No Greater Love

By Distracted

Rating: PG-13

Genres: adventure angst au dark drama family romance smut virtual season

Keywords: Andorians Baby Elizabeth Tucker bond time travel torture

This story has been read by 1257 people.
This story has been read 2207 times.

This story is number 1 in the series Virtual Season Five


 

Rating: PG-13 for sexual situations
Disclaimer: It all belongs to Paramount. I could say more, but I'm not gonna go there ... still hurts too much to be polite.
Category: Romance, Angst

Summary: This story begins right at the end of “Terra Prime.” It's my attempt to explain how the creators of Riker's obviously erroneous and mostly fictitious holonovel might get the idea that Trip and T’Pol's relationship ended shortly after Elizabeth's death. This one was therapeutic for me. I hope it helps you too.


Chapter One: Compassion

She sat there, simply holding his hand. Distantly, through the barriers she had painstakingly erected around her senses… around her emotions… she heard his choked sobbing, and felt his fingers gripping hers. She sensed that he needed something from her… something she was unsure if she would be able to give.

Vulcans grieve alone, she thought.

She turned to him to tell him so … to ask him to leave her to grieve in peace, and met his eyes for the first time since Elizabeth’s death. The grief she saw there mirrored her own. His reddened, tear-filled eyes were filled with such misery, a new emotion surfaced before she could suppress it… compassion. She recalled something she’d read about the human response to grief.

Humans crave physical contact when they grieve. She couldn’t remember now where she had read it, but she realized then what he needed from her, and felt compelled by compassion … and friendship … and perhaps something more… to provide it.

T’Pol stood, and drew Trip to his feet as well. She stepped into the circle of his arms, gently pushing aside the sling he still wore to immobilize his left shoulder where he’d taken the phase pistol blast a few days before. Then she laid her head on his chest and placed her arms about his waist. Trip froze for a moment, a look of disbelief on his tear-stained face, and held his breath as if he were afraid she’d change her mind. Then he placed both arms around her, at first gently, and then with all the force he could muster, lowering his cheek to rest it on the top of her head. T’Pol could feel his entire body relaxing into the embrace. She felt her distress decreasing, and her control returning. Apparently the physical contact was beneficial to her as well. They stood there for several minutes, gripping each other tightly. Then Trip released her, stepping away. For a moment, she felt colder, bereft of his presence.

“Thanks… I needed that,” Trip said with a bleak smile. He gazed into her eyes briefly, and then looked down at the floor, seeming at a loss for words.

“T’Pol?...” he ventured hesitantly after a moment of silence. “I was thinkin’… Do you think she should maybe have a Vulcan name to go with her human one? Most humans I know have two names.”

T’Pol looked at him questioningly. “What name would you suggest?”

Trip’s eyes widened. She wanted him to choose a Vulcan name? He wracked his brain to come up with a Vulcan name suitable for a tiny blue-eyed angel. Then he had an idea.

“You remember a while back when you told us that story about Vulcans coming to Carbon Creek? Somehow I got the impression that it wasn’t just a story …” Trip told her, a question in his eyes.

“And if it wasn’t?” T’Pol asked him, one brow rose inquiringly.

“Then I think we should name her T’Mir,” finished Trip, looking at T’Pol for some sign that she approved of the name.

T’Pol made brief eye contact, then looked away in an effort to regain control.

“Then her name will be Elizabeth T’Mir,” she said softly, still not meeting his eyes.

“I’ll inform the doctor, then … for the … um … paperwork,” said Trip. T’Pol closed her eyes briefly and nodded.

“… I guess I’ll go now,” Trip continued. “We should get some sleep before the ceremony tomorrow. The shuttlepod’s headin’ down at 0900.”

“It’s unlikely that I will be able to sleep,” T’Pol told him without apparent emotion. “I will, however attempt to meditate. You may stay for a while… if you’d like to join me.”

Trip’s head came up in surprise at the invitation.

“I thought you didn’t like me around when you meditate. You said I disturb you,” he said in a puzzled tone.

“I am merely offering to assist you with the grieving process,” said T’Pol. “Meditation will also help you to control your responses at the funeral tomorrow.”

Trip bleakly contemplated the prospect of being on public display at Elizabeth’s funeral, and then nodded in reluctant acquiescence.

“I guess it would be better if I didn’t fall apart in front everybody,” he agreed miserably. “I suppose I could give it a try. It can’t be any harder than neuropressure.” He smiled briefly, then immediately looked uncomfortable as memories of the outcome of their last neuropressure session came to mind. Avoiding T’Pol’s eyes, he turned to the low meditation table at the other end of the room and sat down on the floor with his legs folded under him. He closed his eyes and exhaled fully. After a moment, he looked up at T’Pol, who was still standing where he’d left her, wondering why she’d invited him to stay, and trying to deal with her surprise at his acceptance of the invitation.

“Comin’?” Trip asked expectantly.

T’Pol exhaled heavily, and then nodded, joining him on the floor. She lit the meditation candle on the table between them, saying, “Empty your mind, and focus on the flame…”


There were representatives from every race in the proposed alliance present that morning, standing on the green lawn of the Starfleet Cemetery. The Reverend Chang Le, a Starfleet officer with the rank of commander, and the highest ranking Starfleet chaplain currently stationed in San Francisco, presided over the service, assisted by representatives from several civilian religious organizations, both human and non-human, as well as the Vulcan priest stationed at San Francisco’s Vulcan Compound. Commanders Tucker and T’Pol had both declined invitations to deliver the eulogy, leaving that duty to a reluctant Jonathan Archer.

As the Reverend intoned the opening prayer, Archer scanned the crowd. Trip and T’Pol stood side by side, not touching, with a similar somber, distant look on their faces. To Trip’s left stood his parents. They held hands, their eyes fixed on the tiny coffin which was the center of everyone’s attention. Most of the humans present had tears in their eyes. Curiously, Trip seemed the exception as he gazed off into the distance, seemingly unaffected by what was happening around him.

Must be shock… thought Archer, although he did find it strange that his usually emotionally open chief engineer appeared more Vulcan than human at his own daughter’s funeral. Then Archer saw Trip’s right hand move slightly, two fingers extended toward T’Pol’s left hand. T’Pol’s hand, which had been tightly clenched in a fist, opened, and she extended two fingers to touch his. A single tear ran down Trip’s face.

Archer looked away. Despite their impassive expressions, he felt as if he’d just intruded on something private and intimate between the two of them. The Reverend caught his eye, indicating with a nod that it was time for him to speak.


During the opening prayer, Trip and T’Pol were oblivious to their surroundings. They had both retreated into meditation, and found themselves facing each other in the center of the white emptiness that was T’Pol’s place of refuge.

I don’t think I can do this, T’Pol!” Trip said, his eyes begging for help. “I’m gonna break down any second now!”

You are human,” T’Pol replied reassuringly. “No one will think less of you for crying at our daughter’s funeral.”

The Vulcans will,” Trip replied bitterly.

I am a Vulcan, and I will not,” T’Pol told him gently. She took his hands in hers and stepped forward to embrace him for the second time in as many days. It came easily this time. Although the embrace was only in his mind, Trip found it comforting. As had been the case the day before, neither of them wanted to end it. They stood locked in each others arms for several minutes.

We should leave this place,” T’Pol said, her voice muffled against his shirt. “We’re missing the ceremony.” Trip tightened his arms around her one last time, and then stepped away…

finding himself once again standing on the grass facing a small white coffin. Captain Archer was completing his eulogy. Trip looked down, noticing for the first time that his hand was in contact with T’Pol’s. He pulled away, hoping for her sake that no one had noticed the lapse.

