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By Blackn’blue

Rating: PG
Disclaimer: I don’t own Star Trek. I wrote this for fun. Anyone is free to download and/or redistribute this story as long as you keep it complete and intact, and as long as you don’t make any money from it.
Genre: Romance/Drama, Trip/T'Pol
Description: This is another afterthought to my series "The Road Once Traveled". I thought it was done. I really did. But a few snips and bits were still hanging loose, so I scribbled off some scenes to tie them up. Here they are. This is a direct sequel to Kov + Hess. It picks up immediately after the other one stops.

Caveat – The following notes are for hard-core fanfic Trekkers only. If you are a casual reader you can safely skip them.

Author's Note: I have read many heated debates among the fanfiction community on the subject of whether female Vulcans go through Pon Farr. (Yes, we actually argue about things like this.) I want to clarify my opinion on the matter.

I have always tried to follow known scientific laws in my stories. At least to the limits of my ability and as far as the silliness of Trek canon will permit. I hold a Bachelors in Environmental Science/Ecology, with supplemental training in biochemistry and social science. I also have over two decades of experience. Based on my background, I find the concept of a mating cycle that only affects males to be absolutely unbelievable - to the point where I refuse to even consider having it in my stories.

Trying to keep your story within the boundaries of known scientific possibility is what defines the difference between science fiction and pure fantasy. Nothing wrong with fantasy per se, but I write science fiction.

The Pon Farr is obviously a biological function, hard coded into the Vulcan flesh and blood. In other words, it is a physical need, not a mental one. Which means it predates sapience. On Earth, female animals who are not in heat/estrus/rut react negatively to males who attempt to mate with them. Watch your dog sometimes, and see how she reacts when the neighbor's male comes over and tries to get romantic when she is not in heat. Most likely he will be lucky to get away with his hide. Other female animals react in a similar manner. Why? Because in pure animal terms, there is no individual advantage for a female in mating. The only advantage lies in continuing the bloodline, and animals don't care about things like that. In order to persuade a female to mate, it is necessary to bribe/blackmail her by inducing estrus. A male doesn't need estrus. He is already in a constant state of readiness due to the unrelenting pressure of seminal fluid. There is no need to persuade a male to mate. He is going to want to mate anyway. Anywhere, anytime he gets the chance.

Given that the Vulcan and Terran ecosystems are supposed to be similar enough for organisms from each of them to be genetically compatible, it follows "logically" that they must operate according to the same governing principles. Otherwise the two planets would be so different that people from each of them would have trouble communicating, much less mating. If Vulcan's ecosystem operates in a way remotely similar to Earth's, then a mating cycle that only affects males would be an express ticket to extinction.

First of all, why does evolution put animals through an episodic mating cycle at all? The answer: to take advantage of optimal environmental conditions and/or to avoid dangerous conditions. Seven years is a long. It plainly has nothing to do with yearly planetary seasons, so it probably has something to do with either solar or moon cycles. Eridani is a big, bright star, both in canon and in fact. My speculation is that Vulcan mating cycles were originally tied to Eridani's sunspot cycle.

I reason that animals on Vulcan developed the habit of breeding every seven years to take advantage of the low point in the solar radiation, thus minimizing damage to the fetus and potential mutations. Once Vulcans became sapient, the started doing things like building shelters and keeping pregnant people inside during the bad times. As a result, it was no longer critical for Vulcans to maintain their breeding cycle in strict clockwork rhythm with the sunspot cycle. In evolution, if it isn't used it goes away, so their seven year cycles started to drift off into individual variations.

I defy anyone to prove me wrong. J

Second Author's Note: This one is going to make some readers unhappy, but I can't help it. Like I said, I go with canon whenever it lets me. I don't violate canon without a compelling narrative reason. When I do violate canon, I always come up with a reason that fits inside the rules of the Trek 'verse. Like time travel in my first story, etc. Based on canon that goes all the way back to TOS, and if my reasoning posted under the prior note is correct, then it is a virtual certainty that T'Pol went through multiple Pon Farr's before she joined Enterprise.

I am sorry if I offend all the readers who prefer to believe that Trip was the first one for T'Pol. I have to follow the numbers. The numbers tell me no, he wasn't. Unless new data comes in.

High Council Minister Kuvak sat down with a feeling of bone deep weariness, yet it was tempered with joyous relief. The issue which had weighted his mind for so many years was finally settled and dealt with. If the solution was not perfect, it was at least satisfactory. After carefully considering the options and potential outcomes, Kuvak decided that he had no logical cause for complaint.

