POTENTIAL SPOILER ALERT!
A young woman knelt upon the pressed sands of her homeworld, her fingers lifting to cross to the precise center of the table. The man across from her mirrored the first posture, but their fingers hovered just at the range at which the bioelectric pulses could be sensed – the prelude to the joining. He felt – strange. Too calm; too still. She was required to meet the man’s blue eyes, but it was difficult to do so. She was aware of a deep, illogical desire to refuse, to rise, to flee…to burst into tears that would be understood by only one person here.
She was a Vulcan. She would not cry.
A little off, a man stood in borrowed finery, watching. He watched her fingers lift, in concert with the man. He wondered what she felt; was it different than what she felt with him? Was it better, with a Vulcan man – a man of her own people? He could only see her face in a thin slice of profile, made misty by the sheer cowl. She’d worn a cowl the first time he saw her, too – but he’d known. He was aware of an almost desperate need to charge across this damned sand garden, grab her, run away, pull out a communicator he didn’t have and demand a beamup from a ship that was 16 light-years away, in Spacedock. Instead, he stood there, and watched her preparing to sacrifice herself.
He was on Vulcan. He wouldn’t cry.
Aesthetically, she was beautiful. Almost, illogically, he could imagine that she had been sculpted by a master. He was privileged to have the chance to combine her genetics with his own. So his parents had declared, since they were children, and chosen for one another. He, however, was uncertain it was enough. Ought children not be raised in a home where a certain affection – or at the least regard? – existed between their parents, where both were available to them? He could feel the resistance, the distance, that separated them; she would never feel other than a stranger to him, and she wanted nothing more of him. In truth, she wanted this as little as he did. Perhaps he should end this, now, before the next posture began.
They were Vulcan. They must try.
She remembered a dimly lit room, and music that has pulled her in. A man who Awakened her, with his music, his smile, the covert interest, and the recognition. The way the music flowed through them both, weaving them into one another. She had imagined this day, then, with the fog of his world rising impossibly from the dry sands of hers. But he had been across from her then, and not behind. His blue eyes she would look into willingly, eagerly, and touch the life within him through their joined and trembling fingers…
How was she supposed to marry Koss, with the feel of Trip’s cool human cheek rough and cool upon her lips? With the clasp of his hand, around the small gift she offered secretly, still sending Awakened tingles sizzling through her?
How was she to bear it?
She was doing this for her mother. But, he knew, she was also doing it as a penance, for what she felt were the wrongs she’d done. Maybe that wasn’t very logical, and it wasn’t very likely anyone on this world would understand, but he did. It’s why he was standing here, feeling the heat of her soft hungry lips on his cheek, the press of whatever she’s slipped into his hand when she clasped it. Up on her toes again to kiss him – had he gotten around to telling her how incredibly sexy that was to him, as though she couldn’t wait for him to bend enough for her to reach? As though she couldn’t get enough, soon enough….
It had been so brief, so bold, so reactionary, for her to do such a thing, on her way to be married to someone picked for her when she was only a little girl. His heart swelled with pride, and with the sorrow of knowing it would be the last such touch, between them, the last time her sudden ardor would jolt through him like a plasma arc…
how was he going to bear it?
It was nearly time. Three more breaths, and it would be too late to stop; too late even for the challenge – but surely, she would not call it. Her young human, for whom she had dared show affection, even here, could not win. Koss would do as he must, as he had been commanded. He had no wish, though, to give her the body of her lover as tribute. He hoped, for them both, that, once the ceremony was complete, the formalities tended, they might go on with their lives as they had lived them. He wished her to have the human, when she left, if she desired him. He wished, too, to have his chosen – but it might be that his refusal to challenge the command to marry T’Pol had cost the chance at the life he would have chosen for himself .
The third breath was exhaled; the priest knelt into the waiting moment, and joined their fingers, sealing them. It was as it was.
He would bear it.
