Newly transferred to the Enterprise, Trip stepped off the shuttlepod and was greeted by the most striking creature of femininity he'd ever laid eyes on. Unconsciously, his tongue pushed against his cheek. It took him a moment to register the fact that this delicious specimen came with a pair of pointed ears and a dark-eyed glare.
“Too bad,” he said with a grin.
The Vulcan raised her up-swept eyebrow. “Too bad?” she queried in a husky voice.
Trip leaned forward. “If you weren't Vulcan, I'd invite you to tour my new quarters.”
“If I weren't Vulcan, you would be in sickbay right now,” she replied without missing a beat.
He threw his head back and laughed loudly. “I like you.” Glancing around, he turned his attention to the scowling MACO standing rigidly next to the petite Vulcan. “Is she always this much fun?”
“I'm sure I don't know what you mean, Commander.” The MACO's British accent clipped his words so that his tone was exaggeratedly disgusted. The reply brought another snicker from Trip.
Of course, that was all before Trip's “accident” in engineering that had left him disfigured. That was before he learned that, unlike the research station at Jupiter, the engine room was a radiation deathtrap. That was before Trip realized that the flagship of Starfleet took “survival of the fittest” to a whole new level.
That was before Commander Charles Tucker the third became a bitter man. . .
“Well, well, well,” Trip sneered as T’Pol stepped through the doors, “Look what the sehlat dragged in.”
T’Pol merely stared back at him with those dark, glittering eyes in the challenging way she always looked at everyone. That expression raised the hackles of other humans on the ship, especially Archer and Reed, both of whom thought she was rather uppity for a Vulcan, but Trip liked it. He liked the way her eyes glinted whenever he spoke to her.
“What could possibly bring you down here to endanger your pretty little face with radiation?” he grinned as he walked up to her, standing mere inches away. He loved violating her personal space, just for the rise he got out of her. “You don’t wanna turn out like me, do ya darlin’?”
“Unless Major Reed has decided make an unsuccessful attempt on my life, I doubt my ‘pretty little face’ is in any danger.” The words made his grin drop a millimeter. “You should know that Vulcan physiology can withstand far more radiation humans can endure.”
Trip looked down at her. Her passive face hinted of triumph. It was ironic how every one thought that Vulcans were completely devoid of emotion. He knew better, though, having studied her face for so long. Her eyes showed a veritable explosion of fire hiding beneath the veneer of Vulcan calm. He would love to find the fuse for that bomb waiting to happen—and be the one to ignite it.
“If you Vulcans are so superior,” he whispered has he leaned next to her pointed ear, “then why are you the slaves?” He could sense her stiffen and hear her barely audible intake of breath. Yep, it looked like he won this round. A new hash mark appeared under his name on his mental chalkboard. Damn, but he loved goading her. The tension was palpable as they stood that way in silence.
“So, what do you want?” Trip finally asked, taking a step back. “I’m busy.”
“My tricorder needs recalibration—“
“What?!” He cut her off. Of all the absurd requests! “Let me get this straight: you want me, the Chief Engineer, to take a break from keeping this ship running to fix your tricorder? That’s something you can do yourself. Don’t waste my time.” Trip began to walk away.
“I need it for an away mission and require your expertise. I am, as you say, merely a slave.” She set the tricorder down as well as a PADD. “It must be completed by eleven hundred hours. I have noted the required specifications. You may bring it to me on the bridge when you are finished.”
Trip watched her exit with his mouth slightly agape. Just when he’d thought he’d gotten the upper hand… Now he had to remove the mental hash mark and put it under her name. Someday he was going to score—one way or another.
A moment later he became aware of an unusual quiet in the engineering room.
“What’re you idiots staring at!” he snapped at his crew. “Get yer asses back to work!”
It was the first time Commander Tucker had been in the mess hall since the “accident” two months ago. T'Pol watched with mild interest as the engineer entered the room. It was generally known that he now took his meals in his small office in engineering. Everyone assumed that he never actually spent any time in his quarters as he always seemed to be on duty. T'Pol suspected that his habit of practically living down there was to avoid the same stares that he was now the recipient of. She had, on more than one occasion, heard him referred to as the “Phantom of the Warp Core.” Of course, the title meant nothing to her, having no proper reference. It was most likely some ridiculous human idiom and she had no interest in seeking further clarification.
