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The Forgotten Time II: Ashaya-Ch 11
Author - enterpriseScribe
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The Forgotten Time II: Ashaya
Spoilers: Don’t we wish.
Feedback: Please do!
A/N: All Vulcan words are my best try from the Vulcan Language Database. :-)
Timeframe: Between episodes Kir’Shara and Daedalus—circa January 2155..
“Kwon-sum du dungau seshaya. And so, once again, you have chosen a difficult course. Yet I have a strange, passing notion that perhaps you are, at length, getting your heart’s desire. And while Vulcans ought not to harbour illogical desires, I do know that, as my curious changeling daughter, you likely have nothing else within your defiant young mind.”
T’Les paused and thought for a moment before continuing.
“You face many challenges…as do I…in these uncharted times. We are more alike than you would care to admit, T’Pol: both fractious to a fault, attempting to rein in emotions that should not exist.” T’Les sighed inwardly, and looked down, away from the camera. “The trouble with reins comes mainly when they break.”
When next she spoke, it was restlessly.
“By chance, your father and I were both this way. Perhaps it was unfair of us to combine our flawed natures to produce you. It was quite foreordained that you should be tormented, as you are, from within. We did limit our brood to just you, however, and spent the time we had in trying our best to help you fit in with others. I know it was…harder after your father died. For both of us.”
T’Les looked strongly back at the screen. “I regret I dare not say these things to you now, daughter. I only hope that, as you and I evolve—along with the rest of our poor race—we’ll choose to share some of these, our deeper thoughts together. After you return to me from the stars.” T’Les’ face softened. “I will wait. If there is one thing we Vulcans have on our side, it is time.” The log entry ended here.
T’Pol blinked away the aberrant tears that sprung to stinging eyes. She noted the date at the bottom of the personal log. T’lakht 141838. April 2151. T’lakht—the month of the flare. An auspicious time for new beginnings. T’Pol had just left, after a brief visit home, to join the human ship Enterprise. For what she thought would be a short observational post.
Well, she thought wryly, I’m certainly qualified to submit a report on the human situation now. Probably more qualified than any other Vulcan in existence. Even more so than Ko’mekh-il’s m’aih, T’Mir, she realised with a sort of belated shock. It is disconcerting when one outstrips one’s heroes.
T’Pol advanced firmly to the next personal log entry. Trip was still sleeping down the hall; she could hear his dreams faintly chasing themselves through his slumbering mind.
T’Les’ face appeared again, her low voice speaking in the exotic, pleasing tongue of T’Pol’s world. T’Pol abruptly noticed that Vuhlkansu now sounded strange to her ear. She had spent so much time over the last years immersed in the harsher sounds of English, her native language seemed almost sweetly musical: something otherworldly—of the pu’a.
As her mother’s voice continued, T’Pol was crushed by a massive, sudden nostalgia. Not knowing not what to call the unfamiliar emotion, she simply gripped the seat of her hard chair with white knuckles, listening in the dark.
Watching the bright, moving image of her dead mother’s face, with riveted, wet eyes.
* * *
Trip awoke sharply after a brief, hard nap. T’Pol had slipped away, leaving him alone in her bed, the sheets tangled around his ankles. He pushed up on his arms and looked groggily around for his watch. It was late evening now. The long, darkling shadows outside were devouring the day’s heat—the murky desert desperate to fling its calidity back into the night sky.
Trip inhaled and rubbed his face, grateful for the cooler temperature. Next time he came down here, he was bringing an EV suit. It just wasn’t right.
After a moment, he stretched and climbed out of bed. He pulled on a pair of cotton pyjama bottoms and headed down the dark hall toward the kitchen.
A faint voice floated eerily out to meet him as he approached the end of the hallway, and he paused at the threshold of the main room. T’Pol had her mother’s computer terminal on the table and was sitting in a straight chair, her back to him, knees up to her chest, viewing what appeared to be a saved personal log or transmission.
The picture’s flickering blue light feathered into the shadowy corners of the large, dark greatroom. The words issuing faintly from the speakers were in Vulcan: a low, rich ribbon of illegible sound that met Trip’s ears with surprising clarity across the carved silence of the room.
T’Pol, immersed in her memories, had not noticed Trip’s shift to awakening, nor his silent, barefoot approach. He stood with one hand on the doorframe, loathe to interrupt her in such a private moment, when suddenly he realised he could understand the words T’Les was saying on the screen. His untrained ears heard only the lovely gibberish of an alien tongue: however, his mind drew instinctively from T’Pol’s comprehension, and the meaning came plainly through. T’Les was speaking of him. He found himself listening, absorbed by her words and their meanings.
“You will, of course, do what you feel is best. You always have. However, when Commander Tucker spoke with me privately, I saw that you will not be rid of him so easily as simply speaking marriage vows to another. You yourself plan to return to your starship home in the sky—with him—instead of staying here, on Vulcan, with your new husband. It seems you have made a choice already, even if you do not yourself realize it. Perhaps you have been gone too long to realize how outlandish a choice it will seem to your peers.” T’Les paused in her monologue, thinking to herself.
