She slid out of their bed without a sound.
Trip continued to sleep as she reached for his undershirt and pulled it on. He had tossed it aside the night before, right before they mated for the thirty-sixth time in the eleven days since she first bared herself to him, and even now, it still bore his unmistakable scent. T’Pol inhaled deeply, her eyes locked on the sleeping form of her human partner, before backing to the open hatch leading to the rest of the ship. Had there been anyone else aboard, she would have insisted that they close the door, but such a demand was patently illogical in their current situation.
Meditation beckoned, but T’Pol instead angled directly toward the medical suite, hoping to finish her latest scans before Trip woke. In between thoroughly enjoying their sexual relationship even though a deeply buried part of her insisted that she should not, she had been steadily gathering data about her current bio-chemistry in an attempt to understand what exactly it was that was happening to her. Every variable needed to be considered and this would be the first opportunity she had since day three to make a scan while Trip was asleep.
Even with the outdated equipment aboard the T’Muna-Doth, she was able to take detailed readings of her brain patterns and, once the task was complete, she sat quietly at the small table to study the results of her scan. Until now, she had resisted formulating a hypothesis as to why she seemed unable to control herself around Trip when he was feeling aroused, and despite the scans in front of her, she still resisted putting her thoughts into actual words. Never theorize before you have all the data, her instructors had told her at the Science Academy. Invariably, you manipulate the facts to suit those theories instead of manipulating the theories to suit facts.
“You’re up early,” Trip mumbled a short time later as he stumbled into the joint kitchen/med-bay, wearing only his pants. His hair was sticking up in unusual directions and he gave her meal – the curiously flavored fruit that could be found all over the island – a shudder before taking a seat in front of her. As he did every single time he entered this compartment, Trip shot the medical suite on the far side a disgusted look. T’Pol had attempted to explain the thought processes behind combining a dining area and a sickbay – both locations required extensive sterilization, as well as cooling and heating units so combining them had seemed to the shipbuilders to be logical – but Trip had countered that the entire layout was simply ‘creepy.’
Unfortunately, T’Pol could not entirely refute that argument, and it may very well have been at the heart of the reason the type four was ultimately decommissioned. No one, not even a Vulcan, wanted to consume a meal on a table that had used to perform emergency surgery.
“I had a task to complete,” she replied before pushing her unfinished ‘mango-nut’ (as Trip called them) toward him. He sighed but accepted the fork she offered and slowly began to eat. His eyes narrowed as she picked up the two medical electrodes that had been concealed behind her plate and began to affix them to her temples. “As you know,” she said as she worked, “I have been attempting to understand my condition.”
“And from the look in your eye,” Trip said with a smile, “you’ve figured it out.”
“Not yet,” T’Pol corrected. She glanced in the direction of the monitor on the wall to confirm that it was in fact receiving the signal from the two electrodes. Once satisfied, she returned her attention to the human sitting across the small table from her. “Trip,” she said simply, locking eyes with him, “I am wearing absolutely nothing under this shirt.” His eyes immediately darkened and T’Pol could feel a reciprocating swell of sensation as her body immediately responded to his sudden arousal. She could feel her nipples suddenly strain against the thin material of the shirt, could feel her heart rate increase, could taste the sudden desire for this man racing through her.
And exactly as she feared, the medical computer began blaring an alarm.
Trip sprang out of his seat with surprise, his eyes darting back and forth between her and the wall monitor. His arousal was gone almost at once, replaced by an almost suffocating concern and fear that faded only when T’Pol casually removed the electrodes and rose to her feet. She walked unhurriedly to the medical computer and examined the results.
Subject displaying symptoms of early onset of blood fever, the readout declared. Recommend immediate relocation in preparation for time of mating.
“Time of matin’?” Trip read aloud from over her shoulder. “But I thought you said … does this mean we’ve gotta deal with that pon farr thing after all?”
“Not exactly,” T’Pol said. “Pon farr is almost exclusively a male condition,” she continued. There were a few instances that she knew of where an unmarried, unattached female nearing the end of her childbearing years had entered such a cycle on her own, but they were rare. “When the male enters his Time,” she said, “he is secluded with his mate who enters a reciprocal state.” Her eyebrows shot up as she realized that this likely meant a mental bond was present in that situation. How else would the female’s body know when to trigger its own cycle?
And why had T’Les never warned her about this?
