Paradise Lost

By ginamr

Rating: PG-13

Genres: adventure drama romance virtual season

Keywords: kidnap

This story has been read by 687 people.
This story has been read 1495 times.


Chapter 1

Series Notes: This season of the series is in the process of major revision. Four or five new scenes were added to Paradise Lost, Part One alone. I encourage you to read not only for the new scenes, but as a review for season 6, which should be released June 15.

Possible spoilers: Broken Bow through Terra Prime
Disclaimer: Only new characters and the new plots are mine. The original characters belong to Paramount. I receive no monetary reward for my work; my only reward is the joy of creating.

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Story Notes:

The vows are similar to those of the Apache American Indians: http://www.weddingchannel.com/ui/buildArticle.action?asset Path=/templates/Articles/NonContentSet/Ceremony/vows6.vm

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Last time on Star Trek: Enterprise… Terra Prime

 

 

5.01—Paradise Lost, Part One (PG-13)

Trip and T'Pol run into trouble on a would-be R & R trip. Discover who is behind their kidnapping. Can Archer and the crew find them before it's too late?

****

"Where peace
And rest can never dwell, hope never comes
That comes to all."
~~John Milton, Paradise Lost--Book i, line 65

***************

Captain’s Starlog—January 23rd, 2155

I’ve asked Ensign Mayweather to set a course for Risa so that the crew can have a little well earned R & R. Admiral Greene suggested that perhaps shore leave away from Earth and all of the uprisings of the moment would be more suitable. I agree with him, especially given the current protests in support of Paxton’s broadcast as well as the recent loss Commanders Tucker and T’Pol have suffered.

***********

Enterprise--Archer’s Quarters
January 23rd, 2155--1732 hours

Archer sighed as he tossed back the bourbon in his glass. An awkward silence hung in the air between the captain and his best friend.

“So, how are you and T’Pol handling things?” Archer broke in.

There was an extended period of silence before Trip looked back up at Archer, the captain then seeing for the first time how hard this had truly been on his chief engineer. Trip looked as though he hadn’t slept in days and Archer couldn’t help but notice that his uniform was a little loose.

“As best as we can considerin’ we lost a daughter neither of us knew about until a few days ago.”

Trip’s speech was slurred and sluggish, a tell-tale sign that he was deep in his cups. Archer nodded, his gaze falling away from Trip’s. It cut him deeply to see Trip resorting to heavy drinking, but his friend seemed to think it was the only way to forget.

Archer’s brow furrowed in sympathy. “I know how much it hurts, Trip. It’s hard to lose someone you love.”

Trip sighed. “I didn’t even know her. I didn’t spend more than a few minutes with her before the doc told us the news.” Archer looked up to see his friend’s eyes filling with moisture. “I wish I could have done something, Jon… anything to save her.”

Archer sighed. “You’re not God, Trip. There wasn’t anything you or anyone else could have done.”

“I know, Jon. I just…” The tears began spilling over. “I watched it. I watched her dyin’ and I don’ think anything will ever break my heart more than watchin’ her walk that thin line between life and death until finally her little lungs jus’ gave out.”

Archer put a comforting hand on his friend’s shoulder. “You still have your friends, Trip…and you and T’Pol have each other. We’ll always be here for you. You’ll get through this, just like you got through losing your sister. You’ll see. Just give it time.”

Archer didn’t know what else to say. He hugged his friend tightly, giving him two rough, brotherly pats on the back. Trip returned the gesture before pulling back and laughing through his tears. “We’ll blame it on the bourbon,” he said. Archer smiled weakly. “Or on a best friend offering a little comfort through tough times.”

Trip nodded and smiled weakly. “Or that.”

Just as Trip reached for the bottle of bourbon again, Archer plucked it from his hands. “I think you’ve had enough, Trip. You’re drunk as hell. I doubt you’ll even make it back to your quarters on your own.”

Trip chuckled. “Oh, I doubt I’ll even make it out the door.” He frowned. “Maybe I shouldn’t have had so much. T’Pol’s bound to notice that the neuropressure isn’t what’s relaxed me.”

Archer frowned slightly. “Are you two still doing neuropressure sessions? According to Malcolm, that’s supposed to be pretty intimate. Apparently Vulcans only normally perform neuropressure with their lifemates.”

“And since when do you listen to anything Malcolm says?” Trip drawled, smiling despite his serious tone.

“Since I looked it up for myself. The background on it was limited, but there was enough information to confirm what Malcolm shared with me,” Archer replied with a smirk.

“You have anything to say about it?” Trip asked, the look on his face daring Archer to make something out of it.

Archer raised his hands defensively. “To each his own. If you two are comfortable with it, go for it. It’s none of my business.”

Trip sighed. “It isn’t what you think, Jon. She hardly looks at me anymore.” Archer nodded solemnly, his eyes now focused on the glass held tightly in his hand. He threw back the remainder of the liquid in it, the strong drink burning as it slid down his throat.

Trip chuckled. “Ya know, I haven’t seen ya drunk since what’s-her-name turned you down flat when you proposed to her.”

Archer sighed, nodding in acknowledgement of Trip’s comment. “Margaret.”

“Don’t worry, Jon. You’ll find the right woman someday… and she’ll be able to put up with every bit of your complicated personality.”

