Alternate Paths

NEW ENT Alternate Paths A/T [PG-13] (A/T, au)

Title: Alternate Paths
Author: Brubo brubo2260@yahoo.com
Series: ENT
Part: 1/1
Rating: PG
Codes: A/T, au
Archive: ASC only. All others ask first.
First Posted: August 15, 2004.
Summary: An alternate T’Pol makes different choices. Spoilers for
Seasons 1-3 through E2.
Disclaimer: Paramount owns them; they just haunt my daydreams.
Note: Old T’Pol is from the cannon universe. Young T’Pol is from
an alternate universe. Text between * * represents telepathic
communication. Text between // // represents memories.

********

Alternate Paths
by Brubo
( c ) July 11, 2004

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood…
Robert Frost

When she invited me to tea, I did not expect to reveal my private
life, but I being me, and she also being me, led to fascinating
discussion. Yes, she wanted to warn us that Lorian’s work was
flawed, but I suspect she also had another agenda. When she
questioned my emotional state and admitted that it would never
improve much, she tried to plant the seed of bonding with Trip. I
think, in some vicarious way, she wanted to live her life with him
again, yet she refused a visit with our Trip. I surmise it would have
unsettled her.

During our tea she pressed the idea again. When I told her it was
highly unlikely that I would pursue Trip, she insisted that I would
soon see the wisdom of such a liaison, silently implying that the
septennial biological imperative that plagues our race would
shortly manifest itself and I would have no choice.

No choice? What an absurd idea! I chuckled. The sound startled
her. “It seems that more than simple temporal flux has occurred,” I
said. “Our paths have already diverged greatly.”

“Explain.”

“I have been bonded to Jonathan for several months.”

What was left of her composure collapsed as she coughed and
spluttered tea. After several moments calming herself she asked
what else was different in our time line. We compared a quick list
of events and came to the conclusion that the explosion that sent
her Enterprise reeling backwards in time also fractured space and
pushed them into our universe. Events were mostly the same, but
the chronological order was quite different.

“Fascinating,” she thought out loud. “You’ve been through the pon
farr, then.”

“Yes.”

“Why Jonathan? Were you able to produce offspring?” she asked
as she eyed my flat abdomen. Her questions always returned to
that same agenda. Time was escaping quickly and I knew I had to
return to my ship with her calculations. But she continued shooting
out personal questions that demanded answering. I was slightly
offended, but my curiosity at her choice was also peaked. To save
time, I proposed a mind meld. I had gotten quite skilled at
telepathy in the last few months and was confident that I would not
harm her. She was somewhat apprehensive as her Pa’nar syndrome
still had not been completely eradicated. When I offered to heal her
broken synapses, she could not resist.

As our thoughts gently blended, I followed her pathways to the
area damaged so long ago by Tolaris and momentarily felt the
discomfort of rising anger – mine and hers – and urged her to let it
wash away. One by one, I visualized then felt her synapses fusing
and repairing themselves. As one, we both opened our eyes. In
hers I saw such profound gratitude that I had to close mine again.

As we settled into the unaccustomed comfort of our thoughts, I
saw her long past addiction and uncontrolled emotions, her
growing attraction to Trip, the jealousy another woman inflamed in
her, and the lusty consequences, their uncomfortable aftermath, and
eventual resolution. Her emotional imbalances increased after
several miscarriages and she clung to Trip for stability. Eventually,
her Dr. Phlox deciphered the genetic puzzle that allowed
Vulcan-Human cross breeding and Lorian was born.

I mentally backed away at that point. I was still grieving the loss of
my own infant and did not want to exacerbate the feeling by
experiencing my counterpart’s motherly joy.

*Show me,* she thought.

I realized she was not proficient in telepathy and needed my help to
find her answers.

/ / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / /

We found the Seleya soon after entering the expanse. Only three of the
crew were still alive and they were easily stunned. We studied their
logs and data base and Dr. Phlox confirmed the maddening effect of
Trellium-D upon Vulcans. Nevertheless, we took their supply and
stored it in the cargo bay.

Phlox and I outlined a course of gradual exposure to Trellium in
hopes of my building up an immunity to the substance. Jonathan
gave his wary consent with several admonitions regarding safety
and sanity. I became addicted quickly and my reeling emotions
were demanding an outlet. The nightly sessions of neural pressure
with Trip only irritated the situation as they took place in sickbay
under Phlox’s supervision. I was on my best behavior in spite of the
burning desires within. Trip, on the other hand, was unaware of my
turmoil, and Phlox was too occupied with learning the technique to
notice. After all, I had been lying to him for some time about my
waning ability to control my emotions.