The beaded curtain rustled softly as a young attendant entered with downcast eyes. "High Minister. Your son's betrothed has been provided with an injection of tri-ox compound as you ordered, as well as a mild stimulant. Additional hypos were left in the room for later use if needed along with high energy food bars and Terran fruit juice."

"Excellent," Kuvak refrained from smiling in this holy place, but it was hard on him. The attendant must have heard the pleased tone in his voice however, for young man's expression relaxed and he even raised his head slightly. "Has my air car been summoned?"

"Affirmative, Minister," the attendant told him. "It awaits you at the upper end of the canyon, in the traditional location. A sedan chair is ready to carry you at your convenience."

Kuvak waved away the suggestion of a chair. "I have not yet grown too feeble to walk a mere half kilometer," he said briskly. "Nor am I some ancient emperor, returning from a victorious campaign, that I should be carried on the shoulders of four stout young men." He stood up. "This retreat, and those who have dedicated themselves to service within it, have been of significant assistance to my clan many times over the centuries. Now, once again, it has provided aid at a time of dire necessity. Inform your superiors that this will not be forgotten." The attendant bowed as Kuvak walked out of the room and headed for the front exit, stepping lighter than he had in years.

It will be some time before they are able to leave here, Kuvak considered, Once Kov has passed through his Pon Farr, Anna will no doubt require time to recover. She might even require medical attention, he suddenly realized, with a twinge of concern. But of course, the retreat maintained a Healer on staff and kept a well equipped medical bay for just such situations. Kuvak ran through a checklist of details that would need to be taken care of while his son and his soon-to-be daughter-in-law were otherwise occupied. His first move should be to contact Trip.


Eric Hess walked over to answer the door buzzer with his teeth gritted. "Who is it?" he snapped. There was a pause.

"Um... the name's Trip Tucker. Maybe Anna's mentioned me? I wanted to let you know what's been going on." Eric let his breath out in a whoosh and slapped the door open.

"Mr. Tucker! I mean - Captain Tucker," Eric fumbled. "Please, come in." He stepped back and almost frantically waved Trip into the hotel room. "I'm sorry about the way I answered the door. My nerves have been stretched a little thin, wondering what happened with Anna, and..."

Trip held up a hand. "Don't worry about it. I figured you'd be chewin' nails. That's why I came over. Anna's fine, and she got everything straightened out with Kov. It was just a mis-communication. Turns out that Kov and his dad - you know his dad is a Minister on the High Council?" Eric nodded, "Well Kov is some kind of assistant to his dad. Anyway, they both had to go out of town suddenly. But they didn't leave instructions with the staff to let Anna know about what happened."

"Oh!" Eric suddenly felt the light bulb go off. "Some kind of confidential government thing. And the bureaucrats didn't want to tell her anything."

"You got it," Trip grinned.

"Now it all starts to make sense," Eric nodded. "She told me that Kov was on his dad's staff. Anna said the old man was grooming him to move into some kind of power position. Stands to reason that if there was something important stirring, he would want Kov to be there."

"Yep," Trip confirmed. "It was the kind of thing that he really wanted Kov to be there for. Anyway, my wife, T'Pol, she has a little pull with the High Council. Enough for us to find out where they went. We told Anna and she took off. Just got word a little while ago that Anna and Kov are together now. But they're still in the middle of something that they can't really just drop, ya know?"

"Oh, I understand," Eric made a chopping gesture with his hand. "It's ok. Hey, I figured that when my big sister started rubbing elbows with the Powers That Be, she wouldn't be free to just set her own schedule. Heck, nobody is free to just set their own schedule anyway."

Trip chuckled. "Isn't that the truth? Since you're at loose ends, I wondered if you'd be interested in some home cooking tonight? Then maybe take a tour of the city tomorrow, starting with our plant. Everything is shut down for the Christmas break so you could get a look at some of the guts of the place that visitors don't usually see."

"Sounds great," Eric grinned. "When and where should I show up for dinner?"

"How about 1730?" Trip suggested. "Here's our address," he added, handing over a card. "We usually eat around 1800, and that will give us some time to talk. T'Pol won't let me cook since the last time I started a grease fire. And it wasn't anything serious at all, really. But she blew it all out of proportion and kicked me out of the kitchen for good." Trip looked irritated. "But somebody has to keep the hooligan from gnawing through her leg irons while T'Pol is busy anyway. You can tell me some good blackmail material on Anna, and I can get you up to speed about her latest escapades."

