Tripping Up And Down

Title : Tripping Up And Down
Author: Laced Together (Sue)
E-Mail: susieqla@yahoo.com
Website: None.
Series: ENTERPRISE
Pairing: T/Tu
Category: Romance/Het.
Rating: PG-13
Summary: To everything turn, turn, turn…
Archive: All Enterprise archives are fine.
Disclaimer: I own nothing, Paramount’s property.
Spoilers: Harbinger
Notes: For The ASCEML Title Challenge

Tripping Up And Down

Tempted to enter a personal log entry, T’Pol
remained silent, staring at nothing in particular
in her quarters. Her right ankle still throbbed.
If any fault was to be laid, the anomaly that
had wreaked havoc with the treadmill she’d elected
to use over an hour ago, was the logical culprit.

The commander’s quick thinking, and even quicker
hands had saved her. He’d caught her when the
equipment’s glitch had gotten the best of her.
She’d turned her ankle when she’d been thrown
off the equipment’s belt.

Her present circumstance would be a lot worse,
if not for Trip.

Despite her dogged protest, which he patently ignored,
Trip had whisked her off to Sickbay, carrying her
in his arms, no less. The doctor, with his smile
typically knowing no bounds, had advised she stay off
the foot and the application of the ice pack he’d
given her was his learned prescription.

While she waited for the doting chief engineer to
return to her quarters, after his promising her he’d
be right back with the blend of tea she wanted,
her mind effortlessly drifted to the filmy flow of
events that were the aftermath of her present
predicament…

“There is no need to hold me as firmly as you are,”
she had recommended, while she herself gripped the
ice pack in rigid hands.

“Now who’s takin’ ya to your quarters, huh? You or
me, darlin’?”

“I’ve asked you not to call me that outside of
quarters,” she had reminded him, but not as sternly
as she might have if it hadn’t been for her knowing
that his concern was genuine, and it gratified her.

“Can’t blame an anxious fella for forgettin’, now
can ya?” Trip had hefted her in his arms, smiling
at her; he seemed to be doing so much of that lately,
always at her. “Can’t have anythin’ bad happenin’
to my nimble n-p buddy, who just happens to be the
best kisser, too.” He had whistled then. “That’s
some swellin’.” With the boot off, and her ankle
skillfully wrapped in protective elastic, it had
ballooned to the cumbersome size of a navel orange,
nevertheless. “Have I ever told ya you’ve got the
cutest toes?”

She had stared at them, peeking out from the
protective sleeve as they were, and then him. “I’ve
never injured myself in this way before,” she’d
informed him, before passing judgment on its being
too intimate for him to know.

“No kiddin’? Wow, now that’s some track record.”
Trip’s eyebrows had wriggled up and down. “No pun
intended. Hell, if I got a buck for all the times
I’ve twisted my ankles, I’d be one of the richest
men on Earth. My momma used to say I had weak ones,
when I was comin’ up.” More to himself he’d mouthed,
“Still might.”

“Coming up? To what does that refer?” Having
been at a visible loss, she had known her facial
expression had told him as much. What else was new,
as he often coined. These novel insights, so
generally forthcoming from him, could constitute a
database unto itself.

“What do you think it refers to? Okay, okay, I
can see you have no clue what I’m talkin’ about.
It’s just another colorful expression.” Trip had
paused, gazing at her thoughtfully. “Growin’ up as
a kid, a child. Honest, T’Pol, if I live to a ripe
old age, I’m never gonna forget that look on your
face.”

“Striving to be precise is never an exercise of poor
judgment.”

“It’s kind of like a least resistance thing with
me now. When I’m around ya, I can’t seem to resist
the urge to pepper ya with the most colorful turns
of phrase I know. Even Hoshi has commented on my
inventive use of colloquial language, part and
parcel of the neck I hail from. Maybe you might
like to visit that sweet slice of neck with me,
one day…”

From that point on, they had waited in silence for the
turbolift which had seemed to take its own sweet
time to arrive. It had amazed T’Pol at the time
that, far from being awkward, the absence of
conversation had been absorbing. In good part, their
not having felt the need to fill the void was a
barometer of the growing satisfaction each felt in the
other’s company.

