Forwards or Backwards

By justTrip'n

Rating: PG-13

Genres: angst humour romance drama

Keywords: marriage E2 bond

This story has been read by 623 people.
This story has been read 901 times.

This story is number 1 in the series (E2) Squared


Rating: PG-13 mainly for references to sex.
Disclaimer: I don't own these characters! Thanks to those who do own them!
Genre: Romance, Drama, Mystery, Angst, Humor,
Summary: Trip n' T'Pol forge a relationship under trying circumstances. Takes place sometime "after" E 2.

Yes archive.

A/N: Thanks to HopefulRomantic and Distracted for helping me find some BIG mistakes, though I chose to leave some little ones in.

A/N: (Please forgive a small (tiny-tiny) deviation from canon--I started this BEFORE watching the DVDs.) Thanks to all the writers on this site for demonstrating how this is done. I used to write general Star Trek fanfic. This one's for the Shippers!

A/N: (i'nt equals isn't) If that bugs you, I only do it a couple times!


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Trip rolled over in his bunk and bumped against another body. It was the usual fantasy. T'Pol stared at him with deep dark eyes, and a look of intense concern. Better move fast before you wake up. He lounged on his side facing her, placed a hand on her waist, and slid it up under her breast. She made no protest as he leaned in to kiss her neck; just stretched out as if to accommodate him.

"What's the last thing you remember?" the apparition asked him gently as he got to work.

"Ah dunno," he mumbled into her neck.

"Commander!" she shouted, startling him back onto the one side of the bed.

This would be the part where I wake up.

"What's the last thing you remember, Trip?"

"I don't remember you ever call'n me Trip," he chuckled, giving her a mischievous grin.

"Think. It's important"

He felt foggy, but he tried, in a lazy way. Seems his recent life was a blur of technical problem solving on an urgent deadline. The specifics were strangely missing.

"I was at work," he said, bluffing, hoping she'd drop the small talk. Damn--it had been too much talk; the dream world was quickly fading. He became aware of a sourness in his stomach; his head hurt; his teeth tasted foul, and he needed to wash his face.

Odd. She was still there--in his bed, wearing pajamas. He quickly pulled his hand out from under her shirt.

"T'Pol, . . I didn't. know you were here . . ," he stammered. That sounded dumb.

She scowled slightly as if agreeing, then paused. "You were treated for an illness. You were unconscious. I was waiting for you to wake up."

"--I'm sorry," he began before reconsidering, "Hell, you're in MY bed! I thought it was a dream!"

"There is no need to apologize. Your activities are appropriate in any case. We are married."

His heart raced, as he tried to digest the news. Seemed he'd always wanted her, but . . . "Didn't we miss a step?" he shouted. Like the part where you even admitted you cared about me?

She placed a hand on his unshaven face, and waited for him to calm down. Like other alien women, she seemed to be into facial hair. "This time we did not do 'third base,' if that's what you mean," she said. Noting his surprise she added, "You requested I use this code to discuss our mating practice."

"Can I get a rain check on the ballgame?" he asked abruptly. "I gotta use the bathroom."

Standing up fast made him woozy, but he got his bearings and moved across the room.

He felt weak--What the hell happened to me? he asked a face in the mirror that he hardly recognized.

"Don't worry about your appearance," T'Pol called, "Phlox has been attending to your personal needs."

"Not all my needs. What's with the hair?" It was long and shaggy. He looked like some kind of caveman. He showered and cleaned his teeth. He was feeling stronger. He rummaged through a drawer.

"T'Pol, I can't go out like this. Can you cut my hair?" She looked pleased as she took the clippers that he handed her.

"Just use the automatic setting. We better not try nothin' fancy." He sat down in a desk chair and pulled a damp towel around his shoulders. "T'Pol. What happened to me?" he pleaded, bracing himself for the answer.

She ran her fingers through his tangled hair and started up the clippers. The combing motion was soothing. "Commander, you seem to be much better." She worked methodically, buzzing through his hair while brushing it this way and that. "Phlox wants to be the one to brief you on your recent illness and treatment . . . but I am relieved that it appears to have worked." She tousled his hair to free loose pieces, then leaned down, and kissed the top of his head. He reached over his shoulder and she took his hand. The gesture seemed natural and familiar--routine. Maybe we are married. Maybe it will all come back to me.

T'Pol released his hand and headed to her computer. She pushed a button. "Captain, Trip is awake."

"How's he look?" Archer inquired.

"He was smiling." And T'Pol was almost smiling herself.

"Does he know his marital status?"

"Yes, I told him"

"I would love to know how he looked when he got THAT news."

"It would not be appropriate to share that information." She was clearly annoyed. She glanced at Trip to see if he felt likewise.

@@@@

This day is getting weirder and weirder. Trip was alone with the Captain, who had just asked him to 'call me Jon.' Archer had refused to address any medical questions and was now advising him to dump T'Pol.

"Look, it's nothing against either of you--obviously--you may be my closest friends, but the two together are something of an odd couple." Archer said. "Take some time to think this over--before you make a decision you'll have to live with for the rest of your life."

"Cap'n."

"Jon," Archer corrected.

"Jon, I woke up this morning and found myself in bed with the woman of my dreams. Call me an optimist, but that seems like a good thing."