The log entry looked to have been recorded out in the garden, at twilight. The massive, plate-like disc of T’Khut, Vulcan’s sister planet-moon, peeked brightly above the edge of the garden wall behind T’Les’ shoulder, lightly gilding the side of her careworn face. She turned to the sky, for a moment uncharacteristically dreamy, as she pondered her far-distant daughter and spoke into the emptiness of her lonely garden.
“We spoke—Trip, and I—before your wedding.” T’Les tasted the human’s nickname as she spoke it. It suited him. “I could see at our first meeting that he was attracted to you. However, after conversing briefly with him, I recognised the facts. He loves you as human men love their women—fiercely. My eyes could read this in his frighteningly young face, but I felt his despair palpably when I assisted him with his clothing before the ceremony.” T’Les frowned to herself. “I was surprised that my mind attuned so easily to his—simply as I brushed down his shoulders. You must be alike in many ways.”
T’Pol realised that her mother, wise as she was, couldn’t allow herself to quite see the whole truth—that her daughter had in fact bonded with this human, through both a physical mating, and time-travelling, do-it-yourself ceremonial.
“He said his heart was ultimately decided at the Fire Plains when you made your wedding plans known to him. And yet he did nothing to interfere with your joining. Despite my urgings.” T’Pol’s heart jumped at this last, unexpected revelation. Trip had mentioned once that her mother had said T’Pol ‘should have all the facts’ regarding his feelings, but she hadn’t really believed it was possible until now.
Meanwhile, T’Les continued. “I believe he was suffering deeply at the ceremony, and yet he wouldn’t put pressure on you to choose. For an untrained human male, he shows great selflessness. Indeed, if it were not for the fact that he is human, I would say you may well be ashayam. Though Surak knows how rare it for two to meet in this vast universe.” T’Les’ posture was weary, and she sighed slightly.
But then, straightening, her voice again took up its harder, more logical tone. Though, she addressed her hands, dark lids falling over lowered eyes—speaking of embarrassing things matter-of-factly.
“I know not if you will ever allow yourself to touch the fervour within your own soul. You may be wise to hold back.” She looked up, strongly into the camera. “We have strayed so far from our true natures now, it may be suicide to explore within.” Her voice took on a slightly desperate note, almost as if she were speaking of something else now: “Though if none try, the teachings will vanish.”
She caught herself going off track and paused to regroup. She smiled, faintly but distinctly. “Your father always said you should have been born two thousand years ago. He said you would have gone about, swinging your ahn’vahr and employing your furious eshak against the soulless Orion pirates who plagued us then—defending the meek and helpless against the invading hordes.”
She was momentarily contented, remembering back. Then the instant passed, and the light went out of T’Les’ eyes. She looked up at the screen again, simply a fatigued mother. “I bid you a goodnight, T’Pol—in my mind. And wherever you may rest tonight, know that M’aih is thinking of you. Always. L'wak mesukh-yut t'on.” The transmission came to an end.
Trip had silently padded across the cool floor, after listening at the door for a moment. He stood behind T‘Pol, his large, warm hands resting gently on her tense shoulders. She didn’t acknowledge his presence, other than to put a cold, quiet hand over his own on her shoulder. They watched the log entry finish playing out together.
After the index flashed once more upon the screen, T’Pol looked up at him. She wasn’t crying—her tears long spent—but the misery of the recently bereaved was stamped upon her dry eyes.
Trip pulled another chair over and straddled it backwards. “How long you been up?” he asked.
“An hour,” she replied quietly. “You were having pleasant dreams, so I left you to them.” Trip couldn’t remember his dreams, and wondered what they had been.
“Your mom’s personal log, hey?” he tipped his head to indicate the screen on the table.
“Yes. I wasn’t aware she had left any. It wasn’t always her usual custom. The first entry is from about five years ago. It was my last shore leave aboard the Seleya before I was to move to Earth. We had an argument the day I left. She speaks of it…in a most surprising fashion.” T’Pol was clearly troubled at the dichotomy between her memories of her mother and the private things that same woman had held true within the classified files of her mind.
“I remember she had told me she thought it was a mistake to join the Vulcan consulate on Earth. She said others could do the work between our two peoples.” T’Pol looked up. “I told her she was being provincial and insular. I thought she was afraid of our losing the Vulcan Way, the status quo that matters so much to so many.”
T’Pol looked to the now-silent screen as if expecting her mother to speak up. Finally she continued in a hushed voice: “However, she was more open-minded than I. She sacrificed her life to help bring the true teachings of Surak to light. And she knew, too, what might lie in wait for me if I started associating with humans and emotions. She could see how close it all was to the surface. She was like me, just better at hiding it.”
T’Pol’s voice was haunted at the discovery at how well her mother had known her. What extraordinary things might they have discussed, if only T’Pol had opened up sooner? If she hadn’t waited until it was too late?
Now don’t go thinking that way, Trip interjected gently into her musings. It never helps. Trust me, I know.. “C’mon.” Trip grabbed a folded blanket from the arm of a nearby seat and led T’Pol to sit on the couch. He shook the blanket, a handmade one of wool, and settled the soft, knitted thing around her shoulders, sitting cross-legged in front of her on the large, square sofa cushion.
“You heard the last part,” T’Pol said in a low voice. “Could you understand any of it?”
