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The Rainbow's Foot
Author - Shouldknowbetter | Genre - Angst | Genre - Romance | Main Story | R | Rating - PG-13 | T
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The Rainbow’s Foot
An alternate ending to the series begun in "A Logical Proposal." Check out Golden Lads and Girls for the other version.
Summary: Ten years after leaving Enterprise, T’Pol attends a conference on Earth.
This story is part of a series. You may want to read them all in order:
7. Cry Havoc
The Alternate Endings:
9. The Rainbow's Foot
“You’re in the right place.”
One eyebrow twitched and the yeoman realised that the other’s cast of features was just subtlety non-human and that the ears visible through the cropped hair ended in elegant points. “Is the commander available?”
“Not at the moment, ma’am.” Any Vulcan in Starfleet headquarters had to be treated with respect unless one was prepared to put up with biting sarcasm. “But he should be back soon. Would you like to wait?”
There might have been a slight hesitation then the woman inclined her head in acceptance. “Very well.”
“If you’d like to go through, then, ma’am?” The girl indicated the door to her left, glad when the woman again nodded slightly and walked slowly over, back straight. The young human woman definitely didn’t want to spend the next half hour with a Vulcan staring disapprovingly at her, although whether Commander Tucker would be pleased that she had allowed one of his pet hates into his office was another matter.
T’Pol halted as soon as the doors slid closed behind her, looking assessingly around even as one of her eyebrows lifted fully in distain. Ten years and a job as one of Starfleet’s senior designer engineers had evidently not made Tucker any more disciplined in his approach. The room was distressingly untidy, PADDS and components strewn everywhere, even on the floor, liberally interspersed with mugs that T’Pol was positive would prove to be half full of cold coffee. She was surprised that Tucker was allowed to get away with such slovenly behaviour within the headquarters of Starfleet itself, but he evidently made his own rules as he always had. Slowly she moved towards the desk, debating the wisdom of taking a brief look at what he was working on, but her conscience won out. She no longer had the excuse of being seconded to Starfleet and the option of friendship was long over. Instead, she approached the wall behind the desk, less cluttered than the other walls but decorated with rows of framed photographs. Many of them were of ships, a few that she recognised even without the legends underneath, but it was the people that drew her, particularly a pair of fair haired children who appeared in many of the shots. In the later ones, they appeared to be about eight and seven in human years, the girl a little the taller, the boy with a grin that was achingly familiar.
“T’Pol?” Tucker’s eyes were narrowed in disbelief and T’Pol strove to breathe evenly as a familiar grin started to form. “My God, it’s really you! What the hell are you doing here?”
“There is a conference on micro-singularities to be held in this city in a few days’ time.” She hoped his memory would not be acute enough for him to recognise that she could barely speak around the constriction in her throat. “I am attending.”
The grin was full blown now, the same teasing, challenging one that he had so often directed at her. “You’re not still chasing those fantasies, are you?”
“Got any proof yet?”
He had always irritated her. “Not absolute proof, no.”
Tucker chuckled and finally started to move towards her and T’Pol concluded a little wildly that if he touched her she would not be answerable for her actions. She was saved from the test as the door opened again and the yeoman stuck her head in.
“Sir? Admiral M’Benga says he’ll see you now.”
“Hell!” Tucker swung round to face the girl. “You sure he said now?”
“Actually, commander, he said ‘immediately’.”
“Hell,” he said again and turned back to T’Pol. “Sorry, I really gotta go. Look, we’re going to the beach tomorrow. You wanna come along? We can talk while the kids wear themselves out.”
“That will not be necessary. Goodbye, Commander Tucker.”
“Excuse me? Ten years and all you can say is ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’? Don’t be crazy.”
T’Pol hesitated. Her father’s plan had not worked but perhaps longer exposure was necessary. “My daughter is with me. I do not know …”
He smiled, bright with pleasure. “You got one, too? That’s great. Bring her along, it’ll be fun.”
The last time she had had fun was ten years ago on Earth, a few stolen days with her lover before they had been forced to conclude that they had no future together. Perhaps it would be best to go. She did not wish T’Pril to see nothing of Earth but the Vulcan consulate and if she saw Tucker with his wife, the pain might force her to relinquish her affection. “Very well.”
“Fine. You staying at the Vulcan consulate here?”
“Pick you up at 1000?”
“We will be ready.”
“OK. See you.”
He left at a run and T’Pol drew a steadying breath and became aware that the yeoman was watching her curiously. She gave her a grave nod and left at a decorous pace. She could wait until she was alone before allowing herself to grieve.
T’Pril fell asleep at last and T’Pol stayed for a few moments more, stroking the child’s soft hair, then wandered into the Spartan sitting room. Trying to sleep herself would be pointless. Dreams would plague her that would only make the next day harder to endure, dreams of being loved by a blue-eyed man who could make her cry out with pleasure at his touch. She would spend the night in meditation, strengthening her controls, and trust that they would not fail her. She might have little left but pride, but hopefully that would sustain her, force her to hide the fact that she still had entirely inappropriate feelings towards Tucker. But first, a small period of quiet despair.
