By Special Authorization

By Abelone

Rating: PG-13

Genres: adventure romance

Keywords: E2 time travel

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Chapter 1

Genre: Romance, Action adventure
Disclaimer: I don’t own the characters or Star Trek ™, they do. I am not making any cash, they are. I know who they are, you know who they are and they know who they are.

Summary: This is my look at how TnT developed after Enterprise fell back in time. Spoilers: E squared.

AN #1: This story was edited by Kevin and Distracted.

I want to thank Kevin for his input. He steered me clear of some blunders and offered many useful suggestions.

A very special thanks goes out to Distracted. She held my hand, offered many helpful re-writes and only had to spank me a couple of times (Ouch!). If you like this story it is in no small part due to Distracted’s work.

AN #2: I am a fan of subtle storytelling when it comes to the relationship. I have enjoyed a lot of the fan fiction here, but for me it doesn’t feel like TnT when we hear them both overtly proclaim undying love. Therefore, you won’t find that here. Additionally I don’t write Trip’s accent into the dialog. It is still there, but I find Trip’s accent overpowering in the written form. When you read his lines, just listen to Connor Trinneer’s voice.

Notes to the reader: Because conventional time markers no longer make sense, I referenced everything to days past the time jump. Where depicted, the time is shown in coordinated universal time (UTC) which you may know by its old designation GMT or Zulu time. I have assumed that the Trek-jargon X mark Y, was a reference to the bearing mark azimuth that would be required to plot a course in three dimensional space. One Astronomical Unit (AU) is a measure of space equal to the mean distance from Earth to its star. A waypoint is a common nautical/aerospace term describing a fictitious point in space created as a navigational reference point. Flag country is a reference to that portion of a ship that is set aside for the use of Admirals and other dignitaries when they are aboard.

I don’t know if this storyline has already been explored. I purposely avoided looking because I did not want to unconsciously rip off anyone else’s ideas.

 


Prologue

Day 3

The shock had not yet worn off. It had only been three days since Enterprise had entered the corridor and two days since the captain had addressed the crew, informing them that their trip back in time was most likely permanent. As the crew came to grips with what their lives would be like as orphans of time, the three senior officers conferred about their new mission.

Captain Archer, his first officer, and his chief engineer were huddled together in the captain’s mess. It was certainly not like the old days. They had not met here to confer over a meal, but because it was a very private area where their mission, or lack thereof, could be quietly discussed.

Jonathan Archer started off slowly and quietly. His muscles were tense and his eyes were focused on the table. He had been thinking about what he was about to say since his first post-corridor meeting with T’Pol.

“For better or worse, rapid repair of our systems is no longer the highest priority,” he began intensely. “We need to shift our focus from a frantic search and destroy tactical situation to one of longevity. Simply put, the long term survival of a capable Enterprise is our primary mission. It must be in a condition that will enable the crew…”

At this point his eye caught T’Pol’s raised eyebrow. He gave her a brief conciliatory smile.

“Excuse me… I meant to say in a condition that will enable the future crew to complete our mission against the Xindi weapon… Happy now?” he added just a little sarcastically. T’Pol remained impassive.

“So we’re just gonna give up and accept that we’re stuck here forever?” asked Trip in an irritated tone of voice.

The captain leaned forward and placed his palms flat on the table before replying. “No.” “We will continue to explore our options for getting back to our own time. We do, however, have to plan for the eventuality that we will not be able to do so.” He leaned back in his chair, crossed his arms, and giving his chief engineer a resigned look said, “So, that said, where do we stand, Trip? How much of our damage can be repaired and how much capability can Enterprise hope to recover without ever visiting the likes of Jupiter Station again?”

“Okay, okay… I know.” Trip replied while raising his hands in deference to the captain. “Though I can’t say I’m happy about it, I have been thinking along those lines. It’ll take time, but most of the damage can be repaired. We have the capability to fabricate just about everything we need. There are two problems, though: raw materials and anti-matter. We’re gonna need to find more of both.”

“Captain, it is critical that we form relationships with other species in the Expanse. That should be our first short term priority,” T’Pol put in.

“Why our first priority, T’Pol?” asked the captain.

“As you have pointed out, Captain, ours is now a long-term survival problem.” T’Pol’s demeanor was detached as always, her face almost expressionless as she spoke. “We actually have a dual mission. The Enterprise must be preserved, but it is equally critical that the crew be kept healthy and that casualties are kept to an absolute minimum. We no longer have a means of replenishing lost expertise with new officers and crew. Therefore, the fewer battles we fight, the better. The more allies we have in the Expanse, the fewer battles we will be forced to mount. Most significantly, however, is the fact that with a crew that is two thirds male, and the fact that not every child born to a female crew member will have the aptitude and desire to spend their lives on a starship, we will eventually be required to expand our gene pool beyond the confines of our current crew.”

“Wow, T’Pol! Blunt as usual. Mandatory shore leave, I guess.” Trip said with his usual grin.

“Blunt or not, her points are well taken,” said Archer as he leaned back, rubbed his eyes wearily and continued. “I guess we’re going to have to change course a bit and actually encourage rather than discourage relationships. I’m not looking forward to the inevitable problems that this will cause.”

“Malcolm is going to just love the idea of crew relationships. He already thinks that we run too lax a ship. This will really drive him nuts.” Trip said with a smile, and then added, “Maybe we should put him in charge of this aspect of crew morale.”

“Don’t laugh, Trip. He just might be the right man to make sure things don’t get out of control,” said Archer with a wry smile.

“Hmm, Dating Control Officer Reed, he’ll just love that. Why don’t you reassign his tactical duties to a MACO at the same time and finish the job?” replied Trip as he smiled at the thought of what Malcolm’s reaction would be.

“All of us are trying to cope with this time travel crap. I don’t want push Malcolm over the edge, Trip. Let’s keep this all quiet until we figure a way to make it work.” Archer was smiling now, and was grateful that Trip’s sense of humor had also safely traveled back in time.

“Captain, may I suggest we say nothing at all? Just quietly stop enforcing any non-fraternization policies. We have sufficient time, and there is no need to rush the crew into a new way of thinking,” T’Pol interjected.

“Very well, we will do as you suggest, T’Pol. Any other thoughts?”

It was quiet for a moment. Just as the captain was going to dismiss them, Trip spoke up. “One last thing, Cap’n. Like T’Pol said…” He shifted his gaze to her. “Replacements are now out of the question. We should probably start cross training the crew so that all of our skills are spread out among as many of the crew as possible.”

“All right,” said Archer briskly, “We start scouting for allies, continue to repair and, where possible, upgrade the ship and begin cross-training the crew as much as possible. I want you and Trip to head that up as a second priority behind your primary duties,” Archer continued as he nodded in T’Pol’s direction.

T’Pol nodded in acknowledgement.

“Let’s get to work, then.”


PART ONE

Chapter One

The next four months passed quickly. Everyone was very busy. Between repairs, cross training and the civilization survey that had been designed by Enterprise’s science officer, very little time was left over for contemplation. This was born of both design and necessity. Necessity because the work had to be done, and design because the doctor had advised the captain that work immersion was probably the best way for the crew to adjust to the fact that they would likely never see their homes or families again.

Though the search pattern that T’Pol had designed had been very effective, it was not what led them to their first contact. Blind luck would win that battle.

Day 129 0126 UTC

Malcolm Reed occupied the center chair during the mid watch. He had been standing quite a few lately, more than any other of the senior officers save the captain.

Commander Tucker had been heavily occupied, both with repairing the ship and with cross training other officers and crew in the care and feeding of the warp drive. When he was not engaged in these pursuits, he was reading everything that could be found on diplomacy. The captain felt that as the third in command, Trip needed to hone his skills. He would need to negotiate and deal with heads of state in the future, and his past interactions with alien species had often not gone as planned.

T’Pol, when not mapping the expanse in their search for allies, was trying to learn all that she could about the ship and its systems, with an emphasis on engineering. Archer felt that since she had the chance to live the longest and thus have the most experience long after he and Trip were gone, she was the most likely long term captain, and thus should be well versed in all aspects of the Enterprise’s design and operations. Precisely because he considered her a valuable long term asset, most face-to-face encounters with new species, especially those that required risky landing party operations, would be conducted either by himself or by Trip. For these reasons, Malcolm was spending a lot of time in that center chair.

