The Bond (1/?)

The Bond
A Star Trek: Enterprise Story

"Sail Forth - steer for the deep waters only.
Reckless O soul, exploring. I with thee and thou with me.
For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared go.
And we will risk the ship, ourselves, and all."

- - Walt Whitman's "Passage to India" - -

Storm Front

For a moment, she felt relief, knowing he was back aboard. Every second he and Ensign Mayweather had been down below, on World War Two Earth, she had been terrified that something would happen to him – that she would lose him, just like she'd thought she lost Captain Archer. Her emotional control had been severely compromised by the death of her human captain and his subsequent return from the planet they had thought him on; T'Pol did not want to know what would become of her if she lost her human-

There were not words for what Commander Tucker – Trip – was to her, not in Vulcan. Words like "colleague" and "associate" did not describe the flurry of emotions that the commander had engendered in her from their very first meeting, but they were the best that her language had. No Vulcan colleague had ever enraged her so, nor would have actively sought to anger her as he did. The mere memory of their heated confrontation on the bridge during their first mission together was enough to cause spikes of anger in her even now, years after. No Vulcan colleague would have told her about decrypting and reading her personal correspondence either, nor would have seemed genuinely apologetic about it when found out. No Vulcan colleague would have so persistently tried to invade her personal space – would never have asked her age, or persisted in getting her to attend "movie night" had such a thing existed on Vulcan vessels, - nor would have been so genuinely concerned after her well-being when he realized he'd made her uncomfortable. Before meeting Trip, no one had ever asked what she wanted, and it had never occurred to her to ask the same of herself.

She was a maverick for her kind. She was already on her third career when most women her age would be starting families, putting aside their jobs for a decade or two to raise children. Her choice to work for the security directorate had been considered an unusual occupation for so young a Vulcan, and her mother had been her species' equivalent of overjoyed when she'd decided to persue a career in the High Command instead. Her posting to Earth was only ever have supposed to have been brief – a six-month service at the embassy as interim director of the scientific exchange program between Earth and Vulcan while the man who normally held the position, Storak, returned to Vulcan before the... unpleasant... realities of pon farr overcame him – but the human's move to launch Enterprise early had not been anticipated, and she was the best qualified amongst the Vulcans then on Earth to be sent to mind them.

And now T'Pol could not think of leaving them.

Could not think of leaving him.

There were many things she could blame it on, if she thought about it. The pa'nar. The trellium. The lack of time to meditate. The stress of being in command of a human vessel that had just lost its captain. The knowledge that, with their mission over, if Starfleet would not grant her a commission, the High Command would demand she be returned to Vulcan. But the fact of the matter was, after Lieutenant Reed told them that Captain Archer was dead, she had never felt more broken inside – and not because of her own grief, though it was strong, but because, it hurt her to see Commander Tucker – Trip – hurting too.

Oh, T'Pol tried to ignore the feeling, to push past her grief like she had so many other emotions and continue with her duties, but throughout her shift her thoughts kept drifting back to Commander Tucker – Trip – as she wondered how he was. It would have been better if there was something, anything available to distract herself with, but, with the Aquatic ship taking them back to Earth, most systems that would normally require monitoring were offline and only the most pressing of repairs were under way. So, unable to help herself, she worried about Commander Tucker – Trip; - unable to help herself, she'd found herself calling on him after her shift ended...

...He was in his cabin, his own shift just over and his careful, almost-Vulcan mask of sublimated grief starting to break down. "What are you doing here, T'Pol?" he asked, not moving from his position on his bed and sounding more tired than she'd heard him in many weeks, as if he was almost broken, as if this was one straw too many.

"I was concerned about your mental state."

Looking away from her towards the window that showed only the docking bay of the ship they now rode inside, he humourlessly told her, "I'm not going to off myself, if that's what you're thinking."

She was unfamiliar with the term but, thinking it inappropriate, did not seek clarification at the moment. "I was not thinking anything of the sort. I merely thought you could use friend."

As he turned back towards her, his expression slightly sheepish, T'Pol was forced to admit she had formed a friendship of sorts with this angry, argumentative alien. For some reason or another, his well-being had somehow become integral to her own. The very thought that he might spend another nine months hurting for the captain's death as he had his sister's caused a pain that was almost physical within her.

Impulsively, T'Pol sat down beside him and placed an arm around him, as she had seen humans do in the movies he'd insisted she view, and, after a moment more, rested her head against his shoulder. After an amount of time she couldn't judge, he managed, "You know, at least one good thing's come of this all."

"And what would that be?"

"You. When we started out, you wouldn't even shake my hand, and now look at you."

"I have discovered the human need for physical contact is not quite as illogical as I once thought."

"Oh, really?"

"I will admit I myself find it... soothing... at times."

She sensed more than saw his frown return. "I just can't imagine he's gone. I know we've been in some tough scrapes before, but he's always..." And then there were no more words, just emotions, and she held him as he cried, and found herself not fighting back the tears that were forming in her own eyes. She should have run from such a display of emotion, should've hidden herself away at her body's own rebellious sharing of her feelings, but didn't. Instead, she stayed, and if Commander Tucker – Trip – found anything odd about it, he was gracious enough not to say anything. He just let her hold him, and, eventually, they both exhausted themselves and their tears, falling asleep on his bunk in a tangled mess of limbs and blankets.

She could've made excuses hours later, when she'd woken, her entire body feeling leaden with grief. She could've left, and he might've thought he'd only imagined her spending the night in his bed. A better Vulcan than she would've, but she'd realized several weeks ago that she'd never been that kind of Vulcan. If she had been, she'd not have been here in the first place. She'd have left when her original ten day tour was over, or when Koss's parents had called her home, or before entering the Expanse, or any of a dozen other times. She had wanted these emotions, had courted them with her use of trellium-D, and had to learn to deal with them the human way.

