Climbers' Code

By Lt. Zoe Jebkanto

Rating: G

Genres: drama humour romance


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Chapter Seven

Chapter Seven

Disclaimer:  I don’t own Star Trek or any of its planets or peoples.  I’m not making money from this story, no copyright infringement is intended.

Keywords:  Survival, ethics, wager, bond

Summary:  As the Romulan war looms, what starts as an innocent little stress-relieving wager between Captains Archer and Hernandez sparks questions, memories and… unexpected revelations!

A/N: This story takes place a couple of months after the Season Four episode “Terra Prime” and a few weeks after the story “As Easy as Breathing”.  Thanks go out to Admiral OhBoy! Archer for kindling the spark that became this tale and to Asso for the support and encouragement when it was needed most!

Unspoken thoughts (as well as “Bond speech”) are shown in quoted “italics”.  Other italicized items depend upon context.

Enterprise NX01         28 March, 2155          Zero eight hundred hours, twenty five minutes

“Hoshi, put me through to Captain Hernandez.”

Jonathan watched the door slide shut behind Trip’s retreating back and reached for his almost empty coffee cup, then added,  “And… on a secured channel if you don’t mind.”


He heard the note of concern in her tone and hastened an automatic reassurance.  “Not an emergency of any kind, Ensign.”

Even on audio only he knew her delicate eyebrows were arching, that the slight hesitation was a fleeting exchange of glances with Travis or Malcolm.

He allowed a smile to broadcast itself in his tone, echoing to all of them his own recollection this morning that, even these days, not everything out here had to do with Romulans.  “Contact me when you reach her.”

It would, he knew, be at least several minutes before Enterprise received her response.

As the smile faded, he settled back in his chair.  After talking about those hours on Al Averon VI, it was amazing how, even after four days, his bones could still sing with grateful recognition that the bitter cold was only a fading memory.

Too bad he couldn’t say the same for Trip’s description of their last desperate minutes there, or for the set of complications his words had presented.

On the surface, the regulations addressing them were black and white.  But the underlying situation was anything but!

Kind of like the bet with Erika.

“There it was again- that circle from Trip to Erika…  And from Erika, back to Trip…”

He suppressed a soft, ironic groan.

That bet about Trip, requesting a transfer because of a woman.  Not quite casual, it had been half joke, half antidote to Romulans, moving from awkward to intriguing as he spotted the challenging sparkle in Erika’s vivid eyes.  Now it had become… troubling.  That bet he wasn’t sure whether he had won or lost.

No, that wasn’t black and white either.

“Melded!”  Trip had said.  “Telepathically linked!  Bonded!”

He stared at the closed door as if he could find a definition for each concept written on its smooth surface that would not reopen any conflict between command and conscience.

“Melded?”  He’d known about the connecting ability of Vulcan minds since the V’Tosh Ka’tur visited Enterprise early in her mission.  “Telepathically linked?”  He himself had melded with the living spirit of Surak on Vulcan’s Forge, and through him, later helped T’Pol initiate a connection with Hoshi when Phlox had been kidnapped.

But…  Bonded?”

T’Pol had linked with Trip to access his concussion-damaged memories in the Algeiba mines.  Reading T’Pol’s report of their combined efforts to effect his own rescue, had deepened his appreciation for the agility and reach of her mind, but caused him to assume Trip’s telepathic experience was similar to his own.

Until a few minutes ago.

Jonathan hadn’t been sure if the memory of his friend shouting T’Pol’s name into the gusting wind when there was no communicator to hail her with, was real.  It could’ve been delirium, either his own or Trip’s.

But Trip’s voice erased any illusions with its absolute conviction.  “Once I thought to show her, T’Pol could recognize our location relative to where the shuttle-pod landed.  She kept sending images back to me, steering us toward those coordinates, so Malcolm could transport us back to the ship.”

“She…?  Sent you images?”

Syran had to touch his face to transfer Surak’s katra.  T’Pol’s searching fingers had traced Hoshi’s cheek for the psi points to establish their link.  But…  Sent?

Trip hadn’t seemed to notice Jonathan’s confusion.  “Images is the best way I can put it.  Saying it was between pictures and words is maybe clearer.  I could give you a better description if I wasn’t so out of it with hypothermia.”

