Genre: Romance, drama, episode addition
Archive: Please ask me first.
Disclaimer: Star Trek: Enterprise is the property of CBS/Paramount. All original material herein is the property of its author.
Spoilers: through "Home."
Summary: T'Les's impressions of her visiting daughter T'Pol, and T'Pol's unexpected guest.
A/N: At what moment did T'Les realize that T'Pol and Trip were a couple? I began with that premise, and then kept going.
My thanks to the Vulcan Language Dictionary and the Vulcan Language Institute for information on local language and customs, and to all the betas who looked over the various chapters: slj91, Jenna, boushh, Misplaced, and TJinLOCA.
It was not unexpected for T'Les to hear the faint scrape of footsteps on the stone stairway leading up to the house. She had estimated T'Pol's arrival would occur within the hour: her transport had arrived thirty-seven minutes ago, and the walk from the shuttleport took an individual of T'Pol's age and health approximately fourteen minutes at this time of day.
What was unexpected was hearing two sets of footfalls rather than one. Apparently T'Pol was not alone.
T'Les pondered who could be accompanying her daughter from the shuttleport. It was possible that she had informed a former colleague of her visit to Vulcan, or that someone had learned second-hand. Koss, for example, knew of her imminent arrival, though T'Les suspected T'Pol had nothing to do with that. However, T'Les quickly dismissed this initial hypothesis, considering it improbable that a member of the Vulcan Science or Security Ministries would leave his or her duties at this time of day merely to meet a colleague. They would more likely observe custom and allow T'Pol time with her family first, in any case.
Koss himself? It was possible that he had decided not to wait for a reply to the letter he had sent T'Pol, which was at this moment sitting in the central room, awaiting its recipient's arrival. Koss might have taken the initiative and met T'Pol at the shuttleport, giving her no way to avoid him, as she had so deftly managed to do for nearly three years, ever since she had summarily rejected his parents' ultimatum regarding their betrothal.
If Koss had indeed escorted T'Pol home from the shuttleport, T'Les hoped the two had arrived at an amicable arrangement regarding the marriage. It was an even better match now than it had been when T'Les and Sochya had arranged it; Koss's family had become quite powerful during the intervening decades. The matter was especially important now, with the mounting pressure being put on the Syrrannites by the High Command. If T'Les were ever exposed as a Syrrannite, T'Pol, as a member of Koss's house, would remain untouched by the scandal.
How ironic that T'Les had escaped attention as a Syrrannite up to now by virtue of being the mother of an even more prominent scapegoat: T'Pol, so stridently blamed by the High Command for the political debacle and archaeological catastrophe that was P'Jem. T'Les did not know which was worse— T'Pol's increasingly blind loyalty to the clumsily curious, headstrong humans with whom she served, who had compelled her to throw away her career— or her lingering ties, despite her resignation, to the increasingly corrupt High Command.
T'Les knew only too well that there was safety in conformity. Perhaps now, with the pressure of the war behind her, T'Pol would be less defiant, and more willing to listen to reason. Perhaps mother and daughter would at last be able to leave discord behind them, and find a place of mutual understanding and peace.
T'Les heard T'Pol and her companion's soft footfalls on the sand pathway leading to the gate. T'Les discerned that the breathing of her as-yet-unknown guest was slightly strained, which gave her pause. Fatigue after such a short walk was uncommon. Perhaps the stranger was an elder.
T'Les looked out the bay window as the gate swung open... and she saw that she had been completely mistaken. The visitor T'Pol was leading into the sand garden was a human, laboring in Vulcan's thin atmosphere, though not to an alarming degree.
And T'Pol! T'Les hardly recognized her daughter, so strikingly different was her appearance from when she last visited. T'Pol's few letters had spoken vaguely of injuries suffered while in the Expanse, and an unnamed illness she had contracted, from which she was still recovering. Still, T'Les was not prepared for the sight of this distressingly thin, fragile-looking creature. Moreover, her daughter moved with a nervous hesitancy that was uncharacteristic for one so headstrong and stubborn.
T'Les was most unsettled. What had happened to her T'Pol?
"How 'bout that volcano we saw on the way down?" the human was saying. "Mount... Tarana?"
"Tar'Hana," T'Pol corrected him.
"Is it still active?"
"There are frequent eruptions," T'Pol acknowledged. "We can schedule a tour of the crater, if you're interested."
The human seemed eager at the prospect. "Volcanoes, ancient ruins, fire plains... I'm not sure where to start."
So he had arrived on the same transport as T'Pol, it appeared. He was a tourist, in all likelihood, here to feed the annoyingly insatiable curiosity from which all humans seemed to suffer. Apparently T'Pol had formed an acquaintance with him, from the sound of their—
No. Again, T'Les realized she was in error. She could see now, as he turned, the insignia of the Starfleet ship, Enterprise, on his travel bag. His travel bag. He had made the weeks-long journey from Earth to Vulcan as T'Pol's companion, clearly with the intent to stay for a time.
As the human surveyed the sand garden with bright blue eyes that were keener than most, T'Les studied him more closely. Not yet middle-aged, he appeared a fit and healthy example of his species. His fair features conformed to, even exceeded, the human definition of attractiveness, judging by conversations T'Les had overheard on occasion between human students at the Science Academy on that seemingly inexhaustible topic.
T'Les was compelled to arrive at the only logical conclusion that fit the parameters before her: T'Pol had invited this human to accompany her to Vulcan. And now she had delivered him to her family home, to present him to her mother. Such a gesture, in Vulcan tradition, was tantamount to a betrothal.
