, but tenderer than she used with others. “Your stated purpose is to ‘help me relax’ about our child. Your current activity, however, is both delaying the scan, and also causing a response within me that is nearly diametrically opposed to relaxation. You took dozens more, in the Quilt Fort.”

“Okay, pepperpot. But, listen, just one more, OK? One of all of us, while she’s nursing? I need one to frame, even if you’re not the type to need mementos – “

“I would find a copy agreeable, Trip.”

The human beamed, and rested his hip on the biobed, using his good arm to hold the camera.

“If one more wouldn’t be pressing Commander T’Pol’s patience beyond the breaking point, it would be my honor to commemorate this occasion in a way that allows you to fully participate, Commander Tucker.”

“One more.” Phlox smiled at the combination of impassivity and impatience the young mother displayed. Considering the magnitude of the change in her circumstances, she was dealing remarkably well.

Commander Tucker handed him the camera, and grinned at the woman as he reached his uninjured arm around her body to take her fingers in his, carefully, moving them to rest against the suckling infant’s cheek.

It was a lovely image, with both of them watching the child, the mother’s eyes calm but shining with unspoken emotion, and the father’s face dimpling into its customary grin, the corners of his eyes crinkling.

Just as Phlox was preparing to snap, the child seized the joined fingers, tugging them down, and the corner of her mouth turned up as she paused in her suckling. Milk pooled in her smile as she stared up at her parents, her mouth mirroring her human father, and her eyes echoing her Vulcan mother.

Phlox was known, in his convoluted and extended family unit, for capturing such moments. He snapped the image, and knew it was a perfect memory, one that would be treasured by both mates, whatever their future connection might be.

“All right, then – time to put your mind at ease, pepperpot.” Commander Tucker wriggled his fingers loose. “You sure have a beautiful smile there, baby girl.” He kissed both the female heads, then stepped back. “I’ll be right here.”

T’Pol nodded readiness, and Phlox gave the camera back to the Chief Engineer, then engaged the imaging unit. “The female capacity to nourish children has always fascinated me,” he said, gesturing to the appropriate area –

Commander Tucker scowled. “Hey, not sure I like you spying on T’Pol’s breasts….not sure I like that at all, actually – I know your interest is medical, but she’s my bondmate, and – awww, hell – I don’t think I was supposed to say that -”

“Be at ease, Commadner. There are certain physiological changes that occur in Vulcan females when they consummate a pairbonding relationship. It’s quite likely that I knew your altered status in regards to one another before either of you did. You’ve revealed no secrets to me.”

You knew?!” The human spluttered, and his complexion pinkened. “How? When?!”

“The night the multiphasic alien escaped, and attacked us both. As I recall, you were rendered unconscious, and brought here. You were largely uninjured, however, you had a deep bite wound on your shoulder, one that precisely matched Commander T’Pol’s dental imprint, and which carried her DNA signature.” He paused. “Nor was it the only portion of you anatomy that bore her DNA, that night.”

“Yeah, I remember,” the human said, his hand going to the place where the bite had been. He hadn’t allowed Phlox to treat the wound, beyond assuring that it wouldn’t become infected – there was still a faint scar there. “But listen – don’t mention it to T’Pol. She’s – well, she’s Vulcan.”

“I’m aware of that, Commander – aha” – he’d gone back to exploring the lactation circuit, in a roundabout manner that wouldn’t distress T’Pol’s bonded mate, but would offer clues as to how the young woman, who had never been pregnant, was able to so spontaneously begin producing milk for her child. There were intriguing neural paths to both mother and child’s telepathic centers – a complex network of pathways. T’Pol’s had grown far more intricate over her time among humans. Phlox suspected that the beginning had happened sooner, perhaps at that point, unknown to him, where she and Commander Tucker had first encountered one another, triggering a new awareness in the young Vulcan woman.

But that was something to check into more at a later time. “I believe I have isolated the source of your daughter’s elevated temperature, Commander Tucker.”

Blue eyes stared piercingly at him. Until now, Phlox hadn’t known that he was as frightened as T’Pol – apparently, Commander Tucker was suppressing his own emotions to spare T’Pol further distress. Remarkable, the connection the Commanders had forged – were forging. It didn’t seem limiting at all. “C’mon, Doc – tell me it’s not serious. That she’s gonna be OK.”

“It’s very serious, for your daughter, Commander – but she will indeed be ‘OK’, once the process is completed. She is teething.”

Teething?! That’s it? What about the fever?”

“Fever is often a symptom of human teething – and I suspect more so for Vulcan infants, if they all follow the pattern of your daughter – her first twelve teeth are beginning to erupt, and her gums are quite inflamed.”

Twelve teeth? At once?! Doc – how is that possible? She’s gotta be in a helluva a lot of pain, but she’s hardly made a peep.”

“Have you forgotten who her mother is?”

“I thought that was more a matter of discipline and conditioning.”

The door whooshed open, again, and Captain Archer hurried in, followed by an older human couple –

“Trip – where’s our grandbaby, and her sweet mama?”

“That might be the first time I’ve ever heard T’Pol referred to as sweet,” Captain Archer said to the older man.

“Mom, Dad when did you get here? T’Pol and the baby are getting a fancy scan.”

“A few minutes ago. We went to you quarters, then T’Pol’s, then to the Captain.”

“Everything OK?” Captain Archer looked from Trip to Phlox, then to the imaging chamber.

“The baby has a fever, and it made T’Pol real – well, agitated, I guess she’d say. Anyway, she wasn’t about to let go, and you know how she is, Cap’n. We worked out a compromise.”

“A fever? Phlox, is it serious?”

“Captain, I think I should be discussing this with the child’s mother before making general statements.”

“Of course.” He paused. “How much longer?”

“We’ve ascertained the problem -”

“If you don’t mind, Doc, I think you should be as thorough as you can be. She’s worried, even if she won’t say so, and scared – but I didn’t tell you that. She needs evidence, and I need her to relax.”

“Very well then – another five minutes.” Phlox went back to the readout, but positioned himself in such a way that he could watch the humans interacting. Seldom had he had the opportunity to observe multiple generations of the same family.

“Mom, Dad – I don’t want to sound rude, but what’re you doing here?”

“We want to meet our granddaughter. And we’ve got another present for you – and for her.”

“Mom – what’d you do? You’ve done enough, already – more than enough.”

“All we did was to pull some things out of storage, and clean them up for you – and buy some new bottles and diapers, and a few toys.”

“You know your mother, son. She gets an idea in her mind, and there’s no stopping her -”

“Reminds me of someone,” Captain Archer said, and Phlox chuckled softly to himself.

“Yeah. T’Pol,” Commander Tucker said, in a tone that suggested he knew exactly whom the captain was referencing. “Here, Mom and Dad, have a seat, will ya – I’m gonna be right there when my girls come out of that tube.”

“ ‘Your girls’, Trip?” He gestured to the chairs at the research and diagnostic stations.

Commander Tucker shrugged. “Make of that what you want, Cap’n – you’ve already walked in on us.”

“Trip Tucker!” There was clearly some subcontextual message in the use of nickname and surname together.

“Mom – I’m a grown man. I’ve got a baby.

“And you’re supposed to be a gentleman. It’s how I raised you. Does a gentleman talk out of turn about things that are meant to be private, son?”

“No, ma’am – even if his Captain walks in -”

You answered the door, Trip, or she did. I didn’t need that much information on how you two decided to – uh, handle – the news of your parenthood.”

The engineer groaned.

“The scan is complete. Commander Tucker, I’m quite certain Commander T’Pol won’t find this conversation agreeable.”

“And she’ll let me know, too – thoroughly. You want to get me into trouble with her, don’t you? Cap’n, you’re cruel. Dad – you’re just clueless about the hell you wanna put me through.” The engineer rolled his eyes. The other two human males, Phlox noticed, chuckled, although Commander Tucker’s mother seemed less than amused.

As T’Pol would be, if she had heard…

But, when the tube opened, mother and child were both asleep.

“Damn, they’re beautiful,” the Commander said, softly. “And I’m one lucky man. No – Dad, Cap’n, don’t come any closer – they fell asleep nursing.”

“Here, son – it’s a perfect time for your gift.” The human woman, who had bequeathed her son the vivid blue eyes that were so distinctive, held out a bundle. “You can use this to cover them.”

“T’Pol’s nursing the baby? How?”