Trip’s accident in engineering happened shortly thereafter while
passing through an anomaly, before we were aware of the
complexity of the sphere network. When Sim came to say goodbye,
I finally lost control. Completely. One kiss and I had him
undressed and bedded swiftly. I only hoped his juvenile grin would
dissipate before he reached sickbay.

During the funeral, my heart pounded hard and loud in my back, in
my ears, in my mind. I escaped quickly to my quarters to meditate.
Peace was elusive and I felt the cold tendrils of insanity toying with
me. I sought out Phlox and he immediately started me on a
withdrawal regimen. We informed Jonathan. In addition to the
addiction, Phlox dismissed my compunction as grief at Sim’s death.
Grief! Remorse was more likely – horror at my selfish use of a
dying man – embarrassment and frustration at my loss of control. I
was becoming more and more like Tolaris! As the humans say, he
didn’t know the half of it.

Jonathan insisted I take leave for as long as I needed. As I was in
no mental shape to argue, I spent a couple of days meditating and
contemplating. The recent craziness and sexual activity turned my
thoughts to the question of pon farr and how it could be and should
be handled if we failed to return home before my time would
become manifest. I had only hazy memories of the earlier
viral-induced episode. Phlox and Jonathan were purposefully vague
when questioned, as was Lt. Reed. I felt that I needed a plan in
place soon.

Knowing I would find nothing useful in the limited data base High
Command allowed the humans to use, I turned to the only hope I
had of finding the necessary knowledge. Before departing P’Jem,
the Elder slipped several data chips to me for safekeeping. Why he
chose to trust them to me is a mystery. I suppose he thought I
would give them to the proper Vulcan authorities. Once I saw
what they contained, my fascination prevented me from even
acknowledging their existence to anyone, let alone parting with
them. As the original purpose of the sanctuary was to provide inner
peace through the rituals of the Kolinahr and, if necessary, the
Fullara, the Elders possessed knowledge of all the traditions and
rituals of our race. They fully understood the bonding process –
from planting the seeds in the minds of the young as they are
initially betrothed to bloom within each other at the time of first
pon farr, to the final telepathic link that bound them for life at their
marriage ceremony. In their own way they were as much V’tosh
ka’tur as was Tolaris and his shipmates. The data chips also held
the outline of study and initiation of those who rose to rank of Clan
Elder, the secret practices passed on from one generation to the
next. All the Elders practiced telepathy. I realized that any Vulcan
could follow this course of study. No wonder the Elders
stigmatized those who mind-melded – they had discovered the
ancient secrets!

As I prepared myself by studying the texts, I wondered what had
happened to Koss. He must surely have found another, for his time
was near when I chose not to return to Vulcan. My studies must be
completed and my own choices must be made soon also. The
encounter with Sim had lit a candent heat deep within me, small
still, but slowly heading toward plak tow. It would have to be a
Human. Phlox was already thrice married, and although he would
gladly offer his aid, Vulcans were monogamous. Adultery, added
to my growing list of imprudences, was unthinkable. There really
were only two men on this ship to consider, the two I was already
closest to, Jonathan and Trip. I weighed one against the other in
my mind for several days thereafter, watching them as they worked,
ate, slept. My meditations and dreams kept leading me to the echo
of another life with Jonathan on a bleak planet of survivors. In
those dreams, he proved his mettle as a mate even though his brain
was infested and we could not fully bond. In our two short years
working together, he’d earned my trust many times over, saved my
reputation and career, saved my life. Trip, on the other hand, was
too attractive, impulsive, foolhardy – and now angry – to suit me. I
needed someone I could trust completely. Jonathan never led me
astray. Trip’s several amorous adventures had led to trouble of one
sort or another, including his pregnancy and the suicide of the
Vissian cogenitor. No, Trip was too immature yet for a possible
lifelong commitment.

Having made the decision, my meditations were now calming. I
embraced the inner flame as my eyes caressed the external one in
the lamp. Sleep was dreamless and healing. At least it was for a
couple of days until the slave Rajin was rescued and taken aboard.
Her mental attack threw me off balance again and the plak tow
advanced four-fold. As soon as we were rid of her, I informed
Phlox of my condition and that is was, as the Humans say, the real
thing. He foresaw no problem with a Vulcan-Human mating, other
than the improbability of procreation.