Hoshi Sato was manning the helm tonight. Captain Archer felt that since she had been among the most tentative of the crew in embracing the concept of long range spaceflight, she should squelch her fears by learning to actually control the ship. It had helped to both displace her fear and to help her grasp their new reality, and, most importantly, it was a real confidence builder.

She was the first to see it on her monitors.

“Lieutenant, we have a contact. Bearing 014, mark 213 relative, range 28 AU. No discernable motion.”

Malcolm Reed immediately rose, crossed over to the unmanned science station, and started checking for something large that he could put between the contact and the ship.

“Okay, there’s a red dwarf, relative bearing 032, mark 180 at about 22 AU. Plot a course to its relative-bearing-from-the-contact at 14 AU and take us there at warp one, Ensign. Execute standard protocol for possible first contact.”

“I see it. Coming starboard and pitching down. New track 263 mark 050. Distance to intercept the red dwarf relative-bearing-to-contact-waypoint is seven AU.”

Malcolm crossed back over to the center chair and pulled up the roster on the right hand armrest display. He knew that the captain was asleep at this hour, but he needed to notify the duty watch commander. Ship’s protocol was that Malcolm could go no further than he had without notifying one of the three DWCs. The roster showed that the captain and Trip were off duty tonight.

Malcolm dragged the communications icon over the first officer’s designator and tapped twice. He then moved down in front of the helm so that he could clearly see Hoshi’s display. Several seconds later, the bridge speakers came to life.

“T’Pol here.”

Malcolm put his hand on the helm communications panel to Hoshi’s left and started speaking in his clipped accent. “Sir, we have a motionless contact at about 28 AU. We located a red dwarf approximately six AU from the contact and we are proceeding to a position behind the dwarf 14 AU away. We should be at the 14 AU waypoint in…” He paused, lifted his hand off of the console and looked at Hoshi.

“One hour and twelve minutes to the waypoint, sir.”

Malcolm put his hand back down and continued.

“One hour and twelve minutes.”

“Very well. Continue as per procedures. Take us to a waypoint 50,000 kilometers from the star on the blind bearing from the contact and hold. What is the time to the second waypoint?”

Malcolm again lifted his hand and looked at Hoshi. She raised her left hand and index finger signaling him to standby while she punched numbers into her console with her right hand. “Two plus twenty four.”

Malcolm touched the console again and spoke. “Two hours, twenty four minutes until we arrive at waypoint two, Commander.”

“Start preparations for contact and wake the Captain and Commander Tucker at 0400. Notify me of any other developments.”

“Aye, sir.”

Malcolm then brought the roster back up and called another officer.

“Mayweather here.”

“Ensign, please report to the bridge for duty, stat.”

“Aye, sir. Fifteen minutes okay?”

“Yes, that’s fine, Travis. See you in fifteen.”

As Malcolm closed the communications menu, Hoshi looked up at him with a pained expression, obviously annoyed that he was relieving her from duty just as something interesting was happening.

Malcolm smiled. “Assuming that there is somebody to talk to over there, you’re going to be needed in about six or seven hours. You need to go to your quarters and get some sleep.”

“Yes, sir,” replied Hoshi in comprehension, “I suppose you’re right. It’s strange that I sometimes really get into the flying part. It’s really absorbing. Probably because it doesn’t come easy to me like languages do,” she admitted.

“I think that was part of the plan, Hoshi,” replied Malcolm good naturedly.

 


Seven hours later, Enterprise had moved to the edge of the star’s penumbra and had launched a small probe across the horizon into a line of sight position to the new contact.

The probe revealed what appeared to be a damaged transport trapped between two anomalies. Sensors indicated about 169 carbon based life signs.

Captain Archer, the First Officer, Commander Tucker and LT. Reed were all standing at the tactical display off the bridge discussing their next step. A deep scan had been performed, which satisfied the captain that there were no other ships lurking within a striking range of warp 5.5. He was ready to proceed.

“Okay, we’re going to go in and take a look. If it looks like all of our scans are accurate, this is going to be a first contact/rescue operation.” Archer looked up and spoke loudly. “Travis, take us in. Set speed to arrive at the target in thirty minutes.”

“Aye, sir.”

“Trip, is the universal docking collar ready on pod two?”

“Yes, sir. I did the final inspection myself. We’re good to go.”

“All right. Since we’re sending a pod, it will be a minimal complement boarding party. Trip, take Hoshi and one MACO. While Hoshi is establishing communications, try and ascertain their intentions and basically what kind of a people they are. If we can establish a rapport we will attempt to execute a rescue.” Trip immediately started for the lift door, and was almost there when he heard the captain call out. “And… Trip?”

“Sir?” He paused to look back at the captain with a raised brow.

“Remember… your first priority is to bring back everybody, alive and well, including yourself. No dumb-ass heroics. If it even smells funny, get out,” said Archer only half-jokingly.

“Moi? Dumb-ass heroics? Self preservation is on the Tucker family crest, Cap’n,” protested Tucker with his trademark grin.

“Uh huh. Right,” Archer rolled his eyes and shook his head.

T’Pol’s gaze stayed locked on Commander Tucker’s last position as he left the bridge to join Hoshi and Cpl Gueterez in the shuttle bay.

“Malcolm, any comments?… Problems?”

“No, sir. I agree. Though caution is warranted, I see no obvious signs of danger.”

“All right then, keep a sharp eye on the tactical picture and have a chief in the transporter room ready to pull the boarding party out of there as a last resort.”

“Aye, sir,” Malcolm responded as he left to execute his orders.

“You’re remarkably quiet today, T’Pol.”

T’Pol quickly shifted her eyes back to the captain. As usual, her observation of Tucker’s exit had been low key and no one had taken any notice. “I am concerned, Captain. If we are unable to stabilize their ship and render it operable, it is going to be extremely difficult to care for 169 aliens. We know nothing about them…not even their most basic life support requirements.”

“We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. Let’s not get fixated on problems that may or may not occur,” returned Archer. A raised eyebrow was her only reply.

“I know this doesn’t fit into your logical paradigm, but try and be optimistic. This may be the first contact we’ve been hoping for,” Archer insisted.

“I have not yet been with humans long enough to feel the need, yet alone understand the concept of ‘hoping’ for a random event to occur,” replied T’Pol.

“Give it time. That we have plenty of,” Archer reassured her.

“Time in and of itself will not cause me to abandon logic for a fuzzy concept like ‘hope,’” remarked T’Pol dryly.

“I certainly hope not,” said the captain with an easy smile. T’Pol retorted with a semaphoring of eyebrows.

Day 129 0910 UTC

“Okay… we have hard dock, Enterprise. Sensors indicate oxygen/nitrogen atmosphere with a 15C degree temp and a partial pressure of 1013mb. What d’you know, standard atmosphere!”

“All right, Trip. Proceed with the boarding, but be careful,” said Archer.

“Yes, Dad,” replied the engineer with wry humor.

Archer let that one by.

“Everybody keep your suits on at all times,” ordered Tucker briskly. “Just your visors open. Nothing to worry about. Your environmental suits will automatically close the visor the second they smell something they don’t like, but those servo motors are strong, so for god’s sake remember not to touch your faces. Ready?”

He was looking at Hoshi when he asked the question. Cpl. Gueterez probably would have stepped into open space naked if so ordered. Hoshi looked white, and did not exactly exude confidence.

“Yes, sir! I’m pumped!” she proclaimed.

Tucker laughed and, shaking his head, hit the button opening the outer door on the airlock/docking collar.

At that moment, the computer that was responsible for that airlock on the Ikaaran ship Talylon Bay detected a standard atmosphere on the exterior of its door. The door computer was tied into all of the ship’s systems, and knew that the ship was disabled, in distress, and that a voice distress call had been sent. After taking about one second to join all of these facts together, the computer decided that the presence of an atmosphere on the exterior hull indicated a rescue, and it commanded the door to the open position.

Trip watched through the view-port in mild astonishment as the exterior hatch to the alien ship moved inward and slid aside virtually simultaneously with the shuttle pod’s outer door. Trip paused for a second, shrugged, and said, “What the hell.”

