Father to the Man

By Blackn'blue

Rating: PG-13

Genres: adventure drama romance

Keywords: Andorians Baby Elizabeth Tucker bond Koss marriage Romulans

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Chapter 1

Disclaimer: I don’t own Star Trek. I wrote this for fun.

Note: Vulcan terms used in this story were stolen wholesale from the Vulcan Language Dictionary at http://www.starbase-10.de/vld/.

A/N: There is no trace of political correctness in any of my stories. Never had it, never will. If you are offended by macho men, feminine women, and people who do bad things just because they are predators, then read no further. You have been warned.

Genre: Drama/Romance/Adventure
Rating: PG (Adult Situations)
Description: This is the third story in my series that began with “For Want of A Nail” and continued with “In the Cold of the Night”. I suggest reading those before tackling this one. Otherwise many of the references won’t make any sense.

Summary:

I have long been severely aggravated with the half-assed way that the writers handled T’Pol’s marriage on the episode Home. So I pondered and came up with something that I thought made sense.

First off, why was Koss so hell bent to marry T’Pol? His family was so disgusted with her that they sent her a summary ultimatum in Breaking the Ice, either come home and get married or everything is off. Then, when she finally does come home (with another man hanging all over her no less) suddenly Koss is foaming at the mouth to marry her.

Why? Why was her family so urgently desperate to have her come home and get the marriage over with? Why was Koss so urgently desperate to marry her? He was even willing to put up with the humiliation of taking a woman who flat out told him that she didn’t want him, and who plainly already had another man picked out? What was the motivation?

He couldn’t have been in love with her. As Trip pointed out on screen, they barely knew each other. Besides, he agreed to let her leave and go back to Enterprise as soon as they got married without even a honeymoon. If I am interpreting what T’Pol told Trip correctly, Koss didn’t even get a wedding night tumble. So he wasn’t after her body. He wasn’t after her for love, he knew he wasn’t getting that. He wasn’t after her for companionship. What was he after? And even more intriguing, what was his family after?

This is my attempt to offer up an explanation...

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Part 1:

“I have to what?” Trip asked nonplussed. He rolled over and propped up on one elbow.

T’Pol explained carefully, “Every Vulcan is required to go through this husband. It is part of our standard education. Like elementary school on Earth. We are taught basic survival techniques and then we undergo the Kahs-Wan ritual as... I suppose you could think of it as our final exam.”

He stared. She fidgeted uncomfortably. “It is not as if there is any real danger to it if one is properly trained Trip. We do not allow our children to go into the desert unprepared. When I went through my Kahs-Wan I only encountered one le-matya, and two wild sehlats. In all three cases I knew enough to be able to detect them long before they got close enough to be a threat. I avoided any confrontations of any kind throughout the entire test.”

“And I have to go through this to prove I am worthy of Vulcan citizenship.” Trip laid back down and stared at the bedroom ceiling, blinking and thinking.

“It isn’t a matter of proving yourself worthy Trip,” T’Pol said earnestly. She sat up and leaned over him. “You are more than worthy. You have nothing to prove to anyone. It is simply expected. Every Vulcan citizen is required to be literate, to be able to master basic mathematical skills, to be able to bathe, dress and feed themselves, to understand how to operate standard household appliances, and to be able to survive the desert conditions in an emergency. It is a standard set of skills.”

Trip snorted. “Bathe and feed themselves, and evade wild sehlats effortlessly. All right then. You got it hun. Can I wear a coonskin cap?”

T’Pol looked down at him. “With or without the racoon still inside it?” Trip busted out laughing.

“Touche, M’lady,” he chortled. “You have been reading that ‘History of North America’ set of mine haven’t you?”

“Of course,” she answered. “It will be my responsibility to provide T’Lissa with her earliest training in both of her home world cultures. I must learn as much about Earth as I can.”

Trip sighed. “Gotta get used to that. It’s a beautiful name. It really is beautiful.” T’Pol took his hand and squeezed it.

“She is still Elizabeth,” she told him. “Her name in the family archive is Elizabeth T’Lissa.”

Trip smiled wanly. “It’s not the name T’Pol. It’s the need for it. But I have to say that we could not have picked a prettier one.” He kissed her hand. They both glanced over at the crib nestled in the far corner of the room. Their perpetual motion machine had paused briefly from her typical frenzy to indulge in sleep. The only motion to be seen was the rise and fall of her tiny chest, and the occasional kick or squirm. A tiny buzz cut through the air, heralding the snore that she would someday grow into.

T’Pol said wryly, “The Human filtering system may be more efficient at capturing micro-organisms. But at least our single passage filtering system does not promote this type of resonance.”

“Bigger than she is, isn’t it?” Trip admitted. “Amazing that she doesn’t wake herself up, since she has Vulcan hearing.”

“Apparently she is able to tune it out,” T’Pol suggested. “We should attempt to do the same. It will be a long day tomorrow Trip.”

“You’re right,” he agreed. They settled back down and spooned together. Trip snuggled up tightly behind his wife and let himself relax completely. “This,” he whispered, “is as good as it gets.” he kissed her shoulder gently and closed his eyes.

T’Pol lay awake for another two hours, thinking. She had much to occupy her mind.

T’Pol woke up at 0400 and slipped out of bed to start preparing for the day’s activities. By 0420 she had showered and dressed. At 0434 she carried a cup of strong coffee into the bedroom and woke Trip, gently reminding him that the sooner they got started, the sooner they would get back. He yawned and nodded, reaching for the coffee gratefully.