Archer smiled. “Hopefully I already have.”

Trip’s eyebrows shot up. “Are you talkin’ about Captain Hernandez?”

“Erika, yes.” Archer sighed, taking a long drink from the bottle of bourbon he’d snatched from Trip, the liquid burning his throat as he guzzled the remaining sixteenth of it. His eyes filled with tears from the burning sensation and he let out a dry cough, setting the now-empty bottle back on the table in front of him. “The last time we were alone together, we picked up right where we left off,” he replied hoarsely, pounding his chest with a fist.

A smirk once again graced Trip’s features. “Jumped your bones, did she?”

Archer frowned. "I'd appreciate it if you wouldn't talk about her like that," he replied, his voice still hoarse.

Trip shrugged, bringing his hands up in a defensive gesture and smiling apologetically. "Sorry."

Archer frowned. "I'd appreciate it if you wouldn't talk about her like that," he replied, his voice still hoarse.

Trip shrugged, bringing his hands up in a defensive gesture and smiling apologetically. "Sorry."

Archer frowned. “She’s a respectable woman, Trip. Don’t talk about her like that,” he replied, his voice still hoarse.

Trip shrugged, bringing his hands up in a defensive gesture and smiling apologetically. “Sorry.”

Archer leaned back in his chair, and closed his eyes. Trip chuckled. “Damn, Jon. She’s got you wrapped ‘round her little finger.”

Archer opened his eyes and looked at Trip, a frown crossing his lips. “What are you talking about?”

“Ya love her, don’t ya?”

Archer paused, considering his friend’s words for a moment. He sighed. “I guess I do.”

Trip laughed genuinely. “Looks like the only ones on board left without somebody are Malcolm, Hoshi, Travis, and Porthos.”

At this, the canine lifted his head off the floor where he’d been sleeping, and tilted it slightly to the left, as if to protest. Archer and Trip laughed. “Well, until he finds a lady friend, he’s going to be single for a while yet.” Porthos barked twice, then jumped up and stood on all fours.

Trip laughed. “I think he wants you to find him one.”

“He’s all I can handle right now.”

“Maybe Erika has a cute gal for him.”

“Like I said, he’s all I can handle right now.”

Porthos barked, ran toward his master, and stood on his hind paws while resting his front ones on Archer’s leg. The beagle whimpered pleadingly. Archer smiled and scratched his canine friend behind the ears. “Maybe soon, boy.” Porthos barked in response, and ran toward Trip, excitedly trying to climb up into his lap. Trip laughed, picking up the dog and settling him down upon his legs. He reached a hand behind the beagle’s ears and ran his fingers along the soft black fur. Archer chuckled, glaring at his pet with feigned annoyance. “Sure, appeal to him when I tell you ‘maybe’.”

A silent moment passed before Trip picked Porthos up and set him back on the deck. He stood up and straightened his uniform. “Well, I’ve got ta go. I’ve got a date ta keep with our Vulcan Science Officer.”

“Don’t do anything that I wouldn’t do,” Archer teased.

Trip offered his friend a half smile. “Jon, if I listened ta that, T’Pol wouldn’t want ta keep up our neuropressure sessions.”

“So, there’s more to your nights than a little Vulcan massage therapy?” Archer asked, raising an eyebrow.

Trip paused before giving Archer a stern look. “Good night, Jon.”

Archer chuckled. “Good night, Trip. Have fun.”

Trip smirked. “Oh, I will, Cap’n. I will.” With this, Trip exited Archer’s quarters, leaving the captain chuckling.

********

Group One for the Risa shoreleave please meet in the Launch Bay, came Hoshi’s voice over the comm.

********

Enterprise--Launch Bay
January 24th, 2155--1032 hours

“Not this damn thing again,” groused Trip.

“Don’t worry, Trip. It isn’t that far down to the surface,” Archer reassured him with a grin. He reached down to fasten Porthos’s leash before boarding.

“You can’t honestly tell me that we’re taking Shuttlepod One down to Risa, Cap’n. I mean, Jesus…”

Archer chuckled. “I don’t doubt that the repairs you made to her will hold up.” Trip sighed, at last giving in, and lifted both hands in surrender. “All right, but don’t look at me if the damn thing breaks apart.”

“We will look at you, sir, because you’re the one who repaired the Shuttlepod,” piped Hoshi, bringing up the rear as they walked toward the shuttle.

Trip glared at her. “You’re not helping, Hoshi.”

Hoshi shrugged. “Someone had to say it. It might as well have been me,” she teased with a sly smile.

“Enough, you two. I’d like to get to Risa sometime in this lifetime,” Mayweather pleaded with an amused grin.

Trip laughed, a competitive smile crossing his features. “I think your personal life can be put on hold until Hoshi and I work this out, Travis.”

“Just because you have nothing better to do than argue with the Comm Officer doesn’t mean we don’t,” protested the helmsman.

“Trust me, Travis. I have a lot more productive things to do,” Trip hinted suggestively, grinning.

Hoshi rolled her eyes. “Men,” she muttered irritably.

T’Pol, who was standing in the rear and observing the conversation with an elevated brow, gave Trip a meaningful look.