"Perfect," Eric agreed.


Kov drifted slowly upward from the darkness. Sounds of tangled chaos slowly sorted themselves into separate tones. The sliding fabric of bed sheets, the hissing sighs of two people breathing, one faster than the other. The drip of water from a tap that had carelessly not been closed properly. Kov frowned, who could be so irresponsible with water?

Water. His throat hurt. His mouth tasted foul and his throat burned with thirst. There was water nearby, he could hear it. And now he could smell it. Smell was coming back to him. The smell of water, and damp stone, and something else... His nostrils flared, drinking in the scent hungrily. SHE was here. His eyes flew open.

Anna was asleep. Her tangled hair spread across her pillow, darkened at the roots by sweat. The sweet scent of her perspiration that had driven him into wakefulness hung heavy over the bed. Even now, after the fever had passed, it reached deeply into him and sent his heartbeat racing.

My mate.

Kov stared in wondering disbelief. There was no sign of a sheet anywhere, they must have torn everything off the bed. Even the pillow that Anna clutched was uncovered. Kov himself lay sprawled at an angle and, to his delight, he slowly came to realize that Anna's legs were intertwined with his own. He closed his eyes took several deep breaths to calm himself, lest he lose control again.

"You don't have to do that you know." Kov's eyes popped open to catch Anna watching him with sleepy mischief in on her face. "It's a bit late to worry about self-discipline now."

Kov stared at her and reached out gingerly, running his fingertips across her cheek. "You are here," he whispered in amazement. She smiled.

"I've been right here all along, you fool." Anna rolled over and kissed him deeply. Her bare flesh pressed against him and combined with the kiss to crumble every vestige of control he had. Perhaps the fever had not completely run its course after all...


Tizok reported into the comm, "The intermix ratios have been stabilized for the present, Captain Tolaris. Our deuterium levels are barely adequate to bring us home if no further unexpected demands are made, and if we do not exceed 0.63% space normal while we are in-system."

"Acknowledged, engineering."

The comm went silent and Tizok glanced around sadly. None of them were under any illusions as to what the ultimate fate of the Vahklas would be. A ship this old, and in such poor condition, would be unlikely in the extreme to qualify for refurbishment. In approximately 17.643 hours, Vahklas would dock for the last time and the journey of the V'Tosh Katur would finally be over.

Young Saldre walked over diffidently. Despite his best efforts, Tizok could easily see the fear in his eyes. Saldre had always been a disappointment to his House, and when he joined the V'Tosh Katur he, like so many of them, had been cast out. This homecoming was a bitter one to him.

"Elder," he asked respectfully, "I ask counsel. I have considered my options, and it occurs to me that perhaps the Humans who are working on their engine upgrade project might be willing to consider my application. Will you evaluate my logic in this?"

"It seems at least a feasible option to explore," Tizok told him. "During our encounter with the Human ship, they seemed a tolerant people. Kov's latest communications have offered no evidence to contradict this."

"Then, do you think that Kov would find it objectionable if I were to request his assistance in seeking such a position? Since he has regained favor with his father's House, I would not wish to cause him any difficulty." Saldre looked down.

Tizok recalled something. "Please wait here." He raised his voice, "All of you, come here briefly." The rest of the engineering staff paused in their duties, which were few enough while the ship was at sub-light, and congregated on the senior engineer. "I had intended to announce this in any case, and Saldre's question makes this an appropriate moment. During my last message from Kov, he inserted a statement to the effect that every member of the Vahklas crew is welcome to contact him at any time for any reason. He also specified that he is here to serve, and that if any of us has a need, we should not hesitate to ask."

A group sigh of relief stirred the peeling finish in the old ship's guts. "This is most agreeable news," T'Hosh, the lone woman on the staff, admitted. "I confess to some concern regarding my ability to locate a position."

"I believe that we have all shared that concern," Tizok told her, "whether we acknowledged it verbally or not. However, Kov's position as an assistant to a Minister on the High Council should allow him to find something for all of us. The positions might not be ideal, granted."

"At this point," Pojik stated with a bite in his voice, "any position at all would be ideal."

