This damned ship was going to make
him lose his mind.
Today marked the third day in a row they had not taken the T’Muna-Doth past warp one and Trip was finding it increasingly unlikely they’d do so tomorrow either barring unexpected miracles or another one of those magical repair depots Enterprise had stumbled on … although in retrospect, they’d probably steer clear of that, knowing how much trouble the last one gave them. Decades of neglect had so thoroughly degraded the Vulcan ship’s internal works that it was a wonder she flew at all and it wasn’t until they pushed her past the light barrier that the full extent of the damage became clear. Maintaining a stable warp field was honestly a three person job, what with the microfractures throughout nacelle one, the cracked coil in nacelle three, and the general refusal of nacelle two to operate in anything resembling a consistent manner. They were also burning through deuterium and warp plasma at a faster than expected rate, so Trip had shut down everything that wasn’t essential … and a few things that were whenever he could get away with it. Hell, the co-pilot station wasn’t even powered up since T’Pol never used it and the rare instances he ventured to the command deck anymore, he just peeked over her shoulder.
The angry whine alerting him to the intermix balance being out of whack again sounded and Trip shot the responsible control panel a sour look. Rather than react the way he really wanted to – by manually adjusting the exterior casing of that panel, preferably with a twenty or thirty kilogram sledgehammer – he instead closed his eyes, inhaled deeply through his nose, and then held the breath for a long ten count. When he exhaled, he did so slowly and through his mouth, silently counting to another ten. It helped only slightly – he still wanted to smash something until it shattered into a gajillion pieces – so he repeated the process several more times.
Barely contained rage simmered just out of focus as Trip abandoned the attempts to recenter himself and instead, bent to begin the frustrating task of wrestling the intermix ration back to sane levels. It was a damned good thing the previous engineer was no longer around to defend his sloppy ass maintenance because Trip honestly wasn’t sure if he’d have the self-control to keep from grabbing the nearest wrench and beating the lazy bastard to death with it. It was even odds whether he’d just space the corpse or find some way to shoot it into a sun. And then … and then …
Trip closed his eyes once more and concentrated on his breathing. Furious rage pounded at him, pushing at his thoughts like an implacable tide. It had been this way for twelve days, from the instant T’Pol woke him for the most intense bout of lovemaking he’d ever conceived of and continuing following her vanishing act into the gym-slash-meditation chamber. She surfaced every few days for food, a shower and sex – not necessarily in that order – but so far, he hadn’t clued into what had spawned this flare up of thunderous rage. Even worse, Trip had noticed no discernible lessening of her anger and right now, his head was killing him. Just the spillover alone … God help him, but he owed every Vulcan he’d ever called unfeeling a groveling apology.
Burying himself in work simply wasn’t doing it – minor frustrations trended toward violent, homicidal urges – so Trip made a decision to alter tactics. He was done being reactive, dammit. He was tired of never knowing what to do or hoping she’d come out and tell him what was wrong.
First, he dialed their power usage down another notch, programming the ship computers to sound alerts if any of the essential systems hit critical levels, and then exited the engineering deck. The meditation chamber was only a few steps away, but he intentionally paused at the door, trying as hard as he could to both clear his mind and draw T’Pol’s attention. It must have worked because he felt the … presence in his skull shift slightly which again, was the weirdest damned sensation he could imagine. The door hissed open and T’Pol stood there, clad only in her skin.
Her eyes burned – the heat of her fury washed over him, but he couldn’t actually feel it – and her jaw was clenched so tightly that he could actually see the muscles in her neck twitching. Both hands were balled up into fists, but again, he could see her limbs trembling with the effort to contain her wrath. Her entire body quivered, as if she was on the verge of springing forward or attacking someone with her bare hands. Trip swallowed.
She was stunning.
He quickly pushed those thoughts away and stepped closer, noticing without surprise how she refused to give ground. T’Pol’s nostrils flared and another emotional spike stabbed through his brain, causing Trip to instinctively wince. Almost at once, a deluge of new sensations – despair, pain, longing, sadness – hammered him in rapid succession, but he thrust them aside and took another step closer to the Vulcan standing before him. Her eyes locked on his and he felt … something tickle his mind.
