Dont Ask Dont Tell

By Distracted

Rating: PG

Genres: romance virtual season

Keywords:

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This story is number 2 in the series Virtual Season Five


Virtual Season Five

Episode Two : Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

By Distracted

Disclaimer: Everything, including the blame for my broken heart, belongs to Paramount
Rating: PG for sexual suggestiveness
Category: Romance, A little angst from an unexpected quarter
Summary: As requested, this is a sequel to my story, No Greater Love in which I attempt to answer the question, "How in the world could they keep being married a secret on a ship the size of Enterprise?"


 

Ensign Hoshi Sato entered the dining hall at 0650. It was deserted at that hour, but she enjoyed the peace and quiet of an early breakfast. She grabbed granola and yogurt, then sat down to eat and read a fascinating article on Andorian past-participle forms that she’d found in the language database. As she sat down, Lieutenant Malcolm Reed entered, a particularly glum look on his face. He picked up a mug of hot tea and a pastry, and sat down at a table alone, oblivious to her presence. He stared morosely over his tea mug at the stars traveling past the observation port. Hoshi tried to ignore his obvious misery and go back to her reading, but after his third heavy sigh, she felt so guilty about leaving him alone that she deactivated the PADD she was reading and got up to join him.

“You look like you’ve lost your best friend, Lieutenant,” Hoshi said lightly as she approached the table where Malcolm was sitting. Malcolm started out of his reverie, then smiled ruefully at Hoshi.

“Is it that obvious?” he asked her.

She shrugged and grinned. “Only to someone who can tell the difference between your usual gloomy mood and today’s worse one,” she teased him. “Care to talk about it?” Hoshi sat down at the table across from him, took a bite of her yogurt, and looked at him expectantly.

“Not really,” he replied, taking a large bite out of the cream cheese Danish and chewing it absentmindedly. They sat quietly for all of thirty seconds.

“It’s just that I thought he was my friend,” Malcolm said with a disappointed look on his face. Hoshi smiled at him in puzzled but sympathetic encouragement. “He just disappears for five days without telling anyone where he’s going, and now he’s been back on board for over twelve hours, and I have to find out from the crewman stationed in the launch bay that he’s been off somewhere with T’Pol, of all people.”

Hoshi still looked at him quizzically. “Who are you talking about?” she asked blankly. Malcolm simply nodded over her shoulder toward the entrance to the dining hall.

Commander Charles “Trip” Tucker had just entered. He was whistling cheerfully, with a grin on his face bright enough to light up the room. He picked up coffee from the dispenser and a huge piece of pecan pie from stasis storage that was left over from the previous night’s dessert, and sat down to eat.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen him this cheerful in the morning,” whispered Hoshi with a soft laugh. She looked questioningly at Malcolm. “Okay, Malcolm… What’s the scoop?”

Malcolm rolled his eyes at her. “That’s just my point!” he said softly. “No one seems to know!” He leaned forward across the table toward her and whispered. “It’s my understanding that Phlox escorted Commanders Tucker and T’Pol to Vulcan for ‘medical reasons’, and left them there for five days. They returned by Vulcan diplomatic courier yesterday, and spent six of the last twelve hours alone in T’Pol’s quarters…’meditating’.”

Hoshi sat back, a thoughtful look on her face. She looked back at the dining hall entrance as Commander T’Pol entered, looking serene and well-rested for a change.

“T’Pol certainly looks healthier than she did a couple of weeks ago,” said Hoshi. “Remember when she had to take to her quarters a while back? She got so agitated and feverish-looking on the bridge that the captain sent her to Sickbay. The next thing I knew we were transporting her to Vulcan for emergency medical treatment. Do you mean to tell me that Commander Tucker went with her?” Hoshi asked incredulously.

“Apparently so,” replied Malcolm.

Both of them sat back and unobtrusively angled their chairs so that they could easily observe T’Pol, who, after picking up tea and a small plate of fruit, joined Commander Tucker at his table. Neither officer acknowledged the other’s presence beyond a courteous nod from the Chief Engineer as T’Pol sat down.

“They certainly don’t act like there’s anything going on,” said Malcolm, in a rather bemused tone of voice.

“But…six hours!” whispered Hoshi with a small smile. “I would think they’d be a little more discreet than that!”

“Discreet?” Malcolm asked with an unsettled look on his face, looking back at his two immediate superior officers as they ate their respective breakfasts without even looking at each other. “You don’t really think…?”

Hoshi shrugged nonchalantly. “Stranger things have happened,” she told him.

“But that sort of behavior could end their careers!” protested Malcolm quietly. “Surely they wouldn’t risk that.”

Hoshi leaned forward on both elbows and looked him in the eye.

