Implications

By Honeybee

Rating: PG-13

Genres: adventure angst drama romance

Keywords: E2 Lorien

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This story has been read 4287 times.


Part 1

Disclaimer: Paramount owns this universe and all its characters. I'm just playing with them.

Summary: Story takes place in the E2 timeline, in the days and weeks after the ship is thrown back in time. Everyone is mulling over their options and its starting to feel like mating season. Sticks to the events as described in E2, which means Archer hooks up with an alien, Trip & T'Pol get married, Phlox hooks up with Amanda and Malcolm gets his heart broken - a lot.

Authors Note: This is a pretty long, talk-y -character driven story that imagines how bizarre it must have been for the crew in the weeks after being thrown back in time. I'm grateful for any reviews. Currently, it's about half-way done. I would love feedback before continuing.


 

E2: Implications, Part 1

The stars were still in the wrong place. No matter how often Jonathan Archer examined the readings on his console, that didn't change. No matter how often he looked out the window, that didn't change. Now, he could only hope that T'Pol would find a way back through the corridor and back to their own time.

They had been at dead stop for nearly a week, and Jon could also only hope that the week had only passed in their time. T'Pol would need to get them back to their own time before the rendezvous with Degra, which if time was passing in the same way, was days passed. But couldn't the corridor take them back to the point in space/time where they left? Or would it be a week later? Or some other time? Or place?

Jon felt the beginning of a headache. He even wished Daniels would show up to help him understand all this and hopefully help them get back to their own time.

But hope was fading. T'Pol had never been enthusiastic about solutions to their dilemma, and lately she was getting positively grim about it. The corridor appeared to go one way only.

On the bright side, however, this time had given the crew a chance to make much needed repairs and even rest a bit. They had even had movie night, where they watched an ironic choice. H.G. Wells's The Time Machine. Ironic choice, that.

Moreover, for the first time since they entered the Expanse, the ship felt quiet.

Jon closed his eyes and tried to imagine Earth. Not the one he knew, but the one that existed at this point in time. World War III was raging, and billions were already dead. The whole planet had been torn apart by hate and greed and suspicion. Not only would they corrupt the timeline if they returned, they would likely be reviled. T'Pol had suggested returning instead to Vulcan, but since the science directorate rejected the notion of time travel, they would likely not be believed. Nor did Archer think his crew of humans would wish to live out their days as objects of curiosity on Vulcan.

The chime rang.

"Come in."

T'Pol came in, carrying a PADD as usual. She was wearing the blue Vulcan uniform today.

"I have been unable to come up with a solution, Captain," she said.

Jon inhaled deeply. It wasn't a surprise, but he still felt his stomach turning over.

"Maybe we can use this to our advantage," he said. "We know the exact date and time of the first Xindi probe's attack. . .we could wait until then and find a way to warn Earth."

T'Pol did not react.

"I've thought of two options," said Jon, "One - we could try and put ourselves in stasis and have ourselves revived somehow right before the attack. But I'm not sure that would work. We'd be vulnerable and there's no guarantee it would would work."

"What's the other solution?" asked T'Pol.

"We can start having babies," said Jon.

T'Pol raised an eyebrow.

"I mean, the crew can start having babies. All of us," said Jon, "I've heard of generational ships. Hell, Travis is a product of a generational ship. It can happen. We'll stay in the Expanse - learn everything we can about the Xindi and our descendants will stop them from attacking Earth."

Jon stared out the window. T'Pol placed the PADD down on the desk and joined him. She clasped her hands behind her back so he would not see her trembling.

"It is the more practical solution. Stasis would be risky, even if we could find the technology. But we will need to obtain fuel and supplies here in the Expanse. Perhaps we could find a Minshara class planet and settle there?"

Jon shook his head.

"We're still on a mission, and we need to survive but we also need to find everything we can about the Xindi. We're still here on a mission."

T'Pol nodded. He was being logical, as logical as he could in a highly illogical situation.

"I'll call a meeting of the senior officers first and explain to them. Then I'll tell the rest of the crew tonight. I don't think it will come as much of a surprise. I'm guessing everyone already knows."

T'Pol took a deep breath. Jon glanced at her. The Expanse had been hard on everyone, but the change in T'Pol had been acute. He heard slivers of emotion on her voice from time to time. And she looked tired. Maybe all this time among humans was affecting her emotional control. Maybe she needed to get home to Vulcan and be with her own people for awhile. Of course, that was impossible. T'Pol would be spending the rest of her life among humans . . . her long Vulcan life.

"T'Pol," said Jon hesitantly, "I know this a personal question, but given Vulcans long life span, do you think you'll be alive when the Xindi probe is launched?"

T'Pol looked her captain straight in the eye.

"It is possible. I would be elderly."

"In any case, you are going to be vital to this ship and this mission more than ever."

T'Pol nodded.

"I need you to call the command crew together. It's time to start looking forward."

"Yes sir," said T'Pol and she exited.

This was going to be hard on everyone, thought Jon, but especially on T'Pol and Phlox. At least his human crew would be exiled among their own kind, on a ship based on their own culture. But for the two aliens on his ship, their exile would be far more drastic. Phlox seemed well-adjusted enough, but he also had a family back on Denobula. He would never seen any of his wives or children again. Jon couldn't imagine what that would be like for him.

But Phlox would have to adjust. So would T'Pol and everyone on the ship. He would make certain of it. Their mission was the same, and it had just been extended. If they were to survive, they would need to focus on that.


The meeting with the bridge officers went as well as to be expected. Jon did his best to keep them focused on practical matters, so as not to let them panic or fall into despair. There would be plenty of time to acclimate to this new order. He ordered Travis to begin a survey of all the nearby systems and identify any potential places to find supplies or Xindi settlements. He ordered Trip to continue repairs on the engines and other systems, and Malcolm to repair and upgrade weapons. T'Pol was to anticipate long term needs for space and equipment. For now, it would almost be like nothing had changed, except the pace of their journey.

"Travis," said Jon, "Set a course into the Expanse. Warp 2. It's not like we're in a hurry."

After he dismissed everyone, Trip hung back.

"How are you holding up?" Jon asked.

"I was about to ask you the same," he said. Trip looked even more exhausted than T'Pol. Things had been chaotic in engineering.

"It hasn't hit me yet," said Jon, "It's no different than when we were back in our own time. Except for the sinking feeling. . ."

"I had started thinking about this mission as going only one way," said Trip, "But this isn't what I had in mind."

Jon clasped his friend on the back. Jon hadn't anyone but an old girlfriend or two back on Earth. Everyone else he loved was on Enterprise. But Trip had parents and a brother and a nephew.

"You know what's funny," said Jon, "Eventually, over a hundred years from now, Starfleet will learn what happened to all of us. Our families will know why we disappeared."

Trip paused.

"What if our descendants show up and stop the Xindi attack and then we're never sent into the Expanse? What then?"

Jon felt the headache retuning.

"We can't worry about that. We, and I imagine the rest of the crew, will go crazy if we do. We've got a keep focused on the mission. The timeline will sort itself out. How is your crew?"

"I'm trying to keep them focused, but it's hard. One, we're suddenly not in immediate danger of being blown out of space. Two, they've all got a long time to think about being stuck in the Expanse for the rest of their lives."

Jon gazed down at the PADD in front of him with T'Pol's data. He spent one more moment trying to figure a way out. He even hoped Daniels would show up.

"I haven't told them yet, officially."

"But they know, sir. They know."

Jon nodded. Of course, everyone knew. There were no secrets on the ship.


 

Jon left the cargo bay as soon as he dismissed the crew and headed back up to the bridge, where Hoshi had stayed in case something came up. She was still the only person on the bridge when he arrived.

"Hi Captain," she said with a smile, "You did great. I listened to the speech from here."

Jon sighed and took his seat in the captain's chair.

"Anything interesting happening?" asked the captain.

Hoshi shook her head.

"Only in that it isn't that interesting. I'm guessing that the Spheres haven't had such a profound effect on this part of the Expanse yet. There are far fewer anomalies than there were."

