Notes: Thanks you to all who have been following my story.  I hope you will enjoy how I've ended it, as much as you have the chapters that have come before.  Phyllis Christie, the Lattelady

Rating:  very high PG-13 due to adult situations

As always:  sections marked with ** and hopefully in italics** will be memories, dreams or something from the past and 'italics' are thoughts.

To Monica:  This chapter is dedicated to my wonderful beta reader.  I added the conversation and interaction you requested, thanks for the help.

Ch 15 And The Stars Shall Light The Way

Dr. Phlox had been putting long hours of his personal time into a special research project and it was finally beginning to give him results.  The practice of Denobulan medicine was firmly based in prevention and the use of natural substances. Like all of his species, he believed it was much better to deal with the cause of an illness or disability, than to clean up the mess afterward. For that reason, genetic engineering was a corner stone of medical arts on his world. 

He had begun his project for two reasons, and liked to think the most important had been intellectual curiosity. It had started with a body Enterprise had found on a derelict ship floating in space.  It was speculated that both the craft and its pilot were from the future.  The genotype of the dead man appeared to be the product of many different alien species, some of which could not have produced a child without help from the scientific community.

'The second reason,' he smiled sadly to himself, 'well the second reason may no longer exist.'  He had seen a growing attachment between Captain Archer, clearly Human, and Sub-Commander T'Pol, very definitely Vulcan.  The part of him that wanted only good things to happen to good people had speculated that one day they might join and want to have a child.  If that were to happen, they would need considerable help from a branch of medicine, which given the political climate, would likely be against it.

The Doctor fed his latest findings into the computer.  Again and again his stumbling block had been how to engineer a healthy offspring when one parent had iron as the basis of his oxygen caring blood cells and the other had copper.

While he waited for the analysis of his latest attempt, he worked on another of his interests, his growing fascination with Humans and how they interacted under stress. "Computer, Medical Log continued."  He cleared his throat and put his feet up as he began to speak:

            "I've noticed an interesting phenomena over the last four weeks.  It began with the attack on Earth by an unknown probe.  Humans, the most emotional and erratic species I've had the pleasure of working with to date, seem to close themselves off emotionally when faced with a crisis of this magnitude and uncertainty.

            A closer look at some of them, led to the enlightening discovery, that not all emotions were being shut down, just the ones that were beneficial to their happiness. Anger and aggression are present, but so far have been confined to socially acceptable areas.  I've treated countless injuries from over exertion in the gym.

            Many of the crew are exhibiting classic symptoms of depression, while others appear to have hardly been touched by the incident.  The one thing that is true of them all is that they are following a typical Human pattern of grieving, but everyone is at a different stage.  Strangest of all, the strong sense of community, which is typical of Humans everywhere they go, is missing.

            Commander Tucker is a prime example.  He carries his pain close at all times. It helps him push away the two people who need him the most and could be a comfort to him, if his worst fears are confirmed, and his sister was indeed killed in the attack.   Since he is the man behind Movie Night, it's been an easy task to judge how he was faring mentally by the films he would inflict on the crew each Tuesday night.

            We've sat through two of them depicting Earth's Second World War.  He seemed particularity fond of showing ones that centered on the attack of Pearl Harbor.  I've seen an actor called John Wayne, of all the odd names for a hero; seek revenge for the damages done during that battle, twice now.

            I'm not sure how to judge last week's movie.  Someone, possibly the Captain, encouraged him to change his subject matter.  Instead of more traditional war movies we were treated to the first part of a three-part epic of good over evil.  This was a delightful and moving story called The Lord Of The Rings, The Fellowship Of the Ring.  I for one can't wait to see tonight's installment of the trilogy, though I believe some of the characters hit a bit close to home for two of the viewers.

            Captain Archer and Sub-Commander T'Pol had made it a habit to enjoy the movies together since the first time he was able to drag her to the viewing of Frankenstein, a number of months ago.  But after the probe's attack on Earth, and the recall of Enterprise, the Captain has put a distance between them. A week ago, the Sub-Commander had attended with Hoshi.  The ladies were sitting directly in front of me, so I couldn't help overhearing T'Pol's response when the elf Arwen told Aragorn the Human, that she would gladly trade her immortal life for a mortal one, to be spent with him.  It was evident that the Sub-Commander had read the book and the passage was not in it, by her anxious whisper to her companion.

            The Captain's response had been more interesting.  He got up and left! It was a most telling turn of events.  Though even more enlightening was the tilt of T'Pol's head as her eyes followed his back out of the Mess Hall, and the comforting pat on the hand she received from Hoshi.

            I have been observing Archer and T'Pol as their feelings for one another have built over the last two years, the same can be said for Ensign Sato and Commander Tucker, but in this time of stress instead of turning to the person who could be the most support to them, the men in particular, appear to be cutting themselves off from the women who they need the most.  I believe it is what Humans call 'licking their wounds'.

            There is a notable exception to all this.  Lt. Reed, the last man who I would have expected to become involved with someone at this time of impending war, seems to have finally noticed that lovely Ensign Morgan.  The woman has had a crush on him for eons, and it has taken this disaster to bring them together.  Though they are both too reserved for a show of public affection, I did notice them holding hands in the darkened movie.  Besides I am a Denobulan male, and can pick up the scent of pheromones a mile away.  I wonder if I should take it upon myself to speak to them.  If they don't act on the urges they are suppressing, soon the entire crew will know about it.

            Ahhh Humans, such an interesting species, and with a Vulcan thrown in the mix, it adds a variable that makes it all the more interesting to watch their behavior.  It's unfortunate that because of my regard for the people involved I find I am unable to write a paper for the IME, my colleagues would find it most enlightening.

We are due to arrive in Earth's orbit in sixteen days.  It should be interesting to see how getting 'home' and the verification of the damage will effect the crew."

Phlox reached for his cup of tea and realized that while he'd been adding to his log, the main computer had finished its analysis.  "Yes, yes, very good."  He mumbled to himself as he read the results,"99.5% viability, very good indeed."  The secret had been in finding the right combination of red and green blood cells and reengineering the bone marrow to create them in the correct proportion.  Once that was done it had been a simple matter to tag them so white blood cells didn't mistake them as a foreign body to be attacked and wiped out.

"Computer, place all files in Phlox research study number 10, under password Future Perfect, voice lock it with access allowed only to myself, Sub-Commander T'Pol and Captain Archer, verify using voice prints stored in Security."

"Dr. Phlox are you in?"

"Coming."  He quickly turned off his screen and left his office.  "Sub-Commander, what can I do for you this evening?"

"I would like an analgesic for a headache."  She stood straight and watched him as he picked up his medical scanner.

"Hmmm, this is the third one you've had since we've headed back toward Earth."  The Doctor scanned her carefully.  After her bout of fever brought on by a microbe she'd picked up on a planet they'd been exploring, he was keeping a watchful eye on her health.  "Your hormones are back to normal and have been for the last ten days."

"I am well aware of that Doctor."  T'Pol's brow arched in challenge.  For two weeks after her fever, her body had been in disharmony with her mind, and it had gone through some physical changes it would have been hard for her to miss. The experience gave her new respect for her Human counterparts that went through the unusual mind and body changes every 28 days.  "You need not worry, I am back to where I was before the incident."

"Physically perhaps, but what you went through would have been hard on anyone."  He scanned her one last time, but still the readings were the same.

"I am Vulcan, and perfectly capable of putting it all behind me."  Even as she spoke, she wondered if that were truly so.  Her premature Pon Farr, had triggered more than her hormones.  It had given life to odd dreams that were almost like memories.

"But I'm not."  Phlox picked up a hypospray and injected her with a muscle relaxant at the base of the neck. "If I hadn't been able to synthesize an antidote, you might have died.  What do I do when your body goes through that naturally?"  He could see her stiffen at the question.  Vulcans didn't discuss their sexuality with outsiders.  There was nothing in any database that he knew of that covered their mating rituals or body cycles.

"You need not worry about it."  She turned to go.  To talk of such private matters even to a physician was unheard of.

"T'Pol, please, I know this is difficult for you, but it can't be any worse than having to watch you go through it."  He had protected her as best he could at the time, though he suspected that Lt. Reed had seen more than either of the officers would have liked.

"I believe you were correct when you deduced that the fever caused by the microbe, could only be cured by destroying the pathogen that created it."  She licked her lips remembering bits and pieces of what had happened while locked in decon with the physician. "I am an unbonded female.  It was unnatural for me to be in the condition I was in."  She believed that the Pon Farr symptoms she had felt were a small dose of what Vulcan males experienced every seven years. But since they are usually bonded when it happens, there is another mind and body to support the process.  For the first time she realized why it could kill a male if he did not mate.  The loneliness, pain and wash of emotions in a singular Pon Farr would be a death sentence to even the strongest.  Though a fight to the death was said to alleviate the symptoms, it was not something her experience allowed to imagine.

"Something as simple as the bonding ceremony can cause that response?"  A number of years ago, Phlox has spent three years doing research on an isolated space station in the Vega system, with a bonded couple. There was never a hint in their relationship that they had experienced anything of the magnitude that he had observed in T'Pol.

"The actual ceremony is irrelevant, except for its political, and legal aspects. All the words spoken by priests will make no difference, unless the couple involved has already formed an attachment.  Now if you will excuse me, I am needed elsewhere."

"Wait, one more question, if I may."  An idea was eating away at Phlox and it had been ever since T'Pol had told him about Pon Farr.  "If I understand this correctly, an unbonded Vulcan could in theory become attached to anyone, even if no formal bonding had taken place?"

She stopped as the words sunk in.  It took her a moment to gain tight control of something deep in her that wanted to roar to the surface.  "A male will go through Pon Farr every seven years of his adult life. Your hypothesis would be limited to females, but none-the-less it is theory only.  Vulcans do not dabble in casual contact of mind or body.  For a bond to be created, some physical, and a good deal of mental intimacy are necessary."

"Most interesting."  Phlox remembered seeing her sleeping in Archer's arms months ago.  He knew how the Captain felt about her, and couldn't help wondering about the deep abiding trust she displayed for the Human.  When she had been suffering in decon, it had been Archer she had called out to on more than one occasion.  That in itself had made the doctor wonder about their closeness.  This new information about Vulcan mating habits only confirmed what he believed, that somehow, T'Pol and Jonathan Archer had become bonded.  Since it was against everything Vulcans believed, T'Pol was in denial and until she saw the truth for what it was, Archer was left in the dark as to what had happened.

"Doctor, what I have told you was to relieve your worry.  It is not public knowledge and I wish it to remain that way."  She stood straight with her hands cupped behind her back, and had never looked more Vulcan.  It was hard for Phlox to picture the woman before him going through the anguish he had seen her display only a few weeks ago.

"I am a firm believer in doctor-patient confidentiality, Sub-Commander, your secret is safe with me."  He smiled as he moved to a more comfortable topic.  "Are you planning on attending tonight's movie?"

"No, I am not."  The story had been fascinating and visually it had been pleasant, but she had found it unsettling to watch a creature that looked so Vulcan express so much emotion.  "Now at least I understand the Human's fascination with my specie's ears.  Good evening, Doctor."

