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: Trip goes home seeking comfort.
Kathleen Tucker looked up from her novel at the unexpected chime of the front door's bell. Frowning in curiosity, the elder Tucker woman marked her place and set down her book. Kathleen rose from her seat on one end of the couch and moved to the front door.
The moment the door opened to reveal the visitor Kathleen's eyes widened and her lips parted before she could speak. "Trip! Honey, I had no idea you were back on Earth! Why didn't you call? Come in here," Kathleen reached out, snagged her son's arm, and before he could utter a single word she'd engulfed him in a hug. She closed her eyes and reveled a moment in holding her boy safe in her arms. Ever since the Xindi attack, ever since she'd lost her daughter, she had been so very worried every moment of every day that something would happen to Trip to take her son from her. Because he was standing in their home she took a moment to think of nothing else but the joy of his solid form in her arms. She tucked her face into the crook of his neck and inhaled with a maternal smile. So many years and lightyears but he still smelled the same as he had as a child. There were hints of his adult life on him, probably the smell of Enterprise, but underneath she smelled pure Trip Tucker.
"Mom," Trip said softly, and Kathleen's happiness at having her son unexpectedly home was shot with a dark pulse of concern and fear. There was something in Trip's voice, in the slackened state of his muscles as she hugged him, that told her something was wrong... as soon as she let herself attend to it.
Kathleen let him go and stepped back to look at him closely.
Trip was wearing a Starfleet Academy shirt and blue slacks, an ensemble Kathleen had come to know well in her off-duty Starfleet son. She noticed that he was thinner than he'd been four years ago, but there was far more to it than merely his slighter build. While four years had passed since he was stationed on Enterprise, his eyes and face had aged three-fold that amount of time. Kathleen was not surprised by that. She had watched her son age rapidly over the years. It had not been a steady transformation. The years didn't start to race for her son until the Xindi. She'd watched her boy turn into a war-beaten, bitter man, and it had been a second heartache added to the loss of her daughter.
But that was a year ago. Since then Trip had aged again in leaps and bounds, and Kathleen felt panic to wonder why. Her boy's bright blue eyes were hollow, his mouth a grim line rather than the perpetual boyish smirk he normally wore. He was looking at her and it was not as a boy to his mother, it was a wounded man to the only place he knew to go.
"Trip, what's wrong? Has something happened?"
Trip's eyes flashed then, not levity and high spirits, but pain... sheer, untempered pain. Kathleen felt it in her own heart like a sympathetic ache. Trip took a slow breath and opened his mouth as though to speak but the air left his lungs unvoiced and he seemed to sag. Kathleen reached out to hold his arms in worry.
Trip's eyes skittered away to rest on the dark corners of the living room. "I just... can I stay a few days?"
Kathleen blinked. "Trip, you don't even have to ask to come here, stay as long as you want. Honey, what's wrong?"
Trip shook his head, a defeated, weak gesture, and again the intake of air only to leave him that much smaller for its exhalation. He looked like he was withering, physically shrinking before her, and Kathleen was terrified.
"I... I'm tired. I'm gonna take a nap."
"Mom... please, I just wanna rest."
Kathleen wanted to argue, to pull her son to her and take away his pain, for he was clearly hurting. She wanted to be a mother and protect him, but when he looked at her she saw he had come seeking just that. He was home because it was shelter to him, and that did not necessitate burrowing in his mother's arms.
Kathleen slowly dropped her arms back to her sides and nodded. "Okay, Trip. Where are your things?" she looked around his person for bags of luggage.
"I.. ah... didn't bring any."
That was wrong, it was unlike Trip. It was like he'd just started to walk, without a predetermined destination, and ended up at his parents' front door.
But he was home, and Kathleen could take care of him from there.
"Okay, Honey, that's fine. You go ahead and get some sleep; I'll tell your father you're home."