Had what he and Surak shared been images?  Words?  On reflection, Jonathan decided, it had been something between the two… or a bit of both.  Except that…

“Trip!  You and I were on the planet.  T’Pol was…”

“Yeah.  On the ship.  I know.”  Emotions kaleidoscoped in Trip’s eyes.  He looked like he might rise, pace, and search the corners of the room for the words he was struggling to find.  Then, his shoulders relaxed and the tautness in his features gave way to what Jonathan recognized as relief.  “Melding’s different… when there’s a bond.”

“A bond?  Between you and T’Pol?”

“Damn!  He hadn’t meant to sound so incredulous!”

Of course there was a bond!  As parents, there always would be.  The realization that lanced through him was followed by a rush of impotent rage on their behalf over what Terra Prime had put them through.  “You mean…  Because of Elizabeth?”

“No.  But she’s become a big part of what was already there.  It began before we knew about her.  When we were in the Expanse…”

A faint flush brightened the last traces of wind-burn on his cheeks.  Half reluctant amusement tugged at Jonathan’s mouth.  It was a long time since he’d seen anything resembling that expression.  For a crazy, wonderful, terrible moment, he thought Trip would burst out with his “I was a perfect gentleman!” line.  It was a carefree memory from a simpler time that somehow seemed closer than it would have done before that talk with Erika an hour ago.

Though something in Trip’s tone was stirring a vague storm warning in Jonathan’s gut,   he’d had to bless the absolute brilliance of that crazy bet of hers.

How long was it since he’d recalled his early days on Enterprise as anything but the bittersweet visions of an untried idealist?  Sat down for a meeting with a member of his crew to discuss anything but strategies?  Or gone an hour on duty without talking or even so much as thinking, about the Romulan threat?

Despite that hint of apprehension, he was grateful that, whatever he was about to face, for a change it was nothing to do with the Romulans.

He’d given Trip’s flush a few seconds to fade.  “Go on,” he said.

Trip nodded.  “I’d feel better if T’Pol was here to have a voice in this.  But you know us both, Cap’n.  I trust your judgment on how to handle what I’m gonna say.”

That wasn’t a beginning designed to impart reassurance.  Jonathan braced himself as he leaned a little forward in his chair.  He’d read Phlox’s recommendations, early in their time in the Expanse, that Trip undergo Vulcan neuropressure for insomnia, but was unprepared for the sudden husky timbre of Trip’s voice, even less for his words.  “During our time in the Expanse, T’Pol and I became… intimate.”

Intimate!  Damn it!  They were both senior officers!  They knew the rules on that kind of fraternization!

“And just how long were you… intimate?”

Was the anger in his tone meant for the officer who should’ve known better than to ignore regulations or the friends who gave no hint of what had happened between them?

Trip stiffened, his words cool and deliberate.  Protective.  Of T’Pol more than himself, Jonathan was sure.  “If that part’s any of your business, Captain, it was for one night.”

Not Trip’s usual, casually drawled “Cap’n” this time, Jonathan noted, but the rank title carefully enunciated with a heavy and distancing emphasis on the last syllable.  

“Sorry, Trip, I had no right to bark at you that way.”

Especially, he’d realized, because the anger was less about whatever comfort Trip and T’Pol might have drawn from each other in the hellish months they’d spent out there, than about its contrast with the abrupt ending of the relationship that had been blossoming between himself and Erika, back in ‘51.  About the cold inevitability he’d experienced as they’d turned and walked in opposite directions along that San Francisco pier, just days after he’d been promoted to captain.

Anger driven by the sharp thrusts of loss and envy.

An hour ago, he’d asked himself whether he and Erika had sacrificed too much for their careers…

Why hadn’t he proposed they put the romance part of their relationship on hold after his promotion?  They could have concentrated on keeping the friendship intact for the time being, instead of just walking away without so much as a backward glance.  From their first meeting, they had created a wonderful synergy between them, built on each other’s thoughts, caught each other’s humor, and been such natural and understanding confidants.  What insanity had allowed him to believe, even for a moment, it could be all-or-nothing, black-and-white between them?

He could still hear the words she had spoken after the Xindi mission.

Like you, I’m married to Starfleet.

But was she, still?  Were either of them?  Really?

…He hadn’t expected the painful question to demand his attention again so soon.  But there it was.  Had they…?  Given up too much?

“How’d you ever survive without me all these years?”

Good question!

She’d asked him that later, after Enterprise and Columbia together effected Phlox’s rescue.  Said it with that teasing smile of hers lighting those vivid dark eyes.  The old, bantering humor of long acquaintance had been clear in her voice for everybody present to hear.  But had there been more in her lilting words than that?  Had it been as hard for her to turn and head back to her ship that day as it had been for him to watch her go?

