Disclaimer: Characters contained within do not belong to me.
Author's Notes: It's funny how you can come back to characters and worlds that you didn't think you'd ever visit again. But I am a Star Trek fangirl and Trip and T'Pol will always be my favorite ST pairing (maybe it's the native Floridian in me...I have a special place in my heart for our favorite engineer, especially considering that my hometown would have destroyed by the Xindi, too.) I had to abandon the only other story I wrote for them due to canon issues, but now I don't have to worry about that.
I have three chapters written and a clear ending in sight. Not sure if there are still TnT fans out there, but if you're reading this, thank you so much for keeping the love alive;)
As a side note, I've spoken every word I've written for Trip out loud, testing them in my own southern accent. Is that weird?
If I Believe in Anything
by Kristen Elizabeth
There's a hole in my heart and I carry it wherever I go
Like a treasure that travels with me down every road
There's this longing, lonesome ending
Kind of bitter, kind of sweet
There's a hole in my heart in the shape of you
- Jewel, "The Shape of You"
Coming out of the breakfast line, Hoshi scanned the crowded mess until she spotted Malcolm and Travis in the far corner near the windows that looked out into the black expanse of space. Travis gestured to her and after weaving her way through the tables, she set her tray down at theirs.
"Good morning," she greeted them with a smile. "Everyone sleep well?"
"She's loud. And chipper," Malcolm complained to Travis. "Why did you ask her over when you know she's loud and chipper?"
Hoshi blinked. "Um...I'm sorry?"
Travis shook his head in apology. "It's not you. He had a rough night." Lowering his voice, he added, "Sarah." Because the man in question was staring into his mug of tea, Travis drew a line across his throat, indicating that the two month-old relationship between Malcolm and the science ensign had officially ended...and it hadn't been Malcolm's idea.
"Oh, Malcolm." Hoshi reached across their trays to put her hand on his arm. "It's her loss, you know."
He raised his tea to his lips, but didn't drink. "Sure. Fine. Her loss." Sarcasm oozed from every word. "That makes it all better."
"We're giving you a free pass on your usual British manners for now," Hoshi informed him. "But it's not an unlimited pass."
To his credit, there was genuine remorse in the man's eyes as he muttered, "My apologies."
"Besides," Travis declared. "There are plenty of other fish in the sea."
Hoshi arched an eyebrow. "Oh, so we're fish now?"
Travis placated her with a winning smile. "Exotic and sought-after fish?"
Shaking her head, Hoshi cut into her pancakes and let the comment slide. For the moment.
"What about Amber Lynsky in Engineering?" Travis asked Malcolm. "She's not dating anyone that I know of."
For the first time since she'd sat down at the table, Malcolm looked up with a fair amount of interest. "That is true." Some of his enthusiasm faded a second later. "But she's one of Trip's proteges and you know how protective he can be of his team."
"Speaking of, where is Trip?" Hoshi glanced around the room. "Come and gone already? I'm surprised there were any grits left."
"I don't expect we'll see him at all today." What was left of Malcolm's self-pity had been replaced by a sudden solemnity. "Or T'Pol, I'd imagine."
"Why?" As soon as she asked the question, Hoshi realized the answer. She lowered her fork; her throat constricted. "Wow." A second passed. "Has it really only been a year?"
Travis inclined his chin. "Yeah. Seems like a lot longer, doesn't it?"
"Actually," Malcolm said, draining his tea, "I was going to say the opposite."
Hoshi kept trying to swallow, but the lump in her throat was stuck there. "Is there going to be a memorial service or something?"
"I can't see T'Pol agreeing to that."
Travis echoed Malcolm's observation with a nod. "And Trip won't go against her. At least not about this."
"Still, she shouldn't just be forgotten. She was an innocent little..." Hoshi stopped and looked off to the side, sniffing softly.
"And if this is how we feel about her..." His appetite gone, Travis pushed his half-empty plate away. "Just think what they must be going through today..."
On the morning of the anniversary of their daughter's death, T'Pol was roused from a restless sleep by the feeling she was being watched. She opened her eyes only to see Trip looking back at her. But rather than being alarmed by the fact that she wasn't alone in her bunk, she felt wholly safe in his presence.
After all, she was the one who had invited him there.
T'Pol turned onto her side to see him better. "How long have you been awake?"
"Not long." Trip was quiet for a few seconds; his gaze turned up towards the low ceiling. "I was dreamin'. 'Bout Elizabeth." T'Pol said nothing, but something in her silence told him to continue. "She was bigger. Three. Maybe four. And I was..." His voice cracked. "She was on my shoulders. Laughin'. Tellin' me to go faster. 'Go faster, Daddy'..." Unable to continue, he closed his eyes.