While Trip showered, T’Pol got T’Lissa cleaned up and fed. While Trip got dressed, T’Pol took T’Lissa into the kitchen and kept her occupied as she prepared breakfast. When Trip ambled, still bleary-eyed, into the kitchen he found scrambled eggs and toast waiting for him, and T’Pol neatly and efficiently demolishing a small bowl of sliced fruit. T’Lissa happily lolled in her basinet beside her mother’s chair and chewed on a teething toy.

Trip stared for a moment. Then he sat down, shaking his head, and started shoveling his breakfast in as fast as he could. He never would be able to grasp how she did it, so there was no point in wasting breath asking anymore.

After the breakfast dishes and a quick tooth brushing, the family was ready to head out. Trip opened the rear door and activated T’Pol’s scanner, checking the area for predators. His other hand gripped a phase pistol set to kill. He had learned the hard way not to bother with a stun setting when dealing with a le’matya. Nothing showed up on the scan, but he still proceeded with caution to the vehicle storage shed where they kept their small air car.

Trip ran a pre-flight check and inspected every system, as he always did before and after each use of the vehicle. All lights were beige, so he powered up the machine and edged it carefully forward to align the car door with the entrance to the house. Trip made a last glance over the control panel, looking closely for any green light that would indicate the Vulcan made vehicle was showing a problem. All systems read nominal.

“Ready out here. Scans clear. Car warmed up and waiting by the door.” Trip slid the air car door open and waited next to it, ready to leap out on a split second notice if he was needed. You didn’t get much lead time to react on Vulcan. When death came for you on this desert world, it came fast and it never gave first warning.

T’Pol appeared with T’Lissa in her arms and a bag over her shoulder. She stepped across the narrow gap between the house and the car and entered swiftly. Trip slid the car door closed and let his breath out in relief. Not even a family of wild sehlats could break into this car. T’Pol got busy securing T’Lissa into her seat and Trip settled down to activating the lift motors.

T’Pol seated herself beside Trip and reached for the comm. “Security Patrol - Tucker 1,2, and 3 are preparing for departure. Destination Shi’Kahr. Return ETA 2130 plus or minus fifteen.”

She spoke in Vulcan and a stern voice replied in the same language, “Acknowledged. We have you on scan. Will monitor your progress to limit of our patrol zone, and advise Shi’Kahr Security to intercept and escort.”

Trip smiled. “I actually understood that. Every word of it. Beautiful. Maybe it isn’t hopeless after all.”

T’Pol looked exasperated. “Of course it isn’t hopeless husband. You are entirely without patience, that is all. Your accent is still remarkably bad. But your vocabulary is advancing steadily. All you need is continuing practice.”

“Well,” Trip said, still smiling, “I am beginning to believe it. Finally.” He set the autopilot for Shi’Kahr and noted that two Security Directorate craft had taken position on their flanks. “So since I am advancing, how about telling me that clan name of yours?”

T’Pol looked uncertain. “I truly doubt that you would be able to pronounce it Trip.”

“Hey, at least let me try, willya?” Trip wheedled. “I have to learn it sooner or later don’t I? I can’t have T’Lissa growing up with a father who can’t even pronounce her clan name.”

T’Pol hesitated. “Perhaps we should wait until you have had more time to practice.”

“Look,” Trip said, “even if I mangle it the first few times, so what? Let me hear it anyway.”

T’Pol looked at him and mentally shrugged. “If you wish. My clan name is Sh’hiran’lin’iijyliunh’rei’iy’iukn’hy’wen’lhia’ehrm’n.”

Trip blinked. “Ya don’t say.” He turned his face back to the windshield and cleared his throat. “Guess you’re right. Maybe I should practice a little more first.”

-&-

The Medical Center at the University of Shi’Kahr was set back from the main campus in a lovely grove of low growing succulents and sand plants, interspread with Terran rosebushes and Rigellian lourfi vines. Trip strolled appreciatively up the walk, looking around and taking deep breaths.

“This smells great,” he said. T’Pol looked at him with a not-quite smile in her eyes. “Those lourfi vines smell like a cross between honeysuckle and cherry blossoms. With the roses, and those... what are those things anyway?” He pointed.

“They are called induro,” T’Pol murmured.

“Like cinnamon,” Trip claimed. “A sick person could get halfway healed just walking in here.”

“It pleases me that you like it husband,” T’Pol told him. Trip looked curiously at her.

“You have been acting mighty subdued lately hun. When are you going to tell me what’s on your mind?” Trip noted that her eyes flickered downward.

“I have been thinking of many different things Trip, just as you have,” she told him. “Right now, I am thinking that our appointment is in 7.4 minutes.” They picked up the pace a bit.

Healer Kerlek maintained an office at the rear of the hospital, in a detached building accessible by an elevated walkway. They strolled across the glass encased thoroughfare, passing medical personnel and students from a dozen worlds along the way. For once Trip didn’t feel like a sore thumb.

The waiting room was remarkably small by Trip’s standards. Even more remarkably, it was empty except for the receptionist. A young Vulcan man heard T’Pol identification, and then directed them to have a seat for the remaining 2.1 minutes until their appointment time.

Kerlek came out to greet them himself and led the family back into his examination room. “How ya been, Doc?” Trip asked casually as T’Pol placed T’Lissa on the table and started to unwrap her.