Her fingers were sealed to Koss’s – and all T’Pol could feel was Trip. His emotions lapped through her from behind and beneath the surfaces needed for this joining. Her emotions were not required. As well, since they would not leave Trip. She could feel his hurt, his pride, his pain…and, together, as the vows were spoken, binding her to another, their two minds, already deeply entwined, remembered…
She allowed herself the dream, the memories of their voyage here…
“The first meeting on Enterprise – you offered the touch only a lover might give. I was Awakened to you; had I touched you,then….”
“It would have been something like what happened in Decon, after Rigel 10?”
“Yes. Or, given the intimacy of the touch, perhaps something far more inappropriate – such as the incident in the airlock.”
“Wonder what the Captain would’ve said about that? And if I would have been brave enough then to do anything about it?”
“It’s perhaps as well that we didn’t find out. I imagine that Captain Archer might likely have replaced us both. It would have been – intensely uncomfortable – to have had to explain to Ambassador Soval.”
He’d laughed, then, and wrapped both arms around her, to pull her onto his lap – a new pleasure he had introduced her to. “You looked at my arm like it was attached to a considerably lower life form, you know. Hurt my feelings. All that smoldering interest in the club, all that connection – wait a minute! I just remembered something. It was the first time I smelled your citrus and sandalwood thing.”
She inclined her head in silent question; Trip took it as a reason to slip another morsel of pecan pie into her mouth. She nibbled and suckled contentedly at his fingers, seeking crumbs and deeper sweetness, he groaned softly, and shifted his weight – this form of touching did fascinating things in his lap.
“You smell different – well, hell, you never beat around the bush, so why should I? – you smell different, when you’re aroused. I don’t have an exact name for what you smell like – Vulcan desert things, maybe – but it reminds me of citrus and sandalwood. At any rate, that was the first time – I had to pretend I didn’t notice it, and, even so, I was mighty glad you left the room first, so I could avoid disgracing myself. Maybe if I knew then what it meant, I wouldn’t have worried so much.” He nuzzled her neck; a sensual counterpoint to the effect of the pie merging with their freedom and the new connections they’d forged over the last days…”Citrus and sandalwood again,” he murmured, and then they’d needed to say nothing, for some time…
The priest was signaling – the first level of joining completed. Koss’s fingers slipped up the length of her fingers, around, back again to the tips – an invitation to deeper connection. Three breaths, before she must give response.
She could refuse.
Trip watched her, waiting out those three breaths. Why was he sure she was debating it, that she was as tangled up in him and the memories as he was in her…?
But he’d studied the ceremony. All that would happen, if she refused, was that they would wait her out. Maybe once, long ago, she might have been that rarest of women who could outlast all that her world would bring to bear. She was certainly stubborn enough…but the last year had worn her down, worn them all down, damn near shattered her beyond repair or redemption. What she’d rebuilt, she’d rebuilt in the company of humans, and Phlox, and even Porthos. She was more like them than she’d been, before, and maybe she always would be, now.
He didn’t think she had the patience to win. Please, pepperpot, don’t make this any harder on yourself. You’ve suffered more than enough.
As though she heard him, she moved her fingers just as the third breath threatened to become a fourth. Trip stared at her moving fingers…remembering…
He’d been stunned when he saw what she meant by “transport” This was a sleek, swift, beautiful little Vulcan cruiser…she saw him eyeing the warp drive, and informed him that this was a private craft, and unclassified. He could tour the engine room, and access the specifications, too.
He was glad he did that right off, while she was stowing the large cases she’d brought- who would’ve thunk T’Pol, of all people, would be a heavy packer? – because, once they set foot into the guest cabin, they never left it again until it was time to leave. The place was – well, extraordinary. They had space, large windows, water features, growing things, access to an onboard servitor, and a stocked galley…and pilots to do the flying, too.
Oh, and a decadently large and comfortable bed.
“T’Pol – this is – incredible. How did you – ?”
“Ambassador Soval was pleased that I was returning to Vulcan, and suggested I might find his private craft pleasant, after so long amongst humans.”
“So you brought me along? Is that really fair?”
“Given that he almost certainly was motivated by a desire to be certain I returned to Vulcan, it seems an equitable use of the space. He stated that he wished my journey to be pleasurable and restoratative, a time for rest and reflection, and bid me to do as I will. It would be an insult to fail to do so.”