They still had their share of rough spots, now and
again, but for the most part, theirs had the makings
of a friendship that might stand the test of time if
they all survived the death dealing rigors of the
Expanse.

Friendship? To think of the commander as merely a
friend was inconsistent. Their friendship, being
his friend, his associate, were safe references.
Charles Tucker provoked so much in her, not the
least of which were feelings that she needed to
explore with him. Her need wasn’t far from
bordering on compulsion.

She reflected that whenever the subject of their
surviving this mission was broached, the commander
was in the habit of crossing his fingers. He had
explained the significance of his doing so, but
his explanation was fuzzy, at present, much as his
logic had been at the time he had tried to explain.

Their not surviving was unthinkable, not only for
Earth’s and countless other worlds’ sakes, but
for her own and this Human’s. She needed to know
why Trip made this difference in everything she
had come to know and accept as truth.

She lifted the ice pack from her injury, with a soft
scowl, noting the annoying protuberance that plagued
her ankle. She settled the pack back in place while
the idea occurred to her how neuro-pressure had proven
its value. It had laid the groundwork for the
commander and she cultivating a unique relationship. A
relationship that was as unlikely as Captain Archer
admitting that her people had never held his father
back.

Even she had to admit it was nothing short of
astonishing how far the intuitive blue-eyed Human
and she had come from so much less than favorable
introductions, what often felt like long years ago.

Why…she was even telling him intimate things she
never dreamed she would.

And Trip…he was making it no secret how he felt
about her.

And then, the turbolift had finally arrived…

Trip had hefted her in his arms once again, seemingly
proud of the fact that nobody else was on board. As
he’d carried her over the threshold he’d even
exclaimed, “Safe from pryin’ eyes.” A gleam had taken
hold of his when he’d intimated, “Remind ya of anythin’,
darl–I mean, T’Pol?”

“What should entering a turbolift remind me of,
Mister Tucker?” It had given her a modest zing of
satisfaction to see him pout because it had been days
since she’d called him ‘Trip.’

“Gettin’ carried over the threshold, like any new
blushin’ bride.” He had tried kissing her cheek,
but she had demurely moved her face out of his lips’
reach.

“Aside from the fact that Human matrimonial rituals
are arcane, at best. Your reference is illogical,
Commander.” She had felt his hard squeeze to her
ribs, and repeated, “Commander, we aren’t married.
Not by Human standards, and certainly not by Vulcan
dictates.”

Before Trip, with the aplomb of a punch-drunk boxer,
had stumbled into tripping over his own feet, he
had resiliently insisted, “Oh…I don’t know about
that. It’s the damnedest thing…it sorta feels
like we’re married now, kinda.” He couldn’t have
been more suggestive. “Speakin’ squarely from my
point of view that is, we sure banged each other
enough like newlyweds our first time. Oh, I forget.
Bangin’s a ribald way of sayin’ doin’ the deed.”
Her beleaguered look, having grown more set, had
prompted him further. “Havin’ sexual you-know-what.
And that ‘lovin’ feelin” comes over me even when
we’re apart. And when we are, all I want is to be
with ya.”

T’Pol shivered upon her bunk at his definitiveness
which she still heard, remembering how he’d spoken
those words. And, what was more, she had known
what he’d meant; she found herself wanting to be
with him more now too. If precision was what she
prized so highly, then there was no fooling Trip;
duplicity was for Andorians, not Vulcans.

She had wanted him that fateful night when
stripping down in front of him felt as natural as
breathing in life-support-generated air, and when
being brutally honest, she wanted him even more
now. When it had appeared as though another female
was staking her claim, (Amanda Cole’s seductive
visage popped into her mind’s eye instantaneously)
she, the now recalcitrant T’Pol of Vulcan, had claimed
her Human anomaly first.