Then he punched two buttons tied to the shuttle pod’s inner door: OPEN, CFRM.

“Everybody stay VERY close together. I have the point. Rez, you take the rear. Let’s go.” After his three man team was inside the alien airlock, Trip started to examine the interior door. He had already surmised why the outer hatch had opened. Enterprise computers had similar programming, some of which Trip had written. He was pretty sure that opening the inner door would be simple. As was often the case when Trip was analyzing engineering puzzles, he was right. There was a square about seven centimeters in dimension on the center of the interior door below a thick view-port. An icon next to the square showed an open hatch. Trip placed his hand in the square and applied pressure. The inner door repeated the performance of its outer sibling and opened.

The going was not slow. Trip had pre-set all of the gravity boots to a low setting to enable faster, if less precise movement on the theory that being a fast erratic mover was preferable to being a slow target. Trip carried a powerful lantern attached to a phase pistol, while Hoshi carried a small box.

Knowing that a first contact would occur eventually, Hoshi had been working on a rudimentary universal translator, utilizing the widely held theory that mathematics was a universal language. Because it seemed a good place to start, and after conferring with T’Pol, Hoshi had started using base ten mathematics on the premise that both Earth’s and Vulcan’s first math had started at base ten. The fact that Enterprises’ latest scans had revealed humanoid aliens with ten fingers and ten toes seemed to validate the premise.

They found what looked to be a computer interface just inside the airlock, and were able to tie their small computer to the alien ship’s main computer. After about thirty seconds of exchanging algorithms, the two boxes were able to communicate fairly well.

“I think we’re in, sir,” Hoshi said excitedly after determining that the computers were communicating.

Trip looked around the dimly lit corridor before turning to the excited ensign, and in a hushed tone said, “Don’t take this the wrong way, Hoshi, but while that’s great, we really need to be able to talk to one of the crew before they start taking shots at their rescue party.”

Hoshi continued to work rapidly. She stopped suddenly and reached out to grab Commander Tucker’s upper arm. “Got something, sir. It looks like a series of hand signals used to communicate basic concepts like help, danger, hot, cold etc.”

“Anything like, rescue – here to help – don’t vaporize me?” Trip replied as he continued to scan the corridor for movement.

“How about, here to help, or do you need assistance? It’s something close to that,” replied Hoshi.

“That’ll have to do. Before you disconnect that thing, see if you can get a look at the ship’s layout, specifically… the location of the bridge,” he responded. He fell back slightly so he could look over her shoulder as the diagrams appeared.

Sixty seconds later they were on their way to what their best guess told them was the bridge.

As they approached the bridge hatch, Trip holstered his phase pistol and turned his head so that Gueterez could hear his whispered commands. “Rez, cover us. Do-not-fire unless we are fired upon.”

As Trip’s weapon found its holster, Cpl. Gueterez spoke urgently, “Sir. Are you sure that’s a good idea?” He looked at Commander Tucker’s now stowed weapon.

“Maybe, maybe not, but holding a weapon up sure doesn’t look like a friendly gesture. Hoshi show me that hand signal again,” Trip said his voice even, but quiet and strained.

Hoshi, who stood between Trip and Gueterez in the passageway, had slung the small translating computer over her shoulder and raised both of her hands just below her shoulders, making a gesture not unlike a surrender pose.

Trip nodded. Hoshi relaxed the pose and drew her own phase pistol from its holster. She then looked up at Trip, signaling that she too was ready.

Trip then turned and opened the bridge hatch the same way he had opened the inner airlock door. As he stepped through the hatch alone with his arms raised, he was greeted by the sight of three humanoids, two with weapons leveled at his chest. There were two males and a female. All three had olive complexions and looked slightly, but not quite Asian in appearance. Trip continued to advance slowly, his arms still in the same position. He stopped about two meters into the bridge, and slowly the Ikaaran bridge officers lowered their weapons.

“Hoshi, secure your sidearm and SLOWLY come in. Rez, lower yours and do the same.”

 


Back aboard Enterprise, Captain Archer was pacing the bridge deck. He was trying to conceal his frequent glimpses at the ship’s chronometer, but was failing. “I hate this part,” he said through clenched teeth.

“Captain?” T’Pol asked.

“Nothing…Nothing. I was thinking that I intensely dislike this part of command. Waiting for others to do the dangerous work.”

T’Pol said nothing. She had always found the human need to constantly verbalize private thoughts odd. While attempting to concentrate on her scans, she found herself distracted by her emotions. Though now more than six months had passed since Dr. Phlox had purged her body of the trellium and had told her the emotions she had tapped might well be with her forever, she was still having difficulty accepting that.

“Tucker to Enterprise.

Archer hastened over to the com panel in front of the science station to answer.

“Archer here. Report status.”

T’Pol sighed with relief. It was not much of a sigh, and most people would not have noticed it, especially people who had not been around Vulcans much. Jonathan Archer did, however, have experience with Vulcans, and he did notice. He had the good manners to pretend otherwise.

He felt the same sense of relief. How Trip had made contact with Enterprise was as important as the fact that he had made contact at all. Following standard operating procedure, Trip had omitted any rank in his report. Had he identified himself as Commander Tucker, instead of simply as “Tucker”, alarm bells would have immediately gone off in the bridge crew’s minds. Had he further addressed himself to either Captain Archer or Commander T’Pol, it would have indicated a further level of danger.

“We’ve established, or rather Hoshi has established, communications with the Icarans…. Akarans? We’re still working on what they call themselves, but we’re communicating with each other instead of shooting, so it’s a start. Basically we’re at the early stages here. I just wanted to report in and let you know that I was going to keep the car out later than we had originally agreed. That okay, Dad?”

The informal communication satisfied Trip’s sense of humor, but more importantly it sent the coded message that he had judged this ship to be a minimal threat to Enterprise.

“Very well, Trip. Anything else you need?”

“Yeah, it looks like they do have some wounded. I would like permission to start moving some of their crew over to our sickbay.”

“Let’s hold off on that for now. I will send two man MACO medic teams to help with the wounded.” He turned to Lt. Reed and made a gesture that indicated Reed should execute those orders. Reed raised his hand in acknowledgement and began to track down Maj. Hayes. “After we have security in place, both on our side and theirs, we can talk about moving people. Please check in every sixty minutes, Trip.”

“Aye, sir.”

“You heard the man, T’Pol. Let’s secure from general quarters.”

T’Pol had now regained her veneer of complete self control and answered calmly.

“Yes, Captain.”

Jonathan Archer smiled a thin smile. He knew what he had seen, but he had no desire to embarrass someone who had yet come to grips with what embarrassment was, so he kept things to himself.

 


Though it would take a while for smooth communications to flow between the two humanoid races, they were able to communicate basic concepts through the two computers.

The female Ikaaran bridge officer and Hoshi were standing next to each other in front of the prototype universal translator mated to the Ikaaran bridge computer. Trip Tucker was looking over Hoshi’s shoulder at her small display. He was trying to make sense of the words that were divided into two columns labeled, NOUN / VERB.

“Hoshi, I understand the theory behind the universal acceptance of mathematics as a communication form, but these noun and verb combinations look like gibberish. It’s too bad that there are no universal rules for grammar.”

“Actually sir, there are universal grammatical rules.”

“Really?” Trip replied with a raised eyebrow, which said as much as his verbal response.

“Early in the 21st century, linguists started looking at the speech patterns of infants for clues to a genetic tie to language. They found that what had originally been passed over as incorrect speech was actually indicative of universal grammar rules.”

Trip looked skeptical, but Hoshi pressed on.

“For instance, an infant in the early stages of development points out a window during a snowfall and proclaims ‘Snows!’. The child has chosen not to place an artificial ‘it’ at the beginning of a thought and link it to snow with the verb ‘is’. ‘Snows!’ would actually be grammatically correct in Chinese. This is why you sometimes see two words in Chinese that when translated into English can expand into; ‘Yes, you can go outside and play.’ Don’t become bogged down by English grammar. Double negatives, for instance, which are commonly used by young children, are correct in German.” Hoshi was in her element, and it was for times like this that she had agreed to leave the warm shores of home.

