Rating: PG for adult situations and violence
“Ready to go?” asked Trip briskly, as he stood waiting near the door. He was dressed in civilian clothes, overnight bag over his shoulder. T’Pol glanced quickly around their new quarters. Everything appeared to be in order.
“I am ready.” she told her husband. Shouldering her own bag over her human-style civilian clothes, she motioned for him to precede her through the door. They walked side-by-side down the corridor toward the shuttlebay.
Trip eyed her clothing with approval. The red silk blouse and form-fitting black slacks suited her.
“I like the new clothes.” he said, smiling.
“I thought Earth-style clothes would be more appropriate when visiting your parents.” replied T’Pol. “I am trying to ‘blend in’.” she said dryly.
“Don’t think there’s much chance of that…” he said, his eyes following her curves with appreciation. “…But you look great!”
T’Pol nodded in acknowledgement of the compliment, but made no other comment. Trip sensed her pleasure in the bond. It might have been his imagination, but since their wedding the night before, he’d noticed a subtle change in the quality of the bond, as if it were getting stronger. He no longer needed to touch T’Pol to know exactly what she was feeling at any given moment. He could sense that the same was true for her as well.
Arriving at the shuttlebay, they were met by Ensign Mayweather.
“Good morning, Commanders!” Mayweather said cheerfully. “We’re all fired up and ready to go!”
On this trip to the San Francisco Spaceport, T’Pol and Trip were joined by several crewmen and women from various sections of Enterprise, all given leave for the weekend now that Enterprise was nearing the end of its’ maintenance visit. Trip and T’Pol had arranged to meet Trip’s parents at the San Francisco Spaceport, and were planning to spend the weekend with them at the Spaceport Hilton.
They began the flight in silence. Trip could sense T’Pol’s anticipation and a bit of apprehension over spending time with his parents. There was still residual embarrassment over her behavior at the wedding which she was learning to deal with as well. T’Pol, of course, revealed none of this externally, sitting next to him with a serenely calm expression. She sensed Trip’s concern for her. Although he had seemed accepting of her confession of Trellium-D addiction the night before, brushing off his hurt feelings with a joke about being an object of lust, she could also feel his disappointment that she had not confided in him sooner. It was creating a rift in the bond that morning which was impossible to ignore. T’Pol extended two fingers and gently caressed the back of Trip’s hand, projecting her gratitude at his understanding, and her regret at her lack of trust. He looked up at her from the PADD he’d been reading and smiled gently, laying the PADD down on his lap and covering her hand with his. He returned love and forgiveness through the bond.
“What are you reading?” T’Pol asked curiously, cocking her head to look at the screen.
“Just some stuff on warp theory.” he replied. “I’m tryin’ to see if I can coax a little more speed outta the engines.”
“I thought this weekend was a recreational one.” said T’Pol, with mild disapproval.
“This is recreational!” he said. He proceeded to show her, with great enthusiasm, the aspects of the newest theories that he found so fascinating. She listened with amused tolerance for the remainder of the trip.
“Ahhh… That’s a negative, Shuttlepod One. Spaceport Security has routed you to the high-security area at Terminal C. Please proceed to landing area one-niner-zero…” responded the tower.
“That’s a roger, tower… Proceeding to landing area one-niner-zero…” replied Mayweather. “Is there a problem I need to know about?”
“No problems yet, Shuttlepod One. Your passengers have been judged a security risk… Just trying to avoid an incident. Tower out.”
As the shuttle approached the landing area, the passengers could see crowds surrounding the field, with police barricades up. There were signs and placards, but the shuttle was too far away yet to read them. Mayweather made a perfect three-point landing.
As the shuttlepod touched down, a vehicle met it on the landing field. Three uniformed members of the Spaceport Security Force came on board. One of them, a burly, competent looking Latino, went directly to Trip and T’Pol before they’d even had a chance to release their seatbelts.
“Commanders…” he greeted them with a nod and extended his hand. Trip took it and shook it firmly.
“I’m Lieutenant Juan Martinez of Spaceport Security. We have a potential security risk, and have arranged precautions for your safety. Please follow me.” The lieutenant turned to leave.
“Just a minute, Lieutenant!” said Trip in an authoritative tone. “First, tell us what’s goin’ on and why we’re not at the main terminal meeting the family members we all have waiting for us!”
The lieutenant looked at them apologetically, then explained.
