"The 2nd Tenet"
Author's Note: Going forward, italics will represent mental conversation unless otherwise part of an obvious verbal dialogue.
“Hey, T’Pol?” Trip stood in front of the mirror in the bathroom eyeing the healing wound in his shoulder.
Yes? Unlike her bondmate, T’Pol saw no reason to shout across her quarters. She finished placing the meditation pillows on the bench before crossing to the doorway. T’Pol observed, with an odd fascination, as her human poked at his raw flesh. “What are you attempting to accomplish?”
“Huh?” Trip shot her a glance before returning to his inspection. “Uh, nothing really. Just checking it out. You think I can go without the sling now? Only hurts a little bit.” He continued to prod the remaining inflamed area surrounding the initial wound site.
When she failed to respond, he looked up again. “What?” he asked in response to the bemusement he felt through their mental connection. “Haven’t you ever picked at a scab before?”
“Never,” she replied flatly. “Desist immediately. It is unsanitary.”
“What are you talkin’ about? My hands are clean,” he exclaimed.
T’Pol, not swayed at all, merely lifted a brow. Desist or I will have Dr. Phlox “bust out the bloodsuckers.”
Trip burst out laughing. “Did you really just say ‘bloodsuckers’? For that matter, did you really just say ‘bust’?”
“I said nothing.”
“Ok.” Did you really just think ‘bloodsuckers?’ Trip continued to chuckle for another minute before managing to control himself.
T’Pol simply ignored him and looked at his shoulder. “It appears to be nearly healed.” She leaned in for a closer inspection. “The logical thing to do, however, is to consult your physician,” she chided gently.
Trip made a face and reached for his T-shirt. “Yeah, yeah, yeah. I hear you.” He tugged his shirt over his head then reached for T’Pol, pulling her to stand with him in front of the mirror.
T’Pol placidly gazed at their reflection, relaxing into him when Trip drew her back into his bigger body, his arms circling her small waist. She studied each of them individually for several minutes before focusing on the sight of them as a single unit. A sense of satisfaction permeated her being, easily sensed by her husband. “Ma etek natyan teretuhr lau etek shetau weh-lo'uk do tum t'on1.”
Trip mentally translated the softly spoken Vulcan dialect. “Is that from the Kir’shara?” he asked, somewhat impressed by the message. “Part of that IDIC stuff?”
T’Pol turned in his embrace and reached to wrap her arms around his neck. It is of the same theme.
He leaned down and rested his forehead against hers. Same song, different verse, huh? To his delight, her amusement trickled through the bond to lap lovingly at his consciousness. He closed the negligible distance between them, his lips softly dancing against hers. Pretty neat idea, darlin’. If we ever need a motto, that one would be damn near perfect.
T’Pol strongly agreed, demonstrating this by deepening their kiss and pulling him in tighter to her body. Trip’s tongue brushed her lips, and she opened them in welcome as shockwaves of pleasure skittered through her veins. Once thought unsanitary and distasteful, she had become enamored with this decidedly human form of expression during their one night of “sexual exploration.” She was no longer hesitant in either initiating or participating in it with her bondmate. The feelings it evoked, though not as strong as the ozh’esta2, were wickedly sexual and completely different.
A long sybaritic moment passed before Trip required oxygen and was forced to release her full lips. He, again, rested his forehead against hers and quietly gasped for air. Damn but you’re good at that!
Though I have no other frame of reference, you also seem to be above average in ability, ashayam.
Trip chuckled softly and folded her in closer to his body, his face buried in her shoulder.
T’Pol squeezed him back and marveled at this other uniquely human method of expressing affection, realizing she could quickly get used to it, as well. Especially as it strengthened their already ridiculously strong bond, allowing thoughts and feelings to flow more readily, and she soaked it up like a sponge. Her thoughts turned to their shared evening with her en’ahr’at, Soval. The time spent in meditation with him and Trip had assisted her in untold ways, allowing her to know a peace that hadn’t existed within her mind for some time. Her ruminations also served as a reminder all the things she needed to share with her adun. It was her duty and desire to see that he never entered a cultural battle with her people unarmed. With that in mind, she lifted her head.
“Trip, may we speak?”
Trip was getting used to that being a T’Polism for ‘we need to talk about our relationship.’ It was the only time she ever asked him that question. And given what she was just thinking about, he had a rough idea what direction she was headed. “Cultural boot camp? Sure,” he murmured, pressing his lips to hers one more time before separating. “Get in your pajamas so we can get comfortable.”
