Each Touch a Promise
Disclaimer: Star Trek: Enterprise is the property of CBS/Paramount. All original material herein is the property of its author.
A/N: Thanks for your reviews! I have really been enjoying them. I appreciate your interest in the series.
As Callahan's jazz band held the last note of the swing-era number, Lorian bent Karyn back in a slow, luxurious dip, keeping his face close to hers. There was appreciative applause from the other couples, not only for the music, but for Lorian and Karyn's mesmerizing dancing.
On the far side of the dance floor, Trip and T'Pol watched their son and his beloved. "That boy sure has loosened up since the last time we saw him," Trip remarked. "Come to think of it, he's loosened up a lot in the last hour."
T'Pol secretly marveled at how comfortable Lorian was with his emotions, while sacrificing none of his logic. "No doubt his time in the Expanse taught him the benefits of adapting," she replied.
Trip cocked his head at her. "You need to adapt to being in love?"
"Think back to the first time you experienced love," T'Pol told him. "Then imagine yourself a Vulcan first experiencing love. It is a profound adjustment."
Trip nodded slowly as her words sank in. "But...worthwhile, t'hai'la?" he asked gently. She inclined her head in assent, and he smiled at her.
As Lorian slowly pulled Karyn upright, he realized his heart was pounding, and he felt uncommonly warm. "Has there been a sudden rise in the room's temperature?"
"Not that I've noticed." Karyn batted her eyes playfully at him. "It must be the nearness of me."
"Undoubtedly." Lorian kept his arm snugly around her waist as he let his eyes roam over her face. The increase in temperature seemed to have rendered her even more beautiful, somehow.
She blushed a little under his gaze. "What is it?"
"I find myself wishing for this never to end," he murmured.
Tenderly, she touched his cheek with her fingertips. "Then we'll dance together forever." At that moment she spotted her great-grandfather beckoning her toward the table. "But first, I think Papa wants us to meet his lady friend."
- - -
Erika Hernandez knew after less than a minute that, despite Lorian's unfailing grace and attention, this was not the time or place to discuss a possible Starfleet posting as Chief Engineer on Columbia with him. His focus was clearly on Karyn Archer, even when he wasn't looking at her.
Erika gave the conversation two more minutes, to be polite, before making a tactical retreat. "Okay, enough shop talk. I'm tired of feeling like a stick-in-the-mud." She pulled Jon to his feet. "Time to dance."
"Aye, Captain," he replied smartly, and off they headed to the dance floor, nodding as they went to Trip and T'Pol, who were smoothing out their fledgling foxtrot.
Karyn turned to Lorian. "How about you?"
Lorian felt curiously lightheaded, but it was a pleasant sensation. "Let's sit for a while."
She nodded contentedly, resting her hand lightly on his arm. Her touch elicited a sudden, disconcertingly strong surge of desire in him—complete with the characteristic physical response. He was mortified by his lack of control...especially when he realized that part of him was even more deliciously aroused at the possibility that Karyn might discover his condition. Only the lucky drape of the tablecloth spared him.
Even as he regained control over his uncooperative body, he was powerless to take his eyes off Karyn. He felt himself increasingly drawn to her, his need for her becoming an ache of longing. What in the name of Surak was happening to him?
On the dance floor, Jon led Erika through a slow, stylish one-step that matched the élan of the saxophonist's heartfelt solo. "I would have thought you'd be talking to Lorian all night," he remarked.
Erika glanced back at the table, where Lorian was looking at Karyn as if no one else existed for him in the universe. "Not tonight," she replied. Eyeing Jon invitingly, she continued, "I have other plans. Do you think the rest of the family would mind if I stole you away?"
He smiled at her. "I think that could be arranged."
With Archer and Erika off on their own, and the hour late, Trip and T'Pol opted to stay overnight at the Starfleet compound rather than take the shuttle back to Enterprise. Lorian and Karyn walked them to the lobby of the guest wing to arrange for quarters, and there the four said their goodnights, planning to meet for breakfast the next morning before contacting T'Les.
Following that awkward moment of supremely sweet torture at Callahan's, Lorian had managed to compel his body to behave itself...outwardly, at least. But he was feeling increasingly feverish, and his vision stubbornly refused to focus clearly on anything, save Karyn. As he escorted her to her quarters, he found himself taking her hand, needing to touch her. She smiled shyly as they walked hand in hand through the shadowy corridors.
After she opened her door, she turned to him, her eyes shining. "Tonight felt...different. Magical. I know it's not logical, but..."
