1. Midnight Confessions
A/N: A mildly erotic piece, dealing with the aftermath of "Bound".
This story is a personal challenge. What I'm planning is to write a story, where each chapter is a contribution to the monthly word prompt challenge at Triaxian Silk. The story picks up in the closing moments of "Bound" and takes it AU from there. This is the contribution for June 2010.
"Guess we proved it again," Trip mused, as they left sickbay.
"That you and I make a helluva team."
"We seem to work well together."
"Even more, now that we're in each others head."
There was one little detail about the bond that T'Pol had not disclosed earlier. While for him it was a series of sporadic daydreams that drew him into her white space, for her the bond was a much stronger connection. Since humans had latent, weak telepathic abilities at best and even that only in rare cases, the bond in its early stage was almost a one-way connection.
About a week before she had noticed sporadically erupting emotions, which seemingly came out of nowhere, but she soon noticed that their occurrence matched exactly the pattern of Commander Tucker's behavior. Whenever he had an emotional outburst or made his trademark jokes, T'Pol felt them herself, if they were strong enough. This had led to the realization that there was a connection between them and their history left only one candidate – a mating bond. It was soon time to explain him the full ramifications of this fact, before he returned to Columbia. As she heard him talk about being in each others head – a typically human, crude metaphor – she also noticed that he experienced a mix of positive emotions at the time, calming her fears, that the human would be afraid of the unusual connection.
"You're returning to Columbia?"
"I imagine Captain Hernandez is getting pretty antsy to have her Chief Engineer back."
T'Pol saw right through the statement, but was also surprised that she did pick up no trace of emotional response. He was either completely indifferent or kept his emotions in check, which she had not witnessed too often so far.
"There are still numerous repairs to be carried out here."
"I think Kelby can handle them. He's been observing my work pretty carefully, when he wasn't trying to blow up the ship. "
He still gave no indication of an emotional response and a suspicion formed in T'Pol's mind. He seemed to do what he had done so often – engaging in an argument to trick her into admitting something or telling him something in way he wanted to hear it. A long time ago Ensign Sato had explained that this process was called 'teasing' and generally a sign of affection. Only humans would come up with a sign of affection that could become annoying. Obviously he used his arguments for his return to Columbia as a ruse for her to ask him to stay.
When Lt. Sato had explained about the custom of teasing, she had also mentioned that the humans often expected the 'favor to be returned'. That's why T'Pol had developed a certain competitiveness in their friendly banter. She was not willing to give him an easy win.
"Kelby is a fine engineer, but he lacks experience," she said and a short wave of annoyance washed through the bond, indicating that his emotional nature got the better of him and also validated her suspicion.
He stopped. "Why don't you just say it?"
"Say what?" she feigned ignorance and started to enjoy this, seeing his slight exasperation. Obviously, the Commander could not eat, what he dished out, at least not today.
"That you want me to come back."
"I believe I did," she answered with an innocently raised brow. "I believe that your presence here would be extremely beneficial to our operations."
"No, that you want me back," he pressed and annoyance resonated to the bond now very clear.
"I don't know what you mean," she lied and regretted it immediately. The mixture of hurt feelings, anger and sadness almost prompted a visible response and T'Pol knew instantly that she had gone too far. She might have gotten better at bantering, but she was still clumsy in her interactions with humans whenever she tried her hand at purely human ways of socializing. Again she had failed to stop before he was seriously inconvenienced.
"My mistake. See you around," he sighed in visual disappointment. And turned to go,
The only logical conclusion was to deliver, what he had wanted to hear to undo the damage she had inadvertently done. "Wait, Trip," she called, knowing that the rarely used nickname would make him at least listen. "I want you to come back," she admitted defeat.
"Then I'll think about it," he answered and turned to go again.
'Thinking about it' still left a 50% chance of the answer being 'No'. Suddenly that thought caused panic and fear of losing him again and there was not much time to react, so she decided to convey the message in an unmistakable manner – she had to show him why she wanted him to come back.