“In her short life…,” Archer was saying, “… Elizabeth T’Mir was a living symbol of unity and cooperation between sentient beings, irregardless of species or culture. Although we must say goodbye to her, we should not forget that her life had meaning. We should strive to live our lives so that her life will continue to have meaning through our actions.” Archer stepped back from the podium with tears on his face.

Each cleric present at the ceremony then blessed the small coffin in their fashion… some with a gesture… others with flowers or other substances laid or poured on. The Vulcan priest simply extended his hand, palm down, over the tiny coffin, bowed his head briefly, and then stepped back. The Reverend gave the final prayer.


Trip’s mother approached him with tears in her vivid blue eyes. Charles Tucker followed close behind her, confused over his wife and son’s emotional response to a child who, until just a few days before, had been little more than a terrorist’s science experiment, but willing to be present to support them in their grief.

Catherine Tucker wrapped her arms around her son, unashamed to show her sadness before everyone present.

“Hey, Mama,” Trip said, returning the embrace with his left arm despite the sling. He looked over his mother’s shoulder at Charles’ sympathetic face. “Hey, Dad.” Trip’s father nodded and clasped Trip’s right forearm firmly with his own.

T’Pol stood behind Trip, watching silently as his petite grey-haired mother looked him up and down.

“You haven’t been sleeping …,” Catherine chided him gently, “… and what’s happened to your arm?”

“I’m okay, Mama,” Trip reassured her. “Doctor Phlox says my shoulder’ll be good as new in a couple weeks, and I’ll get some sleep after this is all over.”

At least I hope so, he thought. His track record for sleeping after the loss of a loved one was not promising.

Catherine smiled gently and placed her hand on his cheek. “I appreciated the pictures, Trip,” she told him softly. “It was good of you to let us see what she looked like. I haven’t gotten your father to look at them yet, but he will. After he sees her, I know he’ll love her just as much as I do… did,” she amended with a shaky breath. Her eyes looked past him to T’Pol’s impassive face.

“And this must be …?” she asked Trip expectantly.

Trip looked over his shoulder and noticed for the first time that T’Pol was watching them.

“Mom … Dad … This is Commander T’Pol … Elizabeth T’Mir’s mother.”

T’Pol nodded to the Tuckers, but said nothing.

“I’m very sorry for your loss,” said Catherine in a sympathetic tone.

T’Pol regarded her blandly, and then her brow wrinkled slightly as she realized that a response was expected. Looking as if she were searching for words, she said hesitantly, “Elizabeth T’Mir’s death was … unfortunate. We are all finding it difficult to deal with her loss.”

Catherine’s eyes narrowed. T’Pol’s apparently emotionless expression was at odds with her words, and also with the surreptitious hand-holding Catherine had witnessed between this woman and her son during the ceremony. She had a suspicion that there was more going on than she’d been told.

“Your mother and I will be leavin’ for home today. Anythin’ we can do for you, son?” asked Charles.

“No thanks, Dad. I’m just glad y’all were able to come. I’m real sorry you didn’t get to meet her,” Trip said sadly.

“Nothin’ could’ve kept us away,” Catherine told him, with a glance at her husband. “We just want you to know we’re here for ya.” Charles nodded in agreement. Trip hugged them both again, then he and T’Pol turned to face the large group of guests waiting to offer their condolences.

“You ready to do this?” he murmured to T’Pol under his breath.

“Our final parental duty,” she told him softly, reaching out to gently and reassuringly place a hand on his arm. He smiled sadly at her, covering her hand with his own and drawing strength from her presence for the task ahead.


Chapter Two: Revelations

In the days following Elizabeth T’Mir’s funeral, both of her parents immersed themselves in work, focusing on repairing the electrical systems shorted out by Terra Prime’s attack on Enterprise with the powered down Verteron array. Enterprise remained in Earth orbit, scheduled to remain there for several days until shorted out systems all over the ship could be brought back on line. The two of them rarely ate, and neither of them was able to sleep. Dreams of Elizabeth’s tiny, still face intruded every time they attempted to rest.

On Trip’s third day without sleep, his concentration wavered. The electrical conduit he was working on shorted out in a pyrotechnic display of sparks, knocking him backwards with the sheer force of the electrical shock. T’Pol, standing behind him while assisting him in his repairs, caught him as he fell and carefully lowered him to the ground. Trip was conscious, and miraculously uninjured with exception of some minor burns on his hands. Uncharacteristically, T’Pol seemed unusually shaken by the accident, and insisted that he stop working immediately and report to sickbay for examination. She refused to take no for an answer.

“I’ll go when I’m done with this,” Trip told her in a reassuring tone.

“You should see the doctor immediately,” she insisted. “You may have unapparent injuries.”

“I feel fine!” he assured her. “I’m not goin’!”

T’Pol grasped his upper arm in a vise-like grip. She leaned forward to whisper in his ear through gritted teeth, “You will go now, Commander, or I will contact the captain and make it an order!”

Trip looked at her in shock and tried to pull his arm from her grip. Without effort, she held him securely. “Will it be necessary for me to escort you?” she asked, in a deceptively soft but threatening tone. She glared at him, breathing rapidly, her nostrils flaring in imperfectly controlled fury.

Trip’s expression changed to one of hurt and puzzled concern.

“No, Commander,” he replied. “I’ll go if you really think it’s that important.”

T’Pol’s expression cleared, and she looked around her at the shocked faces of the crew members who had witnessed her outburst. She released Trip’s arm.

“Very well, Mr. Tucker,” she said, still somewhat flustered despite her improved control. “We will continue repairs until you return.” She refused to meet his eyes as he gave her a confused and angry look on his way toward the door.


“I’m really worried about T’Pol, Doc,” said Trip, as he sat on the biobed while Phlox treated his minor electrical burns and a rather ugly-looking bruise rapidly developing circumferentially around his right upper arm. Phlox scanned Trip’s wounded shoulder as well, and was relieved to find it healing quite well.

“I would think it would be more productive to worry about yourself, since you’ve admitted that your inability to sleep has caused your injury,” replied Phlox disapprovingly. “If you are unable to sleep, may I recommend restarting neuropressure sessions? That is… if Commander T’Pol is willing.”

Trip laughed weakly and shook his head. “T’Pol and I… well… we kinda decided it would be best not to do the neuropressure thing anymore. It got too… complicated,” he said wryly.

Phlox considered that information thoughtfully. “I can’t offer you anything with so few side effects that will be as effective,” he told Trip. “I’m afraid I’ll have to place you off duty until you are able to get some sleep. In your present condition, you’re in no shape to make repairs in a high risk environment.”

Surprisingly, Commander Tucker gave in without a struggle. “I’ll go try to sleep, Doc, if you promise me you’ll convince T’Pol to come in and get checked out,” he bargained.

“All right, Commander! Anything to get you to go to bed!” Phlox agreed, in an amused but exasperated tone. He pressed a hypospray to the side of Trip’s neck. “Go directly to your quarters and stay there for at least six hours!” he told him firmly. Trip nodded wearily, and departed to follow doctor’s orders.


At the end of her duty shift, T’Pol reported to sickbay on her own initiative, unaware of Trip’s bargain with Dr. Phlox.

“Ah! Commander T’Pol! So Mr. Tucker contacted you himself?” Phlox asked her with a questioning smile.