Was that the moment when the restlessness began?  Some of the shiny idealism of his early days commanding Enterprise had been tarnished by his time in the Expanse, by what the desperation to save Earth from the Xindi had driven him to.  But even then, he hadn’t been so aware of the loneliness… the ongoing sense of isolation that so often came with sitting in the captain’s chair.

If…  No, when!  …the Romulans were defeated, what was there to look forward to?  Another promotion?  An admiral’s desk?  An ambassadorial posting somewhere within the Coalition?  After a day reading reports or an evening wining and dining dignitaries, would he go home alone to silent and empty quarters?

Trip, he’d realized, was shrugging off his apology.  The sudden anger in his blue eyes had faded.  “Yeah, you had the right.  You’re the cap’n, and we both know the regulations.  So did T’Pol and I.”

“Trip, I can hardly hand down a reprimand for something that happened a year ago.  Especially considering what we all lived through out there, wondering if we’d even have a world to come home to.  During that mission, the two of you continued working together as efficiently as you always had, without any indication of a change in…”

“Well,” Trip interrupted, with a small and rueful smile.  “Actually, we told ourselves that nothing real had happened.  I almost managed to convince myself for a while.  Managed to stay focused on the mission, anyway.  Then, later, when you and T’Pol came back from Vulcan’s Forge, all of a sudden I couldn’t shake the feeling there was still some kind of connection between us.”

“Still some kind of connection!  Right.”  Jonathan got that.  If he closed his eyes, it could be happening all over again…

Erika, so warm in his arms as they lay, wrapped tight around each other in the crisp mountain air, a thousand stars reflected in her eyes as she looked up at him, her long hair tumbled around her face, a dark halo on the grass.


Not trusting his voice, he gestured Trip to go on.

“Then I couldn’t get her outta my head.  I guess I know now what they mean by ‘driven to distraction’.”

So yes, there had been indications then!  At last that strange, painful encounter from last fall began to make sense.  Trip, standing uneasy in the doorway after working with Phlox and Jhamel on the telepresence device, his harsh self-evaluation and the bitterness in his  words “my mind wasn’t on the job…” and then that uncharacteristic and unexplained demand to transfer to Captain Hernandez’s command on Columbia

“Right.  Columbia…  Erika’s Columbia!”

There it went again, another round of the circle, this time Trip to Erika…

And why not?”  Jonathan asked himself.  There were few people living who had shared more history with him through the years, fewer still who’d known him so well or meant so much to him.  Trip, his long-time best friend.  Erika, his…

“Who, exactly, was Erika to him now?  Who did he wish her to be?”

Talking with her this morning had reminded him that there was more to his life than reviewing Science, Engineering and Armory reports and preparing for the possibility of new Romulan invasions.  That there was more to him than his role as captain of Enterprise.  Or that there could be…  “Maybe”.

“Was Erika really married only to Starfleet?”

She was so full of humor and compassion, directness and subtlety.  Both in and out of uniform, she was so simply and consistently Erika!  Her embraces had been so full of sureness during those mountainside moments when it was her confidence and strength that he’d needed most, so tender when it was simple peace that he sought.

How’d you ever survive without me…?

There had been the faint aroma of something botanical on her skin, in her hair…  Lavender?  Rosemary maybe?  He wasn’t particularly knowledgeable about plants, but he’d remember that scent.  Would always recognize it as Erika’s…

“I,” Trip was saying.  “Thought going to Columbia would help me quit thinking about her.  Or at least help me with doing my job right.”

“And then?”

Talk about driven to distraction!

Jonathan forced his attention back to what Trip was saying.  It was less a question than a prompt to continue.  He knew the answer, or at least part of it.  Trip had transferred back to Enterprise, after all.

“I didn’t know T’Pau had cured T’Pol’s Pa’nar Syndrome, or that it was a condition that blocked natural Vulcan telepathy.  Probably should have noticed something was different when she linked with me the way she did on Algeiba, but…”

Jonathan had to laugh, though it did little to ease the tightness in his gut.  “It would probably have been easier for you to do that if you’d actually remembered anything about what happened there.”

Trip chuckled.  “Good point.  It was when the Orion girls came on board with all those crazy pheromones that we figured out what had happened.  T’Pol’s physiology made her immune to their effects, and she telepathically shared that immunity with me.”