Saldre said meekly, "I intend to inquire about assisting the Humans on their engine upgrade project. I suspect that they would be less judgmental than most of our own people."

"Was that also your thought, Tizok?" Pojik asked, "When you agreed to take the position aboard the Enterprise?"

"In part," Tizok admitted. "But also because it was a remarkable opportunity to study a people who managed to successfully integrate thought and emotion, and built a star-faring civilization while doing it. There is also the fact that the Human captain was approaching desperation, and Kov felt personally responsible."

"Why?" Saldre wanted to know.

"Because the Human engineer is leaving to become Kov's wife," Tizok told them. "Thereby leaving Enterprise without a qualified chief engineer. Kov feels a deep sense of obligation in this matter."

"Kov is marrying a Human?" T'Hosh looked openly astonished. "This is delightful. He is upholding the truest principles of the IDIC philosophy."

"He seems to be quite pleased with her," Tizok told them. "And she with him according to his report."

"I can only imagine the scandal," Pojik said with relish. "I am relieved. I feared that circumstances had broken him, had forced Kov to surrender to social expectations. But I see now that he is still the stubborn rebel we all know and love."


Eric took a deep breath and pressed the button. After making a point of assuring Captain Tucker that he could certainly manage to navigate his way to their home, he had managed to get lost eleven times on the way over. Now, eighteen minutes late and sweating like a horse, he had finally managed to reach the right address. The Tucker house was a small cottage-type home set in the outskirts of Shi'kahr. It's yard lacked the traditional barrier wall of the older homes near the center of the metropolis. This newer neighborhood, primarily inhabited by immigrants and young professionals just getting started, reminded Eric Hess of a Human subdivisions. Rows and blocks of cookie-cutter houses all neatly lined up in nearly identical rank and file, with only token fences an occasional decorative plant to distinguish one from another.

The door opening caught him by surprise. He had unconsciously been anticipating the sound of footsteps, despite the fact that the thin Vulcan atmosphere rendered him half deaf to normal activities. Trip smiled and waved him inside, and Eric stepped into blessed shade. "Whoosh! That feels good," he sighed.

"No kidding," Trip commiserated. "At this time of day I try not to even go outside. Come into the kitchen and get some icewater."

"You're a good man, Captain Tucker," Eric told him gratefully. He followed his host down a stone floored hallway with an arched ceiling, past a spacious sunken living area and into the kitchen located at the rear of the house. A slim-framed but blatantly pregnant young woman stood at a stove operating various cook pots and associated spoons. Meanwhile a diminutive tousled creature, apparently also of the female persuasion (the pigtails were a dead giveaway), peered suspiciously at him from beneath the edge of the table.

Eric worked his fingers into the V shape of the Vulcan greeting, but only the first two obeyed. His third and fourth fingers insisted on splaying out independently. Finally he grabbed them with his left hand in frustration and crossed them over each other, hoping friction would hold them in position long enough. "Peace and long life, Mrs. Tucker," he said with as much dignity as a sweat soaked, exhausted man could muster. "I apologize for being late. I am afraid I overestimated my ability to navigate in a strange city."

T'Pol Tucker returned his salute with practiced ease, giving the relieved Eric a chance to drop his hand. "You apology is accepted, Eric Hess, but quite unnecessary. Be welcome to our home. Please take water and rest yourself."

Trip finished pouring a good sized mug full of icewater and handed it over, and Eric joyously started pouring it down his throat. "Oh man, that tastes good," he gasped when he finally came up for air.

"Drink all you want," Trip told him, offering a refill, "but I will tell you from experience that you better take it a little slower. Too much too fast is not a good idea."

"You're probably right," Eric admitted. "It's just that I've spent the last few years in Canada. It doesn't get this hot in Newfoundland."

"No," Trip said contemplatively, "as I recall it doesn't. Not anywhere near. Let's go sit down and give our puny Human feet a rest from this gravity." As Eric followed him back down the hallway, he noticed a small figure peering around the corner of the doorway after them. When he sat down on the couch that Trip indicated, a pair of small blue eyes slowly emerged at floor level around the edge of the living room entrance, watching him fixedly.

"Come on in, honey," Trip called gently. "It's ok. He's a good one." The little girl carefully advanced into the room, eyeing Eric with the wariness of a hamster watching a cat. He lowered his mug and tilted his head.

"Hm," Eric said. "What are you?" She paused and snuffled.

"'M 'Lissa," she told him defiantly.