“Cap’n – “ Commander Tucker accepted the bundle from his mother, and shook out a blanket of the type Phlox believed humans referred to as a quilt. He spread it over T’Pol, shielding her. “Oh, Mom – this is beautiful! And my favorite painting – “

“’Starry Night’ seemed appropriate, for all of you,” his mother said, with tears in her eyes.

“It is indeed,” said a quiet voice from the biobed. T’Pol reached for Commander Tucker’s, and she looked past him to his mother. “Thank you.” Her focus shifted again, to her. “Doctor Phlox- what have you found?”

“I’ll make a detailed analysis of the results later, but, for now, I believe I can put your mind at ease regarding your daughter’s fever. She is teething.”

“Teething? Only that?”

“You sound disappointed, pepperpot.”

“No, Trip. Only – uncertain that it can be that simple a matter.”

“Twelve teeth at onxe doesn’t seem simple to me. Even a little bit.”

“It’s quite normal for a Vulcan child. However, fevers while teething are not.”

“They are for human children. I thought she would be teething soon.” Commander Tucker’s mother reached into a bag she held, and withdrew a small tin, which she offered to T’Pol, who took it silently. “If you rub this on her gums with your finger, it’ll soothe the pain, and reduce the inflammation.”

“I can’t do that,” T’Pol said quickly, and her fingers quivered against her mate’s. “I mean no offense, Mrs. Tucker- “

“Kath, T’Pol. I’m called Kath.”

“I will remember – Kath.” For some reason, the Captain made a sound like a strangled laugh.

“Give it to me, pepperpot. I’ll do the rubbing. You’re already doing the nursing.”

Phlox stepped back, his work done for the moment, and enjoyed the interspecies exchange happening in his Sickbay.

Not Jealousy: #StaD for May 29, 2015

Disclaimers:

This story is rated R for sexual and adult themes.

Not Jealousy

When Jon saw the clothes dangling in Trip’s hand, he tried not to laugh. Once he reminded himself why he was here, and where here was, it was easier. “I don’t think those are going to work, Commander.”

“These are my customary undergarments.” It was Trip, no doubt about it. He was completely naked; he was absolutely male. But the underwear came out of T’Pol’s dresser, and was completely unsuitable for Trip.

“ ‘Your customary undergarments’? Something you want to tell me, Trip?”

The engineer stared at the clothes with a small frown. Then he looked at Jon. “Yes. I don’t want to dress with you in the room. Captain.”

Captain. Not Cap’n…and there was that bit about ‘customary undergarments’.

It was Trip, but he sounded like T’Pol – and it was her underwear in his hands.

What the hell was going on between them? If T’Pol was as sick as she’d looked, yesterday, why the hell was Trip in her quarters – naked?

“I don’t think those are going to fit you, Trip.”

The engineer frowned down at his body, and placed a hand just above his groin; Jon tried not to look. “I don’t believe the pregnancy has significantly changed my physical dimensions – if anything, the inability to eat has made my clothing looser – ”

Jon had the distinct impression that he was missing some very important details, here. For sure, Trip was.

He ducked his head out the door. “Call Doctor Phlox,” he said to Malcolm, while he watched Trip struggle to fit his brawny shoulders into T’Pol’s bra – and get utterly tangled up.

“I’m ‘n engineer; I can make this work….”

“Trip.” Jon took hold of his friend’s shoulders. Trip looked at him without really seeming to see him. “This is T’Pol’s room, not yours. Your clothes aren’t here; these are hers. I’ll send Malcolm to get you something that will fit you.”

Trip looked in the mirror, and finally saw himself. “Aww, hell, what am I thinking? No, can’t wear her undies, need my own. But don’t send Malcolm. No need.” He went back past Jon to the dresser, and reached in – coming up this time with Starfleet blues.

“Know what you’re gonna say, Cap’n – and don’t. No business of yours whose drawers I keep my drawers in. Now, let me dress – we gotta find her, get her back here before it’s too late – “

He pushed past Jon almost as though he wasn’t there, leaving him and Malcolm staring at each other, then at T’Pol’s empty bed, the intravenous setup still beside it. Jon considered the implications of Trip’s nudity, his sounding like T’Pol and trying to wear her clothes, his underwear right beside hers in her dresser –

All of which gave him the impression that they were a hell of a lot cozier these days than he’d had any idea about – even more than what the last two days suggested.

But he could think about that later. As Trip emerged from the head in his own tank and briefs, and went to the wardrobe, where duty jumpsuits seemed to have equal billing with slinky colorful catsuits, Jon caught his arm, and said, “What the hell did you mean, Trip, when you said, ‘the pregnancy’?”

Ten minutes earlier….

“They took her!”

The intraship blared, then Trip’s voice cut off as suddenly as it had started.

There was no answer when they tried to call him.

“Malcolm, with me,” Jon said, but Reed was born to be a Tactical Officer – he was already at the open lift.

“Captain, that call originated in T’Pol’s quarters, not his.” Hoshi didn’t seem to see the implications of what she was saying, but Jon did. Seemed like anywhere T’Pol was, that’s where Trip would be, since the baby. Jon wanted to know what they were to each other, and he wanted to think that his reasons for wanting to know didn’t have more to do with jealousy than he cared to admit…

“Well, keep trying to raise him, and let him know we’re on our way if you get through to him.”

Malcolm waited until the doors were closed. “Why would he be in T’Pol’s quarters, sir? I understand that she’s still quite ill.”

“As I understand it, Lieutenant. her famous sense of smell’s been working overtime, lately, and she’s unable to tolerate the ‘odors’ of Sickbay – or Phlox or any of his staff.”

“But Trip Tucker she can handle?”

Jon didn’t say what they were both thinking. They both knew, now, that Trip and T’Pol had handled each other more than once, in the past – but was that still true? How could it be, when she was so sick?

“Apparently so.”

“Given how they related to one another in the beginning, that’s rather ironic.”

The lift doors opened. Jon gestured Malcolm to stay back and ready, and pressed the buzzer for T’Pol’s door.

No answer.

He debated for a moment – once, he’d walked into her room, and found them naked in bed together, neither seeming remotely ashamed, as though they had every right –

Well, maybe they did, but that was another matter…

He signaled again, but there still wasn’t any answer.

“Be ready if I need you, Malcolm.” He pressed the override, and went inside –

To damned near collide a solid body just in the darkened room.

“T’Pol? Trip?”

“Here.”

“Computer, lights.” Only then did he start to put pieces together.

“What happened to the candles? And where the hell are your clothes?”

“The scent of the candles is nauseating. Clothing would’ve just gotten in the way….you gotta help us. Please, Captain.”

“Clothing would’ve gotten in the way of what, Trip?” Jon’s eyes went to the bed –

It was empty, the bedding disturbed as though someone – or someones? – had been laying there. The medication delivery system Phlox had rigged up for T’Pol was still beside it, and a bowl and a cloth sat on the small bedside table, suggesting that she was still vomiting.

But there was no sign of T’Pol herself. In the head, maybe.

He turned back to look at Trip, because he hadn’t answered the clothing question. The naked engineer was staring at the bed like he’d never seen it before.

“Where’s T’Pol, Trip?”

“Dunno. Gotta find out – get back, before it’s too late…not much time – feel so damned sick- “ Trip staggered to the bed, sank down on it, moaning as he grabbed for the bowl and vomited forcefully, the same way T’Pol had, yesterday.

Phlox had said that whatever was making T’Pol sick wasn’t contagious to humans or Denobulans – but Trip had been immune to the Orion pheremones. Was he also susceptible to Vulcan sicknesses, now?

Why?

When the vomiting subsided to miserable sounding dry heaves, Jon took the bowl, and gave Trip the cloth. But the other man just stared at it, then, when Jon took it back and wiped his face, he stirred and said, “Throat hurts – so damned sick – need to find out where – where – ”

“Where T’Pol is?”

Trip started to nod, but retched again; Jon barely got the bowl back under in time. Was Trip going to end up as sick as T’Pol was?

“Trip, can you tell me what happened?”

“Was too dark…dark, then a transporter – somewhere else. Smells – smells -no, don’t think of the smells, Trip. The Captain needs clues. You need clothes….”

Something seemed to click into place in Trip’s mind. He set the bowl back, used the cloth to wipe his face, then got up and strode to the dresser, where he opened a drawer, and pulled out a small bundle. “Efficient as always,” he muttered with a small smile, then undid the bundle…

About three hours earlier…

“Where’s T’Pol?” Jon looked around Sickbay, but only Trip and Phlox were here, peering together at a computer screen and three datapads.