“It’s only a problem if the brass finds out about it,” she told him emphatically. “I don’t know anyone on board who would tell them… do you?” she asked, staring meaningfully at him.

Malcolm sat back in his chair, considering her words carefully.

“No, Hoshi…” he said finally. “I don’t suppose I do.”

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Trip took a bite of pie, looking absently across the room and away from T’Pol, who was busy studiously ignoring him as she sat across the table daintily eating her fruit.

Good mornin’, beautiful, thought Trip. How do you feel this mornin’? He projected his own feelings of sexual satisfaction following their “meditation” session the night before.

Trip felt her dry amusement in return. T’Pol’s brow went up as she sipped her tea and gazed out of the observation port at the stars.

I am quite well, husband… We will, however, need to find the time to actually meditate, or I will not remain so, she replied silently in mock disapproval.

I promise not to touch you for at least an hour tonight so you can meditate, Trip returned.

An entire hour, husband? replied T’Pol with gentle sarcasm. How generous of you!

If you’d rather… I could just stay in my quarters tonight and catch up on maintenance reports, he offered innocently. He felt her sudden dismay at his suggestion.

I don’t believe that will be necessary, she hastily reassured him. One hour should suffice.

Trip smiled slightly into his coffee cup as he gulped the last of it.

Are you seeing the doctor today? His concern for her well-being sobered his expression as he pushed back from the table and stood up.

I have arranged for both of us to see Dr. Phlox at 1200 hours. I would like for him to ensure that you are not injured. Humans are not designed for the rigors of Pon farr, replied T’Pol.

They made eye contact for the first time since she’d joined him at the table. Trip gave her a brief, professional smile. “Commander, if you’ll excuse me?” he asked politely. T’Pol nodded in return.

Well, I feel just fine, darlin’, but I’ll be there if it’ll make you feel better, Trip answered as he left the dining hall and made his way toward Engineering, whistling as he walked.

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T’Pol entered the turbolift, heading for the bridge. Her face was composed, but her mind was mulling over the events of the past seven days. The intensity of her mental connection with Trip was unexpected. She’d done some research in the Vulcan database since their return to Enterprise the day before, and had discovered a few ancient references to bonded couples being able to “speak without words”. The contemporary commentators of these passages all seemed to consider this a figure of speech. She certainly didn’t recall her mother ever describing the ability to communicate with her father in this way. She and Trip had discovered the ability several days after their wedding, after the waning of her intense Pon farr symptoms had allowed her to relax some of the mental barriers she had erected for Trip’s protection in the weeks before their arrival on Vulcan. Their ability to communicate in this manner made the subterfuge that would now be a part of their daily lives much easier to bear. Trip’s constant presence in her mind was a comfort which enabled her to tolerate their long periods of separation. She could sense that Trip was finding the inability to publicly acknowledge their affection for each other more difficult to deal with than she was, but that was to be expected. Being human, he more than made up for the lack when they were alone. T’Pol was still adjusting to the amount of physical contact he seemed to require of her. It was fortunate, she thought, that their present circumstances prevented them from sharing living quarters. Otherwise, it was highly unlikely that either of them would be getting any sleep at all.

Arriving on the bridge, T’Pol took her duty station, nodding in acknowledgement of Ensign Sato’s cheerful greeting. Captain Jonathan Archer turned his head at the sound of Hoshi’s voice. He got up from the command chair and approached the science station where T’Pol had begun to bring up the data she planned to analyze that morning.

“Welcome back, Commander,” Archer said quietly, a small smile on his face. “It’s good to see you looking well.” He was still struggling with hurt feelings over the fact that neither of his senior officers had come to him themselves when T’Pol’s apparently life-threatening condition was discovered, instead relying on messages relayed through Dr. Phlox. T’Pol could tell from his expression that she and Trip might have permanently damaged the captain’s trust in them by failing to confide in him. Although secrecy was necessary to ensure that their commanding officer would not be implicated in the event that their decision to marry became a problem, T’Pol could not help but feel a sense of loss over the change in her relationship with Jonathan Archer.

“Thank you, Captain,” T’Pol said evenly. She held Archer’s gaze with her own. He returned her regard with so much hurt in his eyes that she felt, somehow, as if she’d failed him.

Archer cleared his throat. “I’d like to touch base with both you and Commander Tucker. Perhaps you’d like to join me in the captain’s mess at 1800 hours tomorrow evening?”

“That would be agreeable, Captain,” replied T’Pol. She was pleased by his invitation, hoping that it would provide an opportunity to regain some of their previous trust in each other. “I will relay the invitation to Commander Tucker.” Suddenly realizing that offering to tell Trip about the captain’s invitation implied that she and Trip were a couple, T’Pol hastily added, “… if it would be more convenient for you to have me do so, Captain.”

