Disclaimer: See Chap 1.
Rating: T/T, PG. May be archived, just let me know.
Spoilers: Third season.
Chapter 4 of Resemblance; by Evalyn A
Trip picked up the cooler full of ice and carried it over to place it under the window. He pulled back the curtain and looked out at the drizzle that had continued to fall for the last three days non-stop. Humphrey was out there somewhere, soggy and mad as hell in all likelihood, but not having enough sense to come in out of the rain.
"Trip!" he heard Hoshi calling over the party noise in the background, "Are you coming with more drinks or do we have to go out and buy them for ourselves?"
"Coming," he yelled back, dropping the curtain back into place. He grabbed a few bottles from the cooler and headed back into the living room. Jon was telling a story about the Tandaran ambassador and a jar of spaghetti sauce that had even the usually sober-sided Malcolm in stitches. Trip stood at the door, feeling a warm glow as he surveyed his friends.
He was lucky, how many people had friends like these? The Captain's birthday had become an excuse for a regular "surprise" party that was even more special now that most of them saw so much less of one another. He leaned against the doorframe, listening to them trying to outdo each other with stories and jokes.
Tucker's mind wandered back to the party last year, held at Malcolm's town house on the east side of the Bay. It had been a day much like this one, as it often was this time of year in San Francisco. The year before they had still been on Enterprise, before their recall to Earth for a refit. And the year before that …
His smile faded at the recollection of the events of that night, still capable of causing a knot in the pit of his stomach after three years. He shook his head, as if to shake the unwelcome thoughts from his head. His glance landed on Phlox, who had been sitting beside the window watching his fellow party-goers with a keen eye and that perpetual smile on his face.
Phlox was watching him, and a thoughtful expression flitted across his face. Then the smile resumed and he returned his attention to the ongoing conversation. Tucker supposed that his behaviour this evening was a bit out of character; tonight he didn't feel like the life of the party, despite how much he enjoyed having his old friends around, rare as it was.
He mentally reviewed their lives now. Hoshi had returned to the University, where she now taught more than fifteen different languages, and the others had been reassigned to a variety of Starfleet departments – except of course for Travis who was back out in space, unable to spend very long on solid ground. He'd sent a message for the party with his best regards, a bottle of champagne, and an announcement that he was getting married. They'd all toasted him, each feeling joy and probably more than a little envy over his newfound happiness.
"To absent friends," Jon had stated as he raised his glass. And there was one more absent friend; there had been no reply to the invitation to attend that Hoshi had sent to Vulcan. Trip was sure that Jon's toast had been meant to include T'Pol as well, and the thought had subdued his mood even further.
Trip had asked Hoshi why she continued to invite T'Pol, who had never returned to Earth even for the ceremonial functions that had followed Enterprise's return to Earth after their peace with the Xindi – the medals, the promotion banquets, the launch of the Warp seven project, the commemoration of the war memorial.
She had looked at him with a small smile and replied, "You'll see. One day she'll show up." He had wondered then how much she knew of what had transpired between him and T'Pol; one of her natural talents as a linguist was the ability to read body language, even alien body language … he had shrugged in disbelief and replied, "The last time she barely even answered. Don't expect more this time."
T'Pol stood outside in the late afternoon dark of the winter solstice and wondered, not for the first time, why the humans had chosen to locate Starfleet headquarters in a city where the climate was so perpetually dank. Of course, if she simply walked up to his door and rang the bell, her physical discomfort would be alleviated as she was ushered into what appeared to be a warm, inviting location, the glow from the windows lighting up the mist outside. A faint burst of laughter from inside reminded her of why she was there, and what had been missing from her life for the past years.
The chain of events that had led her to this moment tumbled through her head. Arriving on Enterprise, and dealing with the hostility of the crew towards the Vulcan interloper. Her first pivotal interaction with Commander Tucker, when he had convinced her to stay rather than returning to Vulcan to attend her own wedding. Her gradual acceptance by the crew over that first year. The fateful encounter that had left her with the disease that had nearly cost her her hard-won Vulcan control. Her decision to remain on Enterprise and defy Soval's order to return to Vulcan. The creation of Sim and all that had resulted. The one night she and Tucker had shared that had shaken her to her foundations.