"At least, that's some good news."

Jon searched Hoshi's face. If anything, it appeared serene. More serene than T'Pol, but perhaps Hoshi was just better at accepting their situation than the others.

"How are you?" he asked. From his tone, Hoshi recognized that he wasn't asking his comm officer. He was asking his friend.

Hoshi adjusted the comm for a moment, as if she was trying to work out her own thoughts.

"Better than I thought I would be. I just keep thinking, we might have a chance to stop the first Xindi attack. That's more than we ever expected to be able to do on this mission. Whenever I feel panic or sadness coming on. . .I just remind myself of that. Besides, even though I've lost a lot, it isn't as though my life isn't on Enterprise. I didn't expect my whole life to be on Enterprise, but I'm alive and still have plenty of time ahead of me."

Jon smiled for the first time in as long as he remembered. Hoshi was right. Their lives hadn't ended, their lives had just changed. It was his job to help the whole crew understand that, and remember the seven million lives they would all save.


 

Malcolm hurried into the mess hall and ordered himself some coffee. It was fairly empty, except for T'Pol in the corner. She wasn't examining a PADD as was her habit, but reading a paper book. From his vantage, Malcolm saw that it was in Vulcan. It occurred to him that she would never speak to another native speaker of her own language again. Vulcans in this period hadn't even begun to explore near the Expanse.

He approached her.

"May I sit down, Commander?"

T'Pol nodded.

"What are you reading?" asked Malcolm.

"The Teachings of Surak," replied T'Pol.

"I read some of that in translation. I had to take an alien literature class at school. . .it was very interesting."

T'Pol raised her eyebrow. Malcolm could have kicked himself. Calling Surak interesting was, to a Vulcan, akin to calling Shakespeare entertaining. It was insulting in its understatement.

"I find in times of crisis, Surak has much to teach," said T'Pol, "How are you. . .doing?"

T'Pol had spent enough time among humans to know that they liked being questioned about their feelings. Malcolm may have been the most Vulcan-like of all her colleagues, but even he was not immune to this quality of humans. In difficult times, they wanted to be asked how they felt.

"Fine, I guess. . ." replied Malcolm, "I suppose I've not allowed myself to think about the future. But I then again, all we have now is the future. It's odd to think that within a year there will likely be babies being born. . . and soon after that children running about the ship. . .it's difficult to imagine."

"Vulcans don't imagine," said T'Pol, "Though the Captain has asked me to anticipate potential new uses of space. I will suggest that eventually one of the larger labs on deck 4 could be turned into a school."

Malcolm glanced down at T'Pol's elegant hands and then, without thinking, up to her chest. He hoped she hadn't noticed, especially since Malcolm knew that it was unlikely T'Pol would ever consider him a potential partner. Not if the rumors about her and Trip were true. Malcolm had heard that T'Pol had reacted quite jealously to Trip's flirtation with the female MACO, and that Trip had stopped socializing with Amanda as a result. As far as Malcolm was concerned, that could only mean one thing, though Trip certainly wasn't talking. His earlier denials had suspiciously ceased.

"How's Trip handling all this? I've hardly seen him this week. I've been busy with the weapons systems and he's been busy in engineering."

T'Pol blinked at Malcolm. She was aware of the human habit of asking about other humans feelings - as opposed to asking the person directly, but it never failed to make her uncomfortable. It was bad enough when someone asked her about herself. Besides that, Malcolm's question seemed to imply that she would have some special knowledge of Commander Tucker's feelings.

"He seems very focused on the engines, as he should be," said T'Pol. Over the years, she had become somewhat proud of her ability to deflect human prying. Another technique, she learned was to ask a question in response to one. It took her a moment, but she thought of one.

"Have you thought of which female among the crew you might take as a mate?" asked T'Pol.

Malcolm nearly choked on his coffee. That was the last question he expected from a Vulcan.

"It's only logical to think about it. You are a strong and capable member of this crew, and your genes would contribute greatly to the next generation. This afternoon I overheard several females discussing potential choices for mates . . ."

"Did my name come up?" asked Malcolm before he realized what he had blurted out.

"No," said T'Pol simply, "They were focused on more junior members of the crew. However, I expect the captain will relax the rules against senior officers fraternizing with junior officers. If not, your options will be quite limited."

Malcolm smirked. Apparently, T'Pol was more imaginative than she gave herself credit. Someone was going to have to make the children to fill the school she was designing and everyone on board knew it. He leaned over and looked the Vulcan straight in the eye.

"If the captain doesn't lift the rules, my only options are Hoshi...and you, Commander," said Malcolm, who could barely believe he had started teasing the Vulcan.

T'Pol's faced showed no reaction.

"Ensign Sato is an attractive woman," she said, "And highly academically gifted."

"She is that," said Malcolm, "And since you're off the market, I might just have to ask Hoshi out for coffee. . ."

"Vulcans and Humans have never mated successfully," said T'Pol, "So it is unlikely I will mate with anyone. . ." T'Pol paused, "But that's not what you meant by 'off the market.'"

"No," said Malcolm, "You see, there's a code among human males. We don't chase after our friends' girlfriends. It just isn't done. And Trip is my friend. . ."

"I am not Commander Tucker's girl friend," said T'Pol.

Truth be told, however, she was vividly remembering their recent sexual encounter.

Malcolm heard a slight edge in her voice and knew he hit a nerve. It couldn't be easy for her, he thought. It was hard enough being an Englishman on a ship with mostly Americans. Being a Vulcan and constantly questioned about one's feelings must be terribly awkward for her. On the other hand, if she didn't step up soon, she might just spend the rest of her long life alone. Even Vulcans weren't meant to do that.

"Maybe not," said Malcolm, "But ask yourself this, do you want him mating with any of the other women on this ship? No, don't answer. . .I don't need to know. You need to know the answer to that question. And you need to tell Trip and soon."

The words came out before Malcolm even thought to withhold them. Their peculiar situation had changed him. It had changed everything.

For her part, T'Pol thought of deflecting or denying yet again, but she didn't. Malcolm was correct. Trip wouldn't wait for her, not under the new circumstances. She did not like the idea of him mating with another female. Though interspecies mating was illogical and difficult, it had suddenly become her only option.

But was Trip her only option? She looked at Malcolm. She couldn't imagine taking him as a mate, despite the fact that his English reserve was far more Vulcan than Trip's Southern effusiveness. She thought of Phlox, as it would be logical to pair off with the only other alien on the ship. They did have that in common. She remembered the grace with which he hand handled her premature Pon Farr. Of course, he also revealed then that he wasn't attracted to her. T'Pol's mind wandered to Major Hayes of the MACOs. He was a strong man of appropriate age, but he was not a great intellect. They would have nothing in common. Then, T'Pol thought of the captain and paused...they were close and had a great deal of affection for one another. He was a handsome and capable man, and T'Pol knew that he was attracted to her. It made sense. It was logical. Except that T'Pol couldn't imagine taking the captain as a mate because she could only imagine taking Trip as one.

Perhaps Vulcans were more imaginative than she admitted even to herself.

She tried to picture cohabiting with Trip. He was not logical. Not at all. He couldn't even talk about the warp engines without getting passionate. He laughed and made jokes all the time. He was charming, emotional. Un-Vulcan.

But to her shock, T'Pol realized that she didn't want Trip despite his utter and complete infuriating humanness. She wanted him because of it. She had even come to enjoy the way he smelled.

"Commander, are you all right?" asked Malcolm, who was intently trying to read T'Pol's face, "I didn't mean to speak of things that aren't my business...but then again I suppose everyone's business is suddenly everyone else's now."

"It's all right, lieutenant," said T'Pol, who had begun to formulate a plan in her head.

The Vulcan stood up.

"You should get some rest," she said, "We have more time now. I think we could all use rest."

With that, T'Pol disappeared from the mess hall and Malcolm was left both envying his friend Trip and worrying for him. Most human women didn't know when to stop expressing their feelings, but surely too much emotion would be easier to deal with than loving a woman culturally prohibited from expressing feelings.

