Vulcan for Second Date

By Elessar

Rating: PG-13

Genres: romance

Keywords:

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This story is number 2 in the series Vulcan For...


By John O.

Rated: PG-13
Disclaimer: Paramount owns Star Trek characters/names/fans’ souls/etc. I call shenanigans.

AN: I never planned one, but since so many wanted a sequel I couldn’t possibly deny you all :-) This takes place right after The Crossing, because I’d like my stories to fit in around the canon of season 2. Note: ‘thrah’ and ‘t’hyla’ both mean “friend” in Vulcan where ‘thrah’ is familial or fraternal and ‘t’hyla,’ as we all know, is the intimate form. It is implied that they are pronounced the same but spelled differently.

Part of this was inspired by the incredibly talented author Cincoflex’s Season 1 story, Firebrand, from which I got a lot of inspiration for T’Pol to share her culture with Trip--and in a similar way.


Prologue


The shuffle of his work boots on the steel deck plating filled his ears, but he was focused on another sound. The quiet tapping of her feet was getting closer, and he chewed his lip nervously as it got louder. Her pace was getting faster, and he knew she must have heard him approaching. But he’d be damned if he was going to let her get away and start this nonsense all over again. Not when it was so close… Dammit this is crazy, this is crazy, this is crazy! What the hell are you doin’ Commander? You’re about to cross the line with a fellow officer, a VULCAN officer…

But it didn’t matter; they were idle worries as he caught sight of a tinge of crimson fluttering around the corner. The Subcommander’s catsuit gave her away, and he opened his stride into a jog. He caught up with her just as the door to her quarters swished and he threw an arm across the walkway.

“Now wait just a minute…” he called as she impacted hard against his arm. If she wanted to, she could easily have snapped it in half a dozen places. Instead she whipped around, but before he could throw up his guard, her lips were against his, showing him a thing or two about Vulcan strength. Before he knew it his head was against the wall as they stumbled across the corridor in a single motion, their hips glued together as a single entity. She was cradling his face with her hands, stroking his neck and ears passionately as he sucked her upper lip. She was doing unbelievable things that Vulcans shouldn’t know how to do with her tongue. His fingers instinctively fell to meet her fish-netted thigh as she lifted it, inviting him to caress her perfectly supple –

“The time is now, zero seven-thirty-hours.”

Tucker groaned in disappointment as he slammed an open palm on the snooze panel and collapsed back into his bunk. Hoping that quite literally the ‘woman of his dreams’ would return, he tried to remember that look in her eyes three weeks ago just before his Cinderella ran off. Unfortunately for Tucker, he didn’t have a glass slipper, just handful of sleepless nights and a shift starting in five minutes.


ACT I

Scene I – Captain’s Mess / Monday – 1900 hrs


She was early.

She arrived only a few moments ago but already it seemed like several minutes. Trip had been absent from the Captain’s table for four consecutive days now and – wait, she was counting? For several days it seemed like the Commander had been avoiding her. He had skipped out on dinner from the Captain’s table several nights over the past two weeks, and made no conversation when he was present. It was a contrast that, at one time, T’Pol may have welcomed. To be rid of his obnoxious stories and persistent mocking of her beliefs would please any Vulcan. But deep down she knew it wasn’t mocking…

Still, he also avoided her at staff meetings, quickly departed afterwards and made a point not to volunteer to work with her when the Captain asked. And tonight, she gathered, Mr. Tucker would again not be joining her and the Captain for dinner. The thought made her sigh lightly in poorly hidden disappointment.

It had been several minutes since the hour when Captain Archer normally arrived and still she sat at the table, alone. She rose from the table to call for him over the Comm. panel in case there was a problem, when the door whooshed open and she stood at attention. She stood to greet the Captain, but instead stood across the table from Charles Tucker III.

“Hey,” he made his way to his usual seat across the table from Archer and adjacent to T’Pol’s position.

“Where’s the Cap’n?”

“I do not know, he is late,” she replied evenly as she sat.

A few moments of silence sat between them. Trip silently cursed the chef’s tardiness, wishing food had been brought to them so he could eat to maintain the silence. He stared at the table and waited for the cap’n while hoping Vulcans didn’t study human anxiety mannerisms.

“You have been absent from the Captain’s table,” T’Pol attempted to break the silence. Trip threw his hands together onto the table.

“Yep, lots of work to do in Engineering. I couldn’t stand to miss supper or wait another minute tonight though, I missed breakfast and a’ course I only had a coffee break for lunch,” he forced a smile back at her.

“You should take care to improve your diet. Without proper nutrition you could easily become ill via any one of various airborne pathogens we encounter on alien worlds.” She couldn’t help the eyebrow of disapproval aimed at him as she scolded him.

“You sound mah momma, T’Pol,” he chuckled as he looked around the room nervously to avoid her gaze. He didn’t want to look into them again. Every time he met her eyes and saw that same Vulcan calm… it seemed to wash away a little of the memory of them looking up at him.

Just when the silence was about to choke even T’Pol’s expert composure, a crewman entered, nearly panting. Trip half-stood in panic.

“Yeoman, what’s wrong? Is it the Cap’n?” Trip asked. In response, T’Pol unconsciously began to rise as well. The panicked young man held his chest as he breathed and held the other out towards his superior officers.

“No sirs, I didn’t mean to startle you. Captain Archer is on emergency subspace teleconference with Starfleet Command. Something has happened, I’m not sure what. He couldn’t elaborate, sir. But he wanted me to inform you he would not be joining you for dinner.”

“Well what’s the big rush?” Trip snapped back, a little irked at the stir the young man put him in.

“Uh, nothing sir. I was just uh, well I was off duty sir, and I was late for my shift when the Captain summoned me,” he replied, straightening his uniform.

“Arright, Chuck, can you tell Chef to bring us some food then? I’m starvin’!”

“Right away, sir!” the crewman replied, bustling out the door.

A few minutes later a composed young woman entered the cabin with a large tray and distributed the commanders’ meals. Chef prepared Gir il-eh kreila with Kasa yarmok for T’Pol and marinated turkey breast and potato platter for the engineer. After the crewman left, Trip took a deep inhalation of his meal with a bright smile. The Subcommander spared him a disgusted glance.

“I don’t wanna’ hear it,” he snapped back without looking at her as he dug in.

“Hear what?” T’Pol replied evenly with a tiny smirk behind her eyes.

He defiantly took a bite of turkey with dressing slopped on top of it.

“You were about to give me a hard time about bein’ “an enlightened species” and eatin’ meat,” he waved his hand in the air as he took a drink of water. “Or ‘the flesh of another creature’ or somethin’. So I like meat.”

She calmly returned his biting sarcasm without her typical raised eyebrow by simply forking a piece of fruit in her kasa yarmok and meeting his rebellious glare.

Agreeing on a wordless truce, the two were silent for several minutes until the Commander neared the end of his meal.

“Tomorrow’s movie night in the Mess Hall,” he eyed her above his glass anxiously.

“I have other duties to attend to,” she replied quietly. Suddenly Trip noticed she wasn’t eating anymore.

“Ah, come on’, I’m sure you can spare just a couple of hours away from work,” he turned away from her to watch the crewman enter and remove his plate. When the young woman left, he leaned over the table with a look of irritation.

“You’re just avoidin’ me, I know you are.”

She looked up suddenly, jerking so quickly to set her eyes upon his that he nearly choked at the shock of those glowing orbs falling in line with his.

