Location : Restaurant Hotel Le Cep.
Trip ordered the Comté Cheese Soufflé and Beef Bourguignon, T’Pol Bouillon de Plomeek and Mollusque Géant. “Not a very vegetarian choice.” Trip looked at her, “T’Pol, in case you hadn’t noticed, I have lost a good deal of my body weight. Protein and fat are important right now.” They had started badly and T’Pol knew it. She had no right to offer the kind of ironic intimate jabs at Trip, the kind that she knew Amanda would have got away with. She looked down at herself and in that uniquely deep resonant voice of hers kept it simple. “I’m sorry.”
Trip beckoned the waitress and asked if they could chose a good half bottle of Burgundy for him and decant it. He had developed a knowledge and appreciation of Californian wines but not French.
Trip sighed, knowing he had to clear the air. “When I left my girlfriend six months ago, I said ‘see you later’ and I meant it. I know ‘this’, pointing to his head, is still there but we’re on equal terms now. So it’s not an issue.” He reached out for her hand across the table, “I know we need each other now, just as much as we did in ’53. I know you’re there for me and I am sure as hell here for you. But let’s keep it like that OK?”
She looked at him, wondering how to respond. In a way, the tables had been turned. For a long time on the Enterprise he had wanted to move forward, whilst she wanted to concentrate on her studies. She also knew Trip was honourable: he had made a promise so he would keep it.
Nevertheless, she loved him and she knew she loved him in a way that no one else ever could. It wasn’t that she felt entitled to more after all she had done in the last, how long was it, fifteen days? But it felt like he was denying their extraordinary Bond and what had happened to and between them. Given what had happened, her need felt indulgent right now. What she knew was she needed to be patient and she took his words at face value.
“There is something I want to discuss with you.”
The waitress brought across their entrees and the wine, they rolled out their napkins and began. “Ok, shoot,” and then more serious, “Please go on. What did you want to talk about?” “I didn’t tell you everything that went on, on Romulus. Just before the stranger appeared with you in the Senate, a member of the Tal’shiar entered. He announced that he was my Father and claimed I was nothing more than a half breed, whose testimony was driven by a personal agenda.” Trip looked up from his souffle, “and is he… your Father?” “I believe so.” “If the stranger hadn’t entered, what do you think would have happened?” “I believe matters were finely balanced, but when he intervened Atare saw it as a chance to dismiss my claims and our overture. I made the judgement at the time and activated the final Beacon warning.”
Trip finished his souffle, “So, OK your Father is a very astute political figure with impeccable timing. But that misses two far more important things about you and your theory.” “What are they?” “That you were right: Romulans and Vulcans are two different sides of the same coin. Your parents were able to conceive a child with ease because you have a shared ancestry. Even more important, this explains at a stroke so much about you.” Trip was not subject to the taboos of Vulcan society. His view was pragmatic, unemotional. Quite the irony. T’Pol was right about the connection between the two planets and the course of T’Pol’s life could now be explained.
T’Pol appeared unconvinced. “Trip, why are you so certain that it ‘explains at a stroke’ everything?” Trip waited for the waitress to deliver their main course before restarting.
“T’Pol, to begin with: look at your career. You have always made left-field choices: Vulcan Security, the Earth Embassy and then joining the Enterprise and refusing, twice wasn’t it, to return to Vulcan. Did your mother not say your emotions were always close to the surface? Koss said to me his reason for seeking the annulment was that he realised, now that he was an adult, that you were unorthodox, a Maverick, and would not be suited to the more traditional life he wished to pursue.” T’Pol stopped eating, “I had not realised the extent to which he shared his views with you. No doubt you reciprocated?” Trip looked over at her, his face hardening, “T’Pol, come on you can do better than that. Listen, I know you have been through a very tough time. It must have hurt like hell to know you and T’Les were just a front to create a cover. But consider this: part of the reason you have made such a priceless contribution for all of us, is because you have this different heritage. You’re uniquely gifted. That’s how I see it anyway.”
The other matter it explained was why T’Pol had been drawn toward Jonathan and become embroiled with Trip. All it had done was to bring confusion and heartache. The man in question was sat there coolly running off her life, like it was a check list of consequences. She had enough.