Kerlek raised an eyebrow. “Quite well actually, Commander. It is gracious of you to inquire.” He carefully probed the baby with his fingers at various points, using his senses and trained empathic abilities before resorting to mechanical aids. T’Lissa started to giggle when he tickled her ribs and Trip grinned. T’Pol stood by and watched solemnly.

“She is growing rapidly by Vulcan standards,” Kerlek remarked. “As Doctor Phlox predicted might be the case, her development seems to be continuing at a rate somewhat between the norms for her parent races. However her strength and coordination appear to be adhering to Vulcan standards. She will be attempting to stand soon. If she is not already?” He looked curiously at T’Pol, who indicated a negative.

“Not as yet, Healer. However she has been crawling for the past seventeen days with great rapidity,” she told him.

“Great rapidity is putting it mildly,” Trip chuckled. “The little squirt took off down the hallway yesterday and I had to run to catch her. She can move like greased lightning.” He reached over and captured his daughter’s foot playfully. She rewarded him with a toothless squeal of happiness. Kerlek, still in contact with T’Lissa, felt the warmth of the paternal bond flowing through the child, and her blissful response. He tactfully withdrew his hands and reached for a scanner.

The exam proceeded with typical efficiency and Kerlek directed T’Pol to repackage her bundle. Then he asked them, “I will transmit these results to Doctor Phlox immediately. As you are both aware, he and I are coordinating additional research into the compatibility of Vulcan and Human genetic material. Would both of you be willing to contribute some small blood and tissue samples to be used in this research project? I can assure you that strict confidentiality will be maintained.”

Trip shrugged and said, “No problem here.” He looked at his wife. “T’Pol?”

“I have no objections,” she told Kerlek. The healer nipped and snipped a few tiny bits with prompt dispatch and polite expressions of appreciation. They left shortly afterward for their next meeting, with T’Pol’s expression getting tighter every step of the way.

-&-

Lieutenant Commander Malcolm Reed knew it was ridiculous. The extra pip didn’t weigh enough to even be detectable. There was no possible way that it could really be pulling at his uniform collar. But it sure felt that way sometimes. There were so many new things to get used to.

Like this for instance. The brand spanking new First Officer of the Enterprise pressed the buzzer and was invited in enter the Captain’s Mess. Might as well learn to take it in stride, it went with the new job. Dinner with the Captain every night to discuss ship’s business. With rank cometh privilege, this was surely true. But with rank also cometh many a pain in the ass. Like not being able to sit around with Hoshi and Travis in the evening anymore and shoot the bull. Oh well, such was life.

Captain Archer did not look pleased this evening. Uh-oh. Malcolm’s mind went into overdrive, frantically wondering where he had screwed up. He hadn’t even had time to get settled into his new cabin yet. Surely he wasn’t going to get busted this fast.

Breathe man. It couldn’t be that bad. Maybe it wasn’t you. Wait and hear him out. “Good evening, Captain.”

Archer waved at a chair. “Evening Malcolm. Have a seat and brace yourself. I just got some news from Earth that you aren’t going to like anymore than I did.”

Reed’s breath left him in a silent whoosh of relief and he sat down with renewed optimism. Bad news from Earth he could deal with. After one had received word of a surprise alien attack on his home planet, no bad news could ever phase him again.

“We have at least one, maybe two Terra Prime Sleepers aboard Enterprise,” Archer said bluntly. Reed’s hands froze in the act of unfolding his napkin. He stared at the captain unmoving for several seconds. Then he put the napkin down very carefully and licked his lips.

“Are you quite sure, Captain?” Malcolm asked coldly. Archer nodded tightly.

“I am afraid the word came directly from your old friends in Section 31, by way of Admiral Gardner,” Archer told him. “They are certain of the fact, but they don’t have identification yet. They will let us know of course if they find out anything more.”

Malcolm’s jaw muscles worked. “Can they give us anything else to work with at all?”

Archer looked at him. “One of them is in your department. A security officer. That’s all they know.” Malcolm tightened both of his hands into fists and his face darkened.

-&-

When they got back to the air car T’Pol settled into the driver’s seat while Trip strapped T’Lissa into her travel pod. Once the baby was properly secured Trip slid into his place and started buckling down while T’Pol started the lift motors. “I’m actually looking forward to meeting some of your male relatives,” Trip remarked lightly. He watched her face twitch almost imperceptibly. “Ganlas is a good guy,” Trip continued more slowly, with a hint of question in his voice.

T’Pol hesitated. Then she cut the lift motors and settled the air car back down to the parking spot. “I have to tell you something.” She sounded shaky.

“Finally.” Trip leaned back calmly. “Took long enough. You have been nervous as a rabbit in a lion cage for the last week. Go ahead.”

T’Pol sighed openly. “I should have realized that it would be impossible to conceal my dread from you.” She stopped and gathered her nerve.

“You know about the Vulcan custom of arranged marriages.” Trip nodded. “I have also spoken about how marriages are not merely joining between individuals, but between clans. Much as they were in past centuries on Earth.” She looked forlornly at Trip, hoping he would make the connection without forcing her to say it.

He looked thoughtful. “Forging alliances. I get it. Go on.” She swallowed. Whether he suspected what she needed to say or not, he wasn’t going to let her off the hook.

“When...” T’Pol looked away. She could not look at him while she spoke of this. “When I married Koss it formed a joining between his clan and mine. Even though Koss issued a formal announcement that he has disowned me as his wife, the joining between the clans remains intact.”