Her decision to return to Vulcan rather than remain with the humans – remain with him.
For in the weeks following that decision, she knew that had she reconsidered and spoken to him, just once, it would have gone differently. She knew that he had wanted to speak to her, but she had closed him off, afraid of what he could still do to her. He had not communicated with her since she had left Enterprise. And why would he? She had made it clear that she did not wish him to.
And then the last event that had led up to her standing here, in the rain, wet and chilly. Eight weeks ago, she had received two messages. The first from Hoshi, reminding her of the party and encouraging her warmly to attend. She had set that one aside, promising to deal with it later. Then, shortly after, she had received a message from Phlox, a live transmission this time.
"You're looking well T'Pol," he had chirruped, in his usual cheerful manner.
"The treatments you have instituted for me continue to alleviate my symptoms to a large extent," she replied, literal as always. "You also look well, Doctor. Your posting at the Interspecies Medical Exchange must continue to be satisfactory." Her many years spent with humans had taught her the art of social pleasantries.
"Oh yes, indeed, highly satisfactory," he concurred. "In fact, I had somewhat of a breakthrough on a particular case I've been researching. I've been verifying my results non-stop for the last few weeks, and it is looking very like a cure is at hand."
"How gratifying for you, Doctor," she said politely, distractedly wondering why he had placed such an expensive call at this time.
He smiled again and continued, "Aren't you interested in the case, T'Pol?"
Her attention once again focussed on him and she felt a wave of disbelief pass over her. "Pa'Nar syndrome? You are still researching it?"
"Most actively," he replied, "and successfully I must say. It appears as though I have found a cure, and believe me, it was a real challenge, since I had to find information from some very reluctant Vulcan sources in order to begin to approach the solution…"
She interrupted him. "A cure? You have a cure?"
"I believe that's what I've been saying," he replied indulgently. "And by the time you get here, I will be ready to commence the treatments."
"To Earth?" She was still disoriented, her world suddenly turned upside down. For so long now, she had lived with the knowledge that her mental functions and her emotional control were impaired by her condition, her lifespan in all likelihood significantly shortened, and that she would be a pariah amongst her people for the rest of her life if the truth of her condition were ever to be known.
"I have all of my facilities here, and my assistants, yes, it would be much simpler if you came here. However, if that is impossible, I can organize things to come to Vulcan, it will just take a bit longer – and I will have to explain why I need a leave of absence," he continued, obligingly.
"That will not be necessary," she replied, trying to gather her wits. "I will come to Earth."
"Excellent, you'll need to make some arrangements I'm sure," he said. "I'm downloading a file to you right now that explains all the details, as I'm sure you have plenty of questions."
"Yes, thank you, Doctor," she had agreed. "I will contact you with my plans as soon as possible."
It had taken little organization to arrange her trip to Earth – she had some six years of accumulated leave and no one questioned her sudden requirement. She suspected that, in general, most of her co-workers were relieved she would be gone, for she did not mix well with her fellow Vulcans after so many years of human company, and it was a struggle still to maintain control as a result of all of her experiences.
Her family, too, had seemed to encourage her trip to Earth; she had not shared her medical condition with them, but they surely knew there was something wrong, and whether they thought the trip to Earth could help, or would simply remove a nagging problem from their vicinity for a time, she was unsure.
As she made the arrangements for her absence, she had contemplated the changes that would ensue if Phlox's cure were successful. The melders' lives would be changed, some of the stigma of their condition removed, although such realizations would take time, for a society as slow to change as theirs. Her life would change along with theirs, slowly also perhaps. There would no longer be any reason for her to remain without a husband … or at least a Vulcan husband. She could, if she chose, reintegrate herself into Vulcan society. But was that what she wanted?
As she had meditated on board the ship bringing her to Earth, trying to centre herself before returning to the maelstrom of human culture, the journey had seemed both far too short, and interminable.
