T'Pol was irritated.
It was difficult for her to admit that she was experiencing this emotion, even to herself, but the sensation was undeniable. She was irritated, at herself, at the three other humans aboard, at the uncomfortable circumstances she was in and yes, with Trip. Perhaps especially with him. Logically, she knew that he was innocent of any offense – in fact, he'd been nothing but calm and understanding as she struggled with their sudden loss of privacy – and, in her more rational moments, she would acknowledge that his refusal to provide her with a target for her ire was the principal reason she was irritated at him. Why couldn't he snap at her when she was being difficult so she could retort and they could argue? And why were her thoughts going into such an illogical direction?
She sighed and made a conscious effort to suppress the emotions once more.
As had become her habit, she was still on the command deck. Barring brief trips to the toilet facilities, she had remained here for the duration of their time at warp, ever since they had departed the deuterium colony twenty-three days earlier. Here, she had slept, meditated, eaten, and even engaged in sexual activity with Trip. After ensuring the deck was sealed off, of course. At the moment, she was seated on the mat relocated from the gym, legs underneath her as she tried to reach the proper mindset to achieve an effective meditative state. It was proving … difficult.
Their situation had improved substantially – with additional personnel monitoring the warp core, they were now able to maintain a relatively steady warp factor three point eight at all times; they were still incapable of accelerating to warp four for longer than an hour and as that led to taking the injectors offline for a minimum of fourteen hours, she had decided that the wasted time simply was not worth the trouble at the moment. Later, as their supplies dwindled or should they encounter another catastrophic failure, this decision might be reconsidered, but at the moment, T'Pol was satisfied that it was the logical one.
Her board chirped softly and she opened her eyes long enough to confirm that it was simply Trip making a system update. Tonight was his engineering shift and T'Pol could sense his distraction. In addition to monitoring the temperamental warp core, he was also working on at least three other tasks of varying levels of importance. With their absolute failure to merge the Klingon weapon system to the T'Muna-Doth – Trip was convinced it was still feasible, but not with the supplies they had on-hand or upon a vessel already plagued with as many issues as this one – he had begun researching methods to increase the hull integrity. In T'Pol's opinion, this should have been priority one, but to him, it was three, with a modification of the protein resequencer being first (he did not like the taste of the foodstuffs generated) and some sort of enhancement of the internal lighting system following that.
Automatically, her eyes flickered to an integrated clock on the wall display. Trip was only on duty for another fifteen minutes, at which time Mister Morales would relieve him. If the past was any indication, the two men would interact for another five minutes before Trip would visit the toilet facilities, shower, and then join her here. Her lips tightened fractionally. With her hearing, it had not escaped her notice how uncomfortable her mate made the other humans. Even Miss Mazaheri had expressed discomfort to her sister regarding Trip's extraordinary reserve and almost Vulcan-like dispassion.
"That bitch has turned him into a robot," Miss Mazaheri had exclaimed once. It was not true – Trip's emotions still flared as brightly as ever, but T'Pol was forced to admit that his time around her had changed him rather significantly. He did not smile as often as he once had, nor did he laugh or vocally express himself in the manner she'd first experienced. Now, he would wait until they were alone and inform her calmly what he thought. Sometimes, they would disagree – quite often, actually – but when that happened, they discussed the nature of their disagreement in calm, rational tones. One of them would convince the other or they would reach some sort of middle ground, but T'Pol could not recall the last time they had a dispute that lasted longer than an hour. It was strangely … boring.
She frowned once more. What was wrong with her? Mated pairs were not supposed to seek disagreements! And Vulcan women certainly were not intended to experience dismay that their mates did not smile. Anger warred with frustration and despair, and she suppressed them all.
T'Pol had just managed to reach her whitespace when she heard Trip enter the command deck. He sealed the hatch behind him and joined her on her meditation pad without a word. To her silent disgust, she felt her jumbled thoughts and emotions almost instantly begin calming as she breathed in Trip's familiar scent. Muscles tight with stress and frustration relaxed. She slid toward serenity, well aware of the masculine presence accompanying her.
