Title: "Equilibrium"

Rating: PG

Category: T'Pol. Trip/T'Pol.

Spoilers: post-ep for "Bound." General stuff for everything up to that episode, most notably "Awakening."

Summary: It has been too long since T'Pol was last alone.

Author's Note: The blame here is divided between Ness and the Over the Rhine song "Little Did I Know."


***

It has been too long since T'Pol was last alone.

Her quarters are blessedly quiet. The door slides closed behind her, and the relief is almost physical, like a weight lifted from her shoulders.

T'Pol has long since gotten used to the ever-present hums and vibrations that exist on a starship. The cacophony of machines, once loud to her Vulcan ears, now sounds like a familiar silence. It's the constantly changing sounds of footsteps and voices and laughter that exhaust her when she has gone hours or days without solitude.

Disaster after potential disaster has kept her occupied for the past several days, the Klingons and the Orion women the most notable amid a constant stream of smaller emergencies that require her attention. She knows better than to regularly shirk her daily meditation time in the face of other priorities -- her year in the Expanse illuminated that lesson quite clearly -- but there are some self-disciplines that she has always found harder than others to maintain.

Her father, though fond of preaching on any number of topics, rarely reminded her about the importance of the meditation hours for her mental health. He simply found it "too obvious" to mention -- puzzled, more than anything, by his overly emotional offspring.

"The benefits of adequate meditation time are readily apparent," he said once, more to silence his wife's suggestion that he speak with T'Pol than to impart information. "The detrimental effects of an irregular practice are equally so. The logical conclusion should be obvious, even to a child."

That phrase was his way of terminating conversations with her or, at least, of delaying them until she would reach an age where intelligent discourse would become possible. It was, she now recalls, one of his favorite sayings.

Her mother was equally fond of remarking, "T'Pol is not always a devoted follower of the obvious."

Her mother's absence is still unsettling. Though they didn't speak often since T'Pol's assignment to Enterprise -- often going months without exchanging letters -- she is still unused to being without that steady tie to her home. She is incapable of feeling grief as keenly as Commander Tucker still does for the death of his sister, but Vulcan families are bound tightly together in other, less emotional ways, and the loss of her mother is a vital one.

She has no idea what T'Les would have said if she were here, if T'Pol could explain to her the deep, sacred connection she has apparently -- somehow -- formed with a member of such a confusing, emotional species.

Perhaps she already knew. T'Les was always remarkably perceptive, something that has both reassured and frustrated T'Pol all her life.

T'Pol, on the other hand, has always had a mixed relationship with the obvious.

Professionally, scientifically, this has never been a problem. She is almost always the first on Captain Archer's bridge to recognize patterns and propose logical solutions.

Personally, her ability to selectively ignore her own reality has led her into unsteady emotional control, a recovering chemical addiction, and a mating bond with a human that drives her every sense to distraction.

Trip's recent absence, for his brief posting to the Columbia, left her a very different kind of unsettled. The very feel of the ship -- the hum of the engines and current-charged conduits around her -- was altered, as though some key environmental component was missing that only she could detect.

The others missed him, yes. They talked of him often, usually in whispers whenever she was in the room. She didn't miss the looks sent her way by those who either idly suspected she played a role in his departure or seemed to blame her for it.

She missed him, too. The removal of her closest personal association reasonably required that she alter her schedule, that she eat her meals with Phlox or Captain Archer instead, that she spend more time alone. It was logical that she notice the change and that it would take several days or weeks to acclimate herself to her new routine.

The way her skin seemed to burn, the way her mind restlessly turned over and over itself like it was searching for something or someone just beyond reach, the way the ship sounded different when she was alone in her quarters... none of that was logical.

But then, as her mother had confided when she was deemed old enough to know, "There is very little reason involved in the ways of mating." Her voice had been tinged with as much wistfulness as a good Vulcan voice allowed, something that suggested there was much more that the older woman was not imparting. The young T'Pol had been both intrigued and apprehensive.

She feels much the same way now.

At the time, her slight hint of emotional fear could be excused by her youth and immaturity. She has other excuses now, most of which are her own fault, but even with potentially permanent Trellium damage to her brain, she is a mature Vulcan in every way that matters -- physically, mentally, sexually.

She's still apprehensive. And intrigued.

All of this, the changes she saw in herself in Trip's absence, this is more than missing him. He is human, but her mind -- the same Vulcan mind that has ignored so many other conventions and expectations that would have made her life easier -- ignored that fact and bound her to him anyway.

Her mother had another favorite saying: "You have never been one for the smoother path."

For the most part, she always said those things with a fondness T'Pol has never heard from anyone else.

Except perhaps from Trip.

Now that she knows what this is, knows why his opinion matters so deeply to her, why he matters... she isn't sure if she should be relieved that the odd sensations have a tangible cause or, as he said, "really worried." He has her on edge as much as he ever has, leaving her unsure of herself, shaking loose all her beliefs about who and what she is and how she should behave. She has always been this way -- ill-suited to the Vulcan cultural norm, uncomfortable and restless in her own skin, fascinated by outsiders -- but Trip is a catalyst, accelerating the changes in her to a speed so reckless that neither of them can keep up.

She supposes it's a side effect of the bond that she isn't sure whether to worry more about losing herself in this or losing him. When logic falls aside -- and reason has always been fighting an uphill battle when it comes to Trip -- both prospects seem equally unbearable.

And that does scare her, and she thinks that it should. Even if she is an adult, she is facing something that no other Vulcan ever has -- or has ever admitted to. When she's meditating or on the edge of sleep, she can feel Trip's emotions at the edge of her mind, tugging her own out of balance. She is facing the previously unfathomable prospect of never again being truly alone.

But the ship feels right again around her, and in spite of everything, she does, too. Trip's tumultuous human emotional state is sometimes intrusive, but it acts like white noise the rest of the time, wrapping her in a warm, familiar comfort that soothes her restless mind and makes her feel at home.

T'Pol knows that she will have to speak with him again, have to fight past his flippancy and her own reluctance to really discuss what now exists between them, but that can wait. She has not had time to herself -- whatever that means now -- in too many days, and she requires rest and meditation to organize her thoughts and place her emotions back in check.

She will talk with him. She will make the effort to repair their friendship after all of her previous attempts to dismiss it, because it has become necessary. Perhaps it always was.

But for now, it's enough that he's back on Enterprise. Her skin tingles with his presence through four titanium decks and her ears ring with echoes of the day's conversations. His words were frustrating as always, his emotions puzzling and forever just outside the range of her Vulcan comprehension. She doesn't know if he has forgiven her for the erratic behavior that drove him away in the first place, but the smiles he gave her makes her think that he can.

T'Pol lights a candle for her evening meditation, but finds herself ignoring it. Instead, she focuses on the quiet hum at the edges of her mind of someone else's existence bundled with her own, and slowly, she relaxes.

*end*

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