T’Pol took the window seat, curling her legs under her, leaning her aching forehead against the cool surface of the window. Where had it all gone so horribly wrong? They had made the right decision, she and Charles. They could not have stayed together indefinitely. Enterprise was the only place where they could be lovers and even that haven had been destroyed when knowledge of their affaire became public. If she had tried to live on Earth or he on Vulcan they would rapidly have torn themselves apart or been estranged from both their families. They had weighed the cost and found the price of their love too high to pay and so they had parted, in grief but without bitterness, thinking it best to let love die gracefully than to end in pain and bitter arguments.
For Tucker it appeared to have worked. He had married barely a year later and she had detected no sign of distress when he had seen her again, just the pleasant surprise of meeting an old friend. She had married too, of course, a widower whose wife had been killed when her survey ship was destroyed in a warp core breach. T’Pen had made the arrangements but T’Pol had had no objection. She knew Stolas, a research chemist, a quiet courteous man who did not object to his bride’s unsavoury past. They had married at once and shared a house although not a bed. Stolas had declined T’Pol’s suggestion of intimacy until his pon farr and she had accepted his decision with only slight regret. It would have been pleasant to have companionship late at night and in the mornings but it was far from necessary. Their life together had progressed calmly and Stolas’s courtesy had never faltered but it had not seemed to T’Pol that they grew to know each other. Her mother had told her not to be foolish when she had mentioned the fact and so she had continued with her research and had polite conversations with her husband and had never once forgotten to meditate. Then the time of Stolas’s pon farr had approached and T’Pol had mentioned children. He had seemed a little surprised but had said that it was her choice so she had visited a doctor to do all she could to ensure conception and had waited with some anticipation for Stolas to be ready. But when he entered his time of madness and his fever infected her, releasing her controls, it was not her husband’s name she had cried out as he took her.
T’Pol had not been so lost in lust that she did not realise what she had done, but she had hoped that Stolas would not have noticed her lapse. He had, however, and was politely furious, claiming that he had been grossly misled when agreeing to their joining. Their marriage had been dissolved even though T’Pol already knew that she was pregnant, and the bond between them severed. She barely noticed the difference; Stolas’ emotions had been so tightly disciplined that they had not affected her as another’s once had, although it did make her wonder what he had thought of hers.
T’Pen had threatened to disown a daughter who would never find another husband with both a human lover and a failed marriage behind her. Branek had refused to take such a step, however, so T’Pol had not been totally alone, but it had been a bad year, the one she spent carrying T’Pril. Stolas’s pon farr had forced her to recognise that she had by no means ceased to care for Tucker despite the five years that had passed. She missed him dreadfully, even more than in the first days of their separation and the hormonal changes of pregnancy degraded her control of her emotions. That in turn affected her ability to work and so took away the one source of distraction left to her. A bad year, but it ended eventually and she had loved T’Pril from the beginning, even if her first irrational thought on seeing the child was that she had wanted to bear Tucker’s baby.
T’Pol had hoped that T’Pril’s birth would allow her to regain control of her emotions and once again permit her to start the long process of denying her affection for Tucker, but it had not worked out like that. Superficially, she was calm again, able to show to the world the poise and distance suitable to a woman of her rank, but she could not deny Tucker’s claim on her affections. In her more rational moments, she wondered if it was her excusable love for T’Pril that made the other, forbidden feelings so much harder to suppress. She was lonely because no Vulcan would attempt friendship with a woman so disgraced and T’Pril was not old enough to offer companionship and no lapse of time seemed to stop her missing Tucker. Before T’Pril’s conception, T’Pol had never once missed her daily meditation, sometimes continuing through the night if she felt at all unsettled. Afterwards, on the bad days, she went to bed without meditating, knowing that she would dream. It didn’t help because she only awoke crying out for him, reaching for a cool human body that wasn’t there, but sometimes the urge was too strong to resist.
So it went on for four years until finally her father took her for one of the long walks that had characterised their relationship ever since her childhood. They walked for kilometres in companionable silence, following the edge of a wadi that climbed gradually behind their hometown, eventually halting at a point where they could view the settlement spread out below them. Branek seated himself on his usual rock and took a sip of water. “I have heard, daughter, that you have been invited to attend a conference on Earth.”
“I have declined.”
“It is an honour.”
“Not one I chose to accept.”
“Because it is on Earth.” It was not a question but T’Pol answered anyway because Branek was her father and she tried to be a dutiful daughter.
“Not entirely accurate. You terminated your service on the Earth vessel and your relationship with Commander Tucker. You did not foreswear all contact with humans.”
“I do not wish to attend.”
“I believe that you should.”