”I haven’t seen Commander Tucker since I sent him here after his accident this morning,” T’Pol replied with a mildly puzzled look. “As he failed to report back for duty, I assumed you had sent him to his quarters to get some rest. Was he looking for me?” she asked.

“No, Commander,” Phlox replied. “I don’t think he was.” He gave her a puzzled look, and then paused thoughtfully. “If you don’t mind me asking, why are you here if Commander Tucker didn’t send you?”

T’Pol’s brow went up at that.

“I am capable of deciding when I require a medical evaluation. I do not need to be ‘sent’,” she told him. Phlox nodded, valiantly suppressing a grin.

T’Pol regarded him with disapproval. “Might I prevail upon you, Doctor, to perform a neurochemical scan? I have been experiencing some rather disturbing symptoms lately.”

“What type of symptoms?” asked Phlox, as he prepared the scanner.

T’Pol thought for a moment. “Sleeplessness … irritability … even to the point of the occasional emotional outburst,” she admitted. “My control has not been this poor since I was actively using Trellium-D.”

“Grief can cause many disturbing symptoms, T’Pol,” said Phlox sympathetically. “Have you thought to share this information with Commander Tucker? He is very concerned about you.”

T’Pol’s brow wrinkled slightly at that. “This is more than grief, Doctor. I didn’t respond in this way to my mother’s death. It would therefore be illogical to attribute my symptoms to grief alone without doing a more thorough evaluation.”

Phlox sighed. “You’re correct, Commander. I’ll do the scan as you’ve requested, but I still believe that you should speak with Commander Tucker …,” his voice trailed off as he ran the scanner slowly over her head, then studied the readout with a look of concern.

“Commander …,” he looked at T’Pol directly in the eye with an intently serious gaze. “May I ask you a question and receive a completely honest answer?”

“Of course, Doctor!” replied T’Pol indignantly. “Vulcans do not lie.”

Phlox sighed, rubbing his temples to ward off the headache he felt coming on. Reluctantly he asked, “Have you used Trellium-D since Enterprise left the Expanse?”

T’Pol’s jaw clenched as she attempted to regain control of her temper.

“No, Doctor … I have not,” she said in a carefully controlled monotone. Her heavier breathing and green-flushed cheeks betrayed her lack of control.

Phlox was concerned about her emotional state, but not nearly as concerned as he was over the results of her neurochemical scan.

“Commander, I apologize for having to ask you that question, but I had to be certain. The neurologic damage that resulted from your Trellium-D use has been stable for months, but today’s scan shows a dramatic worsening of the changes, almost as if the damage were progressive.”

“Could there be another explanation for the changes?” asked T’Pol, her eyes revealing her fear despite her best efforts to remain in control.

Dr. Phlox reviewed the previous scans in T’Pol’s file carefully, his chin between thumb and forefinger.

“The changes do resemble the results of the scans I performed on you during your infection-induced false Ponfarr cycle more than two years ago,” Phlox said thoughtfully. “It is possible, I suppose, that this could simply mean that you are about to experience your first Ponfarr. Perhaps if I do repeated scans over several days, I may be able to determine the problem.”

T’Pol’s eyes widened as she realized the significance of what he was telling her.

“If you wish, I can inform the captain that you will need to be given leave to go to Vulcan for medical reasons,” offered Phlox.

T’Pol, a thoughtful and disbelieving look still on her face, said absently, “That won’t be necessary just yet, Doctor. If this is not Ponfarr, I will of course need to return to Vulcan, but my bonded mate is here, on Enterprise.

Phlox’s brow wrinkled as he processed this newest piece of information, then his expression brightened as it all became clear to him.

“Then I suggest you speak to him, Commander. Judging from the conversation I had with him this morning, he has no idea what’s in store for him.”

T’Pol looked at the doctor sharply, realizing that he had correctly deduced the nature of her problem. Feeling somewhat relieved now that her secret was revealed, she said ruefully to Phlox, “I have kept many things from him.”

“I believe he will understand, Commander, if you give him the chance to do so,” said Phlox gently.

“I will try, Doctor.” said T’Pol resolutely. “At this point, I have little choice.”


T’Pol looked up from her meditation at the sound of the door chime. She inhaled deeply, and then exhaled.

“Come in,” she said calmly.

Commander Tucker entered her quarters and stood near the door, both arms crossed on his chest over his sling, which dangled from his neck unused.

“You wanted to see me, Commander?” he asked, his anger at her behavior early that morning still in evidence. The doctor’s hypospray had kept him asleep all day, but now he felt hung over and out of sorts. He grimaced at a twinge of pain from his shoulder and was forced to put the annoying sling back on.

T’Pol’s chest tightened at his use of her rank. He hadn’t called her by her rank in private since … well… for quite a while. She looked away, searching for the right thing to say, then focused her gaze on him again and asked, “Are you injured?”

Trip’s eyes narrowed, and he smiled at her bitterly.

“Aside from my pride, what with you manhandlin’ me an’ orderin’ me around in my own department like I was a new recruit… no!”

T’Pol continued to gaze steadily at him, unsure of how to respond to his anger.

Trip’s expression softened as she looked at him in silence. He sighed, now seeming more disappointed than angry, and shook his head. I just can’t stay mad at her for long when she looks at me all confused like that, he thought.

“Anythin’ else I can do for you, T’Pol?” he asked in a weary voice.

“Actually, Commander …, “T’Pol began. She saw him wince slightly at her use of his rank. “Trip…, “she amended hastily, causing him to look at her in surprise. “… I thought that after my behavior in Engineering today, I owed you an apology… and an explanation.”

Trip gave her a brief smile. “I’m listenin’,” he said.

“Please sit down,” she told him, indicating the cushion on the floor next to her. “This may take a while…” She took a deep breath and gathered her courage. “First, we must discuss the Ponfarr …”


“So what you’re sayin’ is this bond thing between us was an accident caused by you usin’ drugs!” Trip said in disbelief. T’Pol watched helplessly as he became more and more upset. Her apology was not going well.

“No… that’s not what I meant,” she said patiently. “While it is true that it is unlikely that I would have chosen to act on my feelings for you in the same manner had I not been taking Trellium-D, the feelings were in fact present long before my use of the drug,” she admitted. “The bond also began long before our evening of sexual intimacy. It was the result of an unconscious choice on my part. I chose you over Koss,” T’Pol explained.

Trip’s brow wrinkled in puzzlement. “Okay… I’m confused now. What’s this got to do with Koss?”

“When you and I first met, Koss was my intended husband, bonded to me in childhood through a betrothal bond.”

“Is that what we have? A betrothal bond?” Trip asked.

“Not exactly,” T’Pol admitted. “My bond with Koss was merely a link imposed on us by a priest during our betrothal ceremony when we were seven years old.”

“Seven!” exclaimed Trip. “You were a baby!”

“This has been our custom for thousands of years, Trip,” said T’Pol. “Early bonding is said to allow fondness to develop gradually, but I was never able to develop any sort of emotional attachment to Koss.”

“So if you were bonded to Koss, how did we end up bonded?” asked Trip, still sounding confused.

“When I decided to stay on Enterprise, and refused to return to Vulcan to marry him, Koss saw a priest and had our betrothal bond severed,” said T’Pol. “It is my theory that during our time in the Expanse, my subconscious sought to prepare for Ponfarr by bonding with someone with whom I had developed a certain… closeness. Our neuropressure sessions began the process… combined, no doubt, with my heightened emotional responses on Trellium-D. The night we spent together apparently completed it.”

