author's note

Genre: Action/Adventure, Drama

Rated: PG … mild language, violence, and adult situations.

Summary: Two officers, believed killed in action, are stranded on a prewarp planet and must work together to survive while the rest of the NX-01 crew learn to carry on without them. Begins a very AU season 2.

This story is unrelated to my Endeavour series.

Disclaimer: The only thing I own are my hopes and dreams ... although I did pawn both a while back for rent money.

A/N: 891 Earth days have passed since chapter 1. It's October, 2154.

117: t'LES

Nothing was transpiring as she had anticipated.

When she'd extended the invitation to T'Pol and her … companion, T'Les had expected events would play out in a specific sequence: the commander, in an effort to ensure she thought highly of him, would graciously decline, thus trapping her daughter in a web of familial duty that would ensure T'Les had the opportunity to convince her daughter of the illogical decision she'd made. When Commander Tucker instead appeared alongside T'Pol at the starport instead, dressed not as a Starfleet officer but as a civilian, T'Les had legitimately experienced a flash of panic. She knew little about the needs of a human! Could he even survive the thinner air of her homeworld? Here, on Earth, it was a struggle for her to keep from choking – Soval had wryly referred to it as drowning in soup, which she had to admit was an apt if admittedly macabre analogy – so she suspected that Tucker would experience similar difficulties on Vulcan.

Still, he was adequately pleasant and personable with her during their long transit, maintaining a distance that was completely at odds with what she had been prepared for. The commander seemed intelligent and wise enough to give her the distance she found necessary to acclimatize to his presence. According to the crew of the transport, he was also quite competent with regards to his chosen field. When their reactor faltered due to overuse – thanks to the radical reshuffling of the Vulcan fleet, there were apparently an insufficient number of talented engineers available to ensure proper maintenance – Mister Tucker assumed command of the repairs at once, directing the transport's crew expertly and handling the worst of the damage himself. The one time he displayed emotion was when the transport commander attempted to countermand his instructions, but T'Pol had promptly interjected herself at that point. Her rank was superior to the ship captain, which allowed her to displace him until they reached Vulcan.

Ahead of schedule despite what should have apparently been crippling damage.

Once on Vulcan, Mister Tucker had alternated his time in briefings at Fleet Command – through several of her associates at the Science Academy, T'Les had learned that he refused Starfleet's attempt to appoint him legal counsel and instead answered every single question posed to him that was of a technical nature; there were even rumors he'd offered several suggestions for upgrades to standard designs that were being evaluated for efficacy – or with T'Pol, touring the planet with great interest. When he was in her home, T'Les found him to be an unexpectedly appealing guest. He helped with the cleaning, repaired certain of her appliances that had begun to fail, and, in general, was as unobtrusive as possible. There was only one real negative aspect to him that continued to haunt T'Les.

She liked him.

T'Les could only admit that strange emotional reaction to herself while in the privacy of her own room, but it was utterly undeniable. He was pleasant, intelligent, and very obviously cherished T'Pol with an intensity T'Les had never before witnessed. Had he been a Vulcan, she would have been quite pleased that her daughter had chosen such an individual as her life partner.

Unfortunately, he was not Vulcan and, while T'Les herself was learning to look past such a minor flaw in his existence, there were many who could not. Over the last several weeks, as Mister Tucker and T'Pol had done an exceptional job of convincing her that perhaps her concerns were misplaced, the unwanted scrutiny that the two received from other Vulcans began to wear on them. Curiously, it was not Mister Tucker who was the more uncomfortable of the two, but rather T'Pol. The flashes of emotion that were now so close to the surface appeared more and more frequently, and each time they did, T'Pol drew even more attention. It all added up to a terrible realization: Vulcan was no longer T'Pol's home.

None of that mattered at the moment, however, and T'Les had pushed all of her concerns away as she strove for her whitespace. The formal Writ of Demand from Kolak had arrived early and, even now, sat unopened on the floor before her. She knew what was within – Kolak had petitioned a senior arbiter of justice to ensure that T'Pol lived up to her part in the marriage contract which had been arranged so very long ago. It mattered not to him that Koss had no desire to wed T'Pol – according to everything T'Les had been able to learn, he was quite content in his relationship with Junior Diplomatic Attaché T'Pel, which likely meant he too was being pressured into this – or that T'Les had already made the proper restitution to his family for a broken contract. She should have anticipated this. Former Minister Kolak was one of the very few of V'Las' regime who had not been imprisoned and now he was likely seeking any means to hold onto power. T'Pol was well known among their people and tying his family to her was … logical.

But still, it offended her sense of morality.

If Kolak was as desperate as T'Les feared, the Writ would be worded in such a way that any attempt to circumvent it outside the Challenge would result in T'Les forfeiting all of her assets as well as her reputation. She felt the first hints of rage crack the icy control she had spent a lifetime erecting and fought to contain it. No, she did not entirely approve of her daughter's … relationship with Mister Tucker – Charles, she told herself; his name was Charles – but by Surak, it was T'Pol's choice!

"Mother." T'Les could hear the same rage she was experiencing in T'Pol's voice and she opened her eyes. Exactly as she feared, her daughter stood in the doorway, an unsealed Writ of Demand in one hand and open fury on her face. "You have read this … drivel?" T'Les raised an eyebrow.

"I have not," she replied, somehow managing to maintain her own control. "Though I suspect I know what is within."

"I will not bond with that male," T'Pol hissed, her eyes hot. "I already have a mate!" T'Les raised an eyebrow at that.

"T'Pol," she began, but her daughter had already whirled away and stormed out. By the time T'Les managed to reach her feet, T'Pol had already departed through the front door.