………………………

The trip home had been stressful for the entire crew.  Despite angry Klingons and interference from the Suliban, Enterprise was finally in a parking orbit high above Earth.  Archer had been called to an emergency meeting at Star Fleet Headquarters in San Francisco almost as soon as they had arrived.  No one knew how long he'd be gone, but they all waited with quiet resolution, almost as if they were aware that whatever was decided could very well be a hinge point for humanity.

Star Fleet had sent photos of the area hit by the probe, hours after the attack, when it was still a burning trench, and then a week later when the fires were finally extinguished. But watching from orbit, while the damaged area slowly slid past, had taken many by surprise. T'Pol had heard Ensign Morgan say that seeing it like that, finally made it real to her.  The statement had no logic, but the Vulcan had read the same reaction in many of the crew.

……………………..

T'Pol turned over in bed, her mind seeking until it found a trace of the one she sought.  Her thoughts traveled over distances that could not be marked by any physical science in the known universe.  It was as if time and space had looped upon itself, then wrapped around her until she was carried to a place that could not exist according to the Vulcan Science Directorate.

**'Jonathan,' her thoughts whispered to the future, as the Human covered her body with his and held her close.  For a moment she began to panic as logic tried to reassert itself. 'You said I was not to remember.'

'Easy Love, the time is growing near for you to remember and believe.'  The sure grasp of their bond calmed her. 'Be strong and trust me.' He kissed her as she held him tightly to her. "Know I was and will always be with you.' **         

A sharp knock on her door woke her from a dream that could not be!  They were becoming harder and harder to block with meditation, and she was spending more time staring into a candle flame that brought her no peace. It took her a moment to realize the knock had been real and not part of a disjointed dream.

"Come in."  She shivered as she wrapped her blanket around her shoulders to give her warmth.  She knew without a doubt who was on the other side of her door and this was not the best time to be seeing him.

"T'Pol, I'm sorry to bother you so late, but I need to talk with you."  Jonathan Archer stood silhouetted in the open hatch.  He was still wearing his uniform and it was evident he had just returned from the surface.

"How did your meeting go with Admiral Forrest?"  She slid into the far corner of her bed, as he sat on the end of it.  She had a clear memory of them like that after they had defeated the cybernetic aliens that had escaped from Earth's artic circle.  Something had passed between them that night, which she chose to ignore. After her unusual dream tonight, she knew she needed to keep distance between them, or things would come to light that she was trying very hard to submerge.

"I think he believed me, but the final decision will be made by Command."  Jonathan leaned back against the bulkhead and turned his head toward the woman who was huddled as far away from him as she could get without moving across the room.  He wanted to ask her if she finally believed him, but every time they discussed what had happened on the Suliban ship, it created a conflict in her that was painful to watch.  There were times when he thought he could feel her butting her head against a mental wall. "I should know in the next few days if they'll let us go after the Xindi.  Soval was there, he said the coordinates I got from the Suliban were in the Delphic Expanse, ever hear of it?"

"No, there was no mention of it in Enterprise's Vulcan database. I checked for all information on those coordinates the day you gave them to me.  What did the Ambassador have to say about this Expanse?"  It was logical that the highest-ranking Vulcan on Earth was at the meeting, but since neither Earth, Vulcan nor the Captain, had required her presence, T'Pol had gone to bed early. She knew she would have to face the Ambassador sometime in the next few days, but it was important that he not be able to read the uncertainty that dogged her waking hours and the emotion that filled her sleep.  

Archer grunted and shook his head.  "Ya know I've noticed that there are a lot of things missing from that database."

"That has come to my attention as well."  She leaned forward and reached for his hand, but pulled back before hers made contact.  "I gather that Ambassador Soval tried to dissuade you from going."

"That's an understatement."  He smiled sadly at her.  "When the talking finally stops and Star Fleet Command realizes we're their best chance, I get the feeling Soval won't allow a Vulcan aboard." 

"But surely nothing has changed in two years.  He felt it was necessary for one of us to accompany you before, why not now?"  It took her breath away to think of all those that she had become close to, going on this dangerous mission and leaving her behind.

"Maybe he thinks it'll stop me, but it can't.  There's too much at stake for anything to keep me from going."  He watched her, as her eyes grew huge and she fought to keep her face free of all emotion.  "T'Pol do you understand what I'm trying to tell you?"

"Jonathan…"  For a moment she felt what he felt and her thoughts brushed against his in a way she had tried to deny for months.

"Shhhh it's okay."  His fingers touched her lips to keep her from saying the words he felt.  As long as they remained unspoken, nothing would change between them and now, more than ever, he needed it that way.  "We both should get some sleep, I'll see you in the morning."  He left her quickly before he could change their minds.  As much as he wanted her, he knew that he couldn't be with her if it meant abandoning Earth.

…………………….

In a small cabin on B deck another man knocked at a door and was let in.  "Malcolm is everything all right?"  Graham Elizabeth Morgan hugged him as he entered.  She knew he'd been waiting up for the Captain's return and hadn't expected to see him that evening. It felt strange and a bit daring to find him on her doorstep and even more so to have let him in, since she was dressed for bed in a tank top and pajama bottoms. They had been playing it careful and smart up until now, and had avoided being alone in either's quarters since temptation was growing stronger everyday.

"You know I can't talk about what's going on, until the Captain does."  As he put his arms around her, he rested his forehead against hers but not before grinning at her pink polished toenails. 'Oh yeah she was a girly-girl all right.'  And for the life of him he couldn't understand why he'd always found them irritating.

"I'm asking about you, not the ship, silly."  She smiled at him.  Malcolm took himself too seriously at times and Graham was working hard to change that.

"Sorry, I should know better by now." He shrugged, unsure why he was unable to let his guard down.  He trusted her as much as he'd trusted any woman, but something in him just wouldn't allow him to let go.  "I promised Trip I'd go to Florida with him tomorrow, and frankly I'm dreading it."

"Hoshi is the one who should go with him."  Graham couldn't understand why the Commander was suddenly pushing her friend away, when just a few weeks ago he'd gone to great lengths to be alone with her. "She loves him and from what I've seen he loves her.  She would be able to give a lot more emotional support than even his closest male friend.  Somehow I don't see a sports metaphor being very helpful at a time like this."

"I know, I tried to tell him, but he wouldn't listen to me."  Malcolm sighed, he had never really understood affairs of the heart, but from what he could see, Trip was mismanaging his.  "He mumbled something about keeping her safe, which didn't make the slightest bit of sense to me.  Though I can understand why he'd want to do that."

"Earth isn't any safer than Enterprise."  She felt him stiffen as she spoke about something she shouldn't have had any knowledge of.  "If we fail, or they don't send us, our planet is doomed.  And you can stop glaring at me like that Malcolm Reed."  Tears filled her eyes, when he looked at her with doubts, but she needed to clear some things up, and there was no time like the present!  "I may only be an Ensign but I'm not stupid.  None of us on this ship are.  Enterprise is the only ship capable of reaching warp 5, whoever hit Earth with that probe will be back for more, and it's up to us to stop them!"  She pulled out of his arms and moved to her small view port.  He'd hurt her badly with his doubts.

"Graham," he whispered as he cupped her shoulders and pressed his body against her back.  "I'm sorry."  He kissed the top of her head and leaned his nose into her hair.  She always smelled subtly of roses and he'd come to enjoy it more than he wanted to admit.

"Just don't ask me to stay behind."  She turned in his arms, blinking to hide tears she couldn't seem to control.  "Don't ask me to be less than I am, and I won't ask you either."

"I'd do almost anything to keep you safe."  His thumb ran gently under her left eye to catch the dampness that had escaped.

"I don't want to end up like Trip and Hoshi, both wanting to be together, but one of them always afraid of getting hurt."  Graham leaned into him and gently kissed his neck.  "Stay with me tonight, I don't know what we've been waiting for, and who knows how much longer we'll have."

"I've wanted to make love to you for weeks, but I'm a soldier and I can't give you any promises beyond right now."  He wasn't sure how the conversation had gone from the safe topic of ship's business to the very slippery one of feelings, so swiftly.  But he knew that what he said and did in the next few minutes would have a major impact on his life.

"Malcolm, you're more than a soldier, you're a warrior."  She smiled as she pulled him over to her bunk.  "But you're also the man I want.  One or both of us could die tomorrow, that's the way life is.  I don't want that to happen without making the most of the time we have now."  She sighed, suddenly shy, and unsure of herself.  "The only promise I want from you is that you'll always be honest with me.  If you want to move on or there is another woman, you'll tell me and not play games."

"That's one promise I can give you," it was hard for him to imagine letting her go for any reason. He pulled her close and slid his hands under the tank top she had worn to bed.  "What's this?"  His hand stopped when it come in contact with a warm metal ring in her navel.

"You've just discovered my wild side."  She chuckled in embarrassment and hid her face against his shoulder.  The navel ring had been a small act of defiance the night before Enterprise had left port.  She still wasn't sure why she'd done it, but never in the two years that she'd had it, did she regret it, not that anyone but her had seen it until now.

"Somehow I never pictured you as a wild woman."  He laughed at her shocked expression, "but I think I may have to reassess my position on that."  His fingers played with the small yellow gold hoop that she had in the upper rim of her navel, while she slowly unzipped his jumpsuit.  "You're a picture in contradictions and that is about the sexiest thing I've ever seen.  All good girl on the outside, but underneath there's passion and fire."

"Malcolm, I think you've been hanging out with the wrong type of women."  She whispered, but it caught in her throat as he pulled her tank top over her head and ran his hands over her body.

"You may be right about that."  He caught her as her knees gave out and followed her down to the bed. 

…………………

Much later he held her close, their bodies damp from exertion and sated from pleasure. "I'm glad you bothered to show me the error of my ways."  He whispered as he kissed her and marveled at the unexpected women he'd found under her feminine, rather conservative outer shell. 

Graham's very fair redhead skin was flushed and she could hardly keep her eyes open.  "Caught you by surprise did I?"  She grinned up at him.  "Hoshi says handcuffs are great, I'd like to try that."  She giggled obviously punch drunk with passion.

'Hoshi, handcuffs?'  Malcolm's mind froze. The words didn't fit in the same sentence, anymore than they did with Graham.  He must have misunderstood her.  "You're kidding, right?"

"Hhhmm, no," heavy lidded gray eyes fought to stay open.  "Is that too weird for you?"

"No, it's just that it's hard to picture, that's all."  Then suddenly he could picture her like that and desire pounded in his blood.  He rolled her beneath him and gripped her wrists as he pulled them high above her head. Her eyes flashed and he gently nibbled at her lips.  "In my experience it takes a woman who is very casual about sex to play games like that, and there is nothing casual about you."

"I think you have too much experience in some things and not enough in others."  She stretched her neck to kiss his chin inches above her. "What about a woman who trusts you completely because she loves you?  Because I do, I love you, Malcolm."

"Graham.." He pulled her closer as he felt warmth burst though him, to all the hollow empty places he'd carried with him for so long.  He wanted badly to tell her that he loved her too, because he was sure he did, but it seemed too much like a promise he wasn't sure he could keep, and he'd just given her his word he wouldn't do that to her.

 …………………………..