"Trip!" she called with more urgency, caught up with him and kissed him hard.
Nothing had prepared her for the onslaught of emotions that she picked up, now that they were in intense contact. Getting faint transmissions through the bond was one thing, now, due to the Vulcan's inherent touch telepathy, it was a torrent of conflicting emotions that hit her unprepared.
Love, desire, longing warred with sadness, hurt and anger in a most frightening intensity. But before she broke the kiss and struggled to regain her composure, she also noticed an undercurrent of mischief and satisfaction. Something was afoot.
He gently wiped along his lips. Trip smiled mischievously and explained the reason behind his satisfaction. "Three days ago, I told Captain Hernandez that I wanted a transfer back to Enterprise."
"Three days ago," she answered in barely suppressed indignation.
"I realized this is where I was meant to be, and this thing between us isn't that big a deal."
"Agreed." she answered, despite his obvious underestimation of the true ramifications of being bonded with a Vulcan.
"Guess we gotta lot of work to do," he quipped before disappearing around the corner.
T'Pol walked to her quarters with a still very elevated eye-brow. Finally she had admitted the existence of the bond to the ship's Chief Engineer and although the latest round of banter had resulted in a crushing defeat and almost with bad consequences, she was relieved that she had Trip back. The thought of his permanent departure had unsettled her for the last two weeks already and she was almost gratified for the Klingon's sabotage that caused his return. Quickly she pushed that thought down – it was illogical.
X X X
With just minutes to go until midnight, Trip came home after a long day in engineering. Grimy, the uniform covered in scorch marks from exploding EPS conduits, he dragged his exhausted body into his cabin, making a bee line for the shower to get rid of the muck.
I cannot believe she did that. Admitting that she wants me back was big enough a surprise, but planting a wet one on me – in a wide open corridor of all places... Dear god let it be serious this time, can't take another push and I can't even transfer away this time. Not after the stunt with Columbia.
He had not have the time to process today's events due to the carnage in engineering, but now the thoughts kept coming despite his fatigue. After cleaning himself, he wrapped a towel around his waist and went back in search of his sweatpants, but he was interrupted by the door chime. At this late an hour it could only be Jon with an invite to one of the rare late-night live broadcasts of water polo. But – unexpectedly - it was not his friend, who made a house call in the middle of the night.
"Good evening. I may have come at an inconvenient time..." T'Pol stopped when she saw his wardrobe situation.
"Don't worry, it's not like you haven't seen everything anyways," he answered and waved her to come in.
"Indeed," she returned and noticed that he had put on considerable muscle mass since their first - and so far last - disrobed encounter.
"What brings you here and what's in that bag?" Trip asked casually and without any sign of shyness dropped the towel to put on his pants.
T'Pol distracted herself from the urge to intensify her visual scan by picking up his uniform and other pieces of clothing that he had dropped where they fell on his way to the shower.
"Resulting from recent events and findings, I believe it to be necessary to discuss something with you. The purpose of the bag will be explained in the process," she provided, once Trip had put on his pants.
"I'm dead tired," he said. "But I think you're right, best we talk some things out."
Indicating her to do so as well, he sat down on the bunk and waited for what she had to say.
"Based on my actions of today you most likely have come to the conclusion, that my interest in your return to Enterprise is not entirely motivated by professional reasons."
"Sure looked and felt like it," he said with a smile.
"There is a number of events that caused my actions and I wish to confess my motives. This takes a considerable amount of time, therefore I shall not be offended if you ask me to defer it until you had sufficient rest."
"Don't worry about my rest, T'Pol. I've waited for almost two years for you to tell me, what the hell is going on between us - or not for that matter. I'll stay awake even if it takes a week."
"Very well," T'Pol nodded and continued her narration. "Do you remember what happened when I was exposed to Trellium-D on the Seleya?"
"Sure as hell do. You completely lost it and ever since then you had that occasional emotional outburst. In fact for quite a while I was afraid it had left some permanent damage."