“Sir, someone leaked a recording of your marriage ceremony to the press. The media is having a field day with it. Most of this crowd just wants to see the two of you and wish you well, but we’ve had some death threats… mostly directed against Commander T’Pol. They think she’s got some sort of influence over you…” He looked apologetically at T’Pol. “Sorry, Commander…” he told her. “It’s just that, since the Xindi attack, non-humans haven’t exactly been popular around here.”
“No need to apologize, Lieutenant.” T’Pol told him coolly. “We are fortunate to have you here to assure our safety.”
The security officer smiled briefly at that. “I’ll do my best, ma’am.”
The shuttlepod passengers followed the spaceport security officers to the transport vehicle. On the way to the terminal, Trip could see the crowds pressed up against the barricades, screaming and waving. Huge placards reading, “WE LOVE THE TUCKERS!” and, “GOD BLESS CHARLES AND T’POL” were interspersed with more ominous messages. As the vehicle entered the terminal, his eye caught one which read, “VULCAN WITCH, GO HOME!” Trip hoped T’Pol hadn’t seen that one.
“Oh, no….” Trip said under his breath, stopping in his tracks as he looked up at the huge screen on the terminal wall opposite the entrance the group had just used. Their wedding ceremony was on the news feeds… apparently on all of them at once, if he interpreted the various segments of the screen correctly. T’Pol’s behavior at the ceremony, including their rather explosive kiss, was the most newsworthy item on the planet, it seemed.
T’Pol stood next to him looking at the screen, her face rigidly composed. Although she seemed a model of icy Vulcan calm, Trip saw her eyes moisten, and could feel her horrified humiliation. The two of them were immediately surrounded by reporters, who, reaching over the security guards’ barricade as they urged the shuttlepod passengers onward, shoved microphones in their faces.
“How does it feel to be the most romantic couple on the planet?” demanded a female reporter.
“When did you first realize you were in love?” asked another insistently.
Trip felt T’Pol’s rising panic as she impassively stared down the reporters, pointedly ignoring their questions. It made him furious.
“Leave her alone!” he shouted, roughly pushing the microphones away and pushing forward. The security guards surrounding them cleared a gap in the crowd of reporters. Trip led T’Pol by the hand, and she followed him blindly, no longer able to fully comprehend what was happening. There was a flash of phase pistol fire, and Trip felt a sharp tug on his hand as T’Pol went down with a phase pistol wound in her left upper chest. He fell to his knees, protecting her with his body, and gathered her in his arms, feeling her bewilderment and shock briefly register in the bond before she lost consciousness. Then he felt… nothing.
“NO!!” he shouted. His tears fell unheeded as he held her, rocking back and forth as if to comfort her. “It’s all right, baby…” he whispered into her ear. “It’s gonna be all right…”
Trip heard the door open. He turned, and watched Ambassador Soval enter the room.
“How is she?” Trip asked him without preamble. “When can I see her?”
Soval regarded him with a look that seemed almost… sympathetic.
“She will survive. Her physicians tell me the damage was primarily to the lung. Her heart and major vessels were spared.” he said gravely.
Trip closed his eyes in relief.
“There is a difficulty which they did not expect, however.” added Soval. “While she has regained consciousness, she is not entirely… lucid. It has become necessary to sedate her heavily to prevent her from harming herself.”
“Harming herself how?” asked Trip.
“Her first action upon regaining consciousness was to attempt to remove her ventilation tube in an apparent attempt to end her own life.” replied Soval matter-of –factly. “She is not behaving in a logical manner.”
Trip looked at him in consternation. “Why does everything have to be logical with you people? She’s just been publicly humiliated, then shot and nearly killed. Of course she’s not thinking logically!”
He stepped forward and grabbed Soval by the lapels of his robe, pulling him forward to growl menacingly in his face, “Take me to her!... Now!”
“There’s no need for threats, Commander Tucker.” replied Soval as he disengaged Trip’s fingers from his clothing, seemingly unaffected by Trip’s aggressive behavior. “I have been sent to do precisely that. Please come with me.”
Trip followed the ambassador through the orderly hallways of the medical facility. The Vulcans they passed ignored them completely, intent on their own duties.
“What news do you have about the investigation?” asked Trip, in a somewhat mollified tone.
