WARNING: Although this is the expurgated, non-explicit version (the original can be found in the Decon Chamber at Triaxian Silk), this is still a pretty dark novella with adult themes. It includes (off-camera in this version) rape and pon farr -- which in this story pretty much amounts to the same thing – as well as various moral hazards of war and an utter lack of schmoopiness. Please don't even start it if you can't deal with any of that.
Disclaimer: Star Trek belongs to CBS/Paramount, not me.
Author's Note: Thanks to JustTripn for meaty beta and Escriba for supplementary beta. Also, I want to note that although I am a fan of Lieuten Keen's Doctor Andie, I actually began this story before I ever read The New Doctor or Renaisterre. I also decided some folks deserved to move up in rank here, so I ignored "These Are the Voyages." (Never trust historical holo-novels.)
She was only temporary. Enterprise was five years into its mission, setting out once again from earth for a voyage of exploration. The crew had shown remarkably little turnover, and Kendra Gonzalez, who had only joined up after the Xindi attack, was conscious of being a newcomer in every possible way when Starfleet assigned her as the locum for Dr. Phlox, who needed to attend to a pressing family matter.
There was a genial welcoming dinner in the Captain's mess, attended by the senior officers – and that was about it. Nobody seemed particularly eager to get to know her. She wasn't expected to be aboard more than a few months. Enterprise was passing through known space on its way out, so there wasn't much for her to do immediately although there certainly could be later – the captain had already warned her they'd be passing through a region of space notorious for general lawlessness. In particular, he wanted her to continue work Phlox had begun on agents to suppress the human response to pheromones emitted by Orion women.
Kendra did this as best she could without having any actual Orion women at hand. She used much of the rest of her time caring for Phlox's bizarre menagerie of alien creatures with peculiar medicinal uses. Some days she felt more like a zookeeper than a doctor.
Things looked up a bit when they finally came upon an uninhabited Minshara-class planet not yet visited by Starfleet. Kendra was a little disappointed that no doctor was deemed necessary on the away team, but she hoped she'd at least get some samples to analyze when the team returned, for she was a microbiologist at heart.
The stop did finally bring someone into her sickbay she'd been hoping to run into again ever since she'd met him at that dinner. Commander Tucker had a ready smile and an abundance of Southern charm. But he was not, as she'd expected, part of the away team.
"What seems to be the problem?" she asked.
"Nothing serious," he said with what struck her as studied nonchalance. "I just need 10 cc of inaprovaline."
Kendra eyed him skeptically. He didn't look like a man in need of mild sedation. "Okay," she said. "Show me your medical degree and you can have it."
He flushed. "Just check my file and you'll see that Dr. Phlox and I have worked out this treatment regimen. It's just a precaution whenever, um..." He hesitated.
"Whenever?" she prompted him.
He raised his eyes to the ceiling. "Whenever Commander T'Pol's away for any length of time."
She stared at him, nonplussed. She'd met T'Pol at dinner, of course. She had noticed that the Vulcan and Tucker had a fairly easy camaraderie, but it didn't seem any easier than that between the captain and his two officers. "I guess I'd better check your file a little more carefully, Commander. Or would you care to explain?"
He turned his attention from the ceiling to the sickbay doors, avoiding eye contact. "It's just that this there's, um, kind of mental bond thing. And if she's not on the ship, I can start having ... well, symptoms."
"I see. Could you give me some examples of your symptoms?"
"Depends. There's irritability, anxiety ... general distraction...."
She frowned. "Surely you can cope with that, especially if you know the cause?"
He looked embarrassed. "Well, yeah. But then sometimes there are these intrusive ... um, sort of like hallucinations even though they're not. And if she gets into trouble of any kind, it can get a little out of hand. Which is not so good with my duties and the chain of command and all. So can I have my inaprovaline, please?"
Kendra quickly reviewed his file, her eyes widening at some of the notes Phlox had made. "I apologize, Commander. I didn't realize you were a couple."
"We're not." Tucker's tone was flat.