"You know what they say Trip, 'Think with your head, not with your' . . ."

Trip cut him off. "This i'nt just about sex! Admit it: I landed the smartest AND sexiest woman on Enterprise. I'm wondering why you have a problem with that."

"Trip," Archer said turning serious. "I'm sorry to tell you this, but it's not like we all attended your wedding. YOU don't remember getting married. Seems the only one who does is T'Pol. And, I hate to say, but after you became sick, she became a little unbalanced."

"Well, that's flattering." Trip responded, refusing to be ruffled.

"No Trip, you'll see. She's emotional."

"That might be an improvement." He laughed.

"No, I mean she has outbursts."

"Hell, every woman I know has outbursts! My mom has outbursts. Cap'n--Jon, if you have something to say, just say it--otherwise quit be'n' such a party pooper."

The captain got up and began to pace.

"Trip, when you were sick. . . ," He started again. "Trip, it was depression." He stopped to check his friend's reaction. "We don't know for sure what set it off--we can guess.--but you just got worse and worse."

"I can't believe it." He said, astonished.

"Believe it. I sat here watching football with you--game after game--hoping you'd perk up. You didn't want to talk about it--you didn't want to talk about anything. After a while you wouldn't even look up at the screen. You were replaced as chief engineer because you stopped giving orders. One day in Engineering, right after your demotion, someone caught you trying to connect two incompatible relay cables--they tackled you or you would have blown yourself up."

"Cap'n! I would NEVER. . !."

Archer continued, ignoring his protest, "You were confined to quarters for your own protection. We took turns watching you to make sure you wouldn't hurt yourself. T'Pol volunteered for the most hours. Quite frankly, we were glad to take a break and let her do it. Then one day she announces that you two are 'married.' That now SHE would be supervising your care."

Trip slumped back in his chair, dismayed.

"We told her you were in no state to agree or disagree to a marriage. That a contract was invalid if one of the parties was incompetent."

"What'd she say to that?"

"She claimed that your relationship had begun BEFORE your illness. That you had had intercourse right before New Years and as a result a 'bond' had developed; that now she can read your mind; and that, on Vulcan, this set of circumstances constitutes a de facto marriage."

Trip found his mouth was hanging open. He closed it. As flakey as it all sounded, he might still want to pretend he could confirm these claims.

"She was anxious to prove you were aware of this 'marriage' so she produced a ring you had supposedly given her. Except it wasn't a ring and she wouldn't let anyone get a good look at it. It doesn't even fit on her finger, so she wears it on a chain around her neck."

Trip was too stunned to comment.

"I blame myself for leaving you alone with her. I wasn't sure where it would lead but I thought 'two consenting adults.' And she claimed that your 'activities'--whatever they were--helped you sleep. I didn't anticipate that she would try to trap you into marriage." He turned a corner in his pacing. "Besides, T'Pol was desperate to reach you. Part of me still hoped she might succeed where the rest of us had failed. She never gave up--I'll give her that."

"So, did I improve?"

"No--as she was the first to admit. She's the one who convinced us to try something more radical . . . the treatment you just had . . . which, by the way, seems to have worked!" Jon put a hand on his friend's shoulder. "Trip . . . I know this is all bad news. She's probably out there in the hallway waiting for you. Why don't just you sit here and think things through before you go out and meet her? Take as much time as you need."

Trip put his head in his hands and tried to think.

After a minute, Jon added. "Oh, and here's another consideration: You'll notice protocol is a little more relaxed on the ship these days. The crew is starting to pair up. Hoshi informs me you had a number of female admirers before you got sick. The way she tells it, I'm expecting cat fights to break out once the women see you're up and around."

Trip sat up, preparing to leave.

Jon gave him an encouraging smile. "You look good. I'm glad you finally agreed to cut your hair." In a tone implying an order more than a suggestion he added, "You might want to shave too."

Trip grinned a weary apology. "I can't--yet. Seems my wife prefers it this way."

Archer shrugged a reluctant okay. Trip nodded his thanks and stepped through the doorway. The doors slid shut behind him. Sure enough, there was T'Pol waiting patiently to accompany him to his next appointment, in sickbay.

Trip walked up to T'Pol and placed a hand on her shoulder. He grabbed her necklace abruptly and drew the pendant up out of her shirt and into his hand. They studied it together. It was a piece of machinery. A spacer from the fuel rod assembly. If she was going to fake a ring, she'd have come up with something a little more respectable.

"Geeze!" he said in astonishment. I really was a zombie.

"You wrote something on it."

He tipped the ring sideways to read the inscription. On the inside, in big block letters, it read: "T R I P"

"Yeah, that's me," he said, recognizing his handwriting. "Beautiful sentiment."

"I gave you credit for managing an inscription without access to tools. They wouldn't let you have sharp objects. I still don't know how you scratched it in."

"Give me this thing," he said. He unsnapped the chain to free the pendant. "I'm gonna fix this; I'm going to fix everything."

@@@@

"It doesn't sound like me!" Trip protested. Phlox had just finished the long, sad story of his patient's mental decline. T'Pol looked on.

"It is impossible to tell why one person weathers an event while another falls into depression." Phlox responded in his calming, sing-song voice. "Perhaps there was a genetic or environmental component to your illness; we'll never know. In your case, the transplant from Sim's body could have destabilized your neural pathways--resulting in feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness.