Archer smiled, not fooled for a moment by her belated attempt to salvage the situation. “Please do, Commander… I’ll see both of you tomorrow night, then?” T’Pol nodded in confirmation, redirecting her attention to her work without meeting his eyes.

Captain Archer returned to the command chair and sat down with a thoughtful look on his face.

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The Enterprise was currently en route to Denobula, having been diverted to provide rapid transportation for a member of the Denobulan delegation involved in treaty negotiations on Earth. He had been diagnosed with a rare form of aggressive cancer confined to Denobulan males. After stabilization on Earth, his physicians felt that treatment by a physician of his own species with experience in treating his condition would be in his best interest. Fortunately, Enterprise was at that point less than a week’s travel from Earth. Dr. Phlox was consulted, and agreed to manage the patient in transit. Enterprise, thanks to Commander Tucker’s continual creative tinkering with the engines, was not only the closest, but also the fastest warp-capable vessel available. For the crew of the Enterprise, this resulted in a four-week-long, very uneventful voyage as they traveled directly to Denobula at maximum warp. Although most of the crew took the uneventful mission in stride, some found the relative inactivity disturbing. Movie night had been increased to two nights a week in the attempt to give the crew something to occupy their time. Lieutenant Reed had begun offering self-defense classes to all personnel, and other members of the crew planned classes in everything from ballroom dancing to gourmet cooking for their fellow crew members who preferred more active forms of entertainment.

Back on board for less than twenty-four hours, T’Pol had thus far confined herself to spending a large amount of time in her quarters with Commander Tucker… “meditating”. Although T’Pol had attempted to interest her new husband in attending movie night with her that evening, he was thus far resistant to the idea of spending any of their off-duty time anywhere but in her quarters. She found his attitude perplexing, considering his enthusiasm for movie nights prior to their marriage. For some reason, Dr. Phlox, with whom she had discussed this puzzling issue, for want of anyone else to discuss it with, seemed to believe that, over time, Trip would eventually be willing to engage in off-duty activities that did not require the removal of clothing. Although T’Pol certainly found such activities quite pleasurable, she was concerned that other members of the crew might find it odd that she was spending so much time in her quarters alone with Commander Tucker. After all, there was a limit to how much meditation they could reasonably expect her to require.

To cover her duty station during her scheduled physician’s appointment, T’Pol had arranged for a young ensign from astrocartography to take her place during the noon hour. T’Pol was currently engaged in updating the ship’s star charts using the information obtained while Enterprise traveled the Expanse. Compensating for the many spatial anomalies that had been present in the Expanse had proved to be a challenging problem. Her calculations had to take dozens of factors into account in order to determine precise locations for the stars and other celestial bodies they had encountered. She found the activity quite rewarding. When her lunch hour relief arrived, he required very little orientation prior to competently continuing the task she had set for him. Satisfied that she had chosen her temporary replacement appropriately, T’Pol left the bridge to report to Sickbay for her appointment.

Dr. Phlox was intently studying the most recent scanning images of his critically ill Denobulan patient when T’Pol entered Sickbay. She approached his work station and stood silently behind him, giving him time to complete his analysis before making her presence known. After a few moments, when he continued to be unaware of her presence, she softly cleared her throat.

Phlox looked up in surprise, a rather harried look on his face.

“Commander!” he exclaimed. “Is it that time already?” He glanced at the chronometer on the imaging console. “I suppose it is!” he said.

“If you are otherwise occupied, I can return at another time,” offered T’Pol. She looked past him at the images currently displayed on the screen. She knew very little about Denobulan anatomy, but it was obvious from the doctor’s expression that the scans were a cause for concern.

“Of course not, Commander,” Phlox told her with a reassuring smile, as he reached out and minimized the scanning images for later review, “I’m afraid I simply lost track of time. Therapeutic challenges often have that effect on me.”

Phlox turned to T’Pol, giving her his full attention. “Let’s do a neurochemical scan, shall we?” He escorted her to a biobed and pulled a curtain for privacy. As he moved the scanner slowly over her head, he whispered to her under his breath. “How are things going with the two of you? Any problems or concerns?”

“I do have a request to make of you, Doctor,” T’Pol whispered in return, with a rather reluctant expression on her face.

Phlox completed the scan and began to study the results. “Go ahead,” he said softly, when T’Pol failed to continue.

“Vulcan females, as you are no doubt aware, Doctor, are only fertile during Pon farr. Because we are so infrequently able to conceive, we very rarely make use of… contraceptives,” said T’Pol uncomfortably. “I’m afraid that Commander Tucker and I did not take any precautions while we were on Vulcan. Is it too early for you to ascertain whether I may have conceived?”

