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Truth and Illusion- Pt 2
Truth and Illusion
Disclaimer, etc. in Part 1
*I don’t get why you’d do that for me*, he’d said. T’Pol didn’t understand her own actions, either. It was disconcerting for her to be unable to fathom her own self; her lack of explanations for her actions over the past several hours was even more disturbing to her. She had *touched* him, not only physically, but in the most intimate manner possible. What had spurred her to do that when the most logical recourse for her at the time would have been to call the ship for assistance? What, if anything, had she gained by being so open with him? T’Pol had no answers, and this unsettled her even further. All these questions were more disquieting for her than her gaze into Trip’s eyes had been earlier that day.
Trip had told her *I think I understand*. T’Pol wished she could say the same. *If he truly does, then perhaps he can aid me*, she mused before standing.
“What was what, Captain?”
“Don’t give me that. You know what,” admonished the captain. “Why’d you just touch her like that?”
Trip winced. He was caught. Dead meat. “I thought I said I wanted privacy, Jon.”
“And you had it,” the older man said, surprised by Trip’s use of his first name while he was on duty. I have no idea what you two were talking about; I just saw you touching her face.”
“Come on, Captain. I don’t want to talk about this and you know it.”
“Trip, I just—“
“Phlox, d’you need to keep me for anything?” Trip intoned, effectively silencing Archer. The captain knew when he had been beaten, and this was one of those times. Therefore, he wisely remained silent and let Phlox reply.
“I see no reason why you should stay here,” Phlox said. “Just be sure to get a lot of sleep and see me tomorrow morning so I can be certain the blood fly’s sting has not affected you adversely. And it would be best if the Commander did not have to work tomorrow.” He addressed this final comment to Archer, who nodded his approval.
“OK. See you then, Doc.” Trip summarily stood, wobbled slightly (for he had gotten up a bit too quickly), and left the room as soon as he had steadied himself. Archer left Sickbay soon after, but decided against following the engineer.
And she had kissed him. What did that mean for him, for her, for *them*? Why had she been so intimate with him when he had been certain she hated him? And he had enjoyed it all. Even while he had shoved her away to save her from an imaginary tiger, he had loved touching her. He didn’t regret what he had done in Sickbay, though he would probably regret the consequences of his actions later. It was all too confusing, and Trip hated being confused.
*Maybe sometime when this all cools down*, deliberated Trip, *I’ll get her to teach me to meditate. God knows I need to relax…*
For the second time that day, Trip heaved a massive sigh. Things were just never simple around T’Pol, and they were going to get a lot more complicated.
*I’d better talk to her*, he decided. *Work something out between us…*
Trip abruptly left his quarters, hoping T’Pol wasn’t meditating.
“God damn it, where are you, T’Pol?” he whispered for his own benefit. Nobody was ever going to answer him, and it was his fault alone. In order for him to survive, however, he needed to hope, and so he hoped that she was there. He turned to face the bulkhead opposite T’Pol’s door and leaned against the wall, closing his eyes.
And suddenly, she was right behind him. “Why are you outside my quarters, Commander?”
Trip turned and looked up with a start, face swiftly turning red. “You’re real, right?” he joked, hoping to distract T’Pol, however slightly.
T’Pol showed no reaction. She didn’t even raise her eyebrow, and Trip had thought his comment would garner at least that. Instead, T’Pol simply repeated herself. “Why are you here?”
“I was looking for you,” replied Trip with a sheepish grin.
Only now did T’Pol raise her eyebrow. How Trip hated it when any other Vulcan did that, but he liked it when T’Pol did. The mannerism always reminded him of her.
“And I was searching for you,” T’Pol conceded.
“Well, you found me…”
“We must talk,” T’Pol stated softly. Trip nodded in agreement. Gracefully, silently, T’Pol pivoted on the balls of her feet and pressed the button that opened the door to her quarters. Surprisingly, she stood aside so Trip could enter first.
T’Pol’s quarters looked the same as they had the last time Trip had entered them. Several candles burned, spreading their light and warmth throughout the room; it seemed that in her haste to find Trip, T’Pol had neglected to extinguish them. He was glad. The glow they created inside the small room not only illuminated the objects inside the room, but cast an otherworldly flickering glow upon T’Pol’s face and eyes. Her eyes right then seemed lighter than usual, and the candles’ flames were reflected in her pupils. The effect created was that of a wry smile, nearly a smirk, without even the slightest upturn of T’Pol’s mouth, and Trip enjoyed seeing it immensely.
