It was difficult to tell which of them was more ill at ease.
Dena, the matriarch of the Zeon family, sat quietly on the folding wooden chair her eldest son, Daveed, had placed on the dirt field, awkwardly fumbling with the glass in her hand while doing her best to look anywhere but at T’Pol. The Zeon woman’s daughter, Erela, stood quietly at her side, openly staring at the T’Muna-Doth and paying little attention to her mother, even though she was clearly expected to act like an attendant. For her part, T’Pol shifted only fractionally in her own seat – Trip had assembled it out of spare parts and it was extraordinarily uncomfortable, though she had no intention of telling him since he took such pride in his engineering talents – and kept her own gaze locked on Dena. Several meters to their immediate left, the males had gathered in a loose circle and were quietly conversing; from the emotional spikes and valleys she could sense from Trip, their discussion was evidently quite fruitful … or at least more interesting than this awkward silence T’Pol found herself suffering through.
They had made contact with the Zeon family while still aboard the T’Muna-Doth several hours earlier, with Urri – who currently stood next to Trip, an immense grin on his face as his father and elder brother oohed and aahed over whatever it was her mate was telling them – providing them with both the proper frequency and the global coordinates for his family’s farm. He had been quite cooperative, confirming T’Pol’s theory that the Zeons were from Ekos’ sister world and possessed a significantly higher level of technology. Despite the family’s otherworldly origins, he and his sister had been born on Ekos, and Dahveed had only been a child when their parents made the journey to this planet decades earlier.
“We are … missionaries of a sort,” he had explained. “The Ekosians are our brothers and sisters, and we have a duty to guide them out of these dark ages and into a brighter future.”
Dena abruptly cleared her throat and T’Pol could not help but to notice how her entire family took note – Erela straightened slightly, her eyes darting to her mother, while the three males all tensed.
“I apologize for our lack of preparation, T’Pol, daughter of T’Les,” the Zeon matriarch said, taking care to properly enunciate the names she had only recently been provided. Trip had given them to Urri long before T’Pol had emerged from the meditation chamber and the young male had then passed them on to his family when they made radio contact. That they focused only on maternal parentage was illuminating – Trip, for example, had been identified to Urri’s parents as Charles, son of Elaine, and as far T’Pol could tell, the entire basis for his nickname still eluded their understanding. “When Urri advised us that you would be arriving soon, we anticipated a week or more.” Dena’s eyes darted to the T’Muna-Doth. “And we certainly did not anticipate the form of your travel.”
“There is no offense where none is taken,” T’Pol replied smoothly. Her head continued to throb mercilessly – the headache had been her constant companion since before the transporter incident but had intensified threefold during her first attempts at meditation. Even worse than the persistent pain were the flashes of … she hesitated to call them memories since they fundamentally clashed with what she knew to be her past. Fragments of conversations she had never had tended to bubble up at the most inopportune moments, complete with a frustrating sense of near comprehension, as if everything was on the verge of becoming clear yet never did.
“I was not aware that we were en route to this location until shortly before we landed,” T’Pol continued, glancing wryly in Trip’s direction. At that very moment, he looked in her direction and gave her a quick, tight smile. A flash of pure emotion – affection, contentment, desire, glee, lust, relief – pulsed across the ever fascinating cerebral linkage and, despite her best efforts, T’Pol felt the corners of her lips curl upward slightly. It was a breach of Vulcan etiquette that she knew would have horrified her mother – even though T’Les would never let such disdain show – but T’Pol had long since abandoned the dreams of ever being a perfect student of Surak.
“I see.” Amusement dripped from Dena’s voice and she followed the direction of T’Pol’s eyes, offering a smile to her husband. Aron returned the look and, with his left hand, touched the tip of his nose with the second knuckle of his pointing finger, a gesture T’Pol remembered seeing previously when they wintered with the Zeons. This time, though, there was something extra in Aron’s curious salute, something more … intimate that T’Pol wondered if she would have noticed before her relationship with Trip became what it was.
Somehow, she doubted it.
“Our men oft make foolish decisions without consulting their betters,” Dena said with a smirk. Aron, who likely could not hear her, nonetheless chuckled before returning his attention to his conversation with Trip. “I am unsure whether to be pleased or saddened that the same holds true of your species,” the Zeon matriarch continued.
“Why doesn’t Chalz have your ears?” Erela asked suddenly, her words tumbling out quickly. Even as her mother gave her a sharp, quelling look, T’Pol frowned.
“He and I are not of the same species,” she admitted slowly.
“We knew the first night,” Dena said a moment later. “You slept and your hair parted.” She sipped from her glass. “We thought Chalz … Charles to be an Ekosian caught up with you but he possessed knowledge far beyond any of this world.”
“I see.” T’Pol breathed in calmly through her nose, shaking her head subtly when Trip glanced in her direction, a question in his eyes.
“So speak to me, T’Pol, daughter of T’Les,” Dena said heartbeats later, her voice firm and commanding. “How did a daughter of the stars come to this world?”
“Accidentally,” T’Pol replied. She was silent for a moment as she considered her options.
And then, she told their tale.
Some parts of it she left unspoken – the Zeons did not need to know about the transporter incident or the specifics of her relationship with Trip – and she touched only briefly on their lives aboard Enterprise, but still, the tale was of sufficient length to attract the attention of the males. Her retelling faltered briefly when Trip took a place at her side, squatting down so he didn’t tower over them – his scent was overpowering and reminded her that they had not copulated in seven days; surely the desire curling within her stomach was his fault even though his attention seem solely focused on the Zeons – but she recovered and finished with their discovery of Urri in the war-torn city.
“Astounding,” Dena murmured once T’Pol had finished. The Zeon matriarch gave her husband a glance and he nodded in agreement.