“Is that so?”
“It is. Trip, you said that you have no home to return to. For the next days, this could perhaps suffice.”
“Well, it’s already got you, pepperpot – and that looks like a very comfortable bed…”
They’d stripped one another, and hadn’t put on another stitch of clothing until they reached orbit around her world.
Her fingers returned to Koss’s fingertips. Trip could almost feel them, the faint scars of a baby who had dared to touch the flame, a woman who had dared to claim her own life…
And now chose to give it back…
He watched the priest gesture, take them through the next painstaking set of vows, and then Koss’s fingers were moving again.
“You honor T’Pol by standing for her.” T’Les, at his elbow. Probably had no idea how mad her was at her, for putting her daughter in this impossible position, for arranging such a damn foolish thing in the first place. He didn’t have to acknowledge her praise, now.
He could refuse.
The woman’s fingers trembled; her arousal scent wafted on the breeze. It was said to be the most delicately balanced fragrance on Vulcan, the pheremone release of an aroused woman. At a marriage ceremony, when the bride was brought to the point of so palpably signaling her sexual readiness, it was seen as the ultimate indicator of a successful pairing, one that could grow beyond the societally required, to encompass all that the Vulcan heart and soul and mind were capable of.
It was a scent that had always triggered nausea, in Koss.
He hadn’t understood why – until he first smelled the arousal scent of a man – and all that was within him had cleaved to it, sought after it…
And found it.
Now he scented the odor of T’Pol’s arousal, and swallowed back the bile that rose to the back of his throat. He held it back, he suspected, only because he knew beyond doubting that he had not stirred such arousal in her.
But her young human had – he had Awakened her, quickened her, mated with her – and it was he and only he that she wanted, that she had chosen. No, she had not merely been testing the flame of the humans. Koss remembered the story told about her – the only infant in memory to not trust the warning words, and to learn for herself what damage flame could bring. He had thought, when she first refused to return for the ceremony, then returned to Vulcan in the company of a human male, that she was – indulging her unseemly curiosity.
But, as the ritual deepened to the third level, allowing them to access one another’s telerotic centers, so that they would be Awakened to each other, above all others, he knew.
“Why did you agree to this marriage, T’Pol?”
She glowed and quivered with the urgency of the fires alighting within her. Wild fires, beyond what Vulcan could sustain. Fires born of and belonging to distant stars, other worlds…
She didn’t take her focus from her souldancing. Likely, she could not, with the intensity of her consummated Awakening.
Perhaps, she could not even hear him, as strange otherworldly music – human music? – wound through her, and the gold-haired man standing a little off, his eyes glinting with a strange light as he watched her, looked within… until now, Koss had not known that humans could be Awakened, joined with thus – but this one, this Commander Tucker, was within her, and she within him. Even at this level of joining, there could be no doubt.
Koss felt his own arousal surging, triggered by the delving, by the fierce wild power of hers…
It was too late to refuse.
They were standing on the fireplains, a woman of this world, and a man born on a world far different than this. How could he understand the choice she had made, when the reality of it was counter to all he knew, all he believed?
Could it be enough, that he believed in her?
Was this a foolish decision she was making? Was it founded upon logic, or emotion, or a combination? Could she trust this choice, and her own judgement in making it?
Could she truly inflict this hurt upon him, ask him to bear this one thing more, in the name of what was between them?
She knew the nature of Vulcan marriage. She had surmised something of the nature of human marriage; from him, from his movies, from the rest of the crew.
The two could scarcely be compared.
But he would approach this as a human marriage, assume that the emotional and sexual fidelity required were the same. They would be the same, for him. His personal prohibitions regarding such things were as much a part of him as his need to be moving, or his idealism.
There was no logic in wishing it was not so. Nor in delaying, attempting to enjoy this one day, this last day, before she must tell him.
It was not going to hurt either of them less.
He remarked that she was very quiet- it was an invitation. He always sensed when she was troubled; perhaps it was far less difficult, now, than it had once been. These years lived beside him had wrought changes.