The still-fresh pink scars on the right side of Commander Tucker's face could only be described as disfiguring and difficult not to notice. If T'Pol had been human, she might have pitied the once charismatic commander. Her sympathy might have also been compounded by the whispers that the accident which had mutilated his visage was not an accident at all, but a botched attempt on his life by Major Reed. It was a theory that, though quite sound, remained unproven.
But T'Pol was not human, and therefore did not pity Commander Tucker. Instead she felt. . . understanding—however illogical it seemed. The commander was isolated because of his disfigurement, and isolation was something that T'Pol knew too well. Despite being fourth in command of Starfleet's most powerful ship, T'Pol would never be equal or accepted—as meagerly as the humans accepted one another. Her blood would never be crimson, the tips of her ears rounded nor her eyebrows crescent. No matter how she wore her hair, she would be Vulcan and considered, at most, an intelligent and useful slave to the humans.
Although Tucker was a human, she sensed that he received much the same treatment as she. She was a slave to be ignored and he was a monster to be shunned. Were they very different at all?
T'Pol considered this new insight as she sipped her tea. Knowing that she and Commander Tucker were more alike than she cared to admit did not provide any foreseeable advantage. After a moment of contemplation, attempting to wrench any possible angle from this chain of thought, T'Pol neatly folded this new and disturbing knowledge away. It might prove useful later.
“This seat taken?” Commander Tucker's gravelly voice awakened T'Pol from her thoughts. He sat in a chair across from her as if he weren't asking for permission—which, of course, he wasn't. His actions drew even more stares and whispers. Humans did not dine with Vulcans. He was breaking a taboo that would undoubtedly set the ship alight with more rumors.
T'Pol watched him and waited for him to realize his error. He glanced at her, smiled, licked his lips and then plunged into his meal, completely oblivious to the stir that he had caused. She wondered if he knew how damaging sitting with her could be to his reputation. Was he that thoughtless? Or did he truly not care?
“So, Commander,” Tucker said after several minutes of silence, “when are you finally gonna stop by my quarters for that official tour? It's almost been six months since I invited you.” The comment was delivered with the same leer that T'Pol had become accustomed to in the time that they'd served together.
“As I recall, the invitation was open only if I was not a Vulcan,” she replied coolly, taking another sip of her tea.
“You're not gonna let somethin' as little as bein' different species get in our way, are you?”
“It is an obstacle that I would prefer not to surmount.”
“What? No scientific curiosity?” He licked his lips again and his eyes wandered southward in an appreciative glance that suddenly made T'Pol feel unsettled. “I know that I'm definitely curious.” Tucker leaned forward and dropped his voice, “Let's, you an' me, do a little experiment, Commander.”
T'Pol's jaw involuntarily tensed at his appalling overture. “Your theory assumes that I am interested in a. . . sexual exploration with a human and that I would choose you with which to explore,” she explained while attempting to ignore the way his tongue kept dancing between his lips. “You are, of course, in error.”
“Am I now?” He leaned back in his chair, bringing his hands to rest behind his head. “Which part of my theory is false?”
“I have no desire for sexual relations with a human.”
Commander Tucker nodded his head and sucked the inside of his cheeks. “So. . . that means if you were interested sex with a human, then I'd be your man.” He wore a triumphant grin that grated on T'Pol. Instead of deterring Tucker's persistent proposition, she had somehow managed to encourage him further. Frustration threatened to bubble over and inflame the volatile temper that she kept carefully locked away.
“This discussion is illogical,” she stated through gritted teeth and stood abruptly.
He grabbed her arm as she attempted to make her way past him. “Hey now. Don't leave just yet—not when things were just startin' to get interestin'. I can be a good boy.” His tone, however, said differently.
It was in that moment that she became entirely aware of something that she should have noticed long ago—something that set Commander Tucker apart from all of the other human males she had ever known. His leers, the way he ogled her, lacked a certain self-loathing that others had felt at finding themselves attracted to T'Pol, an alien. He saw nothing but an alluring female before him, no matter the color of her blood. Far more disturbing was that a part of her wanted to welcome his unfettered desire.
“Let go of me,” she commanded.
He didn't obey immediately, staring back at her strangely devoid of his typical smirk and T'Pol found herself wondering what he was thinking. Suddenly he blinked and a smug smile curled his lips once more. “Well, you know where to find me if you change your mind,” he said as he released her.
