As Easy as Breathing

By Lt. Zoe Jebkanto

Rating: PG

Genres: drama romance

Keywords: Baby Elizabeth Tucker bond

This story has been read by 353 people.
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Summary:  First, they were bonded and didn’t know it.  Then they knew, but weren’t exactly happy about it.  Now they know and they’re happy, so why is completing their bond so difficult when it’s supposed to be as…?

 

A/N:  This story takes place on Vulcan several weeks after the death of Baby Elizabeth Tucker, as Enterprise is still experiencing the calm before the storm of the Romulan War.


Vulcan

03 05 2155

 

“It is as easy as breathing,” said T’Pol.

 

Her voice was quiet, unhurried.  With no wasted motions, she touched the control panel beside the door to the master suite of what had been her mother’s house.  She waited as the illumination withdrew: giving birth to shadows. The flowing material of her embroidered robes shimmered copper and russet as, turning, she moved to a low table where a meditation candle burned, then sat down on a tan and sienna cushion across from Trip.  The glow of the flame reflected in her eyes, serene gold within amber.

 

Apprehension and excitement could feel so much alike!

 

One or the other was tugging on Trip’s abdominal muscles, so his diaphragm shuddered its way through his next inhalation.

 

Why would anybody in their right mind ever say something was as easy as breathing?

 

He studied her calm face in the candlelight and flickered her half a grin.  “Right.  Got it.  Relax into stillness.  Breathe slower, without trying so hard, right?  It’s been a while since neuro-pressure, but I remember.”

 

Her nod was almost imperceptible.  “As your breathing deepens, allow but don’t force it to steady.  In and out, like the ocean tides of your planet.”

 

Her words rose and fell, grew soft and slow as the gulf shore waves she had never yet experienced.  Not directly anyway.  But she already knew his mind well enough to recognize how he loved that sound, that he could submerge himself in that image.

 

Trip’s eyes drifted closed as she guided him along the golden shore.  The candle-light became the caress of Florida sunlight on his face.

 

“Listen to the sound of our breaths as they move to match each other,” she said.  “We will focus on the stillness between each, like the moment between waves.  As that stillness grows, let yourself look within.”

 

“Yeah, okay.”  He murmured, only a little above a whisper.

 

Damn!  Why did he have this crazy need to say something, even when he knew it was completely unnecessary?

 

As quiet as they had been, the sound of his words was loud in his ears, a jarring disruption of the rhythm that was trying to sink itself inside him as deep as his bones.

 

Still, it was those bones that now demanded he sit up straighter on his cushion and ask  “Shouldn’t I be assuming some kind of posture for this?  Like before?”

 

He could hear the soft neap, rest, ebb cycle of T’Pol’s tidal breathing complete itself before she answered.  “You will recognize what is needed when the timing is right.”

 

God, he hoped so!

 

He’d told himself he was prepared for this!  Over the past hours, as he bathed, as he dressed in the light, comfortable clothes he’d purchased yesterday in ShiKar, he’d been looking back at the events that brought him and T’Pol to this room and this beautiful, sacred moment of committed joining.

 

So shouldn’t he have recalled something so basic?

 

When they used to meet for regular neuro-pressure sessions, his body had begun to flow from one posture to the next with little need for conscious direction.  It seemed to know instinctively how to counterbalance the flexing and stretching of muscles and the interplay of applied pressure, resistance and release within his own as well as T’Pol’s neural nodes.  His mind could sink into the knowledge, the understanding, the living moment of each posture, with only the rocking rhythm of his breaths and hers to guide it to calmness.

 

That was then.

 

His sigh came, jagged with frustration and the renewed tensing of muscles. He probably would have remembered all of that now, if he hadn’t been so aware of how different this time would be.

 

Of how right he wanted it to be.

 

Apprehension or excitement, that’s all it was, okay?  Just let it go.

 

Still, his eyes popped open and the question slipped out, almost without his bidding.  “What am I supposed to be looking for?”

 

“Trip,” said T’Pol.  “That is not for me to tell you, even if I knew.”

 

Was that a hint of amusement in her tone?  Some gentle exasperation?  Was there really a time when he’d have missed the subtle shadings she gave to her words?