"But you said –"
He scowled. "The bond wasn't intentional. It just kind of happened, back when we were both dealing with some difficult issues. Now we're stuck with it. We tried to make a go of it for awhile." His voice got husky. "It didn't work out."
He smiled grimly and said nothing.
"But you still experience this mental connection, even though you aren't together? That must be somewhat … awkward."
He shrugged. "T'Pol and I have already explored our options as best we can without getting more people involved. We've agreed on this arrangement for now. At least it means the Orions can't put the whammy on me. The cap'n's pleased about that, given our current mission. So it could be a lot worse."
She had seen a mention of Tucker and T'Pol's immunity in Phlox's notes about the Orions – now she understood it better. So she injected him, and he thanked her and left.
Kendra went to review two of her patients' files with new interest. There was a wealth of information there she'd never seen before, particularly about the Vulcan reproductive cycle.
x x x
When Tucker came in for another dose that night, Kendra indulged her curiosity. "You know, I've been wondering something," she said, as she prepared the hypospray.
"What could be worse than having an apparently permanent mating bond to someone who doesn't love you?"
He smiled crookedly. "I never said she doesn't love me. We're still pretty close. We just can't make it work as a couple."
"I saw in your file that you lost your child about a year ago. That can be hard on any relationship." She had noted in both his and her file an apparently eager interest at one point in the possibility of having another child. Indeed, Dr. Phlox still had an active file devoted to the project. She'd thought there was an undercurrent of sadness about Tucker before; perhaps she was beginning to understand it.
"Yeah. Well, you know. Family and deep space don't exactly mix anyway."
"No," Kendra agreed.
He smiled politely. "You don't have kids tucked away somewhere, I take it?"
She'd wondered what they knew about her story already, since no one had asked. Apparently not very much. "My children were at home with my husband outside Havana when the Xindi weapon struck."
He paled. "I'm so sorry."
"There were a lot of losses that day. I know about your sister. I saw it in your file." Without thinking, she took his hand.
He looked down at their joined hands and blinked a couple of times before looking at her face. "Guess I better get back to work," he said, and all but ran out the door.
x x x
Kendra got to see T'Pol up close when she came back from the away mission the next morning with a broken arm as well as numerous scratches and lacerations. Thankfully no dangerous microbes showed up in the decon scan, since T'Pol had insisted she could wait for it to be completed before treatment.
"You just had to jump off a cliff, didn't you?" Tucker complained. He and Archer had traded quick reports before trading places – Archer back to the bridge and Tucker to hover over the first officer.
"I deemed it preferable to becoming a meal for the local fauna," T'Pol said, as she lay stoically on the biobed.
"Cap'n said she was attacked by a bear-like creature," Tucker explained to Kendra. "Must have thought she looked awfully tasty." He smiled at T'Pol.
T'Pol raised an eyebrow at him.
"I've got to reset the arm," she told T'Pol. "First I'll give you a painkiller."
"There's no need, doctor." T'Pol took a few controlled breaths and closed her eyes. The only sign of pain she exhibited when Kendra yanked the bone back into position was a tensing of her face. Tucker, on the other hand, suddenly turned pale and swayed on his feet. "You okay, Commander?" Kendra asked him.
"I'm fine," he gasped.
"Would inaprovaline help?"
"I doubt it would make any difference now," he said, still wincing.
"I'd like to give you a mild painkiller," Kendra told T'Pol.
"Surak teaches us to control our perception of pain through mental discipline."
"Bully for him," Kendra said. "But your bondmate looks like he's about to be sick."
T'Pol looked sharply at Tucker. "You should help him then."
"It's not his pain," Kendra said. "Don't you think you have some responsibility towards him in a situation like this?"
T'Pol's eyes widened at Kendra's sharp tone, then softened with something that looked like remorse. "Of course. Please proceed."
Kendra administered the analgesic and was pleased to see both their complexions improve. "Excellent," she said. She carefully laid T'Pol's arm in a portable knitting chamber. "This will take an hour or so each day for the next four days. You'll need to wear a sling until the bone has healed sufficiently. Perhaps you could keep an eye on Commander Tucker to determine if you have need for further pain treatment? And Commander Tucker, perhaps you can communicate with me if it becomes a problem? "
"Sure," Tucker said, and smiled gratefully at her.