He turned to face her for the first time. “Hear me out, daughter.” He paused briefly to be sure he had her attention. “T’Pol, you cannot continue as you are. Your behaviour begins to give even me cause for concern and I do not want T’Pril to suffer because her mother regrets a decision she made in good faith.”
“You lie. It is becoming obvious that there are many emotions you experience. T’Pol, take this opportunity, go to Earth, visit your human. They age swiftly, it is probable that he is very different from the man you remember.” He paused again to allow her to comment but she could not. “I know no other cure for your sorrow, T’Pol, than a harsh dose of reality.”
In her room in the Vulcan consulate, T’Pol withdrew her blank gaze from the window and knelt before her meditation lamp. She had had her father’s dose of reality and it had not helped. Tucker had aged, yes, but he was still slim and fit and attractive to her, he still teased her, was still kind to her and she loved him as much as she ever had. Now she just had to survive the next day without him noticing and hope that it would somehow cure her of her infatuation.
He shook his head, expression disbelieving even as his mouth pulled into a smile. “It’s sure gonna be a long day if you’re gonna call me that.” He slipped out of the car and came over, smiling at T’Pril. “What’s your name, honey?”
“Well, T’Pril, why don’t you come and meet my two?”
T’Pol moved perforce to the rear door he was holding open for her; this had been such a bad idea. She drew a steadying breath and slipped inside. She was Vulcan, no one would know how much it cost to keep her expression smooth. When she raised her eyes to look around, there were only two pairs of blue eyes watching curiously over the back of the front seat, both topped by fair hair bleached fairer by the sun. Tucker closed her door and hopped into the front. “That’s Katie,” he indicated the girl, “and this,” he ruffled the hair of the boy who was nearest him, “is Charlie. Kids, this is T’Pol and her daughter T’Pril. You both be real polite, now, or she’ll think I’m bringing you up to be as bad as me.”
“How do you do?” the girl asked politely then frowned. “Do you speak English?”
“Of course she does, stupid,” her brother said disparagingly. “She was on Enterprise.”
“They might have spoken on Vulcan on Enterprise. Dad, did …?”
“We spoke English,” Tucker said firmly as he pulled the car away, “and T’Pol speaks it better than me, but I think T’Pril might need you to try out your Vulcan.”
Katie poked her brother sharply. “So I’ll have to talk to her. You don’t know any Vulcan.”
“I do too! We’ve been learning it since term started.”
“Enough!” Tucker glanced quickly behind him at T’Pol, grinning. “You think you can cope with three Tuckers, T’Pol?”
“I do not know,” and that was more truthful than usual. At least three had to be easier than four. T’Pril had huddled against her mother at the sight of two more faces she did not know but now tentatively uncurled herself to peer at the other children watching her.
“Hello, T’Pril.” Katie proved that she knew that much Vulcan. “You are very ascetically pleasing.”
Tucker hooted with laughter. “Beautiful, Katie, that’s the word you want. Just like her mom,” and T’Pol died a little more. That was certainly not the remark of a man who felt the slightest embarrassment at meeting a former lover again.
By the time they reached their destination, the human children had grown bored with having two mostly silent guests in their car even if they were aliens, and were talking almost non-stop to their father and to each other, leaving T’Pol the opportunity to compose herself. Not that it was easy when she had an excellent view of Tucker’s profile when he turned to laugh at the children, could watch the muscles shift in his forearm as he operated the vehicle’s controls, remember how it felt to run her fingers through his hair, bleached fairer now than it had been on Enterprise and possibly silvering at the temples. And he was married, more unobtainable than he had ever been, and she wanted him so badly that she was not sure that her lifetime of restraint was adequate for the task ahead of her.
T’Pril’s eyes grew huge at her first sight of the expanse of ocean and she clung rather harder than normal to her mother, but the other two children had no such inhibitions, tumbling out of the car and pausing only briefly to grab the bags Tucker threw at them before sprinting off across the sand. He slung a couple more bags over a shoulder and picked up an insulated container. “Away teams had less gear than this.” He nodded at the small bag T’Pol carried. “You get off lightly.”
“T’Pril’s needs are modest.” He made a rueful grimace and started after his own children. T’Pol followed, striving to remain on neutral territory. “You allow your children to wander unsupervised?”
“They know not to go far and Earth’s safe. No wild animals around here, no psychotic pollen, no gun wielding …”
“You have made your point.”
“Dad! Hurry up! We wanna swim.”
He jogged the last few metres to where Katie and Charlie had already shed their outer clothing and were bouncing impatiently. “Pick your clothes up or they’ll get full of sand and you’ll moan.” He shook out a rug and dumped the bags on top while the children threw their clothes onto it. “You’ll have to excuse us, T’Pol,” his voice was muffled as he pulled his tee shirt over his head, “but these two’ll never gimme any peace until they’ve got wet. Unless you wanna join us?”