"You are most perceptive. In fact it has left damage, but not like you expect."
Trip's eyes went wide. "Is it bad?"
"Please hear the complete explanation," she continued and Trip nodded. "When the aftereffects of my Trellium-D exposure started to subside and only a mild influence was still left, I noticed that I could experience certain emotions, which are usually instinctively suppressed. Those were fascination, amusement, but also fear and anger."
Trip got a bad feeling but refrained from interrupting. He knew T'Pol good enough to see that she was talking about some things that weighed heavily on her.
"I wanted more of those emotions. I noticed that I fared better in my interactions with the crew – especially with you – and I hoped to become able to reciprocate the outward signs of affection that you displayed. So I began injecting micro doses of Trellium-D into my blood stream and that allowed me to access emotions at any time. Unfortunately I had not considered the possibility of becoming addicted."
Trip buried his face in his palms and sighed heavily. When he looked back up, he saw that T'Pol had, what must be the Vulcan equivalent of the deer-in-head-lights look. Her shame and the fear of him sending her away was palpable.
"Do you still do it?" he asked as calm as he could in his shock.
"No. After I was almost killed during an attempt to reach the Trellium-D storage in the cargo bay on the damaged ship, I went to Dr. Phlox and sought medical help to overcome the addiction. The therapy was successful, however my ill-advised actions have caused permanent damage to my neuro-pathways.
"You messed up your own body to get close to me? Hell, we were closer than any other two people on the ship. Way before the Seleya, you had taken over from Jon as my best friend."
"I think we both know that it wasn't a best friend we were hoping to be."
"WE?" Trips eyes went wide. "T'Pol you kept pushing me away again and again. Hell you even married another guy. I know it was for your mother, but you never thought it necessary to tell me that he released you – I learned about that from Jon. I don't get it, why did you shut me out?"
Trip regretted his little outburst almost immediately as he was presented a sight that was new to him – tears. She wasn't all-out bawling, but tears running down the face of a Vulcan were unsettling enough a picture.
"Sorry," Trip whispered.
"You have every right to be displeased," T'Pol started in a small voice. "As I explained earlier, I did not only experience favorable emotions. Due to the damage that I had inflicted, I was no longer able to suppress all emotions. I was unable to deal with them. I was confused and scared. Those unsettling emotions and my inability to make sense of them was the driving force behind the many wrong decisions I made in connection with you."
"What changed? Looks to me that you finally smelled the cordite and decided to 'fess up."
T'Pol, momentarily confused by his strange metaphor, after all cordite was known to have no smell, continued. "The first important event was, when I spoke to my counterpart on the Enterprise from the other time line."
"Wait-a-minute, you talked to... yourself? Why didn't you or Lorian tell me that you …she ...the other you was still alive?"
"She asked the Captain not to tell you. She was afraid of seeing you again and then losing you a second time."
Trip gulped and – a very rare event – was speechless.
"She explained to me that you were the key to mastering those emotions. When I was prepared to make the final step, we were on Vulcan, but I spare you the pain of reminding you in detail of the events. You were there."
"Roger that," Trip sighed.
"The grief about the death of my mother and the shame of having caused so much pain and suffering for you by marrying Koss, prevented me from getting closer to you after he released me. Once you left for Challenger, I realized, that the pain of losing your constant presence and losing the chance to be with you was exceedingly less bearable than any shame, fear or confusion."
"So you finally decided, that it is better to talk to me rather than watching me jump ship again."
"This conclusion is warranted. Until now I tried to deny my affection and my wish to be close to you for mostly wrong reasons. I decided that it is not logical to continue that self-deception, as it is completely without logic."
"Did you just say what I think you did?"
She looked him into the eyes. "Trip..., I know human customs would now demand the sentence 'I love you' to be spoken, but I cannot speak about something that I do not yet entirely understand. What I do understand is that I have a deep affection for you, an affection I've never had for anyone else. Imagining my life without you is beyond my mental capabil..."