This silence seemed to envelop the two after they sat facing each other; it encompassed them, growing more and more prevalent until it became too much for either. Not surprisingly, Trip was the one more profoundly impacted by the quiet, so he spoke first.
“So, um… How should we start?” he asked hesitantly.
“It would be logical for me to begin by asking you why you touched me in Sickbay.”
“But wouldn’t it be more logical for me to ask you why you kissed me down on the planet?” Trip countered. T’Pol raised both eyebrows, a gesture which Trip correctly interpreted as one of surprise.
“I thought you said that you understood my motives,” T’Pol demurred.
“I said I *thought* I understood them.”
“Elaborate.” Now *this* was the T’Pol that Trip knew.
“Well…” Trip squirmed. It unsettled T’Pol to be making him so uncomfortable, but this conversation was necessary for both of them. When he spoke again, it was haltingly; his speech was peppered by “um” and the like. “When you… when you kissed me, it was the best thing I’d ever felt. I was touching your body and your mind and your soul all at once; it was like—like I finally understood you. I felt… complete somehow. And then you looked into my eyes and I knew.”
“Knew what, Commander?” prodded T’Pol.
“That I have it bad for you,” Trip declared.
“’Have it bad?’” T’Pol inquired, unfamiliar with most of the human vernacular, but particularly that of the man who presently sat in front of her.
“Love, T’Pol.” There. He had said it, or at least whispered it in the barest excuse for a voice. *T’Pol’s gonna kill me, or at least use that pinch,* he thought, but still he kept talking. “I’ve loved you for a while now, I think. It just got so deep after I saw your eyes. I don’t think I can pretend not to love you anymore.”
It was T’Pol’s turn to squirm slightly. “And what bearing does that have on why I kissed you?”
“Well, I have two ideas. The first is that when you touched my mind for the first time, you picked up some of those feelings from me and had no way to control them,” Trip explained.
“That would be… logical,” conceded T’Pol, who was still unsettled by Trip’s declaration. She had no idea what the implications of such an emotion would be, let alone what it truly meant. Then something came to her. “What of the other theory?”
“My other theory is…” Trip trailed off. How stupid would it be for him to articulate this idea? How much of it was objective and not simply hope? There were too many questions. “…probably wrong,” he amended. “Never mind about that.”
“No. Please… I would like to hear it,” T’Pol said. Her voice was the softest Trip had ever heard from her. He thought of how stringent her voice had seemed to him only two years ago compared to how gentle, how beautiful it was for him to hear now. There was a certain vulnerability in her tone at the moment that almost brought Trip to pity her; it was enough for him to tell her his other idea.
“Well, um… You see… I think that maybe—*just maybe*—and this is very unlikely, you know—“
“Sorry. I—I think that you might have some of the same feelings for me.” This last sentence was spoken in a rush of words that blurred together, getting in each other’s way as they left his mouth for T’Pol’s ears.
The silence once again hung in the air between them. It was thick; nearly visible, but both human and Vulcan were still incredibly aware of each other’s presence. Trip had seen her increasingly more clearly as the world had faded around him, and that sensation now returned to him. He saw every one of her nuances, every physical imperfection on her face, and he still saw her as perfect. He watched her facial muscles tense, almost imperceptibly, and her lips move.
“It is more likely that you have projected your *human* emotions onto me,” T’Pol said. The softness in her voice had been replaced by something harder, something more primal and unsettled, not quite controlled.
“Yeah, I thought so.” They lapsed into a falsely peaceful silence for a moment. There seemed to be a slight breeze blowing between them, but it was simply the ventilation system cleansing the air in T’Pol’s quarters. Once again, it was too much for both man and woman, so T’Pol was relieved when Trip spoke again. “I—I’d better get going. The doc says I still need sleep. See you tomorrow, T’Pol? I’m technically off duty, but there’ll probably be dinner.” There was no response whatsoever from T’Pol’s side of the room, so Trip scurried off, all the while admonishing himself for his stupidity in declaring his love for a Vulcan. He could have sworn for a moment as the doors shut behind him that he heard somebody whispering “good night, Trip.” But that was just one more illusion.
For the second time that day, he banged his head on the wall opposite T’Pol’s door, much to the annoyance of Crewman Fuller.