“No.” T’Pol was surprised that she was still capable of speech. Why was it that she had to watch Tucker strip in front of her?
He stepped out of his sweatpants leaving just a pair of skin-tight swimming trunks. “OK, kids, let’s go.”
T’Pol sunk to her knees on the rug, her usual pose for meditation but nothing was further from her mind. Her body was on fire with lust, almost like the blood fever, ten years deprivation suddenly catching up with her. Oh, but she wanted him! Wanted to lie on top of his muscular body, kiss his mouth, hear him gasp when she touched her tongue to the base of his throat, have him writhe under her when she pressed her open mouth over his flat stomach, feel him buck upwards when she took him inside her. It was perhaps fortunate that there was no one to see the Vulcan woman rocking herself and her daughter or it would have dispelled much of the mystique surrounding that proverbially stoic people.
“You wanna be careful.” His voice was friendly. “Some of those things can be real sharp.”
“Indeed.” T’Pol extracted a tissue from T’Pril’s bag to deal with the cut, knowing that years before Tucker would have done it for her, even though she had been as capable then as now of looking after herself.
“Dad, can we have lunch now?” The boy Charlie was poking hopefully at the insulated bag and Tucker swatted his hand away.
“No way. Too early.”
Tucker sank down onto the rug; he had at least put on his tee shirt. “Already? Go build a sand castle.”
“Too old. Why don’t you and Katie show T’Pril how to build a castle? I bet she’s never done that before.”
“OK.” With an uncomplicated friendliness much like his father’s, the boy held out a hand. “C’mon, T’Pril.”
The little girl looked curiously back then up at her mother, who looked doubtfully and instinctively at Tucker. “She’ll be OK,” he said easily. “They’re only gonna go a few metres away.”
“Go with Charlie, T’Pril. He will show you how to construct a building of sand.”
Put like that it did not sound a particularly good learning activity but the child was already trotting away between the human youngsters. Surely a single day could not cause harm.
“They’ll look after her,” Tucker added reassuringly. “They’re used to little ones. Too many damn kids in my family.”
T’Pol risked a longer look. He had stretched out on his side so that he could keep watch on the children, facing away from her so that all she could see were the muscles in one arm and a pair of long legs. “Your wife was unable to join you today?” She was proud of the cool tone.
“Today, yesterday, last year. My marriage went bust just like every other relationship that ever meant a damn.” He shrugged, throwing T’Pol a grin that mocked himself. “Natalie walked out five years ago. Said she thought being married to a Starfleet officer would be more exciting. Dunno what she expected. Not someone who wanted to stay home and play with the kids, I guess.”
“I am sorry.” She wasn’t, she had always hated his wife though she had not even known the woman’s name. She wondered if it was the same Natalie who had left him once before. The woman was obviously a fool.
Tucker shrugged again, fortunately unaware of T’Pol’s ungracious thoughts. “At least she left me Katie and Charlie. Starfleet have been pretty good about it, let me schedule my work around school times and mom’ll always have them when I have to go off-planet.”
So both of them were raising children alone, although Tucker appeared to be far more successful than she. Probably he had plenty of female help. With irrational jealousy, T’Pol wondered how many women had passed through his bed since his marriage ended. She gave him credit for remaining faithful whilst he was married, but could not see him practising restraint since.
“What about you? Your husband didn’t come with you?”
“No.” She didn’t say more, not wanting him to wonder if her own failed marriage was the reason she had come to see him. It was, of course, but she had often not told him the full truth.
The three children returned at that moment and T’Pol stared in horror at her sand-caked daughter, glaring at Tucker as he laughed and tossed her a towel. “It’ll brush off.”
It did although T’Pril showed T’Pol to be a very poor mother because instead of standing obediently still the little girl insisted on rolling around on the rug, waving her arms and legs. T’Pol stared down at her in despair. “T’Pril, desist! Your behaviour is unseemly.” Usually when she spoke firmly, the child responded but she had been much confined both on board the transport from Vulcan and at the consulate and the sudden freedom had made her over-excited. “T’Pril!”
She rolled right off the rug into the sand again and before T’Pol could snatch her up, Tucker, who was closer, scooped the child up to sit on his own lap, an arm around her middle. “That’s enough, honey.” His tone was as officer’s giving an order. “You’re upsetting your mother.” T’Pril wriggled once more, turning to stare up at him, but subsided with a pout when he shook his head at her. “That’s better. Close you eyes.” The latter was in Vulcan and she obeyed while he brushed the sand out of her hair and wiped her face, watching him curiously as he cleaned her hands. “What are you looking at?”
Tucker grinned. “Yeah, I didn’t get those cute pointy ones.” He didn’t try to put that into Vulcan, just flicked her nose with a gentle finger and set her on the rug so that he could pull the container of food over. “Who’s hungry?”