Phlox studied T’Pol’s slightly green-flushed face, trying to determine if what he was about to tell her would be good news or bad news. Finally, he gave up trying and sighed.

“Commander, I’m sorry that I failed to explain myself in more detail when Mr. Tucker approached me after Elizabeth’s death. The truth of the matter is that, while a healthy child is certainly achievable, such a child would require a very large amount of in-vitro genetic engineering. Unassisted conception between Vulcans and Humans is physiologically impossible.”

T’Pol nodded. Surprisingly, despite the fact that bearing a child at this time in her life would effectively end her career, she found that she had mixed feelings about the information she had just been given.

“I suppose it is fortunate that we will not have that issue to deal with,” she said finally. “It is highly likely that Elizabeth will prove to be our only child.”

Phlox gave her a sympathetic smile. “Now, there’s no need to make that decision quite yet, Commander. By the time Commander Tucker is ready to retire from Starfleet, you will still be less than one hundred years old… well within a Vulcan female’s prime childbearing years. Human males remain fertile throughout their life spans, Commander.
You two may very well have the opportunity to have children together after all.”

T’Pol took a deep breath and squared her shoulders. “Thank you, Doctor,” she said.

“And… I’m sure you’ll be pleased to know that your neurochemical changes have returned to baseline,” Phlox finished with a smile, raising his voice to carry beyond the curtain as he heard the Sickbay doors open. “Your regimen of daily meditation seems to be working wonders. I recommend that you continue to meditate, with Commander Tucker’s assistance, on a daily basis for an indefinite period of time to maintain your improvement.” His eyes twinkled with irrepressible mirth as he made this pronouncement.

“Thank you, again, Doctor,” T’Pol replied dryly. Dr. Phlox was definitely enjoying being the only crew member on Enterprise privy to their secret! “I will be sure to do so.”

Phlox pulled back the privacy curtain, and came face-to-face with Commander Tucker.

“Ready for me, yet, Doc?” he asked with a cheerful grin. Glancing briefly over Phlox’s shoulder at T’Pol, he whispered, “Everything okay, Doc?”

Phlox smiled reassuringly at the tow-headed chief engineer. “Commander T’Pol and I were just finishing up, Mr. Tucker. I’ll be right with you.”

Trip smiled briefly at T’Pol and nodded.

How did the checkup go? he asked silently. She could sense his concern. He could feel her emotional turmoil.

I am well. You heard the doctor say so, husband, she replied.

Meet me in the dining hall in fifteen minutes, returned Trip. We need to talk.

T’Pol nodded in return, and brushed by him, risking a brief caress to his cheek and a look of affection as she passed, less self-conscious of displays in Phlox’s presence now that he was the keeper of their secret. Trip’s eyes followed her as she exited Sickbay. He sighed and turned back to Phlox with a broad grin, shaking his head.

“I think I’m gonna go nuts, Doc!” he laughed ruefully. Phlox took him by the arm and brought him to the laboratory. They stood among the animal cages, shielded from prying eyes and ears.

“All right, Mr. Tucker,” Phlox told him with an amused look, his arms crossed over his chest. “Tell me what’s bothering you.”

“We’ve been married for a week now, and T’Pol’s startin’ to complain that I never wanna do anythin’ except… well… you know.” Trip ran his hands through his hair in frustration. “Truth is… I know she’s right. The crew’s gonna know somethin’s up if we spend too much time together alone… but whenever I’m with her I just can’t seem to keep my hands to myself! I’m afraid if I spend too much time with her in public, I’ll forget and do somethin’ stupid that’ll give us away!”

Phlox chuckled. “You’re not the first newlywed to have this problem, Commander. Why, after my marriage to my first wife, we did nothing but enjoy each other for months afterward. My friends claimed they no longer recognized me when I finally began to associate with them again.”

“This may be normal, Doc, but it’s not a normal situation. Our careers are at stake if I mess this up,” Trip said worriedly.

“This situation will simply require time and practice, Mr. Tucker. Over time, as the crew becomes aware of my recommendation for continued daily partnered meditation… which you should actually be doing, by the way…” Trip gave him a rather guilty look. “…I believe that everyone will become accustomed to the idea that you two will be spending some time alone with each other daily, and this will no longer be an issue,” continued Phlox. “You and T’Pol will of course have to behave yourselves in public for this plan to work. That’s where practice comes in. I suggest you begin by attending large group activities in public places… Movie nights, for example,” he suggested.

Trip nodded in reluctant agreement. “Okay, Doc. I’ll give it a try.”

