Kath Tucker had raised her children to be mannerly, and it rankled that she couldn’t quite manage it herself, right now. She was trying not to stare at either of the other two occupants of this small room. But she’d looked at the large, three paneled dressing room mirror, the dress hung neatly beside it, the flowers in their crystal vase, the couch, and the assorted trappings that shared the table so much that she thought she could close her eyes and list every detail.
The half-dressed Vulcan was too busy pacing to notice. No, prowling would be a better word for the feral way she moved. Her head was up, her eyes wide and unblinking, and her nostrils flared. Every few seconds, her tongue darted out to wet her lips.
When her son had told her T’Pol wasn’t like other Vulcans, Kath hadn’t quite believed him. She did now. The caged wildcat quality of hers took away whatever doubts Kath had brought to San Francisco.
She looked lovely – and more than a little dangerous.
“T’Pol, it’s time to get dressed.” Hoshi Sato sounded resigned to failure. It hadn’t worked the first time, or the second. The communications officer sighed, and then spoke in a firm voice, in what Kath assumed was Vulcan.
“I will try.” T’Pol said, her voice rough and half an octave lower than the last time she’d spoken. She stopped pacing and turned, her skin flushed with notes of green that made her even more beautiful, and more alien, too. Her hands were tucked behind her back, her fingers doing a twining dance with one another. Her body seemed to – to thrum, almost – with wild energy.
But she didn’t come any closer, only stood there, trembling slightly. Her perfume rose in the air, notes of oranges and what Kath imagined a desert might smell like. Kath thought she looked stuck, and needed help to get unstuck.
“Maybe it’s not my place -” She broke off, not sure she could help.
“Your place is here, kinmother.” T’Pol turned to face Kath, but her eyes said her focus was somewhere else. “My ashayam values your opinion. Therefore, I will, as well.” She came back to where Kath stood to the side of the mirror.
“That would be your son, ma’am,” Hoshi said softly, even though Kath didn’t need any translation for the look in T’Pol’s eyes.
“Please, speak.” The young Vulcan woman’s shaking was stronger now. Like she had to expend her nervous energy through motion. That reminded Kath of Trip, but T’Pol didn’t seem to notice it
“Trip doesn’t need any of this.” She swept an arm out over the room, to indicate where the simple gown and veil, the bouquet of fuschia roses, the other trappings traditional for wedding preparations. “All he needs is you, T’Pol.”
“Perhaps you are correct, kinmother -”
“I’m called Kath, T’Pol.”
“Yes, I know – Kath.” Finally, the young Vulcan’s eyes came back – they were lovely, hazel and alive in a way Kath had never seen from any other member of her species. She remembered Trip crying in her new kitchen, saying that she couldn’t be like other Vulcans anymore. She’d thought it was wishful thinking, or denial – but, looking into the eyes of the woman her son loved, she understood.
“Really, T’Pol. I know my son. He doesn’t want you to suffer, just to keep to human traditions that aren’t yours.”
“I will honor him by my observance of his traditions, as he once stood for me, in my father’s robes, as I knelt upon the sands with another. This waiting – it’s a small gift, measured against the pain I caused him in those moments. I will – endure.” Her chin came up again, and she added, with obvious pride. “I am – still – Vulcan.”
There was a soft chiming sound. T’Pol startled visibly. She was Vulcan, but even Kath could see that she was also at her limit.
“Kath honey, I’ve got a man out here about to Tripify anything within his reach. Any idea how much longer you ladies are going to need to finish dolling up the bride?”
Before she could answer Charlie, Trip broke in. “Pepperpot, I don’t need anything but you. I can feel you needin’ me, worryin’ that something’s going to go wrong. I don’t care what you’re wearing – you look amazing in everything, or nothing at all. I just want to marry you, and then hang on for dear life while we fall apart together.”
“T’hy’la!” T’Pol was at the comm unit before Kath registered that she’d even moved, and she looked like she wanted to climb through it to get to Trip.
Kath remembered what he’d said, when he called to invite them here. “She needs me, Mama,” he’d said, and, even through her boy’s tears, she ‘d heard his pride and the conviction to meet that need head on. “Needs to be right with me. Touching me – and, well, getting as close as two people can get – you and Dad should know that, so you’re not shocked. She can’t help it, and I don’t want her to. It’s how she is.”