“I can assure you that I won't, Commander.”
“All right,” Tucker snorted with disbelief lacing his voice. He turned his attention to what remained of his meal and completely ignored her.
T'Pol left the mess hall agitated. She felt as if she had been in a chess match with the Commander and he had just made a surprising move that had changed the dynamic of the game. She would have to find a way to recover and turn the tables in her favor once more.
The away mission had proved fruitless and had been a complete waste of time and resources. T’Pol very much disliked waste. The planet had proven uninhabited and inhospitable. The point of the mission made little sense to her, but it wasn’t her job as a slave to question, even if she were the Captain’s favorite.
No, she would instead wait for humanity’s affinity for waste and inefficiency to implode in on itself and then perhaps Vulcan might finally be free.
In her quarters, T’Pol slipped out of her uniform and noticed that it was damp. Odd. She studied the fabric for a moment and gingerly touched her forehead. It was wet with sweat and far too warm. She went into the bathroom and doused her face with cool water. In the mirror her reflection looked flushed.
Something was wrong and would, regrettably, require the attention of Phlox. If she had been poisoned by someone—most likely Archer—she would have to hope that the Doctor was not in on the scheme. An overwhelming anger boiled up inside of her and took every ounce of strength to stifle.
She was, indeed, not quite herself.
T’Pol dressed in a clean uniform and headed toward the sickbay. In her haste, she nearly knocked over Commander Tucker.
“Hey! Watch where yer goin’!” he growled at her. Then he stepped closer and his expression changed from annoyance to concern. He placed his hands on her shoulders in an inappropriate familiarity. “Are you okay? You don’t look so good.”
Irrationally, she grabbed the front of his uniform and slammed him against the bulkhead. “I am fine,” she growled in a low voice. “Please let me pass, Commander.”
“Uh, darlin’,” Tucker replied as he smiled thinly, “You're the one who’s holdin' me.”
It took precisely three seconds for his words to pierce through the fog that was filling her mind. Another two seconds passed before she could pry her hands off of his uniform.
“Are you sure you're okay?” he asked again.
T’Pol didn’t answer, but instead broke out into a run down the corridor.
She couldn't recall the rest of her journey to sickbay and she was only barely aware of the doctor's examination. The only thing that mattered was that it was hot, too hot. Her body was an inferno that threatened to char her into nothing.
“If you were a Vulcan male, Commander, I would say that you were experiencing the onset of Pon'Farr.” Phlox’s explanation drew what was left of her attention. The words made little sense to her at first, the burning was siphoning her ability to reason. When the weight of understanding finally seized her, horror swelled within her chest.
“Impossible!” T’Pol replied a little too tersely. She took a deep breath before continuing. “Females do not experience Pon'Farr.”
“While that is true, the data indicates the beginning of the blood fever,” the doctor explained. “What I don’t know is what is causing it. I’ll need to take both a blood and tissue sample for analysis.”
T’Pol nodded her assent. She clung to the shred of rationality left to her. “Once the cause is found, I’m assuming you will be able to devise a cure.”
“Possibly,” he answered as he laid the hypospray against her neck. “Commander, if this… ‘false’ Pon'Farr follows the same route as the real thing, then you will have to resolve it or—“
“Die.” she finished the sentence for him.
“Yes. And I’m not sure if I can find the cause, let alone develop a cure, in time. You may want to consider making use of one of the suitable Vulcan males on board.”
“Indeed.” It would be the most logical course of action.
“What I still don’t understand,” Phlox spoke mostly to himself as he took the tissue sample, “is how your physiology would even allow for this if females don’t experience Pon'Farr?” Before she could reply, he answered his own question. “Perhaps they once did eons ago and it somehow was culled out through the process of evolution, like the appendix in humans…” He mumbled further to himself.
T’Pol knew the truth. Bonded Vulcan females experienced the Pon'Farr of their mates. That was why their physical make-up allowed for it. But the bond was a closely guarded secret. The humans already exploited the Vulcan’s ability to mind-meld. Allowing them to exploit bonds was unthinkable.
“That should do it.” Phlox interrupted her thoughts. “I’ll let you know as soon as I have the results, but think about what I’ve said.”
“Thank you, Doctor.”