T’Pol hid her reaction by searching in her own bag for T’Pril’s food. Tucker had always been good with children and the young of most species reacted similarly. In fact, she had often observed that her daughter responded more obediently to strangers than to people with whom she was familiar. It just hurt to see T’Pril sitting in Tucker’s lap, allowing him to clean her. There were days when T’Pril was a little too much to cope with and having someone with whom to share … “T’Pril, come here, please.” The child was peering into the bag containing the human food, from which Katie and Charlie had already extracted sandwiches, and stayed where she was. “T’Pril!”
Tucker gave her a banana and a gentle shove towards her mother and she eventually came to T’Pol’s side, clutching her prize and asking what it was. “It is a banana, an Earth fruit. T’Pril, you must do as you are instructed. We are strangers here and must act with dignity. Once you have eaten, we will perform some of your exercises.”
Her daughter pouted, shook her head at the nutritionally balanced selection of Vulcan vegetables and brandished her banana. “I wish to eat this, mother.”
“T’Pril, please do not disagree with me. These vegetables are suitable for your dietary requirements.”
“I wish to eat this.”
“Sorry,” Tucker said ruefully. “I didn’t mean to cause an argument.”
“She should do as instructed.”
“They can be stubborn little brats. Tell her she can have her banana if she eats her vegetables first.”
“I do not approve of bribery.”
“Well, logic sure isn’t gonna work. Bananas have pretty much all the nutrients she needs.”
T’Pol gave in. This was the worst day of her life and fighting her daughter as well as herself was one thing too many. She broke half the banana into the box of vegetables and handed it over. “No, T’Pril!” The child had started to reach into the box. “With a fork.”
There were a few minutes silence while four of the party eat steadily and T’Pol performed a few exercises of her own then Tucker asked suddenly, “You not eating, T’Pol?”
“I am not hungry.” It had not actually occurred to her to bring food for herself. Since arriving on Earth her always erratic appetite had deserted her.
“We’ve got plenty of salad. Katie’s vegetarian.”
“You must find that a trial.”
“You’re telling me! She nags worse than you used to.”
Once more that casual reference to their shared past, so casual that T’Pol assumed it had to relate to the friendship they had developed before they became lovers. She had always valued Tucker’s friendship. She could not have her lover back but perhaps friendship would be possible – if she could trust herself.
“Salad?” She shook her head and Tucker frowned. “You ought to eat.” He had always felt the need to force food upon her. “You’re too thin.”
“My health is unaffected.” Her doctor had advised her to eat regularly but it was often too much trouble. T’Pril saved her from further questioning by demanding the other half of her banana.
“That is not a shell, T’Pril. That is a piece of wood.”
“It is a shell. It is the same colour.”
“The wood has been bleached by the sea and the sun, T’Pril. Observe, you can see the grains where it grew.”
“A shell.” The girl pulled a clamshell from a pocket; T’Pol had not noticed her daughter collecting samples. “See, mother, it has grains,” and she traced the ridges on the back of the shell with a plump finger.
“True,” T’Pol admitted wearily, “but a shell is just the calcium deposit of a living creature. It does not have life and grow as a tree does.”
The girl gave her a pitying look and ran off, bored with her large ‘shell’, and T’Pol glared at the offending piece of wood. She was a scientist, a leader in her field, and she found it utterly impossible to explain simple concepts to her daughter. Perhaps she was as bad a mother as her own always told her.
“T’Pol!” The shout from twenty metres further on drew her attention and she moved to join the rest who were all together for once, T’Pril in Tucker’s arms again, an arm around his neck. Like mother, like daughter.
“What were you looking at?”
“Apparently, a shell.”
Tucker grinned, looking down at the brown haired child he was holding, who looked cheerfully back. “Be grateful she hasn’t got to the ‘why’ stage yet.”
“Why is it a shell? Don’t tell me Vulcan kids don’t do that.”
“I do not know.”
“Well, you’d better get practising, because I bet this young lady’s gonna do it. ‘Mommy, why is it a banana?’”
“Because of the genetic code contained within its cellular structure.”
“Sorry, T’Pol, that might be correct, but it’s not gonna work. Trust me on this one.”
They were nearly back to the ground car and T’Pol was already aware of pain because soon now she would have to see Tucker for the last time. “How did you address the problem?”
“Kept giving them outrageous answers until they got bored.” He shook his head ruefully. “Ask me how a warp engine works and I can tell you, but the ‘why’s got me every time. Here,” he handed T’Pril back to open the car door for her while the other children scrambled in unaided and dived into the picnic bag for a snack. T’Pril took an interest at once, pulling herself up on the back of the front seat, reaching out hopefully.
“May I have a banana?”
“Clever girl,” Tucker said approvingly for her recollection of the word, silently asking T’Pol’s permission, and at her nod handed one over.
“Thank you,” the girl said and he grinned at her.
“Can you say that in English, T’Pril? ‘Thank you’.”