Trip nodded feebly and moved slowly past her toward the hallway. Kathleen turned and watched as he walked languidly down the hall and into his room without a second's pause, no lingering to refamiliarize himself with his childhood home, no nostalgic cast of his eyes. Trip went directly to his room and shut the door, draping the house in heavy silence.
Kathleen frowned to herself and momentarily debated leaving. Charles was in the barn working on a peach-truck and Kathleen felt hesitant to leave the house, to leave Trip.
A few minutes standing in the deathly quiet of the house finally convinced her she could leave for a few minutes to tell Charles their son was home... and that something was clearly wrong.
Kathleen usually greeted the sight of Jonathan Archer on the vidscreen with affection. Jon had been Trip's friend for many years and had become almost an honorary son to Kathleen and her husband. Jonathan was polite, congenial, and had a boyish sense of fun and adventure that matched Trip's personality as though cast from the same mold. The boys would get together and their eyes would glitter and their smirks curl conspiratorially and Kathleen could always tell the two men were friends the likes of which one rarely came by in life. Trip was lucky to have a man like Jonathan Archer as his friend. Jon was always a bright light in the Tucker house, but when Kathleen activated the comm panel in her living room she was not filled with happiness and warmth to see Jonathan. Instead her heart sank further and her stomach coiled in a tighter knot. She was playing off Jonathan's expression, and it was dour to say the least.
"Hello, Mrs. Tucker."
"Jonathan," Kathleen answered wearily.
Jon paused a moment, pursed his lips and furrowed his brow, then proceeded softly, "Trip's there."
It wasn't a question.
"He got in two days ago."
"How is he?" Jon asked in genuine concern.
Kathleen looked down momentarily. "He's been sleeping a lot. I haven't been able to get him to eat hardly anything since he got here." Kathleen looked up and Jon did not seem surprised. He seemed sorrowful and resigned, but not surprised by Trip's state.
"What happened, Jon?"
Jonathan noticeably pulled away from the comm panel and inhaled uncomfortably. "I'm... I'm not at liberty to say."
Kathleen glowered darkly at her son's friend. "Don't give me that. Something's wrong with Trip and I want to know what it is."
Jonathan looked away uncomfortably. "I'm sorry, but it's a matter of Starfleet Security, I really can't tell you. I just... wanted to make sure Trip was somewhere safe."
"Safe? Is he in danger? Is someone trying to hurt him?"
Jonathan chose his words with care. "Not safe from others, safe from himself."
Kathleen understood far more than she wanted to. She'd seen her son the last two days, she knew what Jon meant.
"He's here," was all she said in return to the captain's last comment.
Jonathan nodded and said, "Tell Trip... well, tell him he can take as much time as he needs. Enterprise has some things to do in Sol, I'm needed at Headquarters for the immediate future, so he can take whatever time he needs. Tell him that... and tell him... I'm sorry."
Kathleen longed to ask 'for what', but she knew Jonathan wouldn't say. She reached up, annoyed and frustrated, and disconnected the link to Jonathan Archer without offering a goodbye.
Kathleen saw her son on the front porch near sunset. He was still wearing the Starfleet Academy shirt and pants he'd arrived in almost three days ago. They were wrinkled now; Trip had been sleeping in his clothes. Kathleen watched from the side of the house her son's tired, sad slump as he sat in the chair facing westward. His jaw was grizzled with stubble and his hair unkempt. He looked terrible. Kathleen ached for him. She wanted to help but every time she'd tried to reach out to him he'd withdrawn. Not physically, but emotionally. She could almost see him pulling back and shutting down when she tried to ask him what was wrong. She had ceased to ask, because she could not stand the look of vacancy and private suffering that came into his beautiful blue eyes when she pressed him.
Trip was motionless in the chair, his eyes locked on the setting sun. Kathleen approached him slowly.
He never gave indication that he heard her.
"Trip," she whispered when she was near him.
Trip made a breathy sound, an aborted sigh, and it was greeting enough to serve. Kathleen placed a hand on her son's shoulder and willed herself to suddenly possess motherly powers to heal by touch the way she had when he was a toddler and a kiss made everything better.