“Surprisingly, I could,” Trip affirmed. “Like, I couldn’t…but I could—if that makes any sense.” T’Pol nodded, now more or less used to the bizarre nature of their mental link.
Trip eyed her. “Pretty heavy stuff. Do you, uh…do y’think your mom wanted you to hear it?”
T’Pol nodded again from within her cocooning shawl. She looked a brown-eyed fairy scrap in the dimness of the twilight room, and she spoke softly in her deep, mellow voice—not wanting to break the silence of the great old house. “They were private. She encrypted them to her voice command. But she also encrypted them to mine.” She paused for a moment. “And yours.”
"Mine?" Trip asked in confusion. “Why?”
“I don’t know. She doesn’t explain it.” T’Pol, disturbed by her mother’s strange logic, ventured a hypothesis: “Perhaps it was when she left to join the Syrranites in the Forge. She knew she might not return.”
“And wanted to make sure you somehow saw those logs,” finished Trip, certain.
“I suppose it is possible,” T’Pol allowed.
“T’Pol, your mother loved you,” Trip insisted. “I know you’ve told me a million times that Vulcans don’t feel things for one another. But just cause you don’t say anything, it doesn’t mean you don’t feel anything—here—or here,” he reached out and touched her heart and the side of her head.
His hand softened against her cheek, and he smiled as, catlike, she leaned her face into his warm palm. “Y’know, I don’t think the apple fell very far from the tree.”
T’Pol arched an inquiring brow against his fingers.
“Uh, you two are a lot alike,” Trip translated.
T’Pol nodded. “She said that we were more alike than I’d care to admit. But she’s wrong. I am proud to say that were similar. It is an honour that I hope to live up to.”
“You’re getting a crash course in emotions this week,” Trip smiled, messing her hair. He sat up straight and stretched, breaking the gloomy aura of the space around them. “This one’s called ‘humbled pride’. It’s a saucy dish, meant to be served with a healthy dose of awe—modesty on the side.”
“And for dessert?” T’Pol inquired.
“Self-forgiveness,” Trip replied promptly. He stood up and briskly changed the subject: “Now, speaking of dessert, I grabbed a couple of other things from that grocer while you were in getting the bread.”
He took her hand and pulled her off the couch and into the kitchen. T’Pol snapped on a small light mounted under the cupboards, while Trip reached into a bottom drawer to produce a basket with a yellow napkin over it, which he set on the counter between them. A delicious, crisp smell wafted from within.
T’Pol sniffed wonderingly, her delicate nose drinking in the aroma. “That smells like—”
“Firefruit,” Trip finished, whipping the napkin away.
T’Pol gazed in startled amazement at the basket of fiery, red fruits. Here and there, Trip had had the grocer tuck some dark purple, grape-like pla-savas for contrast. Those she could get from Chef on Enterprise. But the yon-sava, the firefruit, was a rarity for her. She picked one up, savouring its peculiar heft and feel.
Only lasting a few hours after being plucked, even in stasis, they were necessarily a close-to-home treat. And then, few even grew in her arid home district; so it was not often that T’Pol tasted the firm, tangy flesh and warm juice that she hungrily swallowed now, not caring that droplets were running down her bare forearm, to tremble at the point of her elbow.
Trip grinned at her zeal, biting into his own fruit. It was like a nectarine more than anything else, but no nectarine grown in Florida ever had the heavy, dewy flesh, the snap of flavour, the sharp, tart sweetness that these did. He wondered if he could get some to grow on Earth—one day, after he’d settled down on a little piece of acreage in the Everglades.
Sounds nice, T’Pol thought at him, licking her arm.
“You’re gonna love it,” Trip teased aloud. “I’ll be eighty or ninety, of course, before I’m ready to quit being a space cowboy.”
“At least,” T’Pol agreed without hesitation. She considered, “That will make me one hundred and ten or twenty. A good age to retire. Not too young, but not too old either.” She took a large bite of a fresh firefruit.
Trip considered this quietly for a moment. “Y’know, that’s true. You’re not going to want to spend your golden decades pushing my wheelchair around. And after I kick off, you’ll have…like, a hundred years left all alone.”
“You’re assuming I’m going to live a very long time,” T’Pol corrected him undisturbedly. “Likely I won’t live past 200. My family has never been known for its great age.”
“Okay, fine, seventy years all alone then,” Trip amended. “It’s still a long time.”
T’Pol watched his concerned face curiously, as she chewed. He had the mentality of one from a species that lived a much shorter span. It was rare that a Vulcan would expect anything like permanence over two centuries. They began with the intention of staying together, but careers and death and all types of things could and would intervene. It was illogical to assume otherwise. That which does not change—stagnates.
However, she was able to offer him some reassurance. “You forget that I spoke with my older self—Lorian’s mother—aboard the time-loop Enterprise. If given the chance, she wouldn’t have changed her decision to marry you. And she had the misfortune to be separated from you early into your lives together. Hopefully you will be spared to me for much longer than that.” T’Pol spoke with the Vulcan irony of ‘hoping’ for anything in particular, within the unstoppable machine of the universe.
“But, if you are not,” she finished seriously, “I will never regret the time we have shared together.”
Trip knew she spoke truly. He felt the same way, of course. He realised he regretted never having had the chance to speak with Lorian’s mother. His voice was gently sad as he remembered their brief visit with the past ship.