"Who's Sim?" Trip asked.

He saw Phlox and T'Pol share a worried look.

"Commander. . . Trip . . . do you mind if I call you Trip? First we tried to restore normal neural functioning using serotonin modulators. The outcome was less than satisfactory. In the end, we decided to try a more invasive treatment. We monitored the electrical activity in your brain as you thought about what was bothering you. Then we deactivated a few neural pathways involved in these thoughts. We are not entirely sure what it was that sent you over the edge, but your ability to think about the particular event or set of events that once was bothering you has been blocked. You now have the opportunity to form new, more constructive neural pathways and not be trapped in a cycle of negative thoughts.

For this reason, we ask that you not try to reconstruct the events you are missing--not just yet. Not for a few weeks at least. Eventually, when more healthy pathways are formed, you should be able to reincorporate the negative experiences. So, please don't question your friends. Stay off your computer if you have a habit of recording your personal thoughts there. The procedure we tried on you was very risky, but it will be successful if you continue to cooperate with us over the next few weeks."

"If you removed the events that are upsetting me," Trip asked, "why do I remember the Xindi attack on Florida?"

"Evidently that event is not implicated in your recent depression. Somehow, you successfully integrated that experience, as did the others on this ship. As I said, the events that set off a depression need not be that significant--from an objective point of view. The death of a pet . . . the loss of a job . . . both are typical triggers. Some of the information you are missing will return naturally over time... especially memories not implicated in your illness. I don't know what you remember about our mission, but please be assured that we are presently in no danger. The danger has been postponed. That is why you will notice that protocol around here is somewhat relaxed."

"What about Earth?" Trip asked with sudden alarm.

"Earth is just fine." Phlox answered with a reassuring smile. "In fact, we'll see it soon."

@@@@


Trip gazed down at his favorite planet with more than the usual longing. Too bad they were in geosynchronous orbit over Africa. He wanted to see Florida, even with its gash. It sometimes felt miraculous that you could fly hundreds of light years across the galaxy and still find your way back to the same city, same street, same spot, all just like you left it. He knew he should contact his parents this time, but he was procrastinating. Jon hadn't informed his parents of his condition. That would be a shock . . . not to mention a marriage he had inexplicably forgotten to tell them about. He would wait till things settled down then blame the delay on his "treatment."

On the Western horizon he observed a huge hurricane gathering over the Atlantic Ocean. He'd never seen one so big. He wondered if it was on a path to Florida. I'm sure the Weather Service will reduce its power before the storm makes landfall. He personally knew some of the Weather Service pilots who worked these storms, dropping heavy, supercooled particles into the winds to sap their energy.

Enterprise's current mission involved the launch of a satellite around Earth--the Phoenix. That's all he knew. Everyone was very intense and excited about it, whatever it was. There must be something symbolic about the launch. You don't need a warp-five-capable starship for a job like that. He was still out of the loop; but also the center of attention. All his friends and acquaintances expressed their relief and eagerness to reconnect with the "old Trip". It was like a family reunion, and he was the guest of honor. The "cat fights" Jon predicted had not materialized. Trip was actually enjoying his convalescence . . . and why not? There was nothing much he could do about it.

He had begun rereading the online engineering manuals--to replace any technical memories that had been accidentally been swept away with his "problems." It would be a long hard fight back to the position of Chief Engineer, but he was sure he would get there.

@@@@

Trip was on his was to the gym, where he hoped to meet Malcolm and do some sparring. He was still barred from work and had spent the whole day rereading technical manuals. A workout would be refreshing.

As he stepped onto the lift, he saw Amanda Cole running down the hall. He held the lift for her and she bounded in. She seemed pleased to see him.

"How've you been Trip?" She asked.

"I'm good."

"Feeling better?"

He turned and punched a button on the wall. The lift stopped mid-deck.

She gave him a knowing smile and took a step towards him.

"I've been meaning to ask you something," Trip said. "This is kinda awkward, but I'm not sure I remember what happened between us."

She looked at him expectantly, but made no comment. She wasn't going to make this easy.

Trip continued. "I remember we were having fun, hanging out. I liked you, you liked me, then . . . well . . . nothing."

"That's about it." Amanda confirmed with a smug expression.

"So, what happened?"

"I have no idea. Perhaps you should ask T'Pol. I got the impression she was calling the shots, even back then."

"Hey! I'm not controlled by her."

"Sure, I know. I guess we just weren't meant to be," she said agreeably.

Trip relaxed. "So, how are you?

"Really good."

"You in a relationship?"

"Yes," she said. She stepped closer, till they were standing toe to toe, and smiled up at him, "But it's not exclusive." She reached behind him--and pushed the button on the wall. The lift continued its rise. The door opened. She got off, leaving him to regain his composure.

@@@@

Trip rode the lift back down; he didn't want to risk running into Amanda alone in the gym. Agitated from the encounter, he returned to his quarters. T'Pol was already there, sipping on some tea. She didn't seem the least bit busy. The situation looked promising.

"So . . .," he asked her hopefully, "want to have some fun?"

She raised her head from her cup. Her lips were set in a pout. She fixed him with a withering look. "No, Commander--particularly not while you're thinking about Amanda."

"Geeze! I can't help it. Can't you turn off your sensors or something?"