In the plainest English she knew Trip could readily
relate to, she ‘had it bad for him,’ her fixation
of the Homo sapiens persuasion, whom she was seeing
more and more as her ‘t’hy’la.’ But confessing
something this shocking? She was almost there,
accepting it herself, but actually being in Trip’s
face, telling him her feelings for him ran deep?
She wasn’t quite there…yet.

She thought back to how they’d toppled into the
turbolift after Trip had tripped up. To his credit,
he’d made sure she was spared the brunt of impact.
He’d used his own body as a shock absorber so she
wouldn’t sustain further injury.

They had lain dazed a good couple of minutes before
he’d sheepishly asked, “You all right? A possible
second reason for my nickname you’ve discovered
today. I have this annoyin’ habit of gettin’ a
might clumsy when it’s inconvenient.” He’d raised
his head, squinting at her through slitted eyelids.
“Sorry.”

Lying sprawled atop him, prone, she’d answered, “I’m
fine, but you? Are you all right…Trip?”

He hadn’t reacted right away, and when the reason
why had become apparent, she’d tried raising herself
up off him. She couldn’t though. One of the
linkages to the belt she’d worn, which had lent a
decorative effect to her work-out outfit, had somehow
hooked itself into the slight hole in the front of
Trip’s sweatpants.

Embarrassing was embarrassing, regardless of the
species involved.

Companionable silence hadn’t been awkward, but finding
themselves joined at their hips in this way, had
certainly been.

T’Pol shut her eyes, reliving the compromising
situation anyone who might have innocently entered
the turbolift would have found them in. Despite her
having a twisted ankle, the person, or persons in
question, seeing the determined chief engineer with
his hands busily manipulating her crotch to free them
could not have helped but at least begin to wonder if
all the current rumors circulating about them were
partially-true. Which, of course, they were; they
were wholly true.

And there was also the matter of his premature–

T’Pol squashed that baser thought, but not in time
enough to prevent the stark image of the sizeable
splotch that had soaked through to the front of the
commander’s sweatpants from materializing in her
overactive mind’s eye.

“Oops–sorry, T’Pol. You know how highly suggestible
I can be. Too much friction is a powerful thing.”

His haunting words clogged the flow for any further
rational thought, since no truer words had he ever
spoken. All this friction, and their emotions that
were eating them alive…how would it end? She
flopped back on the bed, her head hitting the
slab-ish pillow; she pulled it out from under her
head and put her head under it.

Her audible sigh coincided with her door’s light,
airy chime.

Trip stood inside her barely-lit quarters before
T’Pol could muster up the request he enter. “Here’s
your tea, all pipin’ hot, just the way you li–”
He set the tray with its steaming cup and small
lidded teapot down. He hurried over to the bunk
wearing a frown that looked etched in his face.

That’s her biggest problem, he thought, taking
in her languishing form, she only does what she
wants, when she wants.

“You should have that pillow under your foot, not
over your head. You heard Phlox; keep it elevated.”

She didn’t move a muscle; the pillow remained where
it was, and the ice pack slipped off her ankle of
its own volition.

Trip returned to the tray Chef had provided and
unstuck two medium-sized strips of tape used in
insulation. He taped the ice pack to her leg,
securing the strips to either side of her foot.
He took it upon himself to lift the pillow off her
head, and T’Pol let him, not protesting.

Gently, he eased her foot onto the pillow, not
finishing adjusting its angle and position until he
had it just so. Gazing down upon her, he said,
“I’ll be right back with my pillow to put under
your head so you’ll be all nice an’ comfy.”

T’Pol raised herself up to lean on her elbows. “No.
Thank you, Trip, but no. I am quite comfortable as
I am. There is no need for you to get your pillow.
I’ll be fine like this. You may return to your
concerns.” She settled her eyes on the tray over
on the low table.

She looked so small and vulnerable, and all he
could think about was what he could do to help her.
“You’re my concern right now.” Serviceably, he
offered, “Here, I’ll bring ya your tea.”

She couldn’t help but appreciate his candent quality,
even if most times his enthusiasm usually made her
feel uncomfortable, unnerved, sometimes. Her physical
discomfort was such that it forced her to realize how
easily one could become infirm, a virtual dependent
on someone else. His presence, his being at her
disposal was reassuring.