"Are you hungry?" she asked hopefully. Asking him to eat had seemed to be the only safe intrusion into his depressed state that she could make without her son retreating from her.
"I'll fix me somethin' later."
Kathleen doubted that, or if he did it would be paltry little.
"You're much too thin. I'm going to have to talk to Jonathan about how they feed you on that ship of his."
Trip made strange, apathetic sound in the back of his throat, and wiped his right hand idly over his pant leg. Kathleen tightened her fingers just barely on his shoulder.
Trip looked at her from the corner of his eye then shook his head. "Nothin', never mind."
Trip shook his head again, this time more resolute.
"Trip..." Kathleen said, and even to her own ears she sounded plaintive.
"I was thinkin' 'bout Elizabeth."
Kathleen's heart clutched and her throat closed as tears threatened. "Oh... what about her?"
Trip's eyes seemed to stretch toward the horizon, a thousand-yard state settling into his gaze, and he said lowly, "I miss her."
Kathleen nodded slowly and swallowed. She had to wait a moment to make sure her voice didn't crack uncontrollably. "I do, too."
Kathleen nearly startled at the sound of the front door chime. It was the second time in three days that it had jarred her so, interrupted the pattern of life she had settled into after her children left home. Now one was back and the other was dead and Kathleen steeled herself to face the changes.
Kathleen went to the door, baffled at who could be calling at such a late hour. She opened the door and was utterly speechless to find a Vulcan woman on her doorstep. She was dressed in a red one-piece suit and had a duffel bag, which appeared empty, slung over her shoulder. She had short-cropped brown hair that parted around her pointed, elfin ears. Her dark eyes regarded Kathleen a little glassily and Kathleen noted that the Vulcan looked almost haggard. She did not know a Vulcan could look tired, but then, she had only met a few Vulcans in her life.
The two women stared at one another a moment, the human confused and the Vulcan hesitant, until the Vulcan broke the stalemate. "Kathleen Tucker I presume?"
"Um... yes, I am she. Who, may I ask, are you?"
The Vulcan's left eyebrow twitched ever so faintly and her chin rose regally as though on principle and she lifted one hand in a traditional ta'al Vulcan salute. "I am Commander T'Pol of Enterprise."
"Oh... T'Pol," Kathleen's senses began to regather about her. "Trip's spoken of you before."
T'Pol lowered her hand and looked a little taken aback at the admission but collected herself swiftly and nodded. "Yes, as he has spoken of you." T'Pol's gaze shifted to stare into the house's innards then she returned her gaze to Kathleen and asked softly, "May I see Trip?"
Kathleen was startled for several reasons. One, she knew Vulcans were rather staunch about formality and 'Trip' was anything but a formal name. Two, T'Pol had not asked if Trip was there, but instead spoke as though she knew beyond doubt that he was at his parents' house. Three, she looked so close to emotional for a Vulcan that Kathleen almost felt human empathy for her.
Then she remembered Trip and his mood as of late. Kathleen frowned. "I don't know that he wants visitors, Ms. T'Pol... I'm afraid he's been a little... down lately."
T'Pol did not seemed surprised. Instead she lowered her gaze and seemed to skip trains of thought, as though concentrating on her inner world.
Kathleen startled when a gentle, masculine voice intoned from behind her shoulder, "It's all right."
Kathleen turned her head to see Trip standing behind her, his words meant for her but his eyes on T'Pol without waver. His raw presence was a wound and Kathleen knew at once that Trip's agony, his pain, was somehow related to the Vulcan woman who had come seeking him.
T'Pol lifted her eyes to look at Trip and the two seemed to speak a silent language.
Kathleen shook herself from her stupor. "I didn't know you were up, Trip. T'Pol, please, come in, I'm sorry for keeping you standing outside."
T'Pol at long last pulled her eyes from Trip and looked at his mother. "There is no reason to apologize, Mrs. Tucker, and I thank you for your hospitality."