 

He shifted position and told himself he was not fidgeting.  That he was ready to follow her familiar guidance.  “All right, I’m gonna be quiet now.”

 

One eyebrow went up, the barest millimeter.  A single muscle at the corner of her mouth followed the movement.  But, he decided, it was mostly in the reflected candle glow lighting her eyes that he could find a smile.  “It is all right, Trip.  Breathe deep now, and then… trust.”

 

Was there a time when her guidance wouldn’t have been so patient?  When she wouldn’t have recognized he was only letting his words prattle on while he tried to relax his fisted gut and ease the growing expectancy charging the air between them?

 

He gave her a small smile.   “Yeah, okay.  I got it.  Trust.”

 

“Trip, you must stop talking now and breathe.”

 

“Was I talking out loud right then?  Not just thinking to you?  I kind of imagined,   even with the beginning bond we’ve developed up til now, I’d be able to tell which I’m doing. Wouldn’t you?”

 

Damn!  He was still prattling!

 

It came again, that fractional lift at the corner of her mouth as her hand brushed the side of his head.  Her fingers seemed to caress someplace far beneath the lift of his hair, deeper than the bones of his skull.  They were as warm as her words, which now seemed to brim with the amused exasperation he’d only guessed at seconds ago.  But Trip was no longer sure if she was actually speaking aloud.  It didn’t matter.  “It seems to me,” she said.  “That you have been doing a good deal of both.”

 

“Sorry.”

 

“No apology is needed, only compliance and, as I said, trust.”

 

Yeah, trust.  He could do that.

 

He’d been trusting T’Pol for a long time now.  What he wished was that he could tell her so in words as clear and concise as the commands he gave down in Engineering, or as full of heartfelt meaning as the best lines in his favorite old movies.

 

I trust you with my life.

 

You’ve held it in your hands on the bridge of Enterprise and on more planets than I can name.

 

I trust you with my thoughts.

 

We snagged each other’s more than once the last months, half the time by accident, until we needed to put them together to rescue the captain back on Algeiba.  The hard part was facing what we really thought about each other.  No matter what I said, or what you said, at least our eyes always spoke truth, especially when we found each other in that uncluttered daydream white space.  That’s what finally told me I had to trust you with my heart.  It brought me back across that tether to Enterprise.   And to you.

 

I trust you with my hopes.

 

I hope to make a home with you when our time on Enterprise is done.  On Earth, on Vulcan, it doesn’t matter- not much anyway- just as long as we’re together.

Even after the hurt of Elizabeth’s dying,, I hope Phlox is correct.  That if a Vulcan and a Human decided to have a child, it’d probably be all right, because I want us to be the ones to have that child.  I hope you want that too.

 

I trust you with my future.

 

That starts with my next breath and… Why does this stuff always sound so much better on the silver screen?

 

He wouldn’t need to speak and risk another break in the tidal rhythm trying to form as they gazed at each other through the shimmering candlelight, because it was already happening between them.  That gentle questing of their minds toward each other had already begun and she would have sensed what he wanted her to know.  Still, he found he was about to open his mouth, blurt out that yes he trusted her, when-

 

In calm, even tones she spoke the familiar words.  The ones he had heard before.  Could even remember having  spoken the night in her quarters when he first dared say he loved her.  Familiar words.  But this time, they would change everything.

 

“My mind to your mind…” T’Pol murmured.

 

Even as his mind reached for hers, the knowledge of the coming change demanded that he ask her one final question.  “You say this is gonna be like neuro-pressure?”

 

Her fingers remained quiet on his temple.  Only her thumb stoked feather light across his cheek just in front of his ear.  “This will be neuro-pressure practiced at a level deeper than anything we have attempted before.”

 

“But you believe it will work.”

 

“Ordinarily, we might ask the assistance of one of the priests or priestesses at Mount Seleya to help us complete the bond.  But these circumstances are uniquely our own.”

 

“Because I’m Human?”

 

“Yes.  And because our minds and our bodies have both already touched, though not at the same time.”

 

 

He could feel the lift of his smile then, pressing upward against the tip of her thumb.  It was still stroking his cheek.  Did she know it?

 

No… he didn’t think so.

 

Recognition of her unconscious caress made him smile even wider.   “Okay, got it.  I’m breathing.”