Archer chuckled. “Be careful, Trip. You remember what happened last time…” The others, with the exception of T’Pol and Reed, chuckled to themselves as they recalled Trip and Malcolm’s last adventure on Risa.

Trip frowned. “That’s something I’ll never forget. And it isn’t funny. There was no way we could have known short of finding out the hard way.”

Malcolm Reed, who’d thus far been content to stand back and watch the fun, grinned. “If I recall, Commander, you were the superior officer…so the blame lies with you.”

“No way, Mal. You were more than happy ta follow your gal up a mountain, through a ragin’ river, and across an ocean. It was your own damn fault.”

“All right, children. The shuttle is ready. We’d better get moving,” announced Archer sarcastically. Phlox grinned, shaking his head at the nonsensical exchange.

One by one, they boarded the shuttle with Trip muttering something under his breath that sounded suspiciously like a prayer. Once they were all strapped in, Travis began checking the engine controls to be sure everything was functioning. Trip then took his place in the copilot’s chair.

Sato to Bridge. Shuttlepod One ready for departure. Requesting permission to launch.
Permission granted. Good luck.

Trip paused. “Travis, take it easy on the…” Trip began. The opening of the Launch Bay doors and the sudden drop halted the warning he’d been about to give. He stiffened in surprise, his grip on the armrest tightening as the momentary fall caused his stomach to drop to his ankles. His tension eased when Travis leveled off and began gradually descending toward the planet’s surface. “Drop,” he finished softly.

“See, Trip? Nothing to it,” Archer said, giving his friend a slap on the back.

“You look ill, Commander,” Phlox pointed out.

“My stomach’s still down around my ankles, Doc. I’ll be fine once we’re on the ground.”

“I second that,” Malcolm added, his head back against the headrest and his eyes closed.

Trip chuckled good-naturedly. “Just hope that if this thing does break apart, it doesn’t break apart over an ocean.”

Reed’s eyes opened, giving him an evil look, and Trip smirked teasingly. Looking over at T’Pol, he was surprised to see that Porthos had climbed into the Vulcan’s lap and was now making himself comfortable there.

“You sure Porthos isn’t botherin’ ya, T’Pol? I can hold him if ya’d like,” he offered.

“I’m fine. He seems comfortable where he is,” T’Pol countered, seemingly not bothered in the least by the canine’s presence.

Archer chuckled. “If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you were developing a soft spot for him.”

T’Pol raised an eyebrow, but said nothing. Trip smiled, knowing that that was exactly the reason she was reluctant to give the dog back to his owner.

“All right. Hold on. This is going be a bit bumpy,” Mayweather warned.

Trip frowned. “That’s not what I wanted ta hear, Travis.”

Hoshi smiled. “The shuttle isn’t going to go to pieces from a bit of turbulence, sir.”

“Still…I’ll definitely feel better once both feet are on the ground,” Trip retorted with a sigh.

Mayweather gazed intently at the controls, focused on keeping the pod steady. “We’re entering the atmosphere.”

Trip stiffened as he felt the shuttlepod beginning to rock. He dug his fingers into the fabric of the seat as they descended, occasionally feeling a plummeting sensation in his stomach.

“We’re at 3500 kilometers and closing. All systems reporting nominal. 2000 kilometers….1500 kilometers…,” droned Travis.

A few moments later, the shuttlepod made a gentle landing at the designated landing coordinates. Trip’s relieved sigh was clearly audible in the crowded cabin. Archer stood and moved toward the back doors, swiftly opening them. After the exits had been unsealed, they all stared out at the sunny, green landscape of Risa’s rainforest.

“Well, we didn’t come all this way just to look at it. Let’s get moving, shall we?” The captain exited the shuttle with the end of Porthos’s leash in one hand and his bag in the other.

T’Pol watched him go with one brow raised high. “The Captain seems eager to enjoy the pleasures that this planet has to offer.”

Trip chuckled. “Give him a break. He’s worked his ass off. He deserves it. First, he saved an entire quadrant, and then he fixed the timeline to get us home… not to mention what he went through on Vulcan…”

T’Pol fell silent for a moment, a thoughtful expression crossing her face. “Yes,” she nodded, “I believe he does deserve this chance to enjoy himself.”

Trip smiled. “There’s a little village about six kilometers south of here. What do you say we check it out?”

T’Pol nodded, and exited the shuttle with Trip at her side. Archer stood on the grassy landing field a meter or so from the shuttle, waiting for the others.

“Don’t wander too far. It’s easy to get lost here,” he warned.

Trip chuckled. “Don’t worry, Cap’n. We’ll be back before dark.”

T’Pol’s eyebrows shot up as she inclined her head, glancing at Trip out of the corner of her eye.

“Be sure to behave now, Commanders!” Reed shouted as he and the others made their way to the resort at the north edge of the landing field.

“Same ta you, Mal,” Trip called back over his shoulder with a grin. “Don’t get inta any trouble with those club girls!”

“Oh, no worries there! I’ve got Travis with me!” returned Malcolm brightly.

“Better take Hoshi with ya, too! She’ll keep ya both out of trouble!” Trip teased. Chuckling, he returned his attention to the task of trying to find the best destination for him and T’Pol.

“Lieutenant Reed is perfectly capable of taking care of himself. You, however, do not have a very impressive record with visitations to alien worlds,” T’Pol observed, in a dry, yet slightly teasing tone.