Satisfied, I went to see Jonathan. He listened patiently and asked
only one question, “Why me?” I found it encouraging that he didn’t
immediately dismiss my request, yet I faltered, stumbling over my
answer. “P’Jem,” I whispered, “the stigma, the incident with
Menos. You know my faults.” I lifted my eyes to his, then louder,
“I trust you.” His eyes reflected compassion and reservation in
equal measure.

My pulse quickened and I tried to refrain from breathing hard while
he deliberated. I closed my eyes. Several scenarios of his declining
ran through my mind and I felt the heat rise to my face. The touch
of his hand and the sound of his voice broke the reverie.

“Okay. Can we wait until Hoshi meets the telepath that’s been
contacting her? I really don’t want her going down there alone.”

“What?” I mumbled. He asked again if it could wait a day.
Relieved, I nodded. We then made plans to attend to the situation
during the time it would take to travel to the sphere we’d just
discovered.

After Jonathan’s visit to the planet and his leaving Ens. Sato there,
Enterprise headed in the direction of the sphere. Phlox concocted a
story to protect our privacy, and we then had a few days to
ourselves to quench the fever.

When he came to me that evening, our coupling began tentatively,
each searching and finding pleasure in the other, not at all like my
frenzied attack on Sim. The attraction and need only grew stronger
with each joining until physical exhaustion claimed us both. Yet the
blood fever continued to envelope more of me instead of abating.
As he slept, flashes of that dream of the two of us living on that
bleak planet kept going through my mind. There it had taken several
weeks to quench the fever – time we could not afford to waste here
and now. There was only one solution left, and when he woke I’d
have to convince him of it.

The morning hours were passed in fitful meditation and distracted
study of the ancient texts. I returned from my mental musings with
a start when he touched my face. He could see my condition was
no better. “What aren’t you telling me? Something’s missing.”

“Yes, but I have no right to ask you.”

“Without it this condition lingers?” I nodded. “Tell me.”

“The mental bond is missing.” I explained the Vulcan mating
traditions and the telepathic bond that usually accompanied them.

“Can you do it?”

“I can try. An Elder usually places the link. I think I can manage a
temporary bond by mind melding with you.” He was concerned,
and rightly so, about Pa’nar. I showed him the texts and let him
read for himself that Pa’nar wasn’t a contagious disease, but an injury
caused by violent forced intrusion. Proper melding required a
gentle touch and the cooperation of both parties.

“And you’re sure you can do this?”

“Reasonably sure.”

“Then let’s do it.”

As I place my fingers on his pressure points, I whispered, “Imagine
a beach. Your thoughts are the sand. Mine are the water. Where
the waves glide over the sand, we share our thoughts.”

*Jonathan?*

*Yes?* The meld was successfully initiated and I sought and
found the correct points, then envisioned a physical link from them
to my own mind. I removed my hands from his face to test the link.

*Can you still hear me?* When he answered, relief filled both of
us. As the connection was tenuous, we proceeded immediately.
This time the intensity of the joining was indescribable as the link
permitted us not only our own pleasures, but also those of the
other. The climax was numbing in its power and came too fast and
hard, but had the effect of cool rain on the fires within me. Cool
sacred rain.

Jonathan felt it too. I laughed out loud and he joined me. In our
minds we played in the rain like children. We continued the
celebration by joining again, much more slowly this time,
thoroughly extinguishing the plak tow. Before sleep conquered us,
we looked back on our mental beach scape and saw two sets of
footprints in the wet sand, side by side. Jonathan smiled and so did
I.

We returned to ship life the next day, studying the sphere and its
intricacies, the echo of pon farr only a memory. By the time we
returned to retrieve Ens. Sato, my body and my meditations were
already beginning to prepare me for the next milestone. Two
weeks later Phlox confirmed the pregnancy but seriously doubted
the viability of the fetus. Jonathan chose not to concede defeat.
He was elated at the prospect of fatherhood. I too was fascinated
with the possibilities. So much Vulcan ideology had already been
revealed as flawed by the events of the last two years. Only a year
ago Jonathan had made light of the idea of Vulcans and Humans
mixing genes. At that time, who would have predicted it would be
us?

