Telluride

By Elessar

Rating: PG

Genres: adventure au romance

Keywords: time travel Xindi

This story has been read by 712 people.
This story has been read 1087 times.


Rating: PG
Genre: AU/Romance/Adventure
Disclaimer: Paramount owns Star Trek characters/names/fans' souls/etc. I call shenanigans.


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A/N: This story takes place just before Xindi, after the Enterprise has set out from Earth for the Expanse. T'Pol has decided to stay with the Enterprise and is reflecting on that choice, why she made it, what it means for her future. She is also still dealing with what she felt going through the artificially induced Pon Farr, and trying to process the feelings left over. Everyone is still calling her Subcommander.

The title and some of the plot was inspired by the Tim McGraw song "Telluride". I also used some historical photographs and camping maps to make the area of Telluride, CO as accurate as possible.

Keep in mind that T'Pol's ears are supposed to be hidden through the bulk of this story, even though it's only mentioned once, I thought it would get repetitive if I kept remarking on it. Unless it's explicitly commented that they're not ;)

~~ are scene breaks, *** are flashbacks.

I couldn't have done this without JustTrip'n. She's magnificient!

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Quarters of Subcommander T'Pol
1900 HRS

The soft candlelight flickered with a violent shiver as a hot breath of Vulcan disquiet blew across the flame's tongue. Her own uncharacteristic sigh prompted T'Pol to open her eyes, staring upon the candle as it defiantly refused to assist her descent into meditation. She smoothed the fabric of her sky blue colored nightgown and rose to pour a cup of tea.

She recalled once again, the guilty eyes of Commander Tucker as he struggled to explain how he stumbled upon the private contents of her betrothal letter, and the soft smile on the bridge when he realized she would be staying with them, and choosing her own destiny. It was over a year ago that she had chosen to stay on Enterprise – chosen, for her own reasons. But even now – especially now – after experiencing an artificially induced pon farr, she was all too aware that her Vulcan biology demanded she would one day have to take a mate, and her decision to stay onboard was evidence that she did not desire that mate to be Koss. She had never previously considered that the mate she take be the subject of a 'choice'. Now things were different. Turned on to self-determination, she no longer felt the strength of compulsion to obey her family's wishes – her mother's wishes – to bond with Koss. Suddenly, there was a choice.

She had recovered quite effectively from the pon farr, however there were lingering dreams and flashes from her experience under the influence of the virus which induced her first mating cycle. She recalled, with a great deal of relief, that she had not in fact engaged the doctor in intimate relations. However, the more disturbing of the realizations following her experience, were the recurrent dreams involving a certain engineer who had visited her during the worst throws of the experience. Had it not been for the biohazard isolation chamber wall separating her from Commander Tucker when he brought their meal, she would surely have… Well that's where the dreams take over.

What dismayed her intensely were the powerful waking emotions now triggered by the experience, and stoked by the recurrent dreams. Growing emotional tension among the crew as they approached the Expanse certainly did not help her diffuse the emotional buildup growing within her. She soon found the emotions clouding her concentration when she worked with Trip… It would seem that I am identifying him with that informal moniker. In the weeks following the incident, she logically expected the emotions to subside and the dreams to be driven away by proper meditation and discipline. Unfortunately for her sense of balance, neither of these abated.

He was an impulsive and outspoken human, embodying the most flamboyant and belligerent qualities of humanity she had trained herself to despise prior to her posting on the Enterprise. Yet, she found the cup of tea unsteady in her fingers as she considered the advice the Commander had given her regarding her obligations on Vulcan. Her Vulcan elders would have found that advice self-serving and… well, human. She could not dismiss it so easily. Staying on Enterprise appealed to her, and she was not sure why.

Just when she raised the cup to her lips, the tactical alarm sounded and she turned to the wall-mounted communication channel. The button depressed, she called the bridge for a report.

"Subcommander, we have a situation. Someone just appeared on the bridge I-I think it was Daniels, sir--" stammered the night watchman, Ensign Bethesda. "Subcommander! I think he was chasing someone, some kind of alien! They just appeared out of thin air and then ran right through a bulkhead!"

"Remain calm, Ensign. Call the Armory and Captain Archer. I am on my way, T'Pol, out," she rose. She was already slipping into the arms of her uniform when there came a strange sound and she turned to find an odd face emerge through the wall, staring back at her. She stepped back defensively, her hands reaching for the desk to search out the phase pistol in the top drawer. The unidentifiable alien stepped forward, growling something incoherent and raised a weapon. He nervously turned his head back and forth towards the direction from which he had come, checking for his pursuer. Jaunting forward, he took her into a powerful lock with his arm across her chest and spun around to face the door just as Daniels came gliding through in pursuit. Even her Vulcan strength was no match for this creature's hold.

"You're trapped Ruda, there's nowhere left to go!" Daniels warned him. The alien growled something else with what seemed like a laugh, and pressed the flat end of the device in his hand against T'Pol's neck. She inferred it was some kind of weapon but its design resembled nothing she had ever seen. The hatch to her quarters slid open and Lt. Reed, Captain Archer and Commander Tucker piled into the room, knocking Daniels off his guard. The alien, Ruda, took a panicked step back, finding himself trapped by superior numbers against the bulkhead. T'Pol struggled futilely beneath his heavy, scaled arm. Though powerful, the alien was losing composure in the face of the growing threat and beginning to panic.

"Drop it now or eat through a straw the rest of yer life," Tucker growled as he leveled a phase pistol. T'Pol's eyes grew wide as a spongy surface contacted her neck from the weapon Ruda gripped. As Ruda squeezed some kind of trigger, she vanished in a hazy fog and the alien remained, bringing the device up to his ignorant eyes to inspect its malfunction with a confused grunt. In the instant T'Pol began to fade away, Tucker pulled the trigger, and the alien dropped.

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Blue Lake Trail
5 KM South of Teakettle Mountain, Colorado
October 2nd, 1979

"Ma'am…"

"Ma'am, y'all right? Ma'am, listen I'm a' get you some help, a'right? You just keep still," a voice told her. It was young, but husky. There was a familiarity in the voice. She looked up confused, and became aware that she was staring up at a blue sky, with cool air all around her and a feeling of bristling pine needles and cold dirt under her back. A pair of strong arms lifted her effortlessly into the air; at this, she panicked and began to flail.

"Ma'am, ma'am, it's a'right, I'm here ta' help ya!" a young voice called out. She freed herself from his grasp long enough to stumble backwards and feel her own two feet crumble as she came down hard on a rocky dirt path. She grunted in pain and looked up to see a young man of fair complexion, tall and lean but powerfully built, hurrying to her side. She surveyed her immediate surroundings and noted that her would-be time traveling alien abductor did not appear to have followed her. The road was roughly four meters wide, lined by short, dark green trees that densely hugged together, locking out any sight of the forest within on either side of the road. Above the young spruces, miles of unending dark green forest spread to the horizon, and in one direction of the path, the ground inclined gradually leading up to tall mountain peak in the distance. Two more distant mountain peaks flanked the one to which the path lead, similar in height.

When the stranger came to her side, he crouched on his knees a few feet away, not wishing to startle her any more than he already had. Uncombed locks of blonde hair crept out around the edges of a black Stetson, lying across his brow around a pair of twinkling blue eyes set around a sloping nose. He chewed his lip and frowned as T'Pol looked around, confused. "Where am I?" she demanded immediately, blinking through a wave of nausea as she sat up, recoiling a few inches from him. He could see she still didn't trust him, so he kept his distance as he pushed up the brim of his hat. As he did, a pair of ocean blue eyes leapt out at her.

"Trip?" she asked impulsively, biting back the inappropriate moniker and averting her eyes from his confused and curious expression.

"Hm? Ma'am I figure you musta' hit your head. You look like ya' been out here a while," he said, glancing toward the mountain peaks in the distance. There was a question hidden in it but she didn't bite.

"Did ya' get thrown from your horse?"

She blinked, trying to focus on the last memory that she could coherently recall.

"I do not know…" she muttered. "… I do not know how I got here."

The man frowned thoughtfully as he considered the woman.

"Why, you don't rightly look like the ridin' type, if you don't mind me sayin'," he chuckled nervously. "I can't imagine how ya' got out here if you don't recall," he drawled. When she pursed her lips, uneasily keeping her distance, he bit his lip and looked towards the ducking sun.

"Ma'am you're about ten miles north of Bear Crick. The sun's droppin' mighty quick. Now I think we best get inside 'for it gets real cold," he replied. She looked around uneasily, sure only that she was certainly not aboard Enterprise. Further than that, she dared not guess. It looked like Earth or some other Minshara-Class world, but more than that this, this native was obviously speaking English. Assuming that he hadn't noticed yet, she discretely mussed the hair around her ears, hiding their points.

She made an attempt to stand, holding out her hand to him. He took it, and reached out to take her other arm gently as he raised her to her feet. She came erect just a few inches from his chest and looked up to find someone who looked deceptively identical to Commander Tucker, looking down at her. He was younger, however, and the lines of age were conspicuously missing from his mouth and eyes. She looked on his full height, approximately four centimeters taller than Commander Tucker, though the resemblance otherwise was nearly unbelievable. He could easily have been a copy of the Commander approximately ten years younger. He was broad-shouldered, with the same muscular build as the Tucker she knew.

"Oh, I'm sorry ma'am, where'r mah manners?" he grinned nervously. "Mah name's Jack, Jack Tucker" he tipped his hat courteously. T'Pol grew wide-eyed momentarily at the remarkable coincidence of the likeness and the identical surname, allowing herself only a moment's indulgent curiosity to wonder…

"Thank you for your assistance, Mr. Tucker," she responded. It sounded strange coming out of her mouth while looking on this man, and yet resounded within her so familiarly it was disquieting. Although it made no sense, she found her sense of trust in Commander Tucker reaching out to this man.

"Oh, please, call me Jack," he nodded. T'Pol nodded uneasily, feeling a sense of déjà vu.

"Ma… I'm sorry, what should I call you? I feel silly callin' ya ma'am. Just tryin' to be proper an' all," he blushed.

"My name is T… T'Pol."

"Why, now that's a fancy name, Tipol," he replied.

"It is… foreign," she explained.

"Oh, I see, not from 'round here then. I coulda guessed," he chuckled nervously. She looked down the narrow path upon which they were standing.

"Well it's very nice to make your acquaintance, Ms. Tipol."

"You may just call me T'Pol."

"Oh, right. My horse is back up at the cabin, I was just comin' up the road from the crick," he gestured.

"I was traveling with a party," she lied. "I am not sure what happened, I believe I may have… 'been thrown from my horse'." she continued, repeating his use of the term.

"Well, I got a place up the ridge a few miles you can stay fer the night. It's fixin' to get cold real quick. I can take you into town in the mornin' if you got some company to meet up with."

She nodded approvingly and moved to follow. Her legs threatened to quit under her once again and she stumbled. Tucker was by her side with almost Vulcan quickness.

"I'm 'fraid you're a little more busted up 'an you'd like to admit, ma—Tipol. I think I better give you a hand, if you'll pardon me," he insisted, taking hold of her hip with his arm around her waist. She flinched, but reservedly put an arm around his high shoulders as he leaned down. Together, they limped up the trail towards the distant peak of Teakettle Mountain. "My pop's cabin's just a few miles up'ere, at the foot a' the mountain," he assured her. As they hobbled up the path, she found that her injured leg forced her into extremely close proximity with this human. Consequently, she could not help but allow her face to press against his dry leather coat as she weakened and her injured leg became agitated. He continued to struggle with her up the inclining path, his own muscle easily rising to the task of carrying her weight as she weakened. She tired, and allowed herself to lean more into him, her cheek unintentionally pressing into the material of a thin cotton undershirt, and the warm flesh beneath it. Even his scent was remarkably familiar, mimicking the only one among humans she had found pleasant.