“Oh!” said Phlox as Trip turned to leave. “I almost forgot… T’Pol asked me to check you over for musculoskeletal injuries, abrasions and lacerations when she made this appointment for you. Are you experiencing any pain anywhere, Commander? Do you have any injuries we should be concerned about?”

Trip laughed softly and shook his head. “Just a couple sore muscles and a few scratches, Doc. I’ll let you know if there’s a problem.”

Phlox nodded and smiled. “Please be sure you do so, Mr. Tucker. I would prefer not to have to explain myself to an angry Vulcan!”

Trip laughed aloud and left Sickbay to meet his wife for lunch.

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Trip finished his duty shift at 1700 hours. Walking toward T’Pol’s quarters, he sent a tentative thought in her direction and sensed the cool, ordered mind of a Vulcan in deep meditation. Not wanting to disturb her, he headed toward his quarters instead, intending to wash off the day’s grime in deference to her sensitive nose. He’d invited her to movie night over lunch that day, but the movie didn’t start for another hour, and he had plans to give her a present that evening which was still under construction in his quarters.

Entering his cabin, Trip sat at the desk and pulled a small tool kit from his pocket, putting the final touches on a device of his own construction which he intended to mount on the wall in T’Pol’s quarters. It looked like a simple key pad, and had indeed partially been constructed of one, but biosensors inside were capable of detecting human-sized life forms up to thirty feet away, and determining their location within the ship’s corridors. He intended to use it as an early warning system to ensure that his comings and goings from T’Pol’s quarters would henceforth remain unseen by anyone on board. He hoped that she would find it reassuring enough to occasionally allow him to stay the night. Thirty minutes later, his project completed, Trip hit the showers.

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Commander Tucker and Commander T’Pol entered the dining hall together. Trip saw Malcolm sitting alone, waiting for the movie to start, and led T’Pol in that direction. Trip extended his hand and smiled, while T’Pol nodded courteously. Malcolm smiled coolly at both of them as he shook Trip’s hand.

“Welcome back, Commanders. I trust this means you are both well?” asked Malcolm politely. Although the armory officer’s usual British reserve often caused him to appear standoffish, Trip could see that there was also an element of hurt feelings in his expression that evening. Trip felt a pang of regret. Malcolm was a close friend. When Trip had chosen to marry T’Pol, he hadn’t considered what keeping such a secret might do to his relationships with his friends.

“We’re fine, Malcolm,” said Trip with an apologetic smile. “Thanks for askin’.” His eyes searched Malcolm’s face, seeking a way to get back into his friend’s good graces. T’Pol sensed Trip’s wish to speak with Malcolm alone.

“I will get popcorn,” she said, and left the two men to their conversation.

“Sorry I’ve been such a stranger…” said Trip softly to Malcolm after T’Pol was some distance away. “This thing with T’Pol…” He struggled to tell Malcolm enough to explain his actions, but not too much. “She almost died Malcolm, and I was the only one who could help her. This meditation the Doc has us doin’, it’s part of what saved her. She’s my friend, Malcolm… over and above anything else she might be to me. I couldn’t not help!”

Malcolm’s eyes narrowed at Trip’s explanation. He was silent for a moment. “I’m glad you were there for her, Trip,” he said with an envious smile. “I suppose all of us have grown rather fond of her.”

Trip smiled in relief at Malcolm’s conciliatory tone. “I’m sure she’d be pleased to know that, Malcolm,” he said.

T’Pol returned at that moment with a large bag of popcorn, and sat down next to Malcolm. She took a single kernel between her thumb and forefinger and placed it into her mouth, then wordlessly offered the bag to the two men, one brow raised in inquiry. Exchanging surprised glances, Trip and Malcolm each grabbed a handful and sat back to watch the movie.

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Trip and T’Pol walked side by side toward her quarters, discussing the evening’s entertainment.

“I believe I prefer the original Frankenstein story to this one,” commented T’Pol.

“C’mon, T’Pol!” protested Trip. “’The Bride of Frankenstein’ is a classic!”

“That very well may be the case, but I fail to see how this narrative adds any further insight into the intentions of Mary Shelly when she wrote the original work,” T’Pol responded. “In my opinion, a ‘classic’ should have greater value than mere entertainment. It should provide insight into the ‘human condition’… or the Vulcan one, as the case may be.”

“It’s just a horror movie, T’Pol,” laughed Trip.

“Ah… so now you are in agreement with me that it is not, in fact, a ‘classic’,” countered T’Pol.

Trip smiled and shook his head. “I’ve really missed arguin’ with you, y’know that?” he laughed. “… and I think you enjoy it too!”