“I kinda wish now she’d asked to see me. Although, I’ll admit I was relieved when the captain said she’d declined his offer. I think she’s right. It would have been uncomfortable. There’s nothing worse than something messing with precious memories...and I’m not really her Trip.”
He picked out another small, purple pla-sava fruit and polished it slowly to a dull black sheen with his shirt. Both of their thoughts mingled upon the alternate Enterprise—the double focus making their memories falsely sharp, bright—six-sided.
Trip spoke again, musingly. “I can’t help wondering what it was like being married to her—to you. On that stranded ship, raising Lorian together, for a little while. Until duty called.” He spoke nonchalantly of death, as most Starfleet officers did. You had to. It waited around every corner, and you either lightened up or cracked up.
T’Pol could sense the necessary bravado of his last three words, the bleak truth behind them. Sacrifices were at times necessary, in the unforgiving realm of space. Who knew that better than them? Who knew better than their grown son and his crewmates? But their shipmates and family were the reasons. And those reasons were justification enough.
T’Pol removed a clean fruit pit from her mouth and placed it on the little pile they’d made upon the yellow cloth napkin between them. Licking her lips, she took Trip’s hands in her across the counter and met his eyes.
“You're going to have to learn to embrace them—live with them—as I have.” The woman paused, and then continued, her warm, sere voice as thin as tissue: “There's someone on your ship who can help.”
“Phlox has already given me a neural suppressant,” young T’Pol replied. But she knew to whom her older sister was referring.
“I don't mean Phlox.” The shrewd woman cut straight through T’Pol’s hedging. It could not work with her. “Trip can be an outlet for these feelings. If you'll trust him.” She remembered back many years—to yesterday—and closed her eyes. “The emotions he stirred in me were powerful—frightening. I tried to push him away. If Enterprise hadn't been stranded in the past, it's possible I never would have married Trip. But I can't imagine what my life would have been like without him.”
T’Pol’s raw, unhealed heart caught in her throat as she listened to herself say these unbelievable words concerning Trip. Her husband. She tried to master her mutinous voice, emotions threatening to rise with each word. “What do you suggest I do?”
The frail, elderly T’Pol beheld her straight, willowy, infant self with the deep compassion that comes only through great age. Her eyes glinted knowingly as she beheld the threadbare remains of iron control, hanging in tatters about this young woman’s slight, strong, straight shoulders.
The old woman spoke with a low, intoxicating strength. “There is a human expression: ‘follow your heart’.”
She said it simply, as if this advice could solve all troubles.
T’Pol couldn’t accept something so effortless. Her recent Trellium abuse ensured that nothing these days was effortless. It wasn’t even illogical: the ‘heart’ humans spoke of would have nothing to do with logic: its presence or lack going thoroughly unnoticed. “What if my heart doesn't know what it wants?” T’Pol asked, her voice low, trembling.
“It will—in time. It will.”
Those wise, kind words were to be a balm for the many difficult weeks of her withdrawal—and anytime afterward when she felt the despair of intelligence and emotion at odds with one another.
T’Pol looked at Trip over their joined hands resting on the countertop. His eyes were closed still, but he had seen what she was trying to say. Some of the wise calm of her elder self temporarily infused her, and patting his hands once, she stood to make some chamomile tea, leaving Trip to his thoughts.
Trip put his elbows on the counter and leaned his chin on his hands, watching T‘Pol make tea, as her vivid memories faded slowly from the retina of his mind. He rubbed his unshaven jaw, still wishing he had gone to visit the elder T’Pol—not for her sake, but for his. To meet the extraordinarily long-lived woman his young wife would grow into. He would be dead decades before this incarnation of T’Pol reached a similar age. He still regretted terribly that they would never be able to share their decrepit years together—wrinkly and farting and laughing their heads off over it.
However, from T’Pol’s stunningly accurate memory of her older self, he could see that the gracious lady was indeed in earnest. Those few short years she had shared with her own Trip, decades before—raising Lorian, waiting in the past for their grandchildren’s destiny—strange and brief though they were, she wouldn’t have traded anything in the universe for them.
And if he’d had a similar chance to speak to a wiser version of himself? He was pretty sure that he’d have received similar advice. And likely, a smack upside the head to go with it.
Trip sighed. He had known from the outset that they would face unique challenges. That their potential children would even more so. It hadn’t stopped him.
He, of course, did not realise there already was a child of their blood, somewhere out there in the universe. Another Elizabeth Tucker, fated to leave the world too early. He wouldn’t even meet her for another four months. Untroubled, Trip fantasized blissfully of pointy-eared babies, still sixteen weeks away from realising children could bring crushing heartache as well as joy.
He closed his eyes, smiling to himself. Pon’farr next year, ten-month gestation…they could have kids within two years, Trip realised. One kid, anyway. And they’d be out of the house before he and T’Pol were in their sixties and nineties, respectively. Perfect timing.
It seems a trifle precipitate to looking forward to the day unconceived children will be leaving home. It may be easier to omit having them in the first place.
Trip jumped as T’Pol interrupted his private daydreams, and laughed. Are you kiddin’? he thought back at her, You just try and stop me. I say we have six.