Trip sat and looked at her until she pulled her face back around to meet his gaze. “Which means what, exactly?”

“It means,” T’Pol told him miserably, “that since this yearly gathering involves all members of the clan, including affiliated members, Koss might be there. He would have a right to be there, since he is still considered a member of the clan despite our divorce.”

“I see,” Trip said. “And you were going to dump this on me without warning? Maybe wait until we got there and ran into him? ‘Oh by the way hun, you remember Koss don’t you?’ and pretend that you just forgot to mention this little detail?” His rumbling undercurrent of anger made her flinch.

“I didn’t know how to tell you, Husband,” T’Pol said meekly. “I am sorry.”

Trip growled wordlessly and looked out the window for a moment. “But you were going to go to this shindig anyway. Regardless of what I might think about it.”

T’Pol said earnestly, “We must attend this gathering. It is expected of us. Most especially with a new baby.”

“We must, huh?” Trip said flatly.

“Yes,” she told him. “You know how important family connections are to my people, Trip. This is important to our future here. To T’Lissa’s future.”

“All right.” Trip started unbuckling his seat restraints.

“What are you doing?” T’Pol exclaimed in alarm.

“You need to go, then go,” he told her. “I will stay here at the university. I can look around. Grab a bite to eat at the cafeteria. Do some reading at the library. We can meet back here at say, 1900.”

“No.” T’Pol grabbed his arm. “Husband. You have to come with us. You are the Head of House. It would be an outrageous insult if you sent us and refused to come yourself. Worse than if none of us went.”

Trip was breathing through his mouth. “There is no way that you will ever be able to understand what it did to me T’Pol. There aren’t any words in any language to tell you how I felt to stand there and watch you give yourself to him.” Neither of them spoke for a while. “I can’t promise to be able to control myself.”

She reached through the bond to offer support. But he was blocking her. T’Pol felt surprised and disquieted, she had not realized that he could do that. Plainly, her adun was seriously upset. But without the direct connection of the bond she had no way of telling exactly how intensely the disharmony ran. “I should have told you before. I acknowledge that. I was wrong, Trip. I let my fear lead me into wrong action. Or rather, I allowed my fear of your anger to prevent me from taking the proper action.”

Trip clamped his mouth shut and blew out sharply through his nostrils. He slapped his thigh in frustration and re fastened the safety harness. “What else have you conveniently forgot to mention? Does he still have the right to move in if he wants?” The bite in his voice grated on her nerves.

“No he does not,” T’Pol snapped back. “He has no rights at all where I am concerned. This has nothing to do with Koss personally. It is a matter of the two clans, and the connection that was formed when I married him. You knew that the marriage had taken place, Trip. This has been Vulcan custom for thousands of years. If you had bothered to research the matter, all of this information was available in the database aboard Enterprise.”

Trip’s face froze and T’Pol instantly wanted to bite her tongue off. “I suppose it really would have been logical for me to have spent a little more time doing some preliminary research before I accepted your proposal, would it not?” Trip spoke in a low, carefully modulated voice. “However, being the emotional creature that I am, I failed to prepare for this properly. Now I must face the consequences. By all means. Let us go meet with your beloved clan members.” He leaned back and closed his eyes.

T’Pol hesitated, wondering if she should apologize again. Concluding that every time she opened her mouth she made things worse, she started the lift motors and set the air car on course for the traditional gathering site of her clan. It was a two hour flight, and not a single word was spoken.

The camp site was on the open plains, half a day’s walk from the base of Mount Seleya. In compliance with tradition that extended back into prehistory, tents and pavilions had been erected across the area with each regional sub-clan having its own designated space. Members of affiliated clans were billeted a special area near the center of the gathering site, in order that they might be made to feel most welcome. In ancient times, this also served to make them most easily observed. But of course, such considerations were strictly a matter of the distant and barbaric past.

T’Pol carefully put the air car down in the parking area reserved for her sub-clan. Trip surveyed the grounds, noting the vari-colored flags that denoted each sector. From the number of air cars, and from what he could see of the crowd, Trip estimated the number of people at about 16,000. Give or take a few hundred. More people were coming and going all the time so it was hard to pin down an exact number.

After shutting down the power T’Pol turned to face her husband. “Trip,” she began. “I hope we can get through this together for T’Lissa’s sake. I know that you don’t want to be here. And because you do not want to be here, neither do I. But we really need to do this, in order to make the family connections that will help us provide for T’Lissa in years to come.”

“I will do my best for you,” Trip told her. “That’s all I have to give you. But I will give you all I have.” She blinked rapidly and reached over to squeeze his hand. Then she turned to unfasten the newly awakened and thoroughly drenched T’Lissa.

The perimeter of the gathering area was protected by sensor activated defenses, as well as being patrolled by young unmarried men of the clan selected by lot. But custom still required Trip to carry some kind of bladed weapon on his belt. T’Pol had explained earlier that it could be anything he chose, but status would be gained by wearing something that bore historical significance to his own blood line.

Trip had shrugged, then dug out the twentieth century bowie knife that had traveled with him all the way to the Delphic Expanse and back again. “First Tucker to carry this packed it with him across the Pacific during World War 2,” he told her. “Been drifting down the family line ever since.” She told him that it would be perfect.