T'Pol left sickbay, grasping at whatever logic she still held as the fire burned ever brighter within. She knew that she wouldn't have much time before she was completely taken with the plak tow. A suitable mate must be found as soon as possible or else she would have any male that she might come in contact with. She had already been subjected to countless indecencies in her forced service to the humans and T'Pol would not willingly give over this part of her dignity. She would not give them more to hold over her.
There were only two unbound Vulcan males on the ship. Only two choices of potential life mates left to her. It was possible to resolve the Pon'Farr without incurring a matebond but the chance always remained. The madness of the blood fever would make it impossible to consciously prevent one from forming. Only the priestesses of Gol had the skill necessary to resolve Pon'Farr without binding themselves.
Need, insatiable need was beginning to tremble and grow in her middle. It was coming too fast. She would be taken too soon. T'Pol ran with abandon, ignoring the open stares of those she passed in her desperation to find one of the two males. Either would make an adequate life mate, she no longer cared. She only wanted to quench the flames of fever and desire, to be free of the drive that was overwhelming all thought and reason. The Vulcan male, whichever one she found first, would understand. He would sate her, cool her fires and never mention it again.
Here. You are here.
Her mind told her that she had reached her destination. Relief flooded through her in sync with the inferno turning white hot with unending need. She reached a trembling hand to press the comm when she saw the room number stenciled to the door frame.
These were not the quarters of either of her potential partners but those of Commander Tucker's. T'Pol willed her mind to explain this mistake but no reason was forthcoming—no rational reason. She turned to begin another race through the corridors in search of a proper companion but her feet made no move. Instead her hand caressed the door. It was cool… so cool and inviting.
“No,” she whispered to herself. It was preposterous. He was entirely unsuitable!
Was he in there? T'Pol instinctively brought her fingers up to her face and inhaled deeply. She could still smell his scent from when she had shoved him in the corridor earlier. The faint scent of grease, sweat and pheromones overwhelmed her and she wanted more. She needed more now.
“No!” She begged her body to stop bombarding her senses. She demanded that her mind listen to logic, to abort this senseless design.
Most likely, he wouldn't be there. It was the last desperate hope that she screamed inside, trying to convince her body to listen. Tucker was rumored to be an insomniac who was notorious for working seventy-two hour shifts or more. He wouldn't be there and she would be wasting precious time. He couldn't be there. The hunger was drowning out the last vestiges of her logic. She needed to leave now and find an acceptable mate before she was lost completely.
A little voice goaded her… Just a peek.
Her whole body shook as she fought the urge to break into Tucker’s quarters. It was a battle she was fast losing with the knowledge that the commander was openly attracted to her. He wanted her. His desire was so utterly naked and unrestrained. He wanted her and she found his wanting incredibly desirable. The remembrance of how he had leaned over and whispered in her ear this morning, his hot breath touching her skin as he uttered that vile comment, sent shivers down the nape of her neck and the raging fire leapt in intensity.
She would have him and only him.
Barely aware that she was now driven completely by the demands of her body, T’Pol managed to get around the lock and alarm on the door. She stepped into his darkened quarters and drank in his scent. The damp smell of soap and shampoo could not completely mask the essence that was Commander Tucker. It was this essence that called to her appetite now. She quietly made her way to his bunk, every cell in her body burning brighter with anticipation. Sweet release was mere steps away.
A split second too late, she realized the lump on the bed was merely tangled sheets.
Trip had installed extra security measures after Major Reed tried to kill him a year and a half ago. He had no idea why the Brit felt threatened by him, but he wasn't going to be taking any more chances.
He had just laid down, clad only in pajama bottoms, for another futile attempt at sleeping when a small light started flashing in the bulkhead. Silently cursing his decision to accept the promotion and the new position on the Enterprise, Trip grabbed his dagger and scrambled to the wall by the door, flattening himself against it. If it was Reed or one of his cronies, Trip knew he only had the element of surprise on his side. While he wasn't inexperienced in fighting, he certainly didn't have the same kind of training that those jarheads had.
The door slid open with a quiet swish, closing immediately after a slight form crossed the threshold. His eyes already adjusted to the dark, Trip instantly recognized the long, silky dark hair and the pleasant figure that he spent his free time admiring.
What the hell?