“Commander Tucker, I…” she snapped at him. But she couldn’t continue, and it grated on her that he could upset her control so easily. She faltered, looking down at her lap and taking a deep breath before regaining her composure.

“It would be unprofessional to neglect my duties in favor of recreation.”

“Ah hell! What if I said that’s a bunch a’ crap?”

Her face became rigid and her eyes shone fiercely at him. He thought she would stand and walk out in contempt.

“Then you would only confirm my suspicions of the limitations of your vocabulary,” she replied sharply. He scowled in disgust, threw his napkin brusquely onto the table, and rose to his feet.

“Well ya’ know what? you can either come watch the movie tomorrow,” he snapped, his voice rising nearly into a yell.

“… or ya’ can sit around in your damn room by yourself. I really don’t care.”

“I think I got work ta do myself,” he drawled, already out the door before she could form a reply.

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Scene II – Mess Hall / Tuesday – 2215 hrs

It was nearing the end of the film… but he wasn’t angry. He was pissed.

Why should he be? He didn’t really expect her to show up. After all, he stormed out of the room, snapped at her, and basically told her to piss off.

She’s probably pouring over some dull-ass Vulcan science journal, not even thinkin’ twice about the movie.

The film was Lost in Translation, an old film from the early twenty-first century. It was one of Trip’s favorite classics, but it hadn’t been his choice. Ensign Thompson had won the raffle this week and chose the film. The end always brought him to tears, but this time was different. He shifted in his seat, unconsciously crossing his arms gruffly. The main character whispered something to the girl and began to walk away solemnly. But he wasn’t on the edge of tears, he was too irritable.

The credits began to roll and so did Ensign Thompson’s tears as she sniffled in her seat next to Trip. She turned to him and giggled through her glassy eyes, wiping the tears away as she began to speak. Trip rose quickly to escape her. Beautiful and clearly interested in him as she was, he wasn’t in the mood for the finer sex after sitting through two hours wondering where T’Pol was. Or what she was doing… or what was on her mind… or if she was wearing those same pajamas he once saw her in. His mind was far, far away when Kelly Thompson lightly touched his arm as he began to turn for the exit.

“Commander, uh, Trip, can I call you Trip,” she asked in a low voice. Trip didn’t see any more tears in her eyes, but he was pretty sure what he did see and it looked a lot like the Ensign inviting him to her quarters.

He forced a smile, “Yeah, a’ course,” he responded casually. He didn’t realize that she loved his voice or that his informal vernacular would only kick her hormones into the next gear. He smiled and tried to politely nod and turn.

“Trip,” she hurried.

“Yes, Kelly?” The use of her first name fluttered her insides and her eyes darted down a moment as she urgently suppressed the urge to smile.

“Would you like to join me for a snack, maybe talk for a few minutes? I always get hungry after sitting through a movie,” she chuckled nervously. What? She asked herself. Ugh! Kelly that doesn’t make any sense!

“Some other time maybe, I think I’m gonna’ turn in early tonight, I have an early shift tomorrow,” he lied. Her smile disappeared into a tiny nervous grin as she nodded. He grinned back.

“Goodnight, Kelly,” he turned.

“Uh, goodnight, Commander!” she called after him. Commander!? She mentally slapped herself and grunted as she lowered her head, turning to help clean up the Mess Hall.

The Mess Hall door slid shut behind him as Trip pounded down the corridor. He just turned down the company of a gorgeous woman and from the look in her eyes, probably a lot more.

But it was against regulations. Right? Yes, yes of course, that’s why, it wouldn’t be appropriate, I’m a superior officer… then again, Kelly’s in the Security department, not Engineering. He grunted and shook his head as he strode down the corridor. Nice job, you just ruined your only excuse ya’ bozo. He was no longer paying attention to where his feet took him as he mulled over the conundrum.

Still, I’m a senior officer, it wouldn’t be appropriate, like T’Pol said. Yea’, that’s why. T’Pol said it wouldn’t be right.

It had nothing to do with T’Pol.

Then why was he standing in front of her quarters?

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Scene III – T’Pol’s Quarters / Tuesday ~2200 hrs

T’Pol released a tiny breath of exasperation as she retired the third and final attempt at concentration to its proper storage cabinet. She tried for the past hour to maintain her focus on the Vulcan Science Directorate’s latest publications in particle physics and subspace phenomena. As her mind drifted from these, her preferred scientific areas of interest, she attempted to “broaden her horizons” as Commander Tucker had suggested. She even read the latest releases regarding exobotany, reminding the Vulcan of her father.

Then there was that word again. Tucker.

She believed her father would have found him intriguing. He was always had a certain fascination for human culture rather than the barely-hidden disgust most of her race associated with the humans. He spent a great deal of time on their planet, studying the alien plant and animal life there. She recalled her mother scolding him for his interests in human culture and customs lie far beyond his realm of study. In fact, she found herself thinking, if he had only survived the accident… a slight tinge of regret crept in before she could stifle it. But the thought continued… If he had continued to reside on Earth, I might have spent many years of my maturation on there. I may have even met Mr. Tucker at a younger age...

Young for him perhaps, she thought. She would have been middle-aged by human standards (although a teenager by Vulcan ones) when he was only in his teens. Her mind wandered carelessly again, curiously speculating on the accepted age ranges for human mating customs. She knew humans did not betroth as young as Vulcans, but sought less official courtships at early ages. She wondered if Trip would have sought her at such an age…

Why do I ponder this? Came the calculated and very flustered Vulcan response from deep within. It scolded her for such aimless thoughts and illogical conjecture. But before she could heave in disappointment at herself, there came a chime at the door.

“Enter.”

She rose and took a step towards the door, attempting to regain her composure as he crossed the threshold in one step.

“Commander,” she nodded slightly as his eyes darted from hers to the floor, ignoring the blue silk as it clung to her tiny but muscular frame. He stepped away from the door, allowing it to close. She silently invited him in, turning from him and retreating to her bunk beside her now cooling cup of tea. Trip absently rubbed the back of his neck as he took a few nervous paces in a half circle. He wasn’t even sure what he was doing here, and clearly neither was T’Pol. She waited keenly to hear the purpose of his visit, but revealed nothing. She squinted slightly as he rubbed his sore neck.

“What’d the Cap’n say about Admiral Wilson?” he asked. He had been desperately searching for something inconsequential to break the silence and the startling news from Starfleet Command about the Admiral’s death was all that came to mind.

“Nothing new, the Starfleet Chiefs of Staff have convened an emergency session to determine the logical course of action. Obviously, a new Senior Chief must be appointed.” Trip nodded knowingly, unsure of where to go next. A moment later, T’Pol called his bluff.

“But that is not the reason you have come to my quarters,” she rose from her bunk graciously, her hands folded at her waist. Dammmn, Trip thought as she slipped towards him in one slick motion from her bunk. She came to a halt comfortably far from the Commander but close enough to see the pupils of his eyes dilate. And to…‘detect’ the Commander’s ‘mood’. His hand stopped rubbing but remained on his neck as he stopped to consider her, meeting her eyes. She narrowed them.

“Are you in pain? Perhaps you have injured yourself,” she asked evenly in a low voice.

“Yeah, I don’t know what it is, like maybe I slept on it funny,” he responded as he turned away. This was his chance for a hasty exit. What the hell was I thinking coming here anyway?

“I s'pose I should go have Phlox look at it real quick,” he stammered, heading for the door. T’Pol took two quick steps towards him, motivated by a very un-Vulcan like sense of haste.