"You're a Lissa?" Eric said curiously. "What's a Lissa?"

"Me!" She retorted indignantly. "I'm Lissa!" Trip grinned behind his hand.

"I never saw a Lissa before." Eric considered. "I've seen turtles, and dogs, and pollywogs, and ostriches. But I never saw a Lissa before. What do Lissa's do?"

She stared, nonplussed. An inquiring look at her father produced only a shrug. "I'm ta ony Lissa."

"The only one? Really?" Eric's eyes grew round. "How do you know? Did you ever look for other Lissa's? Where did you come from?"

"Urrrrr!" She stamped her foot. Marching over to Eric, she got in his face and announced, "I'm Lissa 'cause hit's my NAME. I'm a people."

"A people?" Eric drew back. "You're too little to be a people."

"AM NOT!" She bared her teeth. "I'm a Lissa people."

"Oh, well then. In that case, what do Lissa people do?" Eric wanted to know.

"Play games, and read books, and help Ma'Mehk," she informed him.

"You read books too?" Eric smiled. "I like books. What kind of books do you read?"

T'Lissa considered. "I like the piggies book, where dey cook da wolf."

"The Three Little Pigs? That was my favorite when I was a little person too," he told her. "Can you really read it?"

"Uh-huh," she told him proudly and emphatically.

"Will you read it to me?"

"Ok," she agreed. "I go get." The little one turned and sped off on her mission, leaving Eric grinning so wide that his cheeks starting hurting.


"Well, you made a friend for life," Trip told him. "She loves to read to people."

"She's cute as a button," Eric responded. "Anna was right." Trip watched Eric chuckle and shake his head.

"How's your water holding up?"

"Um… empty again," Eric admitted.

Trip stood up. "Let me have it then. I will get you a refill and an ETA on supper while I am in there. Just watch your fingers if T'Lissa gets back before I do. She bites." He proceeded toward the kitchen, mug in hand.

"Hi, Hun," Trip pasted a smile across his face as he headed for the water pitcher. "Smells great."

"It pleases me that you think so," she told him, with a glance over her shoulder. "I hope Mr. Hess agrees."

"He will," Trip assured her. "Anything I can help with?"

"As far as food preparation, no." T'Pol spoke with finality that brooked no argument. "However-"

A timer dinged and T'Pol released him to leap for the oven. "My bread!" Trip peered over her shoulder while his wife rescued two small loaves that were starting to get just a shade too brown around the edges. "Trip," she began with a careful lack of exasperation in her voice, "I sincerely hope you intend to follow through on your promise to adjust the thermostat on this oven."

He snapped to attention. "Yes, ma'am! You can depend on it, ma'am! I shall attend to it first thing in the morning, ma'am!" When T'Pol shot him a look he relaxed and grinned. "Since everything is shut down for the holiday, I have the time now to catch up on all the things around here that I have been meaning to get done. I swear." He held up his hand.

"Perhaps you should return to our guest before T'Lissa decides to entertain him with a demonstration of her alpine abilities," T'Pol suggested pointedly, nudging him out of the way so she could put one of the bread pans on the table.

"She's reading him a book," Trip protested. "C'mon, hun. She doesn't try to climb everything. Not all the time."

"You were not present to hear the reverberation when she impacted the floor in the Eldest Mother's library after plummeting from the top of her tallest bookshelf," T'Pol informed him with a chill in her tone. "I have no intention of permitting her to break her neck due to negligence on our part."

"Ok!" Trip threw up both hands in surrender. "I'm going." He grabbed the refilled mug and made a break for it.


S'Tor, son of Paleth, the Primary Assistant Secretary to Adjunct Ministerial Assistant Kov, held himself stiffly erect in the waiting area and fought to conceal his vast distaste for the assignment before him. Since his kinsman was still indisposed at the Lonet-quor sanctuary, Minister Kuvak had ordered S'Tor to meet the arriving Vahklas as Kov's designated representative. He would infinitely rather have been ordered to penetrate the security perimeter of the Andorian embassy and steal the designs for their latest weapons research.

However, his duty was clear. He would meet these Vulcans-Without-Logic as he had been ordered. He would deliver the message that had been entrusted to him. And he would do it without compromising his self-respect or the dignity of his clan. Surely the additional three hours of meditation last night would enable him to deal with this. S'Tor had ridden the chartered transport shuttle up to the orbital shipyard in agreeable silence. Unfortunately, the scope of his assignment virtually ensured that the trip back down would not be nearly as conducive to inner serenity.