Three days later Archer received final word from Star Fleet: the mission was on.  At the same time a formal communiqué arrived from the Vulcan Embassy for Sub-Commander T'Pol.

"You wanted to see me, Captain."  T'Pol had been called to his Ready Room when she reported for her shift.

"Yes, sit down," he indicated absent-mindedly and began pacing.  "I just heard from Admiral Forrest. As soon as they finish Enterprise's armament refit and technical upgrades, we are ordered to head for the Delphic Expanse."  He'd been relieved when he'd returned from his initial meeting with the Admiral and Soval, three days earlier, and found techs and munitions specialists swarming his ship, as promised.  For once it looked like someone had cut the bureaucratic red tape.  "We're on a tight timetable, if all goes well we'll leave Earth's orbit by noon the day after tomorrow."

"What is it you are not telling me?"  Even if she had not been able to pick up the erratic emotions that he was unable to suppress, she would have known by the way he paced and swung his arms that there was a problem.

"This arrived for you, an hour ago."  He looked down at her and handed over his pocket computer, the one he always carried.  He'd downloaded her message from Enterprise's main communication board at the same time he'd gotten his from Forrest.

"Thank you," T'Pol reached stiffly for the small device and stood to move to the view port as she read it.  She blinked as the words jumped off the screen and for just a moment let the silence in the room surround her. She realized that if she were a woman who let herself feel emotions, she would hate the device in her hands; it had brought her too much unwelcome news over the last year.  "Do you know what this says?"

"I can't read Vulcan, and even if I could, I don't read other people's mail."  He shrugged and wished she'd turn around so he could see her face.  "Though I've got a pretty good idea of its content."

"The High Command's official stand is that no Vulcan shall enter the Delphic Expanse.  I am being reassigned."  She stood very straight. When she was sure her expression was blank, and showed nothing of the inner turmoil that made her stomach clench, she turned to face him.  "It would appear you were correct.  The order is signed by Ambassador Soval."

Even though he'd been expecting it, the news was like a punch in the gut, but Archer was determined not to let it show. He was not going to tarnish the good memories by a display of emotions here at the end.  Weeks ago when he'd first learned of the attack on Earth he'd known that everything had changed.  She was the only women he'd every wanted to spend his life with and now that could never be.  He doubted he'd ever see her again and was damned if he was going to make this difficult for her.  He forced a smile, and though he knew it was wrong, reached out for her in the only way she would find acceptable.

"It's been a pleasure having you aboard Enterprise, Sub-Commander."  He cupped her shoulders and had to fight to keep from pulling her closer.

"Thank you, Captain." The formal sound of his words did not ring true to her ears.  "It has been an interesting experience."

"I bet it has."  His eyes twinkled as he thought of all the fun they'd had over the last two years. Then he grew sober and gripped her tighter for one last time.  "I wish you luck in your new position."

For just a moment, they stared at each other.  There was nothing in the universe but the two of them, as they brushed so close they could have almost been one, though neither of them moved an inch.  Jonathan nodded as if he'd heard a far off voice.  His arms dropped to his sides and he watched as T'Pol walked silently out of his office.  It wasn't until later that he realized she was still carrying his pocket computer.

……………………..

T'Pol had worked hard most of the day, trying to forget the new orders that were sitting on her desk.  She finally ended up in Sickbay.  It had seemed natural to seek out the only other alien aboard.  But their conversation had left her feeling hollow inside.  It was evident the Doctor was staying with Enterprise and had gone as far as to suggest she defy the High Command and do so herself.  The question he'd posed had been unsettling especially in light of the dreams that had been plaguing her lately.

'Does your allegiance lie with the High Command or Captain Archer?'  Phlox's words whispered through her mind and made her wonder what he knew that he was not talking about. 'What had she said or done when she was out of control during Pon Farr that might lead him to suspect ... suspect…suspect…What could he possibly know that she did not?'  When her hands began to shake, she realized it was almost 1500 hours and she had eaten nothing all day.  'That is the problem, I am hungry,' she nodded accepting a physical reason for the physical response that she found disconcerting. 

It was unsettling to discover the usually busy Mess Hall, deserted. Everyone had things to do, in preparation for the mission ahead.  Everyone except the Science Officer, she was being left behind!  For the first time in two years T'Pol felt alone and cut off from her shipmates.  Jonathan had hardly spoken to her since their meeting in his Ready Room that morning. Even now, he and Admiral Forrest were doing a flyby of the NX-02 at the orbital shipyard.  As she sipped her tea she could still feel his hands on her shoulders and see the look on his face as he had wished her well in her new endeavors.  'Very soon she would be back on Earth, living at the Vulcan Compound.  Why did the thought cause her throat to close until she could hardly swallow, and a tightness to burn across her brow?'

"May I join you Sub-Commander?"  Trip Tucker shuffled to the table by the window where she had been sitting gazing at the stars.  When he had first come in he thought she was ignoring him, but he soon realized her mind was occupied.

"If you like," she nodded toward the seat opposite her.  It was strange, 'that was where Jonathan usually sat during their late night talks.'  But the talks had stopped with the Xindi attack.  Now, instead of meeting Archer at midnight, she settled for late afternoon, and the Chief Engineer who looked a bit the worse for wear.

"What ya doin' here so late in the day?" 

"I was consumed by my work and missed my usual meal time."  She sipped her tea and tried to think of a polite way to tell the man he offended her sensitive Vulcan sense of smell.  It was odd, she had spent long periods of time with Jonathan but instead of noticing the sharp Human odor that had been so distasteful to her in the beginning, she found his scent soothing.  Today the Commander made her nose twitch and she wondered why she had given up her nasal numbing agent.  She knew the fault did not lie with him, because despite the loss of his sister and the extra hours he had been working, he was his usual neat self.  But it was illogical that she would be sensitive to something she had overcome a year ago.  'Evidently it was further proof that her day was not going well.  Extra meditation was needed!  That was the answer,' she nodded to herself.

"I know what ya mean.  I just keep working on my engines until I'm so tired I can't see straight. Cause if I don't, anger keeps eatin' me up inside. With all that anger, I just don't seem to have an appetite."  He sighed.  Ever since his sister's death there had been a huge gaping hole where his heart had been. It had made him do and say all the wrong things, to the few remaining people he cared most about.

"Have you discussed this with Ensign Sato?"

"Actually that's what I came to talk to you about."  He looked her straight in the eyes and lied.  "I need a favor, for Hoshi."

"How may I be of service?"

"I heard a rumor that you might not be goin' with us." When he'd first formed his plan, it had seemed reasonable, but now that it came to actually putting it into words, he wasn't so sure.

"That is correct, the High Command has made it clear I am not to enter the Expanse."  She took a mouthful of her salad and chewed, until the lump in her throat went away enough to allow her to swallow.  "But what does that have to do with Ensign Sato?"

"Hosh really loves the Vulcan language, especially the old stuff.  She was tellin' me that the only place you could see any of the ancient texts was on your planet.  She'd get real excited when she'd talk about it."  He stopped for a breath and to form his ideas into coherent words.  "I was wonderin' if you could fix it so she could study at your University?  Ya know, find her a job on Vulcan, before we head on out."

"What makes you think she would want that?"  Something was wrong here and T'Pol was not sure what it was.  "I doubt the Ensign would be willing to give up her position on Enterprise, especially with the importance of the mission ahead.  There is no one more qualified for her job.  When you return, I am sure I can secure her a spot in the linguistics department of the Vulcan Science Academy."

"No! You don't understand. It's gotta be now."  The anguish made his words almost a moan.  "She's gotta be somewhere where it's safe.  Please Sub-Commander, I know you and I have had our differences, but I gotta keep Hoshi safe.  It's gonna be too dangerous out there in the Expanse and if we fail, I don't want her on Earth."

T'Pol was hit by a wall of emotions.  Anger, fear, pain and something else she could not identify pounded her mental shields.  Her fork slid from her fingers and clattered on the table as she blinked at him while trying to filter out feelings to find the message in the psychological barrage, which had come her way.

A flash of emotions leaked through her shields and she received a kaleidoscope of images all focused on Ensign Sato.  The young woman's face displayed all the different feelings T'Pol had picked up from Trip.   But the last was enough to disturb even a Vulcan.  It was of Hoshi. Her mouth frozen in a scream of anguish and her eyes glazed over, as Enterprise's saucer section imploded.  The bridge had cracked like an eggshell, and bodies, that weren't consumed by fire, had been dumped into the void of space.

"Sub-Commander?" Trip was shocked by the trance like expression on her face.  "Sub-Commander T'Pol, are you all right?"  His voice broke the hold his emotional tidal wave had caused.

"I believe it is necessary for you to tell me exactly what is going on."  She cleared her throat and focused on preventing Jonathan's face from replacing Hoshi's, in her mind.

"I…"  Trip fought to keep tears from filling his eyes as he was faced with the enormity of his feelings.  "I just gotta keep her safe."

"Why do you believe it is your job to do so?"  She kept digging.  It was unsettling that she had been caught off guard by the Human's rush of feelings, but Ensign Sato had shown her kindness when she had needed it, if it was what she really wanted, T'Pol would help her.

"Because…because…" He took a deep breath and let the words fly free.  "Because I love her.  I know it's somethin' you can't understand, but if anythin' happened to her, I don't think I could go on."

'Love,' thought T'Pol.  'That had been the Commander's emotion she had been unable to recognize.'   "I see," she whispered, her voice unsteady.  It was a battle to gain control of a monster that threatened to roar to life from deep within her, but she was Vulcan and persevered!

"Do ya, Sub-Commander, do ya really see?"  He doubted very much that she did, but she was his one chance to keep the person dearest to him out of harms way.

She nodded and carefully folded her hands in her lap.  She was not about to get into a discussion of emotions with him; it was illogical to think it was something she could speak about with authority.  "I will help you, but it must be what Ensign Sato wants."

"But?"  Trip had hoped if the job offer came from T'Pol, it would be too tempting for Hoshi to turn down, even then he knew it was a long shot.

"She must tell me she wants it, not you."  She watched him squirm in his seat on the other side of the table.  "You are correct that love is an emotion that is unknown to me personally, but I have observed humans for years.  I do not understand how asking Ensign Sato to go against her nature is proof of your feelings toward her."

"Wouldn't you protect Jon, if you could?"  He shot back, suddenly angry.  Her question had hit a nerve and he didn't like it.

"I believe that is part of the job description of a First Officer."  She blinked at his attack, but refused to be drawn in.

"Yeah right, and we all know what a good First Officer you are."  Trip pushed back his chair in disgust.  He'd seen her worry when the Suliban had taken Archer. Was she so immersed in logic that she hadn't realized what happened?

"Commander, wait."  She called him back to stand beside the table.  "Vulcans have not always lived a life free of emotions.  There was a time, long ego when my race was far more barbaric than you can imagine.  If I had any doubt as to the logic of the choice we made to suppress our feelings, watching you, would have clarified the matter."

"Whadda ya mean!"  He frowned, sure he'd been insulted, but fascinated by the information he was getting.

"You say you love Ensign Sato, yet you would have me put her in a position where she would have to choose between doing something that stimulates her intellectual curiosity and doing something she believes to be right. You say you would do anything to protect her, yet I have seen her cry because of you."