 

“I did not doubt that.”  There was that amusement again.  “Only that you are not experiencing stillness between breaths.”

 

“I’m working on it.”

 

“Trip, working is counter-productive.  This is about being.”

 

Damn, he wished he’d quit prattling!  But more words came in an eager rush.  “Okay.  Being.  I’m being.  Breathing and being.”

 

“Trip…”  She almost sighed.

 

But he knew, absolutely knew, it was the amusement, rather than the exasperation that drove it.

 

“Honest, T’Pol, I’m being.  I mean, I’m not being difficult…”

 

“On the contrary,” she said.

 

Sometimes he loved seeing if he could get those little lights of expression to spark in her beautiful eyes, to hear her crisp, clear tones shade toward that small suggestion of a smile.  But this time, it had only been reflex, a part of that gut-twist of excitement.

 

Laying his hands on the low table, he shook his head and forced himself to draw a long, deliberate breath, then watched the amused golden glints fade from her gaze as she waited for him to continue.

 

“Okay, let’s put it this way,” he said.  “I’m not trying to be difficult.  It took me quite a while to get in sync with basic neuro-pressure last year.  But what we’re attempting now… this is more than we’d ever have considered back then.  I want this, probably more than anything I’ve ever wanted in my life except maybe to get my hands on a warp engine out here among the stars.  And, hell, maybe even that was because I knew you were out here someplace.  But are you sure you’re okay with trying …”

 

Was there a word to encompass all the naked vulnerability that came with a  mating bond?  Especially when, for her, it would be entered into with somebody like him, with little knowledge of her culture, with its strict codes of behavior and careful attention to subtle mental etiquette?  He’d had a lot of schooling in good Southern manners himself growing up, so he could respect that, no problem, but he struggled with the idea of suppressing one’s feelings.

 

Would she come to find his outspoken, sometimes impulsive, even inconsistent ways awkward over time?  Or wearing?  Would she find she could trust him the way she was asking him to trust her?  Was it fair to ask her to try, simply because he loved her?

 

The words he wanted still weren’t there, damn it!  He settled for approximates and hoped they, along with his intention, could create at least the beginning shape of the idea he wished to form.  “… to initiate something that’s so…  So… personal?  So… big… with me?”

 

T’Pol’s brow flicked up, an elegant question mark, though her words were more answer than inquiry.  “Could you be ‘okay’ with completing only half a journey?”

 

Trip shook his head.  So, they saw this new venture into the only-guessed-at in the same way and here, at last, this was the moment to begin it.  “My mind to your mind?”  It wasn’t a question, only a place from which to set the rhythm of his responses.

 

“Yes.  My mind to your mind,” T’Pol confirmed.  “My thoughts to your thoughts.”

 

Her touch was steady, but the part of it that was more than the butterfly light pressure on the side of his head seemed to be growing warmer, reaching deeper, gathering him in, bringing him closer…  Closer.

 

Trip watched her eyes as his hand rose.  They rested on him, steady and luminous amber as he stroked the smoothness of her face and the elegant line of her cheekbone.  They widened as his fingers buried themselves in the fresh, herbal silk of her hair and found a gently thrumming pulse, warm and beckoning just above the sea-shell curve of her ear.

 

This time his quiet words did not disrupt the joining rhythm of their breathing. “My thoughts to your thoughts.”

 

Beside them, the candle glowed, giving off tiny, fluttering sounds each time the flame reached for a new instant of brightness.  It seemed they grew louder while the stillness deepened and the rhythm of matching breaths slowed.  Flowed.

 

When T’Pol’s words came they did not stir the silence between the ebb and neap.

 

Our minds are touching.

 

His flowed back as sure and silent as hers, with none of the sorrow that had wrapped around them when he’d heard them spoken aloud during her arranged marriage to Koss.

 

Never and always touching and touched.

 

They were no longer only a part of ritual recitations, but the sign-post marking the next part of his journey with T’Pol.

 

Her thoughts met, then intertwined with his in perfect unison.

 

…touching and touched…

 

Her beautiful eyes were growing even wider, welcoming him in behind the reflected golden brilliance of candle light, beyond the sharp edged brightness of intellect, toward the soft, subtle glow of consciously unveiled emotion, to where, deep as his own, her love waited for him.