"Care to tell me what's been bothering you all day?" Trip asked later, once she'd completed her meditation. They were still on the pad, though, and his deft fingers were working their way along the nodes upon her back. It required more effort than it should have to keep from moaning in pleasure and she was not entirely sure why she suppressed the urge. Rather than reply, she simply glanced at him and raised an eyebrow. "It isn't Miss Mazaheri again, is it?" T'Pol's lips tightened once more.
"No," she said flatly, honestly. She and Miss Mazaheri had little interaction, despite the limited space aboard the T'Muna-Doth, and that was entirely intentional on both of their parts. Three days from the deuterium colony, they had reached an understanding: Mazaheri would desist in her attempts to seduce Trip and T'Pol would cease using the T'Muna-Doth's systems to make the young woman's life extraordinarily difficult. Manipulation of shipboard controls to ensure that the food delivered to Miss Mazaheri was notably unappetizing was easy enough, but seeing to it that the temperature in engineering was appropriate for an Andorian while the young woman was alone without leaving a way for her to reverse it? Or arranging for the waste reclamation system to always require maintenance during Mazaheri's shift? Those were inspired options and T'Pol's lips curved very slightly at the guilty pleasure she associated with those successes.
"Tilt your head to the left," Trip instructed. She obeyed, inhaling slowly and steadily as he applied pressure to that node. "I've been working on a way we might be able to boost our speed for longer periods of time." T'Pol looked at him. "If we compress the antimatter stream," he continued, "the entire drive core should operate more efficiently." His expression soured slightly – no, that was not correct. She tasted the feel of his emotions, but his expression actually changed only slightly. Why had she not noticed that before? No wonder the humans were uncomfortable around him. "The big question is whether the injectors can handle the strain."
"I would like to review your calculations," T'Pol said. He nodded.
"There's no way I'm going to even consider trying this unless you sign off on it," he said. "The last thing we need is to blow an injector out here."
"Agreed." They continued the application of neuropressure in silence for several long minutes. T'Pol could almost sense his distraction – he was thinking about this engine test of his – and her irritation suddenly flared brilliantly once more, though this close to her mate, she realized that it was frustration she was experiencing, not irritation. Trip recoiled at the intensity of the unexpected emotional surge, but T'Pol twisted toward him before he could react. With one hand, she pushed him down to the mat, pulling at his clothes with the other.
"The things you do to me," Trip murmured later, as they were sprawled out together atop her meditation mat, their skin still glistening from the exertions from only moments earlier. T'Pol's lips twitched at the humor she felt in his mind – by his estimation, they had engaged in sexual relations in every room aboard this ship.
"As I recall," she replied, only aware of how husky her voice was at the moment because of their strange cerebral linkage, "you were the one doing things this time."
"True." Trip hugged her tight and T'Pol hated herself a little bit for the frisson of enjoyment she experienced from this very human gesture. "But you started it."
"I did." T'Pol considered moving – they were still unclothed, after all, and she still found the temperature was less than optimal – but discarded the thought almost in the same instant that Trip reached up to the nearby control console. He tapped in a rapid command and instantly, a rush of pleasant heat coursed through the air. At her glance, he offered another of his not-quite smiles.
"This is actually good for the ship," he said. "I need to vent some of the excess waste heat and you don't like the cold." He paused. "Do you approve?"
"It is … agreeable."
"Morales to bridge." Mister Morales' voice was loud in the confined space and T'Pol nearly winced. "I'm seeing some strange fluctuations here." Trip's hand was still on the control console and he shifted to another button.
"This is Tucker. I'm venting some waste heat."
"Oh." Morales paused. "That explains these readings."
"Keep an eye on injector three," Trip continued in the tone of someone who had repeated himself a dozen times. It was to be expected – Mister Morales was an accountant and negotiator by trade, not an engineer, and had a terrible tendency to forget important mechanical issues; according to his wife, he'd been the captain of their ship because he always got them good deals, not because he had any significant skill as a spacer. "If it hits green anywhere, alert me immediately."
"Tucker out." He tapped the button again and the 'connection closed' chime sounded. "So, have you worked out whatever was bugging you?" he asked wryly. T'Pol felt her face warm at his knowing tone.
"Presumably," she replied. Without warning, Trip began working his lips up the side of her throat as his free hand began stroking her left ear.
"Let's make sure," he murmured before doing something utterly marvelous with his other hand.
And just like that, T'Pol was no longer irritated.