Malcolm's mind wandered to Hoshi, whom he had see dining with four strapping MACOs the day before. Surely someone would snap her up soon, thought Malcolm. If he did want to pursue her, he would need to move soon. But would that be fair, he thought? Especially since he was not in love with her. Not yet, anyway. But he could imagine falling in love with her. Wasn't that the same thing?

The last vestiges of Malcolm's coffee were ice cold, and frankly the caffeine was no longer keeping him awake. He decided to head back to his quarters, where he soon found himself in a dreamless sleep.


 

The next afternoon, T'Pol sat on a biobed as Phlox examined her. His animals appeared more active than ever, twittering and jabbering in their various cages. But there were no other patients in sickbay. It felt strange, since the Xindi mission had started sickbay was usually one of the more crowded areas of the ship. But no longer.

"You must be honest with me, Commander. Have you taken any Trillium-D lately?"

T'Pol reached up an rubbed her temple.

"No."

"Have you been tempted?"

"No." She answered truthfully. She wanted nothing more to do with that substance, "But my emotional control has not fully returned."

Phlox walked over to one of his many cages and tended to a squawking creature.

"We discussed that. It will take a great deal of time to heal, and even then it is possible you will not regain full control," Phlox paused and then continued, "But have you ever thought that this terrible situation we have found ourselves in might benefit you?"

T'Pol did not respond. Phlox continued.

"You see, among Vulcans, your emotions would be immediately recognized. You would very likely become an outcast among your own people...now, don't deny it. There's much to recommend Vulcan culture, but they are not known for their tolerance of those among them who cannot control their emotions. However, it is unlikely most humans would ever even notice your emotional. . .lapses. You would appear as Vulcan as ever to them. Unless of course you became very close to one of them. But in any case, our situation here in the Expanse has prevented you from becoming an outcast among your people by forcing you to live among humans who are for the most part incapable of seeing anything unusual about you. It may not be ideal, but it's one way of looking at the situation."

Phlox knew better than expect a response from his Vulcan patient.

"Otherwise, you continue to respond to the medication I've been giving you for the Pa'Nar Syndrome and you seem in excellent health."

T'Pol got down from the bio bed and walked over to a display screen on the far wall. It appeared to be the Denobulan genome.

"Thank you, Doctor," said T'Pol, suddenly feeling as though she had violated Phlox's privacy.

"Your welcome. And I've something else to discuss with you," said Phlox. He walked over to her, seemingly un-offended.

"You see, I've been researching whether or not you or I would be able to contribute to the next generation of this ship."

Phlox lit a second screen and revealed the Vulcan genome. Specifically, her Vulcan genome. T'Pol examined it, as well as some notes the doctor had made.

"Are you interested in hearing about my findings?"

T'Pol looked positively uncomfortable, but still interested. She nodded.

"A Vulcan/Human hybrid might have a significantly longer life span than a pure human. That child might serve to bridge the gap between generations. It would be a logical addition to the ship's population," she said in a rather small voice.

"My thoughts exactly," said Phlox, "And as you can see, it would only take a little bit of doing on my part. May I ask if you are expecting your Vulcan mating cycle soon?"

T'Pol appeared absolutely mortified. Phlox continued as though he didn't notice.

"I think the process would go smoother during your natural mating cycle, though we could induce one without too much trouble...but really all it would take is one hypospray a few days before your cycle kicks in and we could avoid a more invasive in-vitro procedure."

"Vulcan women's Pon Farr cycles are usually tied in with their mates. But since I am unbonded, one is likely to occur on its own within a year," said T'Pol.

"Ah, well then, you have a big decision to make..." said Phlox.

"Yes," said T'Pol, "The decision to have a child under such unusual circumstances is a serious one - worthy of much consideration."

"Oh my dear," said Phlox, "I thought you had made that decision. I was referring to who will be the father of the first human/Vulcan hybrid."

T'Pol again looked mortified. Phlox continued.

"The whole ship thinks your romantically involved with Commander Tucker," said Phlox, "But there are other options...the captain for instance..."

T'Pol headed straight for the door. She turned, her face again a mask.

"Thank you, doctor," said T'Pol, "I shall consider everything you have said."

With that, the Vulcan headed out of sick bay. On the way in, the MACO called Amanda passed by on her way to see Phlox. She smiled at T'Pol.

"Hello Commander," she said.

Her face remained serene as she passed by and nodded. T'Pol thought of telling Amanda just how jealous Vulcan women could be about their bonded mates - though it wasn't usually something Vulcans ever discussed with outsiders. They rarely even discussed it among themselves. It's just that everyone knew.

T'Pol heard Amanda laugh quite loudly from sickbay. It was a more irritating laugh than most humans, she thought. Trip's laugh wasn't nearly so grating. It was pleasant to hear thought T'Pol as she headed up toward the bridge.


 

"T'Pol, may I see you in my ready room?" said Jon.

T'Pol nodded and followed her captain into the ready room. She smelled Porthos immediately and saw the dog curled up under the captain's desk.

"How is the crew? In your opinion?" he asked.

"I'm not the best judge," said T'Pol, "But I sense a lack of emotion among the crew. It's odd. People had a higher level of anxiety before we became trapped here. . ."

"I suppose the lack of urgency is a kind of relief," said Jon.

"Phlox indicating to me this morning that there is very little sickness or injury among the crew," said T'Pol.

"That's one good thing," said Jon, "I've asked Trip to compile a list of suggestions for prolonging the life of key systems. Ensign Baker says that the hydroponic garden is as healthy as ever and can be expanded if she's given more room. Hoshi thinks she's found a planet nearby where we might be able to trade for some supplies. . .it almost feels like the first year of our mission. Suddenly, I feel like an explorer rather than an warrior. . ."

Porthos lifted his head up and Jon reached down and patted him.

"The nice thing about dogs is that they only worry about the right now," said Jon, "They keep you grounded in the moment. They don't let you worry too much about tomorrow or yesterday."

"When will we reach this planet, sir?"

"Three days," said Jon, "And I can tell you I'm looking forward to getting some fresh air. If the planet proves hospitable, I'm thinking we can stay in orbit for awhile so everyone on board can have some time on surface. R&R has been mostly absent these last few months. I think everyone is long overdue."

"I'll put together a schedule," said T'Pol.


 

Two days later, Hoshi rounded the corner just outside her quarters and nearly tripped when she saw Travis and a young woman in each other's arms. She was a blond MACO and very pretty. They were kissing so enthusiastically that they didn't notice that they were no longer alone.

Hoshi cleared her throat.

"Hi Hoshi," said Travis cheerfully, "How are you?"

"Not as good as you," she said, "Carry on."

Damn, thought Hoshi, Travis sure didn't waste any time as she continued down the hallway and into the gym. There she found Trip running on the treadmill.

"Hi Hoshi," he said breathlessly.

She climbed up on the treadmill next to him.

"I hear you're going with us on the first away mission to the planet," said Hoshi,

"That's right," said Trip, "It feels like old times. Now that the warp engine isn't fried, I can see if they've got anything we could use on the surface. I hear its going to be the captain, Malcolm, you and me going down first."

"Yes," said Hoshi, "T'Pol's going to hold down the fort up here."

Hoshi glanced over at Trip to see if his expression changed at all at the mention of T'Pol's name. The whole ship thought they were involved, though they were both doing their damnedest to try and keep it a secret. Why they would continue to do so at this point, she didn't know.

"How are you holding up?" she asked. "You know, with the never going to see Earth again, stuck back in time on the ship thing."

Trip laughed out loud.

"I suppose it hasn't really hit me yet. It's not like if we hadn't gone through the corridor, we'd be back home. Things haven't changed much. They've just slowed down. And frankly, I was beginning to believe we weren't ever going to get back to Earth. So I guess this is a preferable outcome that what I was thinking. How about you?"

Hoshi slowed down her run to a walk.