Kathleen stepped back and T'Pol entered the house. She took only a few steps in then stopped directly in front of Trip. She was no more than a handful of inches from him; Kathleen had always heard Vulcans were supposed to be neurotic about their personal space, especially with humans. Briefly, T'Pol's eyes dropped down to Trip's mouth, then roamed his face, then resettled on his blue irises. She leaned toward him just fractionally and Trip cant his head a few degrees to the left. He stared long and intently at her, and his own eyes made the rounds of her face, from lips and eyes to pointed ears before settling on her returned gaze.
"You doin' all right?" he asked gently.
T'Pol seemed to falter at the question, straightened, and looked down at his shirt collar just to be looking anywhere but his eyes. "'All right' is a subjective state."
Trip nodded and extended his hand, "Can I take yer bag?"
T'Pol flinched infinitesimally away but Trip read the faint gesture as though it had been a giant step back. He pulled his hand back immediately then seemed to realize Kathleen was still standing there.
He leaned closer to T'Pol, lowered his voice and his face, and asked, "You wanna talk?"
T'Pol nodded stiltedly.
"C'mon," Trip said softly, "There's a bench on the back deck."
T'Pol held the limp bag closer to her and stepped into Trip's inviting arm as he moved to direct her toward the back door. His hand came to rest on her shoulder, barely a touch but to a Vulcan blatant physical contact, and Kathleen watched them move away together in silence.
The back deck was a raised wooden platform with steps descending to the backyard. It served as a place for guests to gather at barbecues and birthday parties and had seen many happy memories. At that moment it was a lonely wooden expanse with a cold, wooden bench offering a place to rest but no comfort. The porch light was illuminating the area, a small circle of light in the near-blackness, and the shadows of small insects flitted as they darted before the light.
Trip motioned for T'Pol to sit and then sat down beside her. They were little more than an inch apart and it wasn't strange. So many years on Enterprise, so many intimacies between them, and being any farther away without just reason or cause seemed incongruent. It was something about which they did not even think, it was almost reflex by that point. T'Pol settled the bag in her lap and sat quietly. Trip sat in silence with her a few minutes and let the night shroud them.
T'Pol glanced at him, a glance that turned into studying him, then she offered faintly, "You look... disheveled."
Trip smirked humorlessly. "I guess that's a little more polite than 'like crap'."
T'Pol sighed and Trip sobered further. "It's been a hard few days."
"It has," she agreed.
Trip looked down at his hands between his knees and said, "This bond of ours is damn inconvenient."
T'Pol looked questioningly at him.
Trip gave her a sympathetic, sad look. "Hard enough hurtin' for me, but it's even harder hurtin' for you, too."
A time not so long ago T'Pol would have become very uncomfortable at that statement. Instead, at the point she and Trip were now at, she only closed her eyes and said lowly, "I grieve with thee."
"Yeah, you do," Trip nodded knowingly and he cast his eyes upward. The light from the porch made the stars disappear and the night sky was turned into a black emptiness. "Kind of comfortin', though. I haven't been alone. I seem to be slippin' more lately, more of those daydreams that aren't daydreams."
"That has been my fault. I have been... in distress, so I have been meditating more frequently." T'Pol looked briefly at him. "As my bondmate my mind calls to you when I am in pain. I cannot control this, and I am sorry I have 'inconvenienced' you."
"Don't be," he said in a quick, soft voice. There was a moment of silence between them. "Does it help?"
"Does what help?"
Trip looked down at her. "When you're meditatin' and I get pulled into that white place with ya... does it help you that I end up there?"
T'Pol cast her eyes momentarily downward. "It does."
T'Pol sidled a quarter-inch closer to him on the bench but said nothing.
"Damnedest thing," Trip said bitterly, "we only knew Elizabeth a couple a days. I mean, we didn't get to touch her until just before she..." Trip faltered and neither needed the next fact to be voiced. "But damn I miss her so much." Trip fought back tears and sniffled. "How can I hurt this much for a child we barely knew?"