Reassuring…when had he become that?

Before bringing her her tea, he removed a light
blanket from the utility shelf, and settled it
over her body. Then, he brought her tea. While
Trip fitted the mug into her hands, he seated
himself at the head of the bunk. She made
careful note of his having changed into a clean
pair of sweatpants.

Unmolested, he coaxed T’Pol to use him as her
backrest, resting her supple body against him
gently. She felt wonderful, always did.

“Much better,” he conferred, looking down, past her
head, at her hands that were molded around the mug.

“Thank you, Trip,” she acknowledged, resting against
him heavily as she angled her head back to glance
up at him tentatively. His sincerity was almost
a palpable entity, nearly having the ability to grip
her of its own accord.

“No need to, glad to oblige. Since you’re gonna
be off your feet for a couple of days, if there’s
anythin’ ya need, anythin’ at all, just let me know,
and I’ll get it for ya.”

Nodding, she raised the brim of the mug to her lips.
When had he developed this…this level of devotion
toward her? Devotion…it was the first word that
had sprung to mind. All the signs were clearly
evident, and since they were, she chose to accept
the implications. “I will, as I will also choose
to thank you when appropriate.”

T’Pol sipped more of the tea he’d selected for her,
somewhat amazed that he’d remembered her favorite
was chamomile. Yet, there was something more
flavorful about the taste, something faintly citrus.

“How’s your tea?” Trip solicitously asked. “Not
too sweet?”

“Not sweet at all…but different…”

“I’ve watched how you prepare it,” he said with
a modest lilt in his voice. “Only this time, I
took the liberty of addin’ just a teeny tiny bit
of lemon to the honey. I hope by, ‘different’
ya mean ya like it. If ya don’t I can go get–”

T’Pol shook her head. “By *different* I was
referring to the tea’s new taste. It is acceptable.”
She took another sip, longer this time, as though
lingering with her lips to the mug was more a
guilty pleasure than a chore.

“How’s your neck feel?” He looked as though he
longed to stroke it, no matter what her response
was. “Kinda sore?”

“No, not at all. Why should it be?” She admitted
to herself that he made an excellent ‘visible means
of support.’

“The way your head snapped back the way it did,
just before the treadmill chucked you off, I
figure you’ve gotta be a prime candidate for
whiplash.”

T’Pol said nothing, the risidual of a headache
making her head throb. Headaches, she never used
to be so susceptible to them; she got them often
now. Ever since contracting Pa’naar Syn., the
smallest provocation would set one off. Without
thinking, she blurted, “My head hurts.” She held
her mug away from her, not wanting anymore of the
beverage at the moment.

Taking the mug out of her hand, Trip set it down
on the floor, off to the right of his feet. “Let
me see what I can do…” Intuitively, he placed
his left hand at the back of her head, and his
right hand, with palm covering her forehead like
a band, began a gentle but firm vice-like
undulation against it.

T’Pol surrendered herself to the comfort he lent,
not thinking twice. He always made a point of
letting her know she had ‘magic fingers.’ His
digits, his entire hand, both his hands were like
finely-tuned instruments skilled in administering
relief in their own right, relief she sorely
needed.

Her neuro-pressure student was gifted, and what he
was doing to her now was a far cry from any n-p
session they’d had to date. Even so, it was
helping. His strong, determined touch was
gradually working the headache out of her head.
She felt adrift, listing on a sea of serenity; the
sky she was under, a pacific blue. To her
satisfaction, her ankle was beginning to feel more
like its normal self.

“Head feelin’ a little better?” Trip inquired,
more gently than the calm before a storm, easing up
on the pressure applied to her forehead.

T’Pol didn’t reply, but with eyes still closed, she
nodded within the confines of his restorative
hands. The throbbing in the frontal region of her
head was all but gone. In time, pleased that he
hadn’t left off from massaging, she said, “You
have allayed my discomfort. You will have to teach
me your technique. It’s very effective.”