She was cut short by a hot, passionate kiss. "You know what? You just translated 'I love you' from human to Vulcan and God be my witness, I love you, too."
Both fell into an embrace and for a long time they didn't say a word, quietly relaxing in each others closeness, ridding themselves of the sadness, caused by months of rejection and unrequited longing.
"So what about that bag 'o yours?" he asked after the long break.
"It contains clothing and items of personal hygiene for the case that you would allow me to spend the night with you," she explained warily.
"Wow, you're upping the pace quite a bit," Trip wondered with a grin for the ages.
"If it inconveniences you..."
"Are you kidding me? I've been dreaming about falling asleep with you in my arms ever since we..., well for a long time already."
"In this case I shall be honored to make your dream a reality."
"After all this time, I cannot tell you how happy I am," he sighed and a tear of joy dropped slowly down his cheek.
"You don't need to tell me, I share your emotions."
"Ah right, you're in my head now," he chuckled.
"That is the second topic we need to discuss, but beforehand I shall prepare for the night."
When T'Pol disappeared into the bathroom, Trip let out a happy sigh. Finally she had given up her reluctance to admit the obvious. Inwardly he marveled at her straight approach. Usually she would have danced around the topic or drowned it in Vulcanese stilt speak – not tonight. It was less than a day from learning about the bond to the first night spent together in one bunk - incredible.
X X X
He was still sitting on the bunk, when T'Pol returned from the bathroom and Trip forgot to breathe. She wore white panties - definitely not of Vulcan origin – and nothing else. The sight of his Vulcan dream girl in nothing but skimpy panties blew up a couple more conduits, this time in his head rather than engineering.
"Congruency," she remarked dryly and pointed at his bare chest.
"There's something to be said for being in love with the Science Officer," he chuckled after he regained the capability of coherent thought.
They had just laid down, when the door chime announced another late night visitor. Both scrambled to cover their upper halves with two of Trips T-Shirts before they returned to the bunk and sat down. T'Pol shoved her legs under the blanket. Parading herself in skimpy panties for anyone but Trip was not an option.
"You ok with this?" Trip whispered.
"It is less indignant to be... caught like this, rather than being discovered by a biosign scan, which will most likely be done if we ignore hails. The crew will notice, one way or the other," T'Pol analyzed.
Nodding, Trip announced his permission to enter and the door revealed the visitor to be Captain Archer, who stopped dead in his tracks.
"I know those pheromones have side effects, but I thought you two were immune," he wondered wide-eyed.
"We are, Cap'n."
"Hm, I could swear I see my First officer and my Chief Engineer in their jammies, sitting on his bed. When did this happen?"
"Well, 30 minutes ago and pheromones had nothing to do with it. Don't get it the wrong way, Cap'n. Unless the ship's blowing up... I think T'Pol's a tad uneasy with the situation. So, if you wouldn't mind... I promise I'll give you the heads up about everything."
"Ok, ok, Trip, I'll get lost," Archer said with a smile and excused himself, wishing them a good night. Seeing that Trip had a somewhat more attractive option at hand than watching a late-night water-polo broadcast, he benevolently admitted defeat.
"Well, looks like we're doing this top-down," Trip sighed after the door closed behind the Captain.
"I had the distinct impression that you preferred top off," T'Pol deadpanned and got rid of the T-Shirt again.
"Cap'n was right, some of my sense of humor is definitely rubbing off on you," Trip laughed and followed her example. "So what was the second thing you wanted to talk about?"
She indicated him to lay down and snuggled up to him. "I wish to speak with you about the bond. It is imperative that you have sufficient information to make your decision."
"The decision to bond is a decision for a life time. Being bonded amounts to what Earth considers a legal marriage. Unlike on Earth however, the option of a divorce is not available."
"So you mean to say we're married?"
"I haven't completed my explanation yet. Our bond is still in its infancy. To make it easier for you to understand, you could compare it with the human custom off becoming engaged. Over the time due to intimate contact and consummation of the bond, it strengthens and becomes increasingly harder to sever. Once the bond is completed, it can not be severed without putting both mates in terminal danger."