T'Pol reached out and placed a hand on his leg and it was as much as a hug in Vulcan terms. "That may be my fault as well."
T'Pol paused tensely. "Vulcan parents share a mental bond with their offspring."
Trip mused idly, "So that's whatcha meant when ya said you knew there was a child out there that was ours."
T'Pol nodded then continued. "We know you have been altered by your bond to me; a part of you may have felt a bond to the child before you ever met her. It would only intensify as you touched her and..."
"Loved her," Trip finished, and T'Pol nodded.
Trip turned his head to look at her closely. "So if I just felt a little of this parent-child bond, then it must have been ten times stronger with you."
T'Pol barely nodded.
Trip felt tears again. "God, you must hurt so much."
T'Pol's hand fell away from his thigh and she said in a strained voice, "You grieve with me."
Trip understood completely and reached out to place his hand on her leg in reciprocation. "I do."
T'Pol took a few measured breaths then said, "Your pain is as unique as mine."
Trip cocked his head but said nothing. T'Pol continued, "Your humanness allowed you a freeness of emotion a Vulcan does not possess. You loved her in a true sense faster than I."
Trip shook his head. "I think you're feelin' mine and I'm feelin' yours enough to say we're hurtin' about the same. I don't think we're missin' her in a Vulcan way or human way, I think we're just missin' her as her parents."
"Agreed," T'Pol replied brokenly.
"What's in the bag?" he asked.
T'Pol looked down at her duffel and paused a moment. "The doctor brought these to me a day ago. I have been greedy for not coming to you with them at that moment. I desired them to myself for a time." Without another word she moved her hands and unzipped the bag. She reached inside and slowly withdrew a small folded square of cloth. Trip's throat tightened and his eyes prickled wetly. He recognized it immediately. Elizabeth's pajamas.
T'Pol rested them in her lap, thumbs rubbing lovingly over the soft material a moment before she said, "I thought you would wish to keep these."
Trip itched to reach out and hold the precious little pajamas in his hands but he held himself in check. "What about you?"
T'Pol lowered her eyes. "I have her cap, if it is agreeable with you I would like to keep it."
"That's fine with me," Trip said, and with that finally felt justified in reaching out and taking the folded pajamas from T'Pol's hands. She held on to them almost reluctantly for a split second before relinquishing them.
Trip ran his fingers over the soft material then lifted the clothing to his nose and breathed in. It still smelled like Elizabeth. There was the antiseptic smell of sickbay but beneath it the baby-soft smell of the human/Vulcan child. Trip was moved again to ache when he wondered how long the cloth would hold that smell, how long he could revisit the smell of his daughter before it began to smell like nothing special, like whatever safe place in which he chose to store the clothing. Trip lowered the pajamas and placed them on his leg, one hand resting atop them reverently.
"Doctor Phlox, when he discovered that he could not save her," T'Pol said thinly, "managed to secure these." T'Pol reached into the bag and withdrew a small five by seven card. When she handed it to Trip the engineer had to close his eyes. It was a photograph. It was a picture of little Elizabeth, on one of the rare occasions she was out of the medical incubator, lying instead on one of the biobeds, no doubt during one of Phlox's many examinations. Trip opened his eyes and studied the picture. The baby's angelic face was turned toward the camera, her bright blue eyes, despite her illness, shining up at the doctor. She did not look like she had only hours of life left. Her head was cant just enough to show one of her delicate Vulcan-shaped ears.
The photo started to blur and Trip realized it was his own tears obscuring his vision. With a sad sigh he turned his eyes away from the picture and buried his face in his other hand and he stopped fighting the sobs.
His outburst was short but strong and when he regained his composure to some extent, after he'd let his grief engulf him, he felt T'Pol's hand on his back. Then he realized he could feel a pain with a different accent inside him, and he realized it had to be T'Pol.
Trip sniffled and sat up and turned to look at her. She was not crying but he could see emotion playing across her face, sharp and lancing.