Fatefully, ironically, her ship had docked last night, two days early, with the shuttle bringing her to San Francisco this morning. She had stood at the bottom of the ramp after leaving the shuttle, realizing that she had no plan once she arrived. She did not have a place to go, although there were of course a number of options open to her. No one but Phlox was expecting her, and he not for two days. Why had she not called him to announce her early arrival? Was it because, under it all, she had been looking for an excuse to be here, now?
She felt her courage failing her and she hesitated, turning away from the brightly lit windows and all that lay behind them.
Down the hallway behind him, Trip heard a demanding meow from the beyond the front door, and he headed to let Humphrey in. As he opened the door, the cat brushed into the house past his legs, anxious to come in from the ceaseless wet. About to close the door, he noticed a figure standing at the bottom of the steps, at the edge of the light from the streetlamp.
He knew it was her immediately, in spite of the heavy mist and the hooded coat she had pulled up to cover her face. She appeared to have been turning to walk away. His heart skipped a beat and he stood there, afraid to move for fear he would frighten her away once again. How long had she been standing there?
She stared up at him, mesmerized. He was exactly as she remembered him. She wondered then what madness had taken her over that she could not see the logic in it, in their relationship. As she had when she refused Soval's order to return to Vulcan before Enterprise's departure into the Expanse, she felt her life was heading in a direction she could not predict. But finally, she was sure that decision she had made years ago to forsake the well-trodden path prescribed by her Vulcan upbringing had been the right one, the only choice to make.
She threw her hood back, stepped forward and climbed the steps into his house.
She stood dripping in his front hall, and all conversational ability left him. He thought he'd put her behind him, that she could no longer have that effect on him, and yet three years later he was still tongue-tied by her unexpected presence. "You came," he managed to say.
"Yes," she agreed. She searched his face, and then said, somewhat hesitantly, "Am I welcome? I did not reply to the invitation."
Without thinking, he replied instinctively, "Always, you know that."
She gazed at him silently, and then, slowly she stepped forward and kissed him gently on the lips, her hands resting lightly on his chest.
Stunned into silence, his stomach now performing somersaults, he stared at her. He wondered if she felt what a human would feel after what she had just done: lack of certainty in his response, fear of rejection, hesitant desire? Were they her feelings, or his? All he knew was that she was here.
He pulled her into a wordless embrace, mindless of the water from her coat soaking into his clothes. She fitted against his chest as though she had been designed for it, and they stood, silently, for a seemingly endless time.
Finally he stood back and said, his voice rough with emotion, "You better not be plannin' on breakin' my heart again."
"I have no desire to return to Vulcan," she replied obliquely, suddenly realizing it was true. "Therefore, I will need accommodation somewhere on Earth. This house seems somewhat large for one person," she continued. "Perhaps we could come to some arrangement, if you were willing?"
The hell, he thought, gaping at her, I've just been propositioned, or proposed to, or whatever Vulcans do, in that logical, unromantic fashion they have of arranging their family lives. And what's so wrong with that? Then he laughed out loud, and said, "Do you think I'd let you leave this time?"
And then pulling her coat off and grabbing her hand, he dragged her into the merriment in the living room, joyfully exclaiming to the startled faces that turned their way, "Look what the cat dragged in!"
Trip awoke, sweating and aching, from a vivid dream in which T'Pol had shown up at his door, and had ended up in his bed. He groaned at the memories that once again seemed so real and tried to roll over, but discovered that his left arm had gone to sleep.
He opened his eyes and turned his head, to see her lying on his left shoulder, her delicate ear silhouetted in the moonlight that streamed through the bedroom window behind her, since the drizzle had dissipated. He had awoken her, and she murmured drowsily, "Are you well?"
He felt his throat close and his eyes brimmed. "Oh yeah," he managed to say, pulling her more tightly to him despite the discomfort, "I am now." He watched possessively as she allowed her eyes to close again, worn out by what had undoubtedly been a long day and night of travel, festivities, and glorious lovemaking. Tomorrow was going to be a beautiful day, he thought, looking out at the clear San Francisco night. It was a good sign.