"No . . . and I wish I could."

"T'Pol, I didn't do anything! I just ran into Amanda. We had a conversation on the lift. I haven't talked to her in, I guess, a year. We just needed to tie up some loose ends."

"I find it interesting that you managed to have a long and meaningful conversation on a ten-second lift ride," T'Pol answered icily.

"I don't believe this! You must know I'm telling the truth--or can you only read the thoughts that get me in trouble?"

He lay down on the bed. If I keep talking, she'll come around. He was learning to handle her moodiness.

"T'Pol," He asked gently, "what'd you do to poor Amanda to scare her off?"

"I'm not sure we should be talking about this yet." Her tone had mellowed.

"What?" he teased, "It was so traumatic it sent me into depression? What'd you do... shoot her with a phase pistol?"

"Sometimes I worry that my behavior at that time was not entirely ethical."

"So what'd you do?" he persisted, now more curious.

"I had sexual relations with you," she answered, giving him a pointed look.

"I don't remember," he said. "But if that's what you did wrong, I forgive you."

"I believe our encounter caused you to lose interest in Amanda, a reaction I had anticipated." T'Pol explained, avoiding his eyes. "Sometimes I regret approaching you, because the two of you ARE suited for each other."

She looked surprisingly sad.

"T'Pol, there's an Earth saying. All's fair in love and war. When a lot is at stake, people tend to bend the rules. I guess it just proves you love me."

She didn't take the hint. Seems Vulcans don't readily confess their "love"--at least not this one.

"Anyway," Trip continued, "Amanda's not moping around worrying about you or me. She's moved on. It's too late to fix your 'mistake,' so forget it. You're stuck with me." He held out a hand to her and now she came over, took it in hers, and sat alongside him as he lay on the bed.

"All's fair in love and war?" She repeated, raising an eyebrow.

"I know. Not really; it's just a saying." Trip assured her. "Which reminds me--did we really steal a warp coil from the Illyrians?"

"I'm afraid so." She informed him gently.

"Damn. And what happened to them?"

"We really shouldn't be talking anymore." T'Pol lay down beside him and, after a few contemplative moments, one thing led to another.

@@@@

A week later they were still in the solar system, in the Ort Cloud of comets, mining water ice. Strangely, no one seemed in a hurry to go anywhere interesting.

Trip and T'Pol were in sickbay for his weekly checkup. Trip was sitting on the biobed in his florescent blue undies. It was unclear why he needed to undress for Phlox to check his mental state, but Trip had resolved to be totally cooperative. He needed Phlox on his side if he was going to get back to Engineering.

"So you're sleeping well. Appetite is back. Any sexual interest?" Phlox asked. He seemed to accept the smirk on his patient's face as a satisfactory response. "So any extended periods of apathy? Bouts of crying?"

Trip shook his head.

"No? Then, I'd say you're doing remarkably well, Commander."

Trip looked over at his constant companion. "Maybe you should check her out, Doc. Tell him, T'Pol."

"Oh?" Phlox asked, turning his attention to her.

"It's probably nothing." T'Pol responded evenly, shooting Trip an accusing look. "Recently, I've experienced some difficulty controlling my emotions."

"She bursts into tears at the drop of a hat," Trip said, before remembering he was speaking to aliens. ". . . At any little thing."

"Can you give an example?" Phlox probed.

"I shaved off my beard." Trip told him, "She's disappointed because she wants me to keep it. So we argue a minute and then she's crying."

"Do you mind if I run a general scan?" Phlox asked T'Pol.

"I would prefer you didn't," she said.

"T'Pol! There could be a problem," Trip argued.

Phlox interceded. "Trip, I believe you are well enough to return to work. I'll tell the Captain and you can begin anytime. Why don't you go on and I'll talk with T'Pol?"

More secrets. It wouldn't be much longer till he was back in the loop. He could be patient.

@@@@

In Engineering, the crew was in good spirits, eager to fill him in on the gossip of who was dating who. So, whatever the horrible secret they were keeping from him, it couldn't be too bad, he reasoned.

However, it was disappointing to learn that, in all the time he'd been laid up, he hadn't missed even one strange new world. The only M-class planets they'd visited were Rigel, a well-explored trading post, and good ol' Earth. The crew seemed unconcerned with the lack of a mission. For this, I could have stayed in Florida and sailed on a "love boat." (Once he'd almost taken a job as an engineer on one of those vacation cruise liners.)

Today there was nothing to fix. Maintenance was ahead of schedule. Makes sense. They hadn't run the warp engines in weeks, except a couple minutes from Earth to the Ort Cloud. His old crew was fussing over some second-rate mining equipment they had acquired. He escaped to the machine shop. At least he finally had a chance to work on T'Pol's ring.

He'd scanned her finger while she slept and had the measurement. The first ring was a piece of junk but it meant something to her, so he'd promised to incorporate the original metal in Ring Mach II.

The new ring would be mostly titanium. He heated and poured the metal...used the drill press to drill a hole that would fit snug on her finger...rounded the edges with a buffer, and added the finishing touches with a fine diamond graver. Inside he etched the words: "Forever yours."

Forever? He considered this for the first time. Life with the enchantingly beautiful, laser-sharp, stubborn T'Pol--till death do us part. He thought of the doors he was closing. No more women from Florida, or even Earth--the kind of women who might laugh at his jokes or smile back at him.