“Thank you,” and she gave him a small but genuine smile back.
Tucker did an impression of a fish. “Hell! She smiled at me.”
“Daddy,” Katie said severely, “you said ‘hell’. What sort of an example is that?”
T’Pol smoothed T’Pril’s ruffled hair. “She is young. Discipline cannot be learned overnight.”
“But how’d she learn if no one ever smiled at her?” T’Pol avoided his eyes by studying the top of T’Pril’s sandy head. “She learnt it from you!”
“And from my father.” She raised her head, suddenly angry. “She is my daughter, Charles, and I love her. It is … excusable.” Why had she allowed herself to use his personal name?
“You never smiled at me.” Not properly. Just a suggestion when she was very sleepy and content.
T’Pol looked away again. “The cases are not comparable.”
“Why’d you call daddy ‘Charles’?” Charlie’s head appeared over the back of the seat. “Everyone calls him Trip ‘cos he’s the third.”
T’Pol swallowed. “I did not care for the nickname.” Tucker began to stuff rubbish back into the picnic bag and she hugged T’Pril to her. The first hint of some deeper feeling from him and it was hurt. She had never given him cause to doubt the depth of her affection.
“Dad,” Katie tugged at Tucker’s tee shirt, “Charlie’s tired.”
“I should hope so.” The man looked his son over. “How else can I get a quiet evening? You can go straight to bed when we get home.”
“I wanna bath.”
“Fine. Bath then bed.”
“Can I have a sandwich in bed?”
“No. Let’s go.”
“Commander Tucker,” T’Pol kept her voice quiet to hide the pain, “if your children are tired there is no need to return us to the consulate. I believe that Earth’s public transport system is adequate to our needs.”
He turned to face her, expression as unreadable as a Vulcan’s. “I’ll take you up on that. Come back to my place. You can get transport from there.”
He swung around. “Where d’you think you’re going?”
“I memorised the route here. From my knowledge of the layout of this city, I can easily find my way to the consulate.”
“It’s over 10km! Be sensible, T’Pol. Come inside, have a bite to eat and I’ll call you a cab.”
“I am not in need of nourishment.”
“Dad! I wanna bath!”
“OK, I’m coming!” He turned back, only slightly harassed. “Come in anyway. I’ll get you sorted after the kids are in bed.”
He headed into the house and T’Pol followed reluctantly, but she did not relish the thought of a long walk with a tired child when most humans were still unused to her species. Violence was unlikely but curiosity could be unpleasant. Tucker already had his foot on the first step of a wooden staircase leading upwards but he paused to point out a door to T’Pol’s left. “Guest suite’s through there if you wanna clean up. I’ll be a while,” and he disappeared up the stairs.
“Mother?” Momentarily forgotten, T’Pril complained about the fact and T’Pol turned back to her daughter.
“I … believe not. They are mixing … savoury and sweet?”
“Yeah.” Tucker sounded dubious himself. “I’ll eat most things but not that.”
“Aw, dad,” Charlie said through a mouthful, “it’s an American icon.”
“You can’t believe everything Uncle Jon tells you and don’t eat with your mouth full.”
T’Pril was undoubtedly disappointed when the other children disappeared upstairs to bed with their father but she made no objection to sitting with her mother on one of the small, comfortable sofas in the living room and was asleep in seconds. T’Pol tucked a handy blanket around her and stood looking down at the child for several moments. At least her daughter had thoroughly enjoyed her undisciplined day amongst humans, even if it had been unmitigated torture for her mother. Restlessly, T’Pol began to prowl around the room. She had to leave. She would leave as soon as Tucker returned, before she lost control and did something unforgivable.
Fighting down her desire, T’Pol halted in front of a side table covered in a scatter of photographs. Tucker had always had an annoying habit of making an informal record of trivia, she recalled, and focussed fiercely on the images. They were mostly of the children but one caught her eye and she picked it up to study it more closely. The children were there again, but it was the adults who had attracted her attention. Most of Enterprise’s senior staff stood in a loose group, relaxed, out of uniform, laughing at the man behind the camera. All were visibly older but most had aged as gracefully as Tucker. Sato was pregnant and noting Archer’s hand resting on her shoulder, T’Pol felt momentary but genuine curiosity. Had her old captain finally been persuaded to think of something other than his beloved Federation? She regretted suddenly that she had let the correspondence between them lapse, but after learning of Tucker’s marriage she had not wanted to hear anymore so she had stopped writing and so eventually had Archer. Perhaps she would contact him again; he was too polite to reject her and his friendship would provide an interest beyond her work.
Behind her there was the sound of quick feet on the wooden stairs and she replaced the photograph carefully, knowing that Tucker had come to stand behind her. “You’ve never come to one of Enterprise’s reunions.”
“The opportunity has never arisen.”
“The next one’s only a few weeks away. You could stay around for it.”
“That will not be possible. I must ensure that T’Pril returns to a more disciplined routine as soon as feasible.”