T'Pol touched the glistening tear track that ran down his temple to his rounded earlobe. "She was in my dreams, as well."
"Tell me 'bout 'em?"
"I can't," she said a second later.
Trip sniffed. Sighed. "That's okay, darlin'." He turned his head against the pillow to look at her again. "Thank you. For lettin' me stay here last night. I really didn't wanna wake up alone this mornin'."
T'Pol surprised him, not to mention herself, when she shifted just enough to close the sliver of space she had carefully left between them during the night. To accomodate her, Trip lifted his arm, allowing her to place her cheek on his bare chest. Her eyes closed as his heart beat fast beneath her sensitive Vulcan ear. He hesitantly brought his other arm up to circle her shoulders, inadvertantly drawing her even closer to his body.
There were so many unspoken rules between them; she didn't blame him for worrying that he might break one of them. But on that particular morning, the rules just didn't seem to matter.
In fact, she was having a hard time remembering why she'd established them at all.
As she lay there in the safety of his embrace, rediscovering the feeling of his skin against hers, she thought about sharing her dream with him, but ultimately chose to keep the image of him rocking Elizabeth to sleep in his arms to herself.
"Feels like yesterday, doesn't it?"
It took T'Pol a minute to reply. "It has been 365 Earth days, not including the 24 hours we all repeated, courtesy of the Barlatian incident," she clarified.
Undaunted by her logic, Trip went on, "I keep thinkin' I'll stop missin' her eventually. I mean, it's not like we had all that long with her."
"It was long enough." With that, T'Pol pushed herself up, twisting away from him. She would have gotten out of the bed entirely if Trip hadn't gently grasped her wrist, holding her in place.
"I didn't mean that like how it came out." He sat up behind her, close enough that she could feel his warm breath on the nape of her neck. "Guess I'm just tired of missin' things...missin' people. My home, my sister, our baby girl..." Trip let his hand slide up her arm to her elbow. "You."
T'Pol forced herself to remain absolutely still, although the gentle brush of his fingers against her skin felt far better than she wanted to admit. "You see me every day," she reminded him.
"Yeah. I do." His hand dropped back to his side. "I should get goin'. Shift starts in an hour." But instead of getting up, Trip hesitated, daring to ask, "Are you gonna be okay today?"
"There is little logic in dwelling on what cannot be changed," T'Pol eventually said. Still, there was a strain in her voice that belied her Vulcan resolution. "Today will be no more or less difficult than yesterday was or tomorrow will be."
Trip opened his mouth to argue, but had no energy to follow through. As much as he loved to fight with T'Pol, he just couldn't anymore. "All right." After giving her another second to change her mind, he pushed off the covers and set his feet down onto the cold floor.
T'Pol watched him yank his shirt on over his head, bothered by just how much she had enjoyed the sight, not to mention the feel, of his bare arms and torso. Being that she was no longer under the influence of Trellium-D and her Pa'nar Syndrome had been wiped away, why couldn't she shake her completely illogical physical attraction to this particular Human?
Redressed and ready for what might be interpreted as a walk of shame if anyone happened to see him leaving T'Pol's quarters before breakfast, Trip paused at the door. "You know where to find me. You know...if you wanna talk. Or not talk." He pressed a button on the panel and the door slid open. "I'm up for anything."
There was no innuendo in his suggestion, just an honest desire to help her out in any way that he could. He was, as always, the perfect gentleman. T'Pol spent the rest of the morning trying to convince herself that she wouldn't have wanted such an blatant invitation to renew their sexual relationship, anyway.
She wasn't entirely sure she would have been able to turn him down.
If there was anywhere on the Enterprise where a man could go for hours without having to think about anything non-mechanical, it was Engineering. Trip gratefully spent the first half of his day repairing a plasma coil, a job that required his entire focus, leaving no room for errant thoughts or emotions.
Unfortunately, it wasn't an extremely time-consuming task. Eventually, he had to crawl out from underneath his beloved machinery if for no other reason than to stop the rumbling in his stomach. He had skipped breakfast in favor of a very cold shower.
Did all Vulcans sleep in skimpy silk pajamas or was it just T'Pol?
In the mess hall, he forced himself to smile at the very sympathetic ensign who served him three pieces of fried catfish, a huge scoop of hush puppies and what seemed like a full quarter of a pecan pie. He refused to believe the menu was a coincidence; clearly Chef was aware of the significance of the day and had decided that Trip's favorite foods might cheer him up.
Knowing Chef, he probably had a pot of plomeek broth and a platter of pok tar ready to go for whenever T'Pol came in.