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"What the hell do you mean, 'you don't know'?" Charles Tucker demanded.

"Take it easy, Trip," Archer eased him. Trip seethed as he stepped back and released Daniels' collar. His feet finally touched the floor.

"I didn't say I don't know where she is. I said I have to return to my time to use my equipment to find her," he snapped with irritation. He often tired of Commander Tucker's audacity, in any time frame. There was only so much a man could take, even from his elders.

"Take me with you," Archer demanded. Daniels looked back defeatedly as he eyed the raptor-stare on Tucker's face. The Commander appeared prepared to pounce the moment he heard the undesired response. It's a wonder these two haven't hooked up yet. How can it be obvious only to me?

"Fine, it is kind of my fault, I suppose," he muttered under his breath, in the detached matter-of-fact way that irritated Archer. The captain breathed a sigh of relief, mostly for Daniels' sake. He had rarely, if ever, seen Trip so agitated, but he supposed it was an understandable reaction to the abduction of any crewman on Tucker's watch. He was very protective of his people. Yes, he was sure that was it. After all, Tucker never liked Daniels much to begin with.

Archer was startled from his reverie as Daniels turned with a keypad.

"I'm not sure where—or when, rather — Ruda took her, but I can narrow down the list. In his jump key he only had addresses for the last dozen time periods I have visited."

"Jump key?" Tucker asked irritably.

"Yes, the one he stole from me," he responded irritably. "It's a portable temporal transporter, it allows the user to instantaneously move between time periods," he explained. Tucker's brows rose.

"Damn. I'd like to get a look at the inside of one a' those," he muttered. Archer offered a weak smile. "You wouldn't understand it," Daniels told him flatly as he turned to make some final adjustment on his device. Archer prepared to come between them as Tucker shifted his weight. Daniels looked up.

"That's it, time to go. Are you ready Captain?" Archer nodded.

"I'd say you're in command until I get back," he told Tucker. "But it'll just be a few seconds," he added with a smirk.

Trip nodded with a weak smile. Daniels placed a hand on Jonathan's shoulder and they vanished.

Tucker sighed. "I hate time travel."

 

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2 KM South of Teakettle Mountain Peak, Colorado
Tucker's Cabin

 

It was dark when T'Pol and young Jack Tucker hobbled through the heavy oak door. The floor paneling was similar in construction, thick and firm, clearly built of a similar hardwood to that which T'Pol noted was growing naturally in the deciduous forests surrounding the area. That reminded her of the immediacy of her plight: she must find out where she was, how she got here, and how to get back to Enterprise.

He moved her to a cushioned armchair and helped her to sit down. As she did, she felt a stiff object in her side pocket jab into her hip. My communicator, she thought.

From the door, the wood-furnished cabin appeared as mostly one large room, with an upper-level loft area that held a bed, and sections of the main room divided off as a kitchen and a fireplace facing the armchair. The loft was a main bedroom, but there was also a smaller room off to the side, apparently Jack's. Having deduced that she must be on Earth, T'Pol also figured that she could only have been sent backwards in time by Daniels' escaped alien. It was logical since Daniels and those from his century claimed to possess the technology for time travel. Though she did not initially believe his claims, her location would suggest she was in error.

Identifying the precise era could prove to be difficult. The surroundings were rustic, even archaic by 22nd century Earth standards, but the area was also rural and isolated – suggesting it could be at a low technological level despite advancement in the more densely populated regions. In any case, she decided it would be prudent to conceal the communicator. Tucker turned and broke T'Pol's reverie as he lit a kerosene lantern in the center of the room, carrying it as he moved about the dark room. With it, he lit candles on the walls in various places, illuminating the cabin. She thought of inquiring about electricity, but held her tongue for fear of suggesting what may not have been invented yet.

"We'll get a fire goin' an' then figure out'cher leg. How 'bout that?" he asked kindly. T'Pol merely nodded while he moved about, playing host to this strangely clad woman. He piled a handful of logs into a firestone brick hearth from a tall stack of freshly cut wood near the door. T'Pol found herself admiring the simple yet obviously hand-built architecture of the cabin, with its tall ceilings and heavy wood; it was clearly of sturdy construction. As her eyes wandered, her rigid face relaxed in a questioning expression, as the young Tucker found himself admiring the woman's soft features and deep-seeking eyes.

"My great granddad built this house back 'round the turn of the century with his dad. Since then, my uncle's lived here. But when he died, my daddy moved up 'ere and me with 'em to take care of the place," Tucker told her.

"I am sorry for your loss," she told him, nodding. "Ah, s'alright. Me an' Uncle Charles weren't all that close. I didn't see him very often when I was growin' up."

"You dwell here with your father?" T'Pol asked, concerned about having to explain herself to not one, but two pre-warp humans. Tucker ground a flint against the inside of the hearth and sparked a batch of kindling until a tiny ember began to twinkle and hiss with a trail of smoke emanating from it.

"My daddy took the truck back home to Texas to take care of his momma. She came down with the shakes a few months back and doctors say it's gettin' worse. So it's just me and the silver spoons for the winter," he shook his head. T'Pol took mental notes as he spoke. Truck, suggested an internal combustion automobile, she was certain.

"Silver spoons?" T'Pol asked, curiously.

"Ah, rich kids up 'ere skiing. Ya know they just opened that lodge up 'ere…" he began, pointing towards the south. He dropped a hand to his denim-covered knee and met T'Pol's eyes, turning away from the fire he had been tending. T'Pol's eye followed hand briefly as it came down and noted the powerful look of his knees stretching against the material of his jeans. His legs were equally strong and filled out. Though a boy in the face, he was clearly full grown.

"Nah I 'spose you wouldn't know, you said you're not from 'round here didn't ya?" T'Pol nodded. She expected he would next ask what she was doing out in the woods alone, without the party she claimed to be with, but he didn't.

"Well, see I came up 'ere with my daddy to work the cabin back into shape but, wouldn't you know it, by time we get things back in order, a big ole' blizzard hits and shuts us in. Kids come 'round for miles on 'er daddy's tabs ta' go skiin' down some real slopes, I guess. Next thing I know, I'm stuck in this town servin' beers, and choppin' wood." He snorted. He turned from the stoked fire, its yellow tongues licking warmth into the air as T'Pol sat across the room in the large armchair. She shivered involuntarily as a chill tickled up her spine.

"Oh, beg your pardon. Let me find you a blanket. I 'spose it's mighty cold up around here for foreigners. Would you like somethin' to drink? I'm afraid all I can offer's water, beer, and hard cider," he made his way to a small icebox.

"Cider?" she asked.

"It's juice, made from apples," he told her, unaware of her ignorance of the modifier 'hard'.

"Cider, please," she answered.

From the kitchen he asked the question she hadn't yet prepared to answer.

"Where did you say you're from?" he asked T'Pol.

As she formulated a response, he climbed a broad, wooden stepladder to the loft. He returned with a thick, heavy woolen blanket with a dark plaid pattern. He brought it to her, holding it over her with a smile while a beer bottle hung at his side between two fingers of his other hand.

"Thank you," she accepted it with a slight nod but her stoic Vulcan demeanor refused to allow her lips to curl. He handed her a cold glass of apple cider as she curled the blanket around the edges of her Vulcan feet, feeling an unwelcome draft trickle across the floor. She naturally felt the urge to curl her feet up into the chair underneath her, where they were warmer.

He returned to his seat at the foot of the glowing red hearth, leaning against the warm brick. He sighed, dropping the black Stetson from his head onto the brick and removing the light brown leather jacket. When his head of light blonde, slightly curled locks were revealed, T'Pol again wondered at the likeness between this man and the chief engineer she knew. His hair was longer, and curled at the tips. When he turned back on her, she quickly ad-libbed a plausible response to his question.

"I have traveled from Europe. I am here visiting your country," she answered, correctly assuming from his drawl and accent that she must be somewhere in the country formerly known as the United States.

"Well, I 'spose that figures," he told her with a wry smirk. When she cocked an eyebrow, he shifted nervously to explain.

"Well you just don't seem much like the kinda' folk around here. You're different," he told her. "Well don't get me wrong, it's very nice to have visitors," he quickly amended, putting his hands up. She moved her eyes from him to avoid the nervous shiver running down her spine, busying herself with wrapping the thick wool blanket around her legs and midsection.

"I-I mean your clothes look different and all," he indicated towards her dark brown-green patterned body-suit uniform. She realized for the first time she was still wearing her Vulcan uniform.

"Not-not in any bad way, a'course. I 'magine I look pretty silly to you folks, from different countries. It's all in the way you look at things, a'course," he nodded nervously to himself, trying to shut up. He glowed slightly pink, thinking he had made a fool of himself. T'Pol, however, was impressed with the wisdom in his words, simplistically put as they were.

"Yes, it is the style where I come from. It also helps me keep warm in the cold climates that I am unused to," she fibbed, but only slightly. Tucker nodded.

"And you don't sound anything like folks around here, you speak a lot more sophisticated," he complimented her. She nodded her appreciation before indulging her curiosity.

"What do you do here with your father?"

"Well most a' the time it's just loggin' and servin' booze," he drawled with disappointment in his voice. "It's not so bad. It's just not what I had in mind when my pop told me we'd be comin' up to 'sit Uncle's cabin for a few months when I was eighteen," he told her, sipping his beer. She hadn't understood half of what just came out of his mouth, but decided not to request a clarification for fear that he might begin to suspect she was not just from Europe.

"How long ago was that?" she asked, attempting to narrow down his age while she curiously eyed the strong young man — very clinically, of course. Had she taken a tip from Commander Tucker's interrogative methods?

"Bout three years this winter," he shook his head. T'Pol fingered the glass as she curled up tighter into the chair, feeling her insides warming to the liquid as it pooled in her stomach and set about a frivolous chain of biochemical events.

"You do not enjoy it here? It seems quite peaceful," she offered, loosening her reticence.

"Oh, it's beautiful country and I don't mind the early work on the trees up 'ere on the mountain. But it just ain't what I had in mind." T'Pol quirked an eyebrow curiously and Jack leaned back against the brick.

"Well we were only 'sposed to be here a short period a' time. It sounds silly but," he started with reddish cheeks, turning his eyes down at his glass sheepishly. "I kinda' wanted to go ta' school down in Texas. My pop said I was just thinkin' nonsense, though."

"He is incorrect," T'Pol responded firmly through the recalcitrance of the sharp and tasty cider she sipped through her full lips. Tucker tipped the half-empty bottle back and then looked up at T'Pol curiously.

"It is logical to pursue your interests and conducive to a successful life to seek an education," T'Pol asserted. Jack laughed and downed the last drops of his glass.

"Yeah, tell that to my old man. He don't think a man's a man unless he works with his hands," he groaned, clearly reciting an all-too-familiar mantra of his father's.

"That is an illogical assertion."

"No kiddin'," he replied.

"If you disagree with him, why then do not you leave and pursue your education?" T'Pol asked. A knot in her belly suddenly tightened and a slew of memories of one incorrigible Charles Tucker berating her over the same inaction.

"I don't know, I 'spose I just feel like I should take care of him. When my momma died few years back he didn't handle it so well. Started hittin' the bottle a little more 'an usual," he told her in a low voice.