“Why? She’s happy enough.”
“She must start to learn to control her emotions or her more violent tendencies will emerge. We are not a pleasant people when unrestrained, Commander Tucker, as you know.” He did not reply and T’Pol stared blindly at the group photograph again, searching for something to say. “Ensign Sato is with child.”
“Lt. Commander Sato, retired,” he corrected. “Baby was born end of last year. They called him Henry. You didn’t know about Hoshi and Jon?”
“I thought you kept in touch.”
“No.” She swallowed. “I must return to the consulate. Is there public transportation available?”
“I can call you a cab. T’Pol?” Reluctantly she turned and found him only centimetres away, so close that she could see the scattering of grey in his hair and the lines on his face that made no difference at all to the man he was. “Stay a while. We didn’t really get much chance to talk earlier.”
“I must ensure that T’Pril gets to bed.”
He glanced over at the sleeping girl. “She’s OK where she is. They sleep anywhere at that age.” He jerked his head and moved over to a sofa, slumping down with his customary lack of grace. “Come here.”
If she refused, he would only ask why and she had no acceptable answer. She perched on the edge of a cushion, facing forwards, repressing the urge to curl up next to him, head on his shoulder, as she used to do when they were alone.
That was not what she had been expecting, not that all too knowing question that had always thrown her into confusion. Startled, she glanced at him and then away when she saw the familiar look of concern on his face. “There is nothing amiss that I know of.”
“Like hell there isn’t! You’ve been miserable as sin all day.” There was a pause that she did not try to fill. “You don’t hide your emotions too well anymore, d’you know that?” She did as it happened; her mother was forever criticising her for it. “Why’d you come to see me, T’Pol?”
“Why should I not? We were friends and the opportunity offered itself.”
“Crap. Tell me the truth.”
“I … wished to see you.” She rose to her feet. “It was a mistake.”
“Why was it a mistake?” He had risen with her, catching her arm; he never had let her get away with prevarication and the feel of his hand even through the sleeve of her robe was making her shake with desire.
“I thought that you would have changed.” She still could not look at him but felt the hand tighten.
“But I haven’t?”
“No.” She had lost the war, as she had lost every battle over the last ten years, and perhaps she had known that she would lose before she ever saw him again. T’Pol lifted her head, eyes wide with distress, met blue ones intent on hers and gave in as her hands rose to pull Tucker’s head down, pressing her mouth desperately to his. Then finally, finally, his arms were tight around her again, keeping her alive and sane and she was clutching frantically at him, tugging feverishly at his clothes, hardly aware of the sofa under her, only of his body above. He entered her hard, hurting even though she had been wanting him all day, and she gasped into his mouth, welcoming the invasion, moving with him before her starving body shuddered into orgasm. Tucker grunted, probably in protest at her haste, and came himself, unable to resist the clenching of muscles around him. It had taken barely thirty seconds from the moment she had kissed him and they were still mostly fully clothed.
They remained still for a moment then Tucker raised his head from where it had been pressed into a cushion. “Damn it. I didn’t mean this to happen.”
He might as well have stabbed her. Indeed, T’Pol thought it might have been kinder if he had, then she would have been spared the knowledge that the longing was entirely one sided. It was too much, destroying any last pretence of control, and she sobbed, feeling tears streaming down her face.
“Hell, don’t do that.” Tucker lifted himself away, moving to one side to cradle her close. “You know I hate it when you cry.” But she couldn’t stop and again hardly noticed when he gathered her into his arms and carried her into the downstairs bedroom, kicking the door shut before lowering them both to the bed, kissing her face, hands stroking gently. “Ssh. Don’t cry, T’Pol. It’s OK.”
It was not and probably never would be, but he was there with her and there would never be another chance. “Take me. Please, take me.”
“Oh, I’m gonna do that.” His voice was kind. “But not until you stop crying, honey.”
She couldn’t, however, not when he called her ‘honey’ and promised to make love to her again, so all she could do was pull him to her fiercely, ravenous for him.
“Take it easy,” Tucker panted when he was finally allowed to breathe again. “Slow down, T’Pol, we’ve got all night and I’m not as young as I was.”
But she only whispered desperately, “I cannot,” and began to pull at his clothing again.
“No, you don’t.” He knelt over her, pinning her down as he unfastened the robe she wore, pushing it aside to caress her body. T’Pol sobbed and arched up into his hand and if she had been in a fit state to notice, would have seen the sadness in Tucker’s eyes. “Hell, honey, just how long has it been for you?”
She couldn’t or wouldn’t answer and he shook his head. “It’s OK, T’Pol, I’ll give you what you want,” and he began to touch her as she had dreamed of being touched for so very long.