 

When they spoke, the harmony of their murmuring voices gave reverence to their words.  “Our minds are one.”

 

Trip caught his breath.  This was not like the erratic, half-recognized, often uncomfortable bonding forged after their first night of lovemaking.  It wasn’t like the urgent meld that joined their efforts in rescuing the captain on Algeiba, or the tentative, intrigued exploration that followed their first awkward admissions of love for each other.  They had  reached an amazing, paradoxical space where there was no clear separation between them and yet they had lost none of their individuality.

 

Beneath his hand, T’Pol’s cheek muscles gathered as her brow furrowed.  Her words came slow and considering over the soft fluting of the candle flame.  “This touching… this being… this feeling…”

 

Her perplexity became his as her words trailed away and a wash of some feeling he couldn’t quite identify filled his mind.

 

It was his heart that named it.

 

Amazed bewilderment.

 

She had known all the words, the procedures, the concepts of the ritual.  Even that she loved him.  But the deep, committed joining, this oneness of the mating bond was as overwhelming, as intimate a mystery to her as to him.

 

As were the uncertainties that came with it.

 

There was so much she didn’t know!!  How did  humans entertain  two, three or even four separate emotional states almost simultaneously, then used the coalescence of those feelings to formulate actions and decisions?  How could their feelings and actions relate when they seemed frequently not to run in parallel?  Would Trip find her understanding inadequate to maintain his trust in her?  Her confusion frustrating?  Would he find her automatic retreats into reserve isolating?

 

With extra tenderness, Trip drew his fingers over her cheek before he dropped his hand.  He pushed back from the table and got to his feet.  T’Pol had been right before.  When the timing was right, he would know exactly what to do.

 

Trip moved around the low table, sank onto the cushion next to her, then gathered her close in his arms.  He held her there in silence for a moment while he searched out words for what he’d discovered in her moment of bewilderment.

 

“We know we love each other,” he said.  “And we know we’re loved in return.  The thing is, we both want to be a joy to each other despite our differences, not a disappointment because of them.”

 

T’Pol nodded, but sensing he wasn’t finished she waited, silent against his chest.

 

“Kind of ironic, isn’t it?” He smiled into the shining cap of her hair.  “How, in all this being concerned about our differences, we’re alike?”

 

She twisted in his hold, but only enough to look up at him, making no effort to move away.  “Indeed.  We approach our perceived differences from a similar perspective.  It is logical then, to assume we each will strive to respect and learn from those differences rather than expect conformance with what we already know.”

 

“That won’t always be easy,” he reminded her.  Somehow there was peace in acknowledging the shared challenge in those words.

 

“Very few things that are worthwhile striving for are,” she agreed, then, with a soft, small sigh, she settled once more against him.

 

Resting his cheek on the fragrant silk of her hair, he let out a sigh of his own.  He drew her closer, loving the quiet weight of her in his arms as his gaze settled on the shimmering gold light of the candle.  Its soft flickering spoke of stillness within warmth, of ancient stories carried down through centuries of time by both her people and his own, of unhurried dreams of days yet to come.

 

He wasn’t sure how long they sat like that.  He only knew that he would… that they would… be perfectly content to go on doing so for a long, long time yet, and that their calm, steady breathing did sound incredibly like the ebb and neap of gulf shore waves.  If he and T’Pol could share moments as beautiful, as peaceful as this one, the struggles of other times would be more than worthwhile.

 

An idea began to shape itself, neither exactly within the confines of, nor without the formation of words.  It came without the pressing of fingers against psi points, or the conscious perception of sending or receiving thoughts.

 

We are breathing, slowly and deeply.  Breathing.  Our breaths are one.  The rhythm of our blood-pulse, the ebb and flow of our life forces are one.

 

Some essence within that idea that Trip could only identify as the voice of T’Pol’s mind rang with perplexity.  And our hearts? Our hearts are one?