"So if I get it right... We're engaged and whenever we touch or when we consummate... what does that mean?"
"It means that we mate."
Trip groaned. "We don't... mate! Do me a favor please, don't use that word. We use that term when animals do the deed and we're no animals. So whenever we make love the bond gets stronger and once it is strong enough you'll be my wife and we'd die if we try to divorce, right?"
"In essence, yes."
"Great!" he beamed. "If I weren't that tired, I'd probably start right away, so we'd be undivorceably married by the morning. But seriously, T'Pol, did you really think that I would want to break that bond? Forget it, and once I'm not so tired, I promise to show you just how much I want to strengthen it."
"I'm gratified to hear that. I do admit that I was afraid that you would consider severing the bond," she said and when she saw his shocked face, added "for approximately 1.25 seconds," sending him into a fit of laughter.
"You are something else, darlin'!"
Just 2.5 earth minutes later she noticed that he had fallen asleep. Resting her head on his muscular chest she soon drifted into sleep herself.
X X X
Trip woke up with a happy sigh. For the second time in a row he woke up with the sweet sensation of a pointy ear on his chest.
The day after her late night confession, which resulted in spending the night together, saw Trip floating in the air. Sporting an almost idiotic grin, he had happily worked himself to shreds before turning in for the night – in T'Pol's quarters.
"Morning T'Pol," he answered and stole a kiss.
"You shall inform the Captain soon about us, you gave him a promise to do so."
"Actually that's why you'll need to have breakfast alone today. I tried to get hold of him yesterday, but he was busy with calling just about every Admiral and he invited me to discuss it over breakfast today."
"Very well. I shall use the time before the shift to make some preparations myself."
X X X
"So, Trip. Is that a temporary arrangement or do I dial T'Pol's quarters if I need to call one of you?" Archer asked, once the Steward had left.
"Depends on whether I'm talking to Jon or to Captain Jonathan Archer," Trip answered a bit unsure.
"Both would be equally happy for both of you, Trip."
"Well, in that case it's damn permanent," Trip enthused.
"So, what happened?"
"Well, I'm gonna say it right away, Jon, I'm not going to tell you all. There's some things that Vulcans do absolutely not talk about outside family and I'm not going to betray T'Pol's trust. You ok with that?"
"If it doesn't interfere with your duties, you're not obliged to tell me anything."
"Nothing of that sort, don't worry. Well actually, you know yourself how she was growing on me. Due to that neuropressure stuff we got pretty close and, well, I fell in love with her, although I only really realized it, when she told me that she's gonna marry that Koss fella."
"I never understood how you got over that."
"I almost didn't," Trip explained with a chagrined face expression. "When I came back, there was still a good week to go before you and T'Pol returned. I spent quite a bit of that time being wasted outta my skull."
"Tell me about it," Trip sighed. "But when she came back, I knew she needed a friend and not a self pitying, drunk almost-lover. That actually got me straightened out again in a damn hurry."
"Damn, someone sold both you and T'Pol a rotten year. That mockery of a marriage, the death of her mother..."
"Yep. And we both took quite an emotional beating in the process. In the end I couldn't stand it any longer, I just couldn't be so close yet so far anymore. That's when I ran off to Columbia."
"Thought that was something like that. I first thought about denying your transfer, but when I realized that you were desperate enough to abandon your engines, I also knew it would be torturing you to stay on the ship."
"Amen to that. But actually that's what got T'Pol to smell the cordite. When I was gone, she realized that the situation was … uh, not agreeable," Trip smiled.
"You have no idea," Archer laughed. "The most heard phrase in those few weeks was 'as Commander Tucker would say'. She quoted you at least 20 times a day and didn't even realize it."
"I can imagine," Trip joined the laughter. "Anyways. Once I was back, she was changed. It took some work, but finally she 'fessed up. That was the night when you walked in on us."