"Now just hold your horses."  He held his hands up in self-defense; her words cut the floor out from under him. "She cried?" He gasped and held his breath. "I only want her to be happy. I didn't realize. What should I do?"

"I am hardly the person to answer that question, but I believe that Ensign Sato would be."  She tilted her head as she watched emotions play across his face.

"It's hard.  When I realized what happened to my sister, all I wanted to do was punch somebody, I still do."  He dug deep within for the real reason he'd pushed Hoshi away.  "Life is so damn fragile, and there is nothing I can do about it."  His hands tightened into fists at his sides as he was swept with a feeling of total impotence. "I'm not sure I can take another loss like that."

"It has been my observation that Humans are stronger than they realize.  I believe it is this resilience that will make them a power to be reckoned with in the future."  She did not add that it was also her belief that it was the reason the High Command wanted to keep Earth under such tight control.  "But the Humans who are the strongest are the ones who have a balance between their emotions and their logic.  You need to regain that balance, but I do not think it is something you can do alone.  Talk to Ensign Sato."

Suddenly T'Pol's communicator beeped to life. "Archer to T'Pol."

"T'Pol here Captain."  She reached for the mobile device all of the command team had been carrying since the attack.

"Meet me at Shuttlepod One in twenty minutes. Our presence is needed at Star Fleet Headquarters.  Archer out."

"Thank ya, Sub-Commander, I'll let you get to your meeting."  Trip turned and headed for the door. He wasn't sure what he was going to do.  Part of him realized that T'Pol was right while another part was consumed by anger and fear of loss.

……………………….

Ambassador Soval had initiated the meeting with Admiral Forrest, Captain Archer and Sub-Commander T'Pol, to view a communiqué from the Vulcan ship Vaankara, which had been lost in the Expanse nine months prior.  What T'Pol had seen was unsettling.  Vulcans out of control, in a manner reminiscent of ancient times before Surak, Vulcans fighting, screaming, and destroying one another.  Jonathan had been unmoved by it, but she was more convinced than ever, that her presence was required on Enterprise. 

When the meeting was concluded Soval and T'Pol left together. He had further orders for her. She was being reassigned to the Ministry of Information on Vulcan for at least the next year.  It was the High Command's opinion that she had spent too much time among the Humans and needed to be with her own people again. Though she tried to convince him otherwise, her logic fell on deaf ears.

After separating from the Ambassador, T'Pol stood and looked back at Star Fleet Headquarters. She could hear the pounding of waves far below and carefully picked her way down the path that led to the Bay directly under the southern tower of the Golden Gate Bridge.  The structure had always fascinated her, but tonight she wanted to walk, so she headed east along the wide bike path. She supposed she made an unusual picture, a solitary Vulcan walking toward the Marina Green so late at night, but she did not care what these unknown Humans thought. She had an hour before she was to meet Jonathan back at Shuttlepod One for the return trip to Enterprise. She chose to spend her last moments on Earth in a way that was soothing to her.

The fog that swirled in caressed her cheek and though it was thick enough to muffle her footsteps, the lights of Sausalito were still visible across the Bay.  She supposed Soval was over there, sleeping soundly in the Vulcan Compound, after delivering her new orders.  Though he had said she could return to Earth in a year or so, T'Pol was wise in the politics of her people.  She knew that once she became immersed in the Ministry of Information, her career would take a different turn.  It was likely that she would never return to this green and blue planet, especially with the threat of the Xindi hanging over its head.

It had been so with her second foremother, T'Mir. When she had returned to Vulcan after crashing on Earth 200 years ago, she had never been allowed in the Sol sector of space again.  Instead of continuing with the Ministry of Survey and Research, she had been transferred to the Ministry of Science.  One hundred years later she had been captain of the ship T'Plana, which had been lost in a class 5 neutronic wave front.  If not for the reassignment, it was likely that she would have been the captain of the survey vessel T'Sur, which made official first contact with the Humans, she had come to admire, instead of dying in space.

……………………………..

"What do you make of that meeting?"  Archer's hands moved automatically through the take-off procedure. The trip back to the ship was short, but he wanted T'Pol's opinion on the situation and didn't want to wait until they returned to Enterprise.

"I am unsure of the Ambassador's motive for showing us the details on the loss of the Vaankara. It is very unlike him to divulge that kind of information."

"No it isn't. He wanted to prove a point. He believes that if even Vulcans couldn't survive in the Expanse, how could mere Humans possibly expect to. In good old fashion slang he was rubbing our noses in it!"  He snorted and shook his head.  "Any idea of what really happened to that ship?"

"It would be impossible to surmise without further data--"

"T'Pol," Archer cut her off, he'd wanted an opinion, not a lecture.

"I was going to say before you interrupted me, that even though I do not have sufficient data to give you an answer, I would remind you that Vulcans and Humans are different. Just because something would have that affect on us, does not necessarily mean it would on you."  She leaned forward in her seat, so she could see his face reflected in the view screen ahead.  "If you recall, during your first meeting, Ambassador Soval recounted a story about a Klingon ship.  They were damaged physically, not psychologically."

"Thanks for reminding me."  He turned slowly to face her. "I guess that means we can be anatomically inverted and splayed open, or driven mad.  Frankly, I was hoping for something a bit more positive."  They had Enterprise in sight, and he shifted to autopilot to allow the computer to take them in.

"Captain you are being difficult."

"Well then lets change the subject."  He looked over his shoulder but could read nothing from her face; she was in total control of every muscle of her body.  "What did Soval have to say to you, or can't you talk about it?"

"My new assignment came through."  Her voice was husky, a sure sign to Archer that all was not well. "I am to report to the Ministry Of Information on Vulcan."

"Vulcan?"  He shook his head unsure if he had heard correctly.  "You're being sent back to Vulcan?"  As he watched her nod, he found it hard to swallow.  Going off and leaving her hadn't seemed so hard when he was able to picture her continuing on in San Francisco. But if she were on Vulcan, a place he'd never visited, he was unable to form a clear picture of her surroundings.  Somehow it made her seem further away.  The thought kept nagging at him as he locked down the pod.

"Captain," T'Pol remained seated in the privacy of the shuttle. "When we spoke, I asked the Ambassador if it would be permissible for Enterprise to take me to Vulcan.  He is agreeable to the request and I would appreciate it, as long as it would not slow you down too much."

"If it's in my power to do so, I will."  He wanted to reach for her hand and hold it, but knew it would be inappropriate.  "I doubt Admiral Forrest will have a problem with it, but I need to ask him."

"Thank you."  She slid out of her seat and exited the pod for what could be the last time.

………………………..

After his conversation with T'Pol, Trip Tucker had gone back to his quarters to shower, shave and change into casual clothes.  For some reason it was important to him to be out of uniform when he talked to Hoshi.  Maybe it was because he'd been holding rank between them like a protective shield.  'The why didn't matter, it's that I'm finally doin' it that's important,' he thought as he rang her door buzzer.

"Trip…ah I mean Commander."  Hoshi blinked in surprise when she opened her door and found he was the one on the other side.  She shook her head to clear her vision.  It was too much like the night T'Pol had caught her by surprise when she'd come calling for tea.

"No, 'Trip,' you were right the first time.  Can I come in?"

"Why are you here?'  She stood her ground, not ready to let him in her life or her quarters.

"Cause I've been wrong and I'm sorry."  He reached for her cheek and ran his hand over her soft skin.

"I don't want you in here, if you're going to change your mind again."  Hoshi's eyes filled with tears, but this time she didn't care if he saw them.

"Aww Darlin', I'm so sorry I made ya cry. I can't promise I won't ever do it again, but I can promise I'll never do it on purpose, cause I love ya. Please give me one more chance." He cupped her face as he leaned down and kissed her, while walking her backwards into her quarters.

……………………….

 A day and half later, everything was completed.  There were shiny new missiles in the Armory. Extra biobeds had been added to Sickbay.  E deck now sported two brand new, though rather small containment cells to be used as a brig.  Major Hayes, his special unit of MACOs, and all their equipment were aboard.  T'Pol had personally seen to upgrades of the Vulcan database. It, along with any information that she was able to get on the Delphic Expanse, was housed in the new tactical Command Center, which had been designed with one goal in mind. Find the Xindi and do whatever was necessary to protect Earth. The crew that left Earth this time was stronger, wiser and more determined than the one that had left two years earlier. Hoshi Sato marveled at the woman she had become, and thanked whatever powers-that-be, that she'd listened to Jonathan Archer with his wild ideas, when he'd thrust himself into her life, demanding her skills for his ship.  The woman she had become was so much more than she had ever imagined she could be.

…………………………

Three days past Saturn a Klingon attack took them by surprise.  The Bird Of Prey decloaked and began firing.  Archer ground his teeth all the way to the bridge from the Mess Hall where he and Commander Tucker had been having a drink. Duras had caught him napping but it wasn't going to happen again. The men made it to the bridge only seconds ahead of Sub-Commander T'Pol who had been meditating in her quarters.  The battle ended as quickly as it had begun, but no one believed they'd seen the last of them.

 "Increase speed to warp 4.5, if we can stay ahead of him until we reach Vulcan space, that should keep them off our backs."  The Captain knew that the large area controlled by the Vulcans was only a few days away, and it would be an act of war for the Bird Of Prey to cross into it uninvited.

"It's nice to see the improvements to the hull polarization, and the new torpedoes in action."  Malcolm Reed smiled with glee, at the way the armaments had performed.  Up until that point he had only worked with computer simulations of the new equipment.

"I'd rather you try them out on something that doesn't shoot back, Mr. Reed, but it's reassuring to know they're there."  Archer smiled at his Tactical Officer as they both remembered the problems there had been getting the original weapons aligned, almost two years earlier.  "Anything on sensors, Hoshi?"

"Not anymore, Sir, but according to these readings, something out there was venting plasma."

Archer slouched in his bridge chair, not quite ready to hand command back to the beta shift watch.  His mission was too important to let an old grudge get in the way.  Though it went against everything he believed, he knew the time for playing nice was over.  "Malcolm if they come back, we hit them with everything we've got, is that clear?"

"Yes Sir!"  He felt his blood surge as he entered the order into the tactical log.

 "Trip?"  Jon called to his friend who he'd caught staring at Hoshi, as she did a final system tally at her board. "How about finishing that drink we started?"

"Captain," the Communications Officer looked up, obviously distressed. "Corpsman Miller reports an injury."

"Who, and how badly?"  He had a feeling that he was going to be asking that question a lot over the next year and he didn't like the sick way it made his stomach tighten.

"Dr. Phlox, Sir, he was in the crawl space behind the lift chasing his Pyrithian Bat, when the attack started.  He lost his hold on the ladder and fell. Security discovered him at the base of the shaft."

"How badly was he hurt?"

"He reports that it's mainly scrapes and bruises."  Hoshi listened into her earpiece again, and had to fight to keep from laughing at Phlox's response. "He wants me to tell you that he's fine, but his ego is on the critical list."

"You tell him to stay away from high places, we need him too badly."  Jonathan shook his head at the irony of someone being injured when no damage had been done to the ship.