T'Pol crept toward his bed, looking like a wild cat preparing to pounce. He wondered if she'd finally had enough of his overt advances. It seemed damned illogical that she'd solve that problem by killing him, but there she was all the same. Maybe Vulcans had a different kind of logic.
Son of a bitch!
Trip slipped behind her and placed the blade at her throat. His other arm snaked around her waist and he yanked her tightly to him. He leaned over and placed his mouth near her elven ear.
“Well looky, looky, looky… What do we have here? The Princess finally come to kill me? Was it something I said?” He spoke with more confidence than he actually felt. Trip wasn't stupid. He knew that she had more than twice his strength, but he'd be damned if he was going to beg for his life. “I should kill ya for tryin’, but it’d be such shame to waste such a pretty thing.” He licked his lips unconsciously, surprised that for some reason he was slightly aroused by all of this. “How ‘bout I just send you on your way and save you from breakin' a nail while trying to slit my throat. Okay, darlin’?”
A flash of white accompanied the pain he suddenly felt as she head butted him. Before he could blink, he was sailing through the air. He landed on his back, gasping for the wind that had been knocked out of him. A dull ache began to pulse in his head. Dammit! T'Pol stood over him and placed her boot at his neck, constricting his already limited air supply. She glanced at the weapon he still gripped in his hand and the corners of her mouth quirked up briefly in a small smile that, for all the universe, looked satisfied. He clutched it tighter, but she made no move to take it from him.
“I am not trying to kill you,” she said through clenched teeth.
Trip was confused as hell. “Could've fooled me,” he rasped.
“I need a… favor,” she nearly growled. Something was way off about her.
Despite the fear that made his heart pound, Trip was growing frustrated. “Don’t tell me,” he coughed, “another tricorder on the fritz?” He knew it was dangerous to goad her when she was so obviously unstable but habits had a funny way of trumping reason.
She answered by pressing her foot harder and he instinctively raised his hands to her boot, trying to counter the crushing of his trachea. It was like attempting to lift a ten ton steel bracer.
“Listen!” she hissed, not hiding the anger that contorted her features. “I am… not well and I need your… help.” The words seemed like they were excruciating for her to say.
As she spoke he noticed that her foot began to give a little. He took advantage by twisting it and thrusting upward with all the strength that his adrenaline drenched muscles could give him. He allowed himself a brief grin as he watched her topple over. Two can play at that game, sweetheart. Trip was immediately on top of her, straddling her hips as he held her arms down. She looked back at him with surprise and… lust? He squinted his eyes, thinking she must have hit his head harder than he thought.
“Is it contagious?” He surprised himself by the question and the calm way his voice sounded. The truth was that he had no freaking idea what to make of all of this.
“It is Vulcan,” she answered cryptically. Trip snorted and waited for her to explain further. Instead she struggled against him with an expression that seemed to say that she wanted to rip his clothes off and have her way with him. None of it made sense. It certainly didn't help that his body wanted to respond in kind. He ground his teeth and ignored the new ache that he was experiencing in the pit of his stomach.
“Listen, darlin’, I ain’t doin’ a damn thing for ya until you tell me just what the hell is wrong with you.” he said, “’Cuz I suspect whatever illness you got, I don’t want.”
“I believe that you do,” she demurred. Her normally husky voice hinted with seduction and Trip had to overcome the urge to start kissing her senseless right then and there.
“Now just what the hell is that supposed to mean?” His frustration was reaching an apex as he warred with the gnawing desire to take the offer that her eyes were giving him, consequences be damned.
“It is the Pon'Farr,” she replied as if he ought to know what that meant. Trip stared at her in thorough confusion. “Every seven years a Vulcan is driven to mate or suffer death.”
“Mate? You mean like sex?” Without thinking, he let go of her hands. This is so freaking ludicrous. “Is this some kinda sick joke?”
“Vulcans do not joke.” Her fingers began to dance along his bare chest and Trip fought another wave of longing as it barreled over him. He pushed her hands away in an attempt to keep his head clear.
“Why me?” he asked, his voice growing thick. “Why not one of your pointy-eared friends?”
She writhed under him, arching her back as if it was causing her physical pain to continue the discussion. “Goh tu. Tu goh veh,” she moaned in her native tongue. “Only you. You are the only one.” She reached up and pulled him down to her. She was hot, burning plasma. “Please,” she whispered, “please quench the fire.”