T'Les was stunned.
Perhaps there still remained a shred of possibility that T'Les was mistaken, and the two were no more than working colleagues. T'Pol's invitation may have been extended as a gesture of goodwill. The human could hardly be expected to know the cultural significance to Vulcans of such an honor, after all.
The human had completed his visual inspection of the immediate environs. "So this is where you grew up," he remarked. "It's not like I imagined."
T'Pol eyed the man with something very like defensiveness. "Meaning...?"
He shrugged. "Well... it's beautiful."
She gave him a look of mild reproach. "Vulcans appreciate beauty."
T'Les's faint hopes withered like kasa fruit left too long on the vine. The casual ease T'Pol and the human were exhibiting with each other, through vocal inflection and body language, was not at all indicative of mere colleagues.
The human gave T'Pol a roguish smile. "Well, I had no doubt about that," he said, his voice low and teasing. "You always were a snazzy dresser."
T'Les was startled to see the man's eyes roam quite brazenly up and down T'Pol's body, openly lingering on her backside, with a familiarity that spoke of intimate knowledge regarding the subject of his perusal.
T'Pol whirled to face him, throwing her own travel bag to the ground. T'Les was surprised by her daughter's blatant display of emotion, but nevertheless relieved that she at last appeared ready to take this presumptuous human to task for failing to show proper respect to a colleague and former officer of the High Command.
T'Pol, however, did not appear offended by the man's impertinence. T'Les watched in shock as her daughter tossed her head almost playfully at him, in the same manner T'Les had observed at times among the few human females who attended classes at the Academy.
By the bones of Surak! T'Pol had been in exile among these humans for too long.
T'Les found herself bowing to another inescapably logical conclusion, based on the evidence she had observed: not only did T'Pol tolerate this human, she had affection for him. The invitation home to Vulcan, to introduce him to her family, was sincere.
But there was still time to avert this disaster in the making. Humans were notorious for the superficial and often short-lived nature of their sexual liaisons. It was highly probable that this man saw T'Pol as an exotic trifle, a xenobiological experiment. He could not be depended upon to be stable or monogamous; he would tire of her, and move on. It was understandable that T'Pol, young and inexperienced in matters of the heart, would be unaware of this aspect of her human.
Her human. T'Les inwardly berated herself. She was behaving as illogically as T'Pol, and she didn't even know this man.
As T'Les emerged from the house, T'Pol was regarding the human in question with mock sternness. "Commander Tucker," she began primly, "I suggest—" At the sight of her mother, T'Pol froze, her words hanging in the arid morning air. She looked properly discomfited, at least. As well she should, after such an emotional lapse.
T'Les spared the human a single frigid glance. Though he appeared mildly surprised to see her, he remained otherwise composed.
Not so her daughter. T'Pol was, if anything, exhibiting even more emotion than before her mother's arrival. T'Les addressed her without preamble. "You didn't tell me you were bringing a guest."
T'Pol was so disconcerted, she almost stammered her reply. "Mother... you're home."
"Obviously," T'Les replied tersely. Really, her daughter's undisciplined behavior was becoming quite tiresome. Had T'Pol abandoned all ability to reason, as well as her emotional control, while she was away?
The human looked from one woman to the other, keeping his face carefully neutral. By contrast, T'Pol's eyes widened in mortification at her verbal clumsiness. She clasped her hands behind her back and stood silently, as if awaiting punishment for her transgression... looking suddenly quite young and vulnerable.
T'Les realized, belatedly, that her concern for her daughter, coupled with her disquiet regarding this human, had clouded her logic. She had expected discord, and it had come to pass. Taking a steadying breath, she began again, in a more conciliatory tone. "It is agreeable to see you," she told her daughter. "You... appear well."
T'Pol's discomfort eased somewhat. As if sensing that she needed additional time to compose herself, the human chose this moment to address T'Les. "I'm Charles Tucker."
Now was the time to cow this Charles Tucker into exposing himself for the transitory dabbler that he was. T'Les fixed upon him her most formidable ice-blue stare, which had reduced humans twice his age to babbling, self-conscious incoherency.
To her surprise, Tucker met her gaze unflinchingly, his blue eyes decidedly more warm and welcoming. Inclining his head in a gesture of deference, he said, "Pleased to meet you, ma'am."
He glanced at T'Pol, who gave him a nod of silent encouragement. Then, to T'Les's astonishment, Tucker raised his hand in the traditional ta'al. T'Pol turned to her mother, her expression brightening hopefully.
The salute, and the pair's shared look beforehand, spoke volumes. T'Pol had taken care to teach Tucker, and he had willingly learned. He wished to show respect to her mother, and to honor Vulcan tradition. He did not consider T'Pol a dalliance; quite the opposite, T'Les suspected.
The situation was far worse than she had previously assumed.
Mechanically, T'Les returned Tucker's ta'al as she mentally prepared herself for the conflict to come. There would be no peace between mother and daughter this day... or ever, perhaps. Not with Koss's letter still waiting patiently inside the house.
Despite T'Pol's affection for this human, she would be compelled to do what was expected of her; it was as simple as that. And what of this Commander Tucker's affection for her? Did he love her? Was this short-lived, mind-blind creature even capable of comprehending what it was to be Vulcan, much less of committing heart and soul to a Vulcan for life?
T'Les could not imagine that such understanding was possible for any human. Therefore, Tucker's feelings were irrelevant, and would remain so. To assume that he could have any measurable impact on T'Pol's future was not logical.