Koss could never understand those changes, or the reasons behind them. She had decided, therefore, not to reveal them.
But Trip knew. Trip knew, and understood as much as a human was able, and perhaps more beyond that…they had shared most deeply, more deeply than she had known she could. With him, she had revealed much, and had thought that, in time, she would find great pleasure in revealing all…all she was, all she wished for, how she had dreamed of kneeling upon the sands as her foremothers had, touching her fingertips to his; Awakened to him in the first instant she saw him…
“Love at first sight,” he would say, and T’Pol has released the need to argue the presumption of his semantics. The spirit of the shift was close enough.
But now, she must speak different words, words that would slam emergency bulkheads down between them, in the heartbeat she spoke them. They would be left, hurting and in pain, on separate sides of her reality – a reality that might include him, almost as before. Except that his reality could not accept “almost”.
T’Pol took a deep breath, and spoke the words that brought the bulkheads down.
The priest moved them through the third level….the last level awaited, the one that would tug her away from him, break the connection that would sever him from her, give her to someone else, a man who scarcely knew her. He couldn’t, if he would do this to her, pull her away from her family, her anchor…
From him, dammit.
He still wasn’t sure how he was managing to stand her and let this gross injustice pass. Before her, he couldn’t have. But her little misshapen IDIC was in one hand, and the flat disk she’d slipped into his hand in the other. He didn’t have to see them, or her face, to draw comfort from them.
He remembered Charles, and how he’d interfered then, telling himself it was for her good, even though Charles had been neither he nor she as Trip understood them, and had asked for nothing of him. It had, as a matter of fact, told him he was wrong, that these things were wrong for it. He’d pushed Charles too far, and Chaarles had died.
T’Pol already knew something of what she was sacrificing. He’d decided, almost from the start, to make this as easy on her as he could.
It was the minutes of that almost, though, when he’d first argued, then turned and walked away, leaving her standing alone…
Damn, he wished he hadn’t done that.
Sure, he’d come back – it had only taken about ten minutes for the desert heat to get more powerful than his anger – at least, his anger at her. Her damned restrictive culture, though, and the way it pushed her around – not even a fireplain had enough heat to smother that seething rage.
They’d finally figured out a way to outsmart her, outlast her – and he’d left her there, stung by her defeat.
Aww, pepperpot, you fought them, as best you could. You were a supernova of resistance.
And you almost made it, almost got free of that invisible hold this damned planet has on you.
This damned planet was her homeworld. Nothing he could do or say would ever change that, change the way she belonged to this place, anymore than she could change the pull Earth had on him…
But humans were forgiving, and Vulcans were not.
Despite the heat, he ran all the way back to where she stood, staring out at the plains and into her soul, tears streaming down her face.
“Oh, pepperpot,” Trip said, even though he was huffing and puffing enough that she maybe couldn’t understand him.
“You came back.” T’Pol spoke in a choked whisper, and she was quivering visibly. Citrus and sandalwood floated up, combining with the strong mineral scents, complementing them, filling him up.
“Sorry – I left. Guess I could get – a hell of a lot better at – taking bad news.” He reached out paired fingers, the way she’d shown him, still trying to catch his breath. Running in the desert was stupid, but not as stupid as walking away had been.
T’Pol studied his fingers for a breath or two, then met them with her own, and that sizzling tingle jolted through him, hotter than the air over the fireplains. Inspiration came with it; not waiting to think it through, Trip sank to one knee before her, their fingers joined, hers caressing their way through the first posture.
“Marry me, pepperpot. They want you married, get married. To me, T’Pol, not to that guy who came to your door to coerce you.”
“You would marry me, Trip?”
“Well, you’re Cinderella, and I’m the Prince, remember? I married you in another timeline, didn’t I?” He could see her growing impatient with his fancies – this was too serious, and she didn’t quite get the hang of either gallows humor or gallantry. Failure to translate. He took a deep breath, and sobered up. “T’Pol, you’re so deep inside me. We’re a team. I’d be honored to marry you- and, nothing between us would have to change, if you didn’t want it to. You can keep your own quarters, and live your life as you see fit. Let me help out of this.”