“Why didn’t you tell me about it then?” Trip asked her in bewilderment. “Why marry Koss when you were bonded to someone else?”

T’Pol looked down at her hands, trying to find the words to make him understand. Then she looked at him with apprehension.

“At the time when you accompanied me to Vulcan, I was still not accustomed to the emotional responses that my Trellium-D addiction had left me to deal with. I believed that the emotions I felt in your presence were part of the residual effect of the damage I had inflicted on my centers of emotional control. It never occurred to me to suspect anything else until I realized that I was unable to bond with Koss,” T’Pol admitted, her eyes silently begging him for forgiveness.

“Unable?” Trip asked, an uncomfortable pang of jealousy beginning to stir in his chest. “You mean you tried?”

“Part of the Vulcan marriage ceremony is intended to create a bond between the partners that is more intense than a simple betrothal bond… one that allows shared emotions and sensations. After the ceremony, both Koss and I realized that the bond had not been formed. That is why he allowed me to leave. That is also why he later released me from the marriage.”

Trip gazed back at her with a sick look on his face. He swallowed. “Did you want to be bonded to Koss?” he asked softly.

“No!” T’Pol held his eyes with her own. “I married him out of duty to my mother. When I realized that we could not form a bond… I was relieved.”

“When you returned from Vulcan, why didn’t you talk to me then?” Trip asked, reaching a hand out to touch hers, and looking at her with dawning understanding.

”You seemed so distant and angry,” T’Pol told him. “I didn’t see how telling you could have made things any better. I suppose I thought that perhaps our bond would wane with time, as humans are not telepathic.” She sighed and looked away. “That doesn’t appear to be happening.”

“You mentioned breaking the bond. Is that what you’d prefer to do?” asked Trip, his eyes shadowed with an unidentifiable emotion… disappointment perhaps?

T’Pol faced him squarely, her face impassive. “Our bond is stronger than the usual betrothal bond because it has been consummated, but it is not yet the strength of a marriage bond. If you wish it, it should be possible to sever it with the assistance of a Vulcan priest,” she told him. “If you decide this is what you wish, we will need to hurry. Dr. Phlox estimates that I will enter Ponfarr within the next two to three weeks. I may not be able to restrain myself after that time, and if the bond is consummated during Ponfarr, it becomes permanent. Any attempt to sever it afterwards could be very dangerous for both of us.” T’Pol deliberately avoided mentioning any other possible explanation for her current symptoms. She was now convinced that Ponfarr was the only logical explanation for what she was experiencing.

Trip regarded her impassive face in puzzlement. “So, what do you wanna do?” he asked softly, taking her hands in his. His eyes searched her face. It was cold and distant. Her eyes were fixed over his shoulder at the wall behind him. “Don’t go all Vulcan on me now, T’Pol. Talk to me,” he pleaded. He reached up to place his right palm on her cheek, and turned her head so he could look her directly in the eye.

“It would be logical to assume that you would wish to end this bond,” T’Pol whispered, with a bleak look in her eyes. “As a Vulcan, I would very likely prove to be an unsatisfactory mate for a human. In my experience, humans require frequent outward expressions of affection when they engage in… relationships,” she told him. “It is unlikely that I would be capable of fulfilling those requirements.”

Trip smiled briefly at her. “Don’t you think I’m the best judge of my ‘requirements’ in this relationship?” he asked her, caressing her cheek gently. T’Pol closed her eyes and took a deep, shuddering breath. With her eyes still closed, she continued. “There is also the matter of Starfleet’s non-fraternization policy. It would be unfortunate if either of us were subject to disciplinary action as a result of our behavior.” She opened her eyes and met his again, breathing a bit more heavily than she had been a few moments before.

“You know, T’Pol,” said Trip with an enigmatic smile. “I think I see what you mean about this bond allowing us to share emotions and sensations.” His caress traveled to her left earlobe and up to its delicate point. T’Pol noticed that his respiratory rate now matched hers.

“I think you’ve done a nice job detailing the reasons why we should sever the bond,” he told her softly, focusing his attention on the small patch of sensitive skin behind her left ear. “But I think you’ve forgotten the main argument for keepin’ it.”

T’Pol, rather distracted at this point by his touch, absently asked, “And that is?...”

Trip extended his fingers and placed his palm on the back of her head, pulling it gently forward. “This…,” he whispered. As his lips met hers, they could both sense the bond coming to life, relaying desire of such intensity it was almost painful. His lips gently tasted hers as he purposely restrained himself, intending to take it slow and explore the effects of their developing bond. T’Pol rose from the seated position to her knees, grasped his head firmly in both hands and aggressively returned his kiss. Trip overbalanced backward, and they landed on the floor with T’Pol’s body pressed tightly to his. He shrugged his left arm out of its sling, ignoring the twinge from his injured shoulder. His hands roamed her curves as he pulled her hips to his, while his mouth hungrily explored her face, ears and neck. He rolled over on top of her, returning to her mouth like a starving man, and then opened his eyes. T’Pol was green-flushed and perspiring, her pupils dilated. Abruptly Trip realized that they were losing control of the situation. He broke off the kiss and rested his forehead on hers, breathing heavily. T’Pol closed her eyes, attempting to regain some vestige of control. Their breathing was the only sound in the room for the next several moments.

“A very convincing argument,” T’Pol said dryly, raising one brow ironically.

Trip chuckled softly and rolled away from her to lie on his back beside her on the floor.

“So… we’ve discussed both sides of the question…,” he said with wry amusement, “… and I’m askin’ you again, T’Pol…” He turned his head to look at her as she lay next to him. “What do you wanna do?”

T’Pol lay there for a moment, staring wide-eyed at the ceiling, and then said in a still slightly breathless and very puzzled voice, “I… don’t know!”


Chapter Three: Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

Trip left T’Pol’s quarters that evening at 1800 hours, striding down the corridor like a man on a mission. When he reached his cabin, he went immediately to the console and brought up a link to the Vulcan database. He began reading with great concentration, taking detailed notes on a PADD as he read. At 2200 hours, his research for the moment complete, he activated the comm and put in a call to the Vulcan Embassy in San Francisco. Since the Enterprise was still in Earth orbit, it was only a few minutes before Ambassador Soval’s familiar face appeared on the screen.

“Good morning, Commander Tucker,” said Soval with icy civility. “What, may I ask, is the reason for contacting me at this hour?”

Trip looked at the chronometer, did a quick mental calculation, and then winced. It was four a.m. in San Francisco.

“I apologize, Ambassador. I didn’t think about the time difference,” Trip said with embarrassment.

“You are fortunate that I am an early riser,” responded Soval. “My aide generally screens my calls, but he has not yet begun his duties for the day. You interrupted my meditation period, but not my sleep.”

“I’ll be sure to pay more attention from now on…,” said Trip apologetically, “…but I’m afraid this couldn’t wait. I’ve got a serious problem… and I need your advice.”

Soval’s brow positively shot up at Trip’s request. He appeared intrigued by the idea that the famously stubborn and independent Commander Charles Tucker would ask him for help.

“What sort of advice do you require, Commander?” he asked.