"I've been thinking about my family," said Hoshi, "but I'm surprised at how little I'm worried. I guess because I feel like in a hundred or so years someone is going to tell them that I got to live a long, happy life flying around the Expanse. Does that make sense?"

Trip slowed down to a walk as well.

"You know, it's funny, I've been thinking about Elizabeth. Not only hasn't she been born yet - she hasn't died yet. Our descendants might save her life. It kinda lifts the veil of grief. . ."

"Only in the Expanse," said Hoshi quietly, "By the way, I just saw Travis and some MACO in the hallway. They looked about ready to get started on one of those descendants, if you know what I mean."

"Good for Travis. . .was she cute?"

Hoshi shrugged, "I think so. I didn't get a good look at her. But yeah, I think she's worthy of Travis."

"It's hard to believe," sighed Trip, "That there will be children on this ship before we know it. Little Travises running around. I think I'll like that. . .it will cheer the place up."

"What about you?" asked Hoshi, "And thoughts on a Charles Tucker IV?"

Trip stopped walking and caught Hoshi's eye. Was she suggesting herself as the mother of the Fourth?

"Don't flatter yourself, Commander. I was just wondering if you think there's a possibility that Charles Tucker IV will have pointed ears?"

Trip stuttered a little, then was silent. Trip knew all about the gossip, but that didn't make it any easier to respond.

"I'll take that as a maybe," said Hoshi.

"It's not that simple," said Trip, "Dating a Vulcan is hard enough...I can't imagine what it would be like to be married to one."

Hoshi laughed. Normally, she would have left it at that, but the new circumstances had made her bolder about butting into other people's business.

"Well, then maybe you should picture yourself NOT married to T'Pol. And T'Pol married to someone else. How does that make you feel?"

Trip stuttered some more.

"All I'm saying is that none of us are in a position to dither around any more. The survival of Earth depends on all of us... including you and Commander T'Pol . . .getting over ourselves. Interspecies relationships may be hard. But I'll wager the next fifty years of your life will be much harder without T'Pol than with her."

Trip nodded.

"But can I give you a piece of advice?" asked Hoshi. "I've studied Vulcan since I was a child. And that also means studying Vulcans. It should go without saying, that they don't talk about their feelings. Ever. If you try and get her to admit that she cares for you, it's going to be a disaster. If you think she she cares for you, watch her actions. Vulcans show affection. They don't ever verbalize it."

"I'll take that under advisement," said Trip.


 

The night before he was to leave with the away team, Trip decided to ring at T'Pol's door. The last time he had visited her for neural pressure hadn't gone well, but that was before the corridor. BC, before the corridor. Everything was now divided between before and after.

"Come in, Commander" she said.

She was on the floor, legs crossed in front of one of her many candles. She was wearing the red pajamas, which he hadn't seen in weeks. They were his favorite.

Trip walked around and sat down on the other side of the candle.

"How are you?" he said.

Dammit, he thought of Hoshi's good advice too late.

"I mean. ..that's what I mean, how are you?"

T'Pol opened her eyes. Part of her still wanted to fight the emotions that his presence inspired in her. It was pure Vulcan instinct to do so. But that would be illogical given their circumstances. Her life was among humans, now, and though she could never fully become human - she knew that she must make adjustments.

"Under the circumstances, I am holding up well," she said.

"Glad to hear it," he said, "You seem better than you were the last time I saw you. Are you up for a little neural pressure? I sure could use some. . ."

T'Pol caught his eyes. She had made a decision to try something - an experiment, that if it was successful, it would have even more implications for them than their sexual relations.

"I want to try something else," said T'Pol, "Take my hand."

Without hesitation, Trip placed his hand in hers.

"Close your eyes," she said.

He obeyed and suddenly he felt awash in serenity - he felt at peace, no longer alone. He felt loved.

Whoa, I didn't see that coming.

So far, so good. T'Pol knew that humans could form light telepathic links with Vulcans, but she had never heard of a human and a Vulcan forming a mating bond. She didn't even know if they could - but as her mind connected deeper and deeper with Trip's - she thought it might just be possible to bond with him. Gently, she pulled back.

"Wow," he said. He opened his mouth to speak again but found there was nothing that needed to be said. He knew she loved him. He also knew that for a Vulcan, that was not an easy thing to deal with.

T'Pol looked into his eyes, and he kissed her.

She knew he wanted to stay, but she worried that if he did that the bond would go further, become permanent. She didn't know the effect it would have on a human or whether Trip truly understood the implications of forming a telepathic mating bond with her. Marriages could be dissolved, telepathic bonds could not.

But then she suddenly realized he knew all of that, the moment she thought it. The bond, it was already there. She kept kissing him back, and slipped her hand back into his.

It is not too late. But if you stay, the bond may be permanent.

I'm staying.


 

Trip awoke, for the first time, in T'Pol's quarters. Never before had he spent the night here. She was awake. Her face expressionless.

"Good morning," he said.

"Good morning," she replied, "You had better get dressed. You have less than an hour before the away team is to depart."

He kissed her lightly on the lips and began to dress. She followed suit, chatting about the goals of the expedition to the surface and what she would be doing while he was away. It all seemed like very mundane conversation, yet Trip felt as though she was declaring her love to him. He supposed that for a Vulcan, she was.

Vulcans don't talk about their feelings.

You just now realized that, Commander?

A piece of advice from Hoshi. But I don't think she realized why Vulcans don't have to talk about their feelings.

"You were conversing with Ensign Sato about me?" asked T'Pol.

"Well, yeah. She was trying to be helpful," said Trip.

T'Pol didn't answer, but Trip also knew she wasn't mad either.

"You know," said Trip, "I wonder if the captain could learn to perform a traditional Vulcan wedding ceremony."

T'Pol was silent. Trip thought for a moment about getting down on one knee, but that gesture would have no meaning to T'Pol. No, he decided that offering to learn a series of complex Vulcan vows would be the kind of gesture she would find romantic.

Are you proposing marriage?

That depends, are you accepting?

Trip could feel a strange weight lifting from T'Pol's psyche. At that moment, he understood just what she was giving up. Humans were far more tolerant of rebellion against tradition. By marrying him, she was giving up ever being fully accepted by other Vulcans. And she was fine with that. He also knew that had circumstances been different, she might not be so willing. But he was fine with that.

"You'll always be a Vulcan. I don't want you to change. I want you to be true to yourself."

"A traditional Vulcan ceremony would be gratifying. . .but I'll have to start teaching the captain the proper pronunciation."

"We'll need to tell him," said Trip, reluctantly. For some reason, he wanted to keep their relationship to themselves, just for a little while. Trip also sensed just how reticent T'Pol was about drawing attention to her personal life. She may not have cared what the crew thought of her, but she didn't relish the idea of being the center of attention - no matter how positive the attention. Human fussing wasn't going to sit well with her.

"Let's wait a few weeks," said T'Pol, "The captain has enough to worry about without memorizing Vulcan vows."

You know not to tell anyone about the bond?

No, no I won't. It will be our little secret. Big secret.

Trip understood that this bond was a huge Vulcan deal, and something that was not talked about.

"Our relationship is hardly a secret," said Trip, "In fact, most everyone thinks more has been going on than actually has been."

"Still, I see no need to announce it just yet," said T'Pol.

Trip understood.

"Besides," continued T'Pol, "We should probably time our. . .honeymoon to my mating cycle. I expect it within the year. That way the Pon Farr won't interfere with my duties."

Thanks to this new bond, Trip knew better than to crack a joke about Vulcan mating cycles. Pon Farr was serious, potentially deadly business for her. He realized she was also worried for him.

My Pon Farr might trigger a similar cycle in you.

We'll deal with that when the times comes.

T'Pol worried about that. She knew nothing of how the bond or the Pon Farr would affect a human. She even sense a small amount of anticipation in Trip. For Vulcans, the great loss of dignity and control was viewed as a necessary evil. Typical for a human to look upon such an event with - excitement.