But she’d shaken her head, slowly, not able to look at him, being pushed around by her feelings again. He could feel the force of them, through her dancing fingers. “Vulcan law would penalize me for any marriage contract entered into while my betrothal is still extant. By removing their objections to the pairing, Koss’s parents have renewed the obligation entered into when he and I were children.”
“And you don’t have an opt-out option?”
“No.” But there was something far back in her, something in the way she flinched, that said there was more to that answer, that she was trying to protect him from something even worse.
Worse than what amounted to a marriage of blackmail? What the hell could be worse.
“Are you going to be OK?” He got up; it was silly to keep kneeling on hot rocks. She’d already said no. “I mean, you won’t – “
She knew what he couldn’t ask. “I no longer need trellium to access my emotions, Trip.”
“What is this Koss guy going to think about – about who you are, now? I’m guessing he won’t be expecting a wife who yells at him when he pisses her off.”
“I attempted to warn him. He was not interested in learning specifics. Therefore, he assumes the – risk.”
That made Trip chuckle. “Serves him right. I hope he pisses you off plenty, then.” He used their joined fingers to draw her in, giving her lots of time to pull away if she needed to. She didn’t.
They held to one another under her blistering red sun, and Trip decided that he’d risk any sunburn for this moment, the aching bliss of holding her close, feeling the things she did to his body, breathing in the magic of citrus and sandalwood – his, just his, at least for now…
“When do you marry this guy?”
“It is customary for me to visit Koss at dawn, to inform him of my decision. The rest of the day will be spent in meditation, and, the following day, the ceremony will be held.”
“Can you wait a day to tell him?”
“What purpose is there in delaying, Trip?”
“To give us just one more day. Something to treasure, and hold onto. Something for when this is too much.”
Her eyes had been liquid as her gaze met his. “I will wait a day, Trip.”
The priest was giving the last incantation, and Koss had has hand damned near up to T’Pol’s elbow. Any second now, he would feel her sheared away from him – Trip braced himself for the pain of it.
The fourth and final level neared completion – but T’Pol still held to the human, still knelt across from him, her soul merged and dancing with his.
There was no way to reach her, where she’d gone; he would never have all of her, even if he wanted her. She had chosen for herself, even dared to reveal it openly, here.
Who was this human, that he would stand there, behind her, supporting her as she married him? Who was he, that he did not refuse to be here, as Koss’s own chosen had done.
Was it that the man was human, or that she had claimed her right to him, to her passions, to her choice, and to her life.
Koss’s chosen had wanted that of him. He had declared his choosing of Koss. It had led to a rift with his family, and a self-imposed exile from Vulcan that had lasted most of a decade. Upon his return, he said that he “had no regrets”. Koss thought it an odd turn of phrase, but his lover would not explain it. He would say only that, if Koss was unwilling to resist his parents’ determination that he marry the woman T’Pol, who seemed, in all ways, ill-suited as Koss’s wife, he could not bear to witness the joining.
He had been clear. If Koss would not resist tradition, or his parents’ will, then he must live with the consequences of compliance.
But now, as T’Pol danced away with her human, wearing her quivering arousal as her birthright, Koss felt someone else edging in, watching from the shadowy corner outside the wall of the sand garden.
“Beloved!” His surprise, his moment of delight, were unseemly.
“Beloved?” At last, he had something of the woman’s attention, and her human’s, as well.
The questions surged through, and between, the four, but could not be answered. Koss’s soul was consumed by his beloved…he did not reveal himself, except in the merging -together. T’Pol was a wiser woman than his parents had given him to believe- she returned to her own joining, allowing his to be as it would.
The priest entered into the mindlink, surveryed them all, and the manner of the joinings. “This is what thee hast wrought, here, today – the depth of your joining, and what you will carry forth, into your life as bondmates. Art thee content with what has been forged?”
The request was not for two, but all four. It encompassed what existed, rather than merely what the law pertained to.