She set a small pot of fragrant herbal tea down on the counter and handed him a cup. “The captain may object when we request larger quarters,” T’Pol deadpanned, pouring for him.
“Nah, he won’t care,” Trip replied briskly. He sipped the scalding tea, grateful for the warmth. “We’ll just let ‘em run around with me in Engineering,”
The joke spawned a sudden question; neither was sure whose. T’Pol gave it voice. “The thought does bear consideration. Even if Starfleet allowed us to keep our children with us, would we want to? We both have extremely hazardous careers.”
Trip nodded at her, his tea in one hand and twiddling a nearby butter knife in the other. “Neither of us has had anything really to lose before. It’s weird. You don’t think y’mind,” he looked for a word, “…y’know…not having people you’re close to in your life. That is, until you suddenly do.”
Trip stopped fiddling with the knife and looked at her for a long, soft moment. When next he spoke, it was almost to himself.
“When you lose someone you love, you’re so torn up, you almost feel it wasn’t worth it. Nothing can be worth that pain.” He vividly recalled the day they got the lists. The long, long lists. Millions of names.
He couldn’t bear to type his sister’s name into the search. Couldn’t bear instant confirmation of his fears. He had scrolled instead. Through the A’s and B’s, racing toward T, until he realised how many names were already familiar to him along the way. Sheryl Boone, a classmate. Adrian Crosby, the movie star. Deirdre DuPont, a friend of a friend. God, so many people. So many, many people.
Finally, Trip forced himself to stop stalling and jumped ahead. He scrolled through endless dead T’s: Tanners, Teamons, countless Tings and Titos, Traynors and Tsangs. Finally, he found what he was searching to avoid. Right under ‘Tubio, Frances Maria’, and ‘Tuburan, Joseph Erik’.
‘Tucker, Elizabeth Ann’
A convulsive, pessimistic sob of verified tragedy escaped his lips. He had known for a few days, now. No one had seen her. The town was gone. But seeing the name here on the stark report—officially dead among millions—was an axe punch. He left the PADD lying on the table in his room and stumbled out into the corridors.
It would be nine more months before he would let himself cry for the seven-million-and-first victim of the Xindi: his baby sister. And then it would be T‘Pol who would come to him, who would hold his shoulder while he gripped her hand and struggled to accept that he was allowed to grieve for his private loss among the masses.
T’Pol’s eyes filled with bruised compassion for Trip’s loss as she heard his memories flash past. Her throat caught when she realised how badly he had needed her during those days—his only confessor besides Malcolm—while she wandered alone through a Trellium haze of her own creation. She covered his hands with her own, let him see how sorry she was for avoiding him after their one fateful night together.
T’Pol had sensed before the gaping, still-ragged edge of Trip’s grief for Lizzie. Now, seeing the fresh tears welling, unshed, in Trip’s eyes, she held little hope that the ball of misery in her own stomach would ever lessen.
“Is it really worth it?” T’Pol asked, whispering. She meant her question literally. As one new to deliberate emotional experiences, she didn’t know the answer. Could anything be worth this sick burn of loss?
Trip blinked and wiped an eye, smiling sadly. But he didn’t hesitate in his response. “Absolutely. I know that now. I mean, I have more than thirty years worth of wonderful memories of Lizzie and me together. If you have the luck to find someone in your life that you can be close to, no matter what the capacity, you have to take that chance and live every day with them to the fullest. It’s what we were put here to do. And any day could be our last.”
“We’re not dead yet,” T’Pol reminded him pensively.
“No,” Trip agreed, “but one day one of us will be. Who knows which? Would you rather never have met, than suffer that separation?”
Sim’s face loomed large in her mind at his words. She was usually able to pretend that there was no grief there, as he was a copy of Trip—alive and well. She’d known Sim for but a few days. He’d only resembled the Trip she knew for a few dozen hours, really. And yet, in those hours, he had somehow forged a mysterious connection with her. A connection that she realised she wouldn’t trade: the pain of emotional memory was worth it.
Trip watched her come to this understanding, seeing into the tender, clumsy, and brief memories of Sim that she now realised held so dear. Her first kiss. The confusion in her defiant heart as she looked into the familiar face of a stranger and felt something she had no way of describing. The lump in her throat as Sim, a man with no time to waste, spoke plainly: “What’s driving me crazy is I don’t know if these feelings are mine—or his.”
Quietly, Trip spoke. “Never having met the guy, I can’t speak for Sim’s feelings. He was right about mine. But if he was anything like me, then he had plenty of his own for you, too.”
Trip was no longer jealous of the moments she’d shared with his cloned self. He was grateful that Sim had done his part in their joint mission to connect with T’Pol—the only woman either of them had imagined marrying—Trip realised belatedly: the only woman whose soul seemed to fit so well into the empty space in his heart.
“‘If he was anything like you?’” T’Pol repeated, disbelievingly. “He was your clone. You were rather identical.”
Trip grinned at her ironic tone, wondering what their crewmates were going to think of this newly witty Vulcan when they returned tomorrow. He poked her in the ribs a few times. “What makes you so full of salt?”
She tried unsuccessfully not to giggle as he tickled her. “It must be the company I keep,” she managed to get out steadily enough, before Trip pounced at her and mercilessly pressed his weight advantage to render her helplessly laughing upon the ground. Her superior Vulcan strength [2.75 times that of humans at last count?] was nearly useless in the face of the tickling, for which she had no previous experience.