“Is that what’s happenin’ to you?” Trip asked. He was pale and clearly worried if the thickness of his accent was any indication, but managed to avoid an emotional display for which T’Pol was quite grateful. “You’re enterin’ this … plak tow,” he said, reading the word off the monitor.
“In part,” T’Pol replied, “I think that might be the case.” She powered the monitor down and returned to her seat. “I do not believe that it is a complete blood fever, however,” she continued, “but rather … something else.”
“Well … crap,” Trip grumbled. He dropped heavily into his seat. “This is because of me, isn’t it?” T’Pol quirked an eyebrow, but he kept talking. “Since I’m not Vulcan,” he guessed, “and I’m not tied to a seven year cycle, I’m messin’ you up somehow.” His shoulders slumped and he shook his head. “I knew this was my fault,” he grumbled.
“Trip, stop.” He refused to look at her and T’Pol winced at the waves of guilt rolling off him. “I am alive because of you, Trip,” she said, intentionally using the same words he had used the night they had first mated in the hopes it would cause him to at least smile. “We are the first of our species to have joined,” she pointed out when he did not react, touching his face with the fingers of her right hand. “It is inevitable that there will be a … learning curve.”
“Pretty steep one,” he muttered. “This has to be screwin’ your body chemistry up,” he said. “If your people evolved to only go through this every seven years, then you havin’ to deal with my human urges every seven minutes is gonna burn you out.”
“We have differences,” T’Pol quoted. She was surprised at how calm she felt. “May we, together, become greater than the sum of both of us.”
“Ideally, do no harm,” Trip retorted. “How is this not doing harm to you?” Another bright flash of guilt lanced through her and she recoiled from it, recognizing the distinct flavor of Trip’s emotions. She breathed through the moment and used her hand to tilt his face up so their eyes could meet.
“Do you wish to end this?” she inquired. “Do you wish us to return as we were before?” she clarified when he gave her a confused look.
“God, no,” he replied and she could feel the strength of his conviction. It caused her to offer him a discreet smile that T’Les would have chastised her for. She extended her hand to him and, with no hesitation at all, he followed suit, touching their fingers in the ozh’esta. The bond between them hummed.
“Then we shall find a way to adapt,” T’Pol said simply.
“Right.” Trip glanced down. “I’ll start workin’ on controllin’ myself more,” he said before making a face. “Includin’ meditation, I guess.”
“A strict regimen of physical exercise and mental disciplines would not go amiss,” T’Pol said. Although she did not admit it out loud, she was curious as to how long it would take Trip to master fourth-tier mental disciplines. She never harbored any doubts that he was capable of such a feat, no matter that the level of control and general intelligence was beyond most Vulcans. In the time since she had known him, he had consistently surprised her, so why should this be any different?
“Maybe you could show me how to use that lirpa,” he suggested. From the casual way he mentioned it, T’Pol was sure he had no idea how important the weapon was to her culture, but she nodded in acquiescence nonetheless, recognizing his attempts at making an effort to understand her people better.
“And, of course,” she deadpanned, “a regular schedule of sexual intercourse to ameliorate your urges is absolutely necessary.”
The color he turned then was most gratifying.
Trip retreated to the reactor room moments later where he clearly intended to spend the rest of the day working on various shipboard repairs. For her part, T’Pol retired to their cabin so she could dress more appropriately (although she did inexplicably decide to continue wearing his shirt under her uniform) before secluding herself in the mediation compartment. Her whitespace came easily today which she attributed to finally understanding what had been happening to her over the last two weeks. Refreshed and controlled, she joined Trip in the reactor room to lend aid as appropriate; T’Pol found it strangely satisfying that, despite being twice his age with considerably more education and training, she always learned something new in Trip’s presence. They spent an hour discussing his idea about constructing a transporter, which turned into an argument.
And that turned into an especially heated sexual encounter.
Afterward, Trip exiled her from the reactor room, claiming that he would get more work done if she was not ‘tempting him with her feminine guiles,’ although T’Pol suspected he was suffering from another bout of misplaced guilt at having failed to ‘control himself’ as he’d intended. She retreated to the command deck where she busied herself with examining the sensor capabilities of the T’Muna-Doth. It took nearly an hour, but she successfully managed to conduct a detailed scan of the surveillance satellite Enterprise left in orbit. Another hour passed as she studied the schematics of the orbiting device in order to determine how much of it they could salvage for spare parts, during which time she also set the sensors to cycle through all of the standard scans. It was illogical, she thought, to not bring back as much useful scientific data as possible.