 

Yeah.  They’re one.  Trip settled back on the cushion, drawing her with him so the side of T’Pol’s face was cradled on his chest.  His hand settled on her side, then followed the curve of her ribs and the swell of her breast to the place where he knew the Vulcan heart lay.  His fingers poised, the tips searching, listening, for the steady beat, beat, beat before they stilled.  With small, nestling movements, her cheek pressed itself below his collarbone, seeking an answering rhythm.   Listen, do you hear it?  Can you feel it?  Our hearts are one.  Like our feelings for each other are one.

 

But…?  Therewas a moment of protest, although it was small, distant, as reflexive as excited prattle.   …we are used to suppressing our…

 

Yeah.  We were used to suppressing our feelings.  Both of us.  Each in our own way.    Suppressing or hiding them.  Now, we’re learning something new.

 

What are we learning?

 

Trip’s fingers traced the delicate embroidered designs on the flowing robe she’d bought new for their ceremony.  Beneath it, her beckoning skin glowed warm.  When he spoke out loud, his words came as quiet and unhurried as the waves along the golden beach she’d led him toward before.

 

When had the last of his uncertainties, his excited prattling given way to assurance?   He drew her even closer in the circle of his arms, delighted and a little amazed to realize that the two of them were like the ebb and the neap, both always changing and exchanging their part in the relationship, and now he was the one doing the guiding.

 

Of course, she probably had some Vulcan’s Forge desert analogy of her own for them, one he wouldn’t understand yet.  Then it would be his turn again to ask the questions!

 

“We’re learning,” he said.  “What we talked about before… just a little while ago, I think.  About trust.  That it’s not always an action.  Not always planned.  Sometimes it’s just… a feeling.  Learning it’s okay being us.  You, me.  Sometimes planning our life together, what we want, what we dream about.  Sometimes just… being like this.  Together.  And…”

 

T’Pol’s nod was gentle against his chest before her head slipped from his shoulder to rest on the pillow.  But the arm that came up to circle around his back was strong, with none of the uncertainty that had touched his mind… sometime…before they found the beach.  It wasn’t surprising to hear her speaking all the words his thought had been struggling to find.

 

“…discovering the many levels of our deepening bond, and all the ways we can express our love for each other.”

 

Trip nodded.  He propped himself on an elbow so he could gaze down into the wide, wonderful, trusting eyes of his bond-mate, his beloved and smile at her elegant face, bathed in the contrast of candle-glow and shadow.

 

It would be a lot to discover.  But he felt no need to say anything more about it before he pulled her into his arms, kissed her forehead, her eyelids, her mouth.  Alikes and differences.  Silent thought and spoken word.  Heart and mind.  Ebb and neap.  Somewhere between all of them, they met.

 

And for Trip, the first, and greatest discovery of their mating bond was that loving T’Pol, and being loved by her really was…

 

As easy as breathing.


Comments:

Cap'n Frances

Beautiful story. It reminded me of a baby struggling with its first breath and then discovering how natural breathing can be.

Dinah

I am SO impressed by your writing! Your story is absolutely wonderful. There can be no question that here are two people who have made a firm commitment to one another and can look forward to a long, fulfilling life together. Well done! 

Transwarp

This is one of the best depictions of a mind-meld that I have ever had the pleasure of reading.

Poetic and intimate.  Well done!

Weeble

It was beautiful. I enjoyed the flow, or perhaps the best analogy for me would be an old car struggling to get all its cylinders firing in sequence, until it finally settles down and purrs. And becomes reliable and powerful. thanks for the image.

Eireann

I really love this piece.  There is so much poetry in it, so much intimacy.  I echo Asso's comment, in fact!

Linda

Relaxing, peaceful, poetic, nice imagry.  I liked this story very much.

But I was confused by the terms ebb and neap.  A neap tide is when the sun and moon are at right angles to the earth and the difference between high and low tide is less.  Neap tide is opposite of a spring tide where sun, moon, and earth are in a line and the difference between high and low tide is greater because of the greater pull on the ocean.   I have always thought of ebb tide as low tide, the opposite of high tide; ebb and flow being opposites.  So I see neap as less movement and ebb as less water, which both gave me the sense of equating them with breathing out, not in and out.  I was not sure if you meant ‘ebb and neap’ to mean ‘ebb and flow’ or ‘low and high’ – opposites - like breathing in and out?

Asso

Just a simple word. Marvelous.
As marvelous as breathing.:D

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