"I am sorry, I didn't kn—"

"No, no, Tipol it's alright. I guess I just feel like he needs me around more than b'fore," he interrupted. There was an uncomfortable silence as T'Pol found herself searching her words and hoping she had not made some unintended imprudence.

"What do you wish to study in school?" she found herself asking.

"I always wanted to look at the stars, ya' know like astronomers do. I know it sounds silly, and I had to quite school early, but they're beautiful. I got a'hold of a book once, an astronomy book," he beamed. "You know there could be other planets out there just like this one with people?" he asked with a wild grin, shaking his head. T'Pol replied with a long gaze.

"Do you still have this book?" T'Pol asked.

"No, 'fraid not," he recalled sadly. "When pop was packin' our things to move he found it and said it wasn't worth takin' with us," he went on. T'Pol slowly blinked her silent condolences. Tucker broke a broad smile a second later, to which she replied with a high eyebrow. "But," he said, sitting up away from the hearth. He dropped his drink to the brick and disappeared into his room. A few moments later he reappeared with a thick book wrapped in brown paper.

"A few months ago when my pop was away takin' care of business in Texas, I rode down into town and sent away for this," he told her, unwrapping the brown paper, not without a touch of reverence. Jack came to the side of T'Pol's armchair and knelt down, opening the book for her to see.

"Burnham's Celestial Handbook: An Observer's Guide to the Universe Beyond the Solar System, " she read the title with an elevated eyebrow and flipped open the cover. "This material is advanced for a novice," she observed, scanning the pages.

"Yeah, I've been havin' a little trouble with the math, but there's plenty of explanations. I've been readin' it," he pointed at a feather sticking out about a quarter of the way through the book.

"I see," T'Pol replied, skipping to that page. "I am proficient in mathematics. What would you like to know?" T'Pol offered.

"Oh, oh no that's not necessary Tipol, you don't need to go to all that trouble," Jack started, rubbing the back of his neck.

"If your interest is sincere, I would certainly be willing to assist you," she replied.

"Oh yeah, hell yeah!" he replied with his native colloquialism. "I mean yes, I'm very sincere," he cleared his throat. There was a long beat of silence, and suddenly Jack realized he was still kneeling beside the armchair, matching T'Pol's gaze. He started, jumped up, and returned the book to the backroom. Soon he was back.

"I know there's gotta' be more out there than I know about. That's the one thing that keeps me goin' out 'ere when I'm loggin' all day or working all day in town: thinkin' about the things out there that I can't even imagine. Sometimes, I pull a few cords up in the early morning so I can hike up to the summit of Teakettle Peak an' just look at the stars. I take campin' gear with me, just disappear from the old man for a few days," he reminisced.

T'Pol listened attentively, curiously nursing the last drops of the tangy apple cider. Jack woke from his own reverie and spied her empty glass.

"It's gettin' kinda late, I 'spose I oughta take my leave of ya," he began. But T'Pol shifted in her chair and her eyes took a plunge from the safe confines of the floor into his eyes, and he offered her another option.

"Unless… you'd like another?" "Please," she responded, holding her glass up for him. He took it, grinning as he leaned down to pluck the glass from her bronze fingers.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"So what do you do, Tipol, back where you come from?" Jack asked as he eased himself against the warm hearth, having retrieved the pair of them yet another round. The night hours were piling on and Jack's eyes were drooping slightly, but T'Pol's were as wide as ever.

"I am a scientist. I too, am fascinated by the stars," she told him.

"Really, well ain't that somethin? Hell, I bet you could tell me all kinds a' things about the stars an' planets and name every constellation in the sky," he chuckled, knocking back his glass.

"Indeed. What would you like to know?"

"Well, hell," Tucker said as he grinned, turning his eyes skyward towards the dark planks in the ceiling.

"I can't answer that in here, we'd have to be lookin' at the stars!" he said flirtatiously.

"Perhaps we should go outside to observe the stars, then," she countered expertly, forgetting the temperature.

"It's too cold out, you crazy?" he returned, laughing as he drunkenly sat up and nearly tipped his drink.

"On the contrary, I believe you are the one who is intoxicated," she countered with a quip in her tone, the corners of her lips threatening to turn.

"Hey I'm not the only one, you're flushin' you know! Only you look a little green, are you feelin' alright?" he asked with concern. She looked down curiously at her fourth empty glass as the realization hit her that the contents were affecting her behavior.

"I am well, however, I think I will accept your earlier invitation to retire to bed for the evening," she replied, setting her empty glass on the large area rug that covered the hardwood floor beneath her feet. He nodded and rose with gentlemanly intent as he held out his arm.

"I am quite capable of walking myself to bed," she countered, brushing past his arm with an unsure step. She corrected, but found herself floundering for a moment as her motor skills failed. She turned to find Tucker smirking and crossing the distance towards her with raised eyebrows. "I can tell," he laughed, nearly evoking the tiniest of smiles upon her lips. He straightened as he came to her side and resumed his assistance.

"Mr. Tucker would it be—"

"Please, call me Jack," he asked her. She nodded, blinking through the memory of Trip's same request.

"Jack," she experimented, looking up from her petite stature into his rugged but boyish face. "Would it be possible to arrange transport to the nearest city, tomorrow?" she asked. Reality came rushing back to him and for an instant and Jack frowned in dismay. He quickly cleared his throat.

"Well, Telluride's only 'bout ten miles down Camp Bird Trail. The bar I work at in town's there, but Telluride's a pretty small town. Denver's a good three hundred miles, if you're lookin' for a real big city," he told her. She was unsure what she was in fact looking for, but knew only there was no chance of finding her way back to Enterprise out here in the forest.

T'Pol recognized the name of the city of Denver from passing conversation with her human shipmates. She believed it was on the North American continent, which she had already inferred of her location, and in the mountainous area of the Southwest, which would also match her observations of the area. She was also quite sure that the city was destroyed in the humans' third world war, and since Jack had expressed no concern for radiation exposure, she deduced that she must be on Earth prior to the nuclear holocaust of 2053.

Although she did not know the year, she was certain it was pre-warp and thus no human had ever seen a Vulcan, and she could not contaminate the culture. Thus she must continue to keep her identity secret.

"I'm afraid, though, my dad's got the truck and the only transportation I can offer you's by horseback," he told her. "I can take you to the Rio Grand Railroad Station in Telluride, t'morrow morning, if you like," Jack said, hesitantly.

"Thank you for your offer," T'Pol told him. She illogically dwelt upon the last part, if you like, and realized it was not, at this moment, what she would like.

"The bed up 'ere is more comfortable, 'cause my dad's got a bad back and his mattress is feathered an' all 'at fancy stuff," he told her in a slurred drawl.

"My bed," he pointed in the direction of an unlit room to the side of the ladder leading to the loft. "Is in there, so you can sleep up 'ere on the loft for t'night, 'till I can figure out how to get rid a' you t'morrow," he joked, grinning through a pair of sky blue eyes.

"Thank you, Jack," she said, her voice lower and quieter than before. The syllable lingered on her tongue as she did in front of him, his heavy head hanging above her as his insides swooned with the dry scent of some literally unearthly aroma as it wafted up from T'Pol's hair and into his nostrils. An instant before he was about to take the dive and pull her to him, she evaporated from his grasp, and began to climb the ladder to the loft.

"Good night, Tipol."

"Good night, Jack," she told him, chancing only a momentary glance over her shoulder, climbing the ladder against temptation.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The next morning, the sun was only beginning to spill over the horizon when Jack raised the hatchet high above his head and brought it down with a loud crack as it split a slab of wood into halves. He dropped the pair into a dark colored burlap sack with a drawstring and tossed the bag aside. The bag landed softly against the snow bank lining the area Jack had arduously dug out in order to cut wood this morning.

An overnight blizzard had dropped more than four feet of snow on the Teakettle Mountain valley, cutting off the roads and making Jack's headache worse. He had to admit, however, that the timing of Nature's frozen deluge wasn't all that unpleasant. He bit his lip as the northern winds slashed at his neck and fingers, thinking about the night before and hoping that when he became intoxicated he hadn't acted inappropriately with T'Pol. He remembered clearly enough, but the drink always had a way of putting a spin on reality, even in afterthought.

After a few dozen more loud cracks echoed between the fens and valleys hugging the nearby mountain slopes, Jack wiped the sweat from his brow and let the throb behind his eyes coax him into taking a rest. He sat on a scarred old stump a few feet from the chopping block. A loud bray lit out from Charlie's pen and he stood up to investigate the noise.

Jack's horse Charlie had an enclosed pen just behind the cabin, out of sight from the front door. When he came around the backside of the cabin, he found T'Pol standing off from the animal. She was tensed and wide-eyed, while the horse was stamping its hoofs into the frozen dirt, its covered bower untouched by the new fallen snow. "Easy boy, easy," Tucker chided the horse, calmly walking up to it as T'Pol edged further away. Tucker chuckled lightly in response to T'Pol's raised eyebrow.

"I can imagine you're not too fond a' horses right about now, but Charlie won't hurt ya'. He's just a little spooked that he don't know you."

He came to the animal's side, running his hands through the jet-black bristles on its haunch and neck. The animal's braying subsided into snorts, and Charlie calmed down until he lowered his head from its defensive posture, allowing his master to rub behind his ears. "There, see? Tipol's not so bad. What do you say?" he turned to her. She responded with a perplexed eyebrow but soon realized he wished her to touch this animal. Her reluctance was less than subtle.

"Ah, come on, he won't hurt I promise. They're very gentle animals, really," he assured her, in a quieter voice. T'Pol acquiesced and took two cautious steps toward the animal, and it brayed slightly in response. T'Pol looked to Jack for guidance as a toddler does its parent, and he nodded with a light smile. She continued to approach and a knot of exhilaration swelled up in her bosom as the animal neared. Its scent was strong and reminded her of the pet Sehlat she adored as a child. Her parents had always scolded her for burying her head in its neck, as Sehlats were domesticated but un-groomed and dirty animals. Charlie, however, was clearly well tended and his mane was smooth and stood proudly away from him as his head swayed back and forth. She reached out, touching the animal's forehead with an intrepid finger. It brayed in response, and for an instant she felt the animal's primal nature assert itself and welcome her, through her touch telepathy. She almost panicked, recoiling, but the animal's subconscious salutation to her presence receded. She allowed her fingers to linger against its forehead as he lightly brayed, entreating her to trace the fibers of its hair around its snout and ears.

"See! He likes you!" Tucker exclaimed with a grin. He turned away and T'Pol removed her hand, following Tucker through the snow. The flakes were still coming down, and Tucker turned his face skyward as T'Pol followed.

"For what purpose are these bags of wood?" T'Pol asked, pointing to a half dozen burlap sacks of firewood just inside Charlie's pen.

"That's firewood. Remember, I'm a logger. I take it into town and sell it to people who don't want to do the work themselves. It's a decent bit a' money when business is slow at the bar. Or when we're snowed in," he laughed, opening his arms towards the sky.

"And it is legal to cut down these trees?" T'Pol asked, making an effort to restrain her disapproval.

"Oh, sure. All of this is my dad's land. It's about a few thousand acres in all. But we only cut down trees that are dried out and already dying," he assured her.

The unfriendly clime was biting at her skin, though she struggled to maintain her composure, she was shivering and her teeth chattering. Each labored step through the snow nearly brought her down on her face, the snow coming nearly to her knees as they made for the door. Her mind drifted, considering her situation and how to go about learning what era she was in, she took a misstep. Her foot slipped through several more inches of snow than expected and she tumbled into a heap of white powder. Tucker hurried back to her and scooped her out of the snow.