So she stayed, feeling more in control of herself than she had in ages as she lay in his arms. And, when Trip had eventually woken, she did not dissemble about her presence, but turned and leaned into his embrace.

"Please tell me this is just a dream," he whispered.

Confused and feeling more than a little foolish, she began to pull away, "I apologize if I have misunderstood the situation-"

Trip responded by gripping her tighter. "No, stay, please. I'm just surprised, that's all." At her questioning brow, barely visible in the dimmed light of his quarters, he explained, "I thought you would've left by now."

"I didn't want to be alone."

"Neither do I. It's just..." He propped himself up on one elbow and, almost nervously, tugged at the collar of his slept-in uniform, "...just tell me this isn't going to be another experiment."

Swallowing back pre-formulated responses on the illogic of human-Vulcan relationships, T'Pol ran through every experience she had, trying to find words to tell him that she held him in higher regard than she did any other human; that she'd missed his presence during that period of time immediately after their sexual encounter, when they'd each done their best to avoid the other and that this had been why she'd, eventually, sought him out again, even if only to argue; that she could, honestly, no longer imagine a future without him in it, and, while she didn't know what such a level of attachment might mean, all she knew was that she had lost one friend that day, and the thought of loosing him too made her positively ill. But, in all her years, she'd never felt this way before, and so had no words. She didn't know if, honestly, she could handle a relationship – of any sort – with someone as emotional and illogical as Trip, but she'd rather have that friendship than live without it.

But her silence carried on too long, and, disappointment colouring his features, Trip began to climb out of the bed. Panic set in at the thought – no, the absolute knowledge – that, if she let him go now, he'd be lost to her forever, and she grabbed his arm to stop him.

He turned back to look at her, a faint trace of the usual human surprise at Vulcan strength taking place of some of the sadness, and T'Pol raised herself up enough to kiss him, gently but thoroughly, on the lips. "I will be here as long as you'll have me," she whispered, her voice sounding faint and uncertain to her own ears. It almost had embarrassed her that she, who had lived twice as long as he and seen more than he could possibly imagine of the galaxy, had sounded so young.

Voice heavy with emotions she daren't guess at, "And if that's for longer than just tonight?"

"We'll have to leave for our duty shifts eventually," she countered, "but I wouldn't be adverse to joining you here afterwards."

Pulling his arm away, "God damn it, T'Pol!" Striding over to his window, he looked out once more at the Aquatic's docking bay before, obviously not finding what he was looking for in the sight, turning back around, arms crossed defensively in front of him. Frayed – that was the best word to describe him, she thought. How humans could handle so many emotions at once, she could not guess, only that the few coursing through her now – sorrow for loosing the captain, hurt confusion at Trip's actions, and a warm desire in her belly of the sort she'd never experienced before meeting this all-too-unsettling human – were more than enough to keep her on the edge of control.

"You misunderstand me, Trip," she tried, but before she could get too far, he was raging again, all of the anger and sorrow coming out in a distinctly human way she, in better times, might've raged against. But she just felt so unbearably tired in the soul that she barely had the strength with which to function, and some part of her, no matter how small, felt that she deserved it for her stupidity. She'd no right to expect anything from him, not after how she'd treated him. In fact, the anger was only justified, and if he knew the other idiocies which she'd taken part in – the mind-meld, the trellium – he'd probably agree with her current assessment that she shouldn't be in command of a starship. That she was here at all was probably the most telling thing of all, and, had the High Command known of it, they would have seen to it that she was never posted away from Vulcan again. She should've cared, but couldn't bring herself to, and took it.

"What's there to misunderstand? You come in here, fall asleep on my bed; you say these things- God, T'Pol, For all we fight and for all that's screwed up between us, you're my best friend. I don't think I'd've made it through the last few months without your help. You're all I ever think about – you have been, for a long time. Hell, I'm in love with you and, if we're doing to do this, I don't want want some torrid affair that'll last only as long as Starfleet and the High Command will let you stay on Enterprise. I want it to be the real thing, forever and a day, and not just because your sad or scared or wanting to 'experience human sexuality' again."

There'd been silence for a long moment, and then, "I don't know," she managed at last (Trip already turning away as she said this, which hurt her so much that the next words came out all in a rush), "if I can give you what you want, but I'm willing to try."

Trip crossed the room in a single step, his expression immediately changing as one hand came up to grasp her face, the other her waist as he pulled her to him, his lips hard and insistent on hers, and her hands were fumbling to remove his uniform, and, for the first time in a long while, she'd felt like everything was as it was supposed to be...

...and now they were finally back at Earth, in the wrong version of their second World War, and he and Ensign Mayweather had had to be sent to the surface to recover the stolen shuttlepod because he was the only one who could fix it and Ensign Mayweather was the only one who could fly it...

She had thought things would be fine when Captain Archer, who suddenly turned out not to be dead at all, had gone back down to the surface and negotiated for their return. Both officers had been returned with minimal injuries considering, or so the transporter operator had reported, and it was only that and the fact that she had the bridge that kept her from heading down to sickbay and seeing for herself.

But it hadn't been him. It had been the Suliban, Silik, and Trip was down there still.

T'Pol tried to remain rational, but that was becoming harder and harder where Trip was concerned. Regardless of the fact that her language had words for neither "friend" or "lover," that was Commander Tucker – Trip – had become to her. It was illogical, but she... she...

She needed him to return from the surface alive.

She needed him.

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