“Doctor Phlox is off duty tonight. Crewman Cutler is on duty in Sickbay,” he turned back at her and winced slightly. Cutler was a barely-qualified paramedic and probably didn’t know a thing about chiropractics, and T’Pol suspected it as well as he did. Her eyes narrowed as she unconsciously took another step towards him.

“I have been well-instructed in number of Vulcan techniques designed to alleviate muscle tension and stress in the neck and back. It would be unwise to allow one who is insufficiently trained to assist you and possibly cause injury.”

Her invitation hung for an interminably long moment in which Trip rolled his tongue along the inside of his cheek.

“All right, all right, you’ve convinced me,” he smirked as he turned towards her.

Why the hell not, throw caution to the wind, Tucker? When they were face to face his eyes widened and he cocked a grin at her.

“So are you gonna’ show me?” he challenged her. But she lost herself in his eyes for a moment as she analyzed the next logical step. Yes, the next logical step would be to ask him to remove his clothing. Perhaps he would allow me....

“T’Pol?”

“Remove your shirt, lie on the bed with your face down and breathe deeply,” she responded quickly as she turned from him. Pretending to search for a tool near her desk, she burned with curiosity as he disrobed. Removing his shirt and raucously flopping onto the bed, she caught herself turning to watch his torso and back twist and flex taut against the skin as he moved. She turned away quickly, retrieved a small vessel of unknown contents and seated herself beside him.

She opened the container and dug two fingers into the jar for a hunk of richly sun-dried smelling...goop, Trip thought. She mashed the material between her fingers, focusing intently on the viscous substance in her fingers. Trip’s head turned slightly to the side, watching her work the ‘goop’ between her fingers and knead it into a more slithery gel. But his eyes soon fell away from the gel on her fingertips and moved up the length of her bronze-colored arms, usually completely covered by her Vulcan uniform. It was a rare glimpse at the Vulcan’s truly breathtaking physique. Up her slender arms, until they met with the perfect bronze tone of her shoulders, down her torso, hidden by the blue silk material. Down the satin until it disappeared and her gorgeous skin erupted once more into a perfectly muscular belly, pouching slightly as she hunched over him. But it was obvious to Trip she was very well molded. He wondered if all Vulcan women were so toned, or if T’Pol was as truly stunning among her people as she was among humans. It was right about that time he made his way back up to her eyes, which were set squarely upon his.

In response to his discovered survey, T’Pol detected his breathing accelerate and watched his face redden as he turned away from her, embarrassed, and lay his face back on the pillow. She applied the gel to his neck and upper back, rolling and kneading the muscles beneath her fingers powerfully at first. Tucker groaned in barely-hidden contentment as her soft fingers and the warm gel melted everything else into the background. All his concerns and anxiety fell away, replaced only by warmth and softness all over his back. He let out a sigh of escape and relaxed under her touch as her fingers relinquished their force and began to rub softly. Her eyes followed the paths of her slender fingers as they spread out, taking great handfuls of his slippery flesh into her fingers gently and rubbing over the whole warm mess. Soon the gel was rolling slowly onto his sides and her fingers felt it only logical to follow. Around his oblique muscles, and finely toned lower chest, her hands wrapped around his torso, her mind completely lost to what she was doing and only focusing on the feeling of his flesh beneath her. His scent was undeniable now, he was in pure bliss, on the edge of sleep and only kept awake by the wild burning he felt beneath her fingers as he closed his eyes against her bunk.

She knew this was it, a cusp of decision and she knew what she should do departed distantly from what she wanted to do. Only moments from losing control of her arousal and of herself, her own chest was heaving. She did not believe Tucker would force an encounter; but for herself, on the other hand, she could not vouch. The young Vulcan had not yet entered the time of Pon Farr but knew from rumor and parentage that it was a very dangerous time for a Vulcan. She would not be in the blood fever, but if she allowed desire to overtake her mind, the harm she could do to him could be great… he could even be killed. The cold dose of reality sobered her swooning head and allowed her to take control of herself. Her hands slowly returned to his neck from the erogenous haven they had explored about his torso.

Not wishing to cause him alarm or create discomfort between them, she did not speak, but felt ashamed. She must cease this action immediately, it would not be logical to damage their relationship, T’Pol thought. Their strictly, perfectly professional relationship. She cleared her throat, believing the Commander had dozed off under her ministrations.

His eyes were still wide and his breathing still heavy after she pulled her fingers away and retrieved a towel to dry his neck. He stood and nodded his thanks, the entire affair proceeding with guarded anxiety by both. She avoided his eyes and steeled her posture.

“Thank you, T’Pol,” he responded to her nod. He chuckled nervously, “It feels ten times better. I think I could fall asleep for days.” His smile widened honestly and she strained to take her eyes from it.

“You are most welcome. I believe it is late, and,” before she could finish he nodded nervously and turned to the door.

“I’ll see ya’ tomorrow,” he reached for the release panel to open the sliding door.

“Trip!” she called rather hastily, stepping after him in one quick motion but halting a few feet from him. He turned in surprise and watched her eyes glisten as she searched his face as if looking for some correct formula in it.

“I apologize for my behavior at the Captain’s table,” her eyes met the floor in poorly hidden shame. “You have been kind to share your culture with me and I have been very grateful. In return, I only insulted you… I wish you to accept my apology,” she finished, her voice falling to a whisper. He instinctively drew closer to her without thinking.

“Hey don’t go overboard on yourself, hun, look,” he shook his head. “I was bein’ a horse’s ass, I’m sorry.” To this she responded with a high eyebrow and a perplexed expression. Deep within it, however, Trip almost thought he saw amusement. It was a sign of what he had long expected to be true – not all smiles come from the mouth, and this Vulcan had it in her eyes. She endured his powerful stare and pleasing smile a moment longer before he turned away.

“I would like to,” she searched for the words. “As you would say, ‘make it up to you’,” his eyebrows shot up in surprise as he turned completely towards her and folded his arms with a smile. He had completely forgotten about the time… hell! he could care less what damn time it was!

“You have engaged me in human cultural exchanges on many occasions,” she stopped as he met her eyes with amusement and recalled the Halloween party. He smirked inwardly as she continued.

“It would only be appropriate for me to return the gesture. If you would like to join me here tomorrow, I would share my culture with you in return.”

“What’d you have in mind?” he glowered innocently as he leaned against the wall.

“That, Mr. Tucker, you will have to find out tomorrow at 1900.” She stepped away briskly with her hands at her back.

“G’night,” he replied, turning for the door with a smile.

“Good… night” she whispered.

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ACT II


Scene I – Engineering / Wednesday 1300

“Pump it up one more notch… that’s it,” Tucker waved his flipped his fingers in the air indicating “higher”. He stood in the corner of Engineering, eyes glued on a diagnostic readout while Ensign Tanner modulated the field coils several meters away.

“There, there, STOP!” Tucker bellowed to the Ensign who jumped in response and instinctively yanked his hands from the control panel. T’Pol watched with amusement, standing near the closed hatch. Just how long she had been there, nobody noticed. She resumed course for her target.

“Commander,” she called evenly as she approached the human who wiped the sweat from his brow. She handed him a PADD briskly and turned to observe the Engineering staff absently as he scanned it. He leisurely thumbed through the pages, feigning his concentration on the electronic device while his eyes actually crept to one side. He observed her for only a moment before she returned his clandestine glance with attentiveness.

“Is the report satisfactory, Commander?” He cocked a grin and reached for a dry wipe that had, by T’Pol’s estimation, long since outlived its sanitary usefulness. He returned it to a pocket between terminals, as he turned to T’Pol and dropped the PADD to his side. She cocked an eyebrow in disapproval but he only chuckled in return.