Trip, who by now was fully dressed, leaned down and kissed her. To his gratification, the action calmed her irritation.

This isn't going to be so hard.

He thought the words to himself, but realized immediately that she heard them.

Don't be so certain.

"Have a pleasant time on the surface, Commander," said T'Pol.

"You know," said Trip, "Maybe when we're alone you can call me Trip."

With that, he turned around and left her quarters, grateful that there were no stray crew members in the hall.


 

Hoshi and Malcolm were the first two officers to meet at Shuttlepod One.

"How are you, ensign?" said Malcolm.

"Just fine," said Hoshi, "Looking forward to some fresh air, and perhaps meeting some people who don't want to destroy us or rob us or generally make our lives miserable."

Malcolm leaned back against the shuttle and folded his arms.

"I think all this quiet has gone to your head. Just because the people on this planet don't aspire to wipe out all of humanity, that doesn't make them friendly. What have you learned from their transmission?"

"The town is an Ikkarren colony. They are basically traders. Their home world is about 25 light years from here, but they have colonies and freighters scattered all over the Expanse. The captain thinks they could not only provide us with supplies but with information as well."

Hoshi fiddled with the UT.

"There are three separate Ikkaren dialects. I'm working on what appears to be the most common."

"Feels like old times," said Malcolm, "Except now we don't have Starfleet Command or the Vulcans looking over our shoulder. We're on our own."

"It's a little scary. . ." replied Hoshi, "But also kind of exciting. Out here, nobody is sending a rescue party. It's up to us to survive. In a way, it's the biggest challenge any of us has ever faced. . ." she said.

"You don't seem scared," said Malcolm.

Hoshi remembered back to her early days on Enterprise, when she jumped at every engine hiccup and every first contact sent her into a near panic. Now, she felt that whatever the Expanse was going to throw at her, she could handle it. She didn't have a choice. There was no fleeing to the safety of home. Enterprise was home.

"It's like we're pioneers," said Hoshi, "Like an old wagon train from a movie. There's only moving forward...I guess I could let it sink me. But I'm not."

Malcolm searched Hoshi's face for any sign that she was talking herself into this sunny attitude. But she wasn't acting. She really did think they were on an adventure.

"By the way, I saw Travis snogging one Corporeal McKenzie in the hallway. They weren't even trying to be discreet," said Hoshi.

Malcolm lowered his voice and looked around.

"I heard Trip went T'Pol's quarters last night. Except that no one saw him leave. I knocked on his door this morning - he wasn't there."

Hoshi laughed out loud. So much for the worst kept secret on the ship.

"It appears half the crew is screwing all of a sudden - for the good of humanity," she replied.

"What else are we going to do with all this time we've suddenly got on our hands?"

Malcolm and Hoshi's eyes met - he wondered for just a second if he should say something. Ask her for coffee. Coffee, after all, meant sex these days.

They were interrupted with footsteps from around the corner. It was the Captain.

"Hi Captain," said Hoshi.

"Good Morning," said Malcolm, regaining his composure.

"You two look happy this morning," said Jon, "Glad to see you're taking a positive attitude."

Hoshi smiled at the captain.

"Just looking forward to an old fashioned first contact," said Hoshi, "Without the immediate threat of genocide hanging over our heads."

It occurred to Hoshi that the captain was probably the only one on the ship who was unaware of the all the gossip, innuendo and sexual tension that had gripped the ship over the past ten days. Hoshi guessed that he probably didn't even know about Trip and T'Pol, even though he worked closely with them every day. Being captain must be so isolating.

Trip arrived next.

"I hope I'm not late," he said.

"No, right on time," said Jon.

With that, he briefed everyone on their assignments for the day, and they loaded themselves into the shuttlepod. The planet was blue, not Earth blue, but slightly lighter, with a tinge of yellow in the atmosphere. Jon looked down and hoped that things would go smoothly.


 

The away team had been on the surface of the planet for nearly five hours. The settlement was surprisingly large, and quite civilized. The cobblestone streets were clean and well maintained, with lamp posts and benches lining either side. The settlement had been built alone the river and several pleasure craft appear to sail alongside barges and transports. Several elaborate buildings appeared more than a century old, with stylized ornamentation and colored windows. Most of the buildings had elaborate landscape, with blooming flowers overflowing from pots and beds.

There were outdoor markets selling everything from clothing and jewelry to animals and all kinds of exotic, colorful foods. There were also shops selling more high end goods, including art. Most of the people were Ikkaren, but several other species roamed the streets. No Xindi, though.

All in all, these Ikkaren seems sophisticated and civilized, with an interest in art and music as well as science. A small orchestra was playing in a nearby square, and children played by a fountain of pink water. There were some police roaming around, but the settlement generally felt safe.

The Ikkarens themselves were humanoid, with some ridges on their faces and long spindly fingers. Hoshi didn't have a difficult time picking up their language, which she found elegant and suspected it would produce some great literature. There was a poetic meter in their everyday speech.

Malcolm and Trip were still off in the eastern part of the settlement looking to find spare parts for weapons, engines and every other system on the ship. Hoshi had traded some spare conduits for Ikkaren currency, and so she and Jon were sitting in a cafe and sampling the local cuisine. It was surprisingly palatable, even a bit spicy.

"I think this tea might be alcoholic," said Hoshi, as she took a sip.

Jon downed the rest of his.

"I think so," said Jon, "It's not bad. If I wasn't captain I'd have another."

Hoshi flagged down their waitress and ordered another round.

"I won't tell anyone, sir," said Hoshi, "But you do look like you could use another one. And it's not like you can get in trouble with starfleet command anymore."

When the order arrived, Jon lifted his cup and toasted.

"To horrible freedom," he said.

"So," he continued,"what's going on with the crew? How are people handling all this? How is morale?"

Hoshi took a big gulp of her tea, which was indeed fermented somehow, but she wasn't even close to being tipsy yet.

"Strange. . .I suppose if something like this had happened a year ago, people would be more upset. But it's almost like people are enjoying that the time pressure is off. . .that we have over a hundred years before Earth is in danger. . .I don't know."

"I've been thinking about adding more recreation to the ship," said Jon, "Movie night is fun - but I am going to ask Trip about turning Cargo Bay Three into a swimming pool. Maybe put together a water polo team.."

"You're the Captain," said Hoshi, "If the Xindi Aquatics can have spaceships, I'm pretty sure we can manage a pool. It's good exercise, swimming. And we're going to need all the recreational outlets we can get. . .and swimming is good for children, too."

Jon shook his head. Children being born in deep space wasn't a new concept, after all Travis was a boomer. But he never thought he'd be in command of ship filled with children. Moreover, he was in the peculiar position of actually needing his crew to create children. He'd thought about even ordering people to start having them, but that seemed a little much at this early stage. The crew was filled with young people, he hoped nature would take its course soon enough.

"Do you think people are going to start having children soon?" asked Jon, "Since its now part of our mission. As awkward as that is," said Jon.

Hoshi nodded.

"With all the fooling around that's been going on the ship in the last week," said Hoshi, "It's only a matter of time. Tedium plus a sudden limitation of one's options seems to have been quite inspiring."

Jon flinched. As far as he had always been concerned, the personal lives of his crew weren't any of his business as long nothing interfered with the ship's mission. But now the ship's mission and the crew's personal lives had become intertwined in a way that made everything his business. And yet, he didn't want to ask and didn't want to know.

"I wouldn't worry too much about the next generation, sir," said Hoshi, "I'm pretty sure it will take care of itself. And probably sooner rather than later."

Jon gestured toward the Ikkaren children playing in the square.

"We'll have to set up schools and playgrounds on Enterprise. They'll be children - human children, who will live their whole lives on board."

"You know," said Hoshi, "I don't envy Vulcans their long lives. You realize T'Pol is going to watch all of us grow old and die. As Vulcan as she is, that's not going to be easy."

Jon furrowed a bit. He had up until then thought of T'Pol's lifespan as nothing but an asset. It hadn't occurred to him that she would eventually be put in a very lonely position.