“Enough,” Trip said softly as he pulled her into a tight embrace. She trembled and then slumped heavily against him – the rage was still there, barely contained, barely controlled, but somehow, he could tell it was directed outward, toward someone else. “You’re not in this alone,” he whispered, his breath caressing her ear. When she shuddered again, he felt her directing the fury into passion. She looked up at him, an emerald flush crawling up her neck. Her breath quickened. Trip knew exactly what was coming next so he reacted first and picked her up. Open surprise danced across her face but vanished as he carried her toward their cabin.
They barely made it.
“My Trip,” T’Pol murmured afterward. She was stroking the ugly scars on his chest with the two fingers – index and middle, as usual – of her right hand and the anger seemed momentarily lessened, muted almost. “My beautiful, beautiful Trip.” He swallowed his own confusion at this unusual mood of hers. Anger to contentment and despair? What the hell?
“I’m getting worried about you,” he said. T’Pol exhaled deeply – if he were in a teasing mood, he’d accuse her of having sighed – and turned her young-old eyes up to meet his.
“My past was not as I thought it to be,” she said a moment later. She glanced away, frowning, and Trip could almost sense her thoughts coalescing. God, that was weird. In a good way, though. He loved the sensation and wondered if touching minds was addicting or if it was simply T’Pol herself who was habit-forming. “My father may yet live,” she continued after several long seconds of silence. Trip blinked.
“Well, that’s good, right?” T’Pol’s expression was dark.
“I do not know,” she replied. Her eyes still locked on the distant bulkhead, she began to talk, telling him of the true events of her life as she now knew them. Trip didn’t know what to think so he said nothing as she told him of her less than ideal career in the Ministry of Security that, knowing now of her father’s actions and intent, made sense. The true circumstances of Menos’ death, which had haunted her for eighteen years, caused him to frown and the revelation that her father had been behind all of the crap she’d gone through for the last twenty years ignited the slow burn of his own anger.
“I hope he is alive,” Trip muttered when she faltered in her recitation. “Just so I can punch him in the goddamned face.” T’Pol jolted in surprise at that and looked up at him. “Don’t take this the wrong way, darlin’,” he added, “but your dad sounds like a complete jackass.”
“I am certain he thought his course of action a logical one,” T’Pol remarked even as another flood of anger pushed against his mind. “It is a very Vulcan thing to do,” she said flatly, “to put the needs of the many before the needs of the one.”
“Not when that one is family,” Trip retorted. He didn’t know when they had slipped into Vulcan but didn’t let that stop him. “Who are these Rihannsu people?” he asked. “Some sort of subculture I haven’t heard of like the Vulcans without Logic?” T’Pol tensed slightly. Their amazing mental connection was suddenly still and silent. A long moment passed.
“What I tell you,” T’Pol said slowly, “you must not repeat. To anyone. Ever. If the High Command learned that you knew this, they would have you killed without hesitation.” Trip blinked – she was deadly serious … and utterly terrified that he would not take her warning seriously. That more than anything else sank in. He nodded. “The Rihannsu are distant cousins to my species whom we exiled centuries ago,” she began slowly. “They are also known as Romulans.” Trip frowned – that name was familiar…
“The aliens who tried to kill us in the minefield?” he asked. T’Pol nodded slightly. “But …” He pushed his tongue against the inside of his cheek. “Did you know about them back then?”
“No.” T’Pol’s anger once more surged, but it seemed less intense now. “There are many things I did not know when I served aboard Enterprise that I recall now.”
“Pekh-vat,” Trip muttered. It was the closest Vulcan equivalent he could think of to match the term he wanted to use – asshole – in relation to her dad, and to his delight, T’Pol’s lips curved up slightly. A blast of amusement struck him but faded alongside her very slight smile.
“There is more,” she said. “The male my father spoke to?” Trip nodded. “I recognized him: Crewman Daniels.”