“Yeah, ‘at’s fine Subcommander. Hey I’m starvin’, you wanna’ get somethin’ to eat?” She nodded and followed him as he moved for the door. She fell in step beside him, crinkling her nose.

“Oh, I’m sorry, I’m probably pretty ripe, I’ve been runnin’ around all day. How bout’ I drop by my quarters for a shower and meet you there?”

T’Pol nodded affirmatively, “That would be acceptable.” They continued to walk towards the entry hatch, from which a blonde head soon emerged, directly in their path.

“Trip, er…Commander,” Kelly called as he approached. A slight wince of the eyebrow gave away T’Pol’s disapproval of the informal address.

“I have the new algorithm programs to be installed in the torpedo guidance system, Lieutenant Reed asked me to bring them down to you, sir,” she added gracefully, glancing into the icy gaze of the First Officer. Hardly did she suspect the true source of the Vulcan’s irritation at the use of the Commander’s nickname.

Tucker rubbed his neck absently as he perused through a page of the programming parameters. She smiled gracefully at him as his brows furrowed together, trying innocently to catch his eye. While she failed to get the Chief Engineer’s attention, a certain Vulcan was all eyes and ears.

“Yeah this looks good, tell Malcolm I’ll have it installed by evening. Oh, can you drop this off to Parker on your way out,” he nodded over his shoulder and pointed to a dark haired man at a computer terminal. Her smile disappeared instantly but was quickly replaced with a forced grin as she nodded and brushed past them. T’Pol watched the Ensign file past as the Commander headed out the hatch, holding the door for her.

“You comin’ T’Pol?” She quickly took the lapse of concentration in stride and followed her engineer – the engineer--through the hatch.

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Scene II – Mess Hall / 1330 hrs


What is her problem?” Kelly whispered nervously under her breath. The giggles from Hoshi and Anna bubbled out as they stifled their amusement.

“I’m serious!” she whispered in frustration. “She’s been glaring at me all day!” Kelly complained as she forked at her lunch.

“Vulcans don’t glare, Kelly,” Anna snickered as she watched T’Pol make her way through the Mess line.

“Didn’t you see the way she looked at me? When Commander Tucker and I left Engineering, she –”

“Wait, wait – did you say, Commander Tucker?” Hoshi asked with a coy smile, meeting Anna’s knowing grin from across the table.

“Yeah, I took something to Trip from Lieutenant Reed. He, Subcommander T’Pol, and I left for lunch. I swear, if she wasn’t Vulcan I’d have thought she was jealous,” she grunted in irritation as she dug through her food. Kelly looked from one to the other as Anna hid her amusement in her glass and Hoshi giggled.

“What?” Kelly asked as Hoshi’s eyes settled behind the other woman’s back. Kelly turned to see Commander Tucker entering the Mess Hall with a grin as he nodded in greeting to a few officers nearby. As he neared she called out.

“Hi, Commander!” Trip turned, tightening his jaw ever so slightly (too slightly for her to notice, but not for Hoshi). He nodded amicably with a smile, meeting her eyes only briefly and moved to pick up his lunch.

“Uh oh,” Anna whispered playfully through her smile, her eyes not leaving her lunch. Catching Hoshi’s eye, Anna nodded in the Subcommander’s direction who had taken a seat near the far end of the Mess Hall. Kelly followed their eyes to find the Subcommander clandestinely watching Tucker as he made cordial conversation with Chef and his staff.

“You missed it,” Anna whispered as she forked a carrot. She spoke to the two other women while keeping a subtle eye on T’Pol as she kept a subtle eye on Tucker. “She was watching when Trip came in and you should’ve seen the look she gave you when called out to him,” she laughed quietly.

“Wha… why are you whispering so quietly, she’s way over there,” Kelly gestured with a finger.

“Their ears aren’t just for decoration, Kelly. She probably heard every word of it,” she laughed, Hoshi joining in at Kelly’s expense.

“Oh great, great! That’s just great!” she wiped her mouth in panic.

“Don’t worry,” Hoshi scolded the younger woman. “She won’t say anything, it’s not her style. Besides, it would mean admitting she likes Trip.”

“That’d be the day!” Anna exploded in laughter and Hoshi joined in. “You should see their arguments down in Engineering,” she said shaking her head. She was addressing Hoshi but the information was clearly intended for Kelly.

“I used to think they hated each other. But one day they were nearly nose to nose and I realized it reminded me of arguments between me and Jack--my husband” she chuckled. “I’m telling you, we can bark up a storm at each other but we always… make up.” She snickered as Hoshi smirked, responding with a suggestive “Hmm”.

“Wait a minute, back up -” Kelly threw her hands on the table, leaning in to whisper nervously.

“Are you saying the Subcommander has… a crush on Commander Tucker?” she laughed as she eyed Hoshi and Anna. “No way, Vulcans don’t date humans… do they?” she asked the local linguist. Hoshi shrugged her shoulders with feigned ignorance and an innocent grin. Kelly huffed in frustration as she watched Tucker approach T’Pol’s table and seat himself beside her.

“All I can tell you is there’s a pool in Engineering that one of those arguments is gonna’ turn into a little lip lockin’ before too long,” Anna smirked.

“Same on the Bridge,” Hoshi giggled as she sipped her tea.

“No way…” she sighed in aggravation.

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Scene III – First Officer’s Quarters – 1905 hrs


“You are late.”

“Just a few!” he spit back playfully as he leaned to one side, spying the chronometer on T’Pol’s desk.

“I wanted to get cleaned up. It’s a nasty job but somebody’s gotta’ do it… tryin’ to do repairs in cramped access hatches. I swear if I ever get a job with design at Starfleet, they’re gonna’ learn a thing or two about convenience.”

Trip moved from the doorway where he had entered moments before. T’Pol remained seated at her tidy work desk where he found her when he entered. She wore a dark crimson robe tied with a wide sash about the waist. He couldn’t help but wonder what lie beneath the dark material as she rose and motioned for him to sit.

“So I’m dyin’ of curiosity,” he nagged like a little boy on Christmas. “What are we doin?” he asked with a smile. She retrieved a light colored wooden box and a large dark envelope from a corner of her work station. She seated herself across from his position on the floor where she had prepared a station of matching pillows. He followed her with his eyes as she moved about, goading his curiosity even more with her silence. She put the envelope aside and placed the box between them. She finally met his inquisitive stare, his challenging eyebrows wagging anxiously. She repressed the urge tugging at her lips long enough to speak.

“There is a very ancient Vulcan tradition, one of the oldest. It has been passed down through hundreds of generations, since long before the Awakening.” Trip furrowed his brows in confusion.

“The Awakening is what we call the time of Surak, when he brought peace and logic to our people. Many Vulcan traditions which invoked emotion were cast out and forbidden. However, there are a select few which my family has deemed valuable to our culture and our history.”

“Emotional Vulcan customs huh? So what’s in the box?” Her fingers rested on the wooden box’s surface and moved towards the lock.

“One of our oldest traditions is the rite of thrah-tel, it means ‘friendship bond’.” She paused to ensure he understood. He nodded with a barely audible grunt and she continued.

“Before we proceed, I did some research regarding similar human practices so that you may understand the meaning.” Trip’s eyes narrowed as he unconsciously tongued the side of his cheek in curiosity.