“Her attacker has been apprehended. He was a spaceport employee with a long history of mental illness. He used his maintenance ID to enter the restricted area with a phase pistol hidden in his cleaning supplies. He was apparently convinced that T’Pol’s marriage to you was evidence of a plot to subvert humanity… a ‘Vulcan witch’, I believe was his terminology.” replied Soval ironically. “The authorities believe he acted alone. I, however, have my doubts. Rest assured, Commander, that I and my staff will continue to do our own investigation until I am satisfied that your wife, and every other Vulcan on this planet, is safe from the threat of assassination.”
Trip nodded, relieved at least that there seemed to be no conspiracy… Just another crazy xenophobe trying to make the world safer for humanity.
They arrived in the intensive care facility. T’Pol looked fragile and pale on the biobed. She’d been weaned from the respirator, but her breathing was shallow and irregular. She showed no sign of being aware of their presence. Trip stepped up to the bed and took her hand. Soval brought him a chair.
“Sit.” he said. “She will need your assistance to recover.”
Trip looked up at him in surprise as he sat down.
“Thanks!” he said. “Um… sorry about the way I acted earlier… I appreciate your help.”
Soval nodded soberly. “T’Pol is …” He looked at the frail figure on the bed with a look that, for a Vulcan, approached fondness. “…a very competent officer.” he finished. “It is only logical that she receive every opportunity for full recovery…” His eyes went to Trip again. “Take good care of her, Commander.” he said, his face a study in expressionless neutrality.
Trip smiled briefly. “I plan on it, Ambassador!” He gathered both of her limp, pale hands in his. Soval nodded once, then left the room, walking briskly as if he had many more important things to do.
Trip woke, his entire body stiff from sleeping on the uncomfortable chair. His head was pillowed on his arms at the edge of the bed. He reached for T’Pol’s hand. The bed was empty. He woke completely then, and sat up.
“T’Pol?” he called softly. Where could she have gone? His heart sank when he found her.
She was wearing the loose white robe that served as a hospital gown here, but her feet were bare. Her wound had begun to bleed, staining the left shoulder of her robe with green. She sat in the corner of the room with her knees curled into the fetal position, arms circling her legs. Her eyes were open, unseeing, with tears on her face. She made no sound.
Trip approached her cautiously. He got down on his knees before her and tried to take her hands in his. She refused to let go of her knees, stubbornly staying in the fetal position despite his attempts to get her to stand and return to the bed. He sensed confusion and terror in the bond.
“C’mon, baby. You’re gonna hurt yourself. Come get back in bed!” he begged, but to no avail. Finally, Trip paged the nurse.
“I don’t get it!” Trip told the doctor in frustration. “She’s been under fire before! She’s even been wounded! Why’s she doin’ this now?”
The Vulcan physician looked at Trip solemnly.
“She has entered a dissociative state. Apparently, recent events have proven too much for her, and she has chosen to isolate herself from them. I do not believe this was caused by the assassination attempt alone. It appears to be the result of cumulative damage to her central nervous system, followed by several overwhelming stressors. I have consulted with her physician on Enterprise. He tells me you may be aware of her history of previous neurologic damage?”
Trip nodded, sighing. “Yeah, she told me about that.” he said.
“The mental collapse she is experiencing is related to her inability to fully control her emotions.” explained the doctor.
“Is there anything you can do?” asked Trip, with a hopeful expression.
“Usual methods will have little effect.” stated the doctor. “But once she is sufficiently physically healed, I believe I know someone who may be of assistance.”
Ambassador Soval entered the observation ward where T’Pol had been placed after she became medically stable. Trip sat watching her through the one-way mirror as she sat immobile in the corner. Neither Trip nor the hospital staff had been able to get her to eat or drink, so she still received intravenous feedings through the central port in her neck.
“Hello, Commander.” said Soval. “I am…pleased… to see that you stayed with her when Enterprise shipped out.”
Trip glanced up at him in surprise. “I got family medical leave. You don’t think I’d leave her alone like this, do you?” he demanded.
“No, Commander, I didn’t think you would.” said Soval approvingly, gazing at T’Pol with a considering air. “Are you ready to try this?” he asked, turning to Trip inquiringly.
“Do you think a mind meld will work?” asked Trip hopefully.
“I have never initiated a meld with a Vulcan who has retreated so completely from reality.” admitted Soval. “But it seems logical to assume that if we make contact with her conscious mind, we may convince her to return to us.”
