She was strangely eager today.
The morning dawned as it had the previous ten days, with no sign that anything was different, but T’Pol was unable to shake the sensation that everything was about to change. She took extra care during her morning routine to ensure that there was nothing amiss or that anything had penetrated the perimeter of their sanctuary, whether it be rabid beasts of the two or four-legged kind. Nothing was ever out of place, no matter how often she checked, but T’Pol simply could not entirely suppress the unexplained agitation that was driving her.
So instead, she ignored it.
She could not remember the last time she heard anything but the sound of her own voice and, with each day that passed, T’Pol had grown more concerned. Trip remained where he was, flat on his back and so deeply unconscious that it was almost impossible to tell that he was still alive. He hovered in the twilight state between living and death, accepting the water and other liquid nourishment she fed him but never waking, never stirring, never opening his eyes and becoming Trip once more. She clung to the fact that his condition was not worsening.
But neither did it appear to be getting any better.
The first three days following the meld had left T’Pol in a constant state of anxiety. She had been hyper-sensitive toward Trip’s condition, incorrectly interpreting any change in his breathing patterns or change of expression, and the hours crawled by as she stared at his unmoving body, urging him to wake if only for a few seconds. Every hour, she would touch his face, her fingers automatically falling into the proper alignment, but she did not actively seek to meld with him out of fear that she might inflict additional harm. Instead, she simply stretched out with her consciousness, desperate to find a spark that would indicate he was finally rousing from the torpor.
And every hour, she would withdraw her hand, disappointed and terrified that the Trip she knew was gone, that this was nothing more than a hollow, empty shell, and that she would never again hear his laugh, or see his smile, or feel his touch.
Without the control that he had learned as a child, Trip urinated and defecated whenever his body required it, and T’Pol dutifully attended to cleaning him up afterward. After the second time this occurred, she left him unclothed but covered his body with one of the many sheets found in the cabin. By the fourth time, she had rigged a rudimentary condom catheter from the remains of their medical kits that fit around his penis for his more frequent urinations as she worked to keep him hydrated.
She was struck by the similarity in his current position to how helpless she had been during the Fullara, although admittedly, she did not have deep lacerations on her torso as he did. The comparison was still apt, however. She had been totally reliant on others for even the most basic of tasks and, despite acknowledging the illogic of the thought, she hoped that this was simply the universe’s way of achieving equilibrium.
Curiously, during this time, T’Pol felt more centered and in control of herself than she had for months. Her mind was clear, her thoughts sharp, and her meditative state was easily reached. Once she considered it, she realized that she had not felt this stable since before Tolaris entered her life, and not an hour passed without T’Pol casting worried looks at Trip. More than anything, she desperately hoped that she had not compounded the error by somehow transferring the worst of her condition to him.
For reasons she could not adequately explain, however, she did not think that was so. Despite him showing no sign of recovery, a part of T’Pol was convinced that Trip would survive. She briefly blamed it on her exposure to humanity and their ridiculous belief in ‘hope,’ but that did not prevent her from clinging to the curious feeling.
By the second day, she had established a pattern. When the sun rose, she would attend to Trip’s bodily needs, whether it was washing urine or feces away, or checking his bandages to make sure he was not bleeding, or even giving him a dose of the painkiller she had developed from a local plant that was, according to the tiny medical computer in their survival kit, entirely safe for human use. Afterward, she would spend an hour in meditation before feeding him – she recycled parts of the now depleted medical kit to craft a liquid drip for food and water – which she would follow by once again making sure his body was clean. She would then do whatever chores were necessary around the cabin, sometimes meditating again until midday, at which point she would attend to Trip, feed herself, and continue whatever had been occupying her attention from the morning. Throughout the rest of the day, she would periodically check on him, attending to his needs as appropriate, until the sun disappeared. At this point, she would either meditate or simply retire to the bed she had set up in Trip’s room.
And, as she quickly discovered, even asleep or meditating, she was always cognizant of the sounds he made.
On the third day after the attack, T’Pol began talking to his comatose body. It was a spur-of-the-moment decision brought on both by her desire to actually do something and the growing sense of loneliness that she was not entirely able to suppress. She spoke about everything and anything that came to mind – her father, Enterprise, her thoughts on various stellar anomalies, her thoughts about some of Surak’s teachings and how they clashed with many of the High Command’s actions, her time aboard the Seleya, her strained relationship with T’Les – and she only stopped when she meditated or slept. It pained her that he could not respond and she quickly realized that what she missed the most was talking with him, not at him.
Today, ten local days after the meld, something was different. Every time she opened her mouth to speak, the words either stalled in her throat or hung heavy in the otherwise silent cabin. The ambient noises were louder than they should have been, and every one of T’Pol’s senses seemed to be keyed up, to the point that it was impossible for her to even find her whitespace.
And when Trip groaned, she suddenly knew why.
The sound spurred her into immediate action and she virtually sprinted across the lodge, desperately trying to ignore the unusual sensation tickling the back of her mind while she focused on Trip. His eyes were still closed, but he was wetting his lips with his tongue, which she took as a clear sign that he was thirsty. Reaching for the water bottle she had already laced with the painkillers, she quickly took a seat on his bed.
“Drink,” T’Pol instructed smoothly as she pushed the nipple of the plastic bottle against his lips while carefully helping him lean forward slightly. “Slowly,” she cautioned as he sucked greedily, water spilling out of his mouth. “It will make you drowsy.” Trip opened unfocused eyes and locked gazes with her.