“And?” She paused before continuing, unsure as to which particular example she found to divulge. She opted for the more fraternal and less intimate, as her logic urged was the most reasonable course of action.

“The only Earth-custom befitting the spirit of this tradition is one known as “blood brothers”, are you familiar with it?”

Trip’s smile broadened as he chuckled. “Yeah, it’s sorta’ somethin’ little kids used to do, ‘specially in the South. Boy, you musta’ had to dig deep to find ‘at‘un,” he chuckled as she raised a confirming eyebrow. She would not reveal, however, that she in fact narrowed her search to ‘Traditions of the American South’ in order to more specifically learn of her new thrah’s cultural heritage.

“It is important that before we begin you are comfortable in the meaning of this ritual.” Her eyes fluttered away from his and she suddenly felt a knot forming in her throat. Why, her logical mind surely could not begin to understand. She continued, keeping her eyes from his.

“I do not wish you to engage in this practice if you do not believe me your friend.” His eyes got wider as he suddenly understood.

“W--” he began and stuttered, unsure of what he intended to say. He stuck a finger at his chest. “Then you consider… me, a friend?” She swallowed slowly and continued to avoid his eyes.

“Yes.” That was it. He let out a small sigh. He couldn’t help but want to be around her and be closer to her after these uncomfortable weeks since the Halloween party. Even if the word was ‘friend’.

“Then yeah, I do.” She met his gaze finally, for a brief moment before opening the box and placing several of its contents between them.

“The ritual involves tel kitaya n’veh afsakaya. Translated loosely it means, ‘the declaration and writing of one’s bonded friendship’. In the ritual, the two who are to bond must declare their intentions to do so in speech, citing experience and cause for being so-bonded to another. There are many kinds of Vulcan bonds, including the marriage bond. It is one of the most sacred relics of our past and the most closely held of secrets. We do not share this knowledge with other species lightly,” she paused as Trip nodded.

“Next, the two must inscribe a declaration of the rite upon one another’s skin. The mark is often placed on the hand to symbolize giving or on the back or chest to symbolize proximity to the heart.” With this Trip chuckled, eliciting a disapproving and somewhat offended eyebrow from T’Pol.

He waved his hand in defense, “I meant no disrespect, it’s just kinda funny to hear you talk about ‘the heart’, I mean it’s kind of a human emotional thing, isn’t it?”

She nodded as guarded emotion threatened to weed its way to the surface beneath her control. This hidden part of T’Pol secretly sought to show Trip that she did have a heart, that it did have emotions and that he brought them out so powerfully. But she squelched it as sternly as she could, mustering the control to continue as she nodded.

“As I said, the friendship bond is not an entirely sanctioned Vulcan practice. My family has long maintained that we must continue to observe some of the ancient ways but many in the High Command and among the Vulcan people disagree.”

“Why?”

“We believe it to be a valuable part of our history; however, there are others who believe that the bonding ceremony is the last remnant of emotion that must be purged from ourselves if we are to attain command of pure logic. There are even those who would abandon our most sacred ritual, the marriage bond.” His eyes bulged.

“Well I think some of those cranky old Vulcans need to go out an’ have a good time if ya’ ask me,” he snorted as she her face froze into a disapproving stare.

“Sorry,” he cleared his throat guiltily and looked down.

“I will continue.”

“The mark of the rite is meant to be permanent; however, it would be inappropriate and unfeasible for us to practice this part of the custom,” she wavered a moment and continued.

“It would be possible, if you like,” she tested the waters carefully… “to extend the rite in the future, if we ever so desired.”

“Whew,” he replied with a smile and a hand thrown to his chest.

“Mah momma’ ‘bout killed me the first time I got a tattoo I don’t think she’d be too forgivin’ if I got a girl’s name put on me without ever meetin’ her,” he joked as she raised an eyebrow. She ignored the obvious dating reference but filed it away for later contemplation.

“A ‘tattoo’ is your word for art or writing on one’s body?” He nodded. She lifted an eyebrow curiously in contemplation as her eyes searched about his body.

“And you have one presently?” He dropped his head in embarrassment and sighed.

“Let the cat outta’ the bag. There it goes, it’ll be all over the ship by tomorra’,” he drawled with exaggerated irritation.

“If you do not wish me to see it or reveal its existence to any of the crew, I assure you that is quite understandable. The Vulcan rite of friendship bonding is a very intimate practice as well, it would be logical to remain in confidence.” Trip’s eyes drew together as he focused on that one word.

“Intimate?” he asked with furrowed brows. She hadn’t even realized she used the word, or had she… more contemplating to be done another time.

“Yes, we are expressing our friendship, and to a Vulcan this is a very intimate act,” she responded with impatience. Trip nodded respectfully and shut his mouth.

“Oh, and you can see the tattoo if ya’ like,” he wagged a suggestive eyebrow. She found that allowing the task at hand to be delayed a short while longer just may be acceptable as he rose. He stood abruptly and began to unzip his trousers. Before T’Pol could react as he thought she surely would have, he cut off her warning.

“Don’t worry, it’s not there,” he joked. Pushing down the waist band of his pants to reveal a hairless and muscular abdomen, he pushed further and further down. Finally, an inked figure appeared just as T’Pol feared her nostrils would begin to flare noticeably with the growing potency of his scent. It was a simple fact that revealing so much of his skin (and in that area) made it impossible to disregard him with her heightened sense of smell.

Several inches below his belly button and to the right, an inked outline of a cartoon rocket ship lay against his skin, complete with fins and flames erupting from the exhaust.

“What can I say, I’ve wanted to work in space all mah’ life,” he grinned as he held the waistband down. T’Pol now realized she was leaning forward, weight resting on her fingers as she crept closer to inspect the artwork with a closer eye. A moment later her eyes darted up to meet the Commander’s, peering up at him as she leaned towards his exposed abdomen while he held his briefs down. For a reason he couldn’t begin to understand or really cared to try at the moment, she didn’t move from the spot nor take her eyes from his for several moments. Her chocolate eyes were frozen there, thick and steaming at the same time as they remained on his. Finally, the Subcommander slunk back into her position across the pillows as if coming to some decision, from which Trip took lead and sat.

“As I was saying, the rite can be performed anywhere on the body you choose and will only be temporary. Obviously,” she continued, lowering her voice.

“The location should be out of plain sight to the rest of the crew,” she nodded and he responded with an amused smile. He couldn’t believe T’Pol just might have a naughty streak in her after all.

“You may inscribe the rite upon my abdomen, it is easier to remove than on the back. Where would you like me to place the rite?”

“Ahh, put it on my chest.”

“Very well,” she replied with hidden anticipation.

“First is the Spoken Rite. It must be a simple declaration of why you wish to undertake the rite,” Trip nodded nervously. T’Pol straightened her posture in preparation. As Trip watched, he did the same, unsure of what was going to happen next.

“Extend your hands front, one face up and one face down,” she instructed. He complied. She met them, sliding one hand over his which faced up and the other under his which faced down. She carefully and purposefully moved certain fingers in line with his, matching some of the fingers’ positions and allowing his powerful hand to cradle her tiny fingers. He held her fingers softly as she did so, watching and waiting. Satisfied that the position was complete, she met his eyes and sighed inaudibly. She waited, blinking several times in thought before speaking.

“Charles Tucker the third,” she began in an official tone, bringing a smile on the man’s face. When she continued in a lower and less formal voice, he was surprised by what came out of her mouth first.