The human looked around, his face telegraphing emotions the woman knew the meanings of. “What the hell’s going on here? How is this – and why the hell are you asking me? I object to this entire proceeding – and the practice of marrying off little kids as though that makes sense for the adults they’ll become.”
“Trip!” Koss had never known that her voice could sound so – so fragile. “If you object, you will be – ejected from this link.”
“I thought that was the basic idea.”
“Trip – not now. Please, trust me. Do not object. Let us have this much- if we can’t have more.”
“All right- I don’t object. I’m – what’d you say? Content. Yes. Put me down as content, heaven forbid any of the four of us get to be, I dunno, happy….”
“Commander Tucker, you are delaying the conclusion of the ceremony.” Why was there a wave of pleasure blending with her words?
“Sorry, pepperpot. Wasn’t trying to crash your wedding. I am content with – ‘ what has been forged’.”
The assent went more quickly through the Vulcans – and then, the priest declared the marriage valid, and the link satisfactory.
“Why did you never tell me?”
“Tell you? Have you lived so long amongst humans, T’Pol, that you would ask? Such things are a deeply personal matter.”
“Why did you agree to the marriage? Preferring one’s own gender is enough to secure an annulment. We need not have completed the ceremony.” T’Pol felt the emotion rising in her voice, and chose not to make the effort to suppress it. She was as she was, and Koss had said he wanted her.
Let him see what he had negotiated for, demanded.
“I honored my parents’ agreement. I complied with the law and custom of our people.”
“Did you not tell them?”
“What would it have profited?”
“It would have profited you, and I, and those to whom we’ve given ourselves!” She whirled on him. “By what right do Vulcan parents dictate the measure and scope of their childrens’ lives?”
He backed away a step, nearer the door. “It is custom, tradition, and law. What else is there?”
She moved closer. The long years of learning one another, of forging a connection based not upon someone else’s dictates, but instead who they were, upon shared experience, desire, concern…and this man had made them sacrifice it, so that he could appease his parents!
With a sudden flash of fury, she stalked up to him. He was taller than Trip, but he seemed to fear her – of course. Her reputation in the Security Mission was well known, before Enterprise added emotional volatility. “There is the fact that we now must live with what they have chosen for us – what you have. By what right did you do this to us – or to those we chose for ourselves?”
“You agreed.” He was pressed hard against the wall; T’Pol fought back the instinct to lash out, use Koss as the means of venting her emotions. “Is this the nature of your illness, T’Pol? Are you unable to control yourself?”
“I am more able at some times than others. However, I may choose not to exercise the ability. I have indeed been ill, husband. I have Pa’naar Syndrome, and I have been addicted to a potent neurotoxin, with moderate synaptic deterioration and resultant emotionalism.”
“You said nothing of this.”
“I told you I had been ill, and that recovery might be protracted, or even impossible. You asked nothing else.”
She was shaking now – it would be a simple matter to use him as the outlet he had denied her. Koss’s eyes were wide with fear – blue eyes, like Trip’s.
“I think it is best, husband, that I take some time to -adjust. I propose I go to Mount Seleya, to meditate at Gol. Do you concur?”
Koss only nodded. “May you find peace there, wife.”
Trip Tucker knew he ought to go- he shouldn’t be in T’Pol’s room when she wasn’t here…but he couldn’t help it.
And he was way too drunk to care.
He’d come back to the guest room – ready to pack up and get as far away from here as he could. But there was that gift she’d pressed into his hand – he hadn’t gotten her anything, but he decided he would, he’d think of something – not something for her to share with Koss, but something just ofr him, something that would say the things they couldn’t, anymore…
Or could they? The end of that ceremony-
Musta been the heat. Or the pain.
There were two bottles of Andorian ale on the bedside table, and a small food case from Enterprise. The ale the Captain had forced on her – Trip’s share was already gone, but T’Pol didn’t have the same interest in alcohol. There was no glass, as though she knew that his pain demanded nothing less than slugging from the bottle. And there was a little note in her precise and elegant handwriting.
Please be careful.
Aww, hell, pepperpot…
He decided he’d better fortify himself before he looked in the case. Three burning swigs….