T’Pol did as requested and soon found herself ensconced on her bunk amongst several pillows; propped against the bulkhead next to her mate. She sat cross-legged next to him, her hands fidgeting nervously in her lap. Trip sat beside her in an identical posture, though calmly and expectantly, waiting for her to begin.
T’Pol decided to start simply and work forward in whatever direction the conversation took them. “Thank you.”
“For showing respect to Soval this evening. Other than my parents, no one else knows or has known how important he is to me. You behaved as though you are aware and treated him accordingly. And I sense that you did not discern this because of our bond, but more because of your own innate understanding of me, and I am humbled.” T’Pol sent forth such a huge burst of affection into Trip’s mind he was momentarily stunned by the sweetness of it.
Trip bowed his head and breathed deeply. He had to clear his throat before stating quietly and resolutely, “He’s the only family you have left, darlin’. I mean, ‘sides me and my folks and Enterprise. Isn’t that what bein’ your en’ahr’at makes him? Family?”
“Yes,” she whispered in response.
“Well,” Trip sighed. “One thing I learned from your mama was how important families are in Vulcan society. I mean, it’s why ya married Koss an’ all…’cause family comes first. Right?” He turned his head to the right, seeking confirmation.
T’Pol met his gaze, her brown eyes becoming hazel in the dim candlelight. She rose up on her knees, pivoted and threw one leg over Trip’s lap to straddle his hips. Her belly flush against his, she placed her hands high on his chest. Trip’s eyes widened at her quick move, barely getting his hands clear before she sat down in his lap. The emotions flowing through their bond made him smile, but he just remained slumped against the bulkhead with her in his lap, waiting for her to continue.
You are correct. Family does come first. Except when it interferes with the bond.
So…bond first, family second, but more often than not, bond and family are connected…so they both come first?
“Precisely,” T’Pol murmured. “Had we known of our bond nine months ago, I would not have married Koss, could not have, nor would my mother have expected me to.”
Trip rubbed his hands up and down her back soothingly. “Well, we can’t do anything about that now, but why do ya suppose we didn’t know about it then? Why didn’t I end up in your white room before I left for Columbia?”
“One reason is that I did not believe a mating bond could form between a Vulcan and a Human. And one of the major components to a mating bond is the need for our minds to be closer. Your ending up within my meditation place while away on Columbia was the bond’s efforts to bring us together. While you were on Enterprise it was not necessary to go to those lengths.” She hesitated, unsure about how to continue.
Trip felt nervousness, apprehension, and shame radiating from his bondmate and wondered why she was so upset. T’Pol? Are there other reasons?
So great was her shame, she could not speak of it aloud. In the bond...there can be no secrets, Adun. None.
Okay? Trip did not understand why this was such a big deal. Darlin’, I know you’ve got decades of memories of a life I know nothing about. You’ll share ‘em with me won’t you? At her nod, he continued probing. Then what’s the big deal? What’s got…us…all twisted up inside?
T’Pol’s shame was overwhelming. It is difficult to speak of. Your opinion of me matters more to me than anyone else’s.
And you think that’s gonna change? Trip was mystified. I love you completely, T’Pol. Even if I’m upset about what you’re gonna tell me, my love’s not gonna go away.
T’Pol stared down, refusing to meet his gaze. It wasn’t just his love she feared losing. She never wanted to lose his respect. She slowly ran her hands over his chest in nervous agitation; up and down, back and forth. You haven’t had time to develop the skill to read my deepest thoughts. You will, eventually, but what I need to tell you cannot wait for you to discover on your own. She hesitated then reached up to cup his face in one hand. And you shouldn’t have to, ashayam.
Trip met her gaze evenly, without judgment. “So just tell me,” he stated softly. And as he’d learned to do over the years, he waited patiently for her to continue.
T’Pol dropped her hand and allowed her head to also drop so her forehead rested against his shoulder. She could not look at him. You are aware my control is not what it was before we entered the Expanse.
Trip’s hands went from her waist to her back, wrapping her in a comforting embrace. I know. He’d often speculated to himself about it.
My encounter with the Seleya affected me badly.
Trip pulled her even tighter to his body, one hand lifting to the back of her head. I remember.
The Trellium, however, allowed me to access certain emotions. She paused to breathe deeply as she echoed a similar confession she’d had with Dr. Phlox over a year ago. I wanted more.