“Resting in her quarters, which is where I’m headed, soon as we’re finished goin’ over her treatment plan.”

“Why do you need to know T’Pol’s treatment plan, Commander Tucker?” Jon heard the suspicion in his voice, but it was too late to take it back now. “Did you transfer to Medical without telling me?” He gave a weak smile, and mentally begged Trip to be as good-natured about the slip as he usually was.

“Commander T’Pol’s nausea was triggerred and exacerbated by the scents of Sickbay,” Phlox explained. Jon sniffed; the place always just smelled clean to him, despite the menagerie the Denobulan doctor kept in here.

“I can’t smell it either, Cap’n,” Trip said, letting the unfair jibes slide off. He didn’t talk about whatever his relationship with the Vulcan was – but a person would have to be completely out of sync with the currents of life on Enterprise not to know that the loss of their infant daughter had affected them both deeply – and that it had brought them closer together, in support. And of course, there was the way Trip was with her yesterday… “But she was turning four shades too green, and there’s nothing at all left in her to bring up, except bile.”

“I thought it best to accede to the Commander’s request that she return to her own quarters, where she can more fully control the scents she’s exposed to. She can’t tolerate my odor either, at the moment, but there is one person whose chemistry is not triggering her hyperemesis -”

“Trip.”

“Guilty as charged, sir. Can you spare me, to play nurse for her? She needs someone – ”

“What about that neural numbing agent she used to talk so much about -?”

“Commander T’Pol has not used it in years,” Phlox told him. “Nor would she consent to it, now. She claims that Commander Tucker’s scent is – soothing.”

“Trip? Soothing?

“Apparently so, Captain. And the evidence seems to back her claims. She vomited 13 times in the 2 hours Commander Tucker left Sickbay, and 9 during the eighteen hours he was with her . It seems – logical – to assume that there may be a correlation…”

“Still, to send Trip in there to take care of her while she’s defenseless….”

“I’d never try to score points on her when she’s down, Cap’n. I’m a gentleman. But you can damned bet I’m not gonna let her live it down when she’s better, how I was the only thing that didn’t make her sick.” He dropped the aww-shucks bit, and said, “Jon, I’m begging you. Let me take care of her, let me be whatever she needs me to be. I know you’re not happy about it, but she and I – we’ve been through hell together, these last few weeks -”

For a moment, Jon thought his best friend was going to cry. There wasn’t any doubt in his mind, after what they went through to find their child, after seeing the way they were with her, the way they huddled over her incubator, the fierce way they’d chosen not to let her die untouched, that the loss of the child was one neither one of them was going to ever really get over. “Don’t make me leave her alone now, because you’re mad or jealous. Do it for her, if you can’t do it for me.”

“Tell her to get better, and that we’ll miss her on the Bridge. And, Trip -”

“Yeah.” He’d already been aimed at the door, the three datapads under his arm.

“You’d damned well better take good care of my First Officer.”

“Only thing in the universe I wanna do right now, sir. It’s killin’ me that she’s so sick -” Trip stuck his tongue in his cheek and bolted; Jon got the feeling it was at least partly to keep himself from saying more than he wanted to.

“So, how come she can handle Trip’s scent, and no one else’s?”

“I’m not prepared to speculate, Captain.”

“Have you learned anything more about her condition?”

“A great deal,” Phlox said, turning off the terminal.

“Well?”

“Commander T’Pol has invoked her right to confidentiality, Captain. I can say only that, with time and treatment, she’ll recover, and that, although she is quite understandably miserable at present, our palliative measures will likely bring her relief within the next few days. I can add that her condition isn’t contagious to humans or Denobulans; Commnder Tucker is safe.”

“And that’s all the information I get?”

“Yes, Captain. It’s more than she’s obligated to allow you.”

Jon thought of the Pa’Naar Syndrome, and the trellium addiction. When T’Pol kept things to herself, it was always complicated. What Vulcan time bomb was going to go off this time? Would Trip be caught in the crosshairs?

But he couldn’t even ask. “Let me know if there’s any developments you can tell me about, Phlox.”

He went up to the Bridge, and arranged for T’Pol’s relief. Trip had already taken care of his replacement, as if he’d known Jon would have to agree.

Funny how quiet it was without her here. She usually went about her business with little need of chatter – unless Trip was on the Bridge egging her on…

And, in the weeks since her child died, she’d become damned near silent, hunched up in her heaviest Vulcan robes like they were some sort of barrier, or an armor against the grief….

But T’Pol, even silent, even in robes, and not those sexy catsuits, had a tremendous amount of presence.

He could feel the empty place behind him, and the way the Bridge seemed – incomplete. The hours dragged- one, two, almost three-

The intraship squawked to life, and Trip’s voice yelled, “They took her!”

Lunchtime, the day before….

“Thank you, Captain.” T’Pol’s voice was almost gone, a thready, raw whisper.

“Don’t try to talk, pepperpot. You just sit tight, and stay still, and let me handle this. Cap’n, please don’t make her talk. Damn, I didn’t know so much could come out of someone so slender. She can’t take much more of this. I’m sorry, pepperpot – so damned sorry you have to go through this.”

“At ease, Doctor Tucker. T’Pol, I just wanted to check up on you. If it hurts when you talk, or makes you feel sick, don’t. I don’t want to make it worse -”

He broke off as T’Pol gagged. “Awww, hell!” Trip exclaimed, grabbing the basin on the table, and getting it under T’Pol’s chin just as she started to heave weakly. Trip’s fingers stroked through the sweat-crusted fringe of bangs; Jon watched them, trying to avoid the implications of that small intimacy; of Trip still being here several hours after he brought her.

When T’Pol finished vomiting what looked like nothing but bile, Trip put the bowl aside, and picked up a soft damp cloth. T’Pol leaned into his shoulder as he wrapped an arm around her, gently. Jon almost said something, ordered him out and back to work, but then T’Pol’s head dropped to Trip’s shoulder, and Trip whispered harshly, “Aww, hell, pepperpot. I hate this for you. It’ s so not fair.”

“Trip, don’t.” Barely even a whisper, now. Jon had never seen the Vulcan looking so weak and defenseless. But one trembling hand lifted, made its way to Trip’s hand, and her fingers tangled with his as she sighed.

“Kaiidth,” she breathed, or something like that.

“What’d she say?” Jon asked.

“Means ‘what is, is’ – or almost that, or close to that, anyway. Doesn’t mean I have to like it, pepperpot, or that I can’t be sorry that this is so damned unfair to you – ”

“Captain? I didn’t hear you come in.” The end of whatever Trip was saying as he looked into T’Pol’s face got drowned out by Phlox’s entry from his office area. Jon could almost think that was intentional, to give Trip and T’Pol their privacy – their privacy? – why the hell did they need privacy?

The little gold claddaugh ring with its jade heart peeked out from between Trip’s strong and capable engineer’s fingers. It said things that Jon didn’t want to think about, and couldn’t seem to stop thinking about.

He forced himself to turn to the doctor. It really wasn’t his business, whatever was going on with his First Officer and his Chief Engineer. He couldn’t cheat either of them out of any solace they found with each other. Not while T’Pol was wearing Trip’s dead sister’s ring, and had been ever since the baby they’d given the same name had died. The baby created from their stolen genetic material – stolen from his two best friends, on his ship.

Almost under my nose, and Phlox’s. How the hell could we have let that happen to them -?

He couldn’t go down that road now, not while he could still hear the sound of Trip murmuring to her, hear T’Pol’s thready and infrequent responses – and then the sounds of retching, and she was vomiting, again –

“Phlox? Have you learned anything about what’s causing this? Is she in danger?” Jon swallowed hard; the stink of bile and the sounds of the attack were almost enough to make him vomit, too.

“Yes, and perhaps. If you’ll step this way – I’ve noticed that witnessing another being vomit often affects your species adversely. Forrtunately, Commander Tucker seems to be able to tolerate Commander T’Pol’s illness.”

They moved back into the office, and Phlox added, “The Commander hasn’t been eating adequately since the loss of their daughter. If this hyperemesis persists, she could easily become malnourished. Currently, she is dehydrated, due to the sheer volume of fluid she’s lost.”

Jon thought for a moment about the implications of T’Pol, who could go days without water, becoming dehydrated.