He showed mercy only after deliciously indulging himself for a few seconds. He had never heard his Vulcan laugh before, much less uncontrollably. He wondered why he’d never tried it before, say, during neuropressure.
Because I would have killed you that’s why! T’Pol finally managed to shout into his brain, catching him a cheap shot of her own. The sharp psi punch knocked Trip for a loop.
“Oh, right, I remember now,” Trip said, as they both lay separate on the floor, laughingly panting, arms and legs at wild angles.
He vaguely remembered something else, too…something…something about T’Pol laughing. On a train? He shook his head. It felt like a Charles memory and he tried to forget it as he breathlessly sat up.
Trip got to his feet and offered T’Pol a hand up. She gripped his palm, rising in one smooth motion, and kissing him once she stood on her feet. They rested their damp, hot foreheads together for a moment.
“I hate to say this, but Cap’n wants us back in about six hours. We should probably get some sleep.” He rubbed her back through the fabric of her thin shirt.
“Only six hours? That’s going to interfere with your plan to ‘sleep in’ tomorrow.” She twined her slim arms around his neck and pulled back to look at him. If he didn’t know much, much better, he’d have said she looked coy. She arched an innocent brow at him. “Of course, you could always call and say we’ll be three or six hours late.”
“Oh, three or six, huh?” Trip echoed, enjoying her playful mood. “And what could we find to do in three extra hours?”
“Or six,” T’Pol reminded him, kissing him softly on the jaw.
Trip shivered. “Let’s call,” he agreed suddenly.
He patted his back pocket automatically for the communicator, and remembered he had left it on the kitchen counter. He disentangled himself from T’Pol and went back into the kitchen area. The small black communicator lay next to the sink. Trip flipped it open.
The bars indicating his connection strength with Enterprise weren’t showing. “That’s weird,” Trip muttered. He powered the device down and back up. The screen lit up and the communicator appeared to be functioning normally, however the signal strength was still zero. “Huh.”
“What’s the matter?” T’Pol asked from the living area.
Trip held up the comm device as he approached. “The comm’s down. Any ideas?”
T’Pol took the phone from him and examined it. “My mother had a security field net installed in the house not long before she died. She said it gave her trouble with her own communications sometimes.”
“Those home security fields are so cheaply designed sometimes,” Trip complained, as he took the communicator back and whacked it experimentally a couple of times with his hand. “My aunt got one when right when they first came out, about twenty years ago. She turned on her microwave and the two created a magnetic inversion field that wiped all of her data storage clean. All of it. Even the automatic settings on the dishwasher were gone; forget her personal computer.”
Absorbed in the memory of his aunt’s misfortune, Trip banged the communicator down a few times on the counter in one last effort to somehow wake it up. He stopped at the look of disbelief on T’Pol’s face.
“Perhaps this explains some of our Engineering difficulties lately,” she murmured.
“What?” Trip asked defensively. “You never bash anything to try and get it to work?”
T’Pol looked at him for a long second before answering, “No.”
“Ah, let’s forget calling for now, and get to bed,” Trip yawned, leaving the communicator on the counter. He shut the light off in the kitchen. “We’ll just have to be on time tomorrow. More or less.”
He smiled at T’Pol as he put his arm around her, and they walked together down the hall to her room.
* * *
Koss walked quickly through the dark streets, his stomach churning tightly, his jaw clenched with the cool of the evening. He hated cold.
His two companions walked abreast, filling the sidewalk ahead of him. Their pace wasn’t quick enough for his taste, but he couldn’t accelerate without running into their cloaks and stepping on their heels. He had already done that once. A sharp backward look of disgust from Xillim was enough to prevent a second occurrence.
Koss hated the way the other two exchanged glances. He knew they were speaking telepathically. He could hear them, in a way, but not the words or thoughts themselves. They were talking about him, he seethed to himself. He knew it. He could tell.
We are now, T’Zela mocked laughingly into his brain. Her voice was a sharp violin in his mind—alien and buzzy. And loud. He winced, but wouldn’t give them the dignity of a response.
Koss sniffed, absorbing his mind in the facades of the houses and shops they were passing in the old part of town. He stuffed down a surge of resentment as the other two thought scornful things about architects and let the jibes float vaguely past his mind. Nothing he could quite catch at.
Koss battled onward, his chin held high, trying to ignore those he had to associate with in the name of higher things.
* * *
The cool of the night had thoroughly soaked through the walls of the ancient house, and they cuddled together under the large blanket, each glad for a warm body to sleep against.
Both drowsed dreamily for a few moments, together within a strange misty whiteness that was their bonded minds. Sleep slipped over their overwrought brains as easily as water.
And their breathing was deep.
* * *
Arriving in front of the dark house, Koss pushed between the other two and stood before them. “Enough. This is as far as you go,” he hissed.
They ignored him completely, pulling out their scanners and checking the area. “No biosigns. There’s no one inside,” T’Zela said quietly to Xillim.
“Pardon me,” Koss tried again, “I believe you don’t understand. I will enter my wife’s house alone.”