“A tale straight from the High Annals,” Aron pronounced with relish. “If I knew not better,” he added, “I would think you come from Ot’Lan’Tith itself.”
“Where?” he asked. None of the Zeons seemed to notice the sudden tension in his voice, or how taut his muscles had become, or even how sharply he was studying Aron, but T’Pol did. She gave him a quick, sidelong look that he ignored as the Zeon patriarch began to speak.
“Ot’Lan’Tith,” Aron repeated. “It comes from our High Annals, which are long venerated as books of worship.” His family all reacted with the bemusement T’Pol recognized as coming from something they had heard numerous times – Trip’s engineers aboard Enterprise had often reacted similarly when he began discussing warp theory, and Tucker himself had showed the same tolerant lack of attention when Captain Archer was especially vexed and vocal about the Vulcan High Command – but Aron ignored them as he warmed to his subject. “According to legend,” he said brightly, “there was once a great city of glass and light that was consumed by a god or many gods or simply a terrible cataclysm.” He shrugged. “Interpretations vary. Those That Follow – Zeons, according to many legends, and also Ekosians – escaped upon a Sea of Darkness but were scattered to many distant shores.”
“Father,” Erela began, a placating tone in her voice, but Aron continued.
“I have long thought Ot’Lan’Tith to be the home of a great space-faring civilization – a world, perhaps, or an orbital station – and the survivors, Those That Follow, were sent forth in colony ships to find new homes in the stars on worlds that could sustain them.”
“The sun dwindles,” Dahveed interjected and Dena nodded.
“And we must make contact with our homeworld,” she said quickly as she rose to her feet, giving her husband a look that clearly expressed her lack of interest in hearing his lecture on Zeon mythology. He shrugged and T’Pol shivered slightly at how familiar their interactions were. The subject of the conversation was different and the words, but she could easily recall having similar exchanges with Trip even when they had been aboard Enterprise. “We have not the supplies to provision you for your trip back to your peoples,” she said, “but the Governing Council on Zeon will no doubt wish to learn of you and may be able to provide what you need.”
For a long moment, T’Pol was silent. As she stood, she glanced in Trip’s direction and found him staring off in the distance, a conflicted expression on his face. Realizing he was likely unaware of Dena’s offer, T’Pol glanced back at the Zeon woman and pursed her lips.
“We can provide your culture with nothing in return,” she said flatly. “We are forbidden from interfering with cultures that have not yet reached a certain level of technological achievement.”
“And yet, here you are,” Dena pointed out without rancor. “I will not dissemble: there is much that our people could learn from yours, but we recognize the folly of intervention before it is time.” She frowned. “You are aware of the atomic detonation a year past?”
“We are,” T’Pol said, nudging Trip with her knee. He glanced at her and rose stiffly to his feet, his eyes still distant.
“A separatist faction of Zeon culture is responsible,” Dena said. “They came to Ekos with a plan to uplift our brothers and sisters with knowledge of the atom, and were instead turned into weapons.”
“And their masters pushed them too quickly,” Aron added sourly. “It would be grand hypocrisy for the Council to demand from you that which they censured others for.”
“Then I will consent to speaking with your Governing Council,” T’Pol decided.
“If you desire,” Dena said, “you may sleep under our roof once more.” T’Pol did not bother even glancing in the direction of the farmhouse.
“Your offer is appreciated but unnecessary,” she replied carefully.
“At least share our table,” Dena urged. “Urri does not speak well of your provisions.” Despite herself, T’Pol could not help but to instinctively flinch – the remaining foodstuffs they aboard the T’Muna-Doth were all unappealing. It would be undiplomatic to refuse, she told herself, recognizing the lie for what it was.
“That would be agreeable,” she said with a slow incline of her head.
She waited until the Zeons had vanished back into their home before turning toward Trip. He was still staring at the horizon, a frown on his face and she could taste the flavor of his thoughts as they raced. The instant her eyes fell upon him, he spoke.
“Atlantis,” he said flatly, his voice devoid of emotion. “That was the legend of Atlantis he was talking about.” T’Pol raised an eyebrow.
“Trip,” she started, but he continued as if she had not spoken.
“Ot’Lan’Tith,” he said tightly. “It even sounds the same.” Once more, his eyes drifted away and turned inward. “God, what if he’s right? What if humans didn’t evolve on Earth? Maybe this is why so many aliens we run into actually look so much like humans…”
“In the unlikely event this mythological event has some basis in truth,” T’Pol said calmly, “it has very little bearing on our current situation.” She began rubbing her temples in a futile attempt to ward off the headache still pounding through her skull.
“Is that your way of telling me to pull my head out of my ass?” Trip asked with a soft smirk. T’Pol raised an eyebrow and automatically glanced down at his well-formed posterior concealed underneath the Vulcan uniform he wore – how would something like that even be possible? – before piecing together the metaphor.
“We have an outstanding dinner invitation,” she said in response, “and it would be improper to attend without first dressing appropriately.” The desire to be clean was suddenly overwhelming and she began striding toward the T’Muna-Doth’s landing ramp. She felt him fall into step behind her.
“Your head is killing me,” Trip muttered the moment they were inside and the hatch was sealed behind them. He peeled her uniform jacket off and began manipulating the neural nodes along her upper spine without bothering to ask for permission, but T’Pol had no intention of complaining. The sheer relief that his touch provided was too intense to do more than moan. Once more, the desire swelled up within her – this time, there was no mistaking that it was hers, not his, but strangely, she felt no embarrassment over this fact – and she turned to face her mate. She began pulling at his clothes.
“You keep that up,” Trip said, his voice husky with arousal, “and we’re gonna be late.”
“Then we shall be late,” T’Pol replied before pushing him to the floor.
And, as it turned out, neuropressure wasn’t the only activity that ameliorated her headache.