Author's Note: And here's one last 'missing' scene from "Home" to finish this one off. Please let me know what you think!
Trip spent the next morning making new travel arrangements. Once the wedding was over, he could hardly stay at T'Les's any longer, even if she did keep coming up with more appliances for him to fix. As it was, he'd offered to take a room somewhere to get out of their way, but T'Les had insisted there was no logic in that.
She was being downright solicitous now that she knew he wasn't going to ruin her daughter's life.
He wished he hadn't offered to stay. Vulcan was suddenly a hundred times hotter and drier than it had been just the day before. He remembered that he was no fan of deserts to begin with, and the sights he'd listed with such enthusiasm at the beginning of the trip no longer interested him. T'Pol was meditating a great deal, and an awkward stiffness had arisen between them even when she wasn't. He'd also lost all his patience for bland Vulcan cuisine.
He yearned for home so badly he could taste it, never mind that it was some new place he'd never seen in Mississippi. At least he'd be on his own planet with his own people. He wanted his mom to mother him; he wanted comfort food; he wanted to listen to depressing country music and drink too much beer.
The night before the wedding, T'Pol took him to a public moon garden in the center of the city. She explained that because Vulcan's moons reflected so much light and the days were too hot for many insects, many of the planet's flowering plants had evolved to release their scent at night. It was pretty, in a ghostly kind of way. Large glowing white flowers nodded eerily at them in the bright moonlight as the gravel crunched under their feet.
T'Pol sat down at a bench on the far end of the garden, next to a trickling urn and a solar lamp that provided only slightly more light than the moons did, and looked up at him. "You're quiet," she said.
He sat down next to her. He was surprised that Vulcans, with their sensitive noses, could stand the cloying sweetness of all these flowers. "I guess I don't have anything to say. I think we pretty much covered all the important points already."
She bowed her head and he got the feeling that he was letting her down somehow. He squeezed her hand briefly, then released it. "So explain the logic behind this garden, T'Pol. The paths meander inefficiently, it's using up valuable water resources, and it blooms when most people are asleep."
"Vulcans sleep less than humans, and as you may have noticed the temperature moderates significantly at night. This garden was designed to provide a pleasing aesthetic experience that combines scent, sound, and reflected light in a comfortable nocturnal setting."
"Yeah? So where is everybody?"
"Apparently they have found more profitable pursuits this evening." She frowned, perhaps at his combative tone. "It is also cold tonight by Vulcan standards."
He sighed and folded his arms. "On earth this would be a romantic place to take your girlfriend and make out. But on Vulcan nobody ever has a girlfriend, do they?"
She said nothing for a long moment. Then, softly, she said, "You are upset."
"Of course I'm upset. Tomorrow morning I have to watch you marry some guy you hardly know because of some hidebound Vulcan tradition that you don't even believe in."
"I never said I don't believe in the tradition."
He stared at her. "If you believed in it, then why the hell would you even think of screwing around with me?"
T'Pol voice got very low. "Would you prefer I had not?"
"No," he said. "No." He grabbed her hand again.
"This ceremony tomorrow is a legal formality," T'Pol said. "I consider it a contract I am undertaking to benefit my mother. I do not consider it truly binding until it is consummated, or until Koss and I begin to live together, and that may not happen for some time yet. Perhaps it will never happen at all."
Trip stared at her. "Meaning?"
"I see no reason to change my behavior simply because circumstances have forced me into this arrangement. If you wished to continue our relationship…"
"Wait a minute." He stared at her, appalled. "Are you getting married tomorrow or aren't you?"
"As I said..."
He stood up, the better to tower over her. "Don't give me that crap! You may want to put off consummating the thing, but tomorrow you are officially binding yourself to this guy for the rest of your life. If you're going to do this at all you better admit that you're doing it for real. And I don't know what kind of ethics you have on Vulcan but I sure as hell don't intend to sleep around with another man's wife!"