Two weeks later, en route to Vulcan at Dr. Phlox’s insistence, although every scan so far had confirmed that T’Pol was indeed correct in her assessment that her condition was Ponfarr and not an illness, the Enterprise was back in full working order. Trip left Engineering at the end of his duty shift and went straight to T’Pol’s quarters for their daily meditation. T’Pol had been confined to her quarters by Dr. Phlox for three days now, her Ponfarr symptoms now too obvious and distracting to permit her to function at full capacity. Trip punched in a key code and entered without knocking, able to sense through their rapidly strengthening bond that T’Pol was having a very difficult time. He found her sitting on the floor facing a lit meditation candle, eyes closed and perspiring heavily despite the coolness of the room. He sat down across from her, touched her left hand gently with two fingers of his right hand, and attempted to enter the white expanse that was her refuge in meditation. He was unable to do so. He opened his eyes and found her eyes hungrily fixed on his face.

“T’Pol?” he whispered.

“I am unable to meditate,” she said in a husky voice, slightly breathless with desire. “I don’t know if I can do this. You should leave now.”

Trip felt a pang of protectiveness. He could feel her fear beneath the desire… fear of the unknown.

“I’m not gonna leave you alone,” he said firmly. “If you decide you can’t hold out… that’s okay. I’m here. If you still wanna wait, I can help with that, too. You know you can do this if you want to. Here… lemme have your hand.” He unfolded her left hand, extending two of her fingers, and then touched his fingertips to them. He closed his eyes and slowed his breathing. T’Pol felt calmer then… less agitated.

“We’re only two days from Vulcan,” Trip told her in a serene voice, sounding more Vulcan than human. “You can hold out that long…” They breathed in unison for several moments. Then Trip said quietly,” You still haven’t told me what you wanna do, though. How can I help you if I don’t know what you want from me?” His voice remained eerily calm as he asked the question, making him sound as if the answer was of little concern to him, but T’Pol could feel the anxiety he was trying so hard to suppress for her sake. She sensed his determined effort to remain absolutely calm.

T’Pol inhaled deeply, and then exhaled, her control improving gradually in his presence. After a few minutes, she was once again capable of rational thought.

I am causing his anxiety, she thought. My actions are causing him harm, and there is considerable risk of future harm as well.

T’Pol contemplated this idea for a few moments, and then realized what she had to do.

“I have made my decision.” she said.


Trip entered Sickbay as Dr. Phlox was briefing Crewman Cutler about her duties in his absence.

“I’ll be gone less than twenty-four hours…,“ he told her briskly, “…and I’ll be within reach of the comm the entire time. You shouldn’t have any problems.”

Cutler smiled pertly at him and said, “Don’t worry about a thing, Doctor. I’ve got it all under control.”

Phlox smiled at her gratefully, and then turned to Trip. “Have you come to escort me to the shuttlepod, Commander?” he asked with a puzzled grin.

“I needed to talk with you before we left, Doc. You got that triox compound I asked for?” asked Trip.

Phlox pulled a hypospray out of the medical kit he was carrying and looked at it critically, then handed it to Trip. “Here you are Commander. Ten doses. At one dose every twelve hours, this should be enough for the entire trip... Planning some heavy exertion?” Phlox asked with a twinkle in his eye.

“I’m not sure yet, Doc…,” Trip admitted reluctantly, “…but it never hurts to be prepared.” Trip studied the syringe briefly and then pocketed it.

“Did you talk to the cap’n?” he asked hopefully.

“I did, Commander… but the captain seemed rather hurt and surprised that you haven’t spoken to him yourself about this,” Phlox said disapprovingly.

“Honestly, Doc. I haven’t had the time,” protested Trip. And I’m afraid Jon will see right through all this and keep me from goin’ down there, he thought.

“So what exactly did you tell the cap’n, anyway?” asked Trip curiously.

“I told him the truth…,” said Phlox. “…just not the entire truth. He knows T’Pol is suffering from a medical condition which neurochemical scans show is similar to the effects of the Trellium-D exposure she received on the Seleya. He also knows that T’Pol assisted you with your grief over the loss of your daughter by training you in Vulcan meditation techniques. I told him that, as the only crew member with such training, your help has been essential to the maintenance of T’Pol’s mental stability until she is able to receive treatment on Vulcan... I’ve also secured both of you five days of medical leave.”

Trip sighed in relief, impressed by Phlox’s ability to tell the absolute truth without revealing confidential information. “I’m glad you didn’t hafta lie to him, Doc. I don’t think I could forgive myself for that.” He eyed the doctor regretfully. But it still sounds like I’m gonna have some fences to mend when we get back. Trip sighed. One thing at a time, Tucker… Just one thing at a time, he told himself.

“Telling Captain Archer too much may implicate him in the misconduct charges that could stem from what you are about to do,” Phlox told him. “If you truly intend to go through with helping Commander T’Pol through her first Ponfarr, the fewer Starfleet officers who know about it, the better,” he added.

Trip nodded in reluctant agreement. He glanced down at the medical kit in the doctor’s hand.

“You ready to go?” he asked, exhaling fully and standing more erect, as if preparing for a difficult task.

“I’m ready whenever you are, Mr. Tucker,” said Phlox with determination. He motioned to Trip to lead the way. “After you …,” he said.


 

Dr. Phlox and Commander Tucker escorted T’Pol through the corridors to the launch bay, flanking her on either side in an attempt to shield her from the eyes of curious crew members. She walked with her eyes fixed on the floor a few feet ahead of her, both hands, fingertips touching, steepled before her lips. On her face was a look of intense concentration. Trip could feel overpowering emotions… desire… fear… even anger at her current predicament… all roiling around inside of her like a volcano waiting to erupt. He avoided touching her, fearful of breaking her concentration. The three of them boarded the shuttlepod in silence, and sat behind Ensign Mayweather. Mayweather glanced behind him, and then did a double-take, prudently choosing not to say anything before he powered up the shuttlepod and launched.

The shuttlepod touched down in an arid, isolated area in the oppressive heat of the Vulcan afternoon. The three passengers disembarked, leaving a very grateful Ensign Mayweather behind in the relative coolness of the shuttlepod. Trip immediately felt perspiration break out over his entire body. He was slightly lightheaded in the thinner atmosphere, and debated whether to dose himself with triox, but decided to save his doses for future needs. The trio approached a huge featureless red-brown cliff into which was set an enormous pair of ornate brass doors at least twenty feet high. T’Pol’s concentration wavered for a moment, and she finally noticed her surroundings.

“Where are we, Commander?” she asked in a strained voice, her struggle to maintain control evidenced by her deliberate use of his rank to establish distance between them. “I don’t recognize this place.”

“This is where we’re meetin’ the priest,” Trip explained. “Now don’t try to talk… just keep focused on what you’re doin’,” he reassured her. “Phlox and I have the situation under control.”

“But whose property is this?” T’Pol persisted. “This appears to be a private sanctuary.” She glanced at Trip with a puzzled look, momentarily distracted from her struggles by the sheer grandeur of the place.

“Ambassador Soval recommended this place when I called to ask him for advice,” admitted Trip. T’Pol looked at him in disbelief.

Trip was saved from awkward questions by the ponderous opening of the huge metallic doors. “I guess they’re expectin’ us,” he told the doctor, deliberately avoiding T’Pol’s gaze as she studied his face suspiciously. As they entered the huge antechamber, they were met by an elderly Vulcan priest. He held up his hand in the traditional Vulcan salute.

“Peace and long life,” he said calmly. “I am Saron, High Priest within this temple. How may I be of service?” He looked expectantly first at T’Pol, then when she failed to respond, at the human male standing by her side.