"You alright?" he asked as she visibly shivered, holding her arms. He didn't wait for her to answer as he could see she was freezing, and he nodded for the door to the cabin. As they entered, Tucker slammed the thick, wooden door with a loud crash and T'Pol turned to see what was the matter. He stared back blankly.

"The wood's cold. It makes the wood stiff. It's good for heat during the winter though, seals up all the gaps," he explained. Shaking off the snow, he dropped his Stetson on the supper table in the kitchen and removed his thick leather jacket. He wore a long sleeved plaid patterned shirt underneath and several layers of pants. As he began removing winter clothing while moving towards his bedroom, T'Pol realized that he had been so comfortable in the cold due to several layers of clothing.

"As you can see, we've got ourselves a prob'em," he told her from the inside of his room while he undressed.

"You are referring to the weather?" T'Pol asked.

"Yeah, I went down to the trail this mornin'," he told her through a muffled voice as he pulled a shirt over his head. T'Pol couldn't help but wonder if he was completely undressing. She dismissed the thought quickly and returned her mind to the matter at hand.

"Is it passable?" she asked, though she already felt the answer.

"I'm afraid not. It's at least three feet down to Camp Bird Road and the road winds up the mountain for a few miles and it gets even deeper. We're snowed in," he told her apologetically, as he emerged from the room. His blonde locks were combed roughly in a similar manner to Commander Tucker's, tailing into curls on the ends that refused to stay in a straight line. A long sleeved blue button-up shirt covered his chest with a dark undershirt beneath it and long, dark jeans.

"I've got plenty of food and water, you don't need to be worried 'bout starvin' or anything. But I'm real sorry about keepin' ya', what with losin' your horse and all. Charlie'll take us down 'ere with a few inches on the ground but I don't wanna' risk 'im getting' stuck and us with 'em. October's a mighty cold month to go free campin' in the Rockies," he joked.

"I understand, and I very much appreciate your hospitality."

"Sure thing, folks 'round here are like that," he grinned.

"The storm oughta' pass on soon, hopefully just a couple a' days. But it's hard to say when the snow'll melt. We'll just have to keep checkin' on it," he told her. She nodded in agreement. He moved toward the door.

"You know, I forgot to bring the wood in," he told himself aloud. T'Pol nodded as she moved to rest on the chair in front of what would hopefully soon be a blazing fire.

"Oh an' T'Pol?" he called behind him. "Yes?"

"You're more an' welcome to look up in that bureau up 'ere on the loft. I believe some of my momma's clothes are still up 'ere if you'd prefer to wear somethin' a little more comfortable inside," he offered her. She turned and glanced up the ladder before looking back at him.

"Thank you," she nodded. He opened the door to leave, and a frozen gale blew through his blonde hair.

"Oh I for…" he turned to retrieve his Stetson, but found T'Pol holding it out to him, her small hands pinching the brim.

"Thanks!" he grinned, tipping the black hat to T'Pol as he stepped out the door.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The next two evenings passed similarly to the first, while T'Pol bided her time and carefully considered her situation. Having decided she may be here awhile, she decided to hide her communicator. Jack didn't seem to go up to the loft much except for bringing blankets down for her. On the second morning, she located a loose board in the far corner of the room beneath a piece of furniture resembling a bedside table. Beneath the slat, she dropped the communicator, and then replaced the table.

She had finally come to accept that the Captain's experience moving through time with Daniels was genuine. To say the proposition offended her Vulcan preconceptions about time travel's impossibility would be an understatement, but she was only now realizing what a monumental difference lay between knowing time travel to be real and being caught in a Colorado snow storm with a 20th century likeness of Commander Tucker. She could only deduce that the fugitive alien had not accompanied her to this time period and that somehow, Daniels was either unable or unwilling to retrieve her. In previous experience, it appeared that the Captain could return from one of his journeys through time instantaneously. Thus, she deduced that Daniels should have arrived to bring her back immediately after she arrived. It was the logical conclusion, and since he had not arrived, she was forced to accept that for whatever reason, he never would. She was stuck here.

On the second night, Jack was shaking the snow out of his chaps and warming his hands by the fire after cutting fresh wood and stacking it near the hearth to be dried. As on the previous night, they were soon conversing.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The hardwood door creaked open, a gust of snow flurries chasing Jack in the door as he escaped the cold. He shook off a vibrant shiver as he strode across the plank wood floor, shutting the door behind him. An arctic blast of Colorado mountain air snuck through and gave T'Pol a shiver.

"Oh yeah!" he answered T'Pol's unspoken question, looking toward her and nodding emphatically with raised eyebrows. The expression reminded her of Commander Tucker's emergent boyish features when they would argue, as they did so often.

"The road's blocked! Hell, if anything I think the storm's gotten worse," he told her apologetically.

"I barely got back up'ere 'fore losin' my footing, the snow's so deep. That snow an' wind, when it gusted, nearly took Charlie off his feet!" he exclaimed.

"I am sorry if your animal was hurt. Are you injured?" T'Pol asked.

"No, no – I'm fine. I was built for football!" he boasted lightly, smiling at T'Pol as he warmed by the fire.

"You know, football? They play football in Europe don't they?" he asked her. As she considered his question, he dropped a snow-caked pair of boots to the floor and sat on the brick surrounding the fireplace. T'Pol sat opposite him in the single large, cushioned armchair that adorned the center of the room.

"I have heard of it, I have never witnessed the activity myself," T'Pol told him. Though not a lie, she knew nothing about the game save that Ensign Mayweather and Captain Archer often debated the superiority of football versus water polo. T'Pol tucked her uniform-clad legs further into the warm crevices of the chair and pulled the blanket close to her. Tucker nodded as he turned his attention on slapping the side of his boot against the brick and finding a hunk of ice falling out of the bottom.

"There you are, ya' lit'l bastard," he muttered to himself. Though not intending the colorful language to reach a lady's ears, this lady's of course, were exceedingly acute. T'Pol watched him as he removed his outer layers of clothing, when he caught her eye and stopped.

"Oh I beg your pardon," he blushed. He leaned back, stretching out of a brown leather jacket. He rolled up the sleeves of a long undershirt with dark plaid patterns, and unfastened the top two buttons.

"Well it's a game," he explained, shaking the snowflakes from his hair.

"I played varsity back in high school in Texas," he told her, not without a bit of pride. "Until we moved up'ere a'course," he amended with a low voice as he shed layers of clothing and returned them to his bedroom.

"A&M saw me play at the Alamo Bowl, though. They asked if I was plannin' on playin' collegiate, and I thought that sounded like a half-way decent idea," he groaned. He collapsed onto the floor near the hearth, resuming the familiar exchange that had passed between the two the past few nights, his back against the brick hearth, T'Pol wrapped in blankets in the chair facing it.

T'Pol tipped an eyebrow. "Indeed. They wished you to play this game… professionally?" she asked unsurely.

"No, no, see," he gesticulated as he leaned forward to explain. "A&M is a college here. They wanted me to come to their school when I graduated and play. I thought, 'hell that sounds great'," he slapped his thighs in frustration.

"You would have received an education this way as well?" T'Pol asked. Tucker nodded enthusiastically.

"Oh, you bet, A&M's one of the best in the state, too. But my old man didn't think we could afford it, so I told 'em they might bring me on scholarship," he explained. "Well, my old man knew better'n that and told me so." T'Pol clearly didn't pick up the point and blinked unknowingly at Jack.

"Well I'm a cornerback and most of the money's in offense. But I was a damn good defensive back. Ya' never know, they might've been willin' to give me a scholarship. I 'spose I won't have to worry about finding out now, though," he sighed, walking into the kitchen.

"You want a drink, Tipol?" he asked.

"Just water, thank you," she told him over her shoulder. Following the first evening's unintentional consumption of alcohol, T'Pol subtly inquired as to the contents of the cider she had requested and learned that Tucker thought she knew it was alcoholic. The state of compromised judgment lead her to a near-miss moment of weakness, unbeknown to Jack, of course. As far as he was concerned, he had nearly made an ass of himself kissing a complete, though beautiful, stranger whom he owed a Samaritan's hospitality.

Upon reflection, however, T'Pol recalled her own supposition that Daniels was unlikely to return for her, leaving her on Earth permanently. Piquing her ordered Vulcan mind was the realization that if she had to stay on Earth for an extended period of time, she may be required to reconsider her dismissal of human customs in order to blend in.

A familiar scent of musk tinged with a cold gust of evergreen captured her attention and she turned to find Tucker holding out a glass of ice water. It was as if he carried the mountain air with him and it followed him and washed over her whenever he was near. Everything about him was alien to her – fundamentally in opposition to her nature, just as she found the cold – but undeniably captivating.

"Thank you," she took it from him with both hands, her fingers unintentionally grazing his hard, leathered hands. She maneuvered the conversation such that she could inquire as to Jack's date of birth. From his answer, and previous assertion that he moved to the area three years ago at the age of eighteen, she was able to calculate that she was in the early winter season of 1979. It would be 84 years until first contact between Vulcan and Earth, and humanity would endure a nuclear holocaust in only 73 years. It was a well-known fact to Vulcans that only a handful of decades separated a period of violent war and nuclear devastation from the tranquil afterglow of humanity's new awakening of First Contact. Only a few years later, a unified government spoke for the people of the planet and welcomed their first extra-planetary visitors. Vulcan's early discouragement of human exploration stemmed from a belief that so short a period of reorganization would not suffice and that they would surely collapse before achieving worldwide unity as a race. The prevailing Vulcan wisdom had seemed to be in error, at least as far as they had progressed in the 90 years since that momentous day. Of these humans, prior to their baptism of nuclear fire, T'Pol knew little. Her upbringing and relevant education told her that prior to their new awakening as a single race among hundreds; humans had been selfish, violent, unethical and even more impulsive than in her own time. Her experience with Jack did not seem to corroborate these facts.

The seeds of doubt had been sown in recent months aboard Enterprise: doubt in the High Command, doubt in her preconceptions about humans, doubt in her own strength of conviction in her own path. In a snow-packed cabin on the skirt of Teakettle Mountain, the strongest doubt was that she would ever return to the life she knew.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A week later, the snow drifts began to melt as autumn launched a last-ditch effort to stave off the encroaching, frigid winter. Its defenses were marred with snow pack, the crevices and wind-worn peaks of Teakettle Mountain drowned in a blanket of pure white. In a valley in the base of the peak, not more than a kilometer from Jack's cabin, the red rock swirled in geological patterns; the Earth's fissures and fractures still clinging to narrow canals of the same coverlet that crept up to the peaks. T'Pol imagined the landscape might look like art from an aerial photograph or a reconnaissance survey. But Vulcans didn't look for art in landscapes, or new life in log cabins.

A stiff breeze blew the Subcommander's light brown hair across her eyes, but the wind was not all together unpleasant. She had grown used to the frigid cold, at least in her sensibilities, even if her biological senses still recoiled from winter's touch. On the wind was born a warmth amidst the frosty air, as if it were wrapped in a tubule all surrounded and shackled in arctic collars but escaped ever-so-briefly enough to touch her skin. The night would be cold, but warmer than those past.