She looked at Trip and started to rise from the table. “But it has not brought me happiness. Forgive me, Trip, I am tired. I will return to my room to meditate. Please thank Madam for the meal.” Trip put his wine down and, ever the gentlemen, stood up whilst she left. He shook his head in frustration.
The waitress came over. “Est-ce que tout va bien?” Trip looked up at her, “Le repas fut un grand succès, mais la conversation pas tellement.” Madam Bouvier scuttled over. “Monsieur le Voyage, Soyez patiente avec elle, elle vous aime beaucoup.” Trip nodded and could not help but laugh: ‘Monsieur Le Voyage’, God she was worth every penny.
Location: Hotel Le Cep
The Next Day
Trip woke, made T’Pol a cup of tea and knocked on her door. “Come In.” He walked towards her bed, sat down and handed her the tea. “Thank you,” she acknowledged.
She sipped her tea, waiting, knowing Trip wanted to say something. He looked into her beautiful hazel eyes looking over the cup at him. He began, “I’m sorry about last night. I realise I was like a bull in a china shop talking absolutes. This is unbelievably complicated for both of us, in so many ways. I am not making excuses but I am not the Chief Engineer you worked with. I am not the anonymous MACO with Amanda and I am not the Novice, attached to Surak’s Order. You know, I am not sure whom I am.” She looked at him hard, “There is something else, Trip.” He nodded, “Go on.” “You are the man who has been brutalised and subjected to the most appalling torture. You have survived only because of the science available. But that science, as far as we know, doesn’t deal with the mind.” Trip nodded and tapped her hand agreeing. She carried on, “Given that, missteps and misunderstandings between us are inevitable.”
He nodded and smiled, they had defused things between them but he realised in his determination to set things straight, he had missed something out. He sat on the edge of the bed and took hold of her hands. “T’Pol, I would have died three times over, if it wasn’t for you. You have carried me for fifteen days in a way no other being could have. I cannot put into words or begin to express how that feels. I probably will never be able to. But don’t doubt: I know it.” He picked up her left hand and kissed it and rubbed his face in her hand. All she could manage when he returned it to her lap was,”Thank you.” This was a moment when no combination of words could ever describe how she was feeling. Trip stood up and began to move toward the door.
She called after him, “May I suggest today – just this one day – we stop…? And just take in this place?” she ventured. “Yep… Good plan.” “Breakfast, a session for you in the Gymnasium, a visit to ‘Les Hospices de Beaune’, some new clothes and then, something new. I would like to go boating at the Parc de la Bouzaize.” He turned at the door to look at her. “You want me to take you on a sail boat? You’re on!”
Location: Hospices De Beaune
They stood beneath the hull-shaped arches and looked around the moral centre of the Hospice, the Poor Room, where the sick had been welcomed. People who had been ravaged by war and plague, over seven hundred years ago. Trip and T’Pol were glad they were wearing the robes of their Order. In many ways, those that had administered to the sick and infirm here hundreds of years ago were their spiritual forebears. As they took in the kitchens and cellars, it did not feel so very different to the austerity of their own Order, seventeen light years away.
As they walked down through the dimly lit cellars, they took in the atmosphere. The low curved roofs built out of brick, lined by large barrels of wine. It felt very old; full of history. If only the walls could talk.
Trip was fascinated. The barrels were made of a French light oakwood and unlike the barrels in California, which had metal hoops, these were banded by a much darker oakwood. They walked on and reached a double arched room, where the barrels not only lined the walls but were stacked either side of the supporting archways. The cellars had been quiet up until now but they noticed a group were now walking toward them. Maybe it was Trip’s MACO training but he became aware that rather than the group listening to their guide, they were staring at Trip and T’Pol. Suddenly, the dimly lit serenity of the cellars was broken when a series of blinding flashes lit up the vaults. Trip shielded his eyes from the onslaught and shouted agonisingly. “Nooo!!!” The single word echoed up and down the cellars. T’Pol, feeling his agony, turned to the group offering pained admonishment. “Why are you doing that?” Her deep voice to echoing through the vaults. They looked non plussed. There was a commotion, an instruction, the group were ferried away and a Curator who had heard the shouts appeared.
“Madam,I am so so sorry. Please, please come this way!” They both took Trip’s hand and she guided them through the cellars to a private room.
