Disclaimer: I own nasing! Really, I don’t. All you see here (that you recognize, anyway) is the creation of someone else. I take no credit.
Description: T’Pol meets with Soval after Trip’s death.
Author's Note: I almost feel like I should apologize for this fic in advance considering the strong, mixed reaction people had to ‘Parting and Never Parted’. In hindsight, I should have foreseen it. My Enterprise fics to that point had been, on the whole (and in my book), fluffy; anyone who is familiar with my Stargate fics are more familiar with the true nature of my Muse and would not have been surprised. I feel like the Trip/T’Pol fans were rather rudely introduced to the beast that is my Muse. I wrote this fic some time ago but didn’t post it because it would almost seem cruel. I don’t like what Bermaga did with the finale, I think it was a travesty, but neither am I capable of truly dismissing the events and believing they did not happen. I’d like to, but I can’t.
The Vulcan Embassy in San Francisco, California, was quite possibly one of the quietest places on the Earth. Certainly the most quiet for a location so populated. The halls were whisper-silent but for the soft brush of robe hems on tile and muted conversations between individuals with hearing that far surpassed that of humans. It was quiet now, but five days ago it had not been so. The delegation to form the alliance between Vulcans, humans, Tellarites, Andorians, and another space-faring species had caused unpleasant but necessary havoc in the embassy’s halls. Humans had roamed, on business, and where there were humans there was an atmosphere of barely-controlled chaos. Ambassador Soval sat in his office and thought on his interplanetary colleagues. Fascinating. After more than twenty years as a representative of Vulcan, dealing directly with humanity, he had come to know that humans were usually more contained than they seemed. While they always seemed like they were on the verge of an emotional outburst and uncontrollable behavior they taught him better by proving him wrong.
Still, knowing that humans were not as unpredictable as they appeared did not negate the fact that it was peaceful to have their presence sparse in the embassy halls once again.
Ambassador Soval needlessly checked his chronometer and dutifully set aside his work. She would be on time, that was without question.
A low-pitched chime from his door summoning system and Soval called out, voice calm and even, “Come in.”
The door slid aside and a slim, elegant woman stepped into Soval’s office with all the grace and certainty of one belonging to such a sturdy, assured race. She stood before him, properly still and respectful, until he initiated conversation.
“Commander T’Pol. It is agreeable to see you.” He lifted his hand from his desktop and opened his fingers in the ta’al salute of his people.
T’Pol pulled one hand from behind her back and returned the gesture. “It is well to see you also, Ambassador.”
“Sit,” he gestured toward the seat opposite his and T’Pol moved quietly to obey. Soval studied the woman closely before speaking. “I had not expected your absence at Captain Archer’s speech.”
T’Pol’s posture stiffened and her eyes flickered, but only fleetingly. For a Vulcan, even fleeting was telling, and Soval listened and watched closely. T’Pol was unique and, over the years, Soval had found a certain scientific interest in studying her. Prior to her service aboard the Enterprise, Soval himself was the Vulcan with the most contact with humans. Among his people, he was considered the authority on the species.
But even holding that position in his society he’d never lived with humans, he’d never fought alongside them or watched them weather emotions terrifying to a Vulcan, he’d never witnessed so many things that Soval discovered humans considered basic to their nature. He came to understand he could not know a great deal about humans because many things could not be told, they had to be experienced.
T’Pol was his window to that world of the human experience, and whether she suspected his interest in her in that capacity or not, she still relented to his curiosity. She consented to meetings and answered questions even though she was not part of the Science Directorate and did not answer to Vulcan superiors.
T’Pol took a moment to noticeably steel herself. “I was present for most of Captain Archer’s speech; I chose to remain in the anteroom.”
“I see. It was an acceptable speech.”
T’Pol gave a faint nod, without thinking, and Soval was intrigued as always. Surely without intention, T’Pol had ‘picked up’ a number of subtle human habits. When first observing them, years ago, Soval had thought T’Pol was merely mimicking human behavior in an effort to better relate to her shipmates. It was small and innocuous, little things that did not run counter to Vulcan ways, and Soval had seen the logic in it. Over time, however, Soval came to realize that T’Pol was not aware of her new, human idiosyncrasies. Rather, she had adopted them unknowingly and continued to use them in pure Vulcan presence without conscious awareness.
T’Pol nodded like a human and said, “The captain was no doubt pleased he did not ‘mess up’.”
“I have found Captain Archer to be quite capable when put to the task ahead of him.”
Soval watched T’Pol a moment. She had not changed so much from the outside, but she was so different from the Vulcan he’d assigned to Enterprise years ago. It was in her bearing, in her presence, in the very way she breathed. She was acculturated. She showed uncommon daring to have risked so much. No other Vulcan had braved to immerse themselves so wholly in humanity. No other Vulcan had surrendered so much control to understand their human neighbors. It was not a task taken lightly, for T’Pol was permanently changed for her bravery. She was less Vulcan than others... every day it seemed her Vulcan core bled more from green to red.