She stared up at him, her face small and white in the moonlight, and he began to regret yelling at her even if he couldn't regret the sentiments. But before he could apologize she was up on her feet, not looking at him at all. "We should go," was all she said, and he followed her out of the garden. They walked in silence up the long street to her mother's house, and into the courtyard and then the living room. The house was only dimly lit; it appeared T'Les had already retired.
"Goodnight, Commander," she said, and turned toward the other hallway.
"T'Pol," Trip said, "Look. I'm sorry. I'm … I'm having a hard time with all this."
"That is understandable," she said softly.
"Are you going to be okay?" he asked.
For just a moment, before she schooled it into a chilly blankness, her face blazed with resentment. "Of course. Tomorrow I will be secluded in ritual meditation in the morning, then attended by my cousin as I dress for the wedding. So I will not see you until the ceremony. I am deeply sorry for what you have had to endure on this visit. I hope… I hope you have a safe journey home."
"Then this is goodbye?" He felt a surge of sheer panic.
She nodded without quite looking at him and held out her hand for a handshake.
He took it and suddenly he was drowning in a flood of despair and grief that was not his own – it was too flavored by an overwhelming sense of shame that simply wasn't his. He let go of her hand and the sensation diminished but did not disappear. He stared at her. She looked taken aback. "T'Pol?" he said. "What the hell was that?"
"I'm not sure."
"I felt you..." He could still feel a whisper of something. Puzzlement? Dismay?
Her expression resolved into something formal and the sensation disappeared. "I believe I require meditation."
Didn't she realize how insane this whole thing was? How completely and utterly wrong? "There's got to be some way out of this. We could call the consulate, right now. We could just go. Get off this damned planet, go back to Enterprise."
"And my mother?"
"She's a strong woman. She'll be okay. You can't go through with this!"
"Trip, this planet is my home. I am my mother's only child. I have no choice."
"That's bullshit and you know it!"
She gave him pretty much the same fondly exasperated look she'd give him if they were arguing over a bridge protocol. He felt a light touch of something in his head, almost as if she'd given him an affectionate pat. "I'm sorry," she said, and walked away.
And that was it. It was over.
So he went to his room and packed his duffels and stared at the Vulcan robes T'Les had hung in the closet for him to wear tomorrow. A strange numbness crept over him and he prepared for bed without thinking about anything except that he should remember to pack his toothbrush and razor in the morning; he planned to leave just as soon as the ceremony was over.
Only when he turned out the light and lay down on the bed in the moonlight did thoughts start crowding in. Was there something he was missing here? Something he could do, instead of waiting for T'Pol to suck it up and tell them all to go to hell, which was about as likely as some intergalactic fairy godmother floating over to Vulcan and starting to throw fairy dust around?
And then he had a very dark idea: What if he killed Koss? The man was taking away his woman! He was trying to steal something that didn't belong to him! Trip would fight him and kill the bastard! He imagined wrapping his hands around the Vulcan's neck, pressing down with all his strength, crushing the man's windpipe, pulverizing his spine under his fingers with the sheer force of his fury.
He sat up and blinked. Where the hell had thatcome from? It was ridiculous. He had about as much chance of killing a healthy Vulcan male as he had of growing wings, and even if he could the idea was barbaric. T'Pol was a grown woman. If she decided to marry Koss instead of him, that was just his tough break.
Not that he'd ever asked her to marry him, had he? Never got around to that little detail. Never even realized he wanted to get around to that little detail until it was too late. He was a goddamned fool. But would that really have changed anything?
Why the hell had she taken him to that garden tonight of all nights, to sit in the moonlight among the flowers? Was she trying to torture him?
Was she trying to make love to him?
She had been telling him that nothing had to change, that they could continue their relationship, that maybe somehow this would all amount to nothing in the end. And he'd thrown it right back in her face. If he couldn't have all of her then by God he didn't want any of her. He'd extinguished any hope she'd managed to conjure out of this situation, even if it was a stupid, self-deceiving hope. Even if it was a hope that was profoundly unfair to him.
Oh, T'Pol. All that despair, all that shame. Shame that he had helped to heap upon her. If she hadn't felt all alone in the universe before, she surely did now.
As did he.
And yet, perversely, he felt more bound to her than ever.