“Ambassador Soval sent us,” Trip replied, earning another sidelong glance from T’Pol.

“I thought as much,” said the priest impassively. “Please follow me.”

Abruptly, he turned and led the way into the shadowy and cavernous interior of the temple. It appeared to be carved directly from the red rock of the cliff face. As the three of them followed the ancient Vulcan into the enormous antechamber, the temperature dropped noticeably. They followed each other uphill into a maze of natural caverns. The air became more humid, and the sound of trickling water could be heard from the dark recesses of the chambers as they passed. Spires of stalagmites strained upward in the attempt to join with the stalactites that stretched down their fingers from the vaulted ceilings. Torches burned in wall sconces at intervals along their route, but no other light was in evidence until they came to an airy chamber high in the cliff face which had one wall open to the harsh glare of the Vulcan sun. The room was ornately decorated on three sides with intricate carvings of stylized figures, both Vulcan and animal. Against the back wall was a carved figure of Surak in a more modern style, obviously placed there long after the original temple was constructed. The Vulcan priest stood before the image of Surak.

“The petitioners may come forward,” he solemnly intoned.

Trip looked at T’Pol, unsure of what to do next. He followed her as she stepped before the priest, and stood beside her.

“What is your wish?” asked the priest, looking expectantly at T’Pol. Trip tried to catch T’Pol’s eye, wanting, despite his determination to allow her the choice, to somehow change her mind. It was too late for that now.

T’Pol gathered her thoughts with effort, her struggle to maintain control now plain on her face.

“This human and I have formed a mating bond because of my error in judgment,” she told the priest. Trip could feel the shame, sorrow, and sheer determination to make things right that radiated from her through the bond.

“I cannot force him to live with the consequences of my actions. I ask that this bond be severed.”

The priest’s brow wrinkled. “And what of your needs?” he asked T’Pol in a surprisingly direct manner. “Would you endanger your life for this human’s freedom?”

Trip didn’t like the sound of that, and stepped forward to speak. The priest raised his hand.

“Step back, Human. It is her choice to make,” he said sternly. The priest looked back at T’Pol. She took a shaky breath, and then deliberately stepped forward. “Proceed,” she said.

Trip ignored the priest’s warning and spoke up loudly as the priest stepped toward them with outstretched hands.

“Wait a minute! Nobody said anythin’ about…!” Trip’s outburst stopped mid-sentence as the priest placed a hand on each of them, initiating a three way mind meld.

Phlox, observing the entire time, and forgotten for the moment by the other players in the drama unfolding before him, saw both T’Pol and Commander Tucker stiffen, as if fighting off a mental assault. The ancient Vulcan maintained the meld for only a few moments, and then broke contact with them both, lowering his arms with a thoughtful look on his face.


Belatedly realizing the danger that severing their bond obviously posed to T’Pol… a danger about which T’Pol had conveniently failed to fully inform him … Trip stepped forward to protest. The Vulcan priest’s abrupt mind meld took him by surprise, stopping him in mid-sentence. The meld was a brutal invasion, ripping through Trip’s conscious mind to delve into the deepest core of his subconscious … the core where he hid his fear of being bound to anyone for life … his fear of not living up to the expectations of a woman older, wiser, stronger, and more intelligent than he was… the core where he also kept his love for that same woman, a love so selfless and unconditional that it would allow him to release her, if releasing her was the only way to make her truly happy. While Trip felt his secrets stripped and exposed, he could sense T’Pol’s anguish as the same assault was made upon her mind. He shared her terror at yet another painful mental invasion, and followed the priest’s probe involuntarily, through the morass of desire that was Ponfarr, to T’Pol’s greatest fears. He sensed her fear that she would not be able to fulfill the expectations of an emotionally needy Human … that her limited ability to express her feelings would alienate him… that he would eventually hate her for trapping him in a relationship with a woman incapable of giving him what he required. As her fears were laid bare, a kernel of emotions was also exposed. At first Trip didn’t recognize it for what it was, it was so well hidden in the chaos. It appeared to be composed of equal parts of physical desire, fierce and tender protectiveness, and a willingness to die for the one so protected. Trip realized suddenly that what he was looking at was T’Pol’s version of love… directed at him.

Abruptly the meld was terminated. Trip and T’Pol reached out to each other for support as they reeled in shock from the after-effects of the meld. Their eyes met as they gazed at each other in stunned surprise.

The Vulcan priest stepped back from the couple before him.

“This bond cannot be broken,” he announced, in a rather surprised tone for a Vulcan. “A bond of this strength can only be broken if at least one of the partners wishes it.” He paused to study both of them with a slightly puzzled look. “Despite your professed reasons for being here, neither of you are willing to sever this bond.”

Trip and T’Pol still stood with their eyes fixed on each other, each of them trying to come to terms with the emotions they had witnessed in the meld. Trip smiled reassuringly at T’Pol, then released her and faced the white-haired Vulcan with a determined expression. He said, in fluent archaic Vulcan with just a trace of southern twang, “I claim the right to Kunat-Kalifi!”

T’Pol looked at him in shock.

The Vulcan priest regarded Trip with icy disdain. “You are a Human!” he told him. “What do you know of Kunat-Kalifi?”

“He knows what I have taught him, Saron,” said a familiar voice. Ambassador Soval, who had been present and observing for quite some time, stepped out from the corridor to stand beside Dr. Phlox. “He is her bonded mate, and she is in Ponfarr. He has every right to claim her, and wed her if she agrees,” stated Soval evenly.

The old Vulcan priest gazed at Soval for a moment, then realizing the logic of his statement, bowed his head in acquiescence to Soval’s wishes.

“We will meet at the appointed place in one hour,” he said, then clapped his hands twice.

Two robed Vulcan females entered the room. Each took one of T’Pol’s arms and led her away. T’Pol turned her head to look over her shoulder, maintaining eye contact with Trip until the dim corridor swallowed her in shadow. She looked stunned, as if she still couldn’t grasp what was happening. Trip tried to follow her, but Soval held him back. “You will see her again in one hour, Commander. She must be prepared for the ceremony.”

Although his voice was dry and emotionless, Trip had the impression that Soval was attempting to reassure him. He smiled at him gratefully and said, “I’m really glad to see you, Ambassador! For a minute there I didn’t think the old guy was gonna take my claim seriously.” He held out his right hand. Soval, ever the consummate diplomat, hesitated only a fraction of a second before gripping Trip’s hand and giving it a firm shake.

“Commander ...,” Soval said with a nod. “I am … pleased … to see that your assessment of Commander T’Pol’s state of mind was correct.”

Trip exhaled heavily, with a relieved smile. “You and me both, Ambassador!” He shook his head ruefully and smiled at Dr. Phlox as he approached the two of them. Soval acknowledged Phlox’s presence with a brief nod, and Phlox gave them both a broad smile.

“She had me goin’ there for a while! I nearly blew it when the priest started talkin’ about how dangerous it was to break the bond,” Trip said to both of them.

“T’Pol would not have responded well to having a decision forced upon her, Commander. Your decision to allow her the choice was the correct one,” Phlox told him.

“Maybe so, Doc …,” Trip said with a chuckle, “… but it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life!”

“Would you truly have allowed the bond to be broken?” asked Phlox curiously.

Trip gave him a bittersweet smile. “My mama always used ta tell me, if you love somethin’, you gotta set it free…” He grinned mischievously. “Mostly she was talkin’ about turtles, frogs, snakes, and rabbits… but the same principle applies!” Phlox laughed at that, nodding his head in agreement.