Trip reached out to her, wrapped his arm around her shoulders, and drew her to him. T'Pol did not fight his embrace; she sidled the remaining scant distance between them and rested her head on his shoulder. Trip held her close and ached with her for their lost daughter.
Kathleen woke after precious little sleep. She had stayed up late last night trying to inconspicuously watch for Trip and his Vulcan friend's return inside but they never came in. Kathleen passed by the back window a few times and saw Trip and T'Pol sitting closely together on the bench, but they never left to come back inside. Eventually Kathleen went to bed and tossed and turned.
Moving through the house in the early morning hours, Kathleen listened for the sound of voices but heard none. She did not think Trip and T'Pol would still be outside but she would not discount the possibility. Trip had been off lately and predicting him was harder for her to do.
Kathleen crept to his bedroom and barely cracked open the door to look inside and check to see if Trip was there.
He was, and he wasn't alone.
Trip was lying on his side on his bed on top of the comforter, and spooned against him was the Vulcan woman. She was curled, body molded to fit Trip's shape, his arm wrapped around her and his nose practically buried in her hair. On the edge of the bed was the flaccid duffel bag T'Pol had brought with her.
Gently, deliberately, T'Pol's eyes opened and met Kathleen's. Kathleen was unsettled by the sad calm in the other woman's gaze. T'Pol made no move to leave Trip's embrace, seemed wholly unapologetic about being in the elder woman's son's arms, and Kathleen suddenly felt like she had seen more than she had right to witness. With a tight smile Kathleen withdrew and gently closed the door behind her.
Kathleen turned at the sound of her son's voice and saw him standing in the kitchen entryway. T'Pol was at his side, just a little behind his left shoulder, and they were both regarding her seriously. Kathleen took in Trip's appearance. He'd showered and shaved and changed into clean clothes. He looked a lot better for so little change. Kathleen's eyes cut to T'Pol. It did not slip Kathleen's notice that it was this Vulcan woman, apparently a woman with whom Trip was intimate, that had ushered such an improvement in her son. For a moment there was fleeting jealously that she could not help her own son as much as this Vulcan woman had after only a few hours at the Tucker house.
"Trip?" Kathleen finally returned her attention to her son.
"Could ya get Dad? T'Pol and I need ta talk ta both of ya."
Kathleen, now curious and concerned, looked between Trip and T'Pol. Neither gave away anything in their expression and Kathleen dried her hands on a rag. "All right, Trip, I'll go get him."
Trip and T'Pol led Kathleen and Charles to the living room and bade them to sit down. Trip's parents sat down together on the couch. T'Pol sat on the recliner and Trip perched on the arm next to her. Trip was holding the duffel bag in his hands and casting careful looks at T'Pol. The Vulcan woman returned a few of his glances but for the most part kept her expression neutral and guarded.
"What's this about, Trip?" Charles finally spoke for himself and his wife.
Trip sighed tightly. "What we're about to tell ya we shouldn't actually be tellin' you. We've both been ordered not to speak about this with anyone outside of Starfleet Command for security reasons, but... well, you two both deserve ta know."
Kathleen and Charles straightened in their seats immediately. If Trip was breaking protocol and violating a direct order then it was very serious.
Trip ran an anxious hand through his hair and T'Pol glanced briefly at him. Trip began, "I'm guessin' you two both saw the Terra Prime broadcast 'bout a week ago."
"Everyone saw that," Kathleen answered with disgust.
Trip's lips thinned. "So, you... saw the baby."
"The one they claimed was a Vulcan/human hybrid..." Kathleen began, then stopped cold when it hit her. Her eyes darted between Trip and T'Pol and her mind started to race.
Trip nodded and answered the question she had already concluded herself. "She was ours, mine and T'Pol's."
Kathleen blinked, flabbergasted, at her son. "You... you had a child and didn't tell us?" Her voice was noticeably hurt.
Trip winced. "We didn't. A Terra Prime operative on Enterprise smuggled our genetic material to Paxton and his doctors created the baby in a lab from the samples. But she was our daughter."