Commander Tucker had seen what she could not; it had been his own alien, primal emotions that had affected T’Pol so deeply. The feelings that had caused T’Pol to reel at first, then attracted her, then controlled her, now repulsed her were simply not her own. What a simple explanation. It was so straightforward, so obvious, that it had to be true. Yet she was still unsettled, still emotional, still unable to find peace. Logically, since she now knew the truth, she should be serene. That was the nature of emotions, though; they defied all logic. T’Pol turned her attentions to accepting that so she could control herself once more, but one question still burned in her consciousness as if it had branded itself upon her brain:
*Why had she felt stirrings of those emotions *before* touching his mind?*
Well, the Commander was *still* correct, decided T’Pol, amazed at what startling revelations could come from emotions. Perhaps, she conceded, an occasional lapse of control could be beneficial.
And she still needed to talk to him.
The doors swished open behind him, and Trip lowered his head against the table. Tonight of all nights, he didn’t want to make small talk with anybody.
The footsteps slowly, tentatively approached—click, click, click—and with every *click* that neared him, Trip mentally willed the intruder to get his food and leave. Maybe the stranger would take that fruitcake.
However, he had no such luck, and his thoughts were all swearing when he felt a hand rest against his shoulder blade. The hand was far too small to be a man’s hand; it felt vaguely familiar. Then she spoke, and he knew.
“Commander, are you all right?” T’Pol’s voice held that elusive softness once again; it sent a tiny electric spasm racing up his spine that both of them felt. Her presence was electric and vibrant; it made every cell in his prone body glow with a quiet, exotic warmth that seemed to beckon to him, make him want more.
“Yeah,” he murmured, voice muffled by his sleeve. He didn’t want to look at her, not now; he was too unsure of how he would react to the sight of her face.
“We must talk,” she said, nearly whispering. The past day seemed to be a haven for conversations that repeated themselves.
“About what?” inquired Trip, who only now looked up and faced T’Pol, who had sat down in the seat next to him. “I’ve already talked with you enough to embarrass me for the rest of my life. What more can I say to alienate you?”
“Had you alienated me, Commander, I would not be speaking to you right now,” T’Pol countered. “And may I remind you that I am already an alien to you?” she added after a short beat.
“Of course you can, T—“ He paused as something occurred to him. “D’you mind it when I call you T’Pol, or should I just call you Sub-Commander?” he asked for the first time in two years.
T’Pol blinked in surprise. Perhaps *she* was hallucinating. She only entertained that idea for a moment, however, for she was in the presence of the most real person she had ever known. And now that man was awaiting a response. “You may call me by either title.” She thought for a moment, then spoke again. “And what would you prefer I call you when we are both off duty?”
The effect of her question on Trip was double the impact Trip’s question had had on T’Pol. He remained silent for a moment, then began stammering. “Well—I, um—I really don’t know. What do you want to call me?” She opened her mouth to speak, but Trip interrupted her before she could say a word. “Anything that isn’t ‘Mr. Tucker’ or ‘Commander.’ You’re looking for something more casual to call me, right?”
“Indeed,” T’Pol said flatly. Before she made a decision, however, she had to know. She’d wanted to find this out since she first heard him tell her to call him Trip on that day nearly two years ago. “But I must know… why do you call yourself Trip?”
“Well, that’s a long story. Basically… I was once a regular customer at this club by the Academy, and when I was in a spot for money, I was a waiter there for a little while. So there I was, in the god-awful uniform they made us wear, carrying a tray with eight beers on it. Some guy was pulling out his chair while I was passing, and I ran into him. Fell flat onto my face and spilled the beers onto a table full of beautiful ladies. I’ve never been so embarrassed.” *At least not until tonight*, he thought with chagrin. “Well, those girls all came back the next day and started calling me Trip. And it kinda stuck.”
T’Pol raised her eyebrow. She could easily imagine a younger Trip attempting to balance himself with similar results. Yet somehow, she just could not call him Trip. Her reluctance was not stemmed from a particular disdain for the nickname in particular, but of concern for her sense of control. If she lapsed and addressed him so casually, she mused, then she would in all probability lose what small amount of control she exerted over her thoughts and emotions when he was near. “Is…” she pondered for a moment: what would be appropriate for her to call him? Certainly not ‘Charles’. He hated that and only used it officially. ‘Charlie’ was far too informal for her liking, and since she had already eliminated ‘Trip’ from her list of options, she made the logical choice. “Is ‘Tucker’ acceptable?” she inquired.
Trip felt stunned, but stubbornly refused to look it. When he opened his mouth, though, his words gave his emotional state away. “Yeah—um, sure. You can call me that. Dexter Levandoski at my middle school used to call me that and rhyme it with… well, something else, but I like it when you say it.” Hell, she could call him by that other word and Trip would adore it.