The Curator opened the old heavy arched door, to her office, which creaked. The room they entered had the same arched roofs, the same brick walls but no barrels of wine. Instead, a console desk, chairs and a soft uplighter. Minimalist but elegant. The chairs comfortable, but exuding design flair with a simple wrap-around band offering support when seated. And that was it. Even in this ancient building, technology had reduced bureaucracy to a point where it no longer intruded on centuries old buildings.
The Curator beckoned Trip to sit and, once they were comfortable, left them in private. ‘T’Pol sat next to him and held his hand. He verbalised his answer to her telepathic question. “It was the light flashes. I was there again – the darkness, followed by the dreadful glare.” She reached up and held the side of his face, her aura offering comfort, warmth and understanding. I have to be patient : we have to be patient, remember I shared the journey with you. Trip, a look of dawning recognition amongst the sadness expressed on his face, verbalised, nodding, “Yes, of course. It was my body… ” and he ran the thumb of his right hand through her hair and gently touched the back of her neck with his hand, “but it was our pain, our suffering. God, it must have been awful knowing, each time you took it from me, what was coming.” Now one hand was on her shoulder kneading it, offering physical thanks and she grabbed his arm.
After twenty minutes the curator returned and asked if she could help in any way, “A tea, perhaps? It is too early for wine.” She smiled at them, she could see they were now both much more composed. She looked at them sat across from each other, one offering comfort to the other, privately thinking how exotic they looked in their Vulcan Robes. No wonder the thoughtless visitors took visuals. “Yes. Tea would be agreeable.”
“What were those people doing?” “They were taking a visual document of our appearance and because it was dark, flash lights activated on their devices.” He shook his head, “It’s actually not something to worry about, it’s harmless. They probably find our appearance unusual enough to record it.” She looked puzzled, “But why do they want a record of complete strangers?” He smiled at her, “That’s what we do, we humans. It doesn’t make much sense, but it’s all about our curiosity.” She nodded, “I see.” Trip looked at her, “Now, I suggest once we’ve taken in the rest of the Museum, we take your visitor’s advice and check out this boutique? I would like to wear something a little less formal. Maybe then people will stop taking shots of us!”
As Trip finished his tea he looked around the room, taking in the ancient with the severely modern. “You know, this has the feel of Vulcan to it.” T’Pol nodded, “But not quite the extremes of the Monastery at P’Jem.” Trip, realising she was using irony, laughed at the memory of the Ancient Monastery that housed a state of the art listening centre. He smiled at her. “Come on, let’s find the Curator and get on with our day.”
They walked out into the sunlight and took in the geometric shapes of the varnished tile roofs. Under a clear blue sky the ornamental roofs looked exquisite. “You know, I have been meaning to mention this since I woke yesterday, but looking at that on a clear day reminds me: my eyesight has improved. I no longer need to wear any kind of lens or glasses.” She looked at him, “That is down to your Doctor: he prescribed something when you arrived.” Trip looked at T’Pol, smiling approvingly, “This part of the world sure excels in medical expertise, that is for certain.”
They left the Hospice now, anxious to find the boutique recommended to them.
It was only a short walk, but there was much to see. A bustling market, colourfully decorated shops and many outlets offering wine. Families were out enjoying the day, older people and young lovers walking hand in hand. Many were sat out, enjoying the sunshine eating and drinking. Trip asked T’Pol what she made of it. “It is,” and she hesitated, “vibrant and exciting.” Trip looked at her, “Oh really? So it’s like a kind of a visual jazz: intoxicating, full of the unexpected.” She nodded and they walked on. T’Pol went to place her arm through Trip’s, like other couples she had observed, “May I?” Trip laughed and pretended to think carefully, “Hmmm, let’s see,” She glanced sideways at him. Trip moved closer and opened up his arm so she could put it through his. “Right, let’s check out these clothes.”
T’Pol chose some figure hugging pants and beautiful wasted blouses, and then some much heavier longer woollen pieces for the cooler evenings and a big waisted jacket. Trip selected some mustard coloured trousers, an off-white shirt, a dark brown jacket and a three quarter length coat riding coat. Being France, the team in the outlet found scarfs, hats, shoes and boots to complement their choices, which created a timeless chic look for both of them. They decided to wear some of the items they had acquired and the team, displaying an equal measure of fascination and reverence, packed their Vulcan garments away.