As Hoshi relayed the message, she looked up, and her eyes met Trip's.  Seeing him watch her made her feel giddy inside. "Go with the Captain," she whispered and nodded her head toward Archer. "I've got a few things to finish up."

Jonathan shook his head at the look of contented joy that filled his friend's face. 'She's got him wrapped around her little finger, and it's about time too.'  He stole a quick glance at his little Vulcan as she went through one more sensor sweep. Her face was in shadows so he missed the frown that marred her brow. 'Don't even think it, Jon, old man,' he thought as he walked past, completely unaware that Trip had seen the longing expression that filled his eyes as he watched T'Pol.

…………………………………

"Ohheee!  This place smells like a bar!"  Trip shook his head as the men entered the Mess Hall and found a Crewman cleaning up the floor beside the table where they'd been sitting.

"Sorry about that," Archer grimaced. "We remembered to cap the bottle when the firing started, but forgot about the tumblers."  It was evident they had hit the deck and rolled around in a puddle of whiskey.

"No problem, Sir, you were a little busy at the time." he grinned.  "Besides this is nothing compared to the mess in the Galley.  Chef'd have a hissy fit if he saw it.  Are things going to be quiet long enough to make it worth cleaning up, or will there be more shooting tonight?"

"According to the sensors, they've gone."  Trip grinned at the man as he headed back to the galley.  "Cap'n, you never did answer my question a while back. You're almost as good as T'Pol when it comes to changin' the subject."

"What're you talking about?"  Archer reached for the bottle, but decided he'd had enough for one night.  Fighting Klingons had a way of sobering up a man and making him want to stay that way for a long time.

"I'm talkin' bout the Sub-Commander."  He nailed his friend with a steely look that he hoped would get him some answers.  "I asked ya if ya're gonna miss her and all you did was change the subject." He had a vague memory of asking Jon the same question months ago, but he'd been too drunk to remember the answer. "So, ya gonna miss her?"

Jonathan sat at the table and thumped the bottle down in front of him.  His mind searched for a witty reply, but he couldn't come up with one.  Slowly nodding his head he looked at his friend and gave up.  "Yeah, I am. Here take this," he handed over the bottle.  "You keep it, I've had more than enough.  I'll see you in the morning."

As Archer walked quietly out of the Mess, Trip felt something move under his heart.  "Poor bastard," he muttered.  Suddenly he needed to hold Hoshi in his arms, to remind himself that he wasn't alone anymore.  Only a day or so ago, he'd been like Jon, but thanks to T'Pol he wasn't.  She'd shown him how foolish he was acting.  He only wished he could do the same for the two of them, but doubted there was anything that would help.  What did a Human do when he was in love with a Vulcan?  'Tell her how logical it was to spend the rest of her life with him? Yeah right and teach your grandma to suck eggs!  I don't think so.'  He shook his head at the futility of the whole thing.

……………………..

While Trip and Jonathan were talking in the Mess Hall, T'Pol returned to the refuge of meditation, which the Klingon attack had interrupted, but she was unable to regain her focus. Something significant had happened while she had been on the bridge, but the incident eluded her.

'Dr Phlox,' her mind circled around him and she felt a pang at the deep loss she would have felt if he had been badly hurt.  Even as she tried to make sense of her unusual feelings his voice echoed through her thoughts, 'does your loyalty lie with the High Command or the Captain?'

"With the Captain." Her eyes opened and she felt a rush of inner strength that had been missing since the Xindi had attacked Earth.  She had her answer, now all she had to do was convince him of it.  She would see him first thing tomorrow, before they progressed any closer to Vulcan.

That night she tossed in her sleep, unable to get comfortable until she was curled tightly in a ball, with her arms wrapped protectively around her abdomen. In the morning she knew she had dreamt, but could not remember what they had been about, only that she felt a pang of longing that had no basis in logic.

………………………

Jonathan Archer knew when he'd lost an argument and this was one of those times.  T'Pol was three feet away and it took all his effort not to reach for her again, as her words echoed off the walls and into his soul.  'You need me, Captain.'  She had come to his office in the early morning to convince him that instead of going back to Vulcan, she should resign her commission and continue on Enterprise.  Intellectually he knew that it was a mistake, but when she looked at him like that, he could deny her nothing.

'Or is it that I can't deny myself her presence?' He wondered fleetingly. Yes he needed her, but not just as his science officer.  He needed her in ways he was sure would shock and horrify a Vulcan, but he couldn't tell her that, so he stood, lost in the depth of her eyes until he knew his voice would respond without breaking.  Then he did the only thing he could, headed to the bridge and gave the order to by-pass Vulcan!

T'Pol was unsure what had happened. One moment Jonathan stood in her personal space, his emotions pounding her mental shields, the next he turned and walked away.  She could not take her eyes off of him as she slowly followed him to the bridge.  Something that she had buried months ago was coming to life. Whispers of dreams mixed with memory and clouded her thoughts.

The deck bucked beneath her feet, but when she looked around she realized she was the only one who felt it.  Dreams became memory and memory, truth.  'It was real?'  She shook her head in confusion as her hand slipped over her abdomen in protection of a child that might never be.  She fought to remember the exact words the Jonathan of the future had used that night, months ago and years in the future, as he pressed his body into hers. **'We only consorted for the first two years.  The last two you have been my wife and I have been your bondmate…..To hell with the High Command.  We sanctioned this child and that's all that matters.  Phlox did too, we couldn't have done it without him…..You didn't tell me anything until after we were bonded, and didn't mention the baby until after she was conceived.  That was what made you finally believe you'd traveled in time.'**

……………………..

That night at 2100 hours T'Pol sat in the Mess Hall drinking tea.  She had tried to meditate, but every time she stared into the flame it reflected back her uncertainty.  She knew without a doubt that her primary reason for remaining on Enterprise had been her loyalty to Jonathan Archer, but the memories and accompanying feelings that were being dredged up due to that decision were unfamiliar.  She saw before her a future where she would be mentally and legally bonded to a Human. 'But how did one get from here to there?' She wondered.

"May I join you Sub-Commander?"  Dr. Phlox limped to her table with a dinner tray in his hands.

"Certainly," she nodded, unable to take her eyes off his jerky movements, it was obvious he had been hurt worse than she had realized.

"I hear that you have decided to remain aboard."  His grin made his eyes sparkle and he nodded happily at her.  "It would appear you have made up your mind where your loyalties lie."

"It would seem so." She put down her tea and looked him over carefully. "Exactly how far did you fall?"

"Twenty feet or so, thank goodness the crawl space is so small. I was able to break my fall by grabbing the handrail before I hit the bottom."  He rubbed his shoulder in memory of the yank and tug on his joint.

"You could have been killed!"  The enormity of it hit home and her hand moved over her churning stomach.  Without Phlox there would be no child of the future, no final proof that her actions were dictated by the timeline.  Sitting there she realized she wanted that child and the life it represented, more than she had wanted anything in her life. It was totally illogical to long for something that had yet to happen, and might not even occur, but she did.

"Nonsense, it was just a little tumble."  He watched her carefully as her eyes filled with emotion.  "I've had worse happen."

"Doctor, if someone knew of something that were to happen in the future, and that another party was essential to it happening, how does one keep that party safe?"

"I think you had better tell me what this is all about."  Phlox put down his knife and fork, his interest totally focused on the woman across from him.

"I can not." Her mind worked quickly trying to find a way to speak of an issue she was sure the Jonathan of the future had meant to keep secret.  "Doctor, I have always been fascinated by Denobulan medicine and their advancements in genetic engineering."

"It is an interesting subject."  He nodded trying to follow her odd change of topic and understand where it led.

"Do you recall when we found that ship that was believed to be from the future?  The one whose pilot, hypothetically, had Human, Vulcan and a number of other DNA strands from aliens across the universe." She chose her words carefully and was rewarded with a spark of anticipation in the Doctor's eyes.  "Is your medical community far enough advanced to create such a being? Hypothetically speaking."

"He was an interesting specimen indeed.  A veritable jigsaw puzzle of genetic engineering."  Phlox smiled as he dug out his pocket computer and keyed in the code he needed. 'T'Pol knew something about the future. It explained her sudden change of attitude,' he was sure of it. "It would be necessary to take it one step at a time.  Mix chromosomes from two species, and then work from there. In fact I began just such a research project not long after we found him. Here take a look at this, it might interest you."  He handed over his computer and watched as she scrolled through his data on a Human Vulcan offspring.

"You have done all this?" Her voice broke as she realized he had already found the answer to their daughter long before they had asked him to work on it.

"I had hoped it might come in handy someday."  Phlox tried not to look too pleased with himself. 

"So much work on a hypothetical study?"  She carefully placed his computer back on the table and reached for her tea.  It was hard for her to breathe and it felt as if there was a huge dark sphere about to explode behind her eyes.

"It would be a shame for it to remain so." Phlox covered her hand with his.

"I…"

"Don't you think the two of you have wasted enough time?"  His voice flowed around her and she clung to it to keep from drowning.  "Go to him, he needs you and you need him."

"No," she shook her head still trying to deny the truth. "We are too different," her voice cracked.  "His emotions spill everywhere and I have no understanding or defense against them, in time--"

"T'Pol," the Doctor cut her off.  He realized she was confused and couldn't speak freely about what was at the root of her confusion.  'Maybe some fatherly guidance was in order.' "What made you decide to stay on board Enterprise?"

"It was the only logical thing to do." The words sounded hollow to her ears, but she hoped they would convince him.

"As our esteemed Commander Tucker would say, 'bull hunky!'   There isn't a shred of logic in the decision you made today."

"Enterprise needs my expertise--"

"Enterprise needs many things on this mission and a good science officer is only one of them."  Sharp blue eyes drilled worried green ones.  "Only Vulcan arrogance would make you say that you're the only one who could adequately fill that position and I believe you left that behind you long ago.  The Captain needs you.  Let me rephrase that, Jonathan Archer needs you on this mission, and not just as a science officer.  He needs you as his friend, confidant and the woman he's grown to love."

"But I know nothing of love," she protested.

"My dear, you're arguing semantics.  Logic or love, it doesn't matter what you call it, just so long as it brings you together."  He quickly tapped two words on his hand computer.  As 'future perfect' swam across the screen he handed it to her. "I've stored the results of my research project in the ship's computer under these pass words.  Only three people's voiceprints will access it, yours, the Captain's or mine.  If the time should come that you want to make use of this information, and I am not around, it is all here for you."

"How did you know?"

"I observe people."  He wasn't sure that answered her question, or even if she realized she'd asked it, but enough time had been wasted.  "There's someone else you need to talk to tonight, and I think you'll find he's still awake."

She moved quickly almost as if she were afraid she would change her mind, but stopped and turned back to him at the door. "Doctor, what would the ears of a half Vulcan, half Human child look like?"

"I've run the computer simulation a number of times and in first generation offspring, the child has Vulcan ears.  I believe pointed dorsal lobes are a dominant trait, and rounded ones recessive."

A shiver ran up her spine, and T'Pol sank back against the doorframe. Her eyes fluttered closed and she caught her breath when she remembered the Jonathan of the future pressing her into the bed as he ran his hand over one of her ears and whispering, 'Phlox says she'll have her mother's ears.'  It was not the proof she was seeking, but it would do.

………………………..