T’Pol pondered for a second, then nodded in agreement.
“So Tucker it is, then. But I don’t think that’s why you’re down here right now.”
“Indeed it isn’t, Tucker,” she said, with only a slight pause before saying the name that they had agreed upon for him. “I think…” here she took a cleansing breath before continuing, “that your second theory was in fact correct. I believe that I may—possibly—subconsciously harbor… *feelings* toward you,” she finished. There was more trepidation in her voice than Trip had ever heard from her. And was that a hint of disdain (or perhaps something else entirely) in the way she had said *feelings*? She was just full of surprises this evening.
“Oh, really?” Trip replied, perhaps a little too smugly. Then something else occurred to him. “What kind of feelings?”
T’Pol found herself unable to respond. She had no way of understanding these wild emotions, let alone finding words to describe them. For how could she denote in simple words the way she felt in his presence? It was as if she were forced to describe a gliding bird. She could delineate every loop in the air, every swish of the wings, every minute adjustment of the muscles that enabled the bird to remain airborne, and she could even use any number of algorithms to explain the flight mechanisms and the eddies of air that lifted the creature further into the sky, but there was still something missing from any account she could give of the flight. There always would be something entirely ineffable about that bird, something nobody could describe even after a lifetime of trying, and the same problem faced her now.
There were so many emotions to sort through, so many stray thoughts taking her mind over, so many forbidden sensations running through her veins, and so few words for them. Never before had she felt so chaotic, not even during her encounter with Tolaris. Perhaps, she hypothesized, this was because these emotions were entirely her own, descending upon her of their own volition rather than being forced upon her by anyone else.
And she did know many of these sensations far too well; they only became so overwhelming when they all existed in her at once, swirling together and mixing into something far too great to comprehend. She knew fear. She knew apprehension, happiness, anticipation, embarrassment, joy. There were still more unfamiliar emotions, compounding and cementing into her mind and soul those she did know. She knew that the way her body reacted to his mere presence in the room was attraction—purely *physical* attraction, she reminded herself—and that she was supposed to be able to control each of these. And yet she couldn’t.
“T’Pol? You okay?” Trip inquired. Her extended silence had not been lost on him, and he was quite worried about her condition. The last time he had seen her so unsettled by something was before she broke off her betrothal. At least then, she had looked well. Now, though, her face had turned a pale green under the bronze tint of her skin, if only for a moment. Whatever it was had passed and been replaced by the rigid pretense of self-control with which he was far too familiar. Trip considered himself lucky to be able to see past T’Pol’s overt Vulcan nature and discern the true self that perhaps even T’Pol refused to acknowledge.
And she still wasn’t saying anything.
“T’Pol? Talk to me here…”
The tone of worry in Trip’s voice was enough to cause another rise of raw emotion to rush through T’Pol. What could she say to him that would not belie everything she had so carefully worked to create, everything she was struggling to keep up now? She had to speak soon or face the negative consequences of not speaking to him. And the truth was, she *did* want to speak to him. She wanted to be in his presence. She wanted him to touch her so she could feel her breath catch inside her once more. She wanted so badly to take his hand and not let go that she was actually considering doing just that. And most desperately of all, she wanted to be able to acknowledge these without fear of recourse.
*But what harm could come from telling him alone*? she reasoned. *He has proven himself to be discreet, understanding and compassionate. Perhaps this exchange can yet prove beneficial.*
“What I feel for you,” she began, “is… much more intense than anything I have felt before. There are elements of these emotions that I can name, but I cannot be at peace knowing only those.”
“That’s a problem. Is there any way I can help you out?” Trip asked uncertainly, almost timidly. It unsettled T’Pol that this man was timid now of all times.
But this question had an answer. “I believe so. However, it would require further mental… intimacy between us,” she added.
“And you don’t think that touching my mind again would be a good idea for either of us,” Trip finished.
What an astute observation of him. Perhaps he was more logical than she had thought, T’Pol decided.
As if he were sensing her thoughts already, Trip added “You know, I can control myself a lot more than you give me credit for. Give it a try, see what happens. You’d be surprised.”
T’Pol closed her eyes briefly under the pretense of making a decision. She already knew she would go through with touching his mind again, but regardless of how disorderly her mind was, she was still going to at least center herself beforehand. Once this task was completed, she snapped her eyes open and looked into his. How had she not noticed before last night the intensity, the splendor, the exquisite depth of his hypnotic star-flecked gaze? “Take my hands,” she ordered softly. Trip complied.