Trip’s eyebrows shot up. “You goin’ ta start on me now? Besides, with you around, how much trouble can I get inta?”

T’Pol nodded. “A fair observation,” she agreed.

“Like I said, the village is about six kilometers south. It shouldn’t take us more than a half-hour to get there if we keep a steady pace,” Trip said.

T’Pol paused a moment, gazing at their surroundings. She hadn’t experienced the full aesthetics of a natural environment in some time and was discovering that she found the subtle movements of the wind through the trees, the soft chirps of alien birds, and the gentle rustling of the trees to be oddly soothing. “Where did you learn of this village?” she asked curiously.

His lips turned up. “One of the Risans was telling me about it during my last trip here. She said that the village natives are the only people left on Risa that haven’t been affected by modern technology. The women officially enter womanhood when they marry. The marriage ceremony is a big deal and usually involves a lot of dancin’ and chantin’. It can last for days if there’s enough food and the people have enough energy ta keep goin’.”

She arched an eyebrow. “You seem oddly intrigued by the particulars of this society’s culture.”

He shrugged, grinning. “Hey, I appreciate culture just as much as the next guy. Just because it isn’t my profession of choice doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy learnin’ about how the other half lives.” His eyes were alight with excitement. “Maybe if we’re lucky, we’ll get to see some of their ceremonies.”

“That would likely be an intriguing experience,” she conceded.

His grin widened and he laced his fingers with hers. “Think of this as a chance to expand your cultural horizons,” he added.

She inclined her head and allowed him to lead her toward the village.

********

Enterprise—Bridge
January 24th, 2155—1120 hours

Lieutenant Joseph Decker shifted slightly in the Captain’s chair, turning occasionally to watch the other members of the bridge crew. Ensign Garret Hawk sat at the helm, staring at the controls with glazed eyes. The only thing that the Ensign had done for the last hour and a half was to make a slight altitude correction or two.

Ensign Leah Wyatt looked just as bored as she sat at the Tactical station with droopy eyelids and stared at the empty screen. It appeared as though she hadn’t rested well the previous night. Decker frowned, wondering what could possibly be keeping her awake. Returning his attention to the endless void of space on the screen before him, he let out a dejected sigh. Didn’t it just figure that his first time in the Captain’s chair would turn out to be nothing but routine?

Without warning, he heard the alert from the tactical station, the loud noise startling Wyatt so much that she nearly fell out of her chair. Immediately, her fingers began grazing over the controls and she frowned as she read the screen.

“What is it?” Decker asked.

Wyatt paused, shaking her head. “I don’t know, sir. It was there one minute, but now it’s gone.”

Decker pinched the bridge of his nose. “Most likely a sensor anomaly.”

“Shouldn’t we look into it further, sir?” Hawk questioned. He frowned and furrowed his brow, turning to face the acting captain.

Decker turned toward the helm officer, rolling his eyes skyward. “What are the odds, Ensign, that it was anything more than a sensor anomaly?”

“Slim to none, sir. But we should still investigate further to be sure. We didn’t detect the Xyrillians in our wake three years ago until the ship’s systems started malfunctioning,” Hawk pointed out.

Wyatt nodded. “He’s right, sir. We really should check it out.”

Decker gazed at Hawk sternly. “Hold our current position, Ensign. No more arguments.”

“Aye, sir,” Hawk muttered in exasperation.

********

Risa--Tempasa City Marketplace
January 24th, 2155—1132 hours

Reed gazed at the various carts set up around the square, each boasting a different product. There were meat stands, clothing stands, pottery stands, and even a jewelry stand. He paused at the latter, his gaze falling on a beautiful beaded necklace bearing a large, superbly-cut emerald at its center. The color of the stone was magnificent, its pure elegance on display as the sunlight reflected off its surface with breath-taking splendor.

As though holding a fragile child, he removed the necklace from its place, holding it at various angles. The cut of the stone looked almost natural as though neither machine nor tool had touched it. Not even the naturally-formed gems on Earth were as perfect as this stone.

“You want to buy this, yes?” he heard a slightly raspy female voice whisper.

He looked up to find a bronze-complexioned, dark-haired woman standing on the other side of the counter, her expression eager. She looked very human with the exception of the scarcely noticeable scars that covered the right side of her face. The scars marred her features, though not to a severe enough degree to hide the beauty that seemed to have been there once.

A flush crept into Malcolm’s cheeks. He replaced the necklace on the counter and shook his head. “No, I…”

The woman smiled knowingly. “I see. Perhaps it would be for a young woman you have a romantic interest in?” She paused momentarily. “You are unsure if she returns your interest.”

The flush deepened. “Am I that easy to read?”

“The eyes are the windows to the soul…and yours speak the words you can not say,” the woman replied, a slight smirk on her lips.

Reed cleared his throat. “Ahem. Thank you…I think.”

She laughed. “It is a compliment. May I ask your name?”

He paused. “Malcolm Reed.”

She inclined her head respectfully. “I am Ankita.”

Once again, he picked up the necklace and examined it. “Is this the stone’s natural cut?” he asked.