There was one only one moment of awkwardness, when they encouraged Trip to consider some new underwear. Trip was wearing his set of spare skivvies which had been brought from Romulus. Hoshi’s charm was placed in the hidden pocket: nothing was going to part him from his connection with either Amanda and Hoshi. Trip had to curb their ardour for imagining Trip in their product line.
Somehow the change of clothing released them. After popping round to the Hotel to drop off their packages, they dashed off to explore. Charming pretty streets, churches, outlets for famous wines, pretty hidden cafes, where they grabbed pastries and coffee and later a glass of wine with cheese and bread and Bouillon de Plomeek for T’Pol.
They walked out to the edge of town, along Avenue du Parc into Parc De La Creuzotte and walked through the Spinney, with its raised walkways. They finally reached the edge of town and stopped to look across the farmland. They lent against an old stone wall. “Tell me, Trip, when did you become interested in fine wines and gourmet food?” “Oh that’s easy. I always thought you believed I was a bit of a Red Neck! After the Enterprise and being in San Francisco for six months, I went on a kind of fast-tracked culture tour. There are great places to not only eat but learn. Amanda helped too – she is a great cook and loves to experiment, but coming from my neck of the woods offers me the best of both worlds.” T’Pol looked out across the fields that were so alien to her. “You have been very lucky, Trip.” He moved over to her, put his arm around her. “I am blessed in so many ways.”
They retraced their steps, took a left and walked toward the jetty at Parc de la Bouzaize. Trip organised the sailing dinghy, explaining to the guards he had been sailing since he was ten years old.
Trip helped T’Pol in. She sat on the bucket seat in the rear of the boat, the stern. Trip was in front and helped her on with her life jacket. “T’Pol, this was designed for disabled people, but it’s ideal for starters with its bucket seats and cut-out sails. If you want to take the helm using the steel T Bar, let me know.” Trip controlled the boat from the centre, pulling the levers which controlled the sails. As they moved out, he shouted to her, “See? you’re on the SS Enterprise with Captain Charles Tucker 3rd, Crewman T’Pol!”
Once out in the Lake, Trip showed his seamanship, moving the small dinghy deftly around the Lake. T’Pol took in all the different vista’s and enjoyed the wind on her face. “May I take the helm?” He nodded, “Go for it! But just very gentle movements, channel your inner Vulcan – not Romulan!” T’Pol looked at him and her eyebrow arched, “I believe both have competent pilots, whatever their intent.”
Trip sat back and folded his arms, letting her take the small dinghy around the Lake. She imagined carving out figure of eights, circles and Ovals, tacking through the wind, as she took them round again and again but the shapes she was carving out were more in her imagination, however enjoyable the experience was.
They were out on the water so long the sun began to come down. Somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean, the Sun descended to the horizon. Trip turned round and winked at T’Pol, “Skipper, I think we ought to be heading back to shore.”
They took the boat back to the small Quay, moored up, thanked the guards and headed back for the Hotel. “I don’t know about you, but all that sailing has made me hungry. Shall I see if Madam B has a table?” T’Pol agreed, “Yes. It would be an agreeable way to finish off the day.” Trip looked at her and smiled, “It has been a good day but tomorrow we must move on. We must find this friend the woman mentioned.” She nodded, “Indeed.”
Trip found Madam Bouvier, who looked at Trip with his new attire and noted his ruddy flushed complexion. “C’est beau.” Trip nodded “Merci. Puissions-nous avoir une table? Nous sommes affamés.” Her hands flew in the air. “Mais bien sûr, Monsieur Le Voyage!” Trip .”Merci! Et vous pouvez choisir la nourriture à votre discrétion?” Another wave of the hand. “Pas problème. Pas problème de toute.” Trip paused, “Malheureusement, nous devons vous quitter demain. Si vous pouviez organiser un taxi aérien pour La Barre?” Madam Bouvier gazed at him with a satisfied look,”Il est bon que Mme Vash ait tout expliqué.’ Trip smiled and turned and thought to himself ‘why doesn’t that surprise me? So that’s the mysterious woman’s name…’