"Tipol, it's gettin' cold out, ya' might wanna' come in for supper," a voice called from behind her. Her fingers gripped the rough cotton sleeves of a long dress, thicker than one might wear in the summer but not warm enough to comfort her in the Colorado climate. She looked down to find herself, Vulcan Subcommander, in a faded yellow cotton dress with orange flowers with red-streaked pedals on it, and wearing a pair of softly worn-in leather shoes. Her ankles shivered. How strange I am, she thought, observing herself as if for the first time since she had taken Jack's offer to wear some more comfortable clothing. It was ironic that the colors were not all together strange to her culture. Red, orange and yellow were common themes for Vulcan attire, and for a Vulcan landscape. Staring out over chasm, she could almost observe the darkening of the yellow to orange, the orange to red, and the red to some indiscernible shade of black on the mountain tops in the distance. Her nostrils detected the smell of fresh water air mixed with a botanical tang, remarkably whisked from the Blue Lakes a dozen kilometers away through the air currents high above the valley, through the peaks of Teakettle and neighboring Ridgeway, and to her nose.

"Tipol?" Jack called again. She turned this time and nodded, walking towards the door.

It had been a full week since the snows had melted. T'Pol kept returning in her mind to the day when day Jack returned from scouting the trails and announced they were passable. He asked if she was ready to return home, and she struggled to find an answer. It would be the last time they discussed it.

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

"Well, it looks like you'll be gettin' home soon," Jack murmured through a shiver, removing his coat. T'Pol sipped water by the fire, shivering quite unexpectedly. Her eyebrows flinched as she fingered the glass.

"It is warming," she replied with curiosity. The winter was coming and it failed to make sense that the temperature had risen and the snows receded.

"Yea'. It happens occasionally. I don't now, some kind of meteorological fluke or somethin'. I just figure Fall's not ready to give up yet, spends her last dyin' breath tryin' to warm things up before she finally gives up, kicks the bucket," he murmured, hanging up his coat.

"I know that's not how it really works," Jack cocked a smirk at T'Pol, who watched him wryly after his colorful personification of Nature.

Jack walked into the kitchen, then stopped and turned to T'Pol. She was facing the hearth, not exactly looking at him, but not exactly not. He began to speak but nothing came out. He paused, turned around again and walked to his room as if unsure what else to do.

"Perhaps, if it is warmer this evening, I can show you those stars of which we spoke?" T'Pol asked, raising her voice to reach the back room. There was a pause, and Tucker appeared in the doorway, overalls half-undone and a red and black plaid shirt spilling out over the denim. "Well sure," he nodded, his voice dropping off. He cleared his throat. "Yea' I'd love to," he replied, trying to catch her eye. "But ah'… don't you want to be goin'?" he asked, unsurely. She turned to face him and lifted an eyebrow.

"Do you wish me to leave?" she asked simply.

"No, no, no, a'course not," he replied emphatically, moving into the room. He sat across from her, warming himself on the fire T'Pol had lit before he returned. She had not been sure why, but she decided to light the kindling before he returned. 'Good timing', she recalled him saying.

Jack sat across from T'Pol with the same half-worried, half-unsure facial expression she had seen on Commander Tucker's face as he waited to find out what she had decided about Koss' letter.

"You gotta' have family or someone somewhere worried about ya' though?"

"I…" T'Pol paused. She knew, deep down where her training on culture contamination lived, that the lie was more appropriate than the truth: that she still did not remember who she was with or how to get home. But she couldn't lie to him. At least, she didn't want to.

"I cannot get home," she said finally. Jack furrowed his brow and leaned forward.

"I don't understand," he said, sounding like Trip.

T'Pol pursed her lips, averting her eyes from his. "I can't tell you any more than that," she responded in a quiet voice, her eyes pleading that her condensed explanation would suffice. T'Pol knew he would not understand, closing her eyes as she waited for him to burst in frustration. Several moments went by in silence, when finally she looked up in curiosity. His face was frozen, eyes narrowed, frozen on her as if he were dissecting her, figuring something. She didn't like it. Just when she became uncomfortable, he leaned forward and looked up at her while hanging his head, his eyes warmer, like normal. He covered his face and groaned. T'Pol looked down curiously at him.

"Are you alright, Jack?"

He looked up, shaking his head. "I—I, don't know how to answer that, I've got this crazy idea in my—" T'Pol's brows rose instantly and she tensed like a cat. His gaze narrowed specifically from looking at her to looking at a part of her, those that were to the left and right of her eyes. T'Pol became very tense, concerned her cover was gone, destroyed, and things were about to get a lot more complicated. Tucker finally spoke after several seconds.

"You're welcome to stay here as long as you… have to. As long as you like," he added, carefully choosing his words. "I won't ask you to go," he added. I don't want you to go, he wanted to say. There was a long pause.

"Would you like assistance preparing the meal?" she asked cordially.

"Sure! Does vegetable stew sound a'right?" Jack asked with a grin.

"Indeed, that would be agreeable," she nodded, and rose from the chair.

"Pretty soon we'll have to go into town, stock up on supplies," Tucker thought aloud. "I've got some friends for you to meet," he added. T'Pol tensed instinctively. More people meant more influence, more chance of losing her cover. Before she could think of a way to politely turn down the offer, he spoke up.

"If you like, ya' know. If you'd rather pass, that's fine too," Jack amended, catching T'Pol off guard. He turned from cutting vegetables to see her removing a large pot from the cabinet where he had showed her.

"Thank you," was all she said.

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

As she walked through the thick, wooden doorway, the number '26' weighed heavily on her mind. Twenty-six days. How many more before I can be sure they will never return for me? She asked herself. There was no telling how long it may take, but no logical reason she could infer that would require it take any more than mere microseconds for Daniels to return for her. Unless he couldn't find her, or they thought she was dead. Maybe she was dead. Illogical.

In any case, she was sheltered and fed, and would be kept alive as long as it took. It was that simple, she needed merely to survive and stay out of history's way and this human had offered his assistance in accomplishing that goal. It sounded so simple in her thoughts. But unlike the numerous cold, calculating decisions she had to make day after day for the past 50 years of service to the High Command, she had never encountered a barrier such as this. To receive his care, his hospitality, and something else of which she was becoming very aware, and to take it from him as merely a means to survive until the others came for her, felt unethical in a deeper way than she had every imagined the word could. Failing to site a source of research in a scientific publication was unethical. Informing the High Command of something Captain Archer told her in confidence was unethical. Taking advantage of Jack's feelings while holding out hope, false it may be, of returning to Enterprise wasn't just unethical. It stirred something deeper, a more jarringly personal definition of something she frightfully sought to understand. The fear of this unknown quantity would have been overpowering, but for the grace of another unknown variable, that soothed it away just in time. Even now, she was already beginning to understand this feeling as 'reciprocation'. "You a'right?" Jack asked as he came out of his bedroom in a black, collared shirt and dark blue jeans. "You're kind of quiet tonight," he probed.

"I am fine. It is getting colder, I do not think it would be wise to continue observing the stars after sunset," she replied. T'Pol sat down in the plush armchair, sliding off the leather moccasins. Jack was disappointed at the news, but had noticed her shivering more and more each night. He climbed the loft and T'Pol sat down in front of the fire.

"Perhaps tonight shall be the last night," T'Pol amended with a slight curl on her lips. She pursed them quickly to remove any sign. Jack smiled as he walked down the ladder.

The dress was too short to reach to her feet, as she pulled her knees up to her chest to stay warm in front of the fire, the olive of her skin up to her calf slid out from under the cloth of the dress. She pulled and tightened and stretched herself, attempting to fit the garment around her tiny but not-tiny-enough body.

"Here ya' go," she heard Tucker say while laughing at her as she toiled with the dress. She looked up to find him kneeling down to the side of the chair, wrapping a large, wool throw around her, up to her neck.

"If I am completely covered, I cann—"

"I'll make supper, just you stay warm, a'right?" he grinned, tucking the last few folds of the blanket around the bottom of T'Pol's feet. His fingers ran into cold, soft flesh and he started back, as did T'Pol at first.

"Man, you are cold!" he exclaimed, at her lower body temperature. Without asking he walked around the front of her and reached under the blanket, covering both sides of one foot in his powerful hands. T'Pol's eyes went wide for a moment until his palms wrapped the arch of her foot in surprising warmth, working the ball of her foot with his fingers. She struggled, unsure whether to resist and ask him to stop. Her feet began to tingle slightly with increased blood-flow. Jack looked up at T'Pol.

"Where did you learn this technique?" T'Pol asked. Jack laughed lightly.

"From my pop," he recalled brightly, drawing himself back in time. His eyes settled on a far wall and his lips curved into a sad smile.

"When my mother was pregnant he used to massage her feet because she had bad nerves or somethin' and couldn't reach 'em herself. He used to sit up all night, tryin' to take the pain 'way, but he never could."

"Did he tell you this story?" T'Pol asked in a low voice. Jack's hands moved up to her ankle, to her individual toes and the sole of her feet. "No, I was 'ere," he said quietly. T'Pol lifted an eyebrow.

"I do not understand," she replied. "Were you not still in the womb?"

Drawn back from reality, Jack looked back at her. His eyes were moist, their blue shaking in the vibrant optical dance as their color reflected and refracted through the growing tears in front of them.

"My uh, my mother… died in childbirth with a little girl," he paused. "With my sister," he told her, swallowing a knot.

"I am sorry," she told him, as a tear broke free down his cheek. T'Pol instinctively reached out, her fingers dangling over his head for a moment in pause, and then laid her hand on it. She wasn't sure why, but when she asked herself the answers came up dreadfully short of rationale, empty of logic.

Tucker rocked once with a sob, holding it back, clenching his eyes shut. Without sight, he could only feel T'Pol's hand pull him to her. His fingers stopped massaging her feet, his palms stopped rolling over her ankle and her heel, and he just held onto her while she held him.

T'Pol looked around the cabin, her vision blurring, the walls smearing with moisture. She looked down into his hair and straightened it with her fingers, stroking the back of his head as her mother had once done, long, long ago when her sehlat disappeared into the wastes, never to return.

Even she had sobbed, and sobbed and sobbed more, and her mother never chastised her, never told her to stop, to contain and resist her emotions, or to be strong - to be Vulcan. She never understood why she was allowed to cry that one time and never any other; why she was allowed to show emotion then, and no other time. As she had grown, she learned it was not about 'being allowed', but still the question lingered. Why even her mother, a grown Vulcan, one supposed to hold a high chin under the torment of emotions had permitted this indulgence.

She didn't care why, except that now it was her turn.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Are you sure?" Archer demanded, with a hand out straight.

Daniels exhaustively answered the question once again. "No—no, not about the time period, but I'm certain about the location."

Archer let out an exasperated breath and held his hips.

"Captain you have to understand that this exact science isn't… always an exact science. The only leads I have to go on to find Subcommander T'Pol is the database that Ruda stole from me, but that database contains literally thousands of planets, and hundreds of years of waypoints. She could be anywhere—and any time," Daniels added.

Archer sighed and paced away from Daniels who worked at a computer console on a strange looking ship. It was small on the inside, clearly only designed to travel with one passenger.

"I'll be the first to admit I don't understand how any of this is possible," Archer said aloud, furrowing his brow as he looked around him. Daniels glanced up and smiled briefly before returning to work. The Captain paced around the lab hands on his hips, critically looking at every console in total awe.

"I mean how the hell do you people keep from screwing up history every time you go somewhere? And for that matter how do you not end up…," he paused, "Negating your existence every time you screw up and just—not existing?" Archer asked, waving his hands and squinting in confusion at his own words.

"It's hard to explain, Captain, but there are ways of protecting ourselves from changes in a timeline we're traveling to. And there are mistakes made," he added, looking up. "We have an entire branch of Starfleet devoted to fixing them, sort of like your Starfleet Intelligence."