Pecan pie -two slices. More than enough to get her soused and remarkably silly, if she’d been here. Silly, and aroused….oh, god.
The first bottle was gone almost before he knew it, and he was imagining feeding her the pie. He couldn’t eat it himself, not while remembering her licking it from his fingers…
How the hell was he going to work with her, live on the same ship, see her in the Mess Hall, or on Movie Night, and know that she was someone else’s wife? What was he supposed to do, just bottle up all his feelings?
He wasn’t Vulcan. He couldn’t.
If only he wasn’t sure that loving her was nothing like loving anyone else, and that losing her was the end, for him.
Please be careful.
“I’m tryin’ pepperpot,” he whispered, as he took the second bottle and the container of pie, and headed into her room – her room, where they’d spent most of the day before yesterday in bed, talking, crying, making love, storing up the moments like some secret treasure….
He could still smell her – citrus and sandalwood. Damn…
There were two more bottles of ale, here, and a note.
For after you’ve slept, and eaten, and explored your gift. Perhaps it is foolish to ask you to be careful.
He hadn’t dared look at it, just slipped it into the sleeve pocket of the robe as the ceremony was winding down to a solemn close.
Now he did. Upon one side was etched a slipper, and on the other, the IDIC symbol, misshapen, made by a small child.
No, not one flat disk. Two – two disks, magnetically sealed…
She’d felt their polarity, too…damn.
It took pressure- considerable pressure, he heard in the echo of her voice – to separate the disks…
In the small hollowed place within was a data disk, small enough to fit a datapad-
Such as the one propped before her computer.
He looked at what he held, looked at the pad….
It couldn’t be a mistake.
He took the pad, and turned it on.
“A Human’s Guide to Popular Vulcan Culture,” he read. And then, another of her little notes. “Please insert data disk to proceed.”
He slipped in the disk, and there she was, in her wedding garb, looking delicate, lovely – and very near tears. They were in her voice, too, when she spoke.
“Trip. I know that what I have done today has hurt you, perhaps too deeply to allow us to recover even our friendship. That I wish not to hurt you is irrelevant; you are hurting now, and perhaps this – this impulse I have to share my own feelings with you will bring you no solace, only more pain. But another version of myself said I should ‘follow my heart’, and it has led me to this.”
Her tears broke free, but she didn’t cut the recording right away. Her open tears were a rare gift; he didn’t know if anyone else had ever seen them. They slipped silently down her face for a long moment, before she faded out – to be replaced with a younger, more rigid version of herself – dressed in a long jacket, tight leggings, boots, and a dark cowl intended to hide what she’d never hidden from him…
The young woman spoke a date, in Vulcan, and then dark troubled eyes met the camera. “Tonight, I broke protocol. My reasons were illogical; the cost if I am discovered will be high. I took considerable risk, in leaving the compound – “
And then, that calm facce evaporated, leaving her incandescent, transformed, the way she’d been, listening to the music, so long ago.
“It is illogical, but I find I do not care. For no consequence can undo what occurred tonight. Tonight, regardless of how impossible it seems, I was Awakened – to a human man named Trip. I don’t know what it means, or where it will lead. I am Promised to Koss; I am expected to marry him. And yet – this tremulous connection, with a man about whom I know almost nothing – a human man, with whom I share neither genetic nor cultural heritage – is already far more powerful than that I share with Koss.
“Even if I never see him again, if this is all there is, between us, a few moments of connection, I will hold to it, as the ideal of what a bond might be.
Query for Meditation:
Is it possible to undo an Awakening? If so, would it be logical to attempt it? What does it mean that I know already, before any consideration, that I will do nothing to threaten it? That I long to see this man Trip again, and learn of him? That I imagined kneeling upon the sands, with fog rising, and becoming his wife?”
Trip opened the second bottle, and propped the datapad against the empty. One entry after another, she chronicled her journey to him. He watched her, as he drank. After a while, he stripped out of his clothes, tangled into the bedding – she hadn’t made the bed before she left, as though she needed to hold to this, too – and let himself go while pretending she was here, telling him stories, and not who-knows-where honeymooning with Koss…