“Who’s that for?” Jon jabbed a finger at the tea.
“T’Pol.” I knew he wasn’t going to take it well, but the best option seemed to be brazening through. “And, if you’ll excuse me, Cap’n, I want to get it to her while it’s still hot.” I turned, and he barely got out of my way in time. I figured the hot liquids might be all that stopped him from decking me. Did I look and act this stupid, when my testosterone was up?
“From my observations, it seems to be endemic to your species.” But there was teasing acceptance behind her thought-message. “However, your possessiveness troubles me considerably less; perhaps it’s a relative matter, or that I am yours…”
“We talkin’ in our heads, now, pepperpot?”
“Yes. I would appreciate receiving my tea while its still hot.”
“Trip?” Jon was peering at me, now, as though he couldn’t decide whether to be mad or concerned. “Are you all right?”
“Yeah, Cap’n. Just an aftereffect of the meld, I guess. Didn’t know she could still talk to me.”
“What did she say?” There was a little too much emphasis on the ‘she’. I hoped like hell he was going to get over this possessive streak when he recovered from those Orion pheremones, because this wasn’t making adjusting to the bond, or that second bombshell she’d dropped, about needing to mate so she wouldn’t die, any easier.
“Said she likes her tea hot, and that I should get a move on.”
“T’Pol said that?”
“I could be paraphrasing.” I smiled. “She’s a helluva lot more formal than I am, after all.”
I got to the door, and Jon pushed the button, then followed me through. Any hope I had that he’d let it drop evaporated when he said, “Trip, what’s going on between you and T’Pol?”
I was at a loss – but then, words and ideas came into my head – a way to reveal just enough, without actually lying – or really answering the question. I surrendered to the master, and let myself be her conduit, lending her my own voice and tone. “Well, Cap’n, she’s too polite to say anything -“
“T’Pol’s not that polite, Trip. And I’ve never known her to hold back when she’s got something to say – any more than you do.”
“You and me, pepperpot – the loudmouths of the ship.” I found that more amusing than she did. To Jon, I said, “You’ve never been seduced by an Orion slave girl before, either, sir. But you have been now – and so have the rest of the men aboard – even, I’ve heard, the ones that don’t usually think of women as potential partners.” I had to admit, I felt sorriest for those guys – bad enough to be overwhelmed, but to be attracted to someone who would never normally turn your head – there was something cruel in that…
“Except you.” That was an accusation, pure and simple. “Why, Trip? T’Pol’s immune. You’re immune. Nobody else.”
“I’m not a doctor. If Phlox doesn’t know, how the hell am I supposed to? Maybe it’s that we work together a lot. Maybe it’s the neuropressure, or the melding – or even the dance lessons – I just don’t know.” We had our suspicions, but it was true that we didn’t know for certain that the bond was the reason. “Anyway – there’s been a lot of sexual frustration around lately, and a lot of fighting. And a lot of excess, angsty emotional energy floating around. She couldn’t hide from it while you weren’t able to do your duty, but she can now that you’re – more or less- functional again.”
“But she can tolerate you? Trip, when she first got here, I was damned near positive you were going to kill her. After I saw her fight a time or two, I was damned near positive she was going to kill you.” Finally, Jon cracked a smile.
“And now look at us. I’m bringin’ her tea, like I’m all civilized.” I felt T’Pol’s awareness sharpening – she could feel the punch line coming, even if she didn’t use those words. And she knew I was getting closer…I could feel her quiver of arousal humming back to life. “Lusty little pepperpot,” I thought to her, and something sinuous and swift passed through my mind, catlike and tempting. “But I’ll tell you a secret, Cap’n, if you promise not to tell her.”
I grinned at him as we neared her door. “I’m just waiting till her back’s turned. I was the fastest short-sheeter in summer camp, and I’ll just bet Vulcan kids don’t pull pranks – hell, maybe they don’t even have summer camp – I mean, it’s a desert world, and all that…what would the counselors say -‘OK, kids, go jump in the sand dunes?'”
“Trip, I order you not to short-sheet Commander T’Pol’s bed.” Jon chuckled. We were at her door, now, and he pressed the button. He peered in; thankfully, T’Pol was sitting facing us, eyes open, but still in meditative pose. “Watch him, T’Pol – he’s got designs on your bedding. Dinner, nineteen hundred. Both of you. Enjoy your tea.”
T’Pol sighed deeply as she accepted her mug, her fingers lingering on mine, seductive in a way I’d never known, before her. “You handled that well, Trip.”
“Me? Not all by myself. It was you and me, pepperpot.” It was tempting fate, but I couldn’t resist. I took those fingers, very carefully, and brushed my lips over the backs of her fingers. She moaned softly, trembling.
“Like you said, Trip, we make a helluva team.”
Put a Little Love in Yours!