T’Pol’s brow rose. “A challenging intellectual debate differs from an argument, Commander,” she responded, as a crewman passed them in the corridor. “An intellectual challenge is always satisfying.”

Well, I sure aim to satisfy! Trip shot back silently, grinning at her.

T’Pol’s lips twitched involuntarily at that.

When they arrived at T’Pol’s quarters, Trip scanned the corridor in both directions and, finding it momentarily empty, simply followed T’Pol inside and closed the door. He crossed the room, picked up the device and the tool kit that he’d left in her quarters when he came to pick her up for the movie, and proceeded to attach the keypad to the wall by the door. T’Pol stood looking over his shoulder.

“Is that a security system?” she guessed, studying the device with interest.

“Sort of…,“ Trip told her in a preoccupied voice as he drove in the last fastener. “There…,“ he said. “…all done.” He turned to T’Pol with a broad grin. “I think you’re gonna like this! Here… lemme show you how it works… You just flip this up…” He lifted up the false keypad to reveal a screen beneath containing a diagram of the corridors surrounding T’Pol’s quarters. Three red blips moved down the corridor in front of the door where they were standing. “See? Those are members of the crew outside your door,” he said softly. “Now we know if it’s safe for me to leave or not.” He stepped back from the device and took her in his arms. “Now we can stay together as long as we want, and no one will see me leave,” he whispered.

T’Pol leaned back in his arms to gaze into his face. “It truly distresses you not to be able to sleep beside me and wake with me in the morning, doesn’t it?” she asked him in a puzzled voice. A pang of poignant sorrow pierced her through the bond.

Trip smiled back at her with a sad, shamefaced expression. “Yeah, I suppose it does,” he admitted. “I guess this present was more for me than for you, since sleeping apart doesn’t bother you.” he said wistfully.

“On the contrary, husband… I would much prefer waking in the same bed with you each morning. Unfortunately, I’m concerned that if we make a habit of it, eventually someone will notice, even with all of your ingenious warning systems in place,” T’Pol replied reluctantly.

“Maybe we could just spend the night together occasionally… on special occasions,” Trip suggested.

T’Pol placed her head back on his chest and settled comfortably in his arms. She remembered the first time she had embraced him in this way, and a flash of Elizabeth’s tiny face came unbidden to her mind. “If you wish to stay, I will not ask you to leave,” she whispered, her eyes moist.

Trip kissed the top of her head. “Come and lie down with me… just for a while,” he said.

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Trip yawned and stretched as he strolled down the corridor after his duty shift the following day. His early warning system had worked like a charm, allowing him to make a clean getaway at 0500 that morning, but he was paying for the lack of sleep by the end of the day. He was forced to admit to himself that T’Pol had been right. Even at that early hour, he’d nearly been spotted by a crewman on his way to the workout room for his morning exercise. He’d have to save overnight stays for really special occasions. Trip reached his destination and pressed the door chime.

“Come in,” came Captain Archer’s voice from the other side of the door.

Entering the room, Trip saw Jonathan Archer turn from his desk and get to his feet with a surprised look.

“Well… welcome back, Trip!” he said with a hesitant smile. “I thought we had plans for dinner in an hour?” He offered his hand. Trip took it with a grin and shook it vigorously.

“I’ll be there, Cap’n…,” Trip reassured him, “… but I wanted to talk to you a little in private first.”

Archer sat down, and indicated that Trip should do so as well.

“So… what’s on your mind, Mr. Tucker?” asked Archer in a businesslike fashion, trying valiantly to pretend as if nothing had changed between them.

“I realize that you’re prob’ly wonderin’ what the hell this business was with me an’ T’Pol goin’ off together to Vulcan like that,” Trip said in a rush, then held his breath waiting for his friend’s reaction.

Archer gave him a rueful smile. “I believe Dr. Phlox’s explanation was a little short on details,” he replied.

Trip smiled at him apologetically. “I’m sorry I didn’t come to you from the beginning with this Jon, but I just thought it was safer for everybody concerned if you stayed uninvolved.”

“I see…,” said Archer with a hurt look. “I guess I’ve just become your commanding officer and not your friend, then?”

Trip shook his head and smiled reassuringly. “It’s because you’re my friend that I can’t allow you to be affected by this.”

Archer shook his head. “I just hope you two know what you’re doing,” he said emphatically.

“That’s just the point, Jon,” replied Trip. “As far as you and the rest of the Enterprise crew are concerned, all we’re doing are our jobs.”

“There are rumors circulating already, Trip,” Archer told him. “I’m afraid it’s too late for that.”

Trip sighed and nodded. “I know that… but Dr. Phlox thinks that once the crew becomes used to the idea of us meditatin’ together every day, as long as we remain strictly professional with each other in public, the rumors will die down.”