Ankita nodded. “It is. The stone was found by a miner who either did not realize its value or did not care. I paid no more than five tikara stones for it.” Reed frowned. “I’m sorry. I’m not familiar with that particular currency.”

She paused. “That is perhaps one of your Earth credit chits.”

His eyes widened. “This must be worth at least 1200 credit chits,” he said, astounded.

A smirk crossed her lips. “A bargain, then. I will sell it to you for 1000 tikara stones.”

Reed hesitated, doing the arithmetic in his head. The moment he’d finished the calculations, the lieutenant’s gaze snapped back to her, his gray-blue eyes as wide as saucers. “That’s…that’s only 200 credit chits,” he stuttered. She nodded. “I couldn’t accept that. You could get a much better price from another buyer.”

She closed his hand around the stone and pushed it toward him, smiling. “It would more than make up for the remaining 5000 stones if I knew that this was being given in the name of love. Besides, by selling it to you for 1000 tikara stones, I am already making a profit of 995 tikara stones. That will be enough to feed my children for several weeks.”

He stared at her for several moments. “Thank you,” he whispered. Somehow his words of gratitude didn’t seem quite adequate for the great deed she’d just done, but he found he couldn’t think of anything else to say.

“Treasure her, Malcolm Reed,” Ankita added.

He grinned. “I will. I promise,” he said, before counting out 200 chits and laying them on the counter. With one last thank you to the woman, he tucked the gift carefully into his pocket and moved to catch up with the others.

********

Risa—Near Native Village—South Rainforest
January 24th, 2155—1432 hours

As they drew closer to the village, the echoes of humanoid voices and drums thundered in time with her heartbeat, the smell of burning wood now assaulting her sensitive olfactory nerves. Though she wasn’t able to determine the meanings of the phrases and sounds, she could hear the excitement, the contentment, and the primitive pleasure in the voices of those chanting them. She stopped and tugged Trip to a halt as well. He turned toward her, frowning. Her eyebrows arched. “We will contaminate their culture if we’re seen,” she warned.

“They won’t see us if we hide in the bushes,” he retorted. “Come on. How can ya pass up an opportunity ta see a culture that lives the old fashioned way?” She hesitated only a moment before inclining her head. “We mustn’t be seen,” she repeated.

He grinned excitedly and bent low, creeping closer to the camp. “This’ll be fun. Ya won’t regret it,” he whispered.

After they made sure the bushes didn’t contain any thorns, the two settled into them and sat down, quietly watching the festivities through the leaves.

T’Pol observed Trip as he closely watched the ceremonies, his gaze intense and intrigued. “This looks sorta like a dedication ta the Gods. Earth Celtic Druids did somethin’ like this. They would perform ritual blood sacrifices on an altar and then offer sacrifice ta the Gods ta protect their crops and their children,” he whispered.

T’Pol noticed a native flora burning in a corner of the clearing. “It would appear that these humanoids don’t demonstrate the same thoughts concerning the sacrifice of sentient life,” T’Pol countered.

He shrugged, not looking away from the celebration. “Not all cultures do. Native Americans didn’t kill animals or people in sacrifice. They only killed animals for survival and when they did, they’d honor the animal’s spirit by usin’ every part of the critter right down to its intestines just so none of it rotted. Some of their spirits and Gods actually were animals like bears and beavers.” He paused for a moment, in thought. “Now the Aztecs, an ancient Central American culture, had a lot of blood sacrifice tied in with their culture. They’d cover the victims with blue chalk, take them ta the top of a step pyramid, lay them down on a stone slab, and cut out their hearts with a dull knife. After they’d raised the hearts ta the sun in worship of their Gods, they’d toss the bodies down the steps.”

T’Pol shuddered—almost imperceptibly— at the images evoked by his words and used the techniques that she had recently learned in her studies to prevent the images from reaching him through the bond.

Thankfully, he didn’t notice her discomfort as he was far too engrossed in the ceremony that the natives were performing. A young woman was then brought forth to stand next to an elder tribesman and a younger man with long, dark blonde hair and bright blue eyes. The woman’s eyes were an emerald green and her hair was a dark shade of brown. She was tall, slim, and fragile in appearance, while the man was broad-shouldered and strong.

“It would appear that your celebration of seasons theory was incorrect,” T’Pol observed, eyebrows arched, as the elderly man began to speak. “I believe this is the marriage ceremony you spoke of previously.”

“I wish I knew their language,” Trip said with a sigh.

T’Pol reached into her pocket and pulled out a little device with buttons and dials. “Perhaps the Universal Translator will be of some assistance,” she suggested.

As the elder spoke, she continued to adjust the translator until it at last locked on to the language. The two sat quietly, listening raptly as the words were translated for them.

“…feel no rain, for each of you will be shelter for the other. Now you will feel no cold, for each of you will be warmth to the other. Now there will be no loneliness, for each of you will be companion to the other,” the elder said. Her gaze rested on the young man, who bore an illogical resemblance to Trip. His soft eyes were filled with emotion as he stared at the dark-haired woman, who seemed just as emotionally attached to him as he was to her. She watched the minor physical exchanges between the two, such as their interlaced fingers, the gentle way he brushed his knuckle over her cheek, and most especially, the way that she leaned into his tender touch. Ensign Sato had explained to her that these gestures signified affection and even love.