They didn’t talk much because T’Pol was still too distressed to be rational. She just wanted to be loved and after a few attempts at conversation, Tucker gave up and simply indulged her. It was nearly morning, when T’Pol was laying limply half on top of him, if not sated then at least too exhausted for more, before he tried again. “I guess that husband of yours sticks to the seven year rule.”
She sounded emotionless but Tucker thought that she was just played out, not truly composed. “So … just twice?”
He winced in the grey light. During their time together, T’Pol had never once objected to his frequent demands for sex. In fact it had been she, as often as not, who had instigated intercourse and he had never ever doubted the pleasure she derived from it. “What went wrong, honey?” She made no response. “Did he hurt you?”
“Then what happened? Why are you here?”
T’Pol turned her head to press her face more deeply into the hollow between his neck and shoulder, knowing that she could not answer the first question. Tucker had only made love to her because she had quite literally thrown herself at him and he had never been a man to turn down uncomplicated sex. If she told him that her marriage had been dissolved because she had cried out for him when her husband had mated with her it would make everything far too complicated. “I wanted you.” She felt him sigh.
“Yeah, I noticed that.” He moved his head to rest against hers, a hand clasping the arm thrown across his chest, the other smoothing the long slender back. “Get some sleep, T’Pol. It’s nearly morning.” She remained very still for a moment then abruptly snuggled even closer and he felt hot liquid drip onto his skin. “Ssh.” He rubbed her back some more. “Go to sleep, honey. It’ll be OK.”
She did fall asleep after a few minutes more petting, exhausted from the sex and from the stress of seeing Tucker again, but the engineer didn’t take his own advice and lay awake for a time, wondering if they had committed adultery. The T’Pol he had known ten years before would never have done so, bound by a moral code perhaps even stricter than his own, but he didn’t know the woman sleeping beside him. He was afraid that it was just long repressed lust that had driven her to seek him out, the only man she had known for sure who could give her pleasure. She had certainly been in severe need of release. She had always been passionate and he had seen her out of control once or twice, but it had never been like this. It had been a wild night and he didn’t exactly regret it but he hadn’t meant it to happen. He had had enough of being hurt for one lifetime but when hot, urgent lips had pressed to his and with the taste for her in his mouth, familiar despite the passage of time, he had reacted with base instinct and once she had started crying he had been lost. Things had to be very, very bad for T’Pol to cry and he had never seen her sobbing as she had that night.
Beside him, she whimpered softly, trying to shift closer although that was all but impossible, and he sighed, stroking her again until she settled. What the hell was he going to do?
“Sorry, honey, we got company.”
T’Pol blinked in confusion and lifted her head to see two pairs of blue eyes and one brown pair watching them curiously from the doorway – and realised with a stab of guilt that she had not thought about T’Pril since the moment Tucker’s arms closed around her.
“Daddy,” Katie said reprovingly, “we’re gonna be late for school. It’s after 0730.”
“Then get out so I can get up. Get yourself some juice,” Tucker added in a raised voice as the door closed, T’Pril apparently content to stay with the other children.
He was out of the bed without a moment’s delay, reaching for his discarded trousers, not bothering with underpants, and T’Pol sat up slowly. She wanted a good morning kiss, a quick hug if he did not have time for a cuddle, but perhaps they did not come with casual sex.
Tucker was gathering the rest of his scattered clothing into a bundle, fishing a shoe out from under a chair. “I’ll use the bathroom upstairs, leave this one for you.” His hand was already on the doorknob. “See you in a minute.”
T’Pol closed her eyes, willing away tears. She had shed far too many the previous night and just because Charles had spent the night making love to her – and she freely admitted that he had been extremely generous – did not mean that he had any feelings for her. It was up to her now to act with the composure that should be habitual and leave as quickly as possible; and if she never saw him again, then she had had one more day and night of his company. Ignoring the tears that wanted to fall, she headed for the shower, wincing. She was sore but if Charles had given her the opportunity, she would not have hesitated to encourage him to take her again and perhaps that was another reason why he had left so precipitously.
“Hey.” Strong hands gripped her shoulders but only to move her to one side as Tucker followed on her heels, grabbing randomly for a glass and a container of juice. “Nice one, Katie,” he added approvingly as he dropped a quick kiss on the girl’s head. “We’ll have you cooking dinner soon.”
Second thoughts started to hit Tucker once he had dropped the children off at school and was on his way to Starfleet headquarters. At 0510, it had seemed like a good plan - or at least the only plan he could come up with. At 0810, tired, achy and coffee-less, he wasn’t so sure but he’d had to try something. He’d have regretted it if he hadn’t and regret was no easier to live with than hurt; harder, in fact. Hurt went away eventually. Regret tended to linger years after you thought you’d got over it. It snuck up to get you on nights when you couldn’t sleep and had nothing much else to think about but past choices. He parked the car and slammed the door to relieve some tension then headed for the mess and the largest mug of coffee he could find and maybe a few danishes. He needed the sugar rush and he had a feeling he’d be working the calories off later.
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