And then there were the technical difficulties. Contrary to everyone's guess, he and T'Pol were not entirely sexually compatible. She had this dormant period--or at least her body did. Psychologically she was pretty "into it." That's what saved them. Where there's a will, there's a way. He recalled a recent intimate experience. He smiled and his heart raced faster.

Besides, he was in love--it was the real thing. He took a breath and slipped the ring in his pocket. He'd present it to T'Pol as soon as he got home.

@@@@

Trip stepped through the hatchway into their quarters . . . and reconsidered. T'Pol looked distressed.

"T'Pol, what's the matter?" She gave him a guilty look, then her gaze wandered away, while one tear fell down her face.

"T'Pol, you're scaring me. What did Phlox say?"

"He said I have the flu."

"Bullshit!"

"We shouldn't discuss this yet." She answered. "I'm leaving our quarters. I'm spending the night in sickbay."

"No, this i'nt one of those secrets from the past. This is a recent development! I have a right to know why you're act'n so strange." An inspiration hit him. Maybe this wasn't an illness. "T'Pol are you pregnant?" It wasn't likely given the physical limitations of their lovemaking. Still . . .Stranger things had been known to happen--and to him.

"Why do you say that?" T'Pol asked.

"You're so easily upset. Could be the hormones chang'n."

"Vulcans do not experience this symptom with pregnancy."

"Well humans sure do, and our baby would be half human."

"It's still impossible."

"I know it's not likely, but it IS possible. Remember the Xyrillian?" He tried a joke: "I seem to recall a warning a few years back--'bout a diplomat put'n his fingers where they don't belong."

She had never passed on the opportunity to tease him about the unexpected incident--before today. "I wish it WERE possible." She said mysteriously. She picked up a small bag and turned to leave.

"T'Pol, I'm coming with you."

She turned on him. "STAY AWAY!" she yelled, and stormed out the door.

@@@@

He found himself alone with a ring in his pocket and the echo of her rejection still bouncing off the walls.

Why did he always follow his heart straight into the middle of a big mess? Why couldn't he be more objective? It's what Jon was telling me. Maybe I should have listened.

What had happened to him? How had he gotten to this point? It was pathetic. He had no work. He didn't even know their mission. And for the past two weeks, he hadn't cared. Since when does marriage to a moody woman substitute for a purpose in life?

He was sick of the secrets, sick of uncertainty, sick of hanging in space going nowhere. It was time to get back to being that commander he used to be. Time to attack the problem head on.

Still, he resisted the urge to look on the computer for answers. Phlox had warned him not to, and he DID follow orders.

Maybe he could use deduction. The last he remembered? A frenzy of computer simulations, they were working to intercept the weapon, disable the spheres, evaluate a trip through a subspace corridor. Then nothing. Earth still existed, so the mission hadn't ended in tragedy. On the other hand, no one would assure him they had succeeded either. "The danger has been postponed," Phlox had said. Why had the mission's outcome affected him, without affecting the others? Did the Xindi come back again for Florida?

A shiver of horror went through him.

Suddenly he wanted T'Pol. He wanted to run to her, but could he?

His mind raced in circles, always coming back to the same place: I want to see my parents. I want to see them now.

@@@@

At last he ran to sickbay. He would confront Phlox and T'Pol with his fears and demand a resolution. He hurried into the room and stopped short. T'Pol was much worse. She was sweating profusely and twisting in pain.

"What's happened?" he demanded. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing's the matter. T'Pol's just going to be sick a few days," Phlox said. He faked an encouraging smile, but it was neutralized by some crazy ranting from T'Pol.

"YOU DID THIS TO ME!" She spit the words at a startled Trip.

Phlox looked dismayed. "Don't listen to her. She doesn't know what she's saying."

"Give her something!" Trip demanded. "And don't tell me 'only an analgesic'!"

"Perhaps I can give her a mild sedative," Phlox said.

"What's happened to her?" Trip asked, now on the verge of tears.

Phlox held his breath, as if gathering his courage. Finally he said, "She didn't give me permission to tell you."

"She didn't give permission? She didn't give permission!!" Trip was done being cooperative. "She can read my damn mind and I'm not allowed to know what's up with her? Look, she supervised MY treatment for months. She erased my damn memories!"

"You agreed to all those treatments." Phlox reminded. "Look, I sympathize, Commander. I know it seems unfair, but, as things stand, I can't help you. Perhaps, after you've filled in your memories, you'll decide to formalize this relationship."

"Help me please," T'Pol begged. Trip reached for her hand.

"No, not YOU!" She batted his hand aside. "Why would I need an engineer? Can't you see I need a DOCTOR?" His heart sank as she reached toward Phlox.

Phlox took T'Pol's hand and pulled it down to the table, reached beneath the table, and pulled out a restraint that he clamped down on her arm. He went around to the other side of the table and did the same to her other arm." Phlox ushered Trip aside and pulled the privacy curtain around T'Pol's bed, hiding her from view. "Commander, there's not much we can do." He said firmly, "she has to go through this herself."

T'Pol was now mumbling to herself in Vulcan, but Phlox ignored her, turning his attention to her distressed companion.

"I suggest you return to your quarters and try to get some rest. If you stay here you will be just be subjected to her ranting."