Trip took a break from his ministrations. His
crackly laugh filled her quarters. “My momma taught
me everythin’ I know. My dad gets some real winners
whenever he gets headaches, and when he does, he gets
as grouchy as a wet hen. When my brother and sis…”
He hesitated before going on, and when he did, his
voice was level, sure. “When we were kids, we knew
to give our old man a wide berth whenever we saw our
mom at his head. We kids knew what *that* meant.”

T’Pol processed that unexpected bit of personal
information, then opened her eyes. As long as she
was going to be laid up, she might as well make
the best use of the time. “Would you bring me the
PADD near the computer, please?”

A look of, ‘your wish is my command’ sparked in
Trip’s arresting eyes. “Why, sure. Anythin’ for
you, T’Pol.” He fairly popped up when he stood,
with eyes panning over to the desk where the tool
was. Having forgotten all about the mug at his
feet, he stumbled. He stumbled badly, his legs
having seemed to work independently of each other,
causing him to go down hard. He lay sprawled out
on the floor.

T’Pol regarded his fallen form, wondering why he
was having such a problem with balance this day.
Trip looked right back at her, red-faced, looking
as though he wanted to be any place but here in all
his clumsy glory.

“Don’t know what’s got into me today,” he muttered
under his breath. “It’s like my space legs have
up and left.” No sooner having made that
observation, the comm. interrupted their fleeting
contemplation of each other.

‘–Bridge to T’Pol. T’Pol, I’d like you to join
me in the captain’s mess tonight for dinner. You
and Trip.–‘

“I’ll get this,” Trip told her, noting a look of
uncertainty on her face. When he tried to stand,
the groan he let out startled both of them. “What
a pain in the ass!”

“Have you injured your behind, Comman–Trip?” T’Pol
innocently asked, looking the most concerned Trip
had ever seen her.

‘–T’Pol are you in your quarters?–‘

“No, it’s my ankle.” Grimacing, Trip sort of
bopped, sort of hopped his way over to the
communications port. “Trip here, Cap’n….with
T’Pol.”

‘–You two seem to be spending a lot of time
together, lately–‘

Leaning against the wall, trying to impress T’Pol
by being as stoic as she could be, Trip responded,
“She’s had a mishap, sir, no thanks to an anomaly
she never saw comin’; happened in the gym. The
roilin’ zipped along makin’ the treadmill she was
on throw her for a loop. Like Johnny-on-the-spot,
I caught her in the nick of time. She sustained
a nasty ankle sprain, so I took her to Sickbay.”

‘–She’s all right, though–‘

“You’re all right?” Trip asked her, lowering his
voice considerably.

T’Pol nodded, taking him in with wide luminous
eyes. She saw how he favored the ankle he rubbed,
unable to stop herself from speculating.

“She’s fine, Cap’n, but Phlox’d like her to stay
off her feet a couple of days. Her ankle really
swelled behind the sprain.”

‘–Then I guess it’ll just be you and me tonight
for dinner, then.–‘

Looking doubtful, Trip suggested, “Uh, it just
might be you, sir. You know what they say…”
He shot a ‘we’re in the same boat’ expression at
T’Pol. “One good turn deserves another.”

‘–And what’s that supposed to mean?–‘

“It means your first- and second-in-command have
the weakest ankles on ‘Enterprise.'”

‘–So, you’re saying you sprained your ankle too?–‘

“On the nose, Cap’n. On the nose.” Trip scrunched
up his face for T’Pol who treated him to a quizzical
look.

‘–I’ll tell Phlox I’m bringing you in, and be there
in less than a minute, stay put.–‘

“Oh, don’t worry, sir, goin’ somewhere is pretty
much out of the question for me too right now. Man,
you should see how fast this ankle is swellin’. Think
I’m gonna need your help to Sickbay so Phlox can see
what a good job I’ve done racking myself up.”

‘–(Archer heard over the comm) – Mister Reed, you
have the Bridge.’

‘–(Malcolm’s voice) – Aye, sir.–‘

“See ya in a few, Cap’n,” Trip interjected.