She was an excellent case study, but in Soval’s estimation not an example to be followed without extreme caution.
“Your tour of duty aboard Enterprise ended yesterday, did it not?”
T’Pol stiffened again, her face gave a slight flinch, and Soval was alert to it all. T’Pol folded her hands pointedly in her lap and looked directly at Soval. “It did.”
“Have you plans for your next assignment with Starfleet?”
T’Pol looked slightly to the left then back to the ambassador. “I am still considering my options. Starfleet has offered me several positions.”
“That was to be expected. Do you find any of them agreeable?”
T’Pol started to sigh and caught herself, sitting rigidly, and Soval was taken aback by the nearly overt emotional gesture. T’Pol had certainly been lost to the din of humanity. To her credit, she maintained her sanity in the sea of emotional turmoil completely human company offered.
“All of them have fascinating aspects; however...” T’Pol’s pause seemed uneasy, wary, but her voice was unchanged as she continued, “I have been considering resigning from Starfleet.”
Soval had not expected that. T’Pol was young, she had several decades to explore and serve with her human companions if she so wished, and as her past behavior would indicate that was indeed her preference. And she had no place waiting for her with Vulcan. To choose such a path without a planned future was... illogical.
“What makes you consider this course of action, Commander?”
T’Pol tensed again and her guard slipped just enough for Soval to sense her agitation and anguish. He sat back a quarter-inch. She was in distress! He stared at her, her dark eyes fixed on his desk, her hands clasped together tightly in her lap, her nostrils moving slightly with her breathing (which was modulating for Vulcan calming techniques).
T’Pol opened her mouth, faltered, just barely darted out her tongue to lick her lips in a supremely human gesture, then she said in a voice less solid, “I believe time away from my past on Enterprise would be... recuperative.”
T’Pol leaned back fractionally and Soval waited for resistance. His was curiosity with no power or authority behind it. She could take offense and refuse to answer if she so chose.
Instead of Soval’s expected reaction, T’Pol seemed to give up and resign herself to his questions. That was very unlike her and Soval began to experience something a little more than mere professional concern for her.
“I have... suffered loss aboard Enterprise. I require proper time to mourn those losses.”
While not a shocking revelation in content, Soval could not have predicted T’Pol would reveal so much. She may as well have proclaimed her emotional attachment to the ship and its crew. Or, rather, one crewman in particular.
“It is logical to presume you speak of Commander Tucker.”
T’Pol was unmoving, her eyes locked on her own hands, but a tidal wave, brief but intense, of grief and loneliness welled from her. Soval felt it like a cry straight to his mind. She took three measured breaths, refused to lift her eyes to Soval, and instead said lowly, “I grieve for him.”
Soval felt his control of the situation slip. T’Pol had introduced an element of humanness, an emotional factor, that was not typical for a Vulcan to broach. T’Pol, in so little words, had confessed a strong emotional attachment to the late Commander Tucker. Vulcan language was succinct but loaded. No Vulcan had ever used those words to speak of a human before.
“You were attached to him,” Soval ventured, on uncertain ground, cast into unfamiliar territory.
“We were bonded.”
That, of course, was not news to Soval. Likely most humans, even T’Pol and Commander Tucker’s shipmates, did not know of the profound connection between the engineer and science officer. But a Vulcan could sense the bond. Soval remembered the first time he had been in the presence of Commander Tucker and Commander T’Pol after they had bonded. There was a oneness to their psychic energy, a unity of katras that any Vulcan could detect. They were one in mind. The effects were like an odor on Commander Tucker. He became, unspokenly, the most preferred human to whom Vulcan chose to speak. An element of Vulcan had been added to him, a sense of the familiar in the alien, and it was a buffer between the usually rigid line between human and Vulcan. In subtle ways, Commander Tucker changed for his bond to T’Pol. The alterations were such that a Vulcan could detect them instantly, even if humans never noticed the changes for their insensitivity to them. In a crowd of humans it could be assured that any Vulcan would ‘home in’ on Commander Tucker like a traveler in a foreign land to any hint of home.
Soval, too, had inveritably become more fond of Commander Tucker after his ‘Vulcanization’, once the surprise of discovering the commander’s Vulcan telepathic bond to T’Pol had abated. While Commander Tucker’s outward manner remained annoyingly human, within him was the will to understand Vulcans in a way and fullness no other human had tried, and Vulcans responded to that. To Vulcan, Commander Tucker was more progress toward understanding humans than the delegation.
“Is his loss as powerful in your mind as a Vulcan bondmate’s would be?”
T’Pol didn’t flinch so much as just look sick and weary for a telling two seconds. She suffered Soval’s questions where even Soval would not were he in her place. He ventured personal questions because he had learned T’Pol would answer them. Someday he would ask why she answered, but he suspected he knew the answer. T’Pol knew she had more answers about humans than Soval could ever glean through his work at the embassy, and T’Pol wanted humans to have a fair representation. While Soval might hold the title of ambassador, T’Pol was truly one by nature.