Trip’s hands stilled, and he held his breath. What do you mean?
T’Pol squirmed slightly on his lap. I devised a way to synthesize it so I could inject minute amounts directly into my bloodstream.
Trip’s breath whooshed out, and a wave of nausea swept over him. He couldn’t tell, however, if the feeling was his…or T’Pol’s. His mind raced with questions, admonishments, and emotions: fear, anger, despair, worry, need, and love. As he’d reassured her mere minutes ago, the love didn’t go away.
In her agitated state, T’Pol could not keep up with his thoughts. Trip? Please say something.
“Gimme a minute,” he murmured, eyes shut tightly. To his credit, he did not lesson his hold on his wife one iota. In fact, he strengthened it, knowing her sturdier Vulcan frame could take it. He remained thus for several more minutes before forcefully and abruptly lifting her off him in a flurry of movement, shoving her to the side as he bolted for the bathroom. To her shock, she heard him quickly throw up the meager contents of his stomach.
T’Pol rushed in after him only to see her mate racked by violent dry heaves. She grabbed a washcloth and quickly soaked it with cold water then sank to her knees behind him. She placed a hand on his back and waited for him to calm, sending soothing thoughts across the bond all the while. When he was finished, she gently wiped his face with the cloth then assisted him to the sink so he could rinse out his mouth.
A few minutes later they were back in the bunk in almost exactly the same position they were in before Trip got sick; only now, T’Pol’s concern for him altered her focus. They sat chest to chest with her legs wrapped around his waist, but her hands bracketed his jaw as she gazed upon his ashen features. Ashayam?
Trip smiled weakly at her. I think that was for both of us.
T’Pol lifted her brow in confusion and waited for him to clarify.
All your negative emotions were churnin’ up my guts somethin’ fierce, baby. Not to mention…the thought of you poisonin’ yourself just twists me all to hell.
T’Pol looked away, chagrined and mortified at both her past actions and the, as yet, unknown impact on her bondmate.
Hey. Trip reached up and turned her face back to his. Don’t go thinkin’ the worst before I have a chance to get all the facts.
T’Pol merely nodded in acceptance. What else could she possibly do? The only way for them to move beyond this part of her history was to go through it.
“How long did you do this to yourself?” His tone was nearly Vulcan in its inflection, calm, emotionless, non-judgmental.
Approximately five Terran months. After the first couple injections…I became addicted.
When exactly did you stop? Trip felt a wave of remorse from T’Pol.
I approached Dr. Phlox for help following the events at Azati Prime.
Trip sighed, now understanding the remorse. “So you were on Trellium while in command during the battle.”
“Yes,” she whispered, head bowed.
Trip tugged her forward until her head fell to his shoulder, his arms wrapping around her completely. With her secure in his embrace, he continued with his questions. I know what addiction does to a person, T’Pol. Have you used any Trellium since tellin’ Phlox?
No! She paused, tightened her grip on her bondmate. I went through a period of withdrawal, but Dr. Phlox assisted me.
He’s the only one who knows?
T’Pol nodded her head against his shoulder.
Can ya tell me why ya did it?
T’Pol sighed into his neck. In the days following my exposure on the Seleya, I was able to access many emotions. I found a few to be highly pleasurable. I wanted more of those. T’Pol hesitated, but eventually continued. I wanted more of the emotions I felt…when I interacted with you. She brought forth in her mind all of those feelings and showed him exactly why she began abusing the Trellium.
Trip quickly looked down at her. The gift of their bond allowed him to almost put himself in her place, and he actually understood why she did it. He certainly didn’t condone her actions, but he definitely understood them. He sighed. Are we together now only because of the Trellium addiction?
I am unable to state with certainty, but I do not believe so. Vulcan mating bonds form over long periods of time. It is why married couples must live together the first year, so the bond can be established. I am more inclined to believe our bond began to form as soon as we began your neuro-pressure treatments.
That startled Trip. “How do you figure?”
You recall our conversation early this morning regarding Vulcans being touch-telepaths?
Sure. It’s one of the reasons I asked Malcolm to come up with that exit plan.
Vulcans, especially Vulcan females, do not have casual friendships, Trip. Despite that, I had developed great respect for you and had begun to think of you…as a friend…prior to our entering the Expanse. The intimacy inherent in Vulcan neuro-pressure would have facilitated the development of a bond between us, as we were already considered “close,” by Vulcan standards. It is my belief we would still have bonded without the Trellium, but we may not have had sexual intimacy.