“Besides...,” continued Trip. “It wasn’t all that noble. It wasn’t like I was gonna let her go through her first Ponfarr without me, bond or no bond. We’d have prob’ly ended up bonded again in a couple of days anyway, just not permanently yet. Of course, I had no clue that breakin’ the bond might kill her. I’d a never let her try if I’d known that!” Trip said, exasperated with T’Pol’s stubbornness.

“Are you prepared for the ceremony?” asked Soval.

“If you’re askin’ me if I’ve got my lines memorized… that part I’m ready for. I just hope she’s not so mad at me for springin’ this on her that she opts for Kalifi!” Trip said jokingly.

Soval raised one brow at that. “I would say the likelihood of that is extremely remote, although, historically, brides in Ponfarr can be most unpredictable.”

Trip rolled his eyes and grinned. “Well, thanks for the reassurance, Ambassador!” he said sarcastically. “I really appreciate it!”

There was a brief silence, and then Trip looked at his watch.

“It’s only been twenty minutes, Commander,” said Phlox with amused tolerance.

Trip nodded, and then started to make a circuit of the room, studying the intricate carvings up close. When he realized what most of the Vulcan figures in the carvings were supposed to be doing, his face turned a bright red. He turned back to Soval in disbelief. “Ya’ll have pictures like that in your temples?”

“This temple was erected on my family’s property over two thousand years ago,” replied Soval. “In that era, the activities depicted in these carvings were considered sacred. This temple was used for mating rituals, betrothal bondings, and for Kunat-Kalifi. The addition of the discipline of Surak is a relatively recent aspect of Vulcan culture, but one that was necessary for our survival as a species. At the time when this temple was built, the death rate during Kunat-Kalifi approached thirty percent. Only two thirds of males lived to claim their brides.”

Trip gave a low whistle, and completed his circuit of the room, occasionally chuckling over a particularly interesting portion of the wall carvings. He finished his inspection, and then checked his watch again… thirty more minutes to go. His companions stood watching as he paced back and forth across the stone floor.

“Is he always like this?” Soval asked Phlox under his breath.

“Pretty much!” replied Phlox in amusement.

“Fascinating…,” said Soval blandly.


Chapter Four: First Things First

Precisely twenty-five minutes later, a temple acolyte, wearing a cap-like metallic helm with a projecting nose guard and carrying a metal frame upon which several rows of chimes were suspended, arrived to escort the three men to the ceremonial arena. They entered the darkened corridor and turned upward, climbing for a time in silence punctuated only by the soft chiming of the acolyte’s bells as they walked. Suddenly they came to the end of the corridor and exited on to the top of the plateau into the dry heat of early evening. They were surrounded on four sides by monolithic pillars of rock. To their backs, a rocky plain with scattered irregular boulders and stunted brush extended to the horizon, where the sun was beginning to set amid streaks of red-orange and gold above the silhouette of Mount Seleya.

“Looks like Stonehenge,” muttered Trip in awe, circling in place as he took in the view. The acolyte gave him a quelling look, and then nodded toward the center of the stone circle. A shield-shaped gong was suspended there over a large fire pit. Trip took a deep breath, and then briskly stepped out onto the sand. Reaching the huge metal gong, he grasped the hammer suspended next to it, and struck a resounding blow. The loud, clear tone reverberated for several seconds, as the remainder of the wedding party entered the arena.

They arrived in procession, with T’Pol leading the way, flanked by the robed Vulcan females that had escorted her earlier. T’Pol wore an ornately embroidered white robe which moved fluidly as she walked. A hood draped her face on either side. Her eyes were fixed on the ground in front of her, while her hands were steepled before her lips. Following the three women was the ancient Vulcan priest, flanked by two more of the bell-carrying acolytes. The priest and the attendants stopped at the edge of the arena. T’Pol continued onto the sand. Reaching Trip’s side, she raised her head to stare intently into his eyes. He felt nothing but intense sexual desire in the bond, her needs in Ponfarr masking any other emotion he might have otherwise been able to detect.

“Is this truly your wish?” she asked him in a husky, unbelieving voice.

“Yes!” he said firmly, extending two fingers toward her. Still staring unwaveringly at his face, T’Pol raised her hand and touched his fingertips with her own. He struck the gong a second time, and every acolyte present rang their chimes simultaneously. Turning in unison toward the periphery of the area, the bonded couple approached the Vulcan cleric.

Trip recited his vows from memory in archaic Vulcan, as T’Pol watched in wonder. Less prepared, and so affected by Ponfarr that it was unlikely she would have remembered her vows in any case, T’Pol repeated her vows as they were given to her by the elderly priest. The priest raised his hands as if in blessing, and then made mind meld contact with them for the second time that afternoon. Trip felt T’Pol begin to panic, and sent calm reassurance to her through the bond. Instead of an invasion, this meld was simply a joining. After ascertaining that the two of them were linked, the priest removed his presence. T’Pol turned to Trip and placed her hand in position to maintain the link. Phlox watched with tears in his eyes as Trip’s face bloomed into a wondering, tearful, astonished smile. T’Pol’s eyes widened and she ceased to breathe for a moment as her new husband’s extravagant love for her removed any doubts she still possessed that they were doing the right thing by marrying each other. After waiting several moments for them to break the link, the priest realized that they had no intention of doing so. He placed his hand on T’Pol’s shoulder. Reminded that the two of them were still under public scrutiny, she reluctantly withdrew from the meld.

Wait… Don’t go! Trip begged her, as he felt her presence withdraw from his mind.

Never fear, t’hy’la. I will never leave you now, responded T’Pol tenderly.

Trip blinked as he returned to the now very lonely state of being alone in his own head. Then he sensed a presence which had not been there before the meld. He looked at T’Pol and immediately felt her amusement at his discovery.

Is that you in there? he asked her wonderingly.

In response, she let her barriers down, and the flood of intense sexual desire he received left him in no doubt about the identity of his mental visitor.

Following the ceremony, the two female attendants led Trip and T’Pol back into the caverns and through a maze of dimly lit corridors to a private chamber deep within the temple. The room was smaller and more intimate than the other chambers they had seen. The bare rock of the walls and floor was hidden by ornate tapestries and a plush carpet. In the center of the room was a circular sleeping platform covered in pillows. A pitcher of water and a bowl of assorted fresh vegetables and fruits lay on a table in one corner of the room. A door in the rear of the room led to an adjoining bathroom. In the opposite rear corner was a low table, where a trio of meditation candles were burning. The light from these candles, and from larger candles placed in wall sconces at intervals along the walls, provided the room’s only illumination.

“We will be available should you require assistance,” said one of the women softly. “You have only to call.” She nodded at the bell sitting on the table next to the pitcher. Both women gracefully left the room, closing the door firmly behind them.

As the door closed behind them, T’Pol stepped away from her husband and around to the opposite side of the room, standing near the meditation table. She silently studied the candles burning there.

“T’Pol?” Trip asked worriedly. “Are you okay?”

“Please do something for me, Commander,” she said quietly, her eyes closing in concentration.

Trip laughed uncertainly. “We just got married, T’Pol… You can call me Trip!” His face took on a look of hurt puzzlement.

“A certain amount of… detachment … is necessary for me to maintain control in our present situation. I wish to speak with you before I am unable to logically discuss what we have done,” T’Pol told him, opening her eyes and looking at the wall in front of her, her back to Trip as he stood near the door.