T'Pol lay on the diagnostic bed and stared at the ceiling.
Tucker coughed uncomfortably. "Guess I'll get back to engineering."
"You don't need any more inaprovaline?" Kendra asked.
"Nope," Tucker said. "She's back. It's always good to have you safe at home," he said to T'Pol, squeezing her shoulder briefly, and left.
T'Pol's eyes followed him out. Then they turned to Kendra. "I see you have been made aware of our situation," she said.
"Yes," Kendra said. "But I've never heard of a bonded couple that isn't ... a couple. It must be quite an unusual situation."
"I would have thought a bonded couple that is a couple would be equally unusual for a human doctor."
"Well, yes," Kendra said. "But at least I could hope that such a couple is looking after each other. It doesn't appear that I can assume that in this situation." She hadn't exactly meant to sound critical, but it had come out that way. Obviously, she'd lost some objectivity. It was hard not to sympathize with Commander Tucker's situation.
Who was she kidding? It was hard not to sympathize with the lovely Commander Tucker.
T'Pol gave her an assessing look. "Perhaps you are not aware that Commander Tucker is the one who chose to end our relationship." She pursed her lips. "I consider it… regrettable."
Kendra was surprised by T'Pol's candor; according to her training it was unusual for Vulcans to discuss personal matters. "Relationships can be very challenging. Between different species and cultures they must be even harder. Have you sought any help?"
"There is no help available for a Vulcan and a human who wish to be together," T'Pol said.
x x x
Kendra always looked forward to movie night. She liked movies, but she also liked to sit to the side of the room and observe the crew. She could sometimes predict who was going to need her attention based on the interactions – or sudden lack thereof – she noticed from week to week.
It was also prime time for watching the most interesting pair on the ship. Commander Tucker and Commander T'Pol usually sat together and shared a bowl of popcorn, and as the group broke up afterwards he always pestered her until she told him what she thought. T'Pol seemed reluctant, and after awhile Kendra thought she could understand why. Tucker never seemed to approve of her take on a movie. Quite often he'd roll his eyes and shake his head, or laugh outright at her. T'Pol would simply bid him goodnight.
"So how'd you like the movie?" Tucker asked Kendra one night, after T'Pol left.
"Actually it's an old favorite of mine," she said.
He grinned. "Me, too. T'Pol didn't get it, of course."
"And yet she comes here doggedly every week to watch the movie with you."
Tucker frowned. "Meaning?"
"It's just an observation, Commander," Kendra said. "I confess that I find you an interesting couple. You seem to want to be together, but then..."
"What?" Tucker said sharply.
"When she tells you what she thinks, you roll your eyes," Kendra said. "Or you laugh at her. I would think it must cause her some chagrin, even if she doesn't show it."
"We just have that kind of relationship. She does the same thing to me, believe me."
"Does she? Rolling the eyes is hostile body language," Kendra said. "In a married couple, it's a highly dysfunctional way of communicating. Quite a good predictor of divorce."
"You know, you might consider couples therapy," Kendra said. "It could help you learn to communicate better. Especially since you seem to believe you're essentially stuck with each other anyway, at some level."
He stared at her for a moment. "How the hell do we get couples therapy on a starship? Starships aren't supposed to have couples."
Kendra sighed. She had a feeling what she was about to offer was foolhardy. "I'd be willing to give it a try. It's not my area of expertise, but starship doctors are supposed to be generalists, and I have a colleague I can consult with back on Earth."
Tucker shook his head. "It would never work."
"What makes you so sure?"
"Just trust me. It wouldn't."
"Commander T'Pol told me you're the one who ended the relationship. I was surprised, but perhaps I'm beginning to see that now."
His face darkened. "You don't know anything about it."
"No, I don't," Kendra said. "All I know is that it seems a great pity. You never know when you may be separated forever from the people you love."
On that note, she left. She hoped she'd given him something to think about.
x x x
Three weeks later Kendra finally got to do something outside of sickbay. The captain assigned her to accompany T'Pol and several others as they investigated an alien ship that had sent out a distress signal. Sensors hadn't detected any life signs, so Kendra assumed she was going along to help determine how the aliens had met their fates.