The docking procedure for the ancient ship was proceeding with some irregularity, largely due to incompatibility of the Vahklas' obsolete docking clamps with the port facilities. Finally, the comm unit buzzed and announced, "Vahklas has completed docking. Crewmembers are disembarking for scan and decontamination procedures. Once all personnel have disembarked, Vahklass will be towed immediately to the salvage area for disassembly."

S'Tor firmly suppressed a smile. At last that disgusting blot on the reputation of all Vulcan would finally be removed. The mere existence of the Vahklas, and more importantly her blatant contact with that Human ship, had openly proclaimed the message of the V'Tosh Katur to the quadrant at large. Prior to this only Vulcans, and not all Vulcans even, had been aware of the cult. After her rendezvous with Enterprise the Humans had immediately broadcast awareness of the Vulcans-Without-Logic across their planet. Naturally, Humans being incurable gossips, the news had spread like a plague throughout the quadrant to humiliate every right-thinking Vulcan alive. S'Tor clamped his teeth together to prevent them from gritting. All that remained now was to successfully re-integrate the remaining crew into functioning members of society. Then this particular nightmare could be consigned to the darkness of forgotten history, where it belonged.

It was impossible, and inadvisable, to actually meditate in the waiting area. But by gazing out the viewing port at the stars S'Tor was able to achieve a state of mind very close to first level trance. It helped him endure the wait until the comm announced that the V'Tosh Katur were waiting for him in reception room 13.

S'Tor carefully straightened his formal robes and turned to carry out his assignment, blissfully unaware of the Human superstition regarding certain numbers. Even had he been aware of the traditional significance of the number 13 to some Humans, it is unlikely that he would have placed any credence in such illogical nonsense.


"No, honey," Trip said tiredly, "you can't have another snack. You had your evening munchie. Besides, you already brushed your teeth. It's time for bed."

"But Sa-da!" T'Lissa pleaded.

"No, T'Lissa," T'Pol told her firmly. The child wilted and her shoulders slumped, plainly burdened down by the unfairness of life and the cruelty of parents. "Proceed to your bedroom and undress. I will follow momentarily and assist you with your gown." The little one sighed mournfully and shuffled off, glancing back once with a woebegone expression. Trip bit his lip to keep from chuckling.

"She is becoming increasingly stubborn about retiring for the night," T'Pol said, looking irritated. Trip shook his head, letting his smile escape.

"Not nearly as fussy as a Human kid, hun," he told her. "Me or any of my siblings would still have been arguing at full volume right now. At least, until Dad started grabbing and dragging." He chuckled.

On a Human T'Pol's expression would barely qualify as a mild wince. On a Vulcan face it was a full scale grimace. "We cannot permit her discipline to deteriorate to that point, Trip. It is neither appropriate nor, ultimately, safe."

"I'm not arguing," Trip raised both hands. "She's as stubborn as her mother and she's got that Vulcan temper too. I'm all for keeping the bluff on her. No dispute here. I just meant that she's not as hard to handle as some kids are." He walked over to the tea service and began heating water for their customary evening cups.

T'Pol gave him the raised Eyebrow of Spousal Aggravation. "Her negative behavior patterns cannot be laid exclusively on her Vulcan heritage, Trip."

"I never said they could," Trip replied around a small cracker. He started laying out a selection of crackers and small veggie slices on a plate while the teapot began to steam. "But I know how to handle the Human stuff. I've had more practice being sneaky than she has, after all. It's when she unleashes those Vulcan temper tantrums that get to me. All I can do then is hang on and pray." He set the plate on the table and reached for a pair of cups.

The corner of T'Pol's mouth twitched almost imperceptibly. "It is her… sneaky… episodes that I find the most challenging. Those, and her tendency at times to simply rebel for the sake of rebellion itself." Trip sent her a grin and started measuring tea. She sighed and told him, "I had best assist T'Lissa with her bedtime rituals, before she decides to undertake another random act of rebellion. I will return shortly."


By the time she returned Trip had two steaming cups of tea poured and an inviting array of tidbits set out between them. T'Pol settled gratefully into her chair and picked up her drink between both hands. She closed her eyes and savored the feel of the hot beverage coating her throat on the way down. "I have often considered the irony - that nurturing a small child and a husband can be more exhausting than carrying out the duties of First Officer."