To her surprise, however, T'Les discovered Mister Tucker was still here.

He was sitting upon the stone bier in her garden, legs crossed and hood up to protect from the merciless sun. T'Les was unsure when he'd donned garments more appropriate to the environment, but she realized that she was pleased. With the hood drawn up as it was, one could almost think he was a Vulcan, particularly when one recognized the nature of the breathing exercises he was undertaking. A single look at his face and the emotion that kept appearing there would break the illusion as no Vulcan would allow themselves to be seen thus in public. No, that was not correct. T'Pol had made no attempts to conceal her rage.

"Ma'am," Tucker said with a slight nod. He grimaced for some reason but did not make an attempt to rise.

"I presume that you are aware of what transpired?" T'Les watched him, half expecting him to lose his temper as the High Command propaganda concerning humanity had said, but he did not. Instead, he nodded.

"T'Pol is being blackmailed into marrying Koss," he said. "They're using your well-being as leverage … which is pretty low, even for a lawyer." T'Les raised an eyebrow, momentarily confused before she recalled that the humans referred to their arbiters as such. "I guess they didn't take kindly to the first time she said no, did they?"

"Minister … former Minister Kolak did not." She momentarily wondered if this human was the reason her daughter had terminated the initial contract but quickly decided that she did not want to know. "With the dissolution of the previous regime," T'Les added, "he seeks an alternate means to maintain power."

"Through T'Pol." Tucker flinched again – why was he doing that? She could see nothing causing him pain – before exhaling bitterly. "On Earth, we have a saying: power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely." T'Les tilted her head slightly – it was a logical assertion, even with Vulcans – and was about to remark on the accuracy of his statement when he spoke again. "Kolak isn't going to let this go, is he?" There was steel in his voice. Steel and concern and tightly controlled rage.

"He will not." T'Les allowed her control to slip fractionally and sighed. "It would be safer for you to return home, Commander." Charles looked up at her.

"T'Pol is my home, ma'am." This time, she heard sadness and a weariness that seemed infinite. "I will do whatever I must to ensure her safety," he added, a hardness returning to his words that nearly caused her to shiver. T'Les gave him another look and Tucker met her eyes. She saw no weakness there, no fear or worry, only a barely contained rage that called to the same fury swimming in her katra. In this moment, he was no mere human. No, he was an unstoppable force, a cyclone of implacable wrath that sensed an interloper trying to steal away his mate. Every Vulcan knew what came of such madness. Once unleashed, there would be no mercy.

T'Les retreated.

She was still kneeling upon her meditation pad, struggling to contain the wild thoughts coursing through her mind, when T'Pol returned. To see a human undone by the very same emotions that all Vulcans fought against … it could mean only one thing and T'Les did not know how she should react. Knowing that her daughter was legitimately bonded to a mate changed everything, even if the courts, in all of their ponderous wisdom, had still not officially weighed in on the matter of bonds in regards to marriage ceremonies. The Kir'shara was explicit in what Surak had thought but the centuries of bureaucracy that had been put into place were only gradually being torn down. It would be years until a telepathic mating bond was officially recognized as a legal marriage …

The sound of voices momentarily roused her interest. She recognized T'Pol, of course, and had grown attuned to Charles' voice since their arrival that he was easily identified as well, but the acoustics of her home were inadequate to carry sound well enough to understand what was being said. T'Pol was still quite emotional from the volume of her words, but her mate's calm, measured responses were oddly reassuring. T'Les blinked. Mate. She had used the word as identification for the commander. How very interesting.

"We have differences," Surak said. "May we, together, become greater than the sum of both of us." Was it truly that simple? T'Pol had never been at peace here on Vulcan. Could Charles bring her that peace?

The sounds continued, then abruptly transformed to a far different set that T'Les recognized at once. Her eyes widened and she flushed verdant at the carnal noises emerging from her daughter's bedchamber. She considered herself strong, but there were some things that even a strong woman had to flee from and she rose quickly to her feet. Once outside the house and seated upon the stone bier that she'd observed Charles upon, she was able to block out errant sounds and concentrate on control. Amusement washed over the mortification and T'Les made silent plans to find a way to humiliate her daughter over this loss of control. That was her right as a mother, was it not?

She meditated for a time but when she reached no conclusions, re-entered her blissfully silent home and retrieved her personal communication device. Soval was on Vulcan to address the new High Council and he had promised to answer her call should she require his assistance. He was competent and knowledgeable about Vulcan law; hopefully, he might even have some suggestions about how to respond to this latest attack upon her family. T'Les glanced at the wall chronometer and frowned. The hour was growing late. She would need a shawl … but could she risk passing her daughter's room, knowing as she did that the door to it never stayed shut?

A desire for warmth won out and she crept to her quarters and retrieved the shawl. As she passed T'Pol's room, curiosity turned her head and T'Les froze in mid-step. For a long moment, she found herself utterly unable to tear her eyes away from the tableau before her.

T'Pol and Charles were both asleep and, though they had drawn a light sheet up to cover them, there was no way for her to not realize they were nude but that was not what struck her. Her daughter's mate was more muscular than she had expected, but that also was not what stole her breath. Nor was it the intimate but protective way he held T'Pol: chest to chest, with T'Pol's head tucked underneath his chin while his arms wrapped around her. No, what tore something free deep within T'Les' chest was the peaceful serenity on her daughter's face. Never before had she ever seen T'Pol look so … content. Never.

Once again, T'Les retreated. This time, however, her face was set and her mood resolute. There was no way she was going to allow this farce of a wedding to transpire, even if she had to tear down institutions that had stood since the days of Surak.

Her daughter already had a mate.


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