After eleven weeks on Vulcan, Trip was starting to feel a bit more stamina for ordinary things. But they still kept the pace moderate during the walk across the parking area. The loose fitting sand suit felt reasonably comfortable to him, as long as he kept the hood up. T’Pol had insisted that Trip carry a flask of water with him at all times, and had secretly tucked a second flask into her own suit in case he ran out. Her diaper bag also held extra bottles of water, more than T’Lissa was likely to need with her Vulcan blood.

“Our first stop,” T’Pol told him, “must be to pay respect to the Eldest Mother.” Trip brightened a little.

They found Eldest Mother T’Para surrounded by relatives, in-laws, affiliates, invited guests, and pet sehlats. The mob was well behaved but, “Thick as fleas on a dog’s back,” Trip noted. “Be a while before we get a chance to see her.”

“The Eldest Mother is always the center of attention at these gatherings,” a voice mentioned. The voice turned out to belong to T’Pol’s mother’s father’s sister’s daughter’s husband’s brother’s son. Which by Trip’s counting wouldn’t even qualify as family, but Vulcans counted things differently. His name was Aldrian, and he was an engineer. Recognizing Trip from a distance, he had come over to talk shop.

Aldrian introduced them to his wife, L’Sira, who taught secondary level history. Curiosity about Trip’s knife started a discussion about Earth’s world wars, which led into a discussion of Vulcan’s world wars and the ecological damage that had resulted. A remark by T’Pol on the matter led to inviting a nearby botanist named Stovan to join the group. Before long a medium sized clump had formed, with a shifting conversation that kept jumping from topic to topic, and planet to planet. Trip was having so much fun that he forgot to be mad.

At one point, a small boy who stood about mid-thigh high came over and stood looking up at Trip solemnly for several minutes. Finally taking notice, Trip looked down and asked him in a friendly voice, “What can I do for ya big guy?”

The boy pondered the illogic of this form of address, then asked him, “Are you Human?”

Trip pursed his lips. “There are those who claim such, yes.” The child looked taken aback for a moment, then spoke again.

“Do your people really eat each other?” Trip’s eyebrows rose and he burst out laughing.

“Not by choice,” he told the boy, who nodded and took off. Apparently to report his findings to the group of other kids waiting in the near distance.

They finally got a chance to drift over and meet with Eldest Mother T’Para, who insisted on holding T’Lissa. “She has gained a significant amount of weight, T’Pol. Are you certain that you have not been over feeding her?”

“She was subjected to a healer’s examination this morning Eldest Mother. He pronounced her healthy and her growth rate optimal,” T’Pol announced with quiet pride.

“And how well are you adjusting to conditions here, Trip?” T’Para demanded brusquely. “Are you still suffering shortness of breath?”

“Not as much, Eldest Mother,” Trip told her with a smile. “The physical adjustment is the easy part,” he added as the smile faded away.

T’Para gave him a sharp look. “Yes. That is often the case. I have found in my time however, that many of the problems which seem most vexing turn out to be, in the long term, the least significant. I counsel patience above all.” She handed T’Lissa back to her mother. “Do not hesitate to call upon me, either of you, if I can be of help in your adjustments.”

“Thank you,” Trip told her sincerely. She waved him away and turned to the next supplicant. At the rate she was working through the crowd, no more than a third of the people waiting to see her would get a chance. As they headed for the edge of the shaded awning, Trip stumbled slightly and felt a sudden rush of dizziness.

T’Pol reacted immediately. “Drink, Husband.” She held the canteen to his mouth and practically poured the water down him. Trip obediently swallowed several mouthfuls.

“I’ll be all right,” he finally said. “Just need to sit down for a few minutes.”

“This way,” T’Pol took off across the camp ground, headed for a large, open sided tent that turned out to be a commissary. She steered Trip to a table, plopped the baby into his arms, dropped the bag on the bench next to him, and took off after sustenance.

Trip looked down at T’Lissa. “Efficient, isn’t she?” His daughter gurgled in agreement.

Just sitting down helped a lot. T’Pol had found them a table well inside the shade, and a gentle breeze was cooling things nicely. Trip tossed the head covering back from his suit and let the air stir his hair. Much better. T’Lissa agreed emphatically and reached up with both hands to grab after a couple handfuls. Failing to get far enough to obtain hair, she had to settle for clawing her way into his chin.

“Ow! Kid, those nails of yours are like eagle talons,” Trip admonished her affectionately. “Here, play with Daddy’s fingers if you have to grab something.” T’Lissa accepted the compromise and started munching on his knuckles.

“Here, Trip,” T’Pol put a tall mug of cold juice in front of him. “Drink this. It will help restore the electrolytes.” Trip tilted his head at the baby to explain that his hands were otherwise occupied, so she scooped up T’Lissa and offered a chew toy in lieu of paternal skin. It just wasn’t the same, and T’Lissa said so. Loudly and at length. However she eventually settled down to take what she could get, grumbling and growling to herself about the injustice of it all.

Trip took a healthy swig of the juice and felt the cold liquid coat his throat like ice on the way down. “Didn’t realize how hot I really was until now,” he admitted with a gasp. “This helps. Thanks.”

T’Pol touched his hand with two fingers, the most that decorum allowed when they were in public on Vulcan. “There is never any need to thank me, Husband. Not for caring for my family.” He gave her a loving look and lifted the mug for another sip.