But there were no alien crewmen. The small ship was empty, both of people and of any useful cargo. It had been stripped clean.
"Orion," Lieutenant Commander Reed reported tersely to Commander T'Pol. "The weapons signature is unmistakable."
T'Pol turned to Lieutenant Sato. "See if you can download enough information to allow us to contact their home world. We should attempt to let them know what happened to their people."
"Which is what?" Kendra asked.
"We can safely assume the Orion Syndicate captured them to sell into slavery."
"Oh." Kendra had heard about the Orion slave trade in her briefing for this mission, but it suddenly seemed a lot more real.
"If the Syndicate is in this area we may be at risk as well," T'Pol added, and hailed the captain.
x x x
"Are we really at risk on Enterprise?" Kendra asked T'Pol back on the ship, as they stripped out of their EV suits.
T'Pol regarded her. "With our level of defensive weaponry their favored method is to transport off a few members of the crew and then speed away. However, sickbay is in the most interior area of the ship. You may face lower risk there."
"I didn't ask because I was concerned about myself."
"It would be a reasonable concern," T'Pol said. "I was once kidnapped by the Orions myself. I have no wish to repeat the experience."
"Oh. Well, maybe I'll try to work up a little concern, then."
T'Pol tilted her head. "This is your first deep space mission?"
"You appear less anxious about it than most new crewmembers."
"Do I? I suppose it's not like anyone's waiting for me back home. If something happens...." She shrugged. She knew better than to tell a senior officer she sometimes fantasized about reuniting with her family in the afterlife, if there was one. Nobody wanted a ship's doctor with a death wish.
"Commander Tucker told me about your family," she said. "I grieve with thee."
"Thank you," Kendra said, surprised at receiving sympathy from a Vulcan.
"I believe the commander feels quite protective toward you," T'Pol said abruptly.
"Does he?" Kendra couldn't help but feel a little gratified.
"If we were not bonded, I would not be surprised if he pursued a relationship with you."
Kendra smiled, amused. "I doubt that." She was only a few years older than Tucker, but she felt ancient compared to him. True, he did sometimes give her the impression he found her attractive, but she suspected he gave everyone that impression. The man was a born charmer.
"I believe one might say that Commander Tucker has an open heart," T'Pol said. She closed the locker door with a slightly excessive amount of force. "You're also conveniently outside the chain of command."
"But as you say, he is bonded," Kendra said softly.
T'Pol looked pensive. Perhaps even a touch depressed.
"And I would never...." Kendra said.
The look T'Pol gave her was so grateful it was almost heartbreaking. Kendra wondered if Vulcans' reputation for emotional control had been greatly exaggerated, or if this was related to material she'd found in T'Pol's file.
Trellium-D. Was that how two so very different people had become so unhappily attached?
x x x
The next time Tucker came in for inaprovaline it was because he was going on the away mission and T'Pol wasn't.
"What are you going to be doing?" Kendra asked, curious.
"Oh, it's just a meet and greet and hopefully we can set up a relationship for buying deuterium when we need it. We don't have any suppliers out in this region." He lowered his voice and grinned. "I just hope it doesn't involve eating any 'essence of the male'."
"Long story. Maybe I'll tell you sometime."
She smiled but didn't say she'd like that, conscious of her promise to T'Pol. "How's movie night going?" she asked.
He bit his lip. "I'm trying to behave. I ... I appreciate you pointing out to me what I was doing. I never wanted to cause her pain."
"I don't believe she would ever wish to cause you pain either," Kendra said.
"I know. Though she sure as hell has a knack for it."
"How so?" Kendra asked, honestly curious.
"Well, that's kind of a long story," he said. "Water over the bridge now, anyway."
"Pity you can't get past it, then."
He frowned. "I told you, we tried. We're just not really that compatible."
"In what specific ways are you not compatible?"