Jonathan’s protective nature came forth immediately. He insisted
on marriage and moving into my quarters. He even delivered
Porthos into Phlox’s care to avoid annoying my olfactory nerves.
Feeling somewhat overwhelmed, I put up no resistance to his
endeavors. Ens. Sato called it nesting – an odd analogy, but fitting.
If the rest of the crew had reservations, gratefully they kept their
comments out of earshot.

To temper the intensity of Jonathan’s enthusiasm, I began
instructing him in the techniques of meditation and shielding his
every thought from our mental bond. The cacophony of his
thoughts was deafening! Surprisingly, he quickly adapted and we
began working on strengthening our bond, I teaching him calm
logic, he teaching me to work through my emotions.

Soon we were able to communicate from farther and farther
distances. He was learning to probe my mind without my
assistance and build up walls against mental attack, if necessary.
These skills were useful to our mission as well. They enabled him
to ward off imprinting on the Xindi hatchlings, and allowed us
to stay in silent contact while one of us was off-ship. When he was
confident enough, Phlox and I showed him the brain scans that
mapped my Pa’nar injuries, and he was able to heal them. Yet again
I owed him my life.

The next several weeks were filled with plotting and deceptions –
Gralik, Degra, the trip to the past. I was having trouble keeping
meals down and the sight and smell of Human fast food nearly
waylaid the capture of the Xindi bioweapon. After returning from
Earth’s past, Jonathan went to the galley and made plomeek soup
for me. He said he’d have a better chance than Chef of doing it
right since he could ‘remember’ the taste through my memories.
Indeed, it was the best soup I’d eaten since leaving Vulcan.

The weeks passed studying the spheres and the Xindi shuttlecraft
and trying to find their weapon. I found the work more and more
distracting as the child within me grew. I was now sensing his mind
awakening and his body moving. His thoughts were simple and
joyful, curious and content. During our quiet times, Jonathan and I
communed with our wondrous, beautiful boy whom we now called
Kevin. Amid the chaos of our mission, our small family was a
peaceful oasis. Neither logic nor emotion ruled, only peace and
love and contentment.

That utopian respite ended when we found the Humans and
Skagarans. Shortly after that encounter, I was in sickbay panicked.
I could no longer feel Kevin or his thoughts. Phlox confirmed that
he was dying in my womb. Jonathan berated himself for sending me
off on a horse with Trip. Phlox reassured us that wasn’t the cause.
Neither was the phaser stun that Lt. Reed had delivered. He
reminded us that he doubted Kevin’s viability from the start and
suggested that we induce labor in a last effort to save him. He
planned to put Kevin in stasis until he could find the problem and a
cure.

Labor proceeded quickly and I concentrated on connecting with
Kevin one last time. When he was delivered, Phlox realized that he
was no longer alive. All three of us were thoroughly dejected. I
insisted on seeing my son. Phlox handed him to me on a towel. He
wasn’t as big yet as my hand, but perfectly formed. That’s when I
emotionally shut down. Jonathan’s heart was breaking and so was
mine. I couldn’t handle the onslaught. I retreated to an inner
nothingness and built a mental fortress around it.

How much time passed I didn’t know. Somehow Jonathan had
broken through and was calling me back. I was barely aware of
warm water. He was gently bathing me from head to toe.

*I can’t…*

*Cry,* he finished my thought.

*I’m numb. If I let the wall down…*

*Give me your pain. I’ll cry for you.*

*I can’t.*

He didn’t argue, only kept bathing me and humming softly. The
warmth and the sound lulled my vigilance and he was able to open
the gates to my pain. It rushed through me to him, and when I
finally opened my eyes, I saw the tears flowing down his face. The
first sob came forcefully out of me, repeating endlessly until my chest
was heaving and my own eyes were wet.

Jonathan lifted me out of the water and held me until the outburst
had past, then kissed my forehead and wrapped me in a towel.
“We’ll be alright,” he said. Saying it out loud somehow made it
believable.

An uneasy calm settled on us that night. In my weary state, the
small weak katra I’d held onto in sickbay surfaced and startled us
both. It was Jonathan who recognized Kevin’s essence first. Our
little one was frightened and alone.

*Never alone,* I whispered to him. I created a special place in
my mind – a place of comfort and love – where Kevin would be
safe and held him gently to me. Jonathan led me to bed and held us
close, softly humming the same tune until all three of us slept.