Trip couldn't find his voice at first. He worked his jaw until something finally came out. “Just sex?” It sounded more like a croak.
“Yes,” she breathed, her fingers slipping into the waistband of his pajamas. “What you've always wanted.”
He lost the battle then. Something, some small voice yelled that the price of giving in would be too great, but he no longer cared. She was offering the chance to find out just how passionate a Vulcan could be and he wasn't going to turn it down. If she wanted him to take her, he would, gladly.
Trip pressed his lips to hers and kissed her hungrily. He felt a fire ignite within that he had never experienced before. It consumed him completely and utterly. He was aware of only her and her body, already wet with sweat. She would be his.
It was the only word that whispered through his mind as he unzipped her jacket. He knew that she wanted to be completely possessed by him and he was driven to fulfill that need.
Mine. Mine. Mine!
Nothing else mattered anymore as Trip lost himself to the bottomless hunger that overwhelmed him.
It was several hours later when T'Pol found herself again. She awoke with her naked form sprawled across Commander Tucker. He was lying on his stomach, snoring softly. There were bruises and bite marks on his back and shoulders and T'Pol stifled the urge to recall exactly how he had gotten them. She was, however, illogically pleased that he had survived the encounter.
The blood fever had passed, but her control was still tenuous. She knew she must meditate in order to gain some semblance of Vulcan calm, but a part of her did not find leaving Tucker desirable. It was completely irrational, of course, and therefore not worthy of her. Still, she found herself tracing lazy circles on his back as memories of their joining began to come unbidden to her mind. Her body shivered as the last vestiges of desire called to her once more.
Tucker's snoring stopped with a sharp intake of breath. T'Pol paused as a new fear grabbed her throat. Could he have felt her arousal? Had she inadvertently bonded him? She shook her head. It was illogical. He was human and humans were not telepathic. It was impossible.
“T'Pol?” Tucker queried in a groggy voice. He turned to face her, causing her to disentangle herself from his body. The irrational part of her suddenly felt cold without the contact. “It wasn't a dream.”
Her cheeks flushed. “No.”
He grinned at her. “Damn. When you Vulcans let your guard down you really let your guard down.” He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her close. “That was one helluva night, darlin'.” Tucker softly kissed her forehead. “You okay now?”
His tenderness frightened her. She hadn't expected that he would be so kind afterward. It was too dangerous to allow herself to trust this human—or any human for that matter. T'Pol pulled away from him.
“I am fine,” she answered. “We must never speak of this.” The words rushed out in response to her worries. If he didn't agree, she would be forced to meld with him. Considering how weak her control was at this moment, T'Pol couldn't be certain that she wouldn't bond him then. She looked down at him with eyes begging him this last favor.
Disappointment flashed across his features fleetingly before his expression settled on his typical leer. “All right, but it comes with a price, sweetheart.”
Fear constricted her throat again. “What price would that be?”
His smile turned even more feral as he placed his hands on her face and drew her into a deep kiss. When he let her go, he said, “One more time. One more time with you in your right mind.”
It was a small price to pay for his discretion, she reasoned. Of course, her decision was based solely on that logic and had nothing to do with any desire that she felt for him—which she didn't.
Trip sat in his bunk after she left, his head in his hands. She had ruined him. T'Pol had completely and irrevocably ruined him. He had wanted her from the day he'd met her, but now… He'd had no idea, no freaking idea that it would make any other dalliance he'd had in the past seem so ghostly pale in comparison. There was no way that any future hook ups he might have would be more than just mere shadows of what he had just experienced. The sex was still mind-blowing even after her crazy Vulcan thingamajig had passed.
He wouldn't have minded being destroyed this way, if she would have been willing to continue to have some kind of relationship with him. Even “friends with benefits” would have suited him just fine. She had been damned clear, though, that this was a one time deal and had politely thanked him for his help. End of discussion and no negotiation. How the hell was he supposed to recover from this? How the hell was he supposed to ever feel satisfied again?
If he'd have known that this was what would happen… He squashed the thought. Idiot, he berated himself, if you'd known you would have gladly signed up for the job. He would have done it over and over and over again. And then some more.
Dammit all to hell!
He had to have her again. He would find a way to convince her back into his bed. No matter how long it took, Trip would possess his favorite Vulcan somehow.
Whatever it took.