Archer heaved a sigh and returned to Daniels' side. "Any luck?"

"I've narrowed it to three time periods, give or take a year," he muttered.

"A year?! She's going to be trapped wherever he sent her for a year? It may not even be habitable!" Archer yelled.

"Captain, as I said, I'm reasonably sure that Ruda sent her to a mountainous area of North America. It's sparsely populated, and easily habitable."

"Aren't you always accusing me of thinking too three-dimensionally?" Archer asked. "How do you know she's not there in 2054 during the third world war when the entire region is irradiated, or sixty million years ago when prehistoric predators lived there?" he asked irritably.

"I've narrowed her spatial coordinates to a small area in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado," Daniels told him, ignoring his protest.

"That entire region was irradiated," Archer muttered under his breath, recalling the horror in the history books, the monuments, the massive cleanup that the Vulcans had to help with.

"I've narrowed our choices down by isolating the chronometric field down to three different subintervals, give or take a few months' accuracy. Trust me, Captain, that's the best it's going to get!" Daniels said firmly.

"Fine," Archer squinted. "What years?" "2060, 1979, and 1888," he replied.

"Why those?"

"It's hard to explain but the chronometric field experiences fluctuations at regular subspace intervals, I was able to isolate the signal recorded by my ship's sensors that Ruda's jump key emitted down to three fluctuations. The fluctuations occur every 91 years for this region of space. The numbers vary depending on the area of the galaxy and the subspace activity," he muttered to himself.

"Which one do we try first?" Archer thought aloud.

"As you pointed out, the first nuclear strike of the third world war on Earth occurred in early 2052. My instruments were only able to determine these dates within a few months. If T'Pol were transported to 2060, the area in North America where I've located her signal went to so she may have been transported right into a blast region. If T'Pol went there, she probably didn't survive," Daniels said gravely, turning to Captain Archer. The Captain's eyebrows drew together and he stood up straighter.

"We don't know that."

Daniels lowered his head. "Fine. We will check that region first. But the latent radiation will render my ship's biosensors incapable of distinguishing her life signs to that small of a resolution," Daniels warned. Archer pulled out his communicator.

"She may have had a communicator on her," Archer suggested.

Daniels nodded, gathering several devices and gadgets in preparation.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

<< Archer to T'Pol, come in >>

There was no response. Jonathan frowned, looking down at his communicator. After checking the signal, he called again.

<< Captain Archer to Subcommander T'Pol, do you read? >> No response.

"She must be in one of the other time periods," Daniels observed. Again, Archer frowned at the communicator.

"No, I'm getting a signal. It means her communicator is being detected on a Starfleet frequency but she's not responding. We have to go down there." "Captain, we can't risk—"

"I don't give a damn about your timeline! This is your fault to begin with for having my ship's information in that little device of yours and letting a dangerous criminal get his hands on it, now I'm getting my officer back and you're going to do everything you can to help me!" Archer shouted back. Daniels blinked through the shock, stepping back.

"Actually, I was going to say that we can't risk any more radiation exposure than one hour. The ship's bio-filters will automatically correct any DNA corruption caused at these levels as long as our exposure is limited less than an hour."

Archer blinked with raised eyebrows. "Good, then let's get down there," he smiled lightly. In a wisp of light and sound, they were gone.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

3 KM South of Teakettle Mountain Peak, Colorado
Summer, 2060

The absence of birdsong wasn't noticeable at first. As Archer and Daniels strode up the dirt road, Archer squinted in the distance toward a structure.

"That looks like a house," he muttered. Daniels wasn't listening. Archer looked over to find Daniels was observing the landscape as they passed by. The trees were brown, most were dead on the ground, and those that were standing all grew at a slant. It was evidence of a blast wave.

"We are often so proud of what we have accomplished that we forget how far we've come," Daniels uttered under his breath.

"You talking about your own people or mine?" Archer asked him, adding a dose of good humor to the morose atmosphere.

"Actually you said that, at the … nevermind," Daniels began, then stopped himself. Archer smiled to himself, laughing lightly.

"I barely passed the course on temporal contamination," Daniels explained. "My instructor said I had 'too much admiration for historical figures'. Should my mission bring me into contact with them he was afraid I would reveal too much and compromise the timeline." Archer smirked.

"I can imagine it must be difficult."

"I've never been able to confide in anyone and really trust them, Captain. I never told you how much I appreciated that you didn't look in the other books at that library in the future," he said, as they climbed the sloping dirt road. "It certainly wasn't easy. It's hard to wait for such a bright future as you describe. It would be easy to take all the answers now," he laughed, thinking of Malcolm.

"Most people would prefer that option, like Mr. Reed," Daniels recalled, of Malcolm wishing to review more of his future database.

"I never told you about that," Archer said, stopping to turn towards Daniels and take a break.

"Yes you did. Just not yet," Daniels tottered a finger at him, striding past. Archer turned while shaking his head, hands on his hips as Daniels walked away. The Captain reached into his pocket and pulled out the communicator, flipping a button that changed modes.

"I should be able to track her communicator's position by its locator beacon. Hopefully, we're close enough to get a good reading even with all this radiation," Archer murmured. Daniels was silent. He was walking off the side of the road towards a clearing that had been made. Their position was only about thirty yards from the cabin Archer spotted on arrival, and the clearing seemed to have a path cleared to it from the direction of the cabin. Daniels was cutting across the brush, pushing his way through thorns and ignoring their pricklers. Archer didn't quite know what to make of it when Daniels failed to respond once again. Ignoring him, the Captain started tracking the locator beacon on his communicator, and found it leading him right behind Daniels.

"Ey! What y'all doin' out here!?" a thick, harsh voice called from their rear. Archer was nearing the clearing, where Daniels was standing, looking over something. Archer elbowed Daniels who turned. He was standing over a knee-high headstone, his face a portrait of shock. Archer noticed the man already halfway to them, a shotgun leveled at them.

"Quick, make something up!" Daniels whispered. Archer stepped closer to Daniels to glance at what he was looking at. He passively noticed a pair of gravestones. It didn't register yet.

"Me? You're the time traveler!"

"But you're better at it!"

"Shhh!!"

"Hi! We're relatives of…" Archer looked over the names on the stones. "… Jack and T'Pol Tucker," Archer told him. The Captain's throat turned to sandpaper in a desert wind as he heard himself speak. Forcing himself to blink and breathe regularly, Archer stood rigidly and offered a weak smile. The man kept approaching with shotgun in hand, but relaxed his grip on the barrel and allowed it to slowly move off target from the Captain's chest. The man wore dark blue jeans held by a large ovular belt buckle, a long-sleeved plaid shirt and a faded brown cowboy hat.

"Kin, you say?"

"Yes," Archer said with arms raised, cocking a smile. "This is just a misunderstanding, this is my brother D—Daniel. We just came up here after following some… clues about our ancestry. I see we've found our great-great-grandfather, Jack," Archer told him with a smile. The old man paused, then suddenly pointed the shotgun straight up, grasped it by the barrel and cocked a wide grin.

"Well, hell, son! Welcome on back to the family ranch!" he reached out. Archer shook his hand. Daniels followed reluctantly, not speaking.

"I'm Cyrus Tucker, Jack's boy. Why you just happened to catch me while I'm takin' care of the old cabin here. I'm the family historian. We're real proud 'round here, bein' a real p'ticular family and all!"

Archer nodded, offering an unsure smile. Particular's one way of putting it, he thought, looking back at Daniels. The time traveler could have been shooting a particle weapon from his eyeballs, the way he was sizing up the man and the cabin.

"What did you say your name was?" the old man asked.

"Jonathan Arch—Archibald Tucker," he stammered.

"Now which of the lines are you descended from?" Cyrus asked.

"We--well, that's sort of the problem. I don't really know, neither does my brother," he swung sideways, thumbing at Daniels.

"Ah, well 'at happens. Family's moved all over the place, lot's a' kids," he grinned. "My own brother Charlie moved his whole family down to Florida. Lots a families stay 'round, a'course too. Quite a few are afraid to leave here, where ever'one knows us an' all. If you catch my drift," he raised his eyebrows. Archer nodded.

"Our parents died very young and we'd like to learn more about our grandmother," Archer baited the stranger.

"Don't you wanna' hear about Jack? Your granddaddy was one hell of an astronomer!" He grinned. Archer was nonplussed.

"Well not to mention a logger, rancher, even retired to electrical engineering before the war. Hell, the ole' boy was a jack of all trades!" Cyrus Tucker said, emphatically clapping his hands together around thick, leather hide gloves. "Actually, we were unable to find out anything at all about our grandmother, T'Pol, from public records. We're more interested in learning about her," Archer repeated cordially. The old man grimaced briefly, turning his eyes downward to tighten his work gloves, his eyes roving the horizon for an instant as if mulling over a decision.

"D'somebody send you here?" Cyrus asked in a lower voice, cocking his head. His eyes narrowed on Archer.

"We—well, no. We just came to learn about our grandparents…" Archer repeated sheepishly, shaking his head in confusion. He blinked through a wave of anxiety mixed with concern and turned to Daniels, who looked ready to leave. Cyrus Tucker studied Archer's face for a long time, looking for some sign of deceit, before his quest was finally defeated.

"A'right, c'mon inside. We better sit down," the old man told them, signaling them to follow him. As Cyrus turned away Archer caught a stern glance from Daniels, who filed behind him.

"What are you doing? Captain, we can't stay here and contaminate the timeline any further. Something is very wrong and I need to get back to my ship immediately," Daniels told him, stopping and putting a hand against Archer's chest to halt his movement. Jonathan gave the thin impasse a cursory glance before looking towards the heavy oak door being held for them. Cyrus stopped and turned.

"Captain, before we arrived I was getting some very strange life signs nearb—" Daniels began whispering.

"I need a few answers first," Archer told Daniels sternly, walking past him.

"S'there a problem, boys?"

"Nothing at all. Just a little family disagreement," Archer replied, stepping through the threshold.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Any idea how many there are?"

Jack leaned back on his hands, peering up at a perfectly black night's sky, dotted with twinkling holes of white light. A tranquil breeze blew across the cliff, winter's prickly embrace conspicuously absent. Carried on the tail of the mountain air, a single alabaster jasmine blossom twirled over Jack's head.

"There are several billion known galaxies, each with several billion stars. Presumably there are millions of trillions of stars," T'Pol replied clinically. Jack laughed aloud, turning his head sideways to look at her. "How would you find the composition of the star Betelgeuse?" T'Pol asked him clinically.

"Oh, that's easy," Jack answered. "You'd use the starlight. Check for the uh, absorption lines."

"Very good," T'Pol answered with a nod. She was silent while they both stared up at the sky.

"You like it here," Jack observed. T'Pol turned towards him. Strands of auburn blew out of place, costing her a brief movement of her fingers to replace them. She smoothed them behind her ears, the rest of her neck-length hair held at the back in a clasp. Jack's mirthful smile evaporated, he was forced to take pause of his vision, and try to comprehend the moment eternally captured, picturesque yet beautifully simple. He failed, and enjoyed it.

"I find it agreeable, yes," T'Pol responded. Tucker laughed lightly, looking down at himself. He blinked once before looking back up. Lifting his hands from the cool rock of the cliff, wiping the silt and pebbles from his palms.