“Okay… so what do you want me to do?” asked Trip.
“As her bonded mate, you will be the bait that lures her to us so that I may attempt to repair the damage that has been done.” replied Soval. “Just be present to her and open your mind to the meld. I will do the rest.”
Trip nodded, swallowing. They entered the room together.
Trip approached T’Pol, sitting beside her and taking her hands in his. He sensed confusion in the bond… and fear. Trip tried his best to project love and reassurance… the same love and reassurance he’d been trying to get her to respond to for the past two weeks. Although her physical wound was healing well, nothing he could do seemed to reach the emotional ones. As Trip held T’Pol’s hands, Soval knelt before her and placed his fingers on the mind-meld contact points. Trip closed his eyes and tried to participate in the meld through the bond.
“My mind to your mind…” said Soval softly. “My thoughts to your thoughts…”
Trip abruptly felt a third calm, logical presence in the bond. Then the horrifying images overwhelmed him…
He was an idealistic young security officer, forced by duty to kill another sentient being…
He felt overwhelming despair, and a need to run away and hide from everything and everyone…
Trip’s eyes flew open, as he gasped. He used the meld to send images back to her, trying to call her to him, to reassure her. He felt Soval’s presence as well, a stabilizing influence… order in the chaos. T’Pol’s eyes, previously gazing dully at nothing, shifted to Trip’s, holding his gaze with a piercing stare.
She was a fledgling engineer, working night and day to help perfect the engines that would be his life’s work...
She was a heartbroken older brother, crying at night in the lonely confines of his cabin…
She was a human male, angry… and confused… and amazingly alive… and passionately in love with the one woman he’d been waiting for his whole life… a woman who refused to trust him and wouldn’t allow him to know her heart…
Trip thought, projecting love and reassurance which T’Pol finally was able to sense and return.
Thank you for coming to find me.
Trip heard T’Pol say in his mind. Her eyes, focused on his, were lucid and clear.
Trip took her arm to support her as they stepped off the plane in the Atlanta airport. The furor over their wedding had long since died down during the weeks of T’Pol’s hospitalization, so they were mercifully unmolested by reporters and admirers.
T’Pol, still weak and frail from her injury, allowed Trip to assist her. He felt her gratitude and simultaneous frustration at her physical weakness like a constant pressure inside his head. Since their mind meld, both could sense each other’s feelings constantly and without effort. It wasn’t telepathy, but it was such a complete empathic connection that they might as well have been reading each other’s mind.
Charles Tucker, Jr. and his wife Mary were waiting for them within the terminal as they disembarked. Mary Tucker was shocked to see the change that only a few weeks had wrought in both of them. T’Pol was so thin and fragile-looking she appeared ethereal, almost eleven. Her face was pale and drawn, with turquoise shadows beneath her eyes. She leaned on Trip’s arm as if it were the only thing that kept her standing. Trip was haggard. He’d lost weight as well, and his eyes were reddened. He caught sight of his parents and smiled, transforming his face into the son she was expecting to see. Mary reached out both arms and embraced them both, tears on her face. Trip returned the hug one-armed but enthusiastically. T’Pol looked uncertain about what to do, but tolerated the embrace.
“I’m so happy to see you both!” Mary said.
Trip’s father stood at her side, still a broad-shouldered strong looking man at sixty-five, with Trip’s blonde curls… going a bit grey now. He smiled down at his trim, grey-haired wife.
“Your mother’s been worrying about you two, son.” he said. “I’m glad y’all came, so she can see for herself that y’all are okay.”
Trip smiled over his mother’s shoulder, and clasped his father’s arm in his right hand, still supporting T’Pol with his left. They exchanged a look between them that was full of unspoken affection.
“We don’t have much luggage, Dad.” said Trip. “But if the car’s more’n a few yards away you’d better find a wheelchair or a cart for T’Pol.”
“I have no need of wheeled transport, husband.” protested T’Pol softly. “I am perfectly capable of walking.”
Trip exchanged looks with his father.
“What can ya do about these stubborn women?” asked Charles rhetorically, shaking his head with a smile. He addressed Trip, saying, “Why don’t you go get the bags. If she gets wobbly, I’ll just pick’er up and carry’er. She can’t weigh more’n ninety pounds!”