"So, how are you going to handle the crew?"
"Actually Hoshi had it all riddled out before we did ourselves, so T'Pol just gave her permission to throw it to the rumor mill. That spares us a public announcement," Trip smirked. "No need to keep it a secret, only those parts that Vulcans don't talk about. What about Starfleet?"
"I talked with Forrest after the Xindi mission. He gave me permission to waive the no-frat rules on a case-by-case basis. Now that missions last years, it's just not possible to uphold them completely."
"Good on them," Trip grinned. "Gotta run, shift starts in 5."
"Congrats to you both," Archer smiled back.
As soon as Trip was gone, Archer stepped out on the bridge.
"Travis, take us to the nearest M class planet."
"Hoshi, go down to science and bring Crewman Fuller to my ready room. Make sure T'Pol doesn't notice."
"Aye, Sir," Hoshi answered with a wide grin.
X X X
The trip had taken two days and the blue-greenish contours of a Minshara class planet got bigger and bigger on the screen.
"T'Pol?" the Captain asked.
"Several sentient life forms, mainly small mammals," T'Pol reported. "The atmosphere contains 50% nitrogen, 30% oxygen, 10% carbon dioxide and 10% other, mainly inert gases. No signs of spores or other contamination. I would however recommend to store EV suits in the shuttle pod as a precaution."
"OK, you and Trip go down there and have a look. Maybe it would be suitable for shore leave."
"Aye, Sir," Trip and T'Pol answered in unison and walked into the turbo lift.
"Archer to engineering, Lt. Hess, status?"
"Engineering to bridge, we're ready," Anna replied.
"Ok, report with your team to the quarter master and go ahead," Archer ordered with a boyish grin.
X X X
"Calm down, Trip," T'Pol pleaded.
"I'm trying, darlin', but I sure hope that Jon has a good reason for sending us down an entire day prodding plants and watching long legged rats," Trip grumbled. "Engineering is still a mess and he sends me down to collect leaves."
"I am sure he had his reasons," T'Pol answered and took his hand. Although they were in public view, direct contact was the only option left, to calm down this particularly irritated human.
"Sorry darlin'," Trip sighed in a low voice. "I just don't like to waste time. Now if there'd been a beach..."
"We did not bring any swimwear..."
"Darlin', we were the only ones on a whole planet, other than a few rats with too long legs. Do ya really think we would have needed any swimsuits?" he laughed.
"Indeed," she countered, relishing the wave of sexual greed that resonated in the bond.
X X X
"JESUS CHRIST ON A POGO STICK!"
T'Pol mentally filed away to ask him, why a mythological figure would engage in an undignified and ineffective mode of transport, before she realized what had prompted her mate's outburst.
As they entered her quarters, both saw that it wasn't quite in the state they had left it in. The space had doubled and her bunk had disappeared. Where it had been, now stood a king-size double bed. Neatly outlined were both her and Trip's belongings.
"Guess, Crewman Fuller now lives on E-deck," Trip managed to utter before he was moved to tears.
"I suppose that we don't need to wonder any longer about Captain Archers motives to send us away for the duration of an entire day," T'Pol added and embraced her man.
"That can only be Anna's work," Trip analyzed.
"It would be logical to assume that Engineering was part of that scheme."
"I know, but she's been working on it personally. Look here," Trip pointed. "Knocking out the bulkhead could be anybodies work, but no one welds like that, except Anna. Hell, she makes me look like a bloody beginner on any day."
"She has always held you in high regard, as does your entire department," T'Pol replied and noticed a big table. "It appears that Chef was part of the task force as well."
"Candle light dinner for two," Trip sniggered. "Guess we better start or I'll get completely mushy and start to cry."
"Only humans would associate the same emotional response to distress and joy," T'Pol answered, mimicking her long gone style that Trip used to call 'stick up the ass' in the early years of their mission. The undercurrent of teasing in her voice told him that she had made quite some progress in her studies of human socializing.