"I felt it as well," Lorian said softly. Her nearness was intoxicating to him. "I feel it even now..."
Karyn saw that his face was slightly flushed, his ardent gaze focused wholly on her. She felt a thrill of desire as he drew closer. Then he was kissing her deeply, so deeply.
Lorian felt the corridor spinning around him as he shut his eyes and steeped himself in her...the feel of her tongue dancing with his, her lashes tickling his cheeks, her fingers lightly stroking his chest through the soft fabric of his tunic. With a moan of yearning, he took her face in his hands and delved even deeper, trying to taste her soul.
At last she drew back, trembling with need for him. She reached up to caress his face...and paused, feeling beads of perspiration on his brow. His skin was hot, too hot. "You feel feverish."
"Do I?" His blood felt as if it was burning for her, only her. He took her in his arms and kissed her again, hungrily, trying to quench the fire. She responded eagerly, pulling him closer. Keeping his mouth on hers, he moved with her into her room until he had her backed up to the wall, his body pressed against hers. He could feel her heart beating against his chest, and his blood surging in sync with it.
He heard Karyn humming softly with pleasure as he trailed hot kisses down her jawline to her throat. As he nuzzled her skin, moving lower, he encountered an obstacle...her dress. He tried to pull it aside, but the fabric was taut over her bosom. With an impatient growl, he yanked, ripping the shoulder seam loose. The fabric fell away, revealing one perfect breast. Karyn gasped, her hand reflexively moving up. Intent on her bare skin, Lorian grabbed her by the wrist to immobilize her—
The sound of her voice stopped him. He blinked, refocusing...saw her torn dress, her exposed breast, and his too-tight hold on her arm, the skin painfully white. His eyes rose to her face, taking in the sight of her lips, swollen from his kisses, and her eyes still half-glazed with passion, but now filling with concern.
The room reeled around him. His blood was roaring in his ears, burning for her...even now, even after what he had done, what he'd been about to do. He stumbled back from her, horrified, ashamed, unable to meet her eyes. "Forgive me," he whispered. "I'm sorry..."
Then he was gone, leaving Karyn terribly confused, and wondering what was wrong.
- - -
Trip and T'Pol were coming down the corridor, searching for their guest rooms, when they heard Karyn's soft, imploring voice nearby. "You've never locked your door to me before. Please let me in..."
Following the plaintive voice, they rounded a corner to find Karyn in front of Lorian's quarters. "Talk to me, Lorian," she pleaded to the door. "Tell me what's happening."
As Trip came closer, he saw that Karyn's hair was mussed, and her lovely dress had been torn off one shoulder. She was clutching onto the front to hold it up—and there were fresh bruises on her wrist. "Karyn? What's going on?"
She turned to them, startled, then looked down uncertainly. Trip was stunned. "Don't tell me Lorian did this."
Karyn hesitated, then finally looked up at them again. "I think there's something wrong with him."
- - -
The door chime sounded again, but Lorian made no move to answer. He couldn't bear the thought of facing her after his unconscionable behavior. And yet his need for her was stronger than ever...
"Lorian? It's your dad."
Lorian put his spinning head in his hands. This was even worse.
"I'm not goin' anywhere," he heard Trip say. "You might as well let me in."
Lorian groaned with exasperation. He supposed it couldn't possibly get any more embarrassing. He reached up to the security panel on the wall and punched in the lock code. The door to the still-dark room slid open, admitting his father—and then his mother.
Lorian felt an intense urge to crawl under the bed. Apparently it could get more embarrassing.
Trip peered into the dimness, finally spotting Lorian sitting on the floor in the corner, his knees drawn up to his chest. He was bathed in sweat, his face flushed. "Do you feel as bad as you look?" Trip asked, as T'Pol knelt by her son's side to examine him.
"I deserve to feel much worse," Lorian said morosely. "My conduct toward Karyn was reprehensible."
"That's not exactly the way she tells it," Trip replied. "She's worried about you."
T'Pol noted Lorian's heart rate and temperature, then studied his skin tone. She ran her fingers soothingly across his fevered brow. "You appear to have entered pon farr."
Lorian found himself laughing in disbelief. He felt so dizzy. "No, it can't be that...I'm not subject to pon farr."
"The symptoms are quite distinctive," T'Pol maintained. "Although yours seem to have developed with astonishing speed."
"Mother, I'm a hundred and one, and I have never entered pon farr!" Lorian snapped with sudden irritation. "If I had inherited that trait from you, it would have come upon me long before now."
Trip glanced uneasily at T'Pol. Lorian's quicksilver emotions were even more jarring than his appearance.