T’Pol eyed Mr. Tucker doubtfully, then acquiesced with a sigh. “Very well… I will agree to the wheelchair.” she told them with offended dignity.
With everyone loaded in the car, they made the drive to Hawkinsville. Trip was curious about his parents’ new home. They had been away from home at the time of the Xindi attack, but Trip’s childhood home and all of their belongings had been destroyed on the day their youngest child Elizabeth died. Having no home to return to, they had sought a place to retire that was peaceful and quiet.
“It’s a small town, Trip…” said his father, “…but not too small. The people there are friendly. We’ve found an old house that your mother loves, and we’re fixin’ it up. I think you’ll like it. It’s a lot like our home in Florida was… big wrap around porch… lotsa trees… even a tire swing in the tree in the back yard!
Trip smiled in remembrance. He and Lizzie had spent hours on the swing in their back yard as children. She never seemed to tire of being pushed so high it seemed she’d fly right off.
“Sounds really great, Dad.” he said, smiling wistfully. “Just what we need.”
They arrived in the middle of the afternoon. Trip gently caressed T’Pol’s cheek as she lay sleeping with her head on his shoulder.
“We’re here...” he whispered. “Time to wake up.”
Trip felt her sweet presence in the back of his mind again as she woke and gazed out of the window at the house they were approaching. It was set back from the road in the center of a large, perfectly manicured green lawn with several huge oak trees surrounding it. The white wooden two-story house had a huge front porch holding two rocking chairs in the center and a porch swing on either end. Azalea bushes and lovingly maintained flower beds surrounded the porch.
Trip got out of the car and stretched out a hand to help T’Pol. Still shaky and somewhat sleepy from the drive, T’Pol stumbled slightly getting out of the car. Trip caught her and picked her up easily, carrying her into the house.
“I’ve got the guest room set up upstairs.” his mother told them, leading the way. “But if you’re gonna have to carry her up and down the stairs, we can put y’all in the master bedroom downstairs.”
“Please put me down!” T’Pol murmured to Trip under her breath
“You almost fell!” he softly protested, allowing her feet to touch the floor once he reached the second floor.
“Thank you for your kindness, Mrs. Tucker.” T’Pol told Mary in a louder voice, after she’d been allowed to stand on her own feet. “The guest room will be quite sufficient. I have no desire to displace you and your husband from your own bedroom.” she added calmly.
“Please call me Mary, T’Pol.” Trip’s mother said with a smile, placing her hand gently over T’Pol’s as she clung to Trip’s arm for support. “Dinner’s in about two hours. Maybe you’d like to rest a bit?”
“Thanks, Mama.” Trip smiled. They entered the guest room where Mr. Tucker had already placed their bags. Trip eased T’Pol onto the four poster bed.
“Now you lay down and rest.” he insisted.
“You are nearly as fatigued as I am, husband. You must rest with me.” she said softly, holding out her hands to him like a child begging for a bedtime story.
“Now how can I resist that?” he replied, smiling gently at her. They lay together in each other’s arms under the handmade quilt, and fell asleep.
“They comin’?” asked Charles. “I’m hungry!” He took a peek in the pot. “Collard greens!... You got catfish and cornbread to go with that?”
“Of course!” said Mary. “…and pecan pie for dessert.”
“Well, I sure hope they come down soon. I’m so hungry there might not be anythin’ left if they wait too long.”
Mary threatened him with her spoon and chased him out of the kitchen. “Shoo! You terrible man, shoo!” she laughed. “Go on upstairs and see what’s keepin’ ‘em.”
Charles Tucker climbed the stairs and gently tapped on the door. Getting no answer, he pushed the door open a crack. Trip and T’Pol were nestled in the bed the way Trip and Lizzie used to nap when they were toddlers… heads touching on the pillow, arms flung around each other. He smiled sweetly at the two of them, then gently shut the door. Walking quietly back down the stairs, he told Mary, “I think we should just set some food aside for ‘em. They’re out cold up there… looks like they might sleep a while.”
Mary smiled and nodded. Trip had provided her with one of those new-fangled stasis boxes. She never used the thing, preferring old fashioned refrigeration, but it was just the thing to keep his catfish crispy and hot.
“Go get the stasis thingy.” she told Charles. “My boy’s gonna have a nice hot meal whenever he’s ready for it.”
Late that evening, Trip woke with a start. He was alone in the bed. T’Pol sat on the floor in the center of the room, a lit meditation candle before her. Trip’s stomach growled.