“What are you doing for her, Phlox? I can have Chef whip up a fresh batch of plomeek broth – “

He was interrupted by renewed sounds of helpless retching. “Cap’n, please don’t talk about food or drink – sets her off, and her ears are too damned good. Have some mercy – ”

“Commander Tucker is right. Taking anything by mouth is contraindicated, and will likely only trigger further -” the retching was punctuated by Trip’s cursing, in an incongruously gentle tone. “Digestive distress.”

“How long will this last? Do you know what’s causing it?”

“It will last until whatever is causing the distress eases, or until she adjusts to it.”

“And what is causing it?” Phlox had a way of turning conversations from things he didn’t wish to discuss, but when one of his crew was this sick, Jon wasn’t going to let that happen.

“I have several ideas, Captain – however, Commander T’Pol hasn’t authorized me to discuss them, yet. I’m in the process of formulating an intravenous nutritional supplement that will meet her needs for sustenance, while bypassing her compromised digestive system. Hopefully, the need won’t persist for long, and we can bolster her nutritional health, in the process.” Phlox sighed. “Needless to say, Captain, T’Pol is unable to return to duty, at the moment.”

“Yeah, I figured that. I’ll work out a relief. Take good care of her, Phlox -”

Jon went back to the curtained biobed. T’Pol looked small and fragile; Trip was sitting on the bed, holding her as she slumped into his chest, resting or asleep. He looked up at Jon, and it was clear that he was crying now. “Damn, I hate this, Cap’n.”

Maybe he should take pity on his friend – but there was something about the way Trip was holding her, how he was acting like she was his responsibility, almost like they were a couple. T’Pol still had hold of one of his hands, and there was that damned ring that she always wore now, when she’d never worn jewelry of any kind…she had his fingers twined in hers, and her head was on his chest, over his human heart…and Trip’s other fingers were tracing the upward sweep of her sensually pointed ear.

It was driving him crazy, the way she was letting hm support her, and the way Trip didn’t even seem to realize he was caressing her. What that suggested was not something that Jon wanted to admit made him deeply jealous of the place Trip occupied on her bed, and, apparently, in her life

“Trip – she’s relieved of duty. You aren’t.”

“Seriously, Cap’n?” The fingers stopped; the woman made a small sound and shifted, and Trip murmured low and went back to the rhythmic touch. “You’re gonna make me leave her when she’s this sick?”

“You’ve got a job to do -”

“I’ve got a job to do right here!” T’Pol jolted awake, and started retching again – Trip grabbed the basin and the cloth; Jon watched him tend to her tenderly and capably. “Aww, hell – sorry pepperpot. Didn’t mean to wake you up and make you sick again – Cap’n wants me to go – but I want to stay here- when a lady pukes on my uniform, I tend to feel responsible for her.”

“Don’t go!” T’Pol’s voice was weak, almost gone, but she was still Vulcan. She grabbed tight, and Trip winced sharply.

“Breaking my fingers would certainly put me outta commission, pepperpot – but it’d make it a helluva lot harder to take care of you, too.” He loosened her grip softly, brought the fingers to his mouth and kissed them gently, looking up at Jon. “Please don’t make me go, when she wants me to stay.”

Captain, may I have a moment?” Phlox shepherded him back into his office.

“What is it, Doctor? I’ve got things to do.”

“I think it would be beneficial for T’Pol if Commander Tucker were allowed to remain with her, at least for today. He’s providing her comfort and palliative care – she’s able to derive physical comfort from him. Whether they choose to admit it or not, Vulcans have the same need for that as other sentient species. There may well be health benefits in it, for T’Pol – and it will certainly make this ordeal less difficult.”

“Why him, Phlox? Out of all of us – why him?”

“Captain Archer.”

The Denobulan’s tone cut through his mood. “What is it, Phlox?”

“As Commander T’Pol’s physician, I’m asking you not to let your jealousy deprive her of solace she needs.”

“Jealousy? Phlox, I’m not -”

“Please, Captain. Allow T’Pol what comfort she can have, and allow Commander Tucker to assist her, which seems to also bring him comfort.”

“What the hell can I say to that?” Jon growled at the doctor, knowing he wasn’t being fair. He went back out and said, “Grab a shower, Trip, and come back here. This is your station, for today. T’Pol, rest and feel better.”

He went out before he had to see the reaction to his words. But the image of them, the casual intimacy of the way the beautiful Vulcan woman had used Trip for support, the way her fingers held to his, with that Earth ring on the third finger of her left hand – did that mean something, or was it just the finger it fit?; the way Trip’s fingers were stroking her ear, the way he was tending to her like –

Like he was her lover, or something more than that.

Little flashes of them together, over the last months, since the time he’d walked in to ask her to dinner, the Orion women’s pheremones leading him to want her in a way he hadn’t let himself feel since that damned night in Sickbay, when she’d shut him down – with extreme courtesy, but unmistakably.

He’d found her in Trip’s arms that evening. They’d claimed it was a dancing lesson, but Trip’s hand had been curled around T’Pol’s hip, bringing her in close to his body, and her hand had been splayed over the side of his face. Both of their eyes had been far away –

But later that night, in the haze of Andorian ale and the pheremones, he was almost sure he’d witnessed them – well, very very much en flagrante in his Mess. But Phlox had started medicating him right after that, and he wasn’t sure, and neither Trip nor T’Pol had made any mention of the incident.

There was that other time, too, right after they’d found out about the baby. That first moment, when Phlox has said who the child’s parents were, and their eyes had locked together in a clear communication, both clearly counting months in their heads, realizing –

That’s when he’d known for sure that they’d been lovers, back there in the hell of the Expanse.

Later that same night, he’d walked in on them, naked in T’Pol’s bed, tangled up in each other, not even trying to hide that they’d decided to cope with the news with sex….

By both of their accounts, a great deal of sex.

The images followed him back up to the Bridge, through the rest of the day, into his own bed that night, where he masturbated guiltily, thinking of the way they’d looked in her bed together, the way Trip had been taking care of her today –

What it said to him was that they were more than just two people fooling around. More than lovers. More even than two unwitting parents who were seeking comfort and understanding as they dealt with her existence, then the grief of her death.

It said that they were partners. Dedicated partners.

And she wasn’t ever going to be his. Not while Trip was in the picture –

He dreamed restless dreams, some of him making love with her, some of Trip tangling with her, and T’Pol’s face etched with ecstasy as he played with her ears and she arched up to meet him, and he could hear the sound of their bodies meeting, again and again –

And then they were curled up in another bed, somewhere else, with their baby girl between, and T’Pol’s belly was swollen with another-

The previous morning, 0800 hours…

“Don’t try to pretend, pepperpot. I know you’re not feeling well; I want you to sit down, and then I want you to tell the Cap’n that you’re sick, and go lay down till I’m off duty. I’ll come check on you at lunch, and bring you some plomeek broth and chamomile – ”

“I’m neither ill nor hungry, Trip.”

“C’mon, pepperpot. You gotta know I’m never going to buy that. You’re exhausted, and you’re not eating enough to fill up a mosquito. Now sit down, or I’ll tell the Cap’n you’re sick, myself.”

“I’m fine, Trip. However, if it will appease you, and reduce your volume, I will sit.”

Jonathan Archer stood in the doorway of his Ready Room, and listened. T’Pol sounded – tired? Sick? Not fine, not by a long shot.

But he didn’t need to eavesdrop on her to know that.

He stepped up into the Situation Room as though he hadn’t heard anything. He also didn’t comment about the fact that T’Pol was sitting, or that Trip was standing directly behind her chair, as though he was willing to make an issue of it, if she dared to get up.

“Captain,” T’Pol said, by way of greeting. Her face was pale and drawn, and she seemed lost in the layers of Vulcan robes she’d taken to wearing since she and Trip had returned from bereavement leave. Was it her imagination, or was she sitting a little hunched in the chair?

“Commanders,” he said, wondering if he should order her to go to Sickbay. No, that was likely to violate her sense of privacy. He decided he’d make a polite and private suggestion in an hour or two, if she still looked like she was hanging on by a thread. He pretended not to have seen the chair. “Anything interesting today?”

“Well, now, we’ve found – hey -”

Trip was coming around the chair, even before T’Pol bolted forward so fast her forehead impacted the edge of the data table with a sickening thud –

“Aww, hell!” Trip caught hold of her, held her up –

“I feel ill -”T’Pol vomited without any further warning, the foul-smelling liquid splattering the table and Trip as he held her heaving shoulders.

“No kidding, pepperpot. Damn, you’re bleeding. Are you feeling bet- ”

T’Pol vomited again, all over Trip, this time.

“I guess that answers that,” Jon said, and her stomach let go a third time.

