God, he was frustrated.
Not in the traditional way, the way he had been while stuck aboard Enterprise when he had the urge to take a very cold shower every time he argued or flirted with T'Pol, but in a different manner. His instincts were screaming at him that she was lying, that something big had come up in her meditations, but for the life of him, Trip didn't know how to ask what it was without feeling like he was being unnecessarily nosy. He had made a concentrated effort to not be That Guy from the moment they officially became a couple – since a little earlier, actually – mostly due to his now better than average understanding of Vulcans. T'Pol's species were intensely, absurdly private and Trip wanted to respect her and her culture. Sure, he shared any and everything with her, but went out of his way to not push her out of her preferred boundaries.
This felt different for some reason, but then, his instincts had been so out-of-whack in regards to her – how long exactly had he suffered under the delusion she and Jon had something going on? – that he remained confused as to the source of his feelings. Did he just want it to be different or was this one of those weird instances where she wanted him to bring it up, but due to her upbringing, wouldn't actually initiate the discussion and was thus relying on this bond thing? God. And he'd thought human women were complicated.
To make matters worse, the closer they got to the non-responsive communications buoy, the more apparent it was becoming that the thing had been destroyed. Trip had been desperately hoping it was a simple software glitch or system malfunction, something he could repair here on the T'Muna-Doth or there on the buoy, so they could make contact with Starfleet Command. He didn't want to admit it to T'Pol, but he had serious doubts this ship could make it back to civilized space. Sure, she was tough and resilient, but the evidence was pretty clear that her psychological damage was a lot more severe than he thought.
Trip frowned. Structural damage, not psychological. He was thinking about the T'Muna-Doth, not T'Pol.
"We are nearing visual range of the communications buoy," T'Pol announced over the intraship loudspeaker. "Five minutes."
"On my way," Trip promptly replied. He gave the engineering displays a quick once-over, trusting that his instincts would note any potential issues that would need immediate attention. Nothing leaped out at him and he was three steps out of engineering before he realized that he had automatically used one of T'Pol's mental techniques to record everything he saw with the quick scan, and then review the mental snapshots in more detail after. He shook his head in wry amusement and idly wondered if all Vulcans had this sort of training or if it was only the spooks.
He climbed up the ladder leading to the command deck and unconsciously strode to where T'Pol sat. Leaning down, he peered over her shoulder.
"Visual range … now," she announced as the timer reached zero. Instantly, the main viewer flickered and changed to an image of an empty starfield. For a moment, Trip thought the powerful optical telescopes were pointed in the wrong spot. There was nothing there. He opened his mouth to speak in the same instant T'Pol keyed in a new set of commands. Bright green digital brackets appeared on the viewscreen as the T'Muna-Doth's computer began identifying and isolating non-natural elements.
"The debris field is substantial," T'Pol declared as the results began flashing. "It is highly unlikely that this destruction occurred naturally."
"So much for the random collision theory," Trip muttered. Neither of them had really believed the destruction was anything by intentional: deployment of these buoys generally took place in regions of space that had been pre-analyzed and determined to be utterly boring. Try as he might, Trip couldn't actually think of a single incident of "accidental" destruction. Starfleet intentionally made these things tough and it showed. "Any idea when it happened?" Trip asked.
"No." T'Pol frowned slightly. "We would need to approach closer and perhaps obtain some samples to examine."
"Yeah, I don't think that's a good idea," Trip replied. He leaned back to give T'Pol more space when she half-turned in the seat and gave him a questioning eyebrow. Once, he would have taken this look as a challenge or even an expression of doubt that he had fully thought his statement through, and he would have instantly (and loudly, he had to admit) defended his argument. Now though, he could see it for the genuine interest it was. She simply wanted to hear his reasons. "We're going to be flying on fumes even if we maintain our current course to that deuterium colony," he said calmly, "and I don't actually see any benefit in us deviating."
"Agreed." T'Pol tapped another key on her console, logging the destroyed buoy's location in their navigation computer and then minimized the view of the debris field. "If Enterprise was recalled to Earth as we suspect," she added, "it is probable that they visited this colony to refuel as well."
"So there might just be a buoy there as well," Trip finished with a nod. "That would be logical," he remarked with a very slight smile. Normally, complimenting her logic invariably caused her to … well, Trip couldn't think of calling it anything but preening, even if he'd never admit that to her given the emotional underpinnings of such a response, but this time, she barely even acknowledged the comment. "Are you okay?" he asked after a moment of contemplation. Her eyes shot to his and he felt her sudden flash of fear and confusion across their magical connection.
"My meditation of late has been unproductive," T'Pol prevaricated. The excuse was a poor one and Trip's disbelief must have shown on his face (or she sensed it via this bond thing) because a moment later, she sighed heavily. "I have not been entirely truthful to you," she said softly. Trip nodded.
"I know," he said flatly. He made no attempt to hide the anger and hurt her lack of trust caused and a verdant flush climbed up the back of her neck. "I can't help you if I don't know what's going on."
"And that is the crux of my dilemma, Trip. I cannot tell you what I am experiencing because I do not understand it myself." She glowered at her lack of understanding and a white-hot spike of fury drilled through Trip's skull. He gasped in pained surprise and almost lost his balance before the sensation vanished. T'Pol grimaced. "I apologize," she said softly, emotion thick in her voice. "My control is … inadequate."
"Just tell me how I can help," Trip whispered. On instinct, he snagged her hand and pulled her from the chair before enfolding her in a tight hug. As he expected, T'Pol stiffened momentarily – he doubted she would ever be fully comfortable with an embrace, even when they were completely alone – and then relaxed against him. He pretended that he did not notice the stifled shudder that came dangerously close to being a sob.
"Patience," she murmured. "Please, just be patient with me." She tilted her head up and looked at him with her young-old eyes. Trip swallowed. He could still feel the after-effects of her lapse of control, could sense the barely suppressed terror swimming within her, could taste her need…
Oh … crap.
He barely had time to react before she was pushing him to the deck, desperate fingers pulling and tearing at his clothes. Comprehension came at once – with her confusion mounting, she needed something she could cling to, something that was absolute and untainted by what may have happened nearly twenty years ago.
T'Pol's need called out to him.
And willingly, eagerly, he went to her.