“And it’s a good thing she did!”  Jonathan exclaimed, all traces of his earlier distraction were gone.

What an understatement!  He almost winced, remembering.  Because of the pheromones’ intoxicating influence, he’d almost surrendered command of Enterprise to those devious, slinky, scantily dressed Orion girls!  “But, Trip, with all due respect, why in particular was it that she picked you to pass the immunity to?”

“She didn’t pick.  The telepathic link was formed that night we shared in the Expanse.  It lay dormant until T’Pol’s being cured of Pa’nar activated our bond.”

“You keep using that word, Trip!  Bond!  What am I not understanding here?”

The last of the tension between the two of them for weeks seemed to stretch the seconds as Trip’s features tightened with inner struggle.  He took a deep breath, as, after a moment, the last wall gave way, and the uneasy mask shattered leaving only the naked trust of friendship gained over many years.  Leaning forward, he met Jonathan’s gaze.  “It’s an ongoing mental connection that happens when… a couple… is… mated.”

It was a good thing that he hadn’t gone for another swallow of coffee just then, Jonathan decided.  His startled, indrawn gasp would have had him coughing and spluttering all over the place.

That surprise was still there, even after Trip had gone, echoing in his bones, much more strongly than the memory of the Al Averon cold.

Mated!  For Trip and T’Pol it had begun as an affirmation of survival amid the constant dangers of the Expanse.  One that, regulations or not, could be overlooked, just as a case might be made for that shore-leave he himself had taken with Erika when the exhausted, battle-weary crew of Enterprise at last reached home…

“What happens on the mountain… stays on the mountain!”

No!  He hadn’t wanted to go there!

The issue, the focus of the discussion was supposed to be two of his officers and a condition, a psychological and physical connection, recognized and accepted by both Trip and T’Pol.  One that, when they’d taken their daughter’s katra to Vulcan, they had committed themselves to continuing, despite Starfleet’s non-fraternization regulations.

On Earth, that commitment would have signified not just a relationship, but, even though it had been unwitnessed and unrecorded by any legal authority, would still have constituted a marriage.

Which brought him to the heart of the issue.

Right.  And wasn’t that an ironic turn of phrase under the circumstances, when happenings within the heart were something the code of regulations didn’t recognize?

They may have been intended, centuries ago, to maintain discipline, stop a senior officer from taking advantage of a junior in any of a hundred ways.  But the longer he served in Starfleet, especially living for months as part of a small community in the isolation of deep space, he began to sense the code was flawed, reducing some conflicts, but creating others.  It esteemed loyalty, but regarded other depths of feelings as subject to dismissal through simple acts of will, conversely considering those same emotional ties as so powerful they would, by their nature, compromise diligent attention to duty.

They were the same regulations that could make command such a lonely business, the same ones that he’d been questioning his own earlier reaction to, only a little while ago in regard to—

“Ensign Sato to Captain Archer.”

“She had reached Erika!”

“Archer here.  Go ahead, Ensign…”  Jonathan drew a deep breath.  “Put her through.”

“Captain?”  Erika’s face appeared on the monitor.  No orange juice or banana pancakes in evidence this time.  Though she was still in her Mess, they had been replaced by a pile of PADDs of the same make and model as the stack near his own hand: reports, he was sure, from Science, Engineering, Security, maybe Linguistics…  The mug with the panting hiker was still present however.

Jonathan glanced at the two slump-winged eagles on his own coffee mug.

“What happens on the mountain….”

She was studying him, her dark eyes wide under questioning brows, her lips slightly parted in an expression of waiting.  Beneath the carefully formal greeting, he could see her almost preparing to smile, to pick up their earlier conversation right where it left off,  but also ready to snap back into full command mode.  Just in case…

Maybe purely casual contacts couldn’t be assumed, but it would only take the glimmer of a smile to reassure her that this was one.

Or at least, he hoped, something that would approximate one.

“Erika,” he acknowledged, quirking a corner of his mouth.  The set of her shoulders eased, though her gaze remained lasered to his, steady and expectant.

He had wanted this conversation to be casual, even fun… the bet conceded, the mystery of Trip’s transfer solved and the only question left to settle being the name of the best restaurant in San Francisco.  It probably would have been, if he hadn’t had to contend with the situation of his two senior officers… his two close friends while searching out an answer to Erika’s question about Trip’s transfer.

The one whose answer had led him…“Why should he have expected anything else this morning?” …back, with an even larger question, to Erika!