‘–I’m on my way. Archer out.–‘

Avoiding having his left ankle, the compromised one,
make contact with the floor, Trip made his hobbled
way back to T’Pol’s bunk as best he could. Her PADD
was in his right hand, and he set it upon the bed
as soon as he was able to.

“Talk about coincidence… We’ve been sharin’
a lot lately, but sprainin’ our ankles together
draws the line.”

“I recommend neuro-pressure prior to seeing Doctor
Phlox. Some preliminary treatment before the
application of an ice pack will facilitate quicker
healing.”

“That’s okay, T’Pol, you’re in no shape to be
working me over with neuro-pressure. I’ll be all
right once Phlox slaps the cold on.”

She made room for him on the bed, and watched
attentively as he hoisted himself up to carefully
sit beside her. “My attending to your ankle will
in no way interfere with my healing process. What’s
more, your healing process will be greatly enhanced
by the application of neuro-pressure.”

Trip glided the backs of his fingers over her
washboard flat abdomen. “I’m not willin’ to take
any chances with you, if I have anythin’ to say
about it.”

“But, if I remember correctly, you just told me
you are willing to do *anything* for me.” She
arched her eyebrow, looking summarily pleased
with herself for throwing his very words at him.

“Sure, anythin’ within reason. Not somethin’
that could be bad for ya.”

“But that’s not what you said, you said *anything*,”
T’Pol stubbornly insisted, seeing a pained
expression frame the look on his face.

“You know what I meant.” He made a digging motion
with the largest joint of his middle finger against
her side. “You’re not gonna browbeat me with
semantics at a time like this,” Trip said, scrubbing
his hand over his face. “It’s called not playin’
fair.”

“I only wish to help…” And then almost
plaintively, T’Pol purred, “Help you as much as
you’ve…you help me…”

Arching his eyebrow, Trip, looking her dead in the
eye said, “You wanna help me, help me like
this…then.” He kissed her tenderly, first both
cheeks and leisurely her lips which he felt tremble
beneath his. After a while, he supplicated, “No
hypospray could ever work better than what your lips
do for me, honey.” As he shut his lids, his eyes
rolled back, and he knew she was waiting for him to
say, “I know, I know, that’s totally illogical, but
just ’cause somethin’ isn’t logical doesn’t mean it’s
no good. Is it logical you and I, the way we’re
goin’? Who would’ve ever thought, huh? But it
sure feels like we should go as far as we can with
what we’ve started.”

T’Pol thought that over, knowing in her heart of
hearts that he was right. Had it been logical
for her to resign her commission to be with this
crew…to be with…

She lowered her head, but when she felt Trip’s
finger beneath her chin, raising it, she couldn’t
help but meet his eyes, and the fragile look
contained within them. It was a look she found
herself anticipating with each passing day; it
made her feel wanted, needed, prized.

“We’re good together, don’tcha think?”

T’Pol nodded upon his finger, lost in the haven
of everything he was beginning to mean to her.
Her nostrils began twitching, her control over
them to stop, nonexistent.

“So do I,” he whispered, leaning into her even
closer, his intent to kiss her, clear. This
time, his kiss left them both breathless. His
lips quivered against hers, and he said, “We
should get married. I’ve never felt so sure about
anythin’ in my life. We don’t always see eye to
eye, but that’s what makes us work…”

“Perhaps there is some validity in something I’ve
overheard many crew members say.” The texture of
his skin against hers made her giddy.

“And what’s that?” Trip questioned, studying her
face attentively.

“Opposites attract…”

“Amen.” Trip claimed her lips for himself yet
again, deepening the kiss in response to T’Pol’s
initiating her wanting him as much as he wanted
her.

The chiming of the door chime coincided perfectly
with the couple’s gradual withdrawal from the
other’s face.

“Enter,” they chorused, in complementary unison.