"Of course," said Hoshi, "Her children might have much longer life spans, even if they are only half Vulcan."

Jon furrowed again. Ordering T'Pol to create long-lived children was something that he hoped he wouldn't have to do. Hopefully, she would find it logical, under the circumstances. Before he could help it, he tried to picture what a child of his and T'Pol's might look like. Would he or she have pointed ears? Dark hair? For a split second, he also pictured himself making love to his first officer. . .it was a pleasant thought, one that he put out of his mind immediately.

"Phlox is working on ways to combine Vulcan and human genomes. And Human and Denobulan. He's thinking ahead, I guess," said Jon.

Hoshi searched her captain's face. He wasn't revealing much of what he was thinking. But she couldn't blame him. The radically altered circumstances were enough to give anyone whiplash.

Hoshi thought for a moment that a psychologist might have been useful aboard the ship. She would have thought the idea absurd weeks ago, but stress had begun to crack even the coolest, calmest crew members before the corridor.

Hoshi wondered if the captain had someone to talk to. He and T'Pol seemed close, but she wasn't exactly one to lend emotional support. More like suppress-your-emotional support. The captain was friends with Trip, but men like them didn't talk feelings. They talked water-polo or football.

It occurred to Hoshi that the captain probably looked great in his water polo swimsuit. She might enjoy seeing that. . .he was a little old for her, but he was the captain and. . .Hoshi's mind wandered somewhere she didn't want it to go.

The tea might have been stronger than she thought. The captain wasn't an option, thought Hoshi. He'd never think of her that way.

"What do you think of the Ikkarens?" asked the Captain.

"I think we can trust them," said Hoshi, "I think they might make good allies. They seem open to learning about new species."

Jon drank down the last bit of his tea. It felt good to be an explorer again.


 

Three day later, Malcolm lay in sickbay with a particle burn on his hand. Phlox's osmotic eel sucked away at the wound, and Malcolm stared at the ceiling. Standard phasers were best most of the time, certainly more humane but some species didn't respond. Since they didn't know who or what awaited them, Malcolm felt it best to stay prepared and that meant a compliment of particle weapons at the ready. It was unfortunate that one of the disrupters had slightly overloaded during a test.

"Glad to see you are awake," said Phlox, "Your burn is almost healed."

Phlox came and removed the slimy creature from Malcolm's hand. Just then, the MACO called Amanda strolled into sickbay. From where Malcolm sat, she looked perfectly healthy. It didn't stop her from jumping up on one of the bio-beds.

"Hello, Doctor," she said, "I think I've pulled that same muscle again."

Malcolm caught the unmistakable flirtation in her voice. Clearly, the young woman wasn't too broken hearted over Trip and had moved on to, of all people, Dr. Phlox.

"Ouch!" said Amanda as she looked down at Malcolm's hand, "That looks like it hurts. And is slimy. But then...I'm sure Phlox is working his magic on you."

Malcolm felt a little sick to his stomach, but it wasn't from the burns. He hoped he'd be able to get out of there soon.


 

T'Pol opened her eyes and found herself in unfamiliar quarters. She jerked up quickly and remembered that she was in Trip's quarters. She was alone, however. She pulled the covers up over her body and wondered why she had not thought to bring nightclothes with her. Since Vulcans didn't date, she wasn't used to thinking ahead. Trip had obviously not wanted to wake her - likely he had been called to engineering.

T'Pol had never been alone in his quarters before. In fact, she had only been there a handful of times. She looked around at the photographs of his family and engineering manuels. There was also a photograph on one of the early away missions, the one that had culminated in her shooting Trip with a phase pistol. The photograph had been taken before the away mission had devolved so badly. The humans all looked so excited to be exploring a new place, so like their home, yet so different.

There wasn't much in Trip's quarters that surprised her, except the fact that it was so neat. She would have expected more chaos from him, given the state of his emotions. She slowly got up and dressed, breathing deeply. The air felt good in her lungs.

He usually came to her room, but he had invited her to his quarters to watch a movie in private. Date night, he had called it.

He had chosen a black and white film called Ninotchka, starring an actress called Greta Garbo. She played a twentieth century woman who had embraced logic, only to abandon it when she falls in love with a Parisian. T'Pol appreciated the bittersweet ending when the protagonist chooses to stay with her lover than return to her logical, ordered society.

T'Pol looked around the small space. It occurred to her that it was barely enough for one person, let alone two. Her quarters were the same. And these were some of the larger quarters on the ship, besides the captain's. If people were to begin cohabiting, then they would need to reconfigure living quarters. Perhaps they could combine two adjacent quarters, she thought.

Knowing she was needed on the bridge, she exited and headed toward her own quarters. She wanted to change into a fresh uniform, at the very least. She hadn't made it twenty yards down the hall before running into the captain.

"Good morning, T'Pol," said Jon, who was pretending not to have noticed her coming out of Trip's quarters.

Jon knew Trip was in engineering, and so she had been in his quarters alone. That could only mean one thing. I mean, what would she be doing coming out of his quarters first thing in the morning, in the same color uniform she had been wearing the day before? She always rotated colors.

It shouldn't come as a surprise, though Jon, the two had been tight ever since they entered the Expanse. And Trip had made that neural pressure business did sound like it was rather . . .fun.

"Good morning, Captain," said T'Pol.

"Heading to the Bridge?" said Jon, "I'm on my way myself."

"I need to retrieve something from my quarters. I'll be there shortly."

With that, T'Pol slipped away. She wondered for a moment if the captain had noticed her coming out of Commander Tucker's quarters, but she brushed the thought aside. She wasn't yet ready to reveal their bonding, yet, not even to the captain. Besides, there was no reason to think that he would extrapolate anything from such a small bit of information.

She was wrong, of course. As a Vulcan, she was completely oblivious to the human ability to take a small bit of information and imagine entire complex scenarios to fill in the blanks. Jon, as he headed up to the bridge, was doing just that.

Have I really been that clueless? Could his two senior officers, his two best friends on the ship be involved without him realizing it? Small moments flashed into his head. Trip and T'Pol working so well together in the Old West town of North Star. The nearly emotional way T'Pol had reacted when Trip was in a coma. The countless times he had found the two together in the mess hall or working side by side in engineering ... had he really been so dense?

Jon shook off the feeling of jealousy and disappointment. It was hardly appropriate for him to pair off with any member of his crew, let alone his first officer. And if his two best friends could find happiness in this crazy situation they had found themselves in - so be it.

It occurred to Jon that he might well have to spend the rest of his life alone. Such was the burden of command. It was a sad thought, but one he hoped he would come to accept.

 


 

Hoshi, for her part, decided to go for a run - not in the gym - but around the decks that people used for a track. In her head, she was mulling over the fact that with men outnumbering the women on the ship, she had suddenly become an object of great attention. Several male crew members and a few MACOs had already chatted her up.

It was certainly an interesting development, but she wasn't so sure that she liked it. She wanted to fall in love with someone - not hook up with someone because suddenly options were limited.

On the other hand, what better time than to look for love than in a time of crisis?

Hoshi looked down at her watch. She would run for another twenty minutes, and that would be enough. Running on these decks would get old after a few years, so maybe the captain's idea of a pool wasn't such a bad one.

Just then, she heard steps behind her. Someone was running, and overtaking her. Her practiced ear let her know that it was a man's footsteps, and that he was a MACO. Starfleet issue boots make a different sound against the deck plating. She also guessed that it was a male MACO catching up behind her.

Soon, Hoshi realized it was the head MACO, Major Hayes.

"Hello, Ensign," said Hayes.

"Hello, Major," said Hoshi.

"Nice day for a run," he said.

Hayes smiled at her and paced himself so he wouldn't pass her. He had had to quickly change into his running gear after seeing the ensign heading off for a run. Over the past week, Hayes had been seeking an opportunity to speak to her alone, and now he had to grab the opportunity. He was a smart man, and he knew that young Ensign Sato was going to have swarms of young men courting her. But he had also decided, after reviewing all the potential wives aboard the ship, that Ensign Sato would make a fine Mrs. Hayes. She was young, beautiful and brilliant, and she was charming as well. He had admired her pluck during various ordinance training exercises as well.