"I find you… agreeable," Tucker smirked, turning on T'Pol. She looked back with wide, shining eyes, full with life and withheld emotion, not tears. T'Pol blinked, pursing her lips, delving as deeply into her emotional self as possible to find a way to respond. She failed, and mourned the failure; for she so desired to articulate the complexity of a Vulcan's desire to comply with biological need, but what's more, to supplement its dry crust with something more real. More human. The cooling night air reawakened her to his waiting gaze. She had heard the words she wished to utter, but feared the finite wellspring driving her temptation to utter them would all but dry up, leaving Jack's to teem with life long after this bout of emotion subsided. Still, she longed to believe herself capable of more. After all, on this planet, alone with regard to own race, she would be accountable to only herself. Would that be too much?

"T'Pol?" Jack asked, certain his words had ventured too far, and strolled right off a cliff like the one his legs dangled over.

"The experiences I have had these past several months with you, here," T'Pol paused. "… Have been… unique, and agreeable to me as well."

"You heard my father, he got a job in Dallas and he's not coming back. The cabin is mine, now," Jack reminded her.

"When we first met, you spoke of wishing to return there to play football and go to school. It would seem your father's disapproval is no longer an obstacle. Do you not wish to return there now?" T'Pol asked the wind. Tucker sighed.

"No, I don't," he answered with a slight edge. There was a long beat of silence as both stared off into opposite directions. Tucker finally looked back at her, and in an instant his fledgling motivation returned to full strength. Before she knew it, he moved closer, cupped her cheek in his hand and kissed her. She allowed him, while not consciously knowledgeable of the proper technique for response, her lips moved instinctively. The kiss was feather-light at first, slowly building though neither could have recalled the slow-burning migration of one another's hands to the other's face. Jack broke away.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to move too qui—" T'Pol broke him off, covering his lips gently, but with a sensuality of purpose that he had never known.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Summer 2060

Cyrus Tucker moved into an old rocking chair that flanked the brick hearth in the center of the main room. He waved his hand for Daniel and Jonathan to sit in two modern looking armchairs that seemed to stand out amid the rustic cabin.

Cyrus ran a hand through his graying but full head of hair, blinking as he stared into the floor. He looked up, inhaling sharply.

"Now, what happened to your ears?" Cyrus asked in an interrogative tone, pointing a finger at the two of them. Archer squinted in confusion, then spotted for the first time an obvious yet subtlety hiding pair of points flanking Cyrus's tan Stetson.

"We had them removed at childbirth. Our mother, she—didn't want us being made fun of in school," Archer replied.

"I thought you didn't know your mother?" Cyrus asked.

"We didn't, our aunt raised us. She told us about it."

Cyrus nodded as if granting approval. "I guess I can't say I blame ya'. Folks 'round here don't bat an eye. A'course around other places they're a little less accepting," he frowned.

"My mother was a… unique woman," he told them. Archer turned his head curiously. "Well I guess I'll tell you the story I told my grandchildren," Cyrus laughed, washing away his serious demeanor.

"Well, round back about 1979—" he began. Archer shot Daniels a meaningful look.

"… Jack was on his way home from fishin' when he came across this woman lyin' in the trail. She was knocked cold, clean forgot everything. Amnesia, they say," he looked up, as if telling the story to himself and checking to see if his audience was still listening. Archer nodded. "So, Jack took her in. Fed her and took care of her, as the story goes they fell in love and had a family," he finished, sounding exasperated. Archer's brow twisted.

"That's it?"

"Not exactly," Cyrus went on with a wry smile. "First, tell me how you know of your grandmother," he asked Archer suspiciously. Archer looked at Daniels a beat.

"An old photograph. It's all we had left from our parents' things, they were destroyed in a fire," Archer lied. Cyrus nodded.

"May I see it?"

"We didn't bring it," Archer frowned.

"What'd she look like?" Cyrus quizzed them. Archer looked back questioningly, but decided it was worth the indignity to prove he knew a little about T'Pol.

"About five foot three, small build, short brown hair, brown eyes," he said. Cyrus nodded and began to chuckle.

"Close enough. Mom an' Dad always used to argue 'bout the color of her eyes," he laughed again. "There was always somethin' special about T'Pol. Jack knew it, everybody who met her knew it. Only Jack was the only one who could lay a finger on it. Everybody else just sorta'… let themselves believe what they wanted. But you came here to learn about your family, didn't you?"

Archer nodded. Cyrus nodded back, and cleared his throat.

"Well, Mom and Dad moved out of the cabin a few years after they got married. Oh, round about 1983. They decided to move out west where they could both go to school. I was born shortly after, in 1986, just before Dad could finish his degree. T'Pol had already gotten a masters degree in math and started teachin'. So, when she became pregnant, she kept teachin' long as she could, though Dad put her through hell for it," he laughed.

"He was always a little overprotective of her. Their relationship was… contentious, to say the least," he smiled, thinking back. Archer laughed, shaking his head as he imagined T'Pol. It was simply mind-blowing.

"Did they have any more children?" Archer asked.

"Hm? Oh, yeah!" Cyrus laughed. "I've got three brothers and two sisters, all younger, a'course. We're spread out too! All seven years apart," he folded his hands across his chest, relaxing into the story. "Mom and Dad both taught for some years after I was born, but most times mom stayed home. Dad always felt bad that her career was the one on hold but she always said she didn't mind and, somehow, I could tell she was tellin' the truth. As I got older, a'course," he amended. "She was real patient, my momma. She waited 'till I was all grown up, then started teachin' once again. Just soon as she did, though, I had a brother," he laughed.

"Cyrus, you said you were born in '86, but you don't look much older than me," Archer interrupted. Cyrus nodded.

"I'll be 75 next year, boy, for whatever that's worth." Daniels kicked Archer in the shin.

"And so it went after that for awhile. Mom and Dad finally retired back to this cabin here when Dad turned 60. But they didn't relax none," he laughed. "My sisters were born that same year, a pair a' twins. A couple years later, they started on 'at observatory up on the peak," he pointed a finger at the mountain.

"Observatory?" Archer asked, shaking his head.

"Oh, you didn't see it up on the way up? It's a twenty-four inch, one of the clearest in the world at this altitude. They worked on that together for a long, long time," he thought back. "They only finished it just a few years before they died. I don't think it was all that important to 'em to use it. Hell, they've got all them orbital telescopes now. No… no, I think it was just important to Mom to build it," Cyrus's voice lowered as he went on.

"How do you mean?" Archer asked, furrowing his brow. Cyrus paused for a beat before ignoring his question.

"How did you all survive the war?" Cyrus asked.

"We—we were up north, camping in Alaska," Archer stuttered.

"Well then you got lucky just as we did. 'Round 'bout the summer of '52, Mom and Dad took us all on a family vacation. They'd been savin' for quite some time, I guess. We were in South America when the attacks started. But we didn't all get down 'ere," he muttered.

"I don't understand," Archer asked. Broken from thought, Cyrus looked up at Archer.

"My wife, my kids… they were going to meet us in Lima," he smiled. "But they hadn't left yet when aircraft were grounded worldwide," he said, stopping to chew his lip.

"Did they make it out?" Archer asked.

"No, they never got out of Telluride, actually. Thank God," Cyrus chuckled. Archer looked confused. "Denver and Colorado Springs were hit bad, for the bases. But, I guess we were far enough away to survive the fallout. Government wouldn't let us come back home 'til they sent in a team to make sure it was safe. Some survived," Cyrus trailed off.

"How… how did they die?" Archer asked. "Their headstones both said 2055," he added inquiringly.

Cyrus frowned. "One winter, 'bout five years ago, Mom and Dad decided to come stay up in the cabin. They'd been stayin' with relatives down in Telluride, after Dad got sick but… Mom really wanted to come back up," he shook his head. "It was a hell of a piss-poor idea, but when my mother'd made up her mind," he chuckled. But the curve of his lips evaporated, drawing downward with the weight of a great loss.

"I got worried and finally came up in the Spring. Found 'em both in the observatory. Dad's heart had finally given out, and the—they were just layin' there together wrapped up. Mom was gone too, I—I don't even know how. She'd always said she didn't want an autopsy, so a'course we honored her wishes."

"We have to go," Daniels said. Archer turned to find Daniels' determined face turning red.

"Just wait a few—"

"No, we have to go, now!" Daniels got up, dragging Archer up by the shoulder, who shrugged him off.

"I'm sorry, Mr. Tucker. It seems we have to be on our way," Archer forced a smile.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"What the hell is wrong with you?" Archer snapped after the two passed out of earshot of the cabin. Daniels stomped several steps ahead of him, angrily trying to keep pace on the uneven gravel.

"This!" he turned, shoving a scanner in Archer's face. Several glowing green dots appeared on the screen, what appeared to be about 10 kilometers from their position.

"What is it?" Archer asked.

"Lifesigns. Vulcan lifesigns!" Daniels told him. "There's an entire town of half- and quarter-Vulcan descendents down there that aren't supposed to exist, Captain!" Daniels turned away and resumed marching off down the road. Archer double-timed to catch up with him.

"How did they populate an entire town?" Archer wondered aloud. "Christ, how did they populate at all?" he muttered. Archer suddenly looked up and furrowed his brow.

"Vulcans and humans can't interbreed, how is that possible?"

"They can't interbreed yet, Captain. In the future, it is a very routine medical procedure," Daniels told him calmly.

"Yes, but this isn't the future. Daniels!" Archer shouted, prompting Daniels to stop marching away from him. He turned.

"How is this possible?" he demanded to know.

"Vulcans eventually learn to control their physiology consciously," Daniels answered hurriedly. "Maybe T'Pol discovered how, or found a medical procedure that worked. It's hard to say," he trailed off, not eager to divulge details of the future.

"How could she hide something like that for so long? Wouldn't someone notice at a— at a hospital or something?" Archer wondered aloud. "They wouldn't even be able to treat her. They'd notice right away her blood was green!" Archer said angrily.

"T'Pol's very resourceful. If she wanted to, I'm sure she could find a way to have a baby without requiring the services of a hospital."

"That's crazy. That doesn't sound like T'Pol," Archer muttered, walking up the hill. They returned to the position atop the hill and around a bend from view of the cabin, where they had beamed in. A bemused Daniels turned and looked at Archer for several moments.

"What?" Jonathan asked defensively. Daniels laughed, then turned to punch a key pad.

"You're jealous," he said, smirking.

"I am not jealo---"

A moment later, they were aboard Daniels' ship.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Blue Lake Trail
5 KM South of Teakettle Mountain, Colorado
October 2nd, 1979

"T'Pol?"

Her eyes struggled against the groggy after effects of time travel.

"T'Pol, are you alright?"

A hand was on her arm, helping her to her feet before she looked up and recognized the Captain. His voice broke through her scattered senses and she attempted to regain her composure, standing of her own free will. She faltered and Archer reached for her.

"It is alright, Captain. I can stand," she asserted. Suddenly, she recognized Daniels standing next to Archer in his undeserved Enterprise uniform.

"Daniels," she said in a flat, disapproving tone. "Have I you to thank for this… excursion?" T'Pol asked, looking around for the first time. Tall, rigidly stiff pines and evergreens swayed in a brisk wind. T'Pol cringed at the cold. Her eyes paused and went still as the sensations around her struck a chord within her. She knew this place…

"Subcommander, I apologize. We came as quickly as we could—"

"Have you been here long?" Archer interjected.

"No," T'Pol replied. "The last thing I remember is being aboard Enterprise, taken hostage by the alien you called 'Ruda'."

"Yes, well he's nowhere to be found, unfortunately," Daniels said to himself gruffly.