“Permission to take her to Sickbay, Cap’n? Since I’m already a casualty, that is.”

“There’s no need – ” Her digestive system didn’t agree with her in the least.

“There’s no logic in arguing, T’Pol,” Jon told her. “There’s clearly a need. Go have Phlox take a look, and take the day off. Let Trip help you – and I’ll make that an order if I need to.”

“You heard the Cap’n,” Trip said, not hiding the note of victory in his voice. He scooped her up in his arms, and she retched again, but there didn’t seem to be much of anything left for her to bring up. “Damn – you hardly weigh anything, pepperpot – and it’s not like you’ve ever had weight to lose- makin’ sure Phlox takes a good long look at you, like it or not.”

“I’m Vulcan – “ T’Pol started to protest, but Trip cut her off as her head settled on his shoulder – one spot she didn’t seem to have hit.

“Are you gonna try to convince me that your blood and stomach contents don’t belong on the inside of you, because you’re Vulcan? Cause you can save your breath, if you are. You need the doctor.”

Jon smiled as the Chief Engineer carried his First Officer out of the Situation Room and into the waiting turbolift, with T’Pol still faintly arguing that she could at least walk.

Once the doors were closed, Jon said, “Thanks for getting the lift ready, Hoshi.”

She smiled at him. “Doctor Phlox will be ready for her, and the cleanup crew’s on its way. I’ve called T’Pol’s relief to the Bridge, and informed Lieutenant Hess that Commander Tucker might be late to Engineering today.”

“Have you been taking efficiency lessons from T’Pol?”

“She’s certainly a good role model. I hope she’s feeling better soon, and that it’s nothing serious.”

“I think we all do, Ensign. All right- let’s get this place cleaned up, and get to work. We’ve finally got exploring to do again.”

Four hours later, he was feeling good, even though neither Trip nor T’Pol had reported in yet, and the call he made to Phlox only told him that T’Pol was still vomiting, and that he was running tests.

He decided to stop in before lunch, and see how things were going in Sickbay. T’Pol might want some tea, or broth – what did Vulcans eat, when they were sick? And, if this was the start of an epidemic, better he have time to prepare for the inevitable loss of duty personnel.

He entered Sickbay, and headed straight back to the curtained alcove, where Trip was leaning over T’Pol’s biobed, still in the filthy jumpsuit. Jon stopped for the second time a day to listen unseen as his second and third in command shared what felt like an intimate moment.

“That better, pepperpot? Damn, wish there was some way to make this easier on you -”

His tone made Jon’s gut twist with a feeling he wasn’t going to call jealousy. He couldn’t see T’Pol’s face; couldn’t see the way Trip was touching her, looking at her –

But he could guess.

He stepped forward briskly, satisfied with the way Trip jerked guiltily upright, until he saw how pale and sweaty T’Pol looked, and the fresh bandage on her forehead. “Thought I’d come and see how my First Officer’s doing,” he said, trying to sound cheerier than he felt.

“A Sweet Wild Dream”: #STaD for May 27, 2015

Disclaimers:

This story is rated Mature for sexuality, alcohol and drug use, language, and adult themes.

A Sweet Wild Dream”

“Are you well, wife?”

Koss stands at the entry to the room, pointedly not looking in your direction.

With the trellium coursing icefire through your veins, you feel him, in the unwanted and as-yet unconsummated bond. Uncertainty, and a desire to see to your needs, to make this arrangement as agreeable as it can be, given the circumstances.

And a note of fear that inflames your own emotions.

You spin to face him, and you do nothing to hide the hypospray you hold. He regards it, but you are both Vulcan, and he respects your privacy, although you illogically wish that he won’t, that he will give you reason to lash out at him –

To hurt him, as he’s hurt you, by his insistence that you honor the terms of your Promising. By taking from you what you want most, need most.

“No, Koss, I am not well.” Not remotely well. How can you be? “I am bereft.”

“’Bereft’? Is it a human word? I’m unfamiliar with its meaning.” Calm. He is so calm; the emotions flow beneath, not touching his behavior. Even before the trellium, before your unprecedented Awakening to a human man, your calm was never so complete.

Jealousy twists through your abdomen – you know it well; your human helped you to learn it – and what is he feeling, now? The new bond obscures him, dims your awareness of him, and you are made reckless with your need for him. “Yes, it’s a human word. Our species- we numb ourselves, but humans – humans embrace their emotions, Koss. To be bereft – it is to be alone when you crave the presence of another – to be adrift, without purpose or solace – yes, more human words, because there are none in Vulcan to express these feelings. I am bereft.”

“Is there some way in which I may – alleviate your distress, my wife?”

“Yes,” you snarl. “Cease calling my ‘my wife’, as though this is an honor, because, for me, it is nothing other than a prison sentence.” Your hand is shaking, the hypospray tempting. Something in you rises up, will not be stilled. You want him to see you use the device, want him to know what he’s contracted to mate. “My name is T’Pol. Use that, if you must address me at all.”

“T’Pol – I am at your service. If there is something that you require, or desire -”

“There is someone that I desire, husband, and it’s not you!”

“I won’t stand in your way. If your human friend can answer those desires -”

“I didn’t seek permission. I’ll do as I will, Koss. With him, and with this.” You arch your neck back, thinking of Trip, your human lover, and press the hypospray to your jugular vein. You do nothing to repress the gasping shudder it brings.

“What does the hypospray contain? Is it a medication necessary to treat your illness?”

“This medication is my illness – at least in part. It is a psychotropic toxin that is, at this moment, destroying my synaptic pathways. It’s best you maintain your distance; it will affect you if you come any nearer.”

Now, your voice is as flat as any Vulcan’s. But the emotions – oh, the emotions!

He says to you what your Captain has, more than once. There is something in him that reminds you of the Captain. In other circumstances, perhaps, he could be a friend.

“Why, T’Pol?”

“Because I need it! Because I want to feel! Because I can feel him, with the icefire in my veins. Because I am addicted, and there is no way to break the addiction. Come no closer; I’m not safe.”

He stays where he is; you wish he would dare to come closer, close enough that you can attack him, rend him. “Are you certain that the condition can’t be reversed?”

“Quite. Nor would I choose to reverse it.”

“That seems – illogical.”

You stare at him. “Fuck logic,” you say. There are times when English is a most concise language.

“It was not my intention to cause you distress, T’Pol, only to honor the terms of our Promising.”

“Terms imposed on us when we were children. Terms that suit neither of us.”

“Whether they suit us personally is not the reason for pairbonding, as you know.” He’s far too calm; you want to scream in his face, shake him until he tapped into his primal nature.

A long ago voice in your head. “Our primal nature, T’Pol, is not as dangerous as you think.” But it had been.

“I also suffer from Pa’Naar Syndrome. Yes, Koss- I’ve engaged in a mind meld – ”

You want him to be shocked, to lose that complacency and control. But he only nods. “I am aware of that, and the circumstances surrounding it. There are treatments – my family physicians are currently engaged in research. “

“I want no treatments!”

“Pa’Naar Syndrome is fatal, T’Pol.”

“Then let it kill me, if the trellium doesn’t do it first.” You’re screaming, now, so loudly that your head hurts, and still, you scream. “I want to die! That will release me from – from the hell of living as the wife of a man I don’t want, and who wants no woman at all – and what of pon farr, Koss? Isn’t it true that those drawn to members of their own gender often desire the same when the Burning takes them? Bonded to you, I will Burn – but there may be nothing – nothing – for me! Let me die, then, and sooner rather than later.”

“There is your – you human friend. Doesn’t he desire you?”

You moan with the memory of how deeply he desires you, and how impossible what Koss suggests is. “He is human – and what he terms a ‘gentleman’. He won’t choose to violate what we’ve contracted to, today.”

“He was a part of the contract -”

“He doesn’t understand.”

“I have no objection to your informing him.” He pauses a moment, and you feel the uncertainty in him. It triggers a desire, and you use the hypospray again – how many times, now – four, five, more?

What matter?

“I have no objection to anything you wish to do with him -” Your pheremones release so powerfully that you cry out, your hips thrusting forth as your back arches in an involuntary mating display- not meant for this man, or any man of this world. Meant for one man, and one man alone. “I can’t imagine that he would refuse you, T’Pol, if he could see you in this moment, flaming with your desire for him.”

“You will permit it?” Your breath is a sharp pant; your hands move restlessly over the dress you still wear – why are you clothed? What logic is there in that?