Trip sighed. “So we’re together because of my insomnia?”
T’Pol shook her head against his shoulder and muttered, “We are together because I cared enough about your well-being to agree to Dr. Phlox’s request to engage in neuro-pressure.”
Trip relaxed slightly at her admission. He rubbed his hands up and down her back while he thought about everything she’d just told him. He weighed it against everything he knew about Vulcans, in general and her, in particular. When he finally felt satisfied with the status of their bond and its beginnings, he re-focused on the Trellium abuse.
What damage did you do? Trip sensed her confusion at his question. What damage did the Trellium abuse end up doin’ to ya?
Many of the neural, synaptic pathways to my emotional centers have degraded. That may be another reason I did not realize we were bonded. Dr. Phlox says they may never heal. If possible, T’Pol sank even further into Trip. At this point, there was no separation between the two. I have it on good authority that they will not, and I will have to learn to live with these emotions for the rest of my life.
Trip peered down at his wife and frowned. “What’re you talkin’ about? What authority?”
T’Pol sat back a fraction, only far enough to bring his forehead down to meet her own. Look. At that, T’Pol brought forth her memories of meeting Lorian’s mother and the entire conversation that took place between them.
Trip gasped. She…you…were alive!? Why didn’t anyone tell me? Why didn’t Lorian mention it? I would’ve wanted to see her!
She didn’t want to see you. His hurt stabbed into her psyche. It would have been too difficult for her, Adun. T’Pol cupped his face. She lost you entirely too soon, and it nearly killed her.
That shut him up for a moment, but certainly not for long. How? He searched her eyes. How did it almost kill her?
T’Pol’s eyes widened. You have felt what the severing of Elizabeth’s bond has done to me. Imagine how much worse it will be should I lose my bond with you. T’Pol shuddered and began to tremble, her breathing quickening. I do not think I would survive it.
Trip felt extreme nausea sweep over him again and was confident, this time, it was a manifestation of T’Pol’s feelings, not his own. He pulled her tightly to him again, holding her as close as he possibly could. He held her for the next half hour, reassuring her of his presence and devotion.
After some time, he nuzzled her nape. “You got any more big bombs to drop on me, darlin’?”
“That was the biggest,” she mumbled into his shoulder. “The rest are merely small-caliber munitions.”
“Oh, good,” Trip teased. “It’s all downhill from here then.”
Finally, her composure restored, T’Pol sat back and peered up at him. You are disappointed in me.
Trip sighed and reached up to cup her jaw, his thumb sweeping under her ear. “I don’t know what I am. I think,” he paused and looked away to gather the necessary words. “I think if we didn’t have this bond…I might be disappointed and angry and hurt. But because we do, I know exactly what you were going through and everything you felt at the time. So I am and I am not…all of those things.” Trip gave T’Pol a small smile. I think I’d like to talk to Phlox about it. Would that be ok?
T’Pol nodded and looked down. He needs to know about our bond, as well.
So let’s go see him first thing in the morning.
T’Pol agreed and closed her eyes, the confessing of her deepest, darkest secret having sapped the last of her energy.
Trip gripped his wife under her bottom and lifted her, turning to lay her down on the bunk. He left her only long enough to extinguish all the candles and was quickly back at T’Pol’s side. He crawled over her so his back was against the bulkhead then pulled her against his much larger frame. With her back to his chest, he wrapped his left arm around her waist.
T’Pol latched onto his hand and brought it up to nestle between her breasts so she was completely enveloped by him.
Trip smiled and pressed a kiss to the back of her head. Not the kind of boot camp I expected an hour ago, darlin’.
Actually, it was. That was a prime example of the second tenet to achieving balance in the Vulcan mating bond.
We just spent an hour covering a tenet?
Yes, T’Pol thought sleepily
. Well next time, warn me when we’re gonna hit on one.
T’Pol could feel the tension in her body lessen at his thoughts, sensing his playfulness. Why would I want to do that?
I might need to take notes!
T’Pol responded with amusement. Then be advised of the second tenet, Adun…in the bond...there can be no secrets.
Well, dammit, I didn’t bring a PADD to bed!
1 Ma etek natyan teretuhr lau etek shetau weh-lo'uk do tum t'on = We have differences. May we, together, become greater than the sum of both of us.
2 ozh’esta = finger embrace
The Story continues in Hematology, Perspiration, and Lachrymal Angst.
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