"Where are we?" T'Pol asked, stepping out into the trail from the ditch where she woke up. Suddenly Daniels tensed as if remembering something. T'Pol's acute senses detected his heightened mood.

"Is there danger near?" the Subcommander asked clinically.

"Not exactly, but we need to leave now," he said, waving T'Pol and Archer down the path. They took a handful of steps when a voice called out from several meters up the path.

"Can I help you folks?" he cordially asked. Daniels mentally slapped himself and closed his eyes, turning on the stranger. His eyes flickered between the stranger and T'Pol as she turned to face the rancher.

"No, thank you, we just got a little lost on the trail. But we're heading back now," he hurriedly explained through a nervous smile. Archer smiled weakly back at the tall stranger. A relic from a bygone era, Archer couldn't help but admire the scenery and the typically attired rancher as he took a few steps closer.

T'Pol paused, squinting up the path and furrowing her brow. There was something distinctly familiar about this man. She looked closer – he resembled Commander Tucker very closely. An instant later, T'Pol realized Daniels drew his eye between the stranger and her. She stood taller, clasping her hands at her back.

"It's near twelve miles down ta' Telluride. You sure you're gonna' be a'right?" he asked in a drawl.

That voice, she thought. It was not like Commander Tucker's, but still familiar. The thought plagued her and she felt an uncharacteristically warm gust of air toss through her hair. She looked up, finding that the pines were still. Looking down, she was a handful of small steps up the path.

"Do I—" the stranger began to mutter, drawing his brows together in thought. T'Pol opened her mouth to speak but the air evaporated from her lungs. She found her lips flexing inexorably for words, words as incapturable as the wind through her fingers.

He was equally speechless. Raising the brim of his Stetson, he revealed more of his face to T'Pol's searching gaze. The intuition was inescapable, and irrevocably irrational. She was on some unknown planet, with no memory of this place nor this man, yet a certainty to the contrary gripped her like the fangs of a wild Sehlat.

"T'Pol, we have to go," she finally heard Archer say. She wasn't sure how many times she had called after her. The air was still but oppressively heavy and difficult to hear through. Still, she clearly heard the stranger utter, "You be careful, miss. I wouldn't want nothin' to happy to you."

Finally, she turned to follow Archer. Pausing, she turned back to find the stranger marching back up the path towards the mountain.

"I will," she assured him. He stopped and looked back at her, but she was already walking away, several yards down the path.

"How did she…?" Jack muttered to himself. T'Pol looked back one final time before walking with Archer and Daniels around the bend of the trail as it led down the mountain and toward the small town of Telluride. As soon as they rounded the bend, Daniels dialed a command into his scanner, and they vanished.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

There was no moon. The sky, black as pitch, loitered overhead. The stars looked like they did from space, immaculately clean dots of light, patiently carrying their rays across depths of emptiness to this single planet. She wondered if humans ever believed they shined for this planet alone. The ignorance was understandable, from a place like this.

"T'Pol?" Jack called from behind her. The cliff was nearly just as she remembered it that first night he kissed her. Very little of the landscape had physically changed besides the passing of seasons, but something was different. It was like arriving somewhere you had never been, in the dark, then awaking to find the sun high, and recognizing the place as wholly new.

A cool, hard surface beneath her reminded T'Pol of his labor to make her comfortable. When the broom disappeared for a week, she knew he was up to something. He had swept the cliff just to make her more comfortable. She would have to restrict future complaints of minor discomforts.

"Yes," she replied into the sky. He smiled behind her, sliding his legs around her as he sat behind her. Her head fell and her eyelids slid contently shut as he kissed her neck.

"Do you miss it?" he asked.

"It is illogical to miss what will never return," she replied.

"There's no logic in a lotta' things, sweetheart," he whispered into her hair, kissing her lightly. She exhaled heavily, all her reserve disappearing into the mountain air with that hot breath.

"Perhaps, I will always miss it," she said. "However, it would also be illogical to dwell on such unpleasant emotions," she said, twisting her neck to look at him. "Particularly when more pleasant ones confront us," she said. She accepted his lips into a long, slow-moving kiss. Their lips hardly moved, patiently enjoying the simple contact. She broke away, looking at him. Commander Tucker looked back at her.

"Marry me, T'Pol," his eyes begged.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

T'Pol rose from her bunk aboard Enterprise with a light start. Her brow beaded with sweat, she took a slow and heavy breath to calm herself. She attempted to recall the dream that had awakened her so abruptly, but failed to do so. It was often a sign of insufficient meditation among healthy Vulcans to experience such disturbing dreams.

"T'Pol, I don't mean to intrude," she heard Daniels say from the corner of her room.

"Daniels!" she heard herself exclaim. She furrowed her brow, rising from bed, clothed in a blue set of silk night clothes. T'Pol could not help but frown at him.

"I'm sorry, but I wanted to speak with you privately, I had no idea you would be sleeping. Time of day on starships is exceedingly difficult to predict from our perspective," he replied wryly.

T'Pol stepped into a robe, pulling it over her body. She moved to turn on the desk lamp of her quarters, spilling enough light into the room to reveal Daniels in the corner. She sat on the edge of her bed.

"What do you want?" she asked simply. Daniels paced away from the shadows and came into the light.

"Did the Captain brief you on our experiences while looking for you?" Daniels asked with a hint of curiosity.

"No," T'Pol answered sharply. She had been made aware that Archer experienced something which involved her in the past, but had insisted he could not divulge details at Daniels' request.

"Good, good," Daniels tapped his hands together as he moved closer. "How much do you remember?" he asked her, suddenly.

Taken aback, T'Pol furrowed her brow at him. "I recall only being taken hostage by the alien you call Ruda and then finding myself on Earth where you and the Captain found me," T'Pol replied evenly. Daniels nodded.

"Yes, but you remember more, don't you?" he asked diligently. T'Pol avoided his eyes.

"I do not know what you are talking about," she insisted.

"T'Pol, I know this is a private matter, but it's important that I know how much I remember. Please," he pleaded with her. There was a long beat.

"Why?" she asked. Daniels was silent. "Why do you need to know, what does this have to do with you?" T'Pol demanded to know. There was a pause while Daniels paced the room.

"May I?" he asked, gesturing for the opposite corner of the bed. T'Pol begrudgingly nodded, ignoring her rising impatience. She must meditate soon.

"My people have been moving through time about as long as your people have been using the transporter. And there are still things we don't understand," he confessed.

"Would it not be more logical to abstain from using this technology until you comprehend it fully?" T'Pol countered.

"Perhaps. However, these effects were not known until very recently, and they are the subject of intense study and debate. You see, it seems that some beings of particularly acute telepathic ability are… somewhat immune to the effects of causally-induced memory loss," he explained. "When we go back in time and fix something, say your presence on Earth in 1979, and reverse all of the effects on the timeline your life would have had by retrieving you before those effects took place, your memory should be completely wiped of those events. However, some races, such as Vulcans, are sometimes immune, or partially immune to this effect. We do not fully understand… why this happens, but we have traced it to powerfully telepathic capability."

"Most Vulcans are merely empathic, and my abilities are hardly exceptional among my people," T'Pol reminded him

"Yes," Daniels nodded. "But often the level of ability in the individual is latent, lying dormant. This is usually the case with Vulcans."

Assuming for the moment that he was telling the truth, T'Pol ventured a question.

"Are Vulcans not present in the future? Why was this 'anomaly', not initially detected during the early development of the technology?" she asked.

"It's very rare, few Vulcans experience the effects. Only recently as we have made contact with much more powerful telepaths from outside our galaxy have we discovered the effects. Also," he said quieter. "Vulcans are rarely involved in temporal incursions," he confessed.

"Indeed," T'Pol replied, raising an eyebrow.

"The problem is that the effects can result in temporal psychosis. The condition causes a complete breakdown of the person's ability to tell the real world from the recollected memory," he told her.

"And I may suffer this?" she asked pensively.

"It depends on how powerful the memory is. What do you remember?" he asked her again.

"Very little," she replied, staring at the floor in concentration. "I remember a name… 'Jack'. That is all. While on the planet I had brief flashes of recollection but I was not able to identify them. They were mostly urges and… emotions," she confessed quietly.

Daniels sighed. "Well, I'm very sorry that this happened to you. But, I can safely say that given the very limited nature of your recollection, you should not be at risk of temporal psychosis."

T'Pol nodded. "If there is nothing else, I would like to meditate."

Daniels rose, preparing to leave. At the door, he turned back.

"There is one other thing. I told the Captain that Ruda had taken my jump key and used my temporal database to select a location to send you."

"Yes, he told me," T'Pol replied.

Daniels hesitated. "Well, I was able to catch up with Ruda and capture him once again. In doing so I retrieved the jump key, and went over the database. You see, I've never been to Colorado in 1979," he said.

T'Pol blinked, curiously raising an eyebrow.

"I found Ruda at one of the locations in the database, but not you. When I checked the database again, for where and when you were sent to, I found nothing. I know that Ruda incorrectly executed the command, using a mode on the device which allows someone to send two people to two different timespaces. But the logs show a malfunction in the subroutine that executes the second jump," he went on. "You could have rematerialized in empty space anywhere in the Universe."

"Planets are a very small fraction of that," T'Pol said to herself.

"A very, very small part. This one will have our statisticians scratching their head for awhile," Daniels smiled wryly, shaking his head. He turned and faced the wall, then vanished in a haze of light.

T'Pol sat in silent meditation for the rest of the night. She remembered something from the dream she had kept from Daniels. Something out of context, a single word, plucked from her own private Universe, collected like the taste of an echo from behind a pitch curtain within her own subconscious.

Yes.


Comments:

Vaux
Very, very beautiful!
cherryblossomjen
This was excellent. More than excellent; it was breathtaking. I don\'t know how I missed it the first time I was reading through your stories. I stumbled on it when checking to see if you updated your last AU fic, and am glad I found such a gem. I laughed when I found out Trip... er... Jack was only 23. Just like T\'Pol to go robbing the cradle. I love that Jack sensed the extent of T\'Pol\'s alienness. The Tuckers seem to all be too smart for their own good. When Jack and T\'pol kissed for the first time, it was terribly cute. I thought they might fall off the edge of the cliff, lol. In truth, I loved the slow, gradual development of their relationship. It was realistic but also added to the kind of relationship they had. It was based not purely on attraction (although that was there from the start) but on genuine affection, on love. But, the scenes after that were what really touched me. Particularly this scene: \"Perhaps, I will always miss it,\" she said. \"However, it would also be illogical to dwell on such unpleasant emotions,\" she said, twisting her neck to look at him. \"Particularly when more pleasant ones confront us,\" she said. She accepted his lips into a long, slow-moving kiss. Their lips hardly moved, patiently enjoying the simple contact. She broke away, looking at him. Commander Tucker looked back at her. And of course the last line in the story. It blew me away.
Sash
I liked this story very much - it\'s imaginative and different from the usual TnT stories, but still very much in keeping with the characters. I loved Cyrus\' story of his parents\' marriage and I\'m [i]almost[/i] sorry you had Archer and Daniels \"rescue\" T\'Pol before it could happen!
Y2Kelly
I really enjoyed this story. Usually I\'m not a big fan of time travel stories, but this was well done. Very romantic. At first, I thought T\'Pol went back to the early 20th century, in the 1920-30s, because Jack didn\'t have a TV or radio or anything in his cabin. But, I guess 1970s time frame works better with the bloodlines of Tucker. It\'s nice to read something different for TnT now and again. Great job, John! Loved it!

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