“Will you and T’Pol be able to do that?” Archer asked.

“I promise you, Cap’n, that we’ll never behave in any way but a completely professional manner with each other,” Trip said firmly. “You have my word on it.”

“Then I guess what we’re dealing with here is a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ situation,” said Archer with a reluctant smile.

“Now, I never said anythin’ like that!” Trip grinned back.

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Dr. Phlox was in the middle of animal feeding rounds when the vital signs alarm on the biobed containing the Denobulan ambassador went off again. Rushing to his bedside, he saw that his patient’s heart rate and blood pressure had dropped to critical levels. Preparing a hypospray of cordrazine, he administered the stimulant, and then placed his patient on a continuous infusion to maintain circulation. As the Denobulan’s vital signs stabilized, Phlox sat heavily in a chair next to his bedside and rubbed the back of his neck

He looked at the pale face of the man whom he’d begun to think of as a friend, even though they’d never spoken to each other. Although the ambassador had been unconscious since he’d been on board, Phlox felt somehow connected to him after all of the labor he had put into trying to keep him alive. When he’d first come on board, Phlox had hoped that the metastatic lesions present throughout his patient’s brain would respond to the radiation treatments and the monoclonal antibody treatments that had been recommended by the specialists on Denobula. Phlox had administered them immediately after the patient’s arrival on Enterprise. As the days passed, the cerebral swelling, caused by both the disease process and the subsequent treatment, gradually caused compression of the patient’s brainstem, first affecting his respiratory function. Even after he’d had to place a tracheostomy between the air bladders in his patient’s anterior neck, Phlox was still hopeful that the changes might still be reversible. He’d placed the patient on respiratory support, delivering twenty breaths per minute of an enriched gaseous mixture as close to his homeworld’s native atmosphere as he could manage. That morning, though, his patient had begun to show signs that the cerebral swelling was beginning to affect his autonomic nervous system, slowing his heart rate and dropping his blood pressure. It was simply a matter of time before he went into cardiac arrest, and there was absolutely nothing Phlox could do about it.

Phlox put his hands over his face. He was on the verge of tears. Between the loss of baby Elizabeth less than a month before, and now the immanent loss of the patient at his side, he was nearing the breaking point. His gregarious Denobulan soul was starving for lack of a friend and confidante. Although everyone on Enterprise treated him in a friendly fashion, when it came down to it, he was still the doctor, and they were still his patients. The only crew member who’d even attempted to cross that barrier was Elizabeth Cutler, his medic. He regretted now that he’d discouraged her overtures. However inappropriate a romantic relationship between them might have been, at least it would have provided him with a shoulder to cry on.

The biobed alarm startled him from his reverie. His patient’s heart rhythm was now agonal, slowly and lazily turning up and down the ECG monitor. Ignoring the futility of the situation, Phlox placed the cardiac stimulator on the patient’s chest and activated it. The sensors within the device, programmed not to shock a patient who was too far gone to benefit, would not permit the delivery of a shock. Cursing in Denobulan, Phlox grabbed the defibrillator, and began to program it manually, so he could deliver the shock himself.

A gentle hand grasped his arm, and the soft voice of Elizabeth Cutler said quietly in his ear, “He’s gone, Doctor… Let it go…”

Phlox looked up at the ECG monitor with tears on his face to find an unwavering flat line. Releasing the cardiac stimulator so that it fell to the bed, he turned to the medic and put his arms around her, sobbing as she gently rubbed his back and murmured words of comfort.

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Jonathan Archer sat with Commanders T’Pol and Tucker at dinner that evening in the captain’s mess. After their initial greetings and expressions of relief that everyone was well, it had turned into an unusually silent, rather awkward evening, as the most pressing topic of discussion was off-limits, by mutual understanding, to all parties present. T’Pol sat without speaking, as usual, and ate a plate of raw vegetables painstakingly with a knife and fork. Both Trip and Archer had opted for steak, and Trip was enjoying every bite.

“Oh, boy! This is good.” he said with his mouth full, closing his eyes as he chewed as if he were eating ambrosia. “I haven’t had meat in two weeks!”

T’Pol said nothing. She made brief eye contact with Trip, though, who then suddenly laughed so hard he choked. Archer glanced from one to the other with a puzzled smile. He was definitely missing something here!

The comm suddenly came to life, interrupting their meal.

“Sickbay to Captain Archer,” said a female voice.

Archer sighed and looked longingly at his untouched steak, then got up from the table to answer.

“Archer here,” he responded.

“Captain, this is Crewman Cutler. Would you mind coming to Sickbay, sir? I need your assistance.”