"You are half-Vulcan," T'Pol told Lorian evenly. "A genetically-engineered hybrid, the result of a unique combination of factors fashioned by Dr. Phlox's design. Even for Denobulans, genetics is not a precise science. The extent of your physiological makeup cannot be predicted with certainty."
Lorian shook his head, confused, unwilling to accept what she was telling him.
T'Pol hesitated. "Perhaps you are correct. Your condition suggests late-stage pon farr, which takes days to reach. Yet you showed no symptoms on the way here, or at Callahan's."
"There was...something amiss, at the club," Lorian confessed. "When we met Captain Hernandez, I was feverish, dizzy. Afterward, Karyn touched my arm, and I felt..." He trailed off, deeply self-conscious.
"What?" Trip prompted.
"A...physical urge," Lorian finally said. Suddenly, he experienced the same powerful swell of desire that he had felt at Callahan's. His mind was inundated with images of Karyn, touching him, kissing him. He kept his eyes downcast, struggling to calm his ragged breathing. "It's happening again, and she's not even here..."
T'Pol studied him, wavering between a scientist's scrutiny and a mother's concern. "The mating urge must be a recessive trait in your case. Evidently it was activated by some element unique to you..."
"No!" Lorian declared fiercely, rebelling again. "What you're suggesting is not possible. The Vulcan male sexual response is triggered solely by internal means—endocrine secretions, the hormonal cascade..."
Trip was beginning to see how the pieces of the puzzle fit together. "But human sexual response, aside from puberty, is triggered externally—by sight, sound, touch. And emotionally...by affection. Love."
T'Pol caught up with him. "Karyn..."
It all made a ghastly kind of sense. Lorian leaned his head back against the wall, trying vainly to stop the room from spinning so crazily.
Trip touched his son's arm, and Lorian jumped, startled. "This is the first time you've had feelings for someone, isn't it?" Trip asked.
Lorian nodded slowly. "We spoke of it this evening...playful banter, I thought. But afterward, our dancing began to feel...especially intimate..."
"Love plus desire," acknowledged Trip. "It's a powerful combination."
"Powerful enough to awaken a heretofore dormant mating cycle," T'Pol agreed. "The highly accelerated rate of onset is owed, presumably, to his unique heritage. The cycle's duration may also differ from the Vulcan norm of seven years; only time will reveal that."
"So after living a century, I am finally coming of age?" Lorian chuckled with withering irony. "And I demonstrate my newfound maturity by misusing the woman I love, then fleeing like a frightened child."
Trip regarded him with sympathy. "I dunno why, but there seems to be a cosmic law that says your first time has to be a little embarrassing."
"Embarrassing does not begin to describe the present circumstances," Lorian muttered sourly.
He was perspiring more freely now, beginning to tremble from head to foot. T'Pol checked his vital signs again. "Your heart rate and fever have risen to dangerously high levels." She held his face, forcing him to look at her. "Lorian, you must quench the blood fever soon. Within an hour, two at most."
Lorian pulled away with a moan of protest. Trip watched with open concern. "Or...?"
T'Pol kept an attentive eye on her son as she explained. "Lorian's system is being thrown out of balance, flooded with hormones and stimulants—similar to the human stress response, but at an exponential rate. The neurochemical imbalance is compelling him to take a mate or die trying. If it is not corrected, it will kill him."
Trip ran a hand through his hair, fighting down a rising tide of dread. "So—mating corrects it?"
But all Lorian could picture in his fevered mind's eye was the shock on Karyn's face when he was poised to tear her dress from her body. Over and over, he heard her gasp, saw the confusion in her face. He squeezed his eyes shut, trying to banish the detestable sounds and images, even as his blood continued to burn for her. "There are other means," he managed to say. "Meditation..."
T'Pol shook her head. "Rarely effective. And for a first pon farr, virtually useless."
"Your condition has advanced too far, too fast," T'Pol countered. "The typical hormone injections could not act quickly enough to have any effect."
"What about...Karyn?" Trip asked carefully.
"No!" Lorian furiously exclaimed.
Trip was enormously uncomfortable about all of this, and confused as hell on how to handle it. But he had no doubt about what he'd seen between Lorian and Karyn at Callahan's. "Lorian, this whole thing started because you chose each other. You love each other—"
"It is too dangerous!" Lorian cried. His anger vanished as quickly as it had come, replaced by apprehension. "She is not Vulcan. I have three times her strength. If I forget myself again—" He stopped, unable to push the disturbing images away.
Trip and T'Pol traded a sober glance. "What happened?" Trip asked.