“Permit it? I’m aware of your combat skills – I hardly think I’m competent to stop you, even if I wished to do so. I’ll take you to your mother’s home, if that’s your wish.”

“Why?” You suspect a trap; your hands tear at the neck of the dress; you can’ breathe in it anymore; you’re bathed in sweat, in need.

“Because I fear for you, if you stay here, with your needs untended. Because your bond with him supercedes any arrangement we have; had I known, before, I wouldn’t have agreed when my parents insisted we honor the Promising. And because you are my wife, and I can’t abdicate my responsibility to see that others are safe while you are – altered -please, T’Pol, do not -”

But you don’t listen. You can’t. The hypo hisses, but there is no more trellium in it; you snarl and throw it at him, and he narrowly manages to catch it before it strikes him. You want more, need more- there is more, at your mother’s home, where Trip is.

“Take me to him. Take me to him now. NOW, now now….he is mineminemine!”

“I’ll take you. Come -”

The word has human connotations. He can’t know them; you can’t forget. You moan, your hand moving to your stavril, frantic, hungry, unstoppable. The man turns slightly away, but holds his focus on your face; he can’ trust you as you are, and you give yourself to the seeking after orgasm – human word, for something unnecessary for females in Vulcan reproduction.

But it won’t come. You can’t come. Not here, not with him. You snarl, longing for the release, the spiraling pleasures he can free in you – only him, only him, only him. You moan your need. “Trip…”

“I will take you to him. But you must come- I don’t dare touch you, now.”

Calm. Still.

He is so calm, and now you are grateful. You need too much, feel too much; you can’t think. You trust yourself to this man who doesn’t want you, who is your husband, who says he will take you to your lover, your mate.

You trust in him, because you must. You must have trellium. More. You must have Trip.

“Please – help me!”

“I vow always to do that. It can’t undo what’s done. But I will see you to your mate; support you in any way a husband can.”

“Hurryhurryhurry!”

It’s dark when he opens the door – when had it become night?

“This way, T’Pol.”

You follow where he leads. He opens the door to a spacious aircar, and you nearly throw yourself inside. He sits in the cockpit; you hunger, and shudder with your needs.

Hazy time of feeling. You lose track of everything but feeling, of seeking him in your mind, then finding him – “Trip!”

“Pepperpot? Aww, hell….I don’t want to dream about you. Hurts. Hurts so bad….”

“So much pain….so much need -”

“Oh, damn. You’re high, n’ I’m drunk. What the hell kind of dream will this be?”

“Is it a dream, Trip? No – let it be real.”

“Damn, I wish I could. Wish we could. Bu you married him, pepperpot.”

“Nothingnothingnothing. It means nothing. Onlyyouonlyyouonlyyou….”

“We have reached your destination, T’Pol. Do you need assistance?”

But you are clawing at the door, prying it open, slipping out, running, staggering, falling, tearing at the dress, shredding it, leaving the bits scattered as you reach the walled garden, pulling at the gate with such force the hinge breaks, but you keep moving, on into the house –

And you’re stopped by the single candle, with its flame –

“Kroykah!”

You don’t heed the command. You didn’t as a child, and you don’t now. You are drawn to the flame, to the power and the beauty.

The nectars, and the man who has Awakened you –

You thrust paired fingers into the flame. Tha pain is beauiful, powerful –

Paired fingers join yours, twine with them. He shares the beauty, the pain, the power –

And then you are tangling together, the flame forgotten, and you arch and display, and he groans and kisses you, and you press him down, and he whispers, “Aww, hell. Let it be a dream, a sweet wild dream, sexiest damned dream of my life. Cause, if it’s not – I – I can’t resist you – not like this….T’Les -”

“Mineminemine! Nownownow -”

“Your daughter – she’s – she’s – aww, hell, pepperpot – you’re MARRIED!”

“Kroykah, T’Pol -”

“Ma’am, hope to hell it’s a dream – but she can’t stop, not now. T’Pol in triplicate – aww, hell – gotta be a dream,, cause – cause I don’t -”

“It’s a dream, Trip.” You don’t know if it is; but you’re willing to believe, to let him believe. Anything, to have him, to be penetrated, to be fertilized….”Only a dream…..nownownow – ”

“This is no dream. Daughter, you have no right – ”

You will not hear. You present yourself; your pheremones release with a surging that brings a cry, brings togetherness such as you’ve never known…and then he is within you, your stavril mated to his stavrit, your souls twining, dancing…

“I was wrong – you have every right.”

But you don’t care about rights. You care about Trip, the feel of him moving within you, the climbing, soaring dance – and you offer him your burned fingertips, as your other hand finds his face, his cherished rounded ear, his temple and the bioelectric pulses that are onlyhisonlyhisonlyhis….

He takes your fingers into his mouth, watching you until his eyes close with the coming ejaculation – and you are frantic, ready to come, and then he suckles, and you plunge together into oblivion, into oneness.

You shake, after, needing, knowing he needs rest, and he scoops you up into his arms, carries you to your bed, and as he lays you out, he stares into your eyes, and says, “This isn’t a dream, T’Pol.”

“I know, Trip.”

“We can’t do this – we shouldn’t.”

“I’ll go -” But he clutches at you.

“No, don’t. Not yet. How much, T’Pol?”

“How much?”

“Trellium. How much? Never seen you – like this, since they brought you back. How much-”

“Moremoremore -”

“Where’s yer scanner?”

You shake your head; you don’t know; don’t care. You quiver; you cling. His fingers shake as they trace your ear, the place where you inject….

“You aren’t keepin’ score, anymore, pepperpot? ‘N’ I’m way the hell too drunk to know how much I’ve had….we’re in trouble, deep trouble, T’Pol- cause I’m not gonna say no, and dammit, I should – you should – ”

“I’ll go – “ You don’t want to hurt him – or use him. You love him –

“Please stay. It’s wrong; I know it. Stay anyway…stay with me, pepperpot, let me make love with you, hold you till you come down – “

And then there is only what you share together, for an endless time that ends far too soon….

Born of Us Both: #STaD for May 26, 2015

Disclaimers:

This story is rated PG-13  for suggestiveness and adult situations.

Born of Us Both

I sing, because, if I don’t, I’m afraid that emotions will swallow me whole.

I sing, because I’m afraid I’ll soon lose the chance to do so.

I sing, so that we’ll have this memory to share –

“It’s time to tell me, pepperpot. Or if you can’t do that, show me – let me see what’s got you so scared for her, when even Phlox says she’s responding well to the treatment.”

I stop singing. All other reasons for singing are only the shadow of this one.

I’m going to cause my bondmate pain. There]s no avoiding it.

There’s been too much pain between us, already.

“Oh, Trip,” I whisper. There’s no logic in my resistance, or the human exclamation. No logic in our being bonded to one another. No logic to this child’s existence.

But she is ours, of us, and she fills us and binds us –

My eyes travel around the room. There is the nautilus cradle – but I don’t want to place her there. I want to hold her, or assist Trip to do so, every moment we are able. That’s what our child wants, as well -to be held, to be near us, to feel us – to touch our minds. Already I know the feel of hers brushing against mine, with the dawning of intent.

But there are the quilts – the one that was intended to comfort the child, with the strong scent of a Terran flower I find cloying, but which Trip seems to enjoy greatly. And the other, the one made from his childhood clothing, the one he called the Fort Quilt…

“She needs changing, but, after, she will likely sleep.”

“T’Pol – ” Fascinating, how quickly he learned how to pitch his voice so that it doesn’t disturb the child I hold, yet still make it clear that he’s becoming angry.

“I will share it with you, Trip. I don’t want to, but I will – ” Were he a Vulcan, this would be a pointless statement, but he’s human, and how I feel matters more to him than it does to me. “I want to be relaxed, and together, and to meld with you. Will you wait? Changing her will not take long, and she doesn’t like being soiled.”

“I know she doesn’t – I can feel her a whole lot stronger than you, right now. All I’m getting from you is how scared you are. But, here – you’ve done all the changing, so far. I can do it this time.”

“With only one hand?”

“Absolutely.” He gives me his grin, shadowed by what he senses from me. “Did it all the time with my nephew – he’s Deaf, and he liked to chat while I changed him, so I needed a hand free for signing.”

“She is not male, Trip -”

“I’m an engineer, pepperpot, and not half bad at it. I’ll improvise.”

“It’s important to you.”

“Yeah.”