Now, Trip said, very softly, “Come on out, Tina. Just the way you are -”
“No. This is a Terran wedding. I will honor your customs – as you did mine.” She took a deep, shaky breath, and got hold of herself, more or less. “I will hasten.”
But when the call ended, she looked dazed and lost. “I can’t feel him,” she whispered, and a tear slid down her cheek.
“I’ve got an idea.” Hoshi was smiling as she gently steered T’Pol to the couch, urging her to sit. A good idea; the shaking was so strong, she might fall if she didn’t. The young human woman knelt beside her. “Take my hand, T’Pol.”
“Take it. Close your eyes.” Hoshi’s voice was firm.
T’Pol hesitated. “My fingers -”
“I know; you’ve warned me before, remember? I’ll be careful. Now, take my hand and close your eyes.”
Whatever happened in the next minute or so ended with a deep shared exhalation, and T’Pol said, very calmly, “Thank you, Kiral. Kinmother, will you assist me with dressing appropriately?”
“All right.” The simple dress Hoshi had purchased only an hour ago was ready, and so was the veil, an elegant flow of Spanish lace that had been Kath’s, forty-five years ago. “The dress is your something new. The veil is your something borrowed. So we still need something old, and something blue.’
T’Pol tipped her head, and one of her brows lifted a little. “I don’t understand.” The puzzle seemed to be just what she needed to focus on.
“It’s a wedding tradition. The bride is supposed to wear ‘something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.’ I think I can help with the blue.” She released the Vulcan woman’s hand, and went to the open bag. “I keep a few of these handy, in case someone damages theirs,” she said, and brought out one of the patches Enterprise’s crew wore on their uniforms. “This seems perfect, to me. We can pin it inside your dress; it doesn’t need to show.”
“I have something old.” T’Pol lifted the medallion she’d hung on her baby daughter’s isolette; she’d been wearing it around her neck. “This belonged to my mother; it has been in my family for many generations.” She paused, her shaking fingers tracing the pattern of a triangle piercing a circle, with a gem in the center. “This represents infinite diversity in infinite combination.”
“Well, that seems just about perfect,” Kath said.
“However, it will alter the effect of the gown’s neckline,” T’Pol said. Kath hadn’t thought a Vulcan would care about such things, but this was, as her son had said, a most unusual Vulcan. “Perhaps, it could be incorporated into the bouquet.”
“My grandmother loved arranging flowers, and she taught me a lot when I was little. I can make it work.”
T’Pol lifted the pendant from her neck and handed it to her crewmate. “I’m ready to get dressed.” She rose smoothly, and she wasn’t shaking anymore.
After that, it went quickly. T’Pol seemed to prefer simplicity; the gown slipped over her curves, fitting perfectly. Kath fastened the high Vulcan collar, and together they surveyed the effect. The collar was gauzy, as was the fabric right beneath, and there was a cut-out area over a sweetheart neckline. The empire waist fit like a sheath, but the skirt flared out slightly to flow around her ankles. It was feminine in an understated way, and the white brought out the cast of her skin. Hoshi finished with the flowers and brought the patch and a pin. T’Pol secured it, tucked under the fabric over her right breast. “When we dance, it will be over Trip’s heart.” It was a soft almost-whisper, but it held deep longing.
If Kath had still had any doubts about T’Pol’s feelings for her son, that would have erased them. She adjusted the veil over T’Pol’s short cap of hair, keeping it behind her beautiful Vulcan ears – but T’Pol met her eyes through the mirror, and said, “The first time we met, I was wearing a cowl, but Trip knew me as I am, even then.” She reached up, and moved the veil so that it drifted over her ears. “He will have the pleasure of revealing them,” she whispered, and a shudder went through her as her perfume rose, tinged with minerals.
Hoshi brought the bouquet, with the pendant’s chain artfully wound through it, so that the symbol hung over her hands.
She regarded herself in the mirror, and gave what might have been a tiny nod.
“Are you ready to get married?” Kath asked.
“I have been ready since the moment of our meeting.” And, from the certainty in her voice and the look in those hazel eyes, Kath knew she wasn’t exaggerating.
T’Pol turned from the mirror and strode to the door. “It’s time.”