Archer looked questioningly at Trip, who shrugged.

“I’m on my way,” he told the distressed sounding medic.

Turning back to the table, he said apologetically, “Sorry about our dinner. Feel free to stay and finish your meal… Maybe we could make this a regular gathering again now that things have calmed down on board.”

T’Pol nodded agreeably, and Trip grinned. “We’d like that, Cap’n… anytime.”
Archer smiled and shook his head on his way out of the door. He’d have to talk to them about accepting invitations as a couple. It was a dead giveaway.

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As Archer entered Sickbay, he was met by a very worried looking Crewman Cutler.

“Thank you for coming, Captain,” she told him softly. “I’m sorry I interrupted your dinner… but I didn’t know who else to call.”

“What’s the problem, Crewman?” asked Archer in a concerned tone of voice. “Where’s Doctor Phlox?”

Cutler pointed toward the isolation curtains surrounding biobed three. Archer stepped forward and pulled back the curtain. Phlox sat with his head in his hands in a chair next to the bed. A still figure completely covered by a sheet lay on the bed. From the silhouette, Archer could see that it was the Denobulan ambassador. Phlox looked up as Archer pulled the curtain. His eyes were reddened and he had tears on his face.

“Hello Captain,” he said bleakly. “I was just about to call you… There is no longer any need for haste with regard to the transportation of the Denobulan ambassador.”

Archer looked at Phlox sympathetically. “I’m sure you did everything you could,” he reassured him.

“Yes, Captain…I did,” said Phlox, looking at the motionless figure on the bed with a pained expression on his face. “And it wasn’t enough.” He gave Archer a small, bitter smile. “I seem to be having that problem much more often these days.”

Archer returned his smile with an understanding one of his own.

“It’s really hard to watch someone you’re responsible for die, even when you know there’s nothing else you could have done for them,” he said, his eyes haunted by memories of the Xindi conflict.

Both men gazed at each other for several moments, each of them recognizing in the other a kindred spirit.

Archer broke the silence first.

“Listen… um… Phlox,” he said hesitantly. “I’ve got dinner waiting for me in the officer’s mess. I’m sure the cook could rustle up something for you too, if you’d like to join me.”

Phlox smiled at him gratefully, then regretfully shook his head. “I appreciate the invitation Captain, but I’ve still got quite a lot of work to do,” he said, nodding in the direction of the late Denobulan ambassador. “Perhaps my findings will give my colleagues on Denobula some insight into what went wrong.”

Archer nodded in understanding, looking vaguely queasy. He turned and began to walk toward the door. Stopping suddenly, he turned back toward Phlox.

“Phlox?” he called. Phlox turned away from the work station where he was already pulling up the patient’s medical records to aid his dictation. “Yes, Captain?” he answered briskly, appearing almost as cheerful as usual.

Archer gave him a friendly smile. “Off-duty, my friends call me Jon,” he said.

Phlox’s smile widened even farther, to a size physically impossible for anyone but a Denobulan. He nodded his thanks, not trusting himself to speak, then turned back to his work.

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One week later, Trip and T’Pol sat on the floor facing each other on either side of the meditation table in her quarters, both focused on the flame of the candle that burned between them. T’Pol sighed and looked away.

“What’s wrong?” asked Trip softly, as he maintained his focus on the flame.

“I am having difficulty concentrating,” replied T’Pol. “I am finding your emotional state too disturbing.”

Trip looked away from the candle and gave her a puzzled look. “What do you mean? I’m not having any trouble.”

T’Pol gave him a mildly exasperated look. “I am quite aware of that, husband, but your state of sexual arousal is tremendously… distracting. Do you realize that it has been three days since we have been intimate?”

Trip laughed aloud. “Are you sure it’s me you’re feelin’, darlin’, and not you?”

“Quite sure,” T’Pol said emphatically.

“Look, T’Pol,” Trip said with an amused smile. “Here I am… meditatin’… doin’ what you asked me to do. I can’t help it if bein’ in the same room with you makes me want you. You’re either gonna have to get used to meditatin’ with me when I feel this way… or you’re gonna have to let me do somethin’ about it!”

T’Pol eyed him for a moment, one brow cocked up, then she blew out the candle. Standing up, she took Trip by the hand and pulled him to his feet as well. Stepping into the circle of his arms, she placed both arms around his neck, stood on her toes with the entire length of her body softly in contact with his, and proceeded to kiss him until he was weak in the knees. She broke off the kiss to catch her breath.

“I believe I would prefer to do something about it,” she whispered in a sultry voice.

Trip laughed softly in triumph and lowered his mouth to hers to do just that.

End

 


Comments:

Asso

How it's beautiful we can read  this series once again!:D

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