“Peace and long life, Commander Tucker and wuh'wak-ko-telsu T’Pol,” Koss said. T’Pol concentrated hard on the Kohlinar disciplines that she had been practicing all day in preparation for the possibility of this moment. She tried again to reach Trip through the bond, but to no avail. Whatever he felt, he was keeping it locked deep inside. The lack of expression on his face would do credit to any Vulcan.

Her former husband stood across the table from them, next to an older Vulcan male wearing the robes of an upper level government official. The old man also wore an expression of pronounced disdain. Trip looked thoughtfully at them both for 7.8 seconds before he put the mug quietly on the table.

“Koss,” Trip said calmly. He offered no polite good wishes, did not invite them to sit.

“Who’s your sidekick?” Trip wanted to know. He glanced over and gestured with his finger at the older male, using a disdainful flick that he had picked up from watching T’Para.

By Vulcan standards his behavior was blatantly insulting. T’Pol fought not to say a word. As Head of House, Trip was in charge here. Most especially since it involved Koss. For her to speak without Trip’s express invitation would be the most egregious display of disrespect imaginable. But she sat on pins and needles, worrying about what he might do next. She had visions of a knife fight in the middle of the commissary.

Koss stiffened and said formally, “May I introduce my father’s brother, Sub-Minister V’Rald of the Science Directorate.”

“Howdy,” Trip said with a smile and a casual hand toss as he took another sip of juice. “Science Directorate huh? Are you the one who issued the decree about time travel being impossible? Or about Human and Vulcan DNA not being able to combine? Or maybe that old one a few years back that Enterprise’s engines would never make warp 5, because the dual nacelle design was inherently too inefficient to sustain anything over warp 4?”

The occupants of several nearby tables had begun to openly monitor this conversation. During the yearly gatherings it was understood that privacy concerns were in abeyance. Anything spoken in public during a gathering was generally acknowledged to be public property. If you wanted privacy, you went inside a car or something. So this conversation, with these individuals involved, was a prime target for eavesdropping.

Koss turned to address T’Pol. “I see that you have not yet had time to instruct your new husband in the niceties of Vulcan customs.”

“I know the customs, Koss,” Trip said mildly. “I just choose to ignore them where you are concerned. By the way, you and your companion will not address my wife.” He turned his head and said simply, “T’Pol, make no reply to anything they say to you.”

She looked wide-eyed at her adun and made the only response that tradition permitted her to make. Most especially in such a situation. “Yes, Husband.”

V’Rald was looking Trip up and down with new eyes, re-calculating him as a potential opponent. Koss allowed visible irritation to show in his face. “You have become quite possessive in a short time Commander. Bear in mind that if I had designs upon your mate, I could simply have kept her when she was mine.”

Trip pulled his chin back to his chest and slid the mug away from himself. Then he slowly stood up and braced his hands on the table. He spoke clearly and in a voice meant to carry. “Listen to me carefully pretty boy. You and I both know that she was never really yours. When T’Pol received the letter from your family aboard Enterprise, telling her that if she didn’t hurry home to marry you, your family was going to cancel the wedding, I was the one she came to for advice. I read the letter myself. Do you understand me?”

Koss's nostrils flared, “I understand perfectly. She betrayed me with you when we were betrothed.”

Trip’s hand flashed for his belt. Before Koss had time to flinch the point of the bowie knife was pressing up against the bottom of his chin. Trip’s eyes flicked over to V’Rald and he said pleasantly, “One twitch from you and I carve him a new mouth.” No one moved or breathed.

Trip turned back to Koss. “T’Pol never betrayed you. But she needed a friend to talk to. I read the letter myself, and it was quite clear and explicit. It said that if she did not return immediately, the marriage was off. Canceled. It would not happen.” He backed away slowly and re sheathed the blade. “After that, T’Pol had every logical reason to consider herself free of you. So when she brought me home to meet T’Les, we were both shocked to discover that you and your family were using extortion to force T’Pol into marriage.”

Mutters broke out all around and began to spread over the entire commissary. T’Pol held onto her self-discipline with everything she had. It was barely enough. Did he have any idea what he was doing? She tried frantically to break through the barriers he had raised.

“A typical Human lie,” Koss retorted. “Why would I? T’Pol and I had been betrothed for years. This letter you purport to have read never existed.”

“Typical Human lie?” Trip asked ironically. He smiled. “Humans have established a reputation for honesty with every race that we deal with. Even the Andorians trust us, Koss. Can you say the same?”

A Vulcan male stood up at a table in the middle distance. “Trip.” Trip turned and recognized Ganlas, husband to T’Pol’s third cousin T’Leera.

“Ganlas, peace and long life to you,” Trip replied politely. Ganlas inclined his head gravely.

“I do not personally doubt your words Trip,” Ganlas said, causing a slight stir in his own right, “However I would like to ask T’Pol something if I may have your permission?”

“Surely,” Trip told him.

“T’Pol,” Ganlas said simply. “Is what Trip reports the truth? Did Koss's family send such a letter. And then, after sending such a letter, did Koss use extortion to influence you into marriage?”

T’Pol closed her eyes and said tiredly, “Yes.” Dead silence descended.

“You are both lying,” V’Rald spoke at last. “It is the only logical explanation, since no such letter was ever sent.”

“I didn’t expect you to admit it,” Trip said quietly. “It makes no difference now in any case. I just wanted you to know that I am fully aware of what you are. I also want you to know something else. Before the wedding, T’Les realized how I felt about T’Pol and urged me to stop her. She was willing to pay the price, let your allies in V’Las’s government burn her if it meant that her daughter could be with a man who truly loved her. That’s what love is like.”