Xillim looked down at Koss as if he’d just realised he was there. “I thought she was your ex-wife,” he said unsympathetically.
“As you say,” Koss agreed acidly. “Thank you for correcting me.”
“Oh, let him go if he wants to,” T’Zela said in irritation as she looked up the street. “We’re in a hurry. This is a side trip; we’re not going to spend all night on it.”
Koss sneered up in triumph at Xillim as he passed him. T’Zela held out a small device, which Koss took and examined.
“Get in, get what you need, get out,” T’Zela directed. “The regional security systems will activate if you fire a weapon. This device is a hypnotic phase emitter. It will not trip the system. When the beam strikes, the victim’s hippocampus is affected and they fall into instant narcoleptic sleep. Set this modulus to maintain a small phase field. And keep it with you, it is highly classified.”
Koss pocketed the small, pistol-shaped object. “I won’t need it, there‘s no one here.”
“They could return at any time. I advise you to hurry.” T’Zela spoke in a sharp whisper and shoved him in the direction of the house. “And do nothing to jeopardize our plans.”
Koss shook her off with an icy stare, adjusting his tunic. He turned and made his way toward the back garden.
* * *
Trip stretched upon a chaise lounge under the setting sun. He watched the emerald surf swirling gently over the white sand a few metres from his position on a low terrace. In the distance, a Spanish galleon towed strongly through the waves, its sails fluttering tightly: pregnant with a hot, heavy, south-western wind.
T’Pol blinked into existence next to him on the narrow recliner. She looked into his eyes with red irises. She spoke. Her voice was a low sucking buzz—almost backwards talk. Nash saikhut yontaya weh-rom. She held a flaming ace of hearts, which she handed to Trip.
Trip couldn’t look away from the pools of her eyes. He felt the tips of his fingers burning and finally wrenched his gaze down to find himself holding hot, black ash. T’Pol took a fruit pit from her lips and pressed it into his hand. She climbed astride him and lay full-length, heavy upon his body. Her weight crushed him downward. Suddenly Trip felt her melt abruptly, splashingly in the sun. Her molecules fell precisely eight inches downward to occupy the exact same space his did.
Trip sat up. He was alone on the terrace. T’Pol was totally within him, merged into his space-time. A large fruit tree grew out of the palm of his right hand where the ash had been. He tried to shake it off, but it hurt his fingers.
The chaise lounge had turned into a supermarket meat cooler. Trip climbed out of the cooler and wandered the aisles, searching for a transporter technician to help him get the fruit tree and T’Pol unstuck. The aisles became longer and darker, and finally Trip turned to the right, to exit the store.
He stepped out into a quiet procession, joining it seamlessly. A long, grey, suit-like tunic hung heavy on his shoulders. This was covered with a thin, brown silken crepe overrobe.
T’Pol was just ahead, in front of the disapproving young bridesmaid with big eyes. Her aubergine gown was of thick, fitted material. The rich garment suited her perfectly and Trip ached to be the man waiting for her at the altar. The brief, firm kiss she had planted still seared on his jaw: scorning him for his sacrilege in silently witnessing her marriage to another.
Koss was wearing pink sofa upholstery with maroon diamond checks. Never had Trip seen a worse outfit. The heat and the horribleness of the day made his knees weak and his eyes sting. He silently swallowed, determined not to faint or cry. He couldn’t bear to make anything any worse.
The hideous pattern of Koss’ tunic snapped into a single, reddish blob, as a tear finally formed over the lens of her eye. T’Pol wouldn’t blink, wouldn’t allow anyone to see her show emotion for Koss. The sha’vokh.
This marriage was for her mother. For no one else. She would never be this man’s mate. She had vowed it in childhood. Seeing him joyfully smashing the pastel wings of mathra flies was enough for her.
T’Pol stared ahead through wet, pitiless eyes, glad for the comfortingly blinding distortion her unshed tears made of the scene. She could imagine instead the man who was supposed to be here, pressing his moist fingers to hers. She replaced Koss’ pouchy, greedy eyes in her mind with the childlike, ever-wondering blue eyes of her young lover. Trip: the only mate she had ever known.
The priest’s voice sounded high and weird as he chanted the ceremonial. What ye are about to witness comes down from the time of the beginning, without change. This is the Vulcan heart, this is the Vulcan soul. This is our Way.
T’Pol thought frantically only of Trip, only of Trip, as her brain instinctively resisted the snakelike tentacles of Koss’ psyche—icily sliding, penetrating, into her mind. Like dead men’s wet fingers, they quested blindly, instinctively, feeling for the link to her intellect.
Horror overcame T’Pol, as she realised what a terrible thing she had done in kneeling here with this man. She blinked. The tear rolled downward.
Trip could feel his heart evaporating with the salt drop slipping down T‘Pol‘s soft cheek. He couldn’t even have the comfort of knowing she was happy in her choice. How many light-years would fill the void between them now as the two lovers lay in their vastly separate beds, yearning for one another across the blackness of interstellar space?
T’Pol blinked again as she physically forced herself to continue kneeling. Her heart tightened—cracking—resonating with both her own misery and with that of her true mate’s. With Trip’s.
She clenched her teeth. And throwing forth a sudden, massive effort, wrenched her fingers from Koss’, at the same time roaring, “RAI!”