T’Pol looked up from her meditation.
“I believe your mother has dinner for us.” she told him calmly. “I was waiting for you to awaken before going downstairs.”
Trip stood and stretched, then sat down on the floor beside her. “How’re you doin’ so far?” he asked her, reaching out to stroke her face with two fingers of his right hand. She seemed stronger, calmer, and more sure of herself.
“I find this place very relaxing.” T’Pol said. “Your parents have welcomed me like a daughter.” she added, sounding somewhat puzzled. “After all that they have lost at the hands of non-humans, I expected…” She stopped, at a loss for words and blinking back tears. Trip felt the surge of her gratitude and affection.
“They don’t blame you, T’Pol.” he said. “To them, you’re not an alien. You’re the woman I love.”
T’Pol nodded. “Your parents are very special people.” she told him.
“Don’t I know it!” Trip grinned. “C’mon…” he said, raising his chin and inhaling deeply. “I think I smell catfish!”
The next morning Trip awakened alone in the bed again, the smell of fresh-brewed coffee wafting tantalizingly up the stairs. He rubbed his weary eyes and sat up, swinging his legs over the edge of the bed. “Doesn’t the woman ever sleep?” he muttered to himself drowsily, and got up to trudge downstairs.
He found T’Pol in the brightly lit kitchen with his mother, helping to prepare breakfast. She had her sleeves rolled up, an apron on, a dusting of flour on her nose, and a look of intense concentration on her face. She looked about fifteen years old.
“You just roll it out with the pin, now.” said his mother, reaching around T’Pol’s waist from behind her to grasp the rolling pin and demonstrate. “Not too thin,… Just about a half-inch thick. Then we cut ‘em out with this and bake’em.” She showed T’Pol the round biscuit cutter with a businesslike expression. T’Pol nodded and began rolling.
“Makin’ biscuits?” Trip asked, grinning in anticipation as he made his way to the coffee maker.
“Your mother has informed me that, as buttermilk biscuits are your favorite breakfast food, she would be remiss if she failed to teach me how to prepare them.” T’Pol informed him evenly.
Trip, holding a cup of coffee in his right hand, reached out his left hand to the flour-covered cutting board and dipped his fingertips in the flour. He lightly dabbed them on her forehead and both cheeks.
“You missed a couple spots.” he said, grinning at her teasingly. T’Pol raised one eyebrow at that. Trip laughed, enjoying her pleasure at his playfulness.
Five days later, Trip sat on the porch swing with T’Pol’s head on his shoulder, swinging lazily in the cool breeze of an October afternoon. His fingers idly stroked her hair and one delicate ear.
“I could just stay here all day..” he murmured to T’Pol.
“We have.” she answered practically. “Except, of course, the times we were in the kitchen, consuming every morsel of food in sight!” she added with wry humor.
“This place does perk up a body’s appetite, doesn’t it?” He smiled at her. “We prob’ly have gained ten pounds each in the past five days!”
T’Pol sighed. “I am developing a distinct preference for your mother’s cooking. Do you think Chef might be able to obtain collard greens for the ship’s stores?” she asked wistfully.
“Don’t forget the cornbread…” added Trip. “You liked that too… with lotsa butter on it.”
“If I continue to eat cornbread with ‘lotsa butter’, I will very soon require a new wardrobe in a larger size.” T’Pol told him.
“You haven’t even gained enough weight yet to fit back into your old wardrobe!” Trip protested. “Don’t be worryin’ about that yet… Just eat!”
“Another piece of pecan pie might be agreeable.” T’Pol told him, after thoughtful consideration.
“Comin’ right up!” he said, stopping the swing and rising briskly to his feet. “You stay there.” he said. “I’ll be right back.”
Trip entered the house as his father came out on to the porch. Charles Tucker approached the porch swing where T’Pol was sitting.
“Mind if I join ya’?” he asked politely, with a hopeful smile just like Trip’s.
T’Pol moved to the end of the swing.
“Not at all.” she told him serenely. “Please,… sit down.” Her eyes betrayed her nervousness as she briefly glanced down at her hands. Charles started the swing moving, and they sat for a moment in silence. Trip, a piece of pie in either hand, glanced out of the window. Seeing them together, he put the pie down on the table and sat down on the window seat behind the curtain to watch their interaction.