“Then why didn’t you?” Koss sneered.

“Because I wouldn’t ask T’Pol to choose between me and her mother,” Trip told him. His wife heard him with a hollow feeling in her belly. Trip had never told her this, nor had T’Les. Why hadn’t he said something, done something to let her know?

Koss smirked. “You knew of course that she would make the logical choice. Which she did.”

“I knew,” Trip said calmly, “that if I pushed her, then no matter which choice she made it would cause her pain. I decided not to cause her that pain. You on the other hand, are a different matter.”

Koss raised an eyebrow. “Is that a threat?” He watched Trip’s knife hand closely. “You will not catch me by surprise again.”

Trip laughed in honest amusement. “I wouldn’t need surprise, Koss. You are slow, and just from the way you stand I can see that you have never been in a real fight. But I have no reason to bother with you now. I have already won.”

“You seem quite sure of yourself Commander,” V’Rald probed.

Trip snorted in amusement. “So far the people that have tried to kill me include Suliban, Klingons, Romulans, Andorians, Arkonians, Xindi, and a host of others.” He spread his hands ingenuously. “I’m still here.”

“Noted,” V’Rald answered him bleakly. “We should continue with our business Koss,” he told his nephew without looking at him. He raised his hand in the ta’al gesture. “Live long and prosper, Commander.” They turned and left, followed by a susurration of whispered conversations.

T’Pol bowed her head over the baby and concentrated on remaining as calm as possible. Trip sat down and returned to sipping his juice. Ganlas made his way over to their table and got a waved invitation from Trip to grab a seat. “That was remarkably interesting,” Ganlas remarked. “Are you fully aware of the ramifications of what just happened Trip?”

Trip took another sip of juice and looked distractedly off into the distance. “Perhaps you would be willing to educate me, Ganlas.”

“Gladly,” Ganlas said. “Our culture does business on the basis of family connections. I believe the English term for it is nepotism?”

“I had managed to grasp that much on my own,” Trip said, still staring off into space with a pursed mouth. T’Pol, hugging T’Lissa close, had closed her eyes and was reciting the mantra of the klarahu deni portion of the Kohlinar disciplines in an attempt to regain her center.

Ganlas absently rubbed the rim of his cup, a thoughtless gesture that spoke volumes about his state of mind. For a Vulcan to be reduced to such absent minded gestures denoted a level of distraction almost unheard of. “In times past this arrangement led to institutionalized abuse and inequity. To rectify this state of affairs our people enacted a complex system of ethical standards to regulate our business dealings. Over the course of centuries these standards have come to be considered sacred.”

Trip paused with his mug raised for a moment and started to smile. “Sacred. I see.” He put the mug down. “Let me guess. The standards you mentioned consider extortion to be a bad no-no?”

“An unusual way to phrase it, but yes. They do,” Ganlas answered. “May I ask T’Pol something else?”

“Hm? Sure.” Trip looked startled. “T’Pol can talk to anyone she wants. I was just jabbing at Koss with what I said earlier.” Ganlas gave him an undecipherable look.

“T’Pol,” Ganlas asked, “are you aware of the extent of the clan’s investment in the K’Haril shipyards?” She took a deep breath and nodded.

“Yes. I know that our family owns 34% of the manufacturing base for the starships that are produced there.” She looked at Trip, and saw that he had frozen solid.

Ganlas explained to Trip, “The Science Directorate contracts for approximately 42% of the vessels produced at the shipyards, with the remaining 58% being manufactured for the use of the Security Directorate.” He sipped his tea and waited.

“Oboy,” Trip muttered. “So that’s it. And Koss’s uncle is a Sub-Minister in the Science Directorate. The old proverb says to follow the money. There it is, right in front of everyone’s nose.”

“Once our marriage was formalized and the alliance had been established,” T’Pol said with more than a trace of bitterness in her voice, “it did not matter whether Koss and I remained together or not. The business connections would still be intact.”

“Unless,” Ganlas said significantly, “there was some cause presented to cast doubt on the validity of the original joining. If the marriage was found after the fact to be invalid for some reason, then the inter-clan agreement that was formed becomes null and void.”

“And some massive pile of credits goes straight down the waste chute,” Trip sighed. “I get it now. Yeah. I get it.” He looked at T’Pol glumly. “You were absolutely correct, Wife. I should have researched this situation more thoroughly.”

“Since the recovery of the Kirshara such matters have come under intense scrutiny,” Ganlas advised them. “It is distressingly plain that the government under V’Las was rife with corruption from top to bottom. With the entire planet undergoing a new Reformation, any hint of impropriety will be certainly not be tolerated. Beyond question, there will be an official investigation into this matter.”

“T’Pol did nothing wrong,” Trip snapped defensively. Ganlas raised a hand.

“No one said or implied that she did.” He glanced at T’Pol, who returned the look with one of deep distress. “But if there is evidence found that the events took place as you reported, then Koss and his family are guilty of several ethical violations. Also, if T’Les or any other member of our clan is shown to have been aware of this, and colluded with them, it will reflect badly on our family as well.”

Trip squeezed his eyes shut and bowed his head. “Oh Shit.”Aloud he asked with faint hope, “Are you sure there is going to be an official investigation?”