“Now you are two persons, but there is only one life before you. May beauty surround you both in the journey ahead and throughout the years you will share together. May happiness be your companion and your days as husband and wife be well and long upon the earth."

"Treat yourselves and each other with respect, and remind yourselves often of what brought you together. Give the highest priority to the tenderness, gentleness and kindness that your connection deserves. When frustration, difficulty and fear assail your relationship, as they threaten all relationships at one time or another, remember to focus on what is right between you, and not only on what seems wrong. In this way, you can ride out the storms when clouds hide the face of the sun in your lives -- remembering that, even if you lose sight of it for a moment, the sun is always there. And if each of you takes responsibility for the quality of your life together, it will be marked by abundance and delight. To signify your acceptance of this joining of your lives, you will mark one another with the ashes of the dawn lotus."

The young woman dipped her fingers into the cooled ashes and touched them to the man’s forehead, creating what T’Pol assumed to be a religious symbol. “With the ashes of this precious flower, I mark thee as mine until the Gods part us,” the woman said.

Dipping his fingers into the ashes as well, the man did the same. “With the ashes of this precious flower, I mark thee as mine until the Gods part us,” he said.

The older man smiled. “You have chosen a path not to be taken lightly. Remember these vows, for they are yours to obey until the Gods part you. May the Gods shine down upon you and bless you with many sons.”

The others surrounding them cried out in joy as the two brushed their lips together. The steady beating of the drum crescendoed through the mid-day air with such a sonorous tone that T’Pol’s ears began to ring.

“We should leave before we are noticed,” she shouted over the noise.

Trip nodded and then turned to look longingly at the celebration. “I kind of wish we could join ‘em. I haven’t danced like that in years,” he said wistfully as he watched the free-spirited women dancing by the fire.

Her eyebrow shot up. “I have no doubt you will have other opportunities. Are there not night clubs in Tempasa City?”

Glancing at the dancers one last time, Trip sighed and followed T’Pol away from the camp.

***

Risa—Tempasa City—Alvasian Dance Club
January 24th, 2155—1332 hours

Hoshi grabbed Reed’s hand, at last managing to pull him free from the mob of women whose attention he’d commanded from the moment he’d stepped in the door.

“Where’d he go?” one of the women shouted.

Hoshi put her hand on top of Reed’s head and pushed him to the ground. “I saw him! He went that way!” she shouted, pointing toward the door.

“Come on, girls!” another woman shouted. “He won’t get far!”

The women then rushed out the door screaming excitedly. Once they were gone and the door was closed, Reed stood up and brushed himself off.

“Thanks,” he said breathlessly.

Hoshi raised her eyebrows and smirked. “Do you get that much attention everywhere you go?

His face flushed. “Not everywhere,” he replied.

She shook her head. “Dark-haired Brits must be the new trend on Risa this season,” she teased.

He frowned. “Bloody hell, you make me sound like some sort of fashion accessory,” he quipped in annoyance.

“Sorry,” she said softly, her cheeks pinkening.

Gazing at the door, he put his hands on his hips and shook his head. “Well, with the way they were behaving, you just might not be that far off.”

***

Risa—Edge of The North Forest—Heading To The Burellian Falls January 25th, 2155—1024 hours

Suppressing a yawn, T’Pol hesitated at the outer edge of the woods. She’d awoken early for her meditation, but Trip had burst in just as she was about to insist that he join her for a little early morning hike.

“Come on,” Trip said, grabbing T’Pol’s wrist. “I want to show you somethin’.” The feeling of his warm fingers to her skin immediately shook the Vulcan out of her reverie. She stared down at his hand, which was now wrapped gently around her wrist, and furrowed her brow inquisitively. T’Pol moved her eyes up to meet his gaze.

Trip released his grip on her wrist, his fingers sliding to intertwine with hers. “It’s okay, T’Pol. I’m not gonna bite ya.” His expression softened and he smiled tenderly, his eyes held on hers.

She tightened the grip on his hand and gazed searchingly into his sky-blue eyes. This was a side of Trip that she hadn’t seen before. T’Pol began to wonder just how much of his multi-faceted personality he’d truly shown her and what other surprises might possibly be awaiting her. She nodded, her silent message communicating to him that it was acceptable to proceed. She saw a smile flash across his lips before he turned to lead her in the direction that he desired. She felt a sudden wave of excitement that she knew was not her own. The feelings were obviously from Trip. She could sense his emotions through the bond.

****************

Risa—Burellian Falls
January 24th, 2155--1124 hours

The farther along they moved, the more she could sense Trip’s growing excitement. At last, T’Pol found herself standing next to him as the two gazed out on a waterfall-paradise. “I know it’s not the Fire Plains on Vulcan, but it’s still a mighty pretty sight.”

T’Pol nodded. “Yes…it is,” she replied softly. Her brow furrowed briefly, and Trip felt a pang of her discomfort.

He frowned. “Are you all right?”

T’Pol was silent.

Trip moved his face in closer and repeated his question. “You okay, T’Pol?”

She paused, taking a moment to deliberately steel her expression. “I was thinking of Elizabeth.” It seemed as though images of her deceased child were nearly inescapable now. The memory of her daughter—their daughter—haunted her.