“What?” Trip sat up in bed and stared at her with open surprise. In response, she merely quirked an eyebrow. “That’s … that’s …”
“Unexpected?” T’Pol offered. “It certainly damages the Science Directorate’s stance on time travel,” she said. “The man who met with my father was considerably older than Crewman Daniels could have been at that point in his life.”
“Yeah,” Trip muttered. He shook his head. God … he’d always thought that temporal cold war nonsense Jon and Daniels went on about was … well … nonsense. Sure, he’d always argued with T’Pol over the existence of time travel, but that was mostly because he’d just liked arguing with her, not because he honestly believed in it. The scientist in him had never really bought into it even if he’d actually tried to keep an open mind about the possibility. He’d halfway convinced himself that Jon’s little expedition to the future following the Paraagan disaster had been some sort of illusion – hadn't Ah’Len showed him some amazing things with holograms? Surely the scene of destruction Jon had described could be faked, right? – but this … this drove a stake through any chance of it being an elaborate lie.
And what did it say that Daniels hadn't showed up to pull his and T’Pol’s ass out of the fire? Guess we’re not as important as the captain.
T’Pol drifted to sleep a few moments later, her body exhausted by the effort to contain the fury these revelations had caused, and Trip once again experienced the unusual sensation of another mind touching his as her slumbering thoughts brushed up against him. He shivered, wondering when he’d become so accustomed to this sort of thing and when he’d come to instinctively seek it out. Anymore, he couldn’t even doze off unless he felt T’Pol’s mindtouch. Not for the first time, he wondered if this was natural for Vulcans or if the connection the two of them had was abnormal. What would happen when they got back to civilization? Starfleet definitely wouldn’t be keen on him refusing to accept another assignment that took him away from her and he doubted the High Command would be happy to know she felt the same way.
More importantly, though, he wondered what their respective families would think. His own mom and dad probably wouldn’t understand – well, Dad might, he mused, especially once he argued with her the first time, but Mom? She’d never liked any of Trip’s girlfriends. She’d never admitted it, but he was absolutely convinced she’d hated Natalie and had scared Mary off when he wasn’t looking. Lizzie would be fascinated and probably drive T’Pol nuts with questions, while Lisa and Billy … God only knew how they’d react. And it wasn’t like he was the same guy either. The old Trip, the one who shipped out with Enterprise, was a grinning goofball who was sometimes embarrassed by his intelligence and hid it behind the image of a good ole boy from Hickstown, USA. How would they react to the new him, who didn’t smile that much anymore, laughed only occasionally, meditated like a Vulcan and generally tried to keep his emotions in check? How could he even explain how his emotions affected T’Pol’s and hers did the same for his? Would they freak out? Could they possibly understand how important this was to him?
And T’Pol’s family? T’Les was the only direct blood relation still alive – ignoring the possibility her jackass dad was still kicking around – and the picture that T’Pol had painted of her mother was a scary, scary woman who had ice in her veins and laser eyes that could cut through you like a scalpel. If T’Les was the perfect Vulcan like T’Pol thought, there was no way in hell she would approve of them being together, especially not when she saw T’Pol smile like she did sometimes or glared and vented and showed exasperation. Would she try to drag T’Pol off to Gol and get her brain wiped? Would Soval help? What about the rest of T’Pol’s clan? They counted as family. Panic started bubbling up within his stomach. He couldn’t lose her.
“Nirsh,” T’Pol said suddenly. She was still mostly asleep but pulled herself closer to him, intertwining their legs and tucking her head under his chin. “K’hat’n’dlawa, Trip,” she murmured. It took him a few heartbeats to translate the statement in his head and when he did, he smiled. She would never say something like that normally – he guessed it was an indication of how close he was to panic that she even thought it necessary – but just hearing it … it made him smile.
“K’diwa,” he whispered in response. Her own lips curved up as she slid back into slumber. Trip caressed her back, enjoying the feel of her mind wrapping around his. She would not give him up and he wouldn’t let her go. Starfleet can go to hell, he reflected, and the High Command can join them.
And thinking such pleasant thoughts, he followed her lead and slept.