"Was?" Kathleen asked shakily, and both Trip and T'Pol seemed to go rigid. Kathleen stammered, "The news stations just dropped it, they never said what happened to the child..."
Trip blinked back tears and sniffled tellingly. "She died. Four days ago."
Kathleen did the math real fast. "When you showed up."
Trip nodded sadly.
"We're sorry, son," Charles said gently. It was a very sincere condolence... Charles and Kathleen knew what it was like to lose a daughter.
Trip nodded. "So were we. We rescued her from Paxton and his goons but she... she was sick. The doctors who spliced together T'Pol's and my DNA to create her did a shoddy job... the baby didn't have a chance."
T'Pol had drawn back further and further in the chair during the revelation until she was nearly slumped in the cushions. Trip leaned in barely toward her and T'Pol seemed to return the inclination.
Trip cleared his throat and fished into the duffel bag. He withdrew a photograph and handed it to his parents. "This is your granddaughter, Elizabeth."
Both Tuckers stalled at the name but Kathleen reached forward and accepted the image. She stared at it in sad wonder. It was so strange to see a baby with Trip's eyes but Vulcan ears. Kathleen had not given the baby much thought when it was on the news; she'd assumed it was a Vulcan baby and the hybrid story a ploy used by the terrorists. Now she knew that it had been truly a half-breed, half of her son. The beautiful little creature, immortalized in the photograph, looked up with endless innocence glimmering bright in her blue eyes.
"She was beautiful," Kathleen said gently.
Trip swallowed thickly and his eyes swam but he nodded.
Charles looked up from the photograph and regarded his son and the Vulcan woman. He ventured, "Why you, Trip? Why your genetic material? I can understand Ms. T'Pol, she was the only Vulcan on Enterprise, but there were plenty of humans..."
Trip glanced down at T'Pol then said boldly, without shame, "Because the spy on Enterprise knew T'Pol and I were involved. Guess it was just easier to go with me, made as much sense as anything those morons did."
Kathleen, after her discovery that morning, could not say she was totally surprised. She met T'Pol's gaze and the two seemed to acknowledge that early morning encounter without words.
"You and T'Pol..." Charles trailed.
"We are bonded," T'Pol said, speaking for the first time that morning.
"Bonded..." Kathleen pressed gently for clarification. Kathleen cursed not knowing more about Vulcan culture.
Trip pursed his lips. "Near as I can translate it to human terms, it's kind of like bein' married."
Kathleen's eyes jerked in surprise from Trip down to T'Pol. The Vulcan woman did not falter, and her confidence was vindication enough of Trip's description.
"You two are married?"
T'Pol took it upon herself to answer. "Not in any ceremonial or legally recognized manner; however, the telepathic bond we share is unique to committed pairs on Vulcan. We are bondmates."
"Means I love her," Trip interjected, and T'Pol looked up quickly at him. Trip returned her look and after a moment of more silent conversation T'Pol nodded and returned calm, sad eyes to Kathleen and Charles. Trip continued, "And it means she loves me." T'Pol was unflinching this time at the declaration.
Kathleen looked down again at Elizabeth, the sweet miracle baby, the unexpected granddaughter she would never hold, and she said, "Then I'm very sorry about your daughter."
Trip reached down and placed his hand lightly around T'Pol's shoulders. Visibly, together, they ached. T'Pol did not return any overt gesture of affection but she turned her face toward him, lowered her head, and seemed to draw from his presence and touch. Trip's eyes regarded her affectionately, lovingly, and Kathleen smiled sadly to herself as she felt Charles wrap his arm around her in understanding.
Kathleen knew she would have to go to the grocery store. She had offered Trip shelter in his sorrow for as long as he needed it; now Kathleen would have to learn to harbor a grieving Vulcan as well, for as long as T'Pol needed a safe place.
Kathleen welcomed the time. It would be full of sorrow and regrets, but it would give Kathleen time to heal her son and to get to know her daughter-in-law.