“Trip. You have proven yourself to be both kind and honest colleague. In my experience with human beings, you alone have attempted to initiate a friendship despite my… lack of understanding of human culture. Moreover, I undertake the Rite of Tel-Shrah because you have proven that humans can be trusted friends as well as valuable colleagues. It is by this Rite that I wish to join myself to you as friend,” she concluded, bowing her head slightly.

He was shocked. Awed. He didn’t know what to say, but he hoped his jaw had not actually drop. He composed himself, when it dawned on him that she was serious – and then he was really shocked. How the hell do I follow that up? Just tell her how ya feel, numbnuts, he schizophrenically replied to himself. Nah, can’t exactly do that, not quite anyway….

She watched him as he sorted these chaotic human thoughts apart until finally settling on an acceptable response. He cleared his throat nervously and she blinked in concentration.

“T’Pol, when I first met you I uh…” he chuckled, dropping his head nervously. “Well I thought you were a real pain in the ass, actually,” she raised an eyebrow but remained silent.

“But then,” he nodded carefully, still holding her hands. “After a little while, I realized that you ‘n I got into so many arguments because we’re both so into our work. I think I like workin’ with you ‘cause there’s nobody else in Starfleet I’ve ever served with where ideas just float off’a me like they do when I’m around you--and you always catch my mistakes.”

“You often reveal my errors as well,” she confessed.

“Don’t interrupt!” he snapped playfully.

“Anyway, I s’pose this isn’t as elegant as all that you said but… uh… well, I know we get into it a lot and sometimes I’m an ass about Vulcans…” he nodded as he chewed his lip. “But you’ve showed me your people aren’t all bad, at least the ones who are much of anything like you. We just got to get to know each other better… humans an’ Vulcans, I mean,” he stuttered nervously. “I sure as hell wouldn’t wanna’ go to any school on Vulcan ‘cause you’re ‘bout as sharp as they come and if the rest of your people are anywhere near as smart, I’d have failed outta’ school!” he chuckled.

“On the contrary, you are a brilliant engineer, by Vulcan standards as well as Human,” she responded quietly, looking him directly in the eyes. He gulped anxiously as he was starting to get a little nervous.

“Y'ar'n't too bad to look at either,” he laughed. “Yeah, that’s ‘bout it.”

“Neither are you,” she replied quietly. His head had dropped when he thought he was done but it shot up in surprise and, well, hell - excitement! Before he could say a word she removed her hands from his and turned to one side to retrieve the contents of the box. She opened a round jar made of dark porcelain, set several small-headed art brushes next to it and opened the dark envelopes.

“Please, remove your shirt and lie on your back on the bed,” she instructed. He did so as she prepared the solution. Mixing this vial and that container, she produced a dark ink-like liquid in the black glassy crucible. She moved next to him on the bed and he watched as she unrolled a parchment-like roll of thick, rough paper from the dark envelopes.

“This material will prevent the toxic constituents of the ink from coming into contact with your skin.”

“Toxic?” he asked in surprise. She returned his look of shock with reassurance. “You will not be harmed,” is all she said. He nodded and lay back.

“You would like it here?” she asked, raising one eyebrow as she placed a warm hand over the right side of his chest. Her palm lay flat against his cool skin, surreptitiously heating it with her higher body temperature. He nodded silently. Her fingers refused to lie still against the skin and allowed a tiny curl to move between them and feel it brush past. She turned back to the dark mixture and picked up a parchment. She rose and retreated to the bathroom, returning with a damn cloth.

“The paper must be damp to cling to the skin.”

She moved beside him once more, this time allowing herself to come flush with his sides as she leaned over him to fetch her supplies. His chest hair tickled across her hairless arms as she did so. She damped the paper, pressing it to his chest for a few minutes. Dreadful silence passed as she struggled to maintain normal breathing while pressing the paper flat against his firm chest. Finally, she dipped the fine-pointed needle-like brush into the ink and met his eyes.

“This will be painful, are you prepared?” He raised his brows in surprise and threw both hands behind his head, nodding. Gritting his teeth in expectation, he watched as she moved the point to his chest.

“Ahh ahhhh, hah!” he cried out, jerking his elbows forward instinctively. She stopped and met his contorted face, but he simply nodded gruffly and chuckled. “Keep goin’, it’s arright, just forgot how much a tattoo stings! Ah, you did say this is temporary right?” She nodded.

Returning to the task at hand, she moved the brush quickly yet skillfully across the paper, the ink leaving traces through the paper as it seeped through to his skin. She endeavored to end his suffering quickly but wished to make the imprint as flawless as possible. A few minutes later she returned the brush to its case and carefully peeled the paper from his chest. Trip craned his neck downward in vein trying to see his new “rite”. T’Pol rose and picked up a hand mirror, holding it in front of his bare chest to reveal the elegant Vulcan script.

“What’s it say exactly?” T’Pol sat beside him and moved to touch the letters.

“Wait, won’t it smear?” he instinctively snatched her fingers.

“It will not, I will read it to you.” Trickling from his collarbone to the bottom of his rib cage in two vertical columns, aloud she read:

“By the Rite of tel-Thrah, I, T’Pol, declare this man my chosen friend of blood.” Her finger traveled the entire length of the message as she read it, sating a most illogical need to touch the script as it traversed his body.

“Now, you must do the same. The brush is prepared, you can redress. I will disrobe,” she responded calmly as he rose to put his shirt back on. Of course he was a gentleman, turning towards the wall as she began to unclasp the robe’s sash and remove it. When she indicated he may resume, he turned to find her lying on her back, her golden brown abdomen exposed. He bit his lip as he recalled the earlier curiosity now satisfied, of what exactly lie beneath. He tried like hell to ignore the very sparing garment that held her gorgeous breasts in place as he inspected the tools with which he was to perform this little ceremony. Suddenly he was terrifyingly aware of a growing pressure building against the fabric of his trousers and it wasn’t going to make this writing any easier. He draped a sheet of parchment across her belly, asking where she wanted the inscription. After plying it to her skin and thoroughly enjoying the process of pleating it with his fingers as T’Pol had done to him, he took a deep breath.

“I suppose English will hafta do. It’s clumsier and not as pretty as Vulcan so I’ll keep it short ‘an sweet.” She moved her eyes to him without craning her neck as he had done, watching the strokes of his fingers. She inhaled sharply with the first sting of the needle-brush into her lower abdomen.

“Sorry hun,” he drawled absently as he made the first few letters.

“I was aware there would be pain, there is no need to apologize,” she replied evenly.

“I’ll hurry an’ try not to mess up your pretty skin,” he mused, drawing a curious glance his way. She was sure this was not meant to be taken literally, but took the opportunity to press a question which lingered in her mind.

“I was under the impression humans found my complexion distasteful, even revolting,” she added with a hint of annoyance.

”Nah, the green blood’s what does it. It’s just too much like the stuff kids like me used to read ‘bout in comic books before aliens ever landed on Earth. Kinda’ creeps some people out. Ya’ know?” Trip asked rhetorically.

As she spoke, tiny muscles in her abdomen flexed and he stopped each instant, fearing to sting her or inflict a stray mark. She raised an eyebrow in silent contemplation as she watched the ceiling in thought.

“Hell,” he added in a lower voice. “If I didn’t know better I’d think you’d snuck an artificial pigment device,” he cocked a smile up at the Vulcan who instinctively met the gesture the same instant.

“It is a common misconception that Vulcans would irradiate their bodies intentionally as humans have done in your past. It is derived from the extreme ultra-violet exposure to our sun on Vulcan –”

“I know, I know!” Trip teased, hoping to cut off the science lesson. “You have a sexy tan an’ let’s just leave it at that, uh’?” Trip tested, unsure of the T’Pol’s response to such a direct pass. She didn’t take the bait, but did him one even better.