Trip sighed, squeezing her hand tightly. “I miss her, too, T’Pol.” He acknowledged. “I just keep wonderin’ what it would’ve been like to be a dad.”

T’Pol’s eyes widened as she gazed into his eyes. Her eyes shone with moisture. “You would have made an exceptional father, Trip.”

He smiled wistfully. “I’d like to think so.”

Trip wrapped his arms around her in a reassuring embrace. She decided that, under the circumstances, it would be best to allow him this small measure of comfort. “You would’ve made a great mom, T’Pol,” he whispered.

The two remained silent, simply absorbing the moment. Trip broke the silence, finally, with something completely unexpected.

“So, you want to go for a swim?” he asked innocently.

“Vulcans do not swim,” she replied with finality.

A smile crossed his face and a teasing glint appeared in his eyes. “Don’t tell me you don’t know how.”

T’Pol’s eyebrows shot up in response. “I most certainly am capable. I just simply do not wish to do so at the present time.”

Trip smirked. “What? Don’t ya like the water?”

Her eyebrows shot up even higher, as he knew perfectly well why she did not wish to swim. “We do not have the proper attire with us.”

“So? We can strip down to our skivvies then. It’s not like I haven’ seen you in them before, ya know. And it’s not like you haven’t see me either….”

“It is illogical, Trip. We would be unable to obtain new clothing until we returned to the Shuttlepod.”

“Aww, come on, T’Pol. Loosen up a little.”

T’Pol paused. Before her experience aboard the Seleya and her past use of Trellium, she likely would not have had the struggle that she was having now. There would have been little difficulty involved with the removal of her clothing or of her entering the pool completely disrobed. Trip’s presence complicated things. Memories of their encounter still entered her mind from time to time, though she was careful to control her reactions to them. It would not be wise to encourage further advances. That one night had irrevocably changed things between them. Another encounter might serve to give Trip an incorrect impression of her intentions. It would be illogical to allow him control in such matters.

Lost in these thoughts, T’Pol hadn’t noticed that Trip was leading her steadily toward the water. By the time she realized his intentions, she was standing shoulder-deep in the water and spitting it from her mouth.

Trip clutched at his stomach, laughter bubbling from deep in his chest. “You see, now that wasn’ so hard, was it?”

“No,” T’Pol replied in a deadpan voice, extending a hand. “Now would you please assist me out of the water?”

Trip sighed in resignation. “All right,” he grumbled.

No sooner had he taken her hand when she’d pulled him into the water with her. He found himself standing right next to her just as drenched as she was. “I should have seen that coming,” he muttered, pushing the hair out of his face.

“Yes, you should have. It was the only logical way to return your enthusiasm.”

Trip chuckled. “You’d better watch it, T’Pol, or you might just prove the Captain right.”

“I appreciate your concern. However, if I were you, I would be more apprehensive about my potential reception of your thoughts than of my propensity toward developing any of your mannerisms.”

“You can still read my thoughts through the bond? Even after all those techniques you showed me?”

“Perhaps our bond is stronger than I originally suspected.”

“Which means?”

“This is deeper than a mating bond.”

Trip rolled his eyes. “For the last time, we didn’t mate.”

T’Pol nodded, frowning slightly. “Very well then. For your purposes, we will call it ‘making love’.”

Trip nodded, smiling at her concession. “So, you were saying?”

“I believe that the bond is likely similar to an early telsu bond.”

“Telsu?”

“Spouses.” She nodded, her voice now edged with concern.

Trip frowned. “So what you’re saying is…”

“In a sense, we are married,” she interrupted. The barely visible tension previously worn on her face seemed to suddenly be erased now that the issue was finally out in the open.

Trip was quiet for a moment, trying to take all of this in. A wide range of emotions crossed over his features…shock, confusion, dismay…

“Is this ‘marriage’ just like a legal one?” he demanded in disbelief. “I know it sure as hell isn’t worth a damn thing on Earth.”

Any previous hint of pleasure T’Pol held in her expression dissolved instantly, replaced now by a frown. “I do not believe that it would be regarded as an official marriage…at least not until we have proceeded with the ceremony.” Trip nodded and a silence fell between them. “We’d better head back. The Cap’n’ll be getting worried about us,” he mumbled.

T’Pol nodded in solemn agreement and the two of them made their way back toward the Shuttlepod.

As they approached the edge of the forest, Trip paused and turned toward her, his lips tight with anger. “Just what kind of game are you playin’?” he demanded.

She could sense his resentment and the overwhelming guilt nearly enveloped her senses. “I’m not playing a game, Trip.”

He snorted. “The hell you aren’t!” He shook his head, chuckling. “I don’t think I’ve ever met a woman as fickle as you. One minute ya tell me I’m a test subject for your curiosity and the next you’re tellin’ me that we’re as good as married.” Through the bond, she could sense his anger. She quickly blocked him out, putting her barriers up, and refusing to allow him to know just how well he was succeeding at causing her displeasure.

“This is why we both keep screwin’ things up, T’Pol. Ya refuse ta let me in,” he exclaimed, apparently having sensed T’Pol’s attempts to shut him out. Trip sighed. “If that’s the way ya want it, then fine. That’s the way it’ll be.”

He stormed off into the forest. T’Pol followed close behind, trying to keep the tears from sliding down her cheeks.