“T’Pol?” he ventured. His eyes slid shut almost immediately.
“Yes,” she replied, pulling the bottle away and reaching for a nearby piece of cloth so she could wipe down his damp face and neck. The tickle increased in intensity and she drew in a steadying breath. Surely it could not mean what she thought it might.
“Where’s Phlox?” Tucker asked abruptly, his voice slurring almost to the point of incoherence.
“We are not aboard Enterprise, Trip,” T’Pol told him as she angled the bottle closer so he could sip once more. Tucker wrinkled his brow in confusion.
“What?” he asked. “‘Member ‘splosion in ‘ngineerin’ and …” His accent was even thicker than normal, though she suspected that was due to his barely conscious state. She pushed down the sensation of drowsiness and successfully managed to ignore how … alien it felt. “Shuttlepod crash?” Trip asked a moment later, once more trying to focus his eyes on her.
“We crashed on Ekos some time ago,” T’Pol reminded him. She set the water bottle aside and reached for the medical scanner. “You were attacked by a local creature,” she began as she began taking his readings.
“A bear,” Trip murmured. His eyes closed and he sagged back against the bed, wincing as he did. “Was a bear,” he muttered. Again, his bright blue eyes snapped open and he pinned her with a look that seemed to pierce through to her very katra. “Gonna be okay?” he asked.
“I think so, yes.” T’Pol continued to stroke his upper chest, neck and chin with the damp rag and felt an immense pressure lift from her shoulders. The smile he gave her was soft, warm and so heartfelt that she could almost feel his regard for her rolling off him. Despite her best efforts, she realized that she was returning the gesture although he was likely unaware of it if the lack of focus in his eyes was any indication, and she quickly schooled her face to stoicism. Closing his eyes, Tucker slumped back into the bed.
“T’Pol,” Trip said a moment later. “I can’t feel my arm.”
Her breath caught. The medical scanner had not indicated any nerve damage, but it had been wrong before and was barely worth calling a scanner, so limited in capability was it. If one of Trip’s arms was permanently paralyzed … it would change the entire dynamic of their survival approach. For that matter, how would he react to such impairment? As she had seen during the meld, he still defined himself by his position in Starfleet, and a one-armed engineer would have considerable difficulty. When Tucker opened his eyes, T’Pol was surprised at the lack of fear on his face. Clearly, she had overestimated his coherence, although she did not rule out misjudging the effectiveness of the analgesic compound. She wet her lips and swallowed.
“I’m sorry,” she began and Tucker gave her a sleepy smile.
“T’Pol,” Trip murmured, “you’re sittin’ on mah hand.” Startled, T’Pol glanced down to where Tucker’s hand vanished underneath her posterior. She flushed dark green.
And stood up.
A moment later, Trip was deeply asleep once more, but she could tell that this was a natural, healing sleep, not the frightening comatose-like state he had been in since the meld. Relief warred with concern – she could not recall an instance when she was more comforted over hearing a few simple words from an alien male, but at the same time, she could not shake the feeling that the meld might have damaged him somehow. Humans did not naturally linger in trance-like states following an injury, did they? She consulted the limited database available within the hand-held medical scanner but it provided no answers; instead, the device simply informed her to seek a medical professional to attend to Trip’s injuries. T’Pol frowned and silently wished she had spent additional time studying human anatomy and biology instead of focusing her attention on their history and politics.
With nothing else to do but wait until he woke once, T’Pol walked to the small area she had set aside for meditation and sank down into the proper posture. Her eyes remained locked on Tucker’s slack face and, with a jolt of surprise, she realized that at some point she had synchronized her breathing with his. It was most illogical.
Meditation did not come easy for a change. Continued worry over Trip as well the lingering sense of … something amiss conspired with the curious sensations in her mind. At first, she had thought they were lingering after-effects from the meld, or perhaps some unexpected aspect of the Pa’nar causing her to experience hallucinations. Such symptoms were not entirely uncommon – some of the sufferers of the melder’s disease claimed to be more sensitive to the emotions of others than ever before, especially in the later stages. This was different, though, and, now with concern over Trip lessened, she focused her full attention on the sensations.
And almost at once, she felt a rush of foreign emotion and sensation – confusion, exhaustion, pain, relief – course into her, as if she had suddenly removed a dam. Under the unexpected deluge, she struggled for control, fought against a tidal wave of alien experiences that momentarily threatened to overwhelm her. Her body was sluggish with agony, heavy with arousal, tense with excitement, quivering with fear … and none of it was hers.
T’Pol’s eyes snapped open and her breath caught. She stared at Trip with wide eyes. Apparently the ancient stories were true. Direct cerebral linkage was possible between mates and the explanation for the tradition of newlyweds living together for a year suddenly made perfect sense.
And wondered how in Surak’s name she was going to explain this to Trip, especially after she had been so merciless with her … teasing about Ah’len and the bowl of pebbles. T’Pol sat there in silence, staring at Tucker, unable to determine whether she should be angry, content, terrified or horribly amused. She closed her eyes once more and began breathing in a careful pattern. Meditation was no longer desired, it was now necessary. Once she understood her own turbulent emotions in regards to this new development, she could begin to formulate a plan to inform Trip of their altered status.
Life was certainly never dull around Charles Tucker.