How was he to deal with a relationship that had evolved, despite regulations, when an affirmation of survival was desperately needed, a sweet moment out of time for healing and comfort in the midst of terrible grief and uncertainty?

Unless he was prepared to be the worst of hypocrites, who was he to question the validity… the absolute value… of that joining?

After that first jolt of surprise, he’d realized he had few qualms about declaring the conversation with Trip about his and T’Pol’s relationship as being off the record, a talk between old and trusting friends, not officers.

“This isn’t going in any report to Starfleet, Trip.  Or in my personal logs.”  He’d even smiled then, though already the ramifications of what he was doing had made his heart thunder in his chest.  It had been good to look into Trip’s open, honest face and find there was no longer any trace of that odd, low, thrumming tension between them.  He caught an old familiar note of humor creeping into his tone.  “I think it would be fitting to classify this entire incident under the climbers’ code.”

“The…what?”  Baffled curiosity held Trip from settling back into his chair with relief.

A grin had spread itself across Jonathan’s face.  The sense of wearying isolation had lightened a little more, as it had begun to do while talking with Erika.  Despite the uncomfortable associations the phrase was raising about his next conversation with her, it was too appropriate not to apply to the current circumstance.  After all, hadn’t the questions that gave rise to this discussion begun to surface as he and Trip worked their way down those cold, snow-swept slopes on Al Averon?  “You know, Trip?  The climbers’ code?  What happens on the mountain…”

Erika was leaning a little closer to the monitor, intrigue sharpening her gaze.  “Well?” she demanded, a note of teasing in her tone.  “Not looking for wiggle-room, are you?”

“Damn it!  She had almost always been able to read him like a book!”

Though she wouldn’t know the reason, still the discomfort must have shone in his face.  He wished he could dismiss the whole fraternization issue by telling himself Trip and T’Pol’s bond was an accident, beyond their choice or control.  Not in terms the record.  He felt fine about that.  But for himself.  It would make this moment less awkward.  Less risky…

But it was complete nonsense.  If they’d wished to break their bond badly enough, they’d have sought a remedy on Vulcan.  Instead, they’d committed themselves to nurturing it, to looking toward a future together, whatever it might bring!

“Jonathan?” Erika’s questioning brows rose higher as she cupped her chin in her hand.

Leaning forward, he rounded his eyes as he returned her gaze.  God, he hoped he was managing to put his hesitation across as a mere attempt to prolong the suspense of the wager.  He still needed a minute to think…

“Hell!  A minute?  He wasn’t sure an hour, a week, a decade would be enough to sort this through to a meaningful conclusion!”

How, in all good conscience, could he have reprimanded Trip and T’Pol for their relationship in the Expanse when it had brought Trip through the grief of his sister’s death and T’Pol, through her addiction to Trellium-D?  Not to mention how, on Al Averon, their bond had very likely saved both his and Trip’s life?

And when he…?  “Damn it!” …when he looked at Erika and wished something similar for the two of them!

“There it was!”

The unnamed realization that had pressed on his heart and fueled his sense of strain, isolation and emptiness, not only these last weeks, but ever since a hand had touched his shoulder one night in San Francisco, almost a year ago, and a voice had murmured close to his ear that heroes were supposed to sit, not at the bar, but at the tables.

It had been more than an impulsive idea to contact her this morning.  It was the unvoiced recognition of the growing knowledge that he needed the connection with her.  And more…  That he wanted to think of himself as not only married to Starfleet but…

“That he wanted a future with Erika!”

Of course, even if she felt the same way, there could be no certainty of having that future.  Not with both of them preparing for what was sure to be another Romulan attack.  But the idea filled him with a renewed sense of excitement… of hope… even stronger than that which had filled his words at the Coalition Conference several weeks ago.

It could give them both something solid and strong to look forward to beyond the battle to come…

If, that was, she did feel the same way.

He’d have to ask her.  Find a time, a place, to sound her out on the notion.  He found himself grinning as the perfect idea of how to do that began to form itself.

Erika’s fingers drummed a dramatic tattoo on her cheek.  “Erika to Jonathan!”

But first, there was something more immediate the two of them must address.  And it might just fit in with his evolving plan!

Jonathan cleared his throat.  “Erika…  About our bet…”

“Well?”  She repeated.  “Did you find out anything?”

“Trip just left.”