Lorian's voice was barely a whisper, shaking with shame. "I was kissing her...tasting her...my blood burning for her..." He swallowed hard. "I betrayed her trust. I was about to force myself on her. I nearly—" He stopped again, pressing his fingers to his throbbing temples, trying to steady his reeling senses. "It is not merely a matter of doing her harm. When I lose control completely, I could easily kill her."
"You won't lose control, because you didn't," came a voice from the doorway.
Lorian looked up to see Karyn standing there, a portrait of calm, loving determination. He shrank away, his fevered mind swimming with humiliation. "No, Karyn, you must not...not after what I did."
"You didn't betray my trust, Lorian. You surprised me, that's all." She gestured to her torn dress with a little half-shrug. "You're not exactly the rip-the-clothes-off-the-girl type."
He shifted restlessly, hyper-aware of her as she came into the room.
"And you wouldn't have been forcing me, either." Karyn was all too conscious of Trip and T'Pol, but she just let the blush rise to her cheeks as she kept talking to Lorian. "I wanted it as much as you. I've wanted this to happen for forever."
Lorian ventured a hesitant glance at her. He wanted desperately to believe her.
"You didn't hurt me, Lorian," she told him. "You stopped yourself. You're not capable of hurting me."
He gestured helplessly to her purpling wrist. "It is inevitable! It is pon farr!"
"You heard your parents," Karyn went on, her voice quiet with certainty. "You're unique. It doesn't matter how any other Vulcan reacts, or how every other Vulcan has reacted."
Lorian wavered, torn, his eyes haunted. "I can't risk you..."
She came a step closer, and now he could see distress shadowing her features...and, unexpectedly, anger. "Lorian, this is happening because of me, because you love me. Do you think I'm going to let you push me away? You think I'm going to stand here and watch you die?"
Lorian knew then that she would not leave him. The realization left him deeply moved, and yet sick with fear.
Karyn turned her attention to Trip and T'Pol. "Thank you for getting me in the door."
It was a polite but clear dismissal; Karyn was taking charge now. Trip and T'Pol exchanged a wordless glance of assent. Trip put his hand briefly on his son's shoulder, and then he and T'Pol moved to leave.
T'Pol paused at the doorway. Karyn saw deep respect in her eyes...and for the first time, affection. "Lorian chose well," she said. Karynsmiled in thanks.
Trip gave Karyn a kiss on the forehead in loving benediction. As he turned to leave, she stopped him. "Trip...whatever you do, don't breathe a word of this to Papa."
With a faint sigh of understanding, Trip nodded. Then he and T'Pol left them alone.
Karyn studied Lorian from across the room. His face was shining with perspiration, his lips moist and slightly parted, his eyes bright with the fever. His expression was nakedly unguarded. The only sound in the room was his slow, labored breathing. He looked more vulnerable than she'd ever seen him...and more beautiful, even in his agony. "How do you feel?" she asked.
He wouldn't look at her. "Even more discomfited than when I was discussing this with my parents."
Carefully, Karyn began to move toward him. With each step she took, Lorian felt himself pulsing with heat. His awareness was shrinking, centering on her. She was becoming the totality of all that he was, or would be...his body, his life's breath, his beating heart, his very soul.
"I should have known Vulcans would have a really messed-up way of handling this," she said. "Your life at risk just for being in love."
"In fact, Vulcan marriages are largely pre-arranged, devoid of affection." He was rambling now; it was becoming increasingly difficult for him to concentrate. "The bondmates are virtual strangers, driven by instinct, not love, to mate or die. In time they develop a connection, if they are fortunate..."
"It is the Vulcan way." Lorian blinked, peering fuzzily at her. "Why are we discussing this...?"
"I'm trying to keep your higher brain functioning as long as possible." Karyn fidgeted. "Plus...I'm nervous."
"Ah," Lorian nodded dizzily. "So you do believe I'm going to turn into a mindless, rutting animal who will break you in half during sex."
"No." She shrugged self-consciously as she took another step closer. She had closed the distance between them to a meter. "It's just...you're not the only one dealing with 'first time' issues."
Slowly, it dawned on him. "You have never...?"
Karyn blushed deeply, but she didn't look away. "I've loved you since I was nine years old, Lorian. I've worked with you every day on the bridge since I was eighteen. Being with another man held no interest for me. I was waiting for you."
Lorian wondered if he would ever stop being overwhelmed by her. He was profoundly touched, but... "I will hurt you, then," he said miserably.
"Not possible," Karyn replied. She knelt before him, smiling tenderly. "I've wanted my whole life to be yours."