Archer did as they’d instructed, coming into T’Pol’s
quarters the way he did when he entered any enclosed
area aboard Enterprise. He swaggered. Seeing them
lounging on her bed together neatly confirmed every
speculation he was trying hard of late not to
entertain concerning their relationship. Ever since
‘Enterprise’ had entered the Expanse Trip and T’Pol
seemed to have something ‘going on.’

Their body language spoke volumes. In their own
quirky way, it was increasingly hard to ignore
that they were an ‘item.’

“Two peas in a pod,” Jonathan quietly muttered
deep within his throat, and that was as far as he
wanted to take it for the time being. The captain
watched his chief engineer give it a real college
try in trying to get to his feet unassisted. Not
knowing quite what to make of his sudden feelings
of envy, Archer put a stop to Trip’s aggravating his
ankle further. “Here let me give you a hand.”

“I wouldn’t mind if ya threw in a healthy ankle
while you’re in a generous mood, Cap’n. I really
did a number on mine.”

“And just how did this happen?” Archer refused
to permit his over-active imagination to run
rampant. He guessed that if T’Pol wanted Trip here,
that was why he was. At least she didn’t seem to
mind fraternizing with Trip; she rarely did with
anyone else.

“I tripped over T’Pol’s tea mug which I’d set near
my feet when I was gettin’ her PADD for her, over on
the desk. Just call me twinkle-toes with two left
feet.”

“Looks as though you could use my assistance,” Archer
offered, eyeing his friend’s ankle which indeed looked
very swollen now that Trip had his athletic shoe off.

“Sure could,” Trip agreed.

“Forget about my bringing you, on second thought…”
The captain was at the communication port in two
strides. “Archer to Doctor Phlox…”

The doctor’s acknowledgement was immediate. ‘Yes,
Captain…’

“I think it’s advisable that you come to T’Pol’s
quarters to take a look at Trip’s ankle, here.
I don’t think it’s a good idea for him to try to
walk on it.”

‘Understood, Captain, I’m on my way.’

Archer, not missing a beat, got back on the comm.
“Chef, change of plans for tonight.”

Trip and T’Pol exchanged thoughtful glances,
silently questioning, “now what?”

“Instead of the captain’s mess, I’d like to have
dinner served in sub-commander T’Pol’s quarters
this evening.”

Trip glancing T’Pol’s way was superfluous.
Instinctively, he knew this turn of events
wasn’t what she’d expected at all. He also knew
she’d go along with it, because she knew all
too well that making a fuss was pointless.
Once the captain’s mind was made up, he was like
a dog with a bone. You’d get hurt, trying to
wrench it away.

“Great idea, Cap’n,” Trip awarded, secure in the
knowledge that, smugly, T’Pol was waiting for him
to reward Archer.

Phlox arrived, almost on cue, and said pretty much
the same things he’d advised in T’Pol’s case,
recommending that the chief engineer stay off the
injured foot for a few days. Trip got his own
ice pack. The doctor saw no reason why, with
assistance, Tucker would have to remain in T’Pol’s
quarters. Inconveniencing T’Pol, anymore than she
had been already, would be unnecessary.

Again, the first- and second-in-command exchanged
meaningful looks, the thought crossing both minds
that the captain and the doctor sported twinkles
in their eyes that advertised speculation.

It was something the couple, particularly the Vulcan
constituent of the puzzle, who wasn’t quite sure
what the well-liked Human and she were, could do
without.

No sooner had Phlox left, when Chef and his dapper
entourage of stewards called, ready, willing and
able to serve the triumvirate rarified fare fit for
even T’Pol’s discriminating palate. The servers set
up a make-shift dining area, complete with table
and chair, for the captain who would be dining
at it while Trip and T’Pol would be using her
bunk.

Everything was as it should have been.

The plomeek soup ‘a la Provencale,’ which was
another way of saying Chef used vegetable stock
instead of a dairy-based one, and the butter
was purposely omitted, ever since T’Pol had
inquired about his recipe, was superb. It was
the best preparation to date; T’Pol requested a
second serving, which was a blatant admission of
how much she liked it. And she ate every bit of
her ‘Caponetta’ salad, not leaving so much as a
morsel, unlike her norm.