Rather than face the rest of the crew and the possibility of being confronted with any of their well-meaning condolences, Trip carried his tray to the Captain's dining room.
Jonathan Archer was seated at the head of the table. When Trip entered, he looked up from the book that lay open in front of him.
"Am I interruptin'?" Trip asked his old friend.
"Not at all." Archer indicated the empty chairs. "Have a seat." The captain waited until his Chief Engineer had settled in before he asked, "How are you, Trip?"
Trip gulped down some lemonade. "Honestly? I feel like hell." His lips turned up in a wry smile. "But thanks for askin'."
Archer closed up his book and leaned forward. Trip took a big bite of catfish, giving himself plenty of time to prepare an answer for whatever question he was about to be asked. "Have you talked to T'Pol today?"
A full minute later, after he'd chewed his food more times than even his grandma had recommended, Trip inclined his chin. "Wasn't much talking involved, but, yeah, I saw her earlier."
"I tried to get her to take the day off," Archer said. "You can imagine how well that went over."
"Like a fart in church?" Trip guessed. The captain coughed to cover up a snort of laughter. "I'm sure she appreciated the gesture. In her own way, of course." He lifted his shoulder as he stabbed his fork through a hush puppy. "She probably just needs to work." Stuffing the ball of fried cornbread into his mouth, he added, "Know I do."
"Are you and she..." Archer stopped, changed his mind and shook his head. "Sorry. That's none of my business."
Trip swallowed with the help of another swig of lemonade. "It's more your business than anyone else on board." He set down his glass. "I think that ship has sailed for good. Anythin' we had...it died a year ago. What's left is just...I dunno...shared grief, I guess."
"I didn't realize T'Pol was still grieving."
"'Course she is." Trip stared at Archer, like he hadn't really seen him in a long time. "Just 'cause you don't see it, doesn't mean it's not there."
Although it looked like he wanted to follow up that thought with one of his own, Trip was more than a little grateful when the captain changed the conversation to some ideas he had for minor adjustments to the warp generator.
As the senior officer on the bridge, T'Pol should have been entirely focused on the day-to-day operations of the Enterprise, especially considering that one never knew when there might be an unexpected problem that would require her attention.
But for reasons that were less baffling than they were irritating, T'Pol found her usually unflappable focus slipping every few minutes, drawing her back to earlier that morning, when she was curled up alongside Trip.
She ought to have turned him away when he showed up at her door, requesting a neuropressure session in order to get some sleep. There was no logical argument that could be made to explain why she had not only let him inside, but had presented him with the option of spending the night in her quarters.
Unless it was argued that the logical path towards fulfilling one's desires was to simply ask for what one wanted. In that case, inviting Trip into her bed had been entirely logical because, while she didn't care to give in to every whim of her subconscious, there was no time that she felt closer to Elizabeth than when she was with him.
Blinking out of her thoughts, T'Pol turned her head towards Malcolm as he continued, "Our long-range sensors are picking up a vessel a hundred thousand kilometers out." He looked up at her with obvious apprehension. "It appears to be heading straight for us."
"Do we have visual capability?"
He shook his head. "Negative, but it shouldn't be long. They're on an intercept course...and there's no telling how soon they'll be in weapons range."
"Tactical alert, Lieutenant Reed." T'Pol pressed a button on the arm of the captain's chair, activating intership communications. "This is Commander T'Pol. All crew to their stations. All senior officers to the bridge."
As soon as she issued the last order, she wanted to retract it. What was the reasoning behind calling the Chief Engineer to the bridge simply for an approaching alien vessel that might not even wind up being a threat?
Nothing. And she hoped that if anyone else came to the same conclusion, they would take no note of it.
In the few minutes it took for Archer and Trip to make it to the bridge, the unknown ship covered fifty thousand kilometers, putting it just in the range for their sensors to begin to identify significant features.
"Do we know who they are?" was Archer's first question after T'Pol had explained the situation.
"Running the sensor scans through the database now, sir," Malcolm said.
Having given up the captain's chair, T'Pol started for the science station, but quickly encountered an obstacle in her path. Trip.
Her gaze settled on the magenta stripes that decorated the shoulders of his uniform. "Excuse me, Commander."
It was only when she finally lifted her eyes to meet his that Trip stepped aside to allow her by. She thought she saw him shake his head, but when she slid into her seat behind the science console, he had his back to her and she was unable to see what expression was on his face.
At one time, she might have been able to search his mind and find out what he was feeling, but a bond neglected was as good as broken.
"It's a small ship, sir. Approximately one-tenth our size." Malcolm frowned at his screen. "I remember this design..." With raised eyebrows, he looked to Trip. "I believe it's the Xyrillians."
To Be Continued