He frowned at her. "I need to get going," he said, and headed for the door. But then he stopped and turned back. "It's just basic stuff. There are things you take for a granted in a relationship that you just can't have with a Vulcan. Like physical contact. I'm not talking about sex, just normal touch. Anything prolonged makes her really antsy. She can't really stand to sleep in the same bed. She doesn't hug. And when I'm around she never really relaxes. She needs a lot of personal space." He scowled. "She'd make a great pen pal."
"These all seem like things that could be worked on if you were clear with her about what you needed," Kendra said. "It's not like you're getting hugs from anyone else."
He blushed, and she felt her own cheeks flush in response. "You don't understand," he said. "If she's uncomfortable, I'm uncomfortable. Even when she's at her most affectionate, there's this part of her that's just so ashamed for feeling that way, and she can't hide it from me. Maybe if I were another Vulcan it wouldn't bother me so much. But I'm not."
"How exactly did this bond form, anyway?" Kendra asked. From the additional research she had done – which hadn't been easy, Vulcans guarded their facts of life pretty carefully – this one didn't sound terribly functional.
He looked up at the ceiling. "Do I really have to spell that out?"
"So it wasn't just the neuropressure. You've had sex."
He nodded, clearly embarrassed.
"Has she gone through pon farr with you?"
"No. Phlox believes she probably never will as long as we're bonded. Apparently the female reacts to her mate, and I don't have any Vulcan mojo to set her off. Which is probably a good thing, because if we went through that together she might kill me." He was trying to sound nonchalant about it, but Kendra noticed that his shoulders had rounded into a slump.
"It's possible the experience of pon farr would improve the quality of your bond," Kendra said, handing him a hypospray with a three-day supply of inaprovaline. "I suspect it could be stimulated with the right hormonal regimen."
"Forget about it," Tucker said. "I need more of this bond like I need a hole in the head."
"Are you sure? A fully-functioning bond might be preferable to an incomplete bond."
"Might be. Nobody knows, right? Maybe a fully-functioning bond would fry my brain. I think it's safer to just leave well enough alone. I appreciate your concern, Doctor, but I'm done with this. It was hard enough giving up on it after the last round. I really don't want to think about it anymore." He lifted the hypospray up in a mock toast. "This is all I need and all I want."
Kendra smiled apologetically back at him and decided to let it go. He was right – she had no idea what a full Vulcan mating bond might do to a human brain.
First, do no harm.
x x x
Kendra was staring at one of Phlox's leeches and trying to decide whether it was dead or just very, very inactive when the call came in from Lieutenant Sato. "Sickbay, prepare for emergency transport!"
Kendra jumped to attention, then checked to make sure there wasn't anything sitting on the portion of sickbay's deck only recently designated for receiving transporter signals. Then she ran to the wall to call in extra help.
Captain Archer and Commander Tucker materialized on the floor. Archer was on his knees, bent over the blood-soaked engineer. In the time it took Kendra to approach a fresh crimson circle spread out beneath him.
Kendra's heart began to pound. She programmed a hypo with plasma stabilizing compound and pressed it into Tucker's neck, all but certain it would be too little too late. She scanned quickly to ensure there was no spinal damage. His vitals were plummeting. "Help me," she told the captain, and they lifted Tucker up and onto a diagnostic bed. "What happened?" she asked, hurriedly getting the engineer hooked into a supply of oxygen and fresh syn-plasma while Archer, clearly familiar with emergency procedures, cut Tucker's bloody uniform out of the way.
"A projectile weapon of some kind," Archer said. "They hit him with at least two shots, maybe three."
"Were you hit?" Kendra asked, afraid to remove her attention from Tucker for even a moment.
Miriam Saad, an exo-biologist who doubled as a medic in emergencies, raced in and Kendra told her to prep for surgery. Tucker's vitals had stabilized at far too low a level for comfort, but if she didn't find a way to stop the bleeding he would certainly die.
"I need room, Captain," she said. She set up a sterile field over the patient. Saad worked with admirable efficiency, placing two sedator disks into position on Tucker's forehead, then tucking warm blankets over his legs and arms. Kendra grabbed the laser scalpel from the tray Saad had laid out and headed into Tucker's devastated abdomen.
To be continued