Trip said. "There's no way I can sleep now. Please give me something, just one more time."

Phlox nodded. Without argument, he fished a canister out of a drawer and administered the injection.

@@@@

He should have been in bed, but he couldn't sleep. Trip headed to the bridge and found Hoshi there, alone. He demanded a subspace link-up to Earth.

"No, Commander, you have no clearance!" Hoshi scolded.

Why can't she just do this one favor? He reached for the controls and, incredibly, she fought him for them. Meek little Hoshi was tenacious, but she would lose this fight.

Before he could change his mind, Trip shoved Hoshi off her chair and onto the floor. He took her seat, entered the address and waited--while Hoshi fumed, calling for security. MACOs stormed the bridge, just as his call went through.

His parents appeared on the viewscreen in their pajamas, with disheveled hair. Trip had woken them up. He was so relieved to see them alive, he didn't know what to say. He stood up and swiped the back of his hand across his eyes to hide the tears.

His parents looked back at the scene in horror. The MACOs had grabbed Trip.

"Are you in trouble?" His dad asked.

"Yeah!" Trip answered.

"Is it a woman?" His mom guessed.

How did she know? Hoshi and the MACOS had melted away. He was alone in the room with his parents.

"Charlie, I told you to be careful. Always be a gentleman!" His mom said disappointed.

"Yes'm, but I WAS careful." Trip protested, "You don't understand. I thought I could make it all right. I said I'd fix everything."

"Son, you can't fix everything. Just do your best." His dad advised.

"Sweetie, is it just a fight?" His mom seemed relieved. "Every relationship has its ups and downs. It's not the end of the world."

Suddenly the Tucker family was at a high school football game. Trip and his brother had suited up and taken the field. Both were starting this game. His parents were in the stands cheering. Everyone stood for the Planetary Anthem. The stirring bars drifted through the breeze filling the stadium with pride and hope in the human homeworld. In the distance, a hurricane was brewing. It was dark and boiling, and lit by lightning bolts. He'd never seen anything quite like it. It drifted over the field casting its shadow, rumbling and threatening. A bolt of lighting landed on the field right behind his team--and lingered, becoming an energy beam. The players scattered in every direction, running from the burning ray. The pillar of energy started towards his brother, chasing him down as he sprinted and dodged across the field towards the end zone. Trip watched as the beam overtook his brother, tearing him apart and partly vaporizing him, throwing chewed up remains to the sides. The beam turned and headed straight into the stands--which collapsed. The fans dropped, spilling from the heights of the stadium.

Trip felt he was falling.

Then he woke in his bed. His heart was pounding in his ears.

@@@@

He'd had enough. He got up and turned on the computer.

It wasn't easy finding an answer, but looking for one gave him something to do other than worry. First he looked for mission logs for dates after they arrived at the conduit--It came up "no data available." Figures, they locked me out. He looked for Earth news for the same dates. Same problem.

Okay . . . I'll get in the back door. How about info on our most recent mission--the launching of the satellite--the Phoenix? He searched under "Phoenix" and info popped on-screen.

He scanned the plans. He'd heard of this before. Seems the satellite was a time capsule. You want to send a message way into the future? Put your data on a satellite in an orbit calculated to degrade in a few hundred thousand years. Make sure your satellite has layers of heat shields that will burn off in a multicolored fireworks display as it falls--something showy, unnatural, artificial. The inner core should survive the crash, be eye-catching, and should send out signals of all kinds to attract attention. If all goes well, the future humans--you know, the ones, who have evolved gills and webbed feet, or communicate through ESP, or have shrunk to the size of dwarfs, or whatever--they find the data and see pictures of what humans used to be like. Neat idea. It had also already been done. Back in 2000.

Strange. The orbit of the Phoenix was set to degrade in only a hundred years. Now that's just dumb. There are a lot less expensive ways to send a time capsule 100 years into the future. Like put your data in a safe deposit box and write a will. Trip knew the history of the human space program, and it was littered with stupid, crowd-pleasing stunts. Still ... this stunt seemed unusually pointless.

Hey, I contributed to this thing. He'd authored one file in the data sent to the future. What information had he wanted to bestow on the people of the next century?

Pictures, letters? No it was all technical--a blizzard of equations, with some illustrations. Now he remembered. It was a plan to alter the engines to enable the ship to fly above warp five for brief periods of time. He skimmed the specifications. It was a half-assed plan. One would have to be desperate to try such a thing today--and crazy to propose it to the future. What was he thinking? In a hundred years we'll be flying at warp eight- seven at the very least. Did he think he could compete with a hundred years of further research at the Warp X Complex?

What other files were placed on the Phoenix? What had the sane crew members contributed? He opened the main file--it was a warning of an impending Xindi attack on Florida. His blood ran cold.

With video? He took a breath and pressed the link.

@@@@

In a daze Trip walked toward sickbay. My parents are gone, my brother is gone, everyone I left on Earth is gone. With a shiver he realized his closest family was through the door ahead. He stopped and steadied himself against a bulkhead. My wife is in there. She loves me. Phlox will keep us well. If he stayed in the hall, he could keep believing it.

He heard arguing through the door. Phlox and T'Pol. Was she still ranting? He hoped she wasn't still cursing him.

