Story #3 in the Reconnecting Series
Genre: Trip/T'Pol romance
Rating: PG-13, for a bad word
Archive: Please ask me first.
Disclaimer: Star Trek: Enterprise is the property of CBS/Paramount. All original material herein is the property of its author.
Spoilers: Through "Home."
Summary: Sequel to my story "Renewing." T'Pol returns to Enterprise, and the careful dance begins.
A/N: The continuation of my little Home Spoiler Therapy series. I would eventually write five stories before the episode actually aired. My betas were slj91 and Jenna.
Vulcans do not experience fear, or so they have convinced the rest of the universe. But Trip knew better. He'd been in Sickbay when T'Pol had first awakened after being attacked by Rajiin. The naked terror in T'Pol's eyes had shaken him to his core. Acting on instinct rather than conscious thought, he had rushed to her side, grabbed one of her flailing hands, and told her she was safe, over and over, until she had focused on him, and grown calm again.
He had seen that look one other time, when he'd gone to visit T'Pol in Sickbay after her ordeal aboard the Seleya. He had peeked around the curtained-off biobed—and frozen, startled to see T'Pol struggling awake from some kind of nightmare, wild-eyed, trembling violently. Phlox was with her, already easing her back down, murmuring soothing reassurances. Trip had stolen away without telling them he'd even been there, but the haunted expression he had seen on T'Pol's face had followed him, and stayed with him.
Today, sitting at his desk in Engineering, surrounded by stacks of work orders and status reports, Trip looked distractedly up from his monitor when he felt someone watching him...and found himself looking into T'Pol's frightened eyes once again. Only this time, it was him she was afraid of.
She was wearing a desert-beige traveling cloak that complemented her coloring, with her duffel slung over her shoulder. She must have come straight from the airlock to Engineering. She nodded to him, keeping a wary distance. "Commander."
Trip rose to his feet, noting in the back of his mind that he'd skipped right over "hurt like hell" and gone straight to "happy to see her." Or more precisely, thunderously, thank-the-gods-in-heaven relieved to see her. Relieved that Koss hadn't pulled some slimy new trick to coerce her into staying with him.
It had only been a couple of weeks, but it had felt like an eternity.
Damn it all, he had to do something about that frightened-deer look she was giving him. He peered at her through narrowed eyes. "Lemme guess—not a honeymoon for the ages."
It worked. T'Pol's trepidation vanished, replaced by confusion. "Honey...moon?"
"Y'know, when the newlyweds go off for a while on their own, spend some quality time together, get to know each other."
T'Pol crinkled her lovely nose with what was, for her, intense distaste. Trip could have kissed her. "There was no...honeymoon," she responded. "I spent the rest of my stay on Vulcan with my mother, monitoring her reinstatement at the Vulcan Science Academy." After a moment, she added pointedly, "My entire stay."
As her statement sank in, Trip felt an enormous weight lifting from his heart, and the ghastly T'Pol-Koss images that had plagued him for days began to fade. "No shit."
She regarded him with her trademark calm, but her eyes were sparkling. "With the ceremony's completion, I had fulfilled the terms of my agreement with Koss."
Trip was amazed at how much easier it was to breathe now than five minutes ago. "So...are you staying at the Vulcan compound planetside?"
T'Pol hesitated. "I have made no plans as yet."
"Oh. Well, just so you know, the captain made sure crew quarters would be available to anyone who wanted to stay aboard during the refit. Makes it easier for the crew members who are working on repair teams."
"Including yourself, I presume?"
Trip indicated his cluttered workstation. "I've mostly been living down here. But yeah, I'm staying on board."
T'Pol merely nodded. Trip didn't realize he was just standing like a stump, happily filling his eyes with her, until she shifted self-consciously. "Was there something...?"
He snapped out of it. "Oh. No, no." Then he thought, what the hell, and threw caution to the winds. "Just glad you're back."
There was warmth in her brown eyes as she gazed at him. No more fear. "I, as well."
Lizzie had followed him, puppy-like, to the movie theater again. She was only twelve, but already a heartbreaker; Trip practically had to beat boys away with a stick.
They were walking home now, taking the shortcut through the green belt. Lizzie danced along the tree-bordered sward, looking like a fairy in the summer moonlight as she peered up at the night sky. "There's Venus...and Mars...Orion...Cassiopeia—who was she again?"
"You're the mythology lover, Lizzie," Trip answered. "I'm the starship captain, remember?"
"In a pig's eye," she giggled. "Daddy says you were born to be an engineer."
She pounced on him, finding his most ticklish spot. "But captains—aren't—ticklish!"
"Brat!" Trip wriggled loose. Lizzie scampered away, laughing delightedly, and he gave chase.
High above the two children, the shrill call of myriad insects echoed from the trees: katy-did, katy-didn't, katy-did, katy-didn't...
Trip blinked awake. A shrill alarm was echoing from his monitor, the screen flashing SENSOR DIAGNOSTIC COMPLETE.
He was still at his workstation, slumped over a scattered pile of padds. He sat up, rubbing a kink out of his neck. It occurred to him that he had hardly slept since he left T'Pol on Vulcan.