Hayes wasn't a man to let competition worry him, either. He was a man who, when he wanted something, figured out a way to get it.

"I had a question to ask you, ensign," he said, "Would you be willing to instruct me in the Xindi languages? I figure I'll have to start with Primate or Arboreal - I'm not quite up for Insectazoid. But I figure we're bound to run into Xindi in the next few decades, and I want to be prepared."

Hoshi smiled.

"Sure. I'd be happy to help you learn."

Major Hayes showed no hint of the triumph he was feeling. Multiple language lessons would keep her away from mooning young crewman.

"Good. No time to waste. Shall I meet you in the mess hall at 1900 hours?"

"I'll be there," said Hoshi.

With that, Major Hayes sped past her. He was way too old for awkward small talk, and he saw no reason why he shouldn't leave her wanting more.

As he pulled away, Hoshi admired his stance and the grace with which he ran. He was a little old for her, but then again she had always dated older men back on Earth. It was a thought, anyway.


 

Jon, Trip and T'Pol dined in his private mess that night, something the three of them had done countless times. Trip chatted away about the engines and the parts he had obtained at the Ikkaren colony. T'Pol talked about the feasibility of putting a swimming pool in Cargo Bay 3.

Jon stayed more quiet than usual, studying their interaction for any hint that something was going on between them. They gave no hint. He wondered if it would be polite to ask. Trip wouldn't care, he was sure. But Vulcans sure were tight lipped about their personal lives. Hell, he had always assumed they didn't have personal lives except every seven years.

"There's a betting pool about when the first child will be born," said Trip.

Jon smiled at the one.

"I hear the crew has been busy getting started on that phase of our mission," he replied.

"I bet on on 9 months from last Monday," said Trip.

T'Pol took a bite of her salad, then a sip of the wine. This was the third time Jon had seen her drink since the corridor. I suppose, he thought, that means she isn't pregnant.

"I wouldn't bet against that," said T'Pol.

Jon and Trip both looked at her.

"Meaning that several female members of the crew have inquired with Phlox about labor and delivery in space. He believes that we might need to expand sickbay to make room for a nursery."

Jon sliced a piece of bread, narrowly missing cutting his finger.

"Nine months seems like an inadequate time to prepare for the birth of a child," said T'Pol.

The two men were silent.

"The Vulcan gestational cycle lasts a full Vulcan year," said T'Pol, "Which gives the parents more adequate time to prepare for the child's education."

"I'll bet the best Vulcan schools have long waiting lists," said Archer, half-jokingly.

"Students are accepted based on their scholastic abilities," said T'Pol, "But prior to schooling, parents are responsible for teaching a child reading, math and basic scientific principles."

T'Pol hoped to keep this conversation as impersonal as possible, something she knew would be a losing battle.

"Do Vulcan babies laugh?" asked Trip, who had never seen a Vulcan baby and realized that he might someday be the father of one.

"Yes," said T'Pol, "It is considered unwise to prohibit any expression in an infant that is pre-verbal. However, by the time a child is five or six Vulcan years, we start teaching them basic meditation techniques."

Trip wondered for a moment whether a Vulcan/human child would be more Vulcan or human. Would it be necessary to have the kid start bottling his emotions in kindergarten? He hoped not.

Trip glanced up at T'Pol. She knew exactly what he was thinking. Damn, this telepathy, he thought.

"Sounds like fun," said Archer, "I can only imagine Vulcan playground games.'

"They can be quite complex and intimidating," said T'Pol.

Trip was glad that his offspring weren't going to be raised on Vulcan, and he didn't care one bit that T'Pol knew it.

Do you think the captain knows about us?

If he suspects, he's hiding it well. But I do think he suspects. He saw me leave your quarters this morning.

"Phlox believes that, if we so choose, the he could assist in the the creation of Human/Vulcan hybrid children, as well and Human/Denobulan children," said T'Pol simply.

Trip nearly choked on his wine.

"Well," said Jon, "That's good to know. For you, I mean. And him. . .but not the two of you together."

"I believe Phlox has become romantically involved with a female MACO," said T'Pol.

"Good for Phlox," said the captain, "And it makes sense. From what I know about Denobulans, they don't much care for being alone. . . .so does Phlox know if pointed ears are a dominant or recessive trait?"

The captain was teasing her, but he also thought he noticed a little bit of jealously in Trip's eyes. Yeah, they were definitely an item, thought Jon. Why he even had any doubt, after this morning, he didn't know. But he wasn't going to say anything. They would come forward in their own time. Archer couldn't help wondering if either of them suspected he knew, though.

"He believes they would be a dominant trait," replied T'Pol.

Trip smiled, very broadly. He was picturing his own children with pointed ears. The idea appealed to him. He had come to find pointed ears completely adorable.

"I'll never understand your fascination with our ears," said T'Pol, aloud but response to what Trip was thinking.

Trip was taken aback. It was possible to hide thought from her, he knew that much, but he had to work at it.

"Well, at least in your case, they are really cute," said Trip.

T'Pol raised an eyebrow.

Jon couldn't believe he'd missed the vibe between them until now. They were totally and completely involved. He felt completely left out. And a little lonely.


 

Malcolm told himself that tonight would be the night. He would find Hoshi and casually ask her to tea. Tea or perhaps movie night. Something. Anything. Whatever, the implication would be clear enough. He'd show his interest, politely as any English gentleman would.

If he knew Hoshi's habits, she should be in the mess hall by now. Malcolm inhaled deeply. It was just a date, after all. He was just asking her out on a date. If it didn't work out, well then, it didn't. But he had to try.

Malcolm strolled into the mess hall as he had done countless time, and he tried to look nonchalantly for Hoshi.

He saw her. She was in uniform, seated in the corner. There was one other person at her table. The last person Malcolm would have expected or wanted to see with Hoshi. Major Hayes.

The two were examining PADDs and Hoshi was pronouncing something clearly. It appeared to Malcolm, intelligence officer that he was, that she was teaching Hayes some alien language.

Brilliant, thought Malcolm. I should have thought of that myself.

Hoshi seemed all business, but Malcolm recognized Hayes's alpha-male body language. Hayes didn't give a damn about whatever Hoshi was saying or trying to teach him. Hayes was weaving a web and trying to get poor Hoshi to fall into his trap.

Malcolm could do nothing but pretend he didn't care what he was seeing. He grabbed some food and looked around for an empty table. Suddenly, he wanted nothing more than to be alone.

But there was Travis and his new MACO girlfriend. Travis beckoned with a smile and Malcolm approached.

Great, thought Malcolm, I get to be the third wheel. How depressing. Malcolm smiled and sat down at Travis's table. At least he had a chair that wasn't facing Hoshi and Hayes.


 

Three months later, things remained much the same on Enterprise, as the ship gradually explored the Expanse. Construction on the swimming pool/recreation area was progressing nicely, and the Ikkarens had proved to be excellent allies - providing chef with a bevy of new ingredients for the food as well as much needed parts for engineering.

And everyone aboard the ship was looking forward to the first post-corridor wedding. Travis & Jay Mckenzie weren't wasting a bit of time. It was even widely rumored that she was already pregnant. Major Hayes had agreed to give the bride away.

Since the Expanse wasn't nearly as violent as it was in Enterprise's original time, the MACOs found themselves without a tremendous lot to do. They continued their training, but Major Hayes also allowed his troops to contribute to other areas of the ship. Pool construction, living quarters realignment and even gardening. Hayes didn't think the peace would last, but he also knew that his people would go nuts if they did nothing but train for combat that would be much rarer than it had been.

Hoshi had agreed to be Travis's "Best Person" and Amanda was going to be Jay's "Best Person" - and the chef was baking a special wedding cake as well. Hoshi figured it would be the first of many to come.