“In that case…,” Trip said in a slightly aggrieved tone, “…why don’t you explain to me why you didn’t tell me that severin’ the bond while you were in Ponfarr might have killed you!” He crossed his arms over his chest and waited for her answer.

“It was a calculated risk,” she replied. “I judged it to be a necessary risk. Severing the bond was in your best interest. I still believe this to be the case.”

Trip looked at her in disbelief. Was it possible that she didn’t want to be married to him after all?

“Are you angry with me?” Trip whispered, dreading her response. “I tried to let you make your own decision, but after we couldn’t break the bond, I thought this is what you wanted…” His eyes begged her to look at him, just once, and allow him to explain.

“I am not angry,” T’Pol reassured him. “Once the bond was determined to be unbreakable, it was logical and right for us to marry. It is simply not… convenient. We could both lose our commissions over this.” She turned then, and gazed at him from across the room, her struggle for control obvious in her wide and anxious eyes.

Trip shook his head, smiling ruefully at her. “We’ll deal with that problem when we get there, T’Pol. You’re tryin’ to take on too much right now.” He began to walk slowly toward her. “Let’s deal with first things first!”

T’Pol stepped back warily and raised her hand. Trip stopped in his tracks. “Before you touch me, take a dose of triox and remove your uniform,” she said. Trip gave her a surprised look, tilting his head questioningly. T’Pol sighed. “Physical exertion will tire you rapidly in this atmosphere without the triox,” she explained. “I also assume that you plan to wear your uniform when we return to Enterprise in five days?” Trip nodded with a bemused expression on his face.

“If you don’t remove your uniform… in a few moments, I will remove it for you, undoubtedly rendering it unwearable in the process,” finished T’Pol.

Trip’s eyes widened, and a small smile appeared on his face. T’Pol turned again to the meditation candles, using the flickering flames as a focal point to maintain her perilous control. She heard the hiss of the hypospray and the rustle of clothing.

“Okay … How’s this?” Trip announced.

T’Pol raised her head and turned, expecting to see Trip in his regulation skivvies. Instead, he wore nothing but a broad smile and the very obvious evidence of his arousal. His face took on a quizzical expression, and he spread his arms wide, as if asking for her approval. A wordless groan came from deep within T’Pol’s chest as she crossed the space between them in three long strides, pulling her robe over her head as she came. She wore nothing underneath. The impact of her nude body against his nearly knocked him off his feet. Rising on her toes, she grasped handfuls of his hair in both fists and dragged his mouth to hers, pushing her tongue inside and kissing him with such force that he tasted blood. Trip could feel her desperate passion, bottled up for so long that she had now lost any vestige of control. She pushed him toward the sleeping platform, shoving him down when the backs of his knees reached the edge, and, landing on top of him, lifted her leg to straddle his hips. Trip raised his hand to the side of her face as she sheathed him, and gasped at the sheer intensity of physical sensation relayed through the bond. Closing his eyes, he reached for her mind, attempting to calm her frenetic desire and channel it into a less violent, gentler sharing… fearful that she would injure them both if she continued as she had begun. T’Pol gasped as she felt the contact. Her eyes returned to his, and her face lost its ferocity, eyes opening wide in wonder at the intensity of his love for her. He smiled at her and began to move with her. T’Pol’s fingers traveled of their own volition to the mind meld contact points on Trip’s temple. Now joined to her body and soul, Trip made love to the woman of his dreams.


Epilogue

After watching the newly married couple being escorted from the arena, Phlox turned to Soval.

“It’s been a pleasure, Ambassador, but Ensign Mayweather is waiting to take me back to Enterprise.”

Soval nodded. “I understand the need for haste, Doctor. I believe we both understand the need for discretion as well.”

“Completely, Ambassador,” Phlox reassured him. “Today’s events, as far as I am concerned, fall within the purview of doctor-patient confidentiality… I won’t tell a soul,” he said, smiling.

“It remains to be seen whether they will be able to maintain their privacy once they have returned to Enterprise,” replied Soval. “The potential repercussions to both of their careers would be considerable, should today’s events become public knowledge.”

“Commander Tucker and Commander T’Pol can be quite discreet when they wish to be,” replied Phlox. “I believe that they may be able to pull it off… at least for a while.” His face became thoughtful as he considered the best ways to ensure that their secret was kept for a very long time. He sighed. This would very likely prove to be a challenging problem.

Bending to retrieve his medical kit from the edge of the arena, Phlox straightened and followed Soval to the cavern entrance.

“Are you returning to Earth?” he asked Soval as they walked into the caverns side-by-side.

“My plans were to remain here for several days,” replied Soval. “I return here each year for a meditative retreat. In five days, a diplomatic courier vessel will arrive to return me to Earth. If your captain wishes, I can have the vessel transport his first officer and chief engineer to Enterprise as well.”

Phlox nodded gratefully. “I will inform the captain of your generous offer. I’m sure he’ll contact you shortly for further details.”

Soval led the doctor through the maze of caverns with well-practiced ease. Soon they arrived in the huge vaulted antechamber. The enormous doors slowly opened wide enough to allow the Denobulan to pass through into the Vulcan night. Phlox stopped as he was walking toward the doors, turning back to Soval with a curious look.

“Ambassador … I’ve been meaning to ask … Why did you help Commander Tucker? It seems to me that reuniting star-crossed lovers is an unusual occupation for a Vulcan ambassador.”

Soval regarded him impassively, one brow cocked up.

“My motives were quite logical, Doctor,” he said reasonably. “Having been deprived myself of the consort of my mate several years ago at the time of her death, I am aware of how the loss of a bonded mate can affect one’s efficiency and control. I merely attempted to prevent such a loss from occurring to someone else.”

Phlox smiled at him and nodded, turning once again toward the doors. “Isn’t that sweet!” he murmured to himself as the doors began to close behind him. “A sentimental Vulcan!”

Ambassador Soval, whose sharp Vulcan ears had, of course, heard every word, “humphed” once in bland amusement before turning toward his meditation chamber deep within the cool confines of the temple caverns.

END


Comments:

Linda

Yes, this is a beautiful alternative to the part of canon we all hate.  Loved the details of the shrine.  It would have made a great set for the episode which should have been canon!   Very healing indeed. :p:D:p:D

bluetiger

I hate to sound just like everyone else but this was so wonderful. Stories like this kept us all going back in the day when we could not let go of this relationship and were not getting what we needed from the show. I have always loved this story for many reasons not the least of which was Soval's support of their union, plus the sex didn't hurt! What a great reminder of why we love your work.

Alelou

I've read this at least twice before; it's definitely one of the classics.

Asso

This one is one the stories which pushed me to think that someone else, instead that the Authors, should have had to write the episodes we saw on screen.:D

WarpGirl

Awe Dis I still grin like an idiot with this one. I really like how both Trip and T'Pol were very unselfish with each other. Yes poor T'Pol is confused, and yes terrified, but her concern that she somehow tied Trip to her without his consent is lovely. That's real, true, deep, lifetime commitment Agape right there. Also Trip being willing to let her go, even if he did have a fool-proof fallback plan thanks to Vulcan biology he was still willing. Score for people who put others before themselves. And Phlox and Soval were lovely too, but honestly if you didn't do the best Phlox I'd be worried.

Aikiweezie

I, too, have read this before, but I love reading it again and again. 

Honeybee

I've read this story before, but it is pleasure to read such a well-written and romantic tale. Just wonderful.

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