They had been aboard the alien ship for about four hours now. Hoshi and Trip were dealing with a woman whose name they had learned was either Esilia or Saben. One was her rank, the other her name, and thus far there was still confusion over that point. She was apparently a combination science, tactics and linguistics officer somewhere near the top of the alien command structure.

Hoshi was getting the hang of their language and Trip could get very general ideas across. While Hoshi switched to another alien officer who may or may not have been the captain of the ship, Trip went on a damage control tour of the ship with Saben Esilia. Though it was difficult to communicate, Trip got a sense of Esilia’s personality. She was about Trip’s height, with chestnut colored hair and piercing green eyes. Esila was very pleasant and calm, and seemed to be unperturbed by the state of her ship. It was as though she had been through this kind of tight spot before, and now that a rescue was at hand there was little reason to waste time worrying. She had a very self assured air about her that in some respects reminded Trip of the captain.

The engineering and life support functions were largely intact. The sections of the ship that had been enveloped by the anomalies consisted of living quarters, storage, and other systems with redundant backups elsewhere. Trip decided that if the intact portions of the ship could be treated with Trellium D, it could then be grappled and towed clear of the anomalies.

Day 129 1541 UTC

Based on all the information gathered, Captain Archer had decided to proceed with the rescue. Trip had undocked the shuttle pod and returned to the ship to free the docking port so that Enterprise could dock with the Talylon Bay and keep it from moving further into or out of the anomalies. Dr. Phlox and a medical team were waiting just outside the airlock so that they could go aboard as soon as docking was complete

Travis Mayweather was tired, but almost finished with his workday. “Hard dock confirmed. Main drive and impulse to standby, thrusters are in station keeping mode and the digital autopilot is compensating for the other ship’s mass and inertia, sir.”

The captain was standing behind T’Pol, leaning forward to get a clear view of her display when he looked up and said; “Nicely done, Mr. Mayweather. Take the rest of the day off.”

”Gladly,” Mayweather said to himself under his breath.

“Aye, sir,” he said audibly.

The captain never could stay still for long. He stood up and walked around to the front of T’Pol’s station.

“T’Pol, has Trip given you an estimate of the time required to apply a Trell D coating to the Ikaaran ship’s hull?”

“No, Captain. Commander Tucker went straight to engineering upon his return. I have completed an estimate, however. Based on the surface area required and our standard application techniques, it should take just under 1200 man hours to apply the coating. We have 18 personnel qualified and available for the task, yielding 60 hours of labor total. Working fifteen hour shifts, it will take approximately four days to fully treat their ship.”

“Four days? Any way we can shortcut that? Our own Trell coating is good, but we aren’t impervious to anomalies and I really don’t want to hang out in this minefield in station keeping mode for four days.”

“We could temporarily evacuate their ship and only treat the most critical areas before attempting to tow it clear, but that would entail a significant risk to their vessel.”

Captain Archer was about to contact Hoshi when Trip came onto the bridge. He had his communicator out and was in the middle of a conversation. “Great. We’re on schedule, then?”

The voice of Lt. Rostov came across Trip’s communicator. “Aye, sir. It looks like we’ll finish on time. I thought we might run low, but Erin has been able to boost our production.”

“All right, Michael. Just make sure we don’t go below the minimum level we discussed for our own repairs.”

“Aye, sir. Rostov out.”

Trip came over and nodded at T’Pol before addressing the captain. “Sir.”

“How are Hoshi and the doctor doing over there?” The captain asked while pointing to the ship in the view screen with his thumb.

“The Doc says that their physiology is very close to ours. They have about 23 personnel reported as missing or killed and another 18 wounded with seven serious. Dr. Phlox thinks that all but two of the serious ones will recover. He would like permission to bring the five most seriously wounded over in about an hour.”

Archer nodded and said. “Approved.”

He turned and faced his engineer with his arms folded across his chest. “Well, Trip… This has been your landing party. What’s your plan?”

“Hoshi says that she’s about ready to come back. She’d like to bring this Saben Esilia or Esilia Saben, we’re not sure which, over with her. The one we think is the captain is gonna remain aboard the….” Trip looked down at a pad he was carrying. “We think the name of the ship is ‘Quiet Harbor’…. .to supervise the repairs. I’d like permission to bring about sixty of their crew, who no longer have habitable quarters, onto Enterprise and billet them in temporary quarters in one of the cargo holds.”

“How soon do you want to move these 60 personnel, Trip?”

“I had hoped to get them here by 2000 or 2100.”

“Captain, it might well be prudent to wait to bring 60 aliens over. I see no need to move so quickly,” T’Pol added.

“I am inclined to agree with T’Pol. Why the rush, Trip?”

“I would feel better if their crew was well rested before we try to tow them out of the anomaly field at….” Again, Trip consulted the pad in his right hand “...0700 tomorrow.”

Captain Archer furrowed his brow and glanced at T’Pol before turning back to Trip. “T’Pol estimates that the soonest we can complete Trell D treatment of their ship is four days from now.”

“I just talked to Rostov, and we’re on schedule to complete internal hull treatment by about 0530 tomorrow. We have built in a 90 minute buffer for any unforeseen problems.”

“I find Commander Tucker’s estimate to be suspect and his conclusion highly unlikely.” T’Pol bristled.

“Trip?”

“I know that T’Pol thinks that I spend all of my free time contemplating chef’s menu choices, but I do have other interests,” replied Trip wryly. “As both of you know, we found that every time we took a significant phaser hit large portions of the Trellium coating would fracture and fail. I decided we needed a quick application technique to compensate for battle damage. I devised a spray-on Trellium D compound that goes on very rapidly and sets up in about twenty minutes. Its main drawback is that it’s a temporary fix. It lasts about three weeks at the outside… but it’s fast.”

“I thought you and T’Pol gave up on liquid Trellium due to its instability?”

“Liquid Trellium is unstable, but by diluting it with liquid aluminum and adding a stabilizer and a coagulant it forms a stable gel that can be applied at high pressure, almost like a liquid.”

“I would like to see your data, Commander,” T’Pol intoned heavily.

Trip handed her his pad, and said evenly and without rancor, “The file is under ‘battle damage – trellium quick repair.’”

Captain Archer smiled at Trip. “I’m impressed, Commander.”

“It’s not my first day.”

Archer laughed softly as T’Pol completed her analysis. “It appears that Commander Tucker is correct. My apologies, Commander.”

“Think nothing of it, T’Pol. Cap’n?”

“Have the MACO’s handle the security arrangements, but proceed with your plan. If it gets us underway by 0700 tomorrow it’s worth the risk. T’Pol?”

“I concur, Captain.” T’Pol said as she turned to look at Trip. Her eyes looked, to Trip, to be impassive as always, and he had a hard time returning her stare. As his gaze momentarily rested on her expressionless face, he felt a brief pang of envy. It wasn’t fair. Her face and body still got to him in ways that he found impossible to ignore.

I still want her, but even after all her recent weirdness she’s the same now as she’s always been. The Vulcan ice queen. He deliberately turned away from her and made for the turbolift before he could do or say something embarrassing

Malcolm was ending his very long day, and joined Trip in the lift. He stared straight ahead at the lift door, but a smile played at the corners of his mouth.

“You certainly pulled that one out of your ass. Sir.”

“That’s why I get to wear the fancy jewelry, Malcolm,” Trip said as he pointed to the three pips of his 05 rank insignia.


Chapter Two

Day 129 1930 UTC

Captain Archer and Commander Tucker had gone to the airlock entrance to meet Ensign Sato and their ranking guest. Hoshi found the arrival back on Enterprise somewhat disorienting. Since the ships were docked at a relative angle of 90 degrees, the floor that she had been standing on all day became a wall and the wall on her left became her floor as she stepped back aboard Enterprise. No matter how well she learned to pilot the ship, the concept of relative ups and downs, lefts and rights always gave her pause.

Hoshi plus one stepped aboard and were greeted by the captain and engineer. Hoshi was clearly perturbed by the change in perspective as she walked off of the wall onto the floor but her companion did it as though it were an everyday occurrence. Saben Esilia had an air of confidence about her as she took in her new surroundings. She was taller than Hoshi but very graceful. She appeared human with the exception of a narrow ridge of cartilage that began between her eyebrows and extended to the bridge of her nose.