Koss remained where he was, the scene paused in time. T’Pol stared at him, then up at the silent, frozen priest. She grabbed her skirt and stood, turning in place to look with amazement at the waxen figures all around her.
Her mother’s face tragic, staring at the floor.
But just behind T’Les, Trip breathed heavily, mouth open in astonishment, as he watched history change. The girl he thought he had lost forever stepped forward tentatively, and as she saw his arms awaken from their limp position at his sides, she ran to him. They gripped one another’s forearms, drunken with emotion in their bizarre joint dream.
T’Pol looked back at the diorama. Motionless, colourful figures filled the courtyard. Koss kneeled before emptiness, his two fingers held up as if in stiff salute to an invisible bride.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, a tiny, elfin girl flicked into existence behind Koss.
She held a lit match—her wide, generous mouth deadly serous. The tiny flame burned steadily at the tip of the stick without consuming any of it.
T’Pol could feel Trip’s hands tightening in dread on her arms as they witnessed the uncanny scene. After a tense second, the girl smiled—spontaneously and mischievously. Both adults relaxed slightly, the sunny charm of a smiling child working instantly upon them.
She smiled silently for three seconds.
Abruptly her angelic face twisted into a clamant snarl of alarmed rage. “GET OUT!” she screamed, her voice five times louder than her size. She threw the match towards Koss‘s stiff back. “GET OUT NOW!” The Koss-mannequin kindled instantly into a fireball.
* * *
They awakened simultaneously, with twin sucking gasps of oxygen. Trip sat up, grabbing for T’Pol’s flailing hands in the dark with one arm and smacking in the direction of the lamp with the other.
Sudden, warm light filled every corner of the room, and they blinked at one another, panting.
Have a comment to make about this story? Do so in the Trip Fan Fiction forum at the HoTBBS!
A whole mess of folks have made comments
Shades if Tolaris! The security field blocked the bioscans. When Koss went in he found them there and thought he would try a little mind rape huh? That ()*&(*&*(_!!!!
OBoy. Now we gonna see some fur fly. :):):)
Fantastic! I absolutely loved the scenes of T'Les ... I've often wondered if she would have left behind personal recordings for T'Pol to discover, explaining why she did the things that she did.
Good conversation regarding what happens when Trip dies; I especially liked the fact that it was a point-blank convo devoid of angst. Two adults discussing an inevitable occurence. Very nicely done.
I absolutely love some of the comedic elements you've thrown in here as well and, like Trip, cannot WAIT to see how the rest of the crew react to this much wittier T'Pol. She's always had a sense of humor lurking there but it seems like this time with Trip and the presence of the bond has unleashed it.
And I'm a little surprised that Archer & Co. haven't deployed a team of MACOs under Reed's command to that area once they realized that there were Suliban in the area. Guess they'll have just enough time to show up & capture the two Suliban before T'Pol kicks the crap out of Koss ... with Trip's help, of course.
This story is just getting better and better...
Forgot to mention, I LOVE the dream imagery here. Kudos on that ... it was just coherent enough to follow, yet just confusing enough to actually be a dream. Very, very nicely done...
Now Blackn'Blue, I appreciate you are excited at the prospect of seeing Koss' fur fly. And you will. You will.
However, you didn't even *notice* the special factoid I put in JUST FOR YOU.
(and thanks Rigil for the nice comments about the dream - they can be tricky. I'm glad you liked it!)
AH! T'kuht! Thanks.:) I spotted it once you mentioned it. T'Les was sitting in teh garden recording her message and T'Kuht came up behind her. Great, because I am using it right now in my sequel. It fits nicely. :)
mmmmm ... ticklish T'Pol ... mmmm ...
nope. so close, then so far. =) (i'm loving this)
you mean you *already* blocked out your extensive conversation with TLR over those saucy, strong, female Vulcans? It was only 24 days ago!
If you still can't figure what the hell I'm jawing about, I'll give you a final hint. Y'need anymore than this, and I'll tell ya, someone's been blogging in your name.
[I put it in italics and square brackets]. Go look, you ticklish skimmer. lol
You mean the 2.75 times strength note? Zounds man, you throw something like that out in the middle of them WRESTLING ON THE FLOOR and expect anyone to pay attention to NUMBERS!?
I looked up Vulcan strength, on Google of all things, and found myself *right back here* at TripT'Polers and your conversation with TLR over Vulcan strength. How could I generalise a concept like Vulcan strength when I have a number like 2.75 to fling out there. And it's all down to you and TLR.
On a related note: I think we lucky beans at Triptpolers have the most vivacious Star Trek website currently on the web, yes? The other fairweather fans wandered away once the Beebs stopped spoon feeding them garbage.
And you come over here and it's just bliss. What they're missing out on!
It's the medication. Truly.
Everytime I finish an installment I think, "that's it, it just can't get any better." And everytime you prove me wrong EScribe :)
wow, thanks 8-o
gr8 stories i want 2 read the next chapter aaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhh
How is it going on the next installment so far?
9 pages in. *types feverishly*
Yeowzah. That was freakin' awesome! Awesome-cross dream sequence, and I reeeeeeeally can't wait to see what T'Basta - I mean, Koss is up to. Keep it coming, you genius, you! :)