“If it is not then I cannot imagine the pain of the termination of a Vulcan matebond.” She looked down and took in a breath and it said it all. Soval knew that T’Pol hurt as greatly as any Vulcan bondmate who’d lost their partner.
“Your katra speaks for you, T’Pol, and it tells me you were as bound to Commander Tucker as any Vulcan bondmates are to one another,” Soval said kindly.
T’Pol was too heartsick to startle, but she did lift her eyes to him. Understanding passed between them.
“Have you attempted to meditate to relieve the discomfort?”
T’Pol nodded again. Human. “I have done nothing else for five days. It has helped only marginally.”
Soval glanced down at his desk and considered his comm panel. “Perhaps a priestess of the Kolinahru would be able to ease your suffering. I could arrange for you to meet with one of the resident healers.”
T’Pol seemed to relax. “That would be... agreeable.”
“Then it will be done.” Soval looked back at T’Pol and asked, “Commander?”
T’Pol met Soval’s eyes.
“You had great admiration for Commander Tucker.”
T’Pol paused a second. “He was a brilliant engineer and a consummate Starfleet officer.”
“But more than that.”
T’Pol’s left eyebrow twitched. “More than that, I cherished him.”
“Out of professional curiosity, Commander, I am compelled to ask what, in a human like Commander Charles Tucker, could so win a Vulcan as he seems to have laid claim to you?”
T’Pol honestly considered her reply. She sat a long time in the quiet office formulating her response, then she looked again at Soval. “I have come to the conclusion that Commander Tucker was more instructive to me on the ways of humans than the entire crew of Enterprise. He made me understand humans by forcing me to understand myself in ways that were not Vulcan.” T’Pol frowned ever-so-faintly. “Commander Tucker taught me friendship by befriending me. He showed me courage by protecting me. He showed me humor by amusing me. He showed me valor by fighting alongside me. He showed me compassion by supporting me. He showed me fear by scaring me. He showed me grief by confiding in me. He showed me weakness by trusting me. He showed me the human heart by awakening the Vulcan heart, and he showed me wonder by bringing the two together as I never suspected possible. He showed me the happiness of a friend, the tenderness of a companion, the strength of a warrior, the heart of a poet, the devotion of a brother, the love of a father, and the power of the selflessness in humanity by his last act.”
“He was important to you.”
T’Pol lifted one eyebrow pointedly. “He was important to me in many ways. He will continue to be unchallenged in importance in my life for the lessons I have learned in my time as his bondmate and friend.” T’Pol went silent, seemed to draw back faintly into the chair, and took an unsteady breath. “I have embraced many things not Vulcan for the affections of one human, and I will forever answer for those actions. I will not defend them, nor will I feel shame for them. Commander Tucker was special among humans. He has taught me sacrifice and he has taught me courage to do things I would not believed I could ever attempt. He has taught me lessons a Vulcan can never know without so passionate a mentor.” T’Pol closed her eyes. “My latest lesson at his unintended hand has been to learn regret.”
Soval would not criticize T’Pol for the unVulcan-like confessions. He would not utter a word. What he learned from them outweighed the wrong in her actions and feelings from a Vulcan point of view. In the interest of education all was excusable.
“Shall he always be bondmate to you, T’Pol?”
T’Pol looked toward the ceiling, as though thinking, then said, “In my meditations I have tried to distill into a single, accurate label what Trip has been to me, in what way he has had the most impact on my life.”
Soval would not point out the intimate, improper ‘nickname’ she had used, clearly unknowingly.
“Have you reached a conclusion to your thoughts on the matter?”
T’Pol nodded faintly. “I have. I accept that Commander Tucker will always be a hundred things to me. He was my bondmate, no passage of time will change that fact. He was the father of my child, nothing will alter that truth, either. But beyond those items which may be recorded as raw data in the annals of history, he will forever remain my friend. He was my confidante and companion. He will live in memory as those things of which a Vulcan does not speak.”
Soval acceded to that point without resistance. There were matters of the heart, especially the Vulcan heart, that were never shared with more than two souls. Whether one heart was human rather than Vulcan mattered little.
T’Pol inhaled and it seemed to brace her, empower and embolden her. “But above all else, I believe Commander Tucker will hold an honored place in my thoughts and katra for being one thing in particular to me. A teacher.”
Soval had no words that would do. T’Pol spoke not of Vulcan things, but human, and T’Pol’s knowledge of humanity dwarfed Soval’s. Still, something needed to be said, some acknowledgement that Soval, at least, would not condemn her for her feelings. That she felt taught him too much for him to shun.
“Teachers are a rare, invaluable thing. Even on Vulcan it is agreed they are a thing to be treasured.”
T’Pol only nodded. Human. A human Vulcan underneath the brows and ears.
Soval would feel for her as that and not the Vulcan she had once been.
“I grieve with thee.”