Lorian swayed unsteadily as he looked at her. "How can you be certain that I won't lose all control as the fever overtakes me?"
"Have I been wrong about you yet?" Karyn smiled again, coyly. "I'll try to be boring."
"Not possible," he echoed. A tremor of raw need passed through him. The ache inside him was frightening in its power now.
Karyn released her hold on her torn dress, letting the fabric flutter to her waist, revealing herself to him. He filled his eyes with her, as the rest of the world faded away. She took his sweat-bathed face in her hands, and he gasped softly. "Do you trust me, Lorian?"
"Always." He gazed into the loving welcome of her deep brown eyes. "Save me," he whispered.
She stroked his face, her fingers deliciously cool and sweet against his fevered skin. Then she kissed him, her mouth moving slowly over his, edging his lips open, going deeper. His hands were gripping her waist now, holding on for dear life. His blood sang in his ears, a white-hot fire, calling for her. Still, he held himself back.
"Don't be afraid, love," she breathed against his mouth. "Let go. I'll hold onto you."
With a shuddering sigh, he obeyed her, falling into her embrace, losing himself in her kiss, letting the fire engulf him completely.
It was starting to lighten outside when Lorian stirred and opened his eyes, still nestled in the safe comfort of Karyn's arms. She was already awake, watching him, her face framed by stray wisps of ebony hair in pleasing disarray.
"You have been observing me as I sleep." His baritone voice was a soft caress. "Do I look different?"
She smiled. "More peaceful."
"I should think so."
"Do you feel different?" she asked.
Lorian brushed back a lock of her hair as he considered her question. The fire inside him had finally cooled, and now her touch suffused him with a pleasing thrum of contentment. The previous night's developments had certainly accelerated the progression of their courtship, to put it mildly. Their unfettered honesty and trust had enabled them to give themselves utterly to one another, which had deepened their feelings and confirmed their mutual devotion. Lorian knew with crystal clarity that he and Karyn belonged together, and that it would always be so. "I feel complete," he said at last.
"Because you're not a pon farr virgin anymore?" Karyn teased gently.
He stroked her cheek with his fingertips, and she leaned into his touch. "Because my soul has found its mate."
Karyn felt a wave of sweetness filling her heart, catching in her throat, bringing tears to her eyes. "Lorian...?"
He caught her hand in his and kissed it. "In these few weeks, you have shared your dreams with me and given your heart to me. You awakened my passions, saved my life, and taught me how to love. I have never felt so cherished." He sat up, bringing her with him. "Karyn, our hearts are already bound together. It would seem the next step in our courtship is for me to offer myself as bondmate to you, if you will have me."
Karyn smiled radiantly, even as a tear spilled down her cheek. With infinite tenderness, Lorian brushed it away. He returned her smile, his love for her plain on his face. "Shall we dance together forever, Karyn Archer?"
"Yes, Lorian," she replied happily. "Let's dance." With that, she threw her arms around his neck and kissed him soundly.
- - -
Trip and T'Pol sat at a corner table in the cafeteria. They hadn't bothered going through the motions of normalcy by getting any food. And sleep last night had not even been a possibility.
Trip glanced at T'Pol out of the corner of his eye. He sensed her disquiet, but at least she had the advantage of that maddeningly serene-looking Vulcan composure. In Trip's case, it was all he could do not to jump up and start pacing. He wondered if he'd waited long enough to go bust down Lorian's door and see if they were both all right.
As if reading his mind, T'Pol said softly, "Have patience, t'hai'la."
Trip rubbed his eyes and sighed. "Right."
Then they heard Karyn's bright voice. "Good morning."
Karyn and Lorian were approaching the table, alive and well—glowing with happiness, in fact. Trip grinned with relief. "Hey, you two." He even saw T'Pol allowing herself a small sigh as she relaxed.
"All is well again," Lorian said succinctly. "Karyn was correct in her assessment that I would react in a manner reflecting my unique makeup."
"He never tried to kill me," Karyn translated helpfully. Trip laughed out loud.
"Mother," Lorian said, "when you contact T'Les, she will have two new family members to meet." He glanced to Karyn, who slipped her arm through his. "Karyn and I have agreed to marry."
Trip whooped with joy, grabbing Lorian and Karyn up in one of his patented bear hugs, as T'Pol looked on with satisfaction.
As he released them, Trip spotted Captain Archer threading his way toward them through the tables, a steaming mug of coffee in his hand. Archer greeted the four of them with a pleasant, albeit curious, smile. "What'd I miss?"