Jonathan Archer couldn't sleep. 'It'd been a hell of a twenty-four hours.' The Klingons had attacked the night before, and then T'Pol had resigned her commission with the High Command that morning to stay aboard Enterprise.  Things were happening too fast for his peace of mind.

He lay on his back on his bed, in sweatpants and a t-shirt and tossed his water polo ball in the air.  As it hit its arc, the ball spun, and then came back to land in first one hand and then the other, as he tossed it again and again. Its familiar weight and texture against his palm accented by a reassuring plop as it landed, were a constant in his life that helped keep him centered as everything else was changing.  He kept asking himself if he'd made the right decision about T'Pol, and more importantly if he'd done it for the correct reasons.  When his doorbell rang, and he opened it to find her standing on the other side, he couldn't help wondering fleetingly if his thoughts had brought her to him.

"May I come in?"  She looked up and wondered how she could have had doubts about him.  He was Human but she did not care.

"Sure," Jonathan nodded as he stepped aside and watched her flow past.  She was wearing one of her Vulcan robes that always made her look soft and feminine.  "What can I do for you Sub-Commander?"

She licked her lips and grabbed her courage.  "This morning, in your office, I spoke to you as Captain, tonight I would like to speak to you as Jonathan."  His name came out in a whisper.

"This sounds serious."  He couldn't take his eyes off of her.

"It is."  T'Pol nibbled lightly on her lip as she tried to find the words to tell him all that had happened.

"Have you changed your mind about staying on Enterprise?"  It would break his heart to take her back to Vulcan, but if that was what she wanted, that was what he would do.

"No, but you might about letting me stay, when you hear what I have to say."  She would leave if he wanted her to, though it would mean living her life with an unreciprocated bond.  It would necessitate retiring to the seclusion of a monastery, if she was to keep her sanity, but for him, she would do it.

"Sit down," he led her to his couch and together they sat.  "Now, tell me what this is all about." The weighty material of her robe brushed his left thigh and he could smell the scent of lemon and spices under his nose.  Trying to look natural he turned toward her and laid his left arm along the back of the couch, inches from her shoulders.

"It is difficult to know where to begin."  She was a woman of few words so she picked the ones that she thought would get his attention the fastest.  "I believe I may have traveled in time."

"Pardon me?"  He shook his head sure he was hearing things.

"I said I believe I--"

"I heard you, or at least I think I did."  He watched her eyes grow large and dark green as if she were confused.  "You think you traveled in time.  You're joking right?"

"Vulcans do not joke."  She turned toward him and found him inches away.  For a moment it was unsettling, then she found it soothing.

"But they don't believe in time travel, either."

"I'm not sure I do believe in it, but there is no other explanation," she whispered.  This had been a bad idea; she should not have listened to Phlox.  "I am sorry I bothered you."  When she tried to rise she realized he was sitting on part of her robe and she was trapped.

"No wait, don't go, I'm sorry I gave you a hard time."  He reached for her arm and steadied her as she plopped back on the couch, still partially caught by his leg.

"This is not easy for me Jonathan."  She pulled the edge of her robe free, but did not try to get up again.  "I was taught that it was wrong, something never to be done or talked about, and here I am with these memories and dreams."  Her hands fluttered nervously and she spoke faster and faster, as the idea of time travel was forgotten and mating with a Human became the center of her thoughts.

"Easy," he frowned, 'something was wrong.' When he caught her hands in his, he knew time travel was not the cause of her agitation. "Take it easy and start from the beginning.  First of all, tell me why you believe you traveled in time."

"Because I ended up here."  Her shoulder shrugged toward the middle of the room.

"Here, on Enterprise?" Jonathan's heart pounded in his ears. 'What did she know about the future?'

"No, here in your quarters, in your bed, with you."

The sound of air rushing out of his lungs broke the silence in the room as his eyes closed and he leaned his forehead against hers while his hands cupped her cheeks.  He didn't dare touch her anywhere else, as desire ripped through his body and he fought to catch his breath. "How far in the future was that?" His voice shook when he realized how much hinged on her answer.

"About four years."

"And Enterprise was still here, Earth was still here?"  He had to know that Earth survived before he dared look at the personal consequences of what she had told him.  "We succeeded in keeping the Xindi from attacking a second time?"  He wasn't sure he wanted to hear the answer to that question, but he had to ask it.

"I do not know, but I believe so."  They sat very close, gripping hands.  Suddenly the emotional problems of two beings on a small ship speeding between the stars seemed very small.  "You would not tell me much.  You kept repeating over and over again that it was imperative that I not change the time line by remembering."

"What didn't I want you to remember?"

"You told me so much, yet you said very little of substance."  She closed her eyes trying to recall everything that had been said to her.  "The you of the future was afraid that if I remembered too soon, I would pull away before we could become…before we could become…attached."  She danced around the word she really meant, unsure if he was ready to hear it.

"Was I right?"  He knew she was hiding something from him, but wasn't sure if it was because it was knowledge he shouldn't have or something she had trouble speaking of.

"Possibly," she shrugged. "Up until Enterprise discovered the timeship, I was ready to believe in time travel, but once we did, I refused to do so.  If I did, then I would also be admitting that Vulcans and Humans would one day be swapping chromosomes."

"Would that have been so bad?"

"At the time it unsettled me, because it was something…it was something that I was not ready to face. So there is a chance I might have left, if I had discovered then what I know now. But it would have done me no good."  Her eyes filled with tears as she realized that her bond had already begun to form with this Human, even before they had found the timeship.  "You have to understand what a Vulcan upbringing is like.  I was strictly taught and I believed that being with a male of another species was an abomination."

"What happened to change your mind?"  It was only now that he realized the enormity of what she had given up to stay on Enterprise with him. It was likely her own people would shun her.

"You," T'Pol held tightly to his left shoulder with one hand and ran the other through his hair while she searched for a more logical reply but was unable to come up with one.  "You came along and everything changed for me."  She remembered her deep longing for him during her Pon Farr two months ago and wondered how she had ever thought that anyone but he could have given her relief.

"Shhhh, it's all right."  He pulled her onto his lap.  Her display of emotion shook him to the core.  "For over a year now, all I've wanted was to have you in my arms and when you're finally here, I interrogate you.  Damn the Xindi for doing this to us!"

"For over a year, you've felt it too?"  She was more confused than ever, as a new idea formed.  "There is another possibility why your future self wanted me not to remember.  If we had acknowledged our attraction, would you still be captain of Enterprise?  Would your involvement with a Vulcan have disqualified you from going on this mission?"

"I'd hate to think Star Fleet would be so shortsighted, but it's possible."  He sighed as he held her.  "It certainly would have caused a debate that might have delayed our departure."

"It is something to think about, but for now there is much I must tell you, and much you must decide."  Her hand trailed down his cheek while he held her. He might send her away, once she was done telling him everything, in which case, this small amount of contact might have to last her a lifetime.

It took T'Pol over an hour to tell him about going to the timeship to run a metallurgical test and ending up in his bed four years in the future.  She only left out about the baby, since she knew that she did not tell him about that until after conception, and she glossed over the bits and pieces about the formation of a new universal order, which she believed was the Federation that Daniels had spoken to Jonathan about a year earlier.

"I gather I didn't tell you about the Xindi attack on Earth, or the Suliban's man from the future, who stated that the attack was a change in the timeline?"  Archer was unsure what to think.  So far the most important thing she'd told him was that they would be together.

"No, you did not. Only that Vulcan and Earth had formed a temporary alliance, or will form one, sometime in the next two years and our relationship is politically important to that alliance." She rubbed her eyes and fought a headache. "For months, I have had dreams about what happened, I was not sure what was going on, but none of it conformed to any rules of logic."

"This can't have been easy for you, but what I don't understand is why you thought earlier that I might regret my decision to let you stay on Enterprise."  Letting her go was the last thing he could imagine doing now that she had told him about the future. 

"When I told you we were together, there is more to it than that."  She was still on his lap, but gripped her arms and could not meet his gaze.  "When I said we were bonded, I was not referring to the ceremony, but the process.  For me that has already taken place."

"I don't understand."  He circled her shoulders with his left arm and leaned back until her upper body was held between his and the back of the couch. All he would have to do was shift his hips slightly and the entire length of their bodies would be touching.  "Look at me T'Pol," he whispered as he moved against her and felt her body shudder against his.

"I have not been honest with you in the last months."  Her complexion grew dusky in what Jonathan thought of as a green-blooded blush.  "There have been times when our minds touched, but I did not want to believe it, so I denied it."

"Show me." His hoarse whisper caused the hairs on the back of her neck to stand up.

T'Pol threw her head back against his arm, and held up her left hand.  "Place your hand against mine and close your eyes."  As he did so, she slowly dropped her mental shields.

Jonathan was bathed in a warm intimate touch. It radiated from where their bodies met to deep within him "Ohhh yesss I have felt this before." He gasped and pulled her more tightly against him, his lips touched hers in a gentle kiss.

"Wait, I did not tell you everything."

"Yes you have."  He smiled down at her.  "I remember this from months ago.  The first time was in Sickbay after I returned from Rura Penthe.  You were in my arms and I felt your mind in the night, but when I woke up, you closed me out." He shivered at the memory of how alone he'd felt, but then remembered other nights when her warm sweet presence had invaded his sleep. "But it didn't stop there. I think there have been a number of nights over the last months that your mind has come to me while we slept." He punctuated his words with kisses over her cheek and brow.

"You must stop," it was hard for her, because she knew it was true.  All the times she had thought she was dreaming, she had been reaching out to him as she slept, but it was important that he knew what he was getting into before this went any further.  "There is more that I must tell you."

"This is everything."  He held her face gently in his right hand.  "You are all I've wanted since the moment I saw you.  You and I together can do anything."

"But you do not understand," she pressed her palms against his chest to hold him off, even as she felt his desire and hers in answer to it.  "For me it is already too late, the bond has formed, but you are Human, if we do not consummate this, I believe you can still turn back if you wish."

"No, you don't understand, I'm not just talking about a casual fling."  He ran his thumb across her cheek as he held her face in his palm.  He could tell by her expression that she had no idea what he was talking about.  "I love you and have for a long time.  I want this to happen, I want you to belong to me and me to you, whether you call it, bonding, marriage, love or whatever."

"It may not be undoable, if you change your mind later," she whispered as sweat broke out on her upper lip and her body churned with wild feelings. "And forever is a very long time."

"Thank God for that!"  He picked her up and carried her across the room, as her hands reached under his shirt.

When they were beside the bed he let her feet slide to the deck and together they pulled his shirt over his head. While her hands traveled over the planes of his chest,  he reached for the belt of her robe, and undid the intricate knot that held it in place. For just a moment he felt her shiver in anticipation.  She looked up as his hands gripped the lapels of her quilted garment and he slowly separated the material.

"I love you T'Pol," he whispered, humbled that she had come to him naked beneath her robe.  With the greatest of care he slide it down her arms and let it fall, until it lay forgotten around their feet.  Desire hit him like a punch in the gut, but he made himself move slowly and carefully, knowing she would be unprepared for the emotions he was feeling, "I love you."