She was sitting in the mess hall, alone, studying her Ikkaren. She had gotten the basics down pretty quick, but the language had dialects to spare - and the Ikkarens always appreciated it if someone recognized their specific dialect and used it.

Across the mess, she saw Trip and T'Pol eating together. She watched for any sign of affection between the two, but they appeared to be just colleagues, as they had before the Expanse and before the corridor.

But Hoshi, like everyone else on board, knew better. If you wanted to find Trip at three in the morning these days, everyone knew to ring T'Pol's quarters. They were usually there. Sometimes, she would be found in Trip's quarters. And they always attended meals together. And movie night. Yet, to her knowledge, they have never publicly acknowledged their relationship. It had to be a Vulcan thing, thought Hoshi. They were excessively private people.

Speaking of which, Malcolm strolled into the mess hall, alone as usual. Hoshi beckoned him to sit next to her. Of all the members of the crew, except maybe the captain, Hoshi had heard the fewest rumors about Malcolm in the last months. In fact, she had heard none at all.

Malcolm grabbed his food, and happily sat down next to Hoshi.

"I thought you mastered Ikkaren weeks ago," said Malcolm.

"Just the eastern dialect," said Hoshi, "Now I'm working on the northern. It's got a more lilting cadence."

"I hear you're in the wedding," said Malcolm, "That's exciting."

"I was really flattered when Travis asked me," replied Hoshi, "Do you have a date yet?"

For a moment, Malcolm hoped she was asking him.

"I'm taking Joss. .. Major Hayes. He's giving the bride away."

Malcolm tried not to look crestfallen, but she might as well have kicked him in the shins.

"You've been seeing a lot of him lately," said Malcolm.

"It's going to be a long journey," said Hoshi, "It's nice to have company."


 

T'Pol and Jon had spent hours looking over reports and logs. During the first part of the Xindi mission, it had been stressful but none of the logs were boring. Now, it was just tedious and more tedious reports about nothing interesting. Even the Ikkarens, with all their rich cultural traditions, were fully accustomed to meeting other species and all of their contacts had passed without incident.

One thing that had interested Jon over the past few hours was the ring T'Pol was wearing around her left ring finger. It appeared to be platinum, with tiny Vulcan lettering around it and a stone that turned from purple to blue as T'Pol moved her hands.

Jon was positively sick of pretending the romance between his two senior officers didn't exist - no matter what her Vulcan sensibilities. If she was going to sport what appeared to be an engagement ring, she was going to have to field a few inquiries.

"That's a beautiful ring," said Jon, casually, "I assume it is new."

T'Pol looked up. So, he had finally decided to ask.

"It was a gift from Commander Tucker," she said, "He purchased from an Ikkaren jeweler some weeks ago. The man did an excellent job with Vulcan script."

Jon looked at her face. No expression. She had to know what the ring meant. Didn't Vulcans have wedding rings? Engagement rings? He didn't know.

"Vulcan is a complex language. . .the pronunciations are difficult," said T'Pol.

Jon was too impatient to let her get where she was going.

"You do realize that's an engagement ring, don't you?" asked Jon.

"Yes," said T'Pol.

"But you and Trip haven't even publicly said you are together. . ."

"That is unnecessary. It is my understanding that the whole ship already knows. Phlox brings it up every time I go to sickbay."

Jon thought for a moment about how to counteract that argument. It was true that the whole ship already knew. He may have been the last to know but he knew. Why was it so necessary that they make an announcement?

"So, you and Trip. . . you're going to be married."

"Eventually, yes," said T'Pol, "Trip doesn't want to 'steal Travis's thunder' with a big announcement just yet. Plus it will take him weeks to learn the Vulcan vows," said T'Pol.

"By the way," she continued, " The ceremony is complex. For you to perform it in Vulcan, you will need to begin studying. Would you be willing to do so? The Universal Translator would take some of more nuanced meaning out of it."

Jon sat back in his chair. He knew weddings were going to be a big part of his life from now on, but he hadn't expected to perform one in Vulcan.

"Trip wants the ceremony in Vulcan. He believes it to be a gesture of acceptance of my culture."

"That's very romantic."

T'Pol paused. Romance was something of an alien concept to her, but she was learning. And leaning to appreciate Trip's flare for it.

"Yes," she said.

"We'll," said Jon, "I'm happy for you two. Congratulations."

Jon briefly thought to broach the subject of a Vulcan/human child. It would be a good asset to the ship - but now wasn't the time. Now was the time to just be happy that people were getting on with their lives.

"Thank you," said T'Pol. "Is there anything else?"

"No," said Jon.

With that T'Pol slipped back to the bridge to finish her shift.


 

Later that evening, Jay McKenzie approached T'Pol in the hallway. The Vulcan had barely spoken five words to the young woman, and she didn't know what she could possibly want.

"Excuse me, Commander," said Jay, "But Travis asked me to ask you for a favor."

T'Pol blinked.

"Well, you see, there's a human tradition. A bride is supposed to wear something something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue. I've got a new pair of shoes from the Ikkaren colony, and I've got a string of pearls that once belonged to my grandmother. But I don't have a veil - and I've seen you wear this really beautiful shimmering blue scarf sometimes - and you can say no if you want to - but Travis thought it would not only make a great veil, it would be something borrowed and something blue. You'd get it back right after the wedding, I promise."

T'Pol thought for just a moment. She believed she knew the scarf to which the young MACO was referring. It was aesthetically striking.

"I'd be happy to let you - borrow the scarf," said T'Pol.

Jay looked down at T'Pol's ring finger.

"That's a gorgeous rock, Commander," she said, "May I see?"

T'Pol raised her hand. Jay gasped aloud.

"What a beautiful stone," she exclaimed. She held up her own ring finger, on which she was wearing a diamond ring. T'Pol recognized the traditional human style.

"It was Travis's grandmother's ring," she said, "Can you believe he'd been carrying it with him ever since she died - just waiting for the right girl to come along. . . Did Commander Tucker have that one made for you? It's just amazing...very you."

T'Pol stared at the young woman. She had no clue how to respond.

"Yes, Commander Tucker obtained it at an Ikkaren settlement."

"Well, it's really, really terrific. Congratulations by the way. And when it's your turn to be the bride -- you can borrow anything of mine you need. . .oh, and Amanda is throwing me a soiree the night before the wedding. We're making jello shots . . . you're more than welcome to come."

T'Pol blinked. She had no idea what a jello shot was.

"We'll, I'd best be going. Later," said Jay as she slipped down the corridor.

T'Pol knew for certain she wouldn't be attending that party, though she found herself slightly touched that the young woman had invited her.

 


Comments:

Dinah

You're doing a nice job of showing the transition the crew would have had to make to survive in the E2 universe.  Malcolm needs to get a move on.  There are a lot more men on Enterprise than women.  Good chapter!

Silverbullet

Great start Honeybee.  Only nit I have is that I would have liked a wedding ceremony performed by Archer in Vulcan.  Would also be intereting to have a complete Vulcan wedding ceremony.

More stories, pkease

bluetiger

I'm glad to see you here as well. Since you already know I love this, I'll just say welcome to triaxian silk.

Honeybee

Thanks for the encouragement, everyone. I'm glad this story has found a home among friends. 

Asso

Usually I don't like AU, and less than less E2: I think  it is a mere makeshift. But, this said, your story is really agreeable. You know, personally I find the "so said" Vulcan Logic  very disturbing, false and unnatural, so it's difficult for me to read with light heart that T'Pol is pondering "logically" about which better male there could be for her on Enterprise, but you were capable of making this very agreeable.:p
I'm happy you are with us and, even more, that you wanted to gratify us with such a nice story.:D

Alelou

Ditto, Honeybee!  I like your new moniker!

Middleman

:) Good to see your story here! :p

Reanok

Honeybee I really like this story. i really like E2 stories and look forward to seeing how you continue this series. I like the romantic relationship you've written for Trip and T'Pol in your story and their upcoming wedding.

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