"More Than a Feeling"
Author's Note: I wanted to examine the one instance where Tuvok’s devotion to T’Pel wavered, which took place in the episode “Gravity.” Spoilers contained herein.
T’Pel did not often seek her brother’s counsel, as he was prone to more emotion than she. However, she found that for her current considerations, Sodek’s tendency to emotion might prove helpful. Therefore she arranged to visit him.
It was late evening on the side of Vulcan where he resided, but Sodek and his wife N’Alis welcomed her into their home. N’Alis excused herself to read her students’ papers, although T’Pel suspected the real reason was to allow privacy. The gesture was not unappreciated. She wished to speak of her concerns with as few people as possible.
Her brother had several pads neatly arranged on the table, a sign that he had been working, but he was not bothered by her intrusion. Sodek was, as always, a gracious host. She accepted his offer of tea and waited for him to bring it out. It did not take long, but she attempted to calm her mind during that time. Her attempts were less than successful.
Sodek wasted little time. “You are troubled, sister,” he said after they had each sipped the tea.
This she acknowledged with a nod. Sodek preferred a different blend of herbs than she did, but he had prepared it the way she had favored since childhood. At length she spoke. “It is not logical.”
Sodek lifted an eyebrow. “Not all things are, T’Pel. What troubles you?” He was unconcerned by the lack of logic in some arenas of life. This was one of the many ways in which T’Pel failed to understand her brother.
“I have found that Tuvok’s return is more complex a matter than I anticipated.” Attempting to control the emotions that this raised required several seconds of focused breathing. T’Pel fought for her balance, unsettled by the effort it required.
When she regained control, Sodek was patiently waiting for an explanation. “I presume that you are referring to events which took place in the Delta Quadrant,” he prompted.
She nodded slowly. “Yes. There is one incident in particular that I find disconcerting.”
Ever ready to aid his younger sister, Sodek looked at her carefully and waited for her to continue. He was, for a Vulcan, somewhat emotional, but he was also exceedingly patient.
She continued, “This occurred in the fifth year of their journey. Tuvok, along with Lieutenant Commander Paris – though he was an ensign at the time – and the holographic doctor, were caught in a spatial anomaly. It was termed a ‘gravitational sinkhole.’ Time proceeded at a different rate on the planet where Tuvok and the others found themselves. They experienced months on that planet, expecting never to be rescued.”
In hindsight, that was not a suitable place to stop the tale. Sodek watched as she sipped her tea, and then commented, “I fail to see how this might be disconcerting.”
“There was an alien woman found on that planet.”
“Ah,” nodded Sodek, comprehending. “Continue.”
T’Pel forced the words out with effort that was certainly visible to her brother. “This woman was attracted to Tuvok, and he to her.”
“He told you this?” asked Sodek, a bit flustered. Doubtlessly he was displeased on her behalf.
“Tuvok was open with me. The group was eventually rescued, but before the woman left, Tuvok melded with her.”
Sodek’s eyebrow shot up, and T’Pel knew that he was quite displeased. She found herself in the awkward position of defending the actions that troubled her. “Brother, he thought that he would remain on that planet forever. Aboard Voyager, when it was the amok time, his actions were entirely honorable, despite the improbability of our reunion.” Sodek being family, it was permissible to mention that subject. “This one instance is the only one of its kind.”
He looked a bit appeased. “One is enough.”
“One is too many,” she corrected, leaving Tuvok’s defense aside. Sodek understood her conflict.
“He revealed all of this to you freely?”
“It is the meld that troubles you.”
She nodded. “During the course of their journey, he melded on several occasions while performing his duties.”
“This single time was different,” said Sodek, comprehending her thoughts exactly. “I believe that I understand, sister.” Unafraid to discuss the delicate subject and knowing that it was precisely that which compelled T’Pel to seek him out, he continued the path of his thoughts. “He had feelings for her.”
T’Pel could only nod. Feelings were nebulous, and certainly not discussed as having any role in relationships. Nonetheless they were present, though submerged, and could be a danger. Failing to talk about them did not render them powerless, despite the best efforts of well-controlled minds. “His feelings for her are not comparable to those he holds for me,” she admitted. “It is as though I complete him, and she could merely complement him.”
Sodek considered the comparison. “That is a substantial difference.”
“I am aware. However, I am unable to quell my unease.”
“Over a woman who lives across the galaxy? This is not logical at all, T’Pel.” She looked down at her tea, slightly shamed. “As I said, however, not all things are. I believe that there are few who would not be disquieted by events such as you have described.”
T’Pel looked up. “That is not a solution, brother.”
“I cannot offer a solution, T’Pel. No algorithm or formula will solve this.” Sodek looked out the window for a moment, then continued. “I recall something that a human archaeologist told a human colleague once. At the time of the expedition, I found it highly irrelevant, but I believe that it may be useful to you now. He stated that ‘love is more than a feeling.’ Tuvok remained faithful to you in circumstances that would have made lesser men fail. He faltered, once. Nonetheless, his devotion to you remains. I saw the look on his face when he returned with you, sister, and I do not believe that any mere emotion can compare to the decades you have spent together. There is no woman he would rather be with, T’Pel. Of this I am certain.”
She allowed herself a moment to consider her brother’s words. They were logical. From the beginning to the end, Tuvok had remained true to her. His distress at the incorrect proportion of her ears on the hologram created for his amok time had been proof enough of that. When his emotions were close to the surface, they were dominated by her. Upon his return, he shared all of his experiences with her through their bond. The melding of bonded minds was much stronger than any other meld. She had been in his katra: she had felt his sorrow when he believed that he would leave his friend the captain behind in the Delta Quadrant, had felt her own self being assimilated by the Borg, felt her husband’s pleasure when he learned of T’Meni’s birth. What Sodek recalled his human colleague tell another was logical. The experience with the woman Noss was something of which Tuvok was not proud, although he would never voice that.
T’Pel could accept the incident. Tuvok was a devoted husband and father; recently he had expanded this to the role of grandfather as he met T’Meni. The experiences he had been a part of in the Delta Quadrant were unprecedented. Through it all, only once did his devotion waver, and at that he had thought he would never even return to Voyager. Yet even then he chose to remain true.
“The situation was not ideal,” she informed Sodek after a long time. “But I am pleased to have my husband home again. Against probability, he remained faithful. The incident troubles me no longer.”
Sodek knew that T’Pel meant it. She had mental discipline that exceeded his, and she also had a strong will. “You are fortunate to have such a husband, sister,” he commented. The time for talk of emotion was over. T’Pel talked of such things only in weakness.
“Indeed I am. I am also fortunate to have such an insightful brother.”
He marveled at how different his sister was from him. “I would offer you more tea, but Tuvok has not been home long. Doubtlessly you wish to see him.”
“Thank you,” she said as she rose. “Give N’Alis my regards.”
“Until we meet again, brother, peace and health.”
“Peace and health, T’Pel.”
As she lifted the hovercraft and made her way home, T’Pel was glad that she had sought her brother’s counsel. After seven years across the galaxy, her husband was home. Whatever had happened during those years was of little consequence. Tuvok was home, and for that she was gratified.
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