"Jonathan Archer I have caught your scent," she whispered throatily as her nose nuzzled the fur on his chest and her hands ran over his back.  Then she spoke the ancient words of a bonded couple mating for the first time, "your mind to my mind, forever together, forever apart."

The words hit them with the power of a warp engine.  Jonathan picked her up and together they fell to the bed.  As his mouth ravished hers she knew that what she was experiencing was unlike anything ever experienced by a Vulcan female, but she did not care.  With something akin to joy she stepped off into the unknown and felt the rhythm of his Human desire pounding in his veins.  It poured into her until she was on fire with need.  Need so right and pure that it gave her a roadmap into all the unknown places she was about to travel, guided by Jonathan's sure steady hands.

……………………….

Archer stood naked at his window, but instead of watching stars, he was leaning back against the view port, with his arms folded, unable to take his eyes off T'Pol asleep in his bed. How could he have ever thought her cold-blooded, detached, or emotionless?  He had felt her passion and emotions on so many different levels he hadn't been sure which were hers and which were his.  Making love to her had been the most profoundly intimate experience of his life.  She had said she was bound to him, now, he was certain that he was bound just as tightly to her. 'I love her so much!'

"Jonathan," she murmured as her hand reached across the bed for him.

"Right here, Love," he slide in beside her and let his touch reassure her.

"I thought for a moment it had all been another dream."  She let him pull her close and it stilled her fears.  "Like when the bounty hunter had captured you, and I was sick with fever for you."

"Your fever was for me?"  He had felt her burning mental need grow as they made love.  It had fed the passion for both of them and carried them along on a wild ride that made body surfing on the North Shore of Oahu seem like a swim in a millpond. He couldn't imagine going through that alone, with no release. "I'm sorry I wasn't there for you."

"No, Jonathan," she held his face in her hands and came as close to smiling as he had ever seen.  "I was not ready yet, if I had been, I would have realized what was happening weeks earlier, when your touch first initiated it."

"I caused that to happen to you?"  He rolled her beneath him so he could see her face clearly in the starlight.  "How, when, and why in God's name didn't you tell me?"

"The night you came to my cabin after Enterprise had destroyed the cybernetic beings that had been buried in Earth's Artic ice; you sat very close and I touched your hand."  As intimate as they had been and were even now, it was hard to talk of this to him.  "I picked up the scent of your desire and it triggered mine." She shivered as she remembered sitting up most of the night as desire pounded through her, too exhausted to even meditate.

"Why didn't you say anything at the time?"  He rubbed his nose against hers; they could have saved themselves so much time.

"I could not accept it yet, you are Human and to have a Human trigger my mating cycle, was not heard of."  She took the time to explain to him that Vulcan males went through Pon Farr every seven years, but a female only went through it when she caught the scent of her bondmate's.  "It would have meant that I had accepted that I had created a bond with you, and I was still in denial.  It took me a week of intensive meditation to submerge the feelings, but when I was infected with the microbe, everything fell apart.  The area of my brain that triggers emotions and needs was affected. Everything was brought to the surface again, if Phlox had not found a cure I would have died."

"Thank God for Phlox."  He remembered seeing the locking mechanism torn off the wall in decon, it made him groan to think what he might have saved her, if he'd been there.

"No, Jonathan," she picked up on his sorrow, and would not let him take the blame.  "It was the combination of the microbe so soon after what occurred between us that caused it.   From what the Doctor told me, I believe that even if we had consummated our bond at that time, it would have done no good.  There was a disease process at work as well. Since bondmates share desires, if we had been bonded, I believe we might have both been caught in an endless cycle that would have only ended when the pathogen was killed."

"It's all so complicated." He shook his head at all he still had to learn about Vulcans. "But I would have prevented it if I could have," he whispered as he felt desire begin to stir in them again.

"I know," she wrapped her arms around him and enjoyed the texture of his skin against hers.  Because she trusted him completely and he needed to know what it had been like for her, she opened her emotions to what she had experienced when she had been trapped in decon with the fury of a singular Pon Farr raging though her body.  Together they felt the loneliness, yearning and lust that had had no end in sight.  Together their minds and bodies moved to drive it all out, companionship for the loneliness, another's passion to support the yearning and a bondmate's lust that matched hers and carried them through to completion.  Wrapped around all that was the Human emotion love, which T'Pol was beginning to recognize.  It provided emotional warmth and depth to a purely physical action and because of it, when they finally drifted off to sleep; their minds and lives were bound as no Vulcan had ever been bound before.       

……………………….

T'Pol tried to open her eyes, but could only see clearly out of the right one. Her left cheek was pressed into the hollow of Jonathan's chest and her lashes tangled with the coarse curly hairs that grew there.  After they had made love the last time, she had not moved except to slump down in exhaustion. She had been vaguely aware of him reaching for the blanket to cover them, but except for that, neither of them had moved.  She was still sprawled on top of him, legs straddling his hips and he still had his arms wrapped securely around her.

Their minds were as closely tangled as their bodies, and she could feel him waking.  He was dreaming about her, and it was triggering his desire. Mating with a Human was going to present some problems she had never anticipated. She concentrated on a complex math problem to keep from being drawn in, or they would never make it out of bed. If things had been different, she would have slammed her mental shields closed, but to do so when bonded could cause mental pain, especially when the bond was so new.

"Good morning," Jonathan mumbled as he kissed the top of her head and ran his hands down her back. "I know you're all right, I can feel it."  It was strange knowing that he was so in tune with another person. "But you're so much smaller than I am, I need to ask it anyway."  He picked up her hand and compared the difference in bone structure. Something he'd totally forgotten when passion had taken control the night before.  "Are you all right?" 

"You would never hurt me, Jonathan. Trust in our bond, it will always tell you the truth."  For a moment she let her math problem go by the wayside, but carefully slid off of him. "Thank you for asking."

"We've got a ship to run, haven't we?"  He knew she was holding back on the passion that could easily come boiling back to the surface. He could feel it in his mind and read the message in her eyes.

"Unfortunately," she whispered.  The loss of his physical touch left her shivering.

"Are you going to be able to handle this? Humans aren't like Vulcans; my desire for you isn't something I can control, and loving you only makes it more intense." He pulled the blanket around her and swung his legs over the edge of the bed to put some distance between them.

His concern for her was her undoing. It unlocked all the feelings she thought she had under control.  With a deep growl she tossed aside the covers and knelt behind him on the bed. She wrapped her arms loosely around his neck, while she gently nipped his earlobe and to her intense pleasure, rubbed her body against his back.

Jonathan was slammed with desire that he had no wish to fight.  He reached over his left shoulder and grabbed her under the arms.  In one tug he pulled her up, until he had her balanced on his shoulder, then he stood with his hand possessively on her bottom.

"Where are we going?" Her words were slurred, and heavy with passion. With each step he took, it grew more intense until she was blinded with it, and nipped and scratched at him, wherever she could reach.

"To kill two birds with one stone," he groaned as he stepped into the shower and turned on the water.  He was rewarded with her gasp as she slid down his back until she was standing under the warm spray.  "Here we can at least pretend we're getting ready for work."

"But why…"

"This is why."  He turned toward her and in one quick motion pulled her water-slicked body against his as he lifted her off her feet.  His lips covered hers and he turned them until water pounded down on their heads and rushed over their shoulders, unable to find a clear path between them.  Then slowly he backed her against the wall and let her body slip down his.

"Please don't stop," she whimpered, her eyes heavy lidded and deep green with desire as her hands slipped and slid over his body.

"I don't plan on it."  His voice was husky as he towered over her, blocking the spray with his back.

………………………….

Commander Tucker had almost finished his breakfast when Archer double-timed it into the Captain's dining room.

"You oversleep?"  Trip frowned at his friend's hair that was still damp.  Jonathan usually appeared at the morning table fresh and ready to go.

"You could say that."  He concentrated on pouring his coffee and tried not to look up when he felt T'Pol enter the room, but saw Trip giving her the once over as she sat and poured the pot of tea Chef had left for her.

"Hhhmm, there seems to be an epidemic of oversleepin' goin' round these days."  Trip's comment was made to no one in particular, but his eyes kept darting back and forth between Archer and T'Pol, both with damp hair.

"I didn't realize that fell under the Department Of Engineering," Archer ground out.

"Ya may be right about that," the Chief Engineer shoved back his chair and left the private dining room whistling.

"I do not believe we fooled him."  T'Pol put down her cup and looked up at Jonathan.

"I doubt it, especially since you've got a bad case of whisker burn on your neck."  He ran his hand over the left side of her throat.  "Sorry about that, I guess I should have shaved."

"I did not want to wait this morning for the time it would have taken."

"So I noticed.  For a woman who was raised on a planet with virtually no water you seemed to enjoy yourself in the shower."  His eyes sparkled at the memory.  Last night he had been the aggressor, but this morning it had been like being attacked by a small wet, very sensuous kitten and he'd enjoyed every moment of it.

"This will get us into trouble again.  I believe I must teach you some methods to suppress your emotions, Jonathan Archer." She touched her skin where it still tingled, from where his face had so recently been. "Dr. Phlox may be able to help conceal this burn on my neck." She wanted to trail her finger down his cleanly shaven cheek, but restrained herself.  "I have always found your whiskers fascinating, Vulcan males do not have them. I think if they did, their bondmates would enjoy them a great deal." 

………………………….

T'Pol kept her shields tightly in place while on the bridge, but still Jonathan's feelings leaked through at odd times.  She decided early in her shift that they would need to begin his lessons on mental discipline that night.

"Sub-Commander," Hoshi looked up, clearly worried. "I've got an incoming message for you from the Vulcan Embassy on Earth."

"Thank you Ensign."  T'Pol looked around her station, a bit lost.  She had not anticipated the Ambassador would respond personally especially since they were still well within reach of Vulcan.  It was more likely that if her resignation had been acknowledged at all, it would have been by a minor member of the High Command

"Hoshi, wait a minute, then put it though to my Ready Room." Archer called out, as he walked carefully over to the science station. "Take this one in private."  His eyes met hers in an attempt to give support, "do you want me there?"

"I must do this alone," she mouthed.

T'Pol sat in Jonathan's large desk chair and for a moment wondered why there was no icy hand squeezing at her mid section like it usually did when she sat in that spot.  Then she understood that it was because for the first time, he was a few feet away on the other side of the bulkhead, instead of missing somewhere as usual when she was in that room without him.  The knowledge made it easy for her to turn on the monitor and face her mentor, though she carefully schooled her emotions so he would see nothing of the events of the last twelve hours.

When Ambassador Soval's image filled her screen, his voice filled the room. "The High Command wants you to instruct the Humans to return you to Vulcan.  It's not too late."

"I am no longer under your authority." The words came easily as T'Pol looked him in the eyes.

"This is not my order, it comes directly from the High Command, and is for your own safety."  He watched her closely for some sign that would guide him. "Didn't you learn anything from what happened to the Vaankara?  The Humans will end up like that and you right along with them."  He hated to see her die for a useless cause, but was it really useless?

"We are prepared for the consequences of our actions, but the Xindi must be stopped."

"The High Command believes you are being impulsive.  You can still change your mind and salvage your career."

"I will not leave them!" 