His hands were calloused from work and somewhat dirty from the away mission, yet his skin was soft, as T’Pol had remembered, and well cared for. T’Pol found a tiny scar on his right hand and felt Trip react to her when she touched it. Apparently, this scar had been created rather recently. She moved her hand from that location.
“Close your eyes and try to relax,” she instructed. “Clear your mind of whatever stray thoughts you can.” Her voice dropped in volume, returning to the softness of which Trip was so fond. “Simply let your mind drift. I will project my emotions to you, and you may be able to help me understand them. Do you understand?” Trip nodded.
T’Pol took one large, long, deep breath, holding it for a moment and then releasing it as slowly as she had released it, to help her focus her telepathic abilities and opened her mind, taking every mental barrier down. How liberating, how invigorating it was to not have to expend every ounce of concentration and energy on blocking out the impressions she felt. Quickly she shook herself from that observation—she would deal with it later—and focused on her emotions. Surprisingly, she could not make them stronger through concentrating on them. Whenever she was able to isolate them so she could project them to Trip, they receded from her grasp like *sehlat* on her homeworld would from a sandstorm. Emotions such as these required a more roundabout approach. Surmising that more intimate contact with him would bring her emotions to the surface of her consciousness, she amplified her connection with the human.
This worked. She was suddenly overcome by the sheer intensity of her own primal nature as it washed over her and spilled over into the mind adjacent to her own. Had she ever felt something so strong before? Yes, she decided, and quite recently. She had simply attributed them to Trip rather than acknowledging that these emotions were her own.
“T’Pol?” Trip asked for the second time that night, even as he mused about how intense these feelings were. One thing was certain to him: no matter what happened, he would never again look down on the Vulcans for their strict emotional control. “You okay?” Only then did he notice that her hands were trembling in his. T’Pol only had the composure to nod, and Trip sensed rather than saw this response. Now that he was lucid, he could marvel in the sensations inherent to the link that T’Pol had bridged between them. It was strange in the same way that his first roller coaster ride had been: scary at first, but then as he grew accustomed to the motion, more exhilarating than anything else. And he knew—inexplicably, for certain, but *knew* nonetheless without feeling even a shred of the doubt he often felt about his own emotions—that T’Pol was feeling the same thing. He sensed that she knew her feelings were indeed the deepest kind of love imaginable: the kind that is forbidden and suppressed for countless ages, growing stronger and permeating the soul more deeply with each passing instant until the lover becomes saturated until she can express her feelings. It was the same kind of love that he had felt and ignored or disavowed since the first time he had felt her touch warming his frozen back. She had admitted in Sickbay that his presence invoked emotions in her, but she had stopped short of acknowledging her own desires until just that moment. A major barrier in T’Pol had just broken, allowing everything she had ever felt in his presence to become free.
“T’Pol—“ he began, but was barred from saying anything further by a surge of passion so intense, so fiery, so overwhelming, that he nearly blacked out. She had just opened her eyes and seen Trip as if for the first time. He had never before felt anything so pure, so unequivocal. Just as soon as he had regained his own composure and opened his eyes, however, he realized that the passion had subsided and T’Pol had removed her hands from his own. “So we both feel the same way, hmm?”
“It would appear so,” replied T’Pol. “May… may I touch you again? It is very pleasant.”
“Sure thing.” Trip had been expecting her to touch his hand again, so he was stunned when her hand brushed lightly against his cheekbone and slid down to rest against his chin. It was nothing he had ever felt before. He had done his share of kissing, of course, but this was more passionate, more sensual, more all-encompassing than any kiss he could imagine. Her hand was warm against his skin and the warmth made his soul glow even further. It just felt so damn good to be near her, to look into her eyes.
And T’Pol, for her part, was surprised by the sensations her own body felt. In his presence, she was more alive than she had ever felt before. Every nerve in her small frame tingled, exploding in pure white light and bringing her body, her soul, her life closer to Trip’s. She loved this man. It was as simple as that.
And she was finally serene, even in the face of such uncontrollable emotion.
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A handful of people have made comments
Ooooh, shivers of delight! I loved how you put this together and the way Trip and T'Pol take those first intimate steps towards each other. The touching of minds, the subtle sensations of reading each other's emotions, then knowing that they were not only real but shared was so beautiful. Thank you for a wonderful story, Ali D :~)
Lovely. More please!
holly sugar, you sure can write, It is the second story I have read from you , amd *wow* please keep writing ;)
just a small note, his nickname trip comes from being the third to have the name charles tucker
touching and soooo romantic.