“Captain Archer, this is Esilia. She’s an Ikaaran ambassador who was traveling aboard the Talylon Bay.” She then turned to Esilia and spoke a mix of words that Archer didn’t catch, though he heard his first and last name in the mix. Esilia bowed slightly and then offered her hand in the traditional North American greeting, “My people are pleased to make this acquaintance and are thanked for your assistance.” Archer shook her hand and smiled. Clearly the ambassador was a quick study. “Welcome aboard Enterprise. We are glad to offer our assistance.”

Trip was standing off to Archer’s side, and was watching his friend with mild amusement. The captain seemed to be trying to stand a little straighter than usual. He had kept her hand in his just a fraction of a second longer than the circumstances required, and his gaze seemed to be riveted on those green eyes. It was as if he was drowning in them. Trip had not seen this look on Jonathan’s face for quite a while, and while he was pretty sure that Hoshi hadn’t noticed it, he knew exactly what it meant.

Commander Tucker walked with Esilia toward her temporary quarters in flag country while Archer hung back to converse with his linguist. As Archer and Sato talked quietly, Trip was doing his best to communicate with the ambassador. He was, at the moment, the second most skilled speaker of the Ikaaran language on board, though that wasn’t saying much.

“You seem to be learning their language rapidly, Ensign,” said the captain. As he spoke they continued to walk behind Trip and the ambassador. The captain continued to watch the ambassador, glancing occasionally in Ensign Sato’s direction. Hoshi was still experiencing the high that she got from learning a new language, and it was taking a lot of her willpower to concentrate on the briefing.

“I think that I have a basic grasp of their grammatical structure, though the ambassador is an experienced and talented linguist in her own right, and so we’re able to meet somewhere in the middle,” she said distractedly.

“The Talylon Bay, you say? Commander Tucker said that you thought the ship was called the ‘Quiet Harbor.’”

“Really? That’s amazing! Commander Tucker must have made that translation himself. All things considered, it’s pretty close to the actual name. He must have been really listening to me today,” Hoshi said, not a little impressed, as she had always underestimated the chief engineer’s intellectual capabilities. Archer smiled to himself. He was aware of her attitude toward Trip, but had always dismissed it. She was young, and still just a little immature.

“How long until you can communicate fluently with… the Ikaarans, is it?”

“I’ll probably be able to communicate through Ambassador Esilia in a couple of days. To completely master the language is going to be a more long term project. Give me a month or so to be able to speak conversationally.”

“All right Hoshi, consider this your primary responsibility. I’ll have T’Pol take you out of the helm rotation,” said the captain.

Hoshi gave him a dismayed look. He bit his lip to keep from laughing, and then continued with a straight face. “On second thought, let’s have her schedule you for one shift per week. I don’t want the skills you’ve acquired to atrophy completely.”

“Aye, sir,” replied Hoshi with a relieved smile.

Hoshi accompanied Esilia into her cabin to help her settle in, leaving the Captain and Trip to walk the corridor alone.

“I couldn’t help but notice that you seemed to be pretty focused on the ambassador,” Trip said while covering his smile with his hand.

Captain Archer stopped walking and turned to face Trip. “Examining each others tastes in women? This is where you want to go, Trip?” He was fighting to keep the smile off of his face, and to project a menacing stare. Trip held up his hands. “Well played, Jon. I take it back."

Archer lost the battle to control his facial expression, and his smile appeared. He could not, however, resist twisting the knife. “No… come on. Let’s talk, Trip. Anything going on with you and… I don’t know…someone else?”

“I will never bring it up again. I promise.”

Captain Archer resumed walking, and Trip fell into step next to him.

“Jeeze, did I ever walk into that one,” Trip said softly. The captain just smiled. It had been a long time since he had gotten one over on Trip.

“Hoshi was impressed with your translation of the Talylon Bay’s name. She just might actually mean it the next time she calls you ‘sir’.”

Trip was laughing softly now. “I always thought it ironic that a linguist would dismiss me as a hick because of my accent.”

“Don’t be too hard on her Trip. She’s just a kid only a couple of years out of training. Give her time.”

“No, I don’t judge her harshly. She is a good kid. I just always thought it was funny,” he laughed softly. They walked in comfortable silence until they reached a turbolift.

“Well…night. Cap’n. See you at oh dark thirty tomorrow. I’ve got a few things to take care of in engineering before I call it a night, ” said Trip, slightly distracted by the knowledge that he and T’Pol had not been that discreet after all.

Archer grinned. “See you tomorrow. And again….well done….getting us out of here three days early.”

Day 130 0542 UTC

T’Pol was headed to the shuttle bay to confer with Commander Tucker before the mornings’ tow operation. It would be up to them to make up the duty roster.

As T’Pol came into the shuttle bay, she suddenly felt flushed. A wave of emotion washed over her, and she was momentarily stunned. Trip was working on the catwalk above the shuttle pods. He saw her come in and suddenly stop. As her gaze locked on his, she felt a welling of emotion stronger than anything she had experienced since she had first consulted Dr. Phlox about her Trellium addiction and the subsequent neural damage.

Instantly Trip knew what was going on. “T’Pol!” he shouted. She simply stared at him wide-eyed. ”T’Pol!” he yelled at the top of his lungs. She snapped out of it, blinked and started to speak.

“Commander…”

He cut her off. “T’Pol, I just finished treating the shuttle pods with Trellium D. The whole shuttle bay is a virtual Trellium bath. You need to get out! Out now, move!” As she turned and walked unsteadily out of the shuttle bay, Trip hit the com panel to his right. “Tucker to Phlox, medical emergency.”

“Phlox here. Commander, what seems to be the problem?”

“T’Pol just walked into a virtual trellium cloud in the shuttle bay. She’s out now, but you need to come down and check her out. I‘m covered in this crap and can’t go near her.”

“I am on my way, Commander.”

Day 130 0557 UTC

Dr. Phlox had just injected T’Pol with a hypo and was examining her when Trip emerged from the decon chamber wearing just his blues and holding a towel.

“How is she, Doc?”

Trip stood just a few feet away, looking at her face intently for any sign of pain.

“Oh, just fine. She was barely exposed. Fortunately she left immediately, and I have already counteracted what little trellium managed to get into her system.” He turned back to where T’Pol was sitting on a bench in the corridor outside of the shuttlebay, and addressed her directly. “Now, just stay seated for five minutes and you will be fine. Check back with me before you retire tonight, and in the future please be more careful.”

“Of course, Doctor,” replied T’Pol with exaggerated calmness. “Thank you for your assistance.”

Dr. Phlox packed up his med kit and rushed off to his critical patients.

“Sorry, T’Pol. I just found out this morning that the pods had gotten bypassed last night and still needed to be shielded for today’s operation. I had no idea you were going to come down here to discuss the roster,” said Trip sincerely. His eyes never left her face.

T’Pol again had control of her emotions. At least, it initially appeared that way to Trip. Then he noticed the way her eyes followed his body as he moved closer to her. She swallowed and took a shaky breath before returning her gaze to his face.

“No apology is necessary, Trip,” she replied quietly, with an unaccustomed softness to her voice. Her eyes held his. “I should have consulted the activity log before I entered the bay.”

He still felt a jar, a not entirely unpleasant one, when she called him that, though it only happened occasionally, and only when they were alone.

“Very gracious of you, T’Pol, but let’s both admit I’m 50% responsible. This work was supposed to be finished yesterday,” he returned with a smile.

She acquiesced with a nod, and it was forgotten.

“I am assigning you and Lt. Reed to the shuttle pods, and Ensign Mayweather to the helm for the tow. Any objections?” she asked, returning abruptly to business.

“No that’s fine,” Trip answered. Her sudden shift to a brisk tone of voice caused his smile to fade. “How far and fast are you planning?”

“My analysis shows that we can safely tow at one half impulse, and that it will take us six hours to reach a safe location to complete repairs to the Talylon Bay.”

“Tell me about the location you and the Cap’n have chosen,” he said, while continuing to dry his ears with a hand towel.

“It’s a Lagrange point midway between the red dwarf with which we concealed our approach and a large planetoid.”