"Them or him? You owe the Humans nothing, Archer least of all." Soval saw his mark hit home, as she blinked to hide her reaction. "It's his fault you contracted Pa'nar Syndrome.  You owe him nothing."

She had been unprepared for his attack on Jonathan, but she would have none of it. "If you choose to believe that way, then you could also say that it is because of Capt. Archer that I am cured, since it happened on Enterprise. I trust him, and I believe the High Command should as well."  She took a deep breath; her temper was close to the surface, since her emotions were still in turmoil from mating a few hours earlier.  She did not bother to ask how he had come by his knowledge of her illness, since logic told her Dr. Oratt was behind it.

"There is no cure for Pa'nar Syndrome!"  Soval challenged.  It had been an area that had divided conservative and liberal Vulcans for years, if a cure were found, it would be a help to the newly emerging liberal party of which the Ambassador was a quiet supporter.

T'Pol sat back in Jonathan's chair and stared him down.  He could think what he liked, but she was done with foolish arguing.  "If you question my honesty, I suggest you contact Dr. Phlox and he will give you the information you seek.  I shall see that he has my permission to release it to you."

The Ambassador didn't miss her jab at the lack of doctor patient confidentially in her case.  "I shall do just that, Sub-Commander--"

"I tendered my resignation at 1300 hours, ship's time yesterday.  I believe that title is no longer appropriate."

"And if the High Command refuses to accept it?"

"It would be illogical to do so, I am remaining on Enterprise."

"The political waters are deep and murky, T'Pol," he gave in to her on the subject of rank for the moment.  "Walk carefully or you may regret it in the future."

"Has Vulcan issued sanctions against Earth because of my resignation?" That had been her primary worry.  She knew there was nothing they could do to her.

"It would be illogical to find fault with a planet because of the misguided actions of a few."  He watched her carefully, unsure if she understood the political ramifications of what she had done.  "We were beginning to gain respect for Capt. Archer after the way he helped with the Andorian cease fire, be very careful of your motives for staying."   

"My reasons for staying are my own, but how can the High Command sit back and do nothing?"  She wondered how much Soval knew and why he had let her leave on Enterprise, unless he had wanted her to remain there, but that made no sense.  "If the Xindi would destroy one planet, why not another?"

"Something must be clouding your logic."  He fished for the answer he wished for, but T'Pol didn't move a muscle at his words. "We have already begun talks to help the Humans by placing ships along side theirs, to guard against further attacks. We have no wish to be a primary target, but we realize that since we have been closely tied to them over the years, if you fail in your mission, we are as vulnerable as Earth.  The High Command may place sanctions against you, but you are still Vulcan and deserve our protection as well."

"What are you trying to tell me, Ambassador?"  She whispered, unable to make sense of his last remark. As she watched Soval carefully, she remembered something else the Jonathan of the future had told her. **"When it became necessary for Earth and Vulcan to form a temporary alliance for their mutual safety, Soval became our biggest fan.  He saw what we had accomplished, and knew it was in Vulcan's best interest to join with Earth.  He had always trusted you, and your trust in me turned his beliefs into convictions."** But the timing was off by over two years.  'This could not be the beginning of the alliance Daniels had spoken to Jonathan about.'

"I am told that Enterprise will be within range of Vulcan for another 30 hours, until that time your resignation will not be made public."  He chose to ignore her question and went on as if it had not been asked.

"I will not be changing my mind."  Her chin rose in final defiance of the man she had worked with for years. "But what is there that you are not telling me?"

"You're an astute politician, I believe you know the answer to that. The High Command wishes me to inform you that the night Enterprise passes out of Vulcan space with you on board, your family will be burning funeral candles for you, since to them, you will be considered dead."  He cut the transmission and left her staring at a blank monitor.

……………………….

T'Pol had trouble focusing, 'would my family really be as narrow minded as that?' Then she remembered T'Mir's journal and that if she had not taken it when she left for her assignment on Earth, her mother's sister would have had it destroyed when she became head of the family. Though the crash of T'Mir's ship was well documented in Vulcan history, the day-to-day lives of the crew was not.  The journal was the only proof that an old honorable family had an ancestor who had deceived the High Command.  'Yes, they would be just that narrow minded,' she nodded to herself.

"T'Pol?"  The door to the Ready Room slid open.  Jonathan had waited as long as he could after the channel between Earth and Enterprise had been cut. He was worried and needed to see how she was fairing. "Are you all right?"

"Yes, I am fine."  She moved from his chair and was unsure where to stand or what to do next until she caught sight of herself in the view port.  "It would appear that I am on duty, out of uniform."  Her hand brushed across the collar of her High Command dress browns.  "May I have Lt. Reed cover my station while I go to my quarters and change?"

"That's all? You want to change your clothes?"  He was surprised, at the very least he had expected her to tell him what Soval had said.

"I think it would be appropriate." She had missed something in her discussion with Soval, but her mind would not focus.  Too much had happened in the last day and she needed badly to meditate.

That morning she had told him to trust in their bond. Jonathan took a moment and did just that.  She had cut all formal ties with her planet to help prevent the destruction of his. What must she be going through? He reminded himself he was dealing with a Vulcan. Had he expected her to lay her head on his shoulder and cry because of all that was between them? He supposed he had, but that was unimportant, now. She needed him and he was failing her by waiting for her to take a step she didn't know how to take.

"T'Pol," he whispered her name as he reached for her shoulders and held her gently.  For a moment she fought it, then leaned into his embrace. "First tell me one thing. Do we need to be on the lookout for Vulcan as well as Klingon warships?"

"The High Command will be sending no one." Her words echoed in the silence and made him understand how cut off she was.

"Come here," he pulled her close to support her mentally and physically.  One by one her shields crumpled, and he felt what he'd expected, 'if it weren't for their bond, she would have been totally alone' "It's me Jonathan, remember, and I love you."

"Thank you for being here," she whispered into his neck.  "I can not help it, sometimes, I will always try to hold things back, I am Vulcan."

"It took me about a minute to figure that out."  He smiled as he ran his hand through her hair.  "It changes nothing."

Something warm and full was bubbling up inside of her.  It had nothing to do with desire, but everything to do with Jonathan.  She clung to him all the harder as she felt herself engulfed in the emotion she had been refusing to recognize for almost two years.  "I think I love you," the words she could not hold back any longer spilled forth.

"T'Pol?"  He held her tightly, unable to believe what he'd just heard.  "What did you say?"

"I think…I love you."  Her head dropped back against his arm and her eyes swept open.  "I know I love you. This emotion has been with me for a long time, but I had no name for it."  For the first time she stood on her tiptoes and initiated a kiss, it was strange and delicious.  She wondered why, last night, she had always waited for him to be the one to start the kissing.  This Human meeting of the lips was a wild ride somewhere between a touch of the fingers and the completion of mating.  It made her feel complete!

…………………

It took Enterprise over seven weeks at warp 5 to reach the outer rim of the Delphic Expanse. Not long after entering it, Jonathan had his first lesson in what T'Pol already knew, that they were much stronger together than either of them could ever be alone.  Soon after, they both learned how strong they really were. It was their bond that kept them together when logic would have pulled them apart.  It kept them safe when time and space twisted and turned in an attempt to erase all that was important to them.

Because he could still feel the presence of their bond, Jonathan kept T'Pol by his side when he had mutated into another species on a strange planet deep in the Expanse.  Though everything in his new alien body screamed to make her his, something that he did not understand pulled at his mind so he kept her close, but protected.

Their bond was the thread, which T'Pol held onto when her emotions were being stripped bare and she was on the edge of madness with Trellium D poisoning on the derelict Vulcan ship Seleya.  Archer had to drag her physically and at pistol point off the ship, but not even his determined strength could have salvaged her mental capacity if that thread had not existed.

When Enterprise was hit by a spatial anomaly, both of them were knocked against a bulkhead and T'Pol pinned beneath another. Physically they were torn apart. Jonathan flew down the corridor and cracked his head on the deck.  She could only look on in horror when she realized that for a split second she was unable to feel his side of their bond.  It was almost as if he had lost all memory of it.

"What do you think really happened?"  They snuggled close in their bed; secure that the bond they had come to rely on had survived whatever the spatial anomaly had thrown their way.

"I do not know."  T'Pol trailed her finger down his chest.  "But it is of no consequence."

"How can you say that?  Phlox found traces of a temporal disturbance in the corridor where I had been."  He really hated the idea that the timeline might have been interfered with again.

"Because whatever it was, it has passed.  We survived it and so did our bond."

"I guess you're right, but I'd love to know what I was doing when I should have been getting you out from under that bulkhead."  He rolled her beneath him and slowly kissed her ear.

"You need not worry, no matter what it was, I was with you."  She ran her hands up his back getting joy from touching and being touched.  "I am now, and I always will be at your side. It is where I belong. No matter what time does to us, our bond will remain intact."

"You're pretty sure of yourself," he smiled down at her.

"If my Vulcan logic did not tell me so, then the Human love you have taught me does." She squirmed beneath him like a sensuous cat.  "I have caught your scent, Jonathan Archer," she growled as passion swept through her.

Together their minds finished the lines from the Vulcan Bonding ceremony, 'my mind to your mind, forever together, forever apart, until that time when our Katras are joined, and together we follow the many who have come before us.'

…………………………

Six months after Enterprise entered the Delphic Expanse, Ambassador Soval walked along the bike path on the Marina Green.  He knew it was one of T'Pol's favorite places to walk.  Because he had just completed a late night meeting with Admiral Forrest, his thoughts were with his protégée lost in that strange sector where space, time, and physics twisted in upon themselves until no known rules applied.

Had he done the right thing in letting her leave on Enterprise, especially when he'd felt the vibrations she didn't know she was broadcasting?  It had been obvious she was attached to Archer. He didn't know if it would lead to a bond; after all, Archer was Human, but logic had told him it would help the Earth ship survive, but for how long, he did not know. He supposed, like T'Pol he had spent too much time on Earth, because he believed the Humans deserved a chance to prosper as Vulcan had in its early days of space travel.

He hadn't been able to go against the High Command's orders and send her openly, as he would have liked.  To do so would have brought Earth's government into it.  Once that happened, Vulcan honor would have required sanctions against the planet.  It could have become as serious as the breaking off of all ties with the Humans, which would have left them alone in their fight to survive against the Xindi.

Now there was a new threat, to both Vulcan and Earth.  It came in the form of pirates that preyed on both species' cargo and merchant vessels.  The only clue to the raider's planet of origin had been found in information downloaded from Enterprise's computer prior to leaving for the Delphic Expanse.  The configuration of the ships belonging to the attackers resembled those of the Romulan Empire. It wasn't much to go on, but it was all they had.  Soval had been instrumental in putting together the treaty between Earth and Vulcan for their joint protection against not only the Xindi, and this new danger on the horizon.

He had done the best he could for his planet and the Humans, if only he could do something to restore T'Pol's honor, sometime in the future, it would make his elder years more comfortable to live with. He took a moment to gaze at the stars, knowing she was out there somewhere, moving further and further away with each breath he took. His lips moved in an ancient Vulcan prayer for one who was lost.  "And the stars shall light the way, on your dark and rocky path into the future."  Then he added a more modern one, "live long and prosper, T'Pol of Enterprise."

THE END