“As I was informed many times while serving on Earth prior to my posting on Enterprise,” T’Pol replied. He stopped. Hook, line and sinker. He turned his full attention on the Vulcan, dropping the needle-pen against her skin in surprise. His head began to spin with thoughts of perverted humans making passes at a young T’Pol. WellER.

“You were hit on?” This time T’Pol nearly sat up.

“Is it so difficult to believe?” she asked hastily. Trip almost thought a hint of something resembling ‘hurt’ crept into her voice. If she had been human she would have been insulted. Even so, she spent enough time around them to do a fair imitation.

“Well, no… no, I s'pose not,” he itched his jaw absently.

“Wait a sec! You said you never left the Vulcan compound, except to work at Starfleet Command,” he replied, stopping short of his conclusion. T’Pol raised an innocently inquisitive eyebrow.

“Then that means you were hit on at Starfleet Command, by Starfleet officers?” he asked angrily.

“Your powers of deduction are remarkable, Commander,” she replied almost coyly. He smirked and furrowed his brows, “Har har,” he replied, shaking his head as he went back to work. He focused intently on the skin beneath his fingers as he brought the point a hair’s breadth from the skin.

“All right, who was it?” he asked, dropping the quill-point to the parchment again, his voice clearly laced with jealousy. T’Pol sat up abruptly, holding the parchment to her flesh so as not to crumple or muss his progress. She blinked at him absently, hiding the curiosity and admittedly, amusement coursing from her head to toe.

“If you must know, Admiral Paris was one of the more…persistent in attempting to initiate courtship. I tolerated his unprofessional behavior to gain better insight into the males of your species,” she said calmly.

“Wha-” Trip stuttered incredulously. “Admiral PARIS?! He’s old enough to be my grandfather!”

“You forget Commander that I am in fact old enough to be your mother,” she replied with an eyebrow. The gape left his lips as a smirk resurfaced.

“Which is… how old, ballpark?” he asked with a tempting smile. But she rebuffed his latest attempt at revealing her age.

“If I would not tell you yesterday, what makes you think I will tell you now?” she chided with feigned irritation. He chuckled as they lay half-entangled on her bunk, the “art-supplies” forgotten as they lay in the crevices of the bed between them. His smile faded but his eyes continued to radiate with desire as he traced the lines of her jaw and neck as it fell in a swoop to her- when suddenly he realized her eyes were on him as well. They ignored his face and appreciating eye as her own interest took note of Tucker’s muscular neckline where his chest hair protruded only slightly. An open button just below his collar afforded her illogical curiosity the pleasure of continuing to admire his physique even clothed. Suddenly, the moment returned to her attention.

“Commander, I believe you have a task to finish,” she pursed her lips and straightened as he gave her a challenging snort. His brows drew together slowly as his eyes darted in thought.

“Ok, now I know you do that just to get on my nerves, ‘cause the whole reason we’re here is because I’m not just ‘Commander’ and you’re not just ‘Subcommander’,” he shot back, jutting an accusing finger at her with a grin. The ‘Subcommander’ faded from her face once more, replaced by the softer expression of just “T’Pol” that he hoped he would start to see more often. There was something in it, not a human likeness, but not Vulcan either. Something he liked for an all together different reason.

“It would be considered an insult and a dishonor not to reciprocate the procedure,” she responded in a low voice.

“Ah, settle down, hun, I’m getting’ there,” he peered up at her under guarded eyes as she struggled not to return his smile.

“Now shut up,” he chided playfully with a smile as he picked up the quill and intently focused on the lettering. His warm hand pressed protectively against her flesh as he carefully pulled the cursive lettering in long strokes. The urge to let lids close and imagine his hands roaming the parts of her she longed for him to touch filled her mind. It was illogical – terribly, terribly illogical but soon her mind filled with erotic images she had never imagined the Vulcan mind even had.

“How do you spell that word again, “thr-yla?” he asked.

“T’hyla,” she answered absently from her pleasant trance.

Exposed below the waist, a few inches below her belly button, Trip’s fingers lay against the warm, bronze flesh. She had requested the Rite be inscribed near the location of Trip’s “little rocket ship” on his own body. Her blue pajama bottoms clung to her hips but had been pulled several inches below the belly button to expose the area of interest. Mere inches sat between Trip’s fingers and T’Pol’s womanhood, a fact which her mind had managed to hide from her body most of the night. The ache in her bosom had quickly found its way south until she could no longer hide the shallow breaths she took as he touched her skin. If Trip’s olfactory senses were of any matching sensitivity to T’Pol’s, he would surely have detected her own “heightened alertness” in such a compromising position. She was lucky he had a ‘cold bug.’

Just when she was about to rocket him from his sitting position and – do what, she wasn’t exactly sure, but something entirely UN-Vulcan – finally, he was finished.

“All right,” he called out, pulling her from the trance and banishing the passionate images from her mind, at least for now. She sat up, watching as he pulled the wet parchment from her skin as he had seen her do and blow on the damp skin to dry the ink. It was wholly unnecessary, but the shivers rocketing up T’Pol’s spine weren’t about to let her complain.

“The final part of the Rite requires you read the inscription aloud,” she ‘exagerated’ under weary breath. He cocked a smile from a corner of his mouth and placed two hands around the tiny paragraph on her skin, framing the elegant script.

“T’Pol of Vulcan, chosen friend and t’hyla of Trip Tucker,” he read aloud rather unceremoniously. There was silence for several moments before Trip choked back his discomfort and spoke.

“I-I know it’s not exactly as –”

“It is more than satisfactory,” she interrupted him. Her eyes landed on his for several moments before falling to her abdomen and the steady rise and fall of her chest in the silence of the cabin. She moved two fingers to touch the first letters of the inscription.

“I am not familiar with this form of typescript, what is its origin,” she inquired in a quiet voice as a fingertip traced the form of each letter.

“I can’t believe you’ve never seen cursive,” he chuckled as she followed the lines of text. “We learn it real young on Earth, but nobody uses it anymore. My momma always said to use it for somethin’ special,” he chuckled. Her eyes suddenly moved to his when she found his hand resting against her flesh. It was beating brazen hot against the light touch of his knuckles and he resisted the urge to stroke the taut skin. There were no words, but a few moments later, her fingers had somehow found themselves between his.

Scene IV – Engineering / Next Day


“What in the hell put that spring in your step?” the cap’n asked. The engineer turned from the diagnostic readout and faced his Captain with a poorly-hidden grin.

“I don’t know what you’re talkin’ about,” he replied sheepishly as his eyes darted around them. The cap’n dropped his head with a sigh.

“Trip, you know I can’t bend the fraternization rules for anyone. More and more warp fives are going to be sent into deep space, and I know things can get a little difficult but the rules are there for a reason. You can’t go dating subordinates.”

Trip thought to himself, and for a short moment mused over telling him that his interest wasn’t in any subordinate but that would easily narrow the choices to T’Pol and Archer! Tucker put on the most innocent face he could and folded his arms.

“Who says there’s anything goin’ on with a girl,” Tucker asked. The cap’n chuckled and lowered his voice as his hand landed on his young friend’s shoulder.

“I know,” he lifted his eyebrows at Trip.

“I’ve seen you with women, and I know that losing Natalie has made things tough,” he added in a lower voice. Trip’s jovial smile faded for a moment before his jaw hardened again as he nodded.