“And…?” The word was drawn out on a rising note.  Holding up her free hand, Erika crooked her index finger, made tiny, beckoning motions.  “All right, Captain, come on.  Give over.  Was I right, or was I right?”

Yes, he realized.  Something inside him had definitely eased.  Jonathan couldn’t look at those mischievous eyes, the not quite suppressed laughter freeing them for the moment from the tired shadows of command, and manage to contain a grin.  “All right.  You win.  It was a woman.  Dinner at the Blue Pearl next time we’re in San Francisco.”

Erika’s eyes crinkled at the corners.  She couldn’t quite keep the delight of victory out of her tone.  Not, he was sure, that she was trying all that hard.  “I’m not going to say I told you so, but…” she paused for effect.  “Well?  Is it going to be salmon steaks with lemon dill sauce?”

He nodded.

“Shrimp and cucumber cocktail?”

Another nod.

Erika’s large, dark eyes sparkled.  “Don’t forget the citrus mousse!”

He was laughing now, too.  “And the mousse.”

She sighed, long and luxurious.  Her eyes closed and, for a moment he knew she was already having herself a good sample of at least one of those courses, before her attention returned to the business at hand.  “Poor Commander Tucker.  Do you think he’s fully recovered now from that distracting case of unrequited love?”

“Well, about that part of the bet…”

“Jonathan!”  Erika’s eyes popped open.  Her tone held a mix of intrigue and amusement.  “You did say it was a woman.  So…  What is it you are holding out on me?”

“Well, it wasn’t unrequited.”

“Oh.”  Erika frowned.  The shadows of command were still there beneath her eyes after all, only now becoming visible again as her amusement faded to something that looked like sadness… or regret.  He thought he saw a shiver ripple her shoulders as she bit back a sigh.  “Have they…”  Her words were formed with slow and deliberate care.  “Found a way to resolve their situation?”

Was she, he wondered, reliving that sharp lift of bone-biting night breezes off the water and seeing lights strung like cold diamonds along the San Francisco Bay?  Remembering the long, mournful wails of foghorns serving as lonely accompaniment to the sound of fading footsteps along the pier?  Or the words that had “resolved” their own situation in a very different manner after he’d been promoted to captain?

He blinked.  Dissolved the memory.

“They have.”  He hesitated for the count of two, three, four, gave her the ghost of a grin and wagered with himself that this was the ideal moment to set in motion something that might, just might, offer both him and Erika a nurturing strength with which to face the future, a hope beyond conflict to come, a second chance.  “In a manner of speaking.”

“Good.”  The word was quick, emphatic.  Was that a hint of relief in her voice?  He didn’t think it accidental that she hadn’t asked “How did you handle it?” which, as a fellow captain, she would have been within her rights to do.  Instead, her expression thoughtful, she studied him across the light-years.  Little by little, her eyes widened.

“She’d almost always been able to read him like a book.  Was she doing it now?”

She nodded to herself, the movement firm and decisive, full of memory and understanding.  “I’m glad that the… situation… could be resolved,” she said, though he was certain… almost certain anyway… that she was no longer thinking of Commander Tucker and the unknown woman who loved him as much as he loved her.  A moment later, her considering look disappeared beneath a grin that echoed his own.  “And you aren’t going to tell me how, are you?”

“No.  At least, not right now.  Later on, I just might do that.  First though, I think, since it turns out we both had part of Trip’s story right, we need a little re-negotiation on the terms of our wager.  I think you said that if I won, I could choose something we could do to celebrate that victory?”

Above the hand that again cupped her chin, her grin widened, her gaze warming and brightening with eager curiosity, though she managed to get that wonderful familiar note of casual banter back into her voice.  “All right.  So, what do you have in mind?”

“Well, Erika,” Jonathan was amazed to realize all of his old hopeful enthusiasm hadn’t been left behind in the Expanse after all.  “I’ve got this idea to follow up on after the citrus mousse.  How about, after dinner, we pack our stuff and take ourselves on another little climbing trip up that mountain?”









Magnificent writing! I love how you interlaced the stories of Jon and Erika and Trip and T'Pol all the way through. Wonderful craftsmanship. Easy to follow. Great depth to the characterization. Bravo!


Simply brilliant! It is great to see Jon uncovering the parallels between these two relationships, and hopefully Trip and T'Pol's example will finally give Jon the confidence he needs to take the next step. After all, it's only logical. :vulcan: :D


As usual, I remain astonished at your ability to put together facts and thoughts, and to convey so powerfully and yet gently the emotions.

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