“Well… I’m sure it’s fine,” he said distractedly. She nodded and tore her gaze away from him, looking down at her hands clasped in her lap. Trip took a step toward the bench where she sat, and then thought better of it. His indecision left him standing half dressed an arm’s length from where she sat looking down at the deck plates in front of her. She looks confused, Trip thought in remorse. The trellium confuses her… or maybe it’s me.

They paused for a moment. The only sound was the muted whirring of pump motors and the occasional thump of Enterprise’s machinery.

Trip looked at her intensely. He was growing weary of the game they seemed to play and he was deciding whether or not he wanted to continue.

For her part, T’Pol had never seen him look at her this way before, and it was unsettling. She knew that her mental control was stronger than his, and that he could not look into her mind uninvited, but his look was penetrating, and for a second she imagined he could see right through her.

“T’Pol, the last time we really talked was before the ship entered the corridor,” he began hesitantly. “I know you said you were fine… and I’ve tried to take you at your word and not invade your space, because I appreciate how important privacy is to you… but I have to ask.” He paused. She looked up at him, finally. Her eyes were wide, and she suddenly looked much younger and far less self-assured.

“Are you sure you’re okay? You just don’t seem…..content,” he finished, suddenly very weary of it all, and sat on the bench beside her with his towel in his hands. He looked at her with a worried expression.

T’Pol closed her eyes momentarily and opened them again before she spoke. “This adjustment has been difficult for me as well,” she trailed off softly.

“I‘m not trying to make you uncomfortable or force you to talk about things you would rather keep to yourself,” Trip said quietly, almost intimately, “but remember, T’Pol, that whatever may have happened between us, I‘m still your friend. If you decide you need to talk, I‘m here.”

T’Pol’s only response was a tilt of her head and a slight raise of her left eyebrow.

Trip reached his hand out toward her shoulder. He hesitated for a moment when T‘Pol’s expression didn’t change. Then he dropped his hand and got up to get a clean coverall. Her eyes followed him as he walked away. He didn’t look back.


Chapter Three

They successfully towed the damaged alien vessel to the Lagrange point that T’Pol had designated. After undocking,Enterprise had attached both of her grapplers to the junction of theTalylon Bay’s warp nacelles. Each shuttle pod had been separately tethered astern of the Talylon Bay to provide tension and stability to the Enterprise’s tow lines.

Day 130 1350 UTC

Dr. Phlox was engaged in a conversation with one of his many creatures when the ship’s first officer entered sickbay. He looked up and smiled, “Ah, T’Pol. I trust that you have recovered from your experience this morning?” As he spoke he picked up a medical tri-corder and proceeded to read the level of trellium present in her cerebral cortex. T’Pol cocked her head to the side as the doctor examined her.

“I feel fine, Doctor, thank you. I have many duties to attend to, and I wanted to comply with your request to report for examination while I had the time,” T’Pol responded in her usual businesslike tone.

“Well….just as I thought. No trace of trellium at all. You should be just fine.” Dr. Phlox’s lips formed the smile that seemed to come automatically after every positive statement. The doctor then stood back and expected her to leave immediately, as was her custom. T’Pol hesitated, however, and made no move to go.

“Was there something else, Commander?” Phlox asked gently.

“No,” she hesitated, “Thank you, Doctor. Good day.” She now turned to leave, but Phlox stopped her by gently grasping her upper arm.

“T’Pol, I am aware of your situation. How are you doing dealing with your emotions?”

T’Pol looked at the deck and settled back against the bio bed. “It is getting more difficult every day. Meditation is of only limited use, and I am concerned that my control is slipping away.” As she said this she looked up at Phlox. He could see that her eyes were moist, and for the first time since he’d met the Vulcan commander, there was fear in them.

“T’Pol, it might be time to think about leaning on someone else to help you cope with these emotions,” Phlox said gently. She abruptly looked away and the doctor continued, “There is nothing to be ashamed of, Commander. It is clear that you can not manage this condition alone.”

She looked back at him, took a long breath and responded, “I will give your advice serious consideration, Doctor.”

 


Day 130 1430 UTC

“Six hours in a damn shuttle pod without a head. Just how I wanna spend my morning,” Trip said as he stretched the kinks out of his back.

Malcolm was using the railings of the upper shuttle bay as a support to stretch out his limbs. “Anything that gets me out of the Major Hayes ‘if you’re not a MACO you’re not shit’ calisthenics sessions is a good deal.”

Laughing, Trip turned toward his friend mid-stretch and said, “Jeez, Malcolm. We get thrown back in time a hundred some odd years, potentially lose contact with Earth forever, and you’re still worried that Hayes wants your job. I wish I had your focus… or maybe I should say your obsession.”

“We all have our own obsessions to absorb our idle time, don’t we?” he said with a slight smirk. As he finished speaking he used his index finger to draw the top part of his ear into something resembling a point.

“Holy crap. Is it that freaking obvious? I must look like an overgrown teenager,” Trip said as he turned toward Malcolm and placed both of his hands on his hips.

Malcolm laughed, stood up straight and gripped the railing behind him. “Well I was just kidding, but it looks like I struck a nerve there. I haven’t even noticed you two doing the neuro-nasty lately.

“What did you say?” Trip interrupted with an edge to his voice.

“What?” Malcolm said as innocently as he could fake, “I just said…..I didn’t think you two were even doing the neuro..pressure thing anymore. I mean I haven’t noticed you two together at all.” Malcolm was smiling, or the closest thing to a real smile that the reserved Brit ever mustered. He had chanced onto something he could torture his friend with for at least a month, and this gave him some measure of pleasure.

“Well… I’m glad that it isn’t obvious, anyway,” sighed the relieved engineer.

At that moment the voice of the officer on watch came over the ship’s intercom, “Commander Tucker, report to the Bridge. Commander Tucker, report to the Bridge.”

As Trip started to walk away, he turned and said, “Do me a favor, Malcolm. Double check the shutdown routine on my pod, will ya?”

“Yes sir,” Reed responded, his grin still intact.

 


Captain Archer and T’Pol stood in his ready room discussing the day’s operations. While T’Pol had conned the ship during the tow, the captain had spent the morning with Hoshi and the Ikaaran ambassador. “Any problems with the tow?” asked Archer as he took a seat at his desk.

“All parameters are nominal, Captain. Ensign Mayweather is in the process of re-docking Enterprise with the alien vessel. Commander Tucker is on his way here so that we can discuss the dispatch of engineering teams to effect repairs on Talylon Bay.” Her hands had been behind her back, but she now moved forward and slid a pad toward the captain.

At that moment the door chime sounded.

“Enter.”

“T’Pol…..Cap’n,” Trip nodded at T’Pol and took his place next to her, opposite the captain.

“Trip, have a seat…T’Pol,” Archer gestured at the chairs behind them. As T’Pol slowly made a move toward the chairs, Tucker interrupted.

“Sir, I’ve had my butt glued to a shuttle seat for the last six hours. I’ll stand, if you don’t mind.”

With that, T’Pol also stood her ground.

Archer smiled as he responded, “Sure, Trip. How did it go from your perspective?”

“Long and boring, Cap’n, though for the Expanse I suppose that’s okay,” Trip replied as he massaged his neck.

“The Captain and I were discussing your plans for beginning repair operations on the Talylon Bay,” T’Pol began, deciding that she had listened to enough meaningless chit chat. Her emotional control may have been compromised but she was still very much a Vulcan.

Trip rubbed his eyes and started to speak, “Well, I haven’t had time to do much today, but I had planned to take a ten-man party over to do a through analysis and design a repair plan. If I get started after I hit the galley we should make some progress by 2200.”

“That’s fine, Trip, but plan to be back aboard for dinner in my mess at 1930 with the ambassador. T’Pol and Hoshi will be joining us,” T’Pol’s left eyebrow rose, as this was the first she had heard of this. Archer continued, “I plan on spending the bulk of the day with Hoshi and Esilia to try and get a better grip on the Ikaaran situation.”

Trip and T’Pol shared a glance as they heard the captain refer to their guest as “Esilia” instead of as “the ambassador”.