“I have no choice, Trip,” Ganlas told him soberly. “My duty is clear.” Trip snapped his head up and stared.

T’Pol explained, “Ganlas is a Senior Commander for the Security Directorate, Husband.” She pressed her lips together. “As soon as you made your announcement, he was obligated to investigate the allegations.” Trip started to feel something through the bond, despite his determination to keep his feelings to himself. It didn’t feel very affectionate.

“All right,” Trip gripped both hands around his juice mug. “Since the cat’s out-” He was interrupted by a complaining yell from T’Lissa, who had been growing increasingly irate at being denied her rightful place as the center of cooing attention. She served forceful notice that she expected her parents to put away their foolish distractions, and get back to their proper function of waiting on her hand and foot. It took several minutes to soothe her ruffled feathers.

Ganlas asked T’Pol, once peace had been restored, “I presume that the letter Trip spoke of has since been disposed of?” T’Pol nodded. “Did anyone besides Trip see it?”

She told him grimly, “The communications officer aboard Enterprise decrypted the letter before giving it to Trip.”

“Decrypted?” Ganlas raised both eyebrows, intrigued. “That is rather unusual, is it not? I was not aware that it was policy to encrypt personal communications for ship’s personnel. At least it was not during my term of service in the fleet.”

“It is not,” T’Pol told him. “Nor is it typical for Human vessels, which is why my captain became suspicious when the communications officer reported that I had received a surreptitious, encrypted message from the Ti’Mur.”

“I see,” Ganlas said blandly. “Then the communications officer is also aware of the contents of the letter.”

“She didn’t read it,” Trip explained. “She just decrypted it. We don’t make a habit of reading personal messages. Truth is, none of us liked the idea of snooping into T’Pol’s private mail. But Captain Archer said that T’Pol had promised to tell him whenever she received a communication from the High Command. Then she receives this encrypted, secret message from a Vulcan cruiser and doesn’t say a word about it. So he ordered Hoshi to crack it and had me check it out.”

“Entirely understandable,” Ganlas said thoughtfully. T’Pol flushed a little and looked irritated and uncomfortable at the memory. “A Vulcan captain would have done the same thing, I am sure.” He glanced back and forth between them. “You must have already established a strong friendship if she came to you for advice on such an intimate matter.”

“We had not.” T’Pol said tiredly. “After reading the letter, Trip came to me to confess what had been done and to apologize for intruding on my privacy. Since he already knew about the situation, I took advantage of the opportunity to obtain the insight of a disinterested third party in the hope of obtaining greater objective clarity.”

Ganlas looked at Trip with respect. “An honorable course of action, Trip. Especially since T’Pol would have had no way of knowing about the espionage.”

Trip shrugged. “It was the right thing to do.”

“Yes, it was,” Ganlas said. “Now I, and the rest of the family, must choose the right thing to do. Even if it costs the clan several million credits in lucrative government contracts, and damages our reputation severely throughout Vulcan space for compromising the Tehlp’hlat standards.” He stood up. “I will probably be contacting both of you again about this matter sometime tomorrow.”

As Ganlas walked away Trip drained his juice and set the mug down very slowly and gently. He took in as much air as he could hold, clamped his tongue firmly on his tongue, and turned to look at his wife. She was watching him with a face carved from solid ice.

They walked back to the air car in silence. Once they were airborne and headed back toward home, Trip broke the silence with, “Go ahead. Unload.”

T’Pol stared straight ahead out the front window and replied through her teeth. “I will not discuss this matter with you until I have meditated.” Nothing more was said all the way back to the house.


Comments:

Transwarp
bnb, Chapter 6 is being held up for technical reasons (not posting correctly, for some reason.) As for ff.net, it must be the evil-twin Transwarp, because I've never posted anything there. As far as I know...
bnb
This was great on ff.net. But I am getting twitchy. Please tell me not to lose hope? I am getting plaintive here.
bnb
Yeah. Whence cometh all the "\"es's?:!@
Asso
I don't know what the hell happened, but I hope the comments will be rescued. Anyway, I remember that Alelou wrote I would be extremely delighted by your T'Pol, eager to understand Italian language, so as to watch Italian Operas, that she found very pleasant for her.Well, I want to repeat again that I had to interrupt my joyous somersaults, before I became capable of saying how much Alelou has been right.But, all this apart, your writing, your characterizations, not to mention the plot itself, are spectacular. I'm not joking: SPECTACULAR!And, believe me, maybe the unexpected punctuation of this chapter, due to the web change, is funny, but this doesn't take away anything of its value.
Asso
I don't know what the hell happened, but I hope the comments will be rescued. Anyway, I remember that Alelou wrote I would be extremely delighted by your T'Pol, eager to understand Italian language, so as to watch Italian Operas, that she found very pleasant for her.Well, I want to repeat again that I had to interrupt my joyous somersaults, before I became capable of saying how much Alelou has been right.But, all this apart, your writing, your characterizations, not to mention the plot itself, are spectacular. I'm not joking: SPECTACULAR!And, believe me, maybe the unexpected punctuation of this chapter, due to the web change, is funny, but this doesn't take away anything of its value.
Transwarp
Yeah, punctuation IS funny. It seems to have happened after the switch to the new web page. it looked fine, before. And the previous chapters look okay, and I formatted them exactly the same. I'm not sure what's going on.Also, all the previous comments are missing. Very strange...
Lee
Great update Transwarp but the puntuation in the story is funny.

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