“Ya look a lot healthier than when ya first got here.” ventured Charles, glancing sideways at T’Pol as they continued to swing.
“Your home seems to be very beneficial to my health.” replied T’Pol. “I believe it is the quiet and the excellent food.” she added.
“Yep! My Mary sure can cook!” said Charles, nodding his head in enthusiastic agreement. They fell silent again.
“I hafta tell ya, T’Pol.” said Charles after a few moments. “When I first found out Trip was plannin’ to marry a Vulcan… well… I wasn’t too happy about it.” He looked at T’Pol rather apologetically.
“A completely logical and understandable reaction, given the circumstances.” T’Pol told him reasonably.
“Ya really think so?” he asked, squinting his eyes in puzzlement, looking so much like Trip as he did so that T’Pol was tempted to touch his face to reassure him.
“You had no reason to believe that a Vulcan woman would be capable of providing your son with the support and… affection… that he requires.” T’Pol continued. “It was perfectly reasonable for you to be concerned about our relationship. Please be assured, however, that Trip’s welfare is now my life’s primary concern, and that I will never allow him to come to harm if it is in my power to prevent it.”
Charles Tucker looked at his new daughter-in-law in admiration.
“Thank you, T’Pol…. I believe you.” He smiled at her and awkwardly patted her on the shoulder. “Now what I don’t believe is that Trip told me you’re almost my age.”
he continued. “How can a pretty little thing like you be over sixty years old?”
Both of T’Pol’s brows shot up and her jaw dropped as she was struck momentarily speechless by his question.
Suddenly Trip came through the door, slightly out of breath, carrying a tray with two pieces of pie and two glasses of milk.
“You’re in my seat, Dad!” he told his father, motioning with his head frantically for his father to get out of there quickly before he suffered the ire of an angry Vulcan.
Charles Tucker gave his son a surprised, innocent look, then got up and went inside.
Trip sat down on the swing with the tray in his lap. “Want your pie?’ he asked T’Pol innocently. He could feel her working herself up into a fine fit of temper through the bond.
“Why would you find it necessary to reveal my age to your parents?” she asked him, with an icy oh-so-Vulcan glare.
“Sorry, T’Pol.” he answered, his mouth full of pie. “It just slipped out. Mama was teasin’ me about robbin’ the cradle, you lookin’ so much like a little girl now that you’ve lost so much weight. I just told her you were a grown woman with more life experience than even she had. After that… well… they got the numbers outta me.”
He grimaced at her apologetically, swallowed his mouthful of pie, and took a huge swig of milk to wash it down.
T’Pol, somewhat mollified, took a dainty bite of her own piece of pie, closing her eyes briefly to better savor the taste. Trip laughed softly.
“I swear I’d rather sit and watch you eat pie rather than eat it myself. The feelin’s you’re sendin’ me are so delicious!”
T’Pol eyed him over her glass of milk, taking a sip and running her tongue over her upper lip. Trip’s body temperature went up by several degrees as he felt her anger at him suddenly transform itself into fierce desire.
“There are other physical sensations which I would also like to share with you.” she said softly, catching his gaze and holding it with her own. “Would you like to retire early this evening?”
“Fightin’ always did excite you, T’Pol.” he murmured with a wicked smile. “Maybe I should make you mad at me more often!”
T’Pol simply raised one eyebrow as if she had no idea what he was talking about, and took another dainty bite of pie.
Trip made eyes at T’Pol all evening at dinner. She attempted to ignore him, but Mary thought she saw T’Pol nearly smile at least three times that evening. At precisely nine pm, after helping with the dishes, Trip noisily and theatrically yawned, stretching his arms above his head,
“Boy, am I tired!” he announced loudly. “I think I’m gonna go to bed.” He smiled at T’Pol suggestively. “Wanna come too?” he asked, offering his hand to her.
“I believe that I will say goodnight as well.” she said in a dignified manner to Trip’s parents, taking Trip’s offered hand. “Thank you for a delicious meal once again.” she said over her shoulder as Trip pulled her out of the room.
Charles and Mary Tucker looked at each other and grinned, as their son, despite his professed fatigue, climbed up the stairs two at a time with T’Pol in tow.