The porterhouse steak, for the non-Vulcans, with
all the trimmings, mashed potatoes and caramelized
string beans with almonds were done to perfection.
When Archer had inquired about the unusual flavor
of the string beans, Chef had informed him to
read up more on the Maillard Reaction.

“Well, I guess it is getting late,” Archer admitted,
once an over-officious Chef and his efficient troop
departed, leaving T’Pol’s quarters as it normally
was, minimalist. Sitting beside Trip, T’Pol
regarded Archer expectantly.

Nodding in agreement, Trip concurred, looking at
her. “Where’d the time go? I’m so full, I hope
I don’t break the back of whoever’s gonna haul my
ass to my place.” Following his pregnant pause,
he added slyly, “Cap’n…”

“Don’t worry, Trip, I think I’ll be able to handle
it.” Archer gazed over at T’Pol, who seemed to be
regarding Trip with eyes as large as saucers. With
a ‘time to call it an evening’ expression, he
extended, “Is there anything I can get you before we
leave?”

“No, Captain, there is nothing I lack, thank you.”
Her eyes couldn’t help but settle upon Trip and
he practicably returned her sated look.

“Goodnight, then,” Archer bade.

“Goodnight, Captain,” T’Pol wished.

Trip just smiled at her as though the set of his
mouth would stay that way for a good while. Playing
footsies under their captain’s nose, when his eyes
hadn’t been on them, had been fun.

“Ready, Trip?”

“Ready as I’ll ever be, Cap’n.” Trip made to
stand, but Archer was right under him, sparing
him any undue exertion. “A little rocky, sir.”

“Not too bad. I’ve got you.”

T’Pol noted how heavily Trip leaned upon Archer,
and thought that perhaps tensions between them
were finally easing. “Captain,” she said,
“despite my temporary incapacitation, I will
have those iconic analyses completed, as you
requested.”

“Take all the time you need, T’Pol, there’s no
rush.”

With a pronounced sluggishness to the men’s gait,
Archer and Trip made a second start for the door.
“We’ll talk tomorrow, T’Pol. Maybe go over those
injector percentiles, if you’re up to it,” Trip
introduced.

“That’s only if she’s up to it, Trip,” Archer was
quick to remind.

“Aside from the swollen condition of my ankle, I’m
fine. Mentally, I’m quite capable of performing my
duties,” T’Pol insisted.

“Let’s not push it,” Archer cautioned, initiating
the opening of the door. Upon its doing so, the
captain gently urged Trip on. “Sprains can be a
tricky–”

“Watch out, Cap’n,” Trip warned, but the warning
came too late. Archer had gone one way and he
another, with the result that both men were now
lying in a heap; Trip had his face buried in
Archer’s armpit, and the captain was grimacing,
clutching his ankle.

Through the open door, they heard T’Pol call, “Is
everything all right?”

“Uh…”

“Uh huh…ya damn right, uh…”

“Is there some difficulty?”

“Not unless you consider a three-way ankle sprain
a problem,” Trip piped up, sounding as snide as
he could. “Cap’n, as soon as I’m able to stand on
two solid feet, I’m gonna check the decks for bobbles.”

“You do that, Trip. You do that. T’Pol…”

“Yes, Captain.”

“Could you call Phlox? I’d do it myself, if my
ankle didn’t feel as if it’s broken. I’d appreciate
it. Take your time though, no need worsening your
present condition.” Archer winced; shiny beads of
sweat dotted his forehead.

“I’ll call him, Captain.”

“T’Pol,” Trip hailed.

“Yes, Commander?”

“Watch your step.”

She supposed she’d make allowance for the unmistakable
strains of amusement shading his tone. At heart,
generally, he was a Human who managed to see the
comical in the most unlikely situations. “Indeed…”

The anomaly was responsible for her incident. What
were their excuses? As she crawled her way to the
comm. port, she tried making some for them, and found
she couldn’t…unless…clumsiness, in and of itself,
was some new, more insidious form of anomaly.

She wondered about that…

End

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