************

Risa--North Rainforest—Walking Back To The Shuttlepod. January 24th, 2155--1221 hours

The two walked in silence toward the landing field on a path back through the muggy, steaming jungle. Trip paused, in morose contemplation, after considering what a future married to a woman who believed lovemaking to be “experimental” might possibly be like. He stopped in his tracks, startled by a noise.

“What was that?”

T’Pol turned to look behind him. “What was what, Trip?”

“Didn’t you hear that? Sounds like someone’s followin’ us.”

Her eyebrows furrowed. “You must be imagining things. I heard nothing.”

“The hell you didn’t,” Trip mumbled sullenly.

She could hear far better than he could and he had no doubt that she’d heard it, but was simply dismissing it.

T’Pol paused, as if to say something, but thought better of it, and returned her gaze to the path in front of them. She’d come to the conclusion that it was best to not respond to Trip’s illogical behavior.

Suddenly, there was a loud expletive and something heavy landed on top of her, sending her to the ground.

“Damn! I’m sorry, T’Pol.” Trip rolled off of her, screaming another expletive as he clutched his ankle.

“Are you all right?”

“Yeah, just peachy. What the hell does it look like?”

T’Pol reached out a hand, tenderly feeling his ankle. Trip drew in a sharp breath. “Sonuvabitch!” he cursed.

“It appears to be fractured. We should get you back to the shuttlepod and splint it. Your ankle is beginning to swell. Can you stand?” T’Pol’s voice was cool and her tone held no trace of the concern she was feeling over the level of Trip’s pain sent to her through the bond. She steeled herself for the potential worsening of pain that any physical contact with Trip would likely bring. She extended an arm and offered him a hand. Trip waved it away, attempting to get up off the ground on his own. On the third try, he grimaced and crumpled to the ground, his sharp cries an indication of the price of his pride. T’Pol reached down, grabbing him by the arm, and pulled him sharply upward.

Trip let out a cry of pain. “Easy!” he protested. He gave her an affronted look, hopping on one leg and rubbing his arm where she’d gripped it, his eyes now filled with puzzlement. T’Pol couldn’t help but wonder if he sensed her concern for him. She decided it would be best to repress any further hints of emotion.

“I apologize,” she said briskly. “Put your arm around my shoulders. I will assist you to the shuttlepod.”

Trip eyed her suspiciously for a moment, and then nodded, wrapping one arm around her small shoulders and sucking in a breath as they took their first few steps. “Damn. Jus’ my luck,” he chuckled. “My first day planetside on shore leave and I twist my ankle.”

“Perhaps you should be more cautious in the future. There is a human saying that applies: ‘Look before you leap’,” replied T’Pol primly. “It would be advisable for you to take this into account in the future.”

Trip bit back a curse as his injured foot encountered a rock. His eyes cut to T’Pol angrily and then back to the path in front of them. She could sense his resentment. “Maybe there won’t be a next time,” he grumbled.

T’Pol winced inwardly. She had the distinct impression that he wasn’t talking about his ankle.

******

Risa—Outside Shuttlepod
January 24th, 2155--1324 hours

About an hour later, they reached the shuttlepod. T’Pol opened the hatch before leading Trip inside. Trip sat down in one of the seats while T’Pol retrieved a medical kit.

“I’m afraid I don’t have the equipment to scan your injury,” T’Pol said. “We will have to return to Enterprise.”

He paused. “There are hospitals here on Risa. Couldn’t we just go to one of them?”

“Doctor Phlox has far more expertise in treating humans,” she retorted. “Besides, you should not walk any more than is necessary, given the seriousness of your injury.

He sighed. “Think my luck just went from bad to worse.”

“If you do not receive medical attention, your condition will likely worsen,” she replied, with a touch of concern.

“You make it sound like I’m dying.” T’Pol’s brows furrowed slightly. “All right. Let’s get this over with,” Trip sighed resignedly.

T’Pol nodded, picking up a communicator and flipping it open, holding her thumb to the button. T’Pol to Archer.

A moment later, a reply came through. Archer. Everything okay, T’Pol?

Commander Tucker has sustained an injury that needs medical attention. I am returning him to Enterprise and the Doctor’s capable hands.

What happened?

I snagged my foot on a tree root, Cap’n, and broke my ankle. Archer chuckled. Only you, Trip, could break your ankle on a tree root.

Ha, ha, Jon. Hilarious, Trip grumbled.

Permission to return to Enterprise, sir?

Archer chuckled. Permission granted, T’Pol. Good luck.

Before Trip could say another word, T’Pol flipped the communicator closed. “Beginning ascent.” Trip opened his mouth to protest her sudden interruption of his conversation, when suddenly he heard something behind them.

 

# # # #

A figure in green face paint dressed in foliate camouflage crouched beneath the underbrush at the edge of the clearing, watching the Vulcan on the comm with her captain. As she flipped her communicator closed, he signaled silently to the other two members of his team. They returned his gesture of readiness. He stood then, revealing himself, and shot the human in the chest while his cohorts took care of the Vulcan. The three of them approached the limp bodies of their victims and stood over them for transport. He exchanged a satisfied grin with his green-painted leafy compatriots before tapping the comlink in his breast pocket. The entire group dematerialized without a trace.


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