As we neared Azati Prime, our personal problems were put aside in
order to prepare for the mission. I almost lost control again when
he insisted on going alone to destroy the Xindi weapon. I made
him promise not to shield his death from me – I needed the contact
to preserve his katra – and he made me promise not to withdraw
again, to lead our crew to safety. I fought back panic and headed
for the bridge where I watched the shuttle carry him away.

An hour later I could still feel him. He’d been captured and beaten.
I tired to concentrate on easing his pain, but the Reptilian attack
was usurping too much of my energy. When one of those vile
creatures slashed his face, I felt I was going to loose control.
Better to do it in private, I thought, so I ran to Jonathan’s office.
No sooner than the tears began to fall did Trip barge in and lecture
me about my command responsibilities.

“He’s _not_ dead! They’re torturing him,” I spat back.

*HE’S RIGHT!* Jonathan’s mental shouting was like a slap in
the face. *You promised,* he reminded me. I didn’t hear
whatever else Trip said, just wiped my face and returned to the
bridge.

When the fighting stopped and Jonathan returned, I met him in
sickbay. After Phlox had scanned and medicated him, we sent him
off to tend to the many others arriving for help. While I cleaned
Jonathan’s cuts and bruises, we caught upon the state of affairs with
the Xindi, the fragile truce with Degra, and the contition of the
ship. Not once did he speak – or think – about my dessertion of the
bridge. I tried to apologize, but he silenced me by stroking my
middle and forefingers with his own. I closed my eyes with the
intensity of his touch. When I opened them again, he picked up
where he’d left off, verbalizing a list of repairs and other things that
needed doing before we would be able to rendezvous with Degra.

/ / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / /

“A few days later – yesterday – Lorian contacted us, and here we
are,” I said as I broke contact and slipped out of her mind.

“Fascinating! You were fortunate to receive the P’Jem texts. Trip
and I didn’t have that added intimacy.”

With nothing more to reveal, we finished the tea and I took my
leave. After sharing her data with Jonathan and Trip, and making
the necessary adjustments to coerce Lorian into cooperating, we
made it safely through the passageway and met Degra on the other
side. The loss of the older Enterprise left me strangely ambivalent.
I didn’t expect them to survive, but I would have been happy if they
had.

Things finally calmed down and Jonathan and I went to our
quarters for the night. The message light was blinking on my desk,
and we both stared at it wearily. I was shocked to find that she had
sent me more data before she died – her Phlox’s research on
Vulcan-Human genetics. The accompanying message said she
wanted to thank me for healing her Pa’nar Syndrome; she felt whole
again if only for a day. She also appreciated our shared thoughts
and wanted to spare us the painful years it would take our Phlox to
do the same research. She wanted me to recover emotionally – as
much as was possible – and having Lorian had done that for her.
She wished us success in our mission and in our personal lives.

“Well, that was awfully kind of her. What, exactly, did you two
discuss?” Jonathan asked.

“The road not taken.”

“The poem by Robert Frost?” He looked a little confused.

“Metaphorically. We shared our differing experiences.”

“Oh, I get it!” He smiled. “You compared me and Trip.” I
frowned a bit. “Okay, I don’t really need to know,” he said,
chuckling.

I pulled him to me and kissed him long and slow. “I made the
better choice,” I whispered near his ear, “if you’re interested.”

“Yeah?” His eyes were smiling brightly now.

“Definitely.” I felt my lips curl upward of their own volition into
what Jonathan liked to call a ‘Mona Lisa smile’. He looked at me as
if I were an oasis in the desert.

“I haven’t seen you smile since Kevin…”

“You can say it… since Kevin died.” He held me close and
reminded me that he’d said we’d be alright.

Despite the lightness of our mood, I could feel how tired he was, so
I urged him to sleep; he needed to be well rested before facing the
Xindi Council. I, instead, meditated until I heard the long deep
breaths of his slumber. I extinguished the lamp and watched him
for a time, my beautiful gentle husband… my beautiful gentle
husband who’d had to turn against his conscience so many times in
the last months to save his race, and who’d hated himself each time.
Yes, we’d be alright.

For the first time in months, years – since I shot Jossen, actually – I
no longer felt needy. I eased into bed and put my arm protectively
around Jonathan. This new emotion – hope – was a pleasant one
indeed. I let it envelope both of us in its blanket of quiet
anticipation as my eyes slowly slipped shut.

Two paths diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Robert Frost

The End

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