"Regrets?" Trip's voice sounded semi-serious. T'Pol opened her eyes to find him watching her carefully.

"Never," she told him emphatically. "You should know that by now. If you do not, then I have been distressingly remiss in my responsibility to maintain the harmony of our home."

"Relax, hun," he reached a hand over to stroke her wrist briefly. "I know. I just like to hear it sometimes. I didn't mean to upset you."

T'Pol released her cup with one hand to capture his fingers. "My only regrets are the ones that you know. The mistakes that I made are ones that we have already talked about. If I had not been such a fool-"

"Hush. Shh" Trip placed his fingertips over her lips. "You weren't anywhere near as much a fool as I was," he whispered. "But it's all in the past. Leave it there. We're here, T'Lissa's here. We're together and that's what matters." He leaned over the table and planted a quick peck on her lips. Then he picked up a piece of carrot and offered it to her. She graciously accepted a nibble, and Trip popped the remainder into his mouth.

"Now," Trip said, still crunching the last bit of orange vegetable, "how about you tell me what's really bothering you. I can feel that something is. Even with my pitiful excuse for telepathy, and even with your shields up, I can tell that much. When are you gonna get it through your head that you can't hide it from me when you're worried about something?" He speared a radish with a toothpick and peeled off a sliver with his incisors, suddenly blinking and grabbing a sip of tea. "Whoa. That one has a kick to it."

T'Pol permitted herself a silent internal sigh. He was correct of course. It was an exercise in futility, attempting to conceal her uneasiness from her bonded mate. Currently, and for the last few days, T'Pol's state of mind had not been in a state that came anywhere near approaching equilibrium - ever since she heard the news about the Vahklas coming back to Vulcan. Unfortunately for her efforts, her trellium induced neural damage would have prevented hiding her unease from Trip even if her body language had not already betrayed her.

"What do you wish to discuss?" Her tone was almost perfectly controlled.

"Is that really how you want to play it?" Trip raised his eyebrows and fought a losing battle against a smile.

T'Pol closed her eyes and gave up. "I am… concerned. The V'Tosh Katur are returning to Vulcan."

"So that's it," Trip said flatly. "Tolaris. You're scared I am going to do something crazy and stupid."

T'Pol stiffened ramrod straight. She looked at him with wounded eyes. "You are neither crazy, nor stupid. I would never accuse you of such."

His lips twitched and he couldn't help snorting in amusement. "I won't even try to argue the semantics of that one. But I want you to understand something." He looked at her seriously. "As much as I despise that…" He stopped. "As much as I despise Tolaris, I am not about to do anything that will risk my losing you, T'Lissa, or little Malcolm in there," he pointed at her belly.

Centimeter by centimeter, he watched her muscles start to un-knot. More importantly, he felt her fear begin to slowly fade. T'Pol told him, "You know what happened. I told you the rest of it, every detail, while we were staying with the Eldest Mother. I am at least partly, if not entirely to blame for what happened. I had no excuse for inviting the meld."

"That's right, you didn't," Trip agreed bluntly, with an edge to his voice. "But I have no right to pass judgment on that. We worked through those issues back then too. Remember? We both have pasts. I had old girlfriends. You had Tolaris, and you went through several Pon Farrs before you ever met me." Her expression changed, and he raised his hand. "I know, it isn't supposed to count when you take it for medicine. Besides, you went through more than one on nothing but drugs and meditation because unbonded women can do that sometimes. But my point is we both agreed that whatever happened before we were together is history. Neither of us has any right to judge or complain about anything that the other one did before we came together."

She looked down. "Agreed. I have no right to complain about that… princess. And you have no right to complain about the time I spent with Tolaris." She looked up. "Logically, I agree with this. But my logic is failing me, husband," she told him softly. "I have hurt you so many times. If another of my mistakes causes you to suffer harm, I am certain that I could not endure it."

Trip sighed. "I'm not going to suffer any harm because of what happened back then. Now, if he starts anything this time… well. I might just have to hurt the son of a … mother. But you didn't belong to me back then, and as much as I would love to skin him alive over a slow fire, I won't. Not for that."

Trip instantly found himself trying to suck in some air while in the grip of the tightest hug his wife had ever given him. He returned it as tightly as he dared, given her condition. "I love you too, Honey," he whispered almost inaudibly, hoping rather plaintively that she let go before he passed out.


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