I lay her on my bench; I’ve placed a basket of supplies there, so that she can be changed easily.I keep a hand on her abdomen until Trip is ready, and then, when I’m certain I’m not needed, I go to the cradle, and retrieve the two quilts.

Trip murmurs to the baby as though she understands every word. “Well, now, little girl, what do we have here? Looks like your digestive system works just fine, sweetheart -and you really are a girl under all these clothes. Let me get all of that off you, get you all clean and comfy. Tell me something, baby girl, have you ever had the chance to just be naked for a while? What do you say, pepperpot – want to all get down to our skins together?”

“Trip, I don’t believe it would be appropriate to engage in sexual activity -”

“You and your dirty mind. I don’t know about Vulcan babies, but human babies love to be skin to skin. I can feel how much you want to nurse her. I thought this would help us all, until we can talk to Phlox about ways to stimulate your milk production.”

“Is that possible?” Something within me, something primal, desires that more than any logic can explain.

“It is for humans. I’m guessing the – well, the basic mechanics are the same, or close enough. And she could probably use some mother’s milk, and mother loving – even if her mother doesn’t use that word for all those big emotions in her eyes and her soul.”

I don’t argue; there’s no point. “I believe that we should remain clothed below the waist,” I say, instead. “Why is this called the Fort Quilt?”

“Well, Lizzie and I – maybe it shouldn’t have been a surprise that I’m an engineer and she was an architect, because we were always making blanket forts- usually, they stretched across two or three rooms at once- and we spent all day making them, and two or three days hiding out in them – ”

“Blanket forts?”

“Kind of like makeshift tents – we made ours too low for our parents or our big brother to get into, and they were works of art- so Mom made us this quilt – extra extra large, so we’d stop stripping all the beds- hey, I’ve got an idea. Here, Mama, will you hold our sweet little bundle of joy? I’ll whip us up a little blanket fort right quick if you two just get comfy.”

“With only one arm?”

“You’ve got the base structure already, with your bunk. I’ve got a few magnets in my pockets- ”

I’ve learned not to ask why. Trip always has what seem to be random items on his person, but they often prove useful, almost as though he knows what he might need and when. “Perhaps I should diaper her – ”

“No, don’t. Let her just be naked – we can tuck one under her, to protect the bed- but let’s let her be free for a little while. Bet no one’s let her be like this since she was born.”

I bring a diaper to the bed, and lay our daughter upon it as I loosen and wriggle out of the top of the mining uniform, glad to be even partially free of the uncomfortable garment. I sit beside her, so that she won’t fall, and remove the undergarments. “You should allow me to assist you with your clothing, Trip, to avoid further injury.”

“Yeah. First this, though. You two comfy enough that I can make us a fort?”

“I’m comfortable, Trip.” Our daughter makes a small, sound, partly a sigh, and partly something that might be the beginnings of language. “I believe she is, as well.”

“All right, my beautiful ladies – “He sets about the project, and I return to singing, understanding that we’re each attempting to deal with the reality of our daughter’s existence in our own fashion.

In only moments, the room beyond my bunk is hidden by the quilt. Trip appears, and I reach to guide him. Our daughter watches us, her thumb once more in her mouth, and, again, the urge to suckle her is so powerful that my breath catches, and my breasts throb with longing.

“Let her try, pepperpot.” It’s a rough whisper.

“I can’t produce milk, Trip -”

“You don’t need to. We’ve got formula, but it might be just what you both need. Human babies nurse for comfort, even if Vulcan ones don’t, and since she sucks her thumb…”

“I – I don’t know how – ” Such matters are still several years beyond me, in all likelihood. But here is our child- and I yearn to offer her my breast. Something deep and mammalian within me demands it, has been demanding it, since we learned of her – my breasts are heavy, and I too aware of them –

There’s a strange sensation – and as I gasp at it, not understanding, liquid gathers at my nipples –

“Just when I thought you couldn’t surprise me any more, pepperpot. You ready to let her have at it? Looks like she’s got your sense of smell along with your grip.” It’s true; the baby is moving purposefully, toward my breast, and instinct urges me to support her on my arm –

She found the nipple, takes it into her mouth while gazing into my eyes – and there’s a second surge of release, in my breast, and my stavril, my pheremones releasing in the same instant, and the child at my breast drinks in such great greedy gulps, she splutters, pulls awa, and the milk sprays – onto her, Trip, the Fort Quilt –

He strokes my face then hers, and he’s smiling and crying together. “That’s my girls,” he says. “Never do anything halfway- is it all you hoped, pepperpot?”

I can’t speak; the moment is too potent to allow it. I open to our bond, and the sensations flow between us, as he wriggles out of his uniform without my assistance, laying down in only his underpants, and the sling that supports his wounded arm.

“Have I told you lately how beautiful you are, T’Pol? Not just on the outside – though that’s pretty amazing- but in here, where no one but us knows – oh damn, damn, damn – ”

“You found the memory -”

“You haven’t stopped thinking about it. Are you sure he meant it?”

“He said she was doomed from the start – like the Alliance -”

“I know – but, pepperpot, humans say things like that all the time. He’s a delusional man; he might believe it, but that doesn’t make it true. For the Alliance – or for her.”

“If it’s true-”

“If it is, then we deal with it. Phlox – he’s a medical genius. We’re in Earth orbit, there’s all kinds of doctors, human and Vulcan. After what we just did for Earth, if we want Arik Soong, they’ll get him for us.”

“And if there is no way to save her?”

“You know the answer, pepperpot. You wrote the book on getting me to look at things this way. If there isn’t, will it help to spend the time we have worrying for her? Or is it more logical to soak up every second we can have with her, like this? To give her all the love and tenderness we can, to be her mommy and daddy because she’s been cheated, and so have we?”

“You are quite adept – and correct.”

“Every second we have with her counts, pepperpot – whether it’s days, or the rest of our lives. Let’s not waste a single one more letting Paxton rob us of her, okay? Let’s just love her, cherish her, and enjoy her.”

“And each other.” My fingers drift into first pose, and he matches it. I direct our fingers to our daughter’s head. “If we touch her, thusly, she will feel the bond, and draw comfort in it – her mind is strong and highly adaptable. If we can deepen the bond sufficiently, she will feel it even when we must return her to Sickbay.”

“You lead, peppperpot, and I’ll follow.”

And so we lay together, with our child, skin to skin to skin, hidden within a blanket fort, and the family bond surges and swells between us, like the nectar, the flame, the human man I love – and now the child born of us both.

“She’s A Natural”: #STaD for May 25, 2015

Disclaimers:

  • Trip, T’Pol, and Star Trek: Enterprise belong to Paramount, even if Paramount has forgotten all about them…

  • This is an extrapolated “missing scene” story, occuring during the return shuttlepod flight from Mars to Enterprise in S4E21: Terra Prime.Spoilers for that episode; also for S4E20: “Demons  and S4E17: “Bound”. 

She’s A Natural”

“I have had the opportunity to hold her and bond with her. You haven’t.”

“I’m afraid I’m gonna drop her. I’m down an arm, at least for a few days.”

She scootches in closer to me – not that she needs to, really. Everywhere else in the shuttlepod, it’s just about standing room only. But there’s a pocket of space around us – our tiny little family of three. Did the Cap’n order that, or had they all just decided that we needed this?

Or arere they as unsure what we are, now, as I am? As she is?

“I won’t let you drop her, Trip. I’ll be right here. I can feel how much you wish to hold her.” She says it all in a singled whispered breath almost too soft for my ears to make out, but I don’t need to hear her that way, right now. I can feel the things she wants to say.

She’s almost desperate for me to hold the baby, but her mind’s closed up tight on why.

“You’re keeping secrets again.”

Her breath goes out in a long soft sigh. “You’re growing very adept, Trip.”

“You gonna tell me what it is? Because, if it involves our daughter – ”

“When you have had the chance to hold her, to begin to bond with her. Only then, Trip. We’ll bring her to my quarters, and then I’ll share what I’ve learned.”

I try to taste the flavor of her thoughts as I crook my good arm for her, and she places the baby into the cradle it makes. But she’s still a hell of a lot better at this bond thing than I am, and it’s Vulcan nature, not human. All she gives me was the family bond she’s held the whole time we were apart. That, and the exhaustion she can hide from everyone who isn’t in her head. She hasn’t slept at all since this whole thing started, unless I count the time she’d spent knocked out by Paxton’s henchmen.

She wants me to focus on the baby, now, and not her. Stubborn as always. But this time, I go along. My heart’s been hungry to hold her ever since T’Pol convinced me that there really was a baby.

