TITLE: Just As It Should Be
AUTHOR: Sugah Sugah
SUMMARY: Just what exactly did Trip and T'Pol do on that long trip to Vulcan? In response to agentj's "24 Day Challenge" on the HoTBBS.
SPOILERS: Through "Home" (season 4, episode 3)
PAIRING: Trip/T'Pol, obviously.
RATING: M -- language, suggestive dialogue, some (pretty weak) sexual content in the last like 3 or 4 chapters.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is my first attempt at fan fiction, so please be kind.
DISCLAIMER: I own nothing except a rusted piece of metal I call a car and about 20 thousand in student loans. I make no profit from this, just satisfying my muse (who unfortunately is not on Paramount's payroll -- yet).

Day 1

Vulcan was sixteen light years from Earth, which meant that the journey would take at least three weeks. Trip hoped the entire voyage didn't pass as the past few hours had, which included him staring out the window of the shuttle while T'Pol meditated in the seat beside him. He was the only human on a ship full of Vulcans, who all stared at him as if he were diseased, and the only Vulcan he cared to have a conversation with was occupied at the moment.

He opened the book he'd brought, Catch-22 – one of many, actually. He knew that the trip would take some time and had brought every book he owned, but at this rate he'd have them all read in a week. His eyes scanned the first line once, twice, three times before he realized that he hadn't retained a word of it. He was too preoccupied with T'Pol's close proximity – the smell of her, the feel of her as she accidentally brushed against him. It took all the willpower he possessed not to lean in and nuzzle the pulse point of her neck. He couldn't guess what her reaction would be, but he sure as hell knew how the rest of the shuttle's occupants would react. He wasn't willing to risk it.

But the fact remained that, as long as he sat beside T'Pol, he was unable to concentrate. Yet he didn't want to move. He would rather stay seated, next to T'Pol and completely unfocused, than hole up in his quarters alone.

The Vulcan shuttle was odd, to say the least. Not what he'd been expecting. The top deck was the observation lounge, which was full of seats arranged in rows much like a commercial transport shuttle. The seats were arranged in groups of four, two facing the rear of the craft and two facing the front, lining both sides of the ship with an aisle in between. Trip and T'Pol occupied one section on the starboard side, near the back.

The bottom decks contained small sleeping quarters designed for only one occupant. It would take some squeezing to fit two people in one of the narrow beds, not that Trip had considered anything like that. And it didn't matter, because T'Pol would never do anything that would give the other Vulcans the wrong idea about the two of them. The last thing she needed, after everything she'd gone through, was to be scorned for having relations with a human.

Desperate for conversation, he waited another five minutes and then gently nudged T'Pol in the arm with his elbow. She lazily opened her eyes and glanced at him. Her expression was neutral, but the flash in her eyes clearly conveyed her annoyance at being interrupted.

"Sorry," Trip said. "Didn't mean to interrupt."

She raised an eyebrow. "Indeed. Was there something you wanted?"

He nodded. "Think you could teach me how to do that?"

"Do what?"

He gestured at her rigid posture – her legs folded beneath her, Indian-style, her hands resting on top of her knees, her back ramrod straight. "That."

"You wish to learn meditation?" She sounded surprised.

He shrugged halfheartedly. "It's a long trip. Gotta have somethin' to do, especially if I can count on you bein' quiet the whole time." Besides, with his eyes closed, he wouldn't be able to see the sharp looks being thrown at him from all directions.

A light flickered in her eyes. She seemed to be gauging the sincerity of his remark. She nodded, apparently satisfied. "It's quite similar to neuro-pressure, actually," she said. "Just not as…intimate." She lowered her voice as she finished, either because of emotion or because she didn't want the other passengers to overhear. Trip would've put money on the second reason, though his heart ached for the first.

Several of the other passengers glanced in their direction, and Trip remembered that Vulcans had much better hearing. Perhaps they had overheard the conversation anyway and were formulating their own theories as to the relationship between the human and the Vulcan.

Trip swallowed and turned his attention back to T'Pol.

"Sit like this," T'Pol said, indicating her posture.

He folded his legs underneath him, though it took considerable effort. The seat did not seem to be made for this. Eventually he realized that, as long as he sat next to T'Pol, he didn't have enough space. He reluctantly moved to the seats opposite them, so that he was facing her, and tried again. When his legs were positioned properly, he straightened, pulling his back away from the seat, and let his hands rest lightly on his knees. He looked at T'Pol.

She nodded her approval, closing her eyes. He followed suit.

"Deep breaths," he heard her say. "Concentrate on emptying your mind of conscious thought."

Trip adopted the breathing exercises he had used during their neuro-pressure sessions. It had been a while since they'd had a session. Of course, Trip remembered vividly what had transpired during their last one. The night was seared onto his psyche like a brand; he was fairly certain he would remember that night for the rest of his life. He could still taste her. He could still feel her fingers on his face. He could still smell her skin. His entire body had felt on fire, like he was burning from the inside out. It was so intense that there were times he couldn't even breathe, but he hadn't wanted it to stop. God, he'd wanted that night to last forever.

He shook the images from his brain. He opened one eye and saw that T'Pol was still in meditation. She didn't seem to notice his shallow breathing or the fact that he was sweating profusely. Or maybe she did notice and was ignoring him.

He took a deep, calming breath and tried again.

Unbidden, images of T'Pol flashed behind his eyes, like a montage from one of those old romantic comedies.

T'Pol in decontamination, under the electric blue lights.

T'Pol wearing that red number, asking him for help with her engagement.

T'Pol in native Akaali garb, with long hair.

T'Pol in that skintight white catsuit.

T'Pol informing him and the captain of the subtle subplot of Frankenstein.

T'Pol undoing the buttons on her pajama top during their first neuro-pressure session.

T'Pol eating peaches.

T'Pol letting her robe fall to the floor.

T'Pol comforting him as he finally came to terms with his sister's death.

T'Pol finally calling him "Trip" instead of "Commander".

T'Pol admitting her age after three years of his incessant teasing.

Everything came back to T'Pol. No matter what he did to clear his mind of all thoughts, T'Pol would find her way back into his head. He couldn't stop the images, nor did he want to. In fact, he lingered on some of them longer then others, and went back to see them again. God, she was beautiful. Intelligent. Compassionate. Independent. Loyal. Determined. Why had it taken three years for them to act on the attraction that so clearly existed between them?

Abruptly, he stood, unable to concentrate. T'Pol's eyes snapped open in surprise.

"Commander," she said, "are you all right?"

He ran his fingers through his hair and tried to ignore the obvious concern in her eyes. "Uh, yeah. Just a headache. I'm, uh, gonna go lie down for a while."

She nodded slowly. "I shall inform you when dinner is served."

Trip grimaced, remembering the less than edible concoction they'd tried to pass off as lunch, but gave a short nod. "Okay. See ya later."

He headed to the lower decks, in desperate need of a cold shower.