Trip didn’t let go of T’Pol’s hand until they were both safely in the guest room with the door shut. She’d tortured him all evening with her bland Vulcan stares, while the desire blazing from her in the bond threatened to set him on fire from the inside out. As soon as the door clicked shut their clothes came off. Trip kissed T’Pol gently, his lips caressing first her lips, then her neck and shoulders. He traced the line of her collarbone with his fingers as they stood nude in the darkened room. She was still so thin and frail looking he was almost afraid to touch her. His fingers stroked the new, pale green scar on her left upper chest.
“Does it hurt?” he asked her.
Then she kissed him, and he knew the answer to his question. He could feel her sensations as well as his own, increasing in intensity a hundred-fold as they traversed the bond in an endless feedback loop. He gasped and shivered against her, passionately returning her kiss, and pressing his body to hers, craving the feel of her bare skin against his. She was much stronger than she looked, and pushed him toward the adjoining bathroom, covering his face with kisses as she led him to the shower.
“What’s this with you and showers?” he laughed softly, his voice breathy with passion. “Not that I’m complainin’, but it might be nice to make love lyin’ down for a change!” he whispered in her ear.
“Later…” she promised him huskily, as she pushed him beneath the stream of water from the showerhead and eagerly kissed him again.
“Sounds like she’s givin’ him the ‘affection’ he needs.” whispered Charles with a chuckle.
“Now you stop that, Charles Tucker!” Mary softly admonished him with a reluctant smile. She gently spanked his hand like a mother correcting a wayward toddler. “For shame!”
“How ‘bout givin’ me a little a that ‘affection’, old woman?” he asked, waggling his brows suggestively at her with a grin.
Mary giggled like a schoolgirl and blushed.
“I thought you’d never ask, old man!” she answered, smiling back at him. They got up from the swing and walked hand in hand back into the house.
“Would you like to stay a bit?” asked Mary Tucker. “We’ve got pecan pie.”
“Sorry, ma’am.” Mayweather said reluctantly, “I had to get special permission to land here, and I have to keep to a tight schedule to avoid domestic air traffic. Maybe another time.”
“Suit yerself.” said Charles with a grin. “But you don’t know what yer missin’!”
“Are you and Commander T’Pol ready to go?” Mayweather asked Trip, eyeing both of them and their meager baggage.
“Can you give us a minute?” asked Trip.
“Sure, Commander. I’ll be in the shuttlepod.” said Mayweather, nodding in sympathetic understanding. He walked back in the direction of the shuttlepod carrying their bags.
Trip turned back to his parents.
“Bye, Mama.” he said, hugging his mother tightly. She had tears in her eyes, but a smile on her face, as if she were forcing herself not to cry.
“Bye, Daddy.” Trip turned to his father. They gripped right forearms tightly, then pulled each other into a back-slapping bear hug. “I’m really gonna miss y’all.”
“Y’all come visit us again anytime.” said Mary. She approached T’Pol.
“I know Vulcans don’t hug.” she said. “But you’re my daughter now, and I’ll be damned if I’m gonna let you go without one.” Mary wrapped both arms around a very surprised T’Pol and squeezed. T’Pol looked at Trip helplessly over his mother’s shoulder, then raised her right hand to awkwardly pat Mary on the shoulder. Mary stepped back. Charles stepped forward.
“I’m afraid if I hug you like I just hugged Trip, I might break you!” he said, laughing. Then he took her right hand in his and met her eyes seriously.
“Ma’am, you are the finest lady I have ever met… with the exception of my wife, of course!” He glanced at his wife, giving her the trademark Tucker grin. She returned the favor. Then he turned his attention back to T’Pol. “I am very proud to have you as my daughter-in-law. Thank you for taking care of our son.” Charles Tucker, Jr. then raised T’Pol’s hand to his lips and kissed it.
T’Pol placed her left hand on his cheek. “Now I know whom to thank for Trip’s gentleness and gallantry.” she said with sincerity.
Charles smiled and nodded, looking somewhat embarrassed, and stepped back to join his wife.
The shuttlepod’s engines roared to life. Trip and T’Pol turned and walked together toward it. He gave her his hand to help her in, then shut the door.
Mary and Charles watched as the shuttlepod took off and vanished into the distance.
“I think he’s gonna be okay!” Mary said, smiling up at her husband through her tears.
“They’re gonna be okay!” Charles agreed, wrapping his arm around her shoulders and giving them a squeeze. He kept his arm securely around her as they walked back to the house.
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