Trip awkwardly cleared his throat, “Actually, Cap’n, I was kind of depending on Hoshi’s help today. I‘m not really ready to solo with the Ikaaran captain and engineers.”

Archer’s hands left the table and started up in one of his characteristic gestures, but just as he began to speak T’Pol interrupted, “Captain, it is essential that Commander Tucker be able to communicate with his counterparts in the Talylon Bay’s engineering department for their safety as well as our own. I would recommend that Ensign Sato be assigned to Commander Tucker’s engineering team until all critical repairs are completed.”

Archer paused before continuing in a disappointed tone, “Very well, T’Pol. Please let Hoshi know that you’re assigning her to Trip until he feels that he can continue on his own.”

“Yes, Captain.”

At that moment the intercom chimed, and Lt. Hayes’ melodic voice came over the speaker from astrometrics, “Sorry for the interruption, Captain, but the scan array software is malfunctioning and we are unable to plot anomalies. I could use Commander T’Pol’s help for a moment.”

Archer looked at T’Pol, but replied to Hayes, “She’ll be right there, Chris.”

“Aye, sir,” she replied before the intercom fell silent.

“I will return shortly.” T’Pol briefly looked at each of them and added, “Gentlemen,” before she stepped back out onto the bridge.

As she left, Trip turned and leaned against the bulkhead adjacent to the door. He crossed his arms and glanced out the window before turning back towards the captain, “I know we kinda agreed not to go here, but,” he paused and came forward, leaning against the captain’s desk, “you really like Esilia, don’t you?” He was smiling now, but it was a tight lipped smile of commiseration.

A tight lipped smile formed on Jonathan Archer’s lips as well, “I know, I know… a hopeless romance. I realize that she’s geographically undesirable, but what am I supposed to do? I don’t know how much time we’ll be spending in this part of the galaxy or even if we’ll be able to return… but the heart wants what the heart wants,” he said with a sigh.

Trip stood back up and uttered a small chuckle, “Well, believe me, sometimes there’s a lot more to worry about when you’re trying to romance a woman than whether you’ll be around to make it permanent or not.”

“Care to offer any advice, Trip?” The captain asked with a melancholy smile.

At this Trip burst out laughing. “Well if you want to know how to have a disastrous relationship, or chase the girl off completely, I’m definitely the guy to come to for advice.”

They regarded each other in sympathetic silence for a moment, but before they could continue, T’Pol reappeared.

“There was a minor fault in the alignment software. Lt. Hayes and I have devised a fix,” she reported.

Archer nodded, straightening in his chair and regaining his professional demeanor. Addressing them both said, “Is there anything else?”

When neither of them offered anything he continued, “Very well. Dismissed.”

Day 130 1522 UTC

Trip and T’Pol stood shoulder to shoulder in the lift. He was on his way to seek out food, she to talk to Hoshi and the ambassador.

Trip’s eyes were on the turbolift door, his pupils transfixed in a thousand-yard stare.

T’Pol turned to Trip and started to speak, but stopped herself and turned back to face the front of the lift. She did this three times before words finally came out.

“Trip.” she began tentatively. It was not quite a question, and not quite a statement. She said it in a tone he had not often heard, and it got his attention.

The twinge he felt when she called him that was there, but more than that, he was suddenly very curious. He turned toward her and looked at her with a questioning expression, “Yeah, what’s up?”

“The offer you made this morning,” she shifted her body back toward the doors, and then turned to look at him again. “There are some things that I would like to discuss with you,” again an awkward pause, “Perhaps you could join me in my quarters after we dine with the captain and Ambassador Esilia?”

“Yeah, sure, I guess so...” he replied in a puzzled voice. At her swift intake of breath in response to his apparent reluctance, he hurriedly added, “I mean… yeah, I’ll be there. Any particular time?” He’d been caught off guard. Man, I can never figure her. This morning it was the Ice Queen, and now it’s Neuropressure Girl. If only there were some consistency here, maybe we could get along. As these thoughts crossed his mind, she looked into his eyes, and he got the sudden feeling that she knew what he was thinking.

At that moment the turbolift stopped and the doors opened.

“Commander…sir,” said Lt. Ramirez as he faced the ship’s two senior department heads.

“Lieutenant,” T’Pol replied as she stepped off the lift and Ramirez stepped on. T’Pol turned back to face Trip, “2200 hours, Commander.”

“See you then,” Trip replied.

Ramirez caught the vibe. OOOKay, this is weird. he said to himself as the doors closed, cutting off the eye contact that the two department heads had maintained. Like most of the officers, Ramirez was more or less used to their Vulcan F.O. There was no small talk when you worked with her. She always seemed so detached, but just now she hadn’t seemed as, well…Vulcan. At the same time, the engineer seemed very deep in thought. Ramirez bailed out at the next deck.


Chapter Four

Day 130 2206 UTC

Trip was tired. Listening to ambassador Esilia through Hoshi had been slow going, but interesting. It looked like a promising contact. Normally this would have been of great interest to him, but the fact that they were now trapped in the past had tempered his thirst for adventure. More than that, T’Pol weighed heavily on his mind.

Trip was mulling over this morning’s conversation with T’Pol when he found himself at the door to her quarters. He had left the captain’s mess shortly after 2100 to shower once again. He was always conscious of her sensitivity to smell.

He hit the button on the com panel at her door and moments later her voice came over the speaker, “Enter.”

Trip entered to find her facing out her window. “Thank you for coming, Trip,” she said distantly. Then she turned to face him as the door closed after him. “Please sit down.” Her face was impassive.

He looked over his shoulder at her bed and backed over to it, sitting down. She sat opposite him on a cushion of equal height about two feet away.

Trip took in the surroundings. The lights were low, and candles had been lit. Her quarters were much as they had been during their neuropressure sessions, in a time that now seemed so long ago. Only her demeanor seemed odd. She was having a difficult time maintaining eye contact, and actually seemed uneasy. This was something he had not encountered before when alone with her.

“There are some things that I need to tell you, and things that we need to discuss.” She paused for a moment, but was able to keep eye contact. “This is a difficult topic for me to verbalize and I would appreciate it if you would let me explain uninterrupted. I will answer any of your questions later.”

Trip was intrigued, to say the least. “Sure, T’Pol.” He paused while looking into her eyes for some sense of where this was going. As usual, she was nearly inscrutable. “I take it that this has something to do with this morning?”

At this, she tilted her head to the side, re-established eye contact and began her revelations.

“I have not been completely honest with you.”

Trip had not expected this, and his eyes narrowed as he fixed his gaze upon her.

She continued undaunted, “You must understand that emotions are very difficult for Vulcans to face. I have not faced mine as honestly as I should have.”

T’Pol usually faced Trip and looked eye to eye when she spoke. Trip was aware that this time she was not following her usual pattern. She was continuously shifting her weight from one foot to the other. He thought she looked very uncomfortable with the whole conversation.

“After we had sexual relations the first time, I told you that it was merely a physical exploration.” She paused as if she were reluctant to make the admission. “There was actually an emotional component to our coupling,” she finished quietly. Then she stopped talking, searching for her next words. Trip smiled wryly at her.

“T’Pol, I kind of figured, despite your denials, that you felt something,” he said gently. “It’s okay. I know this is hard for you.” He reached out and gently grasped her hand.

T’Pol’s eyes closed momentarily, but she didn’t resist his physical overture. She opened her eyes and faced him squarely. “You were correct. I was a little jealous. I had never experienced this before and could not admit it to myself, much less to you.” Again, she paused. “I apologize.”

”T’Pol, I really don’t think this qualifies as dishonesty,” Trip replied. “I think you’re being a little hard on yourself.” With this, he allowed a sympathetic smile.

“Unfortunately, there is more.” She pulled her hand from his, rose to her feet and walked back to the window, Trip’s eyes followed her. “When I was first exposed to trellium I found that, in addition to its unpleasant effects, it enabled me to experience emotions without disordering my mind. I had never considered this possibility, and I wanted to continue to explore these new feelings. To that end, I began to dose myself with small amounts of it.”

Trip had steeled himself for surprises, but this was a shock. Feelings of anger and fear swirled in equal measure through his mind. “Are you crazy?” he demanded incredulously.