He picked up his courage and proceeded towards the room.

"He believes his parents are dead!" he heard T'Pol shouting.

"T'Pol, it was just a bad dream."

"I was attending a sporting event." She said sounding shaken, "Suddenly, the recreational facility was attacked and destroyed. It was HIS dream. It's time to tell him the truth! Let me go to him!"

The door slid open and Trip walked through. The pair stopped their arguing and stared at him.

"You know!" T'Pol stated, as Trip met her gaze.

"I know it's 2038," Trip confirmed. "I looked it up."

Phlox turned to T'Pol and quickly undid the restraints.

"Phlox tied me up. I was a prisoner," T'Pol accused. She sat up on the bed, still looking angry and out of it.

"T'Pol, is this your husband?" Phlox asked.

"Yes."

"Then he deserves to know another truth--the truth about your condition."

She nodded reluctantly and looked away in shame.

Phlox sighed at his patient who apparently wasn't willing to tell this story herself. "T'Pol has, for sometime now, been using--abusing--the chemical trellium-D. It makes her more emotional. She says she developed the addiction during the stressful times we were pursuing the Xindi. I helped her break that addiction, but she seems to have relapsed."

Trip was astounded. How could how someone so logical--so intelligent and superior--do something so stupid?

"I'm glad you know." T'Pol told Trip, "It's hard to keep a secret."

"Seems you're pretty good at keep'n secrets," Trip observed.

"I shouldn't have used the trellium," she admitted. "I didn't expect I'd harm anyone but myself."

"And why would it be okay to harm yourself?" Trip asked wearily.

She just looked away, unwilling or unable to answer.

Trip turned to Phlox. "Can I take her home?" he asked.

"If you're up to it. She still needs to be watched closely, so she doesn't relapse. "

"Come on," Trip urged T'Pol. "The halls were empty when I came over. Let's hurry before the next shift gets up." He jumped up and sat on a biobed, and watched T'Pol gather her things. His mom had raised him right, and the lingering echo of her voice would give him the courage to proceed.

"Are you okay, Trip," Phlox asked, "now that you know our location in time?"

"I guess. I mean... they're not dead. They're not even born. It's kind of stunning."

"There has been no Xindi attack," Phlox reminded him.

"And there never will be, if we work this right." Trip added, sounding determined.

Phlox came over and slapped a hand on Trip's shoulder. Just like his dad would have done. "Trip, I've got your back."

No way. "What'd you just say?" Trip asked the Denobulan, "For a minute you sounded exactly like my Old Man."

"I said, 'I'm glad you're back,' . . . Commander."

@@@@

They returned to T'Pol's quarters and she began to unpack her things. "Why'd you take the trellium?" Trip asked. "It's a slow suicide."

"I was afraid to be alone. I may have lost more than you. There are no other Vulcans on this ship. I felt a connection to you and I wanted to get closer." She paused holding a package of toiletries. "Are you going to leave?"

"Leave?"

"Through the bond, I know how disappointed you are." She stared at him with deep dark eyes.

"T'Pol, you saved my life. I think I owe you one."

She continued unpacking.

"So, you're not pregnant?" He asked, just to be sure. That condition would have been so much better than this trellium addiction.

"Humans and Vulcans have never been able to reproduce," she stated simply.

He'd never really thought it through, but it made sense. He and T'Pol weren't the same species. Differing species can't produce offspring.

That' s kinda the definition of species, he recalled, now mentally kicking himself. He sat down and let it soak in. I always thought one day I'd have kids--maybe three.

"I know," she said, startling him from his thoughts. "I'm truly sorry."

@@@@

The following day, T'Pol and Trip were in her quarters making up for lost time. T'Pol was seated on the floor, communing with her candle. Nearby, Trip skimmed through his computer files, hungrily filling in the missing pieces of his life.

Apparently their impulse wake had destabilized the subspace corridor. Instead of taking them to an urgent rendezvous in the mission to stop the weapon launch, the conduit had spit them 11 light years away and 117 years into the past. After the crew of Enterprise got their bearings in time and space, they'd set a course for Earth. On the way, they'd befriended a local, a freighter captain hauling trellium, who directed them to a temporary opening in the thermobaric cloud layer. In exchange for supplies, the sojourner had also taught them how to forecast future fluctuations in the phenomena. This was important as the clouds would periodically thicken, enclosing the Expanse entirely and trapping all those inside.

They'd sneaked into the solar system arriving at Earth from the Sun-side to hide their warp signature. They'd left the same way. The satellite they placed there was a contingency plan. If something were to happen to Enterprise--if they were attacked or if they crashed on the next asteroid--at least a warning had been left behind. If, against all odds, the crew COULD survive the next 116 years, and devise a better plan--well, then the satellite could be retrieved.

It's a good thing we have a contingency plan, because Plan A seems awfully farfetched. The crew was to pair up and have children, who will have children, who will eventually fight the Xindi--116 years from now. Trip shook his head. They haven't even recruited volunteers for the first part of that mission.

At the moment, Enterprise was sailing back to the Expanse, where they planned to lay low and stay out of the way of Earth and Vulcan history.

They were interrupted by someone at the door.

"It's just me." Phlox called.

Trip was relieved it was only the doctor. He and T'Pol had never gotten dressed for the day. Still in their bathrobe and pajamas from the morning, the couple looked as if they were recovering from the Rigelian flu.