“Why, hello there, little one,” I tell my daughter – our daughter. She looks up at me out of her dark blue, serious eyes – Phlox said she has my eyes, but that expression of calm curiosity and watchfulness- I’ve seen that thousands of times on her mother’s face. T’Pol and I have a baby girl. I’m holding the proof, and still part of me can’t wrap my brain around it. “You’re as beautiful as your mama, do you know that?”

She hasn’t made a sound, and she doesn’t smile at me, only watches as I bend to kiss her forehead –

“Yowch!” The baby startles, her tiny little hand still locked onto my nose hard enough to bring tears to my eyes- a real Vulcan death grip. T’Pol reachs in, and gently works those powerful little fingers loose. “Guess I know where that strength came from.”

I hear Malcolm snickering, and see the Captain and the MACOS pretend they weren’t smiling behind their hands. Phlox, the most honest of them all, looks delighted with the entire situation.

I ignore them all, and study our daughter, looking for myself and T’Pol in her; I hadn’t had nearly long enough, on Paxton’s damned ship, to do that. Seamless, the way we blend in her. Damn, but she’s a lovely child-

We hadn’t made her, but she’s still made from us.

“She’s perfect, T’Pol.. Absolutely- hey, what is it?”

She bites back a sharp breath, and clamps down on the sudden terror. I feel the echo of something she’d said, when they came to rescue her.

“She’s dying!”

No. No, no, no – it can’t be –

But there it is, in her mind. Less than certainty, but more than fear. Something’s wrong; desperately wrong. She wants to get to the ship, bring the baby to her room, so that we can be together, for a little while, as a family. It’s in her mind – a time to lay upon her bed with our baby daughter between, exploring the family bond –

“She’s not going to die.” I plant that thought in her mind, and dig in my mental heels. “Phlox – will you scan her, please?”

T’Pol pulls out her own scanner, instead, and passes it over the baby, who stares into the blue light, then reaches for it. T’Pol allows her to gnaw on it for a moment, then extracts it gently. The baby pops a chunky thumb into her mouth and makes little sucking noises- if not for those delicate little points on her perfect ears, she’d look like any human baby.

T’Pol hands the scanner to Phlox, silently. She’s shaking, but not with her arousal quiver.

“I’m afraid the readings indicate that your daughter is quite ill.” Phlox’s smile was tender, and I remember that he’s a father – five times over. “However, there are treatment options.”

“What is it, Doc?”

“She appears to have a recurring infection of unspecified origins. I can’t say anything more, without further testing. It may be easily remedied by a broad-spectrum antibiotic, however.”

T’Pol’s fears come out, in her mind and in her taut body. I know she’s overheard some of the talk these last few days about whether she even wants the baby; no one but me – and Hoshi, and Phlox – seems to think she’s got any maternal instincts at all.

But I’ve had too much imaginary stuff wiped off me, nonexistent buttons straightened, unsolicited advice offered. Hell, she’d even picked me up out of my own drunken mess, taken me home with her, and cleaned me up…

She never geta as much credit as she deserves, because so many of the crew still look at her and see only ‘Vulcan.’

“Doc-can you give her the antibiotic, and wait a bit for the other tests?”

“Why would you want to do that, Trip?” Jon looks about ready to order us to surrender her, and T’Pol’s muscles contract like she’ll fight for her, and fight to win.

I rush to get the words out of our heads before she decides she needs to take drastic measures.

“Because we haven’t had a chance to be alone with her yet. Because we’re a family, and I think all three of us need some time to absorb that, and what it means. And because T’Pol’s got the prettiest room on the ship, and this poor baby’s never been anywhere besides hospital rooms and utilitarian spaces. I want her to have a little beauty, before she gets more of the same -”

“Trip.” She says it quietly; but it’s enough for me to realize I’m damned near crying, and everyone but Phlox seems to have something else to look at, all of a sudden. “I believe you’ve made your point.”

“It will take approximately six hours to determine if this injection is sufficient,” Phlox holds up a hypospray. “I’ll provide you a list of symptoms, but it’s quite likely that quiet and tenderness may provide the beat healing.”

“T’Pol, I think you’d better hold her for this – in case she doesn’t like it, you’ve got an extra arm.”

“Then you’ll hold the bottle,” she said, and I wonder where it came from. We’ve got bottles and diapers on the ship, but I never thought to bring them-

Then, as she gathers our little girl up, holding her easily close to her body, swaying into a gentle rocking motion, I know.

While I was still trying to absorb it, and still doubting her, ’ -T’Pol had been doing what she always did – anticipating the needs, seeing to the thousand tiny details that made up any mission. Working with Phlox to develop an appropriate formula. Packing the supplies, so we could care for our daughter, learning how to do all those things she’d had no idea how to do, three days ago – even calibrating her scanner so she could monitor our baby’s heath…

“I love you,” I whisper, into her mind. “ Both of you.”

Warmth and acceptance. She hasn’t ever said the words – but I don’t need her to anymore. I feel her love in every beat of her fast Vulcan heart…

I feel her fear, too. That this baby, our baby, will be taken from us, so soon after we learned about her, and found her –

She’s had two days to be with our daughter – and she’s in love with her, already. She’s memorized her scent, her weight, the expressions on the tiny face that was so like her own – and like mine, but more like Elizabeth’s, the way I remembered when she was a baby –

T’Pol is this child’s mother- and not just biologically. In her soul, she is. And she’s waiting for me to become her father, in the same way. Waiting, and hoping it will happen soon enough…

Phlox presses the hypo gently to our little girl’s neck. It hisses, and she screws up her tiny face and lets out a fine, first-class Tucker yell. T’Pol’s a little startled, but puts the baby’s head upon her breast – I feel a deep yearning, instinctive and purely female, to nurse her young, an ache in her breasts and her soul that she can’t, and I think I remember there are ways to stimulate lactation – maybe that was something we can look into, once the baby’s well again.

Our little one’s squalling hard, and Malcolm, Travis, and even the Cap’n are wincing, but I just grin at T’Pol, and think, beneath her din, “I think we struck human, pepperpot!”

“Indeed.” Although her tone’s impassive, I feel a lightening in her. She leans her head down over the baby’s downy blonde fluff, breathing deeply – and kisses her head, several times. “She’s too upset to tale the bottle, now.” She rocks and rubs our daughter’s back –

And every ear on the shuttle perks up as T’Pol begins to sing, “All the Pretty Horses” in her sweet strong voice. Me, I just grin at the blend of surprise and shock as our little one hiccups to a stop and starts chewing on her hand, and T’Pol shifts her and accepts the bottle I give her, still singing, as she offers it to our baby, who reaches up and grabs it.

“What are you all staring for?” I’m getting a little reckless, and swelled full of love for my two beautiful girls. I wrap my good arm firmly around T’Pol’s waist, and she snuggles right in, in front of everybody, resting her head on my chest like she does this on every shuttlepod ride we take together, and I kiss the top of her head for good measure, so that everyone will have plenty to talk about when they think we don’t know they’re gossiping. “Haven’t any of you ever heard a mama sing her baby a lullabye before?”

“Not a Vulcan one singing a human lullabye,” the Cap’n says, still staring as though he really doesn’t know how to take us.

“Well, this Vulcan mama’s baby’s half human. Why shouldn’t she sing her Terran lullabyes?” T’Pol sings on, outwardly pretending not to hear or take any notice, but, inside, I feel her pleasure- at their surprise, and at my gentle teasing.

“But it’s T’Pol,” Malcolm protests, as if that somehow means that she can’t love our baby. “No offense, Commander, but you’ve never struck me as remotely maternal.”

“I have never before had an infant,” T’Pol murmurs, as our daughter’s eyes droop her mouth falling a little open, dripping milk. Somehow, almost magically, there’s a soft cloth in her hand, and she dabs at the dribbles, the backs of her paired fingers lingering to stroke the plump cheek, and the baby burps.

I sigh. Can’t remember a time when I’ve been so full of love. I kiss T’Pol’s head again, just because she might never let me do this in public again. She tips her chin to look at me adorably upside down with her almost-smile. She’s calmer, now-willing to accept that the antibiotic might solve the problem, cure the infection.

She shifts our daughter to settle her half on each of our laps, and starts us swaying gently together. I give Malcolm a look that says he’d be smart to shut the hell up now, and say, “Guess you just weren’t paying close enough attention, Malcolm. She’s a natural.”

And then I stop paying attention to anything but the woman I love and the daughter we share.