Well, duh. She's back now, isn't she?
He switched off the racket. From now on, he thought wryly, he'd be referring to that one as his katydid alarm—
—The dream came flooding back. Trip gasped as he remembered. His throat tightened, he felt the sting of tears in his eyes...and he started to laugh.
He checked the time. Damn, it was too late, he'd wake her. Was she on board? Hell, he didn't even know.
T'Pol was in her quarters, watching the flames of her meditation candle flicker as she listened to her logic war with her emotion yet again.
I enjoyed seeing how pleased he was at my return, Emotion admitted freely.
::Your unseemly embrace of emotion shames you before your people::, Logic rebuked.
Deception, coercion, false accusations, prejudice...it would appear that my people's shame has been misplaced.
::It is folly to feel affection for a man who is not yours.::
He is my colleague, my friend. I trust and depend on him—I must. I...need him.
::What of your husband?::
He is husband in name only. He is of no consequence.
::Commander Tucker tempts you. His emotions will seduce you as surely as the trellium-D did.::
He does not tempt me—he frees me. He is content to accept me as I am.
::And what are you? Do you reason, or do you feel?::
Can I not do both, and still be true to myself?
The door chime sounded. T'Pol roused herself from her ruminations. "Come in."
The door slid open. It was Commander Tucker, looking even more animated than usual. The waves of emotion radiating from him were almost tangible. He started to step inside...but curiously, he pulled up, remaining just outside the doorway.
"I dreamed about Elizabeth," he blurted out.
T'Pol rose at once and approached him, her face filling with concern. It had taken them months of effort, using neuropressure and relaxation techniques, before the commander had finally stopped being visited by the horrific nightly vision of his sister's death. But now... "Your nightmare?"
To her surprise, though, he was smiling. "No, it was a good dream. Something I remembered from when we were kids. It was wonderful." His voice took on a hushed wonder. "First time since she died that I dreamed about her and didn't wake up screaming like a banshee." He turned his full gaze on her, suffused with warmth and unabashed affection. Its power struck T'Pol with an almost physical force. "I wanted to tell you...because you're the reason."
She opened her mouth to protest, and found it took considerable effort not to stammer, held as she was by those compelling blue eyes. "I simply helped you to sleep."
"T'Pol, you brought me back to life," Trip stated plainly.
T'Pol caught her breath as he continued. "A year ago, Lizzie was dead, and I might as well have been. I couldn't remember her any more—all I could see was that godawful nightmare of her being blown apart. All I could feel was hurt, and hate..." He smiled at her, and her heart fluttered. "Then you started workin' on me. First you got me sleeping, then you got me talking...and one day I realized I was feeling something besides anger. Something a lot sweeter. You got me to remember that I wasn't dead, and I wasn't alone."
His face was so open. T'Pol imagined she was gazing into his soul. His trust in her was overwhelming, humbling.
Trip paused, groping for the right words. "T'Pol, I felt Lizzie this time. She was laughing, and happy, and so alive." One of his hands hovered over his heart. "I can feel her with me now. I can remember her again." He looked away, and she caught the glint of tears in his eyes. "I dunno, maybe this is just a bunch of emotional nonsense to you, but—"
"No," T'Pol responded at once. "It is not nonsense to me. It is...a gift. I am honored that you share it with me."
She saw that her words profoundly touched him. His beautiful, gentle smile returned. "I just...I wanted you to know. I lost her, and you helped me get her back again."
He started to move closer—but again, he stopped himself. Instead, he casually took hold of the doorway, his smile deepening with warm gratitude. T'Pol noticed his knuckles whiten as he gripped the doorway. Though his face remained composed, she could feel his yearning to reach out to her, to touch her. Yet he was holding back, with all the control he could muster.
With careful deliberation, she took a step toward him, closing the distance between them to scant centimeters...giving him silent permission.
Trip studied her for a long moment. Then, slowly, he bent down and brushed his lips against her cheek in a soft, chaste kiss. T'Pol shut her eyes as his touch spread through her like a wave of velvet fire.
When she finally opened her eyes again, Commander Tucker had stepped back, into the corridor. If he was feeling any effects of their brief contact, as she was, he gave no sign of it. His body was relaxed, his countenance tranquil.
"So, he said lightly, "how 'bout lunch tomorrow? Captain Archer found a pretty decent chef to cook for the repair teams. I hear she makes a mean pasta primavera. And I can bring you up to speed on the ship's status."
T'Pol nodded. "That would be agreeable."
The commander inclined his head in acknowledgement. "Tomorrow, then." He strolled off toward the turbolift. "G'night, T'Pol."
"Good night, Commander." She lingered in the doorway until he had receded from her sight.
As she shut her door, T'Pol felt a flush of relief. Knowing Commander Tucker was a man of integrity, she had fully expected him to keep a considerable distance, and she had reluctantly prepared herself for the loss of his companionship. She felt oddly comforted that he chose this path instead...though it would doubtless prove to be challenging for them both.
Her fingers stole up to caress her cheek, where he had kissed her.
More challenging than I could ever have imagined.
It was not at all logical. But she was certain that, somehow, everything would be all right.