Trip greeted Phlox at the door. "Come to check up on us?"

"Well, yes and no." Phlox answered mysteriously, not quite managing to suppress a grin. "Actually, since we've all spent so much time together lately, I wanted you two to be the first to know." He paused, before blurting out "I'm marrying Amanda Cole."

"Congratulations, Doctor!" T'Pol responded appropriately.

Phlox beamed at them with an un-Earthly smile that briefly spread from ear to ear,
"And I am also in negotiations with Crewman Cutler," he added shyly.

T'Pol cued Trip. "Say something!" she urged in simple Vulcan.

"I ... I'm . . . yeah?. . . great!." Trip stammered

"They tell me that on Earth the genetic material of doctors is highly sought after." Phlox explained with pride.

"Wait." Trip's brain was back in gear. "You're going to have kids? How is that possible?

"I admit it won't be easy. I've had to be a little inventive. But I think I have found a way to cross-fertilize. It's all a matter of genetic engineering!" He blessed them with another exuberant smile before taking his leave. "Well, good day, T'Pol, Trip."

"A VERY good day," T'Pol agreed as the door closed behind him.

@@@@@

After two days of at-home detox, Trip was done babysitting his wife and was glad to get back to the women he remembered.

They lay side by side on the narrow bunk.

"We need a bigger bed." Trip said.

"But I like you this close."

"Yeah, but you're going to grow a baby. You're going to stick out to here." Trip teased, holding his hand in the air.

"Phlox hasn't even started his research," she scolded gently. "You are overly optimistic. That's how you get hurt."

"T'Pol, why did I have the most trouble adjusting to all this? I'm an adult. I don't NEED my family. I fly hundreds of light years away and forget to call them. They used to attend my football games. Sometimes I have the feeling they're still there in the background, somewhere--cheering me on from the stands."

T'Pol took his free hand and held it in hers before answering. "I am guessing it wasn't the loss of your family, but a different trigger, that set off your depression. I believe you felt personally responsible for sending us all into the past. You and I--the science officer and chief engineer--advised the Captain on the safety of the conduit. The Captain flew on our positive recommendation."

"Were we wrong to try it?" Trip asked.

"Evidently. It's 2038." T'Pol answered. When she saw her husband's face fall, she kissed his forehead and added, "It seemed the best course of action at the time. For all we know, it may still turn out to be the optimal choice. In any case, we must all continue to choose wisely if we are to survive our new situation."

Trip was solemn. The burden of responsibility had returned, but this time it wasn't crushing. This kind of thing was an all-too-familiar aspect of military life. He no longer remembered why he'd been unable to forgive himself for an honest mistake. He held T'Pol's arm while he thought it through.

"I looked at your technical manual, Commander," T'Pol said finally. Seems she was trying to lighten the mood.

"Yeah, what'd you think?"

"I do not approve of steps 41 through 46."

Trip laughed out loud. "That's about what I expect from a women who eats her breadsticks with a knife and fork."

"Are you disappointed?"

"No. Of course not. Whatever you're comfortable with. And remember... I SENT it; I didn't WRITE it." He waited, gathering his courage. "So don't you have a technical manual for me? 'Fifty Ways to Drive your Vulcan Lover Crazy.'"

"If there were such a manual, it would not have that title."

"No, I guess not." He got quiet again, thinking. Finally he said, "Our poor kids--both their parents--mentally unstable."

"We should never tell them how we got together," T'Pol suggested.

"Good idea."

They lay there for a while saying nothing, staring at the ceiling.

"I do have a request concerning our relationship." T'Pol said at last. Trip rolled over, looking at her expectantly. "I want us to try to be bonded. For some reason you do not remember the one time . . . 'the home run'. . ," she corrected, using his code. "I believe that is why we have a one-way bond."

"You want me to be able to read your mind?" he asked, skeptically. "I'nt it bad enough you can read mine? What's wrong with a little mystery?" He took a moment to consider her proposal. "Anyway, even if its s'posed to happen, I'm uncomfortable with--you know--rush'n things. We wait--for the pon far."

He started fishing for his clothes, some of them lost in the bedsheets.

He'd retrieved his undies and now he went for his uniform, which lay in a pile on the floor. "Besides, we do NOT have a one--way bond. I'm bonded to you like humans bond." He put on the uniform, zipped it up, and reached in a pocket. "Which reminds me . . ." It was the ring, and this time it looked like a ring.

T'Pol saw what was happening, threw on her pajamas, and sat up in the bed. She was already tearing up.

"Phlox said my emotional control might be permanently damaged," she explained.

"I'm sorry," he answered, "but I'll take you either way."

She only cried more as he slipped a wedding band on her finger and recited his vow:

"I, Charles Tucker III, take you T'Pol, to be my wedded wife.
to love and to cherish,
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health,
from this day forward--or backward
--as long as we both shall live."

 


 

There is a sequel, Heresy. [Series link at top of the page]


Comments:

Aquarius
Very interesting concept. I like the idea of exploring what happened to that Enterprise crew. Don't know about bearded Trip though! ;p
Asso
[b]It's splendid![/b]:p
John
I loved this story the first time I read it :)I've never gotten your perspective anywhere else... and THAT is the definition of originality :)

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