“Don’t worry Jon. There’s nothin’ inappropriate goin’ on.” Just as his friend’s brows drew together in thought, a shudder rocked the floor as sparks erupted from several meters away.

Jon and Trip instinctively flew to the source of the explosion to find a severed conduit spewing coolant and an unconscious crewman on the ground, blood profusely spilling from his head.

“Coolant rupture, seal Engineering!” Trip screamed over the klaxons and sirens. He bolted from the scene of the open conduit and climbed a nearby ladder rising to a catwalk. Archer pulled the man from the cloud of toxic coolant and shouldered him as he headed for the hatch.

“Trip, get out now!” he called over the hunk of the unconscious man on his shoulders. Tucker ignored him, his hands flying across several panels and controls as he danced from one console to the next. Archer grimaced and cursed under his breath as he knelt and rushed the man through the rapidly closing hatch. Seconds later, Engineering was emptied of its compliment save for its frantic engineer dashing from pipes to panels.

He crossed the threshold of a girder high above the warp reactor and leapt for a hatch causeway. It was a corner hatch only meant to be reached through a maze of crawl spaces but he was out of time. He caught the opening, crawling inside quickly and searching the wall. He tore a panel open as he murmured a dozen different timing schemes to himself, trying to pick one out of the dozens. Pages and pages of the Enterprise’s schematics flew through his mind as he frantically tried to settle upon one. The sirens grew louder and the air grew thick and hazy. He threw himself into the panel, switching leads and changing circuit paths. After a few moments a storm of sparks erupted from the panel and Trip’s eyes rolled back as his head came crashing against the cold steel floor.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Epilogue

“How is he?” the Captain asked when he reached the Doctor on the far end of sickbay. He ignored the strange look of anxiety painted all over T’Pol’s face as he glanced in her direction near the door. She kept her distance from the biobed and its occupant, but she was clearly paying little attention to anything else.

“Oh he’ll live,” the Doctor responded hopefully, if not lacking in his normal exuberance. Archer shook his head.

“One of these days I’m going to have to actually punish him for disobeying orders and saving our asses,” Jonathan laughed as he checked on the Commander who was resting comfortably.

“It looks like whatever he did to shut everything down discharged a pretty debilitating electric shock into him. His brain functions were unaffected but the shock stopped his heart. When he was brought in, however, Crewman Cutler began preparing him for micro-defib until I arrived,” he added with a weak smile.

“I’m sure Trip will want to thank her when he wakes up,” Archer patted the man’s arm and turned to leave.

“Uh, Captain, I’d like to keep him here for at least three days and another day of rest before returning to duty,” Archer nodded over his shoulder and went to Trip’s side. He gave his unconscious friend a smile and a pat on the shoulder before heading for the door. He stopped in front of T’Pol, expecting her to follow him to the bridge. Her eyes were far away, distant even for a Vulcan. She started slightly after Archer watched her for a few moments. She nodded to him and pursed her lips before declining his silent offer to follow. She turned and approached the doctor silently. Archer took the cue with furrowed brows and headed for the bridge.

“Doctor,” T’Pol called quietly as she approached.

“Ah yes, Subcommander. I thought you might wish to speak after the Captain left.”

She did in fact, but as rarely as it occurred, this Vulcan didn’t know what to say, only that something had to be said. The doctor watched her carefully and although he was , a careful observer of behavior, it didn’t take one to see she was searching for the words – and failing.

“Subcommander,” he went on, stepping towards her kindly. “I don’t know what the text means, and I do not believe Crewman Cutler knows either. I have spoken to her, and I do not believe it is necessary to inform the Captain of the… writing,” he said.

“Thank you, Doctor,” she replied, her voice dry and hoarse. “I would prefer to keep this… private.” He nodded. She turned to depart when he laid a hand on her shoulder lightly.

“Subcommander, if I might make a suggestion. When humans are ill or injured they typically find it comforting to be visited by uh… a friend,” he added cautiously. She tipped her head to one side, spying the Commander in his bed as his chest rose and fell evenly in his sleep.

“I do not believe he is conscious,” she responded clinically. Phlox cracked a smile and suppressed a laugh as he ushered the Subcommander towards the bed lightly by the shoulders. She did not resist, and he continued as they walked.

“For humans it does not matter, he will appreciate the company.”

“He will be unaware of my presence will he not?”

“Even so, if my interpretation of this… writing,” he added, searching for the easiest thing to call it. “…is correct, then your relationship to the Commander might benefit from showing a little… affection.”

She snapped her head at him severely, trying to dissuade his clearly inappropriate implication with an icy look. He gave her a challenging glare right back that in Trip’s words, T’Pol thought to herself, may have said “Oh, boloni.”

He left her and she watched as he disappeared behind a control terminal--suddenly finding herself right next to Trip. Somehow she had managed to be ushered all the way to his bedside and failed to notice.

He breathed quietly but gracefully, she thought, as a support machine of some sort beeped monotonously in the background. His nostrils flared every few moments, his eyelids fluttering in some unseen dream tucked away inside his mind. Deep within it, he chased a cute, brown haired girl with pointy ears around the playground of his pre-school. Even though there had been no such girl.

His skin was rough from hard work, his face was marked with few scars but his arms held the evidence of years of childhood hijinks and injuries. His face – she studied it carefully - unknowingly watching it move only slightly with his breathing for several minutes. The stubble on his face - an attribute the Vulcans were nearly all disgusted with – it was beginning to grow unbidden in the hours since he had been in sickbay. It was rough, and they were almost animal-like pockets of hair, these humans had on their faces. But so different from a Vulcan’s clean and smooth skin, she wondered how it would feel to run her fingers over it…

That was when she realized her fingers were already busy. Tangling with his, squishing the skin of his knuckles together and caressing the firm and powerful center of his palm. It was unthinkable! It was absolutely vulgar for a Vulcan to submit to such affection! She would have recoiled and fled to her quarters to meditate if suddenly he hadn’t squeezed back at her. It filled her fingers and then her arms, her trunk and her whole body with warmth that seized her cold Vulcan uneasiness and sent it far away. The tension disappeared like wind over an Oklahoma, and suddenly a memory came to her. The memory of camping on the plains with an old man well into his seventies, and smoked ham over a campfire with the stars bright overhead and the coyotes howling in the distance. It was no Vulcan memory, and no fantasy – it was vivid, lifelike, and filled her with more calm than anything she had known outside of the deepest meditation.

Her eyes were closed, reaching in futility for the departing memory she didn’t understand but would not let go of without resistance. Suddenly her eyes opened, unaware they been closed, and met Tucker’s, shining brightly back at her from the other side of the memory.

“Hey,” he called to her with a curious but pleasant smile. He almost couldn’t believe she was here, and was happy to see as he glanced about that she was the only one. His hand was haphazardly lying under hers and as he awoke, he instinctively squeezed the soft, warm skin. He was almost worried when she didn’t say anything, but a moment later he didn’t really care that she didn’t speak.

Because she just squeezed back.

fin


Comments:

aadarshinah

Vulcan tattoos... an idea for the ages.

Alelou

I laughed out loud during that last scene when I got to this:

»You wouldn't say anything about how you wouldn't know how to go on without me?«

»Be serious, Charles. You know how disciplined I am. I would find a way.«

:p LOL. I've read it before, but I'd forgotten a lot.  I really enjoy this series.

panyasan

:):) A story about cultural difference and miscommunications, laced with humour and tenderness. I got a big smile on my face.

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