Her wounded look stopped him before he said anything else. He stood and approached her as she stood at the window…“I mean… are you all right? Did the trellium cause any damage? Does the doc know?” The questions spilled haphazardly and in quick succession from his lips.

“Yes, Dr. Phlox is the only one who knows. He has treated me for my…,” here she hesitated a long moment, “…addiction. The trellium is completely out of my system, but some permanent damage did occur.”

Trip was taken aback, both by what she had said and by the fact that she seemed to be looking at him and searching his eyes for understanding.

“Well, it does explain a few things. Does this have anything to do with your behavior after we thought we had lost the captain?” Trip asked in a more even tone.

She thought about it for a moment. “Probably,” she responded.

“Wow,” he said softly “You never cease to amaze. I’ll give you that.” His lips twitched upward just a bit.

“I have more to tell you,” she intoned softly

“I may need a drink,” he said, almost to himself.

“Excuse me?”

Trip now turned back toward her and spoke up, “Nothin’, never mind. Go on, T’Pol,” he replied stoically.

“Have you been experiencing any daydreams? Any unusual thoughts that concern me?” she asked directly.

Trip’s eyes narrowed as he thought about it, “Well, I suppose. Once in a while. They sometimes have a déjà vu feeling to them. Is that what you mean?”

She did not nod but instead tilted her head as if to say “almost.” “Remember when I told you about my arranged marriage to Koss, and that if I did indeed marry him I would have to leave Enterprise and live with him for one year?” Trip nodded in the affirmative and T’Pol continued. “The reason for this year together is to allow an actual mental bond to form. Most Vulcan couples are able to form such a bond after a year of physical intimacy. I did not think it possible for such a thing to occur with a human, and so I did not forewarn you.” Her voice became softer now, “In retrospect, I should have realized that, as I was already experiencing emotions centered on you, this was a potential outcome. I could not face the fact that I was developing an emotional attachment, and my judgment was therefore clouded.”

Trip stared at her in disbelief. Here I’ve been walking around like a lovesick teenager for the past six months trying to figure out a way to get her out of my system, and it looks like that would never have happened. We were in each others’ heads the whole time. I wish I’d gotten some of her damned Vulcan control to go along with this bond shit, he thought angrily.

Trip turned to look out the window as he unconsciously drummed his fingers on his thigh.

“I apologize, Trip,” she said in her normal, even tone. “I should have told you sooner, but I had to admit it to myself before I could discuss it with you.”

“You said this usually takes a year with a full blooded Vulcan couple. We’ve only had…,” he hesitated a moment before taking the bit and continuing, “… sexual relations five or so times since we traveled through the corridor, and not at all in the last two months.”She’s finally talking to me about us, he thought, and though he was still a little ticked off, he was grateful to be, at long last, having an honest conversation with her.

“As I said earlier, I was developing an emotional attachment prior to the beginning of our sexual relationship, and that may have sped up the process,” She hesitated and her eyes sought out his. “I have always been able to suppress my emotions. I have never experienced anything with this level of intensity before,” she said softly.

Trip smiled softly and took a step so that only a short distance separated them. “Well, I guess I can understand that. I can deal with all of this as long as there aren’t any more big surprises. I mean, you’re not going to tell me that if a Vulcan mates with another species it’s the male who has the children, are you?” he asked teasingly.

T’Pol looked at him with an annoyed expression. He took that to mean that she wasn’t feeling quite so ill at ease.

Trip’s eyes searched T’Pol’s face, while T’Pol was again having difficulty looking directly at him. “You mentioned that there was some permanent damage?” said Trip, his voice laced with concern.

She shifted her gaze back from the window to his eyes, swallowed and began. “Dr Phlox says that my ability to suppress my emotions may have been permanently compromised. My usual techniques are not working effectively, and I am having difficulty coping with these new…..feelings.”

Her eyes were moist, and for the first time Trip saw the same thing that Phlox had seen, fear. She had never before let her guard down this far with him. The doctor had seen this side of her, but no one else ever had. They had been in many dangerous situations, but he had never seen fear in her eyes before. Instinctively he felt he should reach out and hold her, but he knew that as much as she was now opening up to him, she was no ordinary girl. He was very conscious of the fact that she was first and foremost a Vulcan, and so he held back. He was determined not to make a mistake and risk pushing her away. “I appreciate how difficult this must be for you to discuss,” he told her with a hesitant smile. “I’m glad that you talked to Phlox about this and got help.” He remained at arm’s length, but extended his hands toward her, partially in sheer puzzlement, and partially because he just couldn’t stop himself from reaching toward her. “You never do anything without a logical reason, though, so I have to ask. Why are we having this conversation? I mean, I’m glad you’re opening up, but why now, finally?”

She was having trouble standing still, like an animal trapped in a cage. She looked down again, unable to maintain eye contact. “Dr. Phlox suggested that I find an outlet to expend the emotional energy that I can no longer suppress. Most of these new feelings I can control. The exception is what I feel about you…about us,” she again hesitated. Now her gaze shifted upward and her eyes were very large. “Even before the trellium, the things I felt about you were different than anything I had ever experienced. The emotions you stir in me are…powerful and frightening. That is why I have been pushing you away. The only difference is that, because of the trellium damage, I can no longer completely bury my emotional response to you. If I continue to fight it, I will lose the ability to control my peripheral emotions.” She stopped speaking and looked away. She momentarily closed and opened her eyes, then turned back to him and continued, “To answer your original question, I am now speaking of this to you because I would like to resume our,” she swallowed hard, “relationship.” Her eyes again briefly closed and her left hand reached out and grasped his right hand. Trip could tell that this had been the most difficult thing she had ever had to do

Trip was blown away. He had known this intriguing woman for years now, disliking her at the very start, but quickly respecting her. He had worked in close proximity to her in the most difficult of circumstances, had kissed her, and had even slept with her, but never before had he been allowed a glimpse of her heart. He had long suspected that she had formed an emotional attachment to him, but he never thought she would admit it to herself, let alone to him.

Trip gently squeezed her hand, “You’re full of surprises tonight, T’Pol,” he said with a soft smile. Trip was making the mental calculations that every guy who has ever kissed a girl has made. Is this the right moment? Will she welcome or reject me? He decided that the when was now, and sliding his left arm around her petite form, he pulled T’Pol in securely against his frame.

T’Pol did not resist his pull, and her lips parted as they met his.


Comments:

Firestar

Very well done. You should do one on Vulcans from the human perspective.

Lisa

Escriba

I almost chocked on myself reading this. Sooo funny... You've captured the teenage spirit and transfered in into Vulcan culture.

Best part: "2. The padds I got from Savark, he brought to school under his cloak and said he got them from his elder cousin in the merchant marine space service. I keep them under my bed. I watch them when my parents think I am asleep. I did not know that mating could be done like that. I have only watched domestic sehlats. Euww."

Good job!

KKGlinka
Sporfle.
Dinah
It sounds like Vulcan boys have a lot in common with Human boys. I have a feeling this boy's teacher may get more than he or she bargained for. Your story is terrific!
Distracted
Clever little piece. Very funny.
Linda
This was a fun one to write, giggling all through it and thinking of my grandkids. I was thinking this Vulcan boy is not quite adolescent yet, the hormones have not kicked in. He is extremely curious as most Vulcans are - as most sentients are, about taboo subjects. The secrecy intrigues him so he goes after the forbidden fruit, LOL. And like most kids, he is good at seeing the ambivalence in his parents. I am glad I was able to express that so it sort of came through in this ficlet. Humor has become my favorite genre.
bluetiger
How wonderful, Vulcan boys keep Playboy padds under their beds too. Great story.
Anonymous
Cute! It seems adolescents are much the same across the galaxy...:p
Elessar
Linda you produce the most exquisite little Vulcan gems, I LOVE IT! I esp. like that it is not Trip and T'Pol's child because that makes it all the more interesting of a perspective from an every day Vulcan (and his family) through what he says of his parents! :D
Asso
Playful and meaningful! Absolutely lovely!
panyasan
Really funny! Loved the line 'His sanity on this point is in question.' and the Euww at the end.
Pitseleh
I [i]loved[/i] this piece. It's hilarious on so many levels! More!!! Please!!!

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