“I want to do a level ten diagnostic,” Trip announced some time later, his unexpected voice causing T’Pol to nearly jump. She glanced toward where he perched atop the ladder leading down to the alpha deck and leaned on the floor of the bridge, half in and half out. “I know you normally don’t do tens outside a spacedock,” he continued, “but I keep findin’ ghosts in the coding and there’s a power fluctuation in nacelle two that I can’t seem to lock down.”
“How long will that take?” T’Pol asked. They were already running low on food other than the ‘mango-nuts,’ although Trip could easily survive on some of the fish in the ocean. She made a mental note to encourage him to look at obtaining some of the aquatic creatures for consumption to supplement his diet.
“I have absolutely no idea,” he replied sheepishly. “Ideally, this is a two-person job,” he added, looking anywhere but at her. T’Pol could not but to be amused at his implication, although she managed to keep it from her face.
“We will find a way, Trip,” she told him and he nodded. “Shall we begin tomorrow?”
“Day after,” Tucker answered. “Tomorrow, I’ve got to shut the reactor completely down so I can clean the intermix chamber.” He half-smiled. “Plus, we should get started on the whole exercise and brain camp thing in the morning.”
“Agreed,” T’Pol said. She gestured to the curving viewscreen that was displaying a blown-up schematic. “I have been examining the satellite Enterprise left behind,” she said. “I believe that we might be able to use some of the components to partially repair our communications array.”
“It’ll have to wait,” Trip declared. “Right now, I wouldn’t even think about taking the T’Muna into orbit, not until we’re sure there aren’t any microfractures.” T’Pol nodded slightly in acknowledgement and opened her mouth to speak when the sensor console chimed. She frowned and brought up the appropriate display on the main viewer. Trip climbed the rest of the way into the command deck and leaned forward. “Something up?” he asked.
“There are radioactive isotopes of barium, cerium, lead, molybdenum, and zirconium in the atmosphere,” she said as she rapidly input a series of additional commands. Instantly, the shipboard computer began measuring the rates of decay and counting backward to establish when each of the isotopes was created. They were all identical. “A fission device was detonated on this planet shortly after our crash-landing,” she revealed, one eyebrow climbing.
“They used an atomic bomb?” Trip was clearly aghast. “These people aren’t capable of building one of those!” T’Pol looked at him.
“We have been exposed to only one continent, Trip,” she said. “It is not illogical to presume that there are different technological levels around this planet.” T’Pol paused. “The detonation of this weapon is likely the reason Enterprise was not allowed to provide us with the entire seven day grace period,” she theorized. Trip grunted in agreement but didn’t take his eyes off the viewscreen. “If you are concerned about radiation sickness,” T’Pol began, but he shook his head.
“I’m not,” he said. “We’re too far away and it was too long ago. If we were gonna get sick, it would’ve already happened.” When she gave him another questioning look, he sighed. “It’s just … we might have been responsible for this, T’Pol.” He shook his head. “First, Paraagan, now this.” Disgust was in his voice when he next spoke. “Maybe you Vulcans were right. Maybe we weren’t ready to be out here.”
“From what we have seen,” T’Pol said softly, “the Ekosians do not need an outside force to encourage them to wage self-destructive wars.” She considered standing and approaching him, but decided against it. Rather than help, her proximity to Trip might actually hinder him for a change and having a sexual encounter on the command deck was most inappropriate.
“Yeah,” Trip said. “God,” he murmured suddenly. “The cap’n. He probably thought he caused this.” T’Pol winced – she had hoped that Trip would not consider that, but once again, she’d underestimated him. “Starfleet probably thought he caused this,” Trip added with growing despair. “Which means he was probably ordered back to Earth to face a court-martial.”
“That is likely,” she agreed sadly. “There is nothing we can do, Trip,” she pointed out rationally. “If we focus on our jobs, we can take the truth back to Earth.”
“And clear Jon’s name,” Trip said with a nod. He glanced once in her direction but intentionally avoided eye contact. “I’m gonna go meditate,” he declared. “I think it might do me good.”
“It will beneficial for both of us,” T’Pol said. She pushed out of the chair and powered down everything but the essentials. The sensors were already programmed to conduct an omnidirectional sweep every thirty minutes with an alert subroutine in place should anything be detected within certain parameters. “If it is agreeable with you,” she said, “I would like to join your meditation.” Trip nodded.
But at the last moment, T’Pol changed her mind and pulled him into their sleeping compartment.
Meditation could wait.