TITLE: Image in the Sand

AUTHOR: Darrah

SPOILERS: Catwalk, Broken Bow, Singularity, & The Andorian Incident

SUMMARY: T'Pol comes to an understanding of Archer in her life

DISCLAIMER: I only play with them.

ARCHIVE: please ask beforehand

FEEDBACK: love some at darrah19@yahoo.com

RATING: R

CATEGORY: A/T'P

NOTES: Folks, the key to reading this story lies in full suspension of disbelief. However if you don't do that, and you like it anyway, please let me know!

---

IMAGE IN THE SAND

---

"That's everyone."

They strode down the corridor after T'Pol had made sure everyone was accounted for and Captain Archer had secured the catwalk hatch.

T'Pol glanced at the Captain for a moment. He was walking, his carryall in his right hand, with his head down, deep in thought. She thought she detected a state of melancholia (a term she had once encountered in a book on various Terran myths) in his demeanor. His left profile was toward her and she took the opportunity to study it surreptitiously.

---

Vulcans were, more or less, creatures of habit.

She remembered when, around the age of nine, she was required to sit for her daily evening meditation, her mother often gave her a piece of clay. The intention was for her to hold it in her hand and feel its various textures, inhale its scent, analyze its composition (to the extent possible for a beginning science pupil) and allow for it to be the channel through which a deeper state of unity with one's self and surroundings could be attained. Instead, about 85% of the time, what she did with it was to mold it into various shapes – strange and familiar, pleasing and not so pleasing. When she happened upon a particularly fascinating or complicated shape, she would be hard pressed to break it and remold. Fortunately, T'Pol's mother was lax enough a disciplinarian to allow her to amass a considerable amount of her childish clay moldings on the mantelpiece above her study alcove.

One of these became a personal favorite of her mother's – a 2inch by 4inch bust of a Terran warrior-king. T'Pol was secretly pleased with her mother's choice, as it had been the only one she had carved in a single, inspired attempt, without having to re-form or re-touch. The image had just... appeared, out of nowhere, in her mind's eye. She had been fascinated with Terran culture from a young age. And she loved Terran history, especially that of it's antiquity, so she had deduced that she must have seen the picture in a schoolbook about the culture of Earth and the image had stayed with her. However, she did not remember having seen any specific image or photograph that had reminded her of this particular bust, and had told her mother so.

Vulcans did not usually have memory lapses – unless stemming from specific diseases – certainly not while they were young. Therefore, throughout her childhood, the discomfort of this memory lapse had been, at times, intense. So much so that the image, hazy and blurred, often appeared in her dreams, at which point she would wake up and stare at it on her shelf for a while before falling back to sleep.

Later, upon reaching her twenties, and at her mother's suggestion, she had spent long hours at libraries – searching both Terran and Vulcan historical records – trying to match various images in the database to that of her own memory and the artifact she had created. But it had all been in vain. When she'd traveled to Earth, she had even spoken with Humans she had met in the Vulcan compound, the very few she had found hobbies and interests in common with – history, architecture, philosophy, literature. But none of them could place the image. She was an able, even inspired, painter and sketcher. And she had sketched the image for them to compare to their own records, to no avail. They had all scratched their heads.

Was it Alexander the Great? No? How about Augustus Caesar? Could be. Not Ashoka the Great. Not Napoleon. Achilles? No...

She had almost relegated her quest to the back of her mind when she had first laid eyes on Jonathan Archer, two years ago, at Starfleet HQ. The moment she had sighted him, that long-forgotten sculpture had sprung immediately to mind and she had drawn in a quiet, sharp breath. She had watched him as he had walked into the room where they all stood, discussing the Klingon. For a few minutes, she could only gaze at him, her entire concentration on his face, his words slipping past her conscious mind.

There he was – the same angular, clean-cut features, the same aquiline nose, the same deep-set eyes, the same angle to the jaw and chin, the same long masculine column of throat rising above the curve of the broad, muscular shoulders... there it was... the face of that noble-birthed, arrogant, paternalistic Human warrior-king of her childhood imaginings.

It had been wondrous, indeed. Her discovery of... him.

She had not told any of her Terran friends, however. She knew very well their propensity to add two and two and arrive at a considerably larger amount than four. But after being commissioned for the mission, she had contacted her mother, and had told her about Captain Archer and his fascinating facial structure. They had shared a quiet moment pondering the impossibility of such an occurrence.

Before ending the conversation, her mother had given her a valuable piece of advice – as all mothers are wont to give:

"My beloved child," she had said. "This is your opportunity to test the boundaries of your existence. Do not be afraid to step into the abyss of what seems unknowable. Remember your foremothers. Remember your birthright: to acquire knowledge and forge ahead with an open, questioning, yet accepting mind."

T'Pol knew she had pleased her mother, if not the rest of her family, by choosing the Terran mission and the subsequent berth on the Enterprise. Her mother had also been an explorer by heart, and by birth. The old adage was that the women of Vulcan often propagated their genetic gifts through their daughters. After all, in some continents like Chi-Shikaahr – the matriarchy still reigned supreme.

***You were wise, my mother. You knew me well***

For a while, in the midst of the political machinations of both Ambassador Soval and Admiral Forrest, she had almost forgotten her mother's gentle request. However, as she watched her Captain fight his own demons and win, she had laid her own arms to rest. He had trod the path with her, matching her every step of the way – battling preconceptions and prejudice, in each other as well as the universe. As they had forged ahead, T'Pol had remembered and adhered to her mother's advice.

Over the past few months, she had realized that she frequently looked at the Captain during moments when she thought he would be unaware of her scrutiny. It was still a matter of wonder to her – the similarity. She often wished that she had brought the artifact with her to Earth when she had first arrived for her attaché duties at the Vulcan Compound. It would have been far easier to simply compare the two in order to find that they were nothing alike. But this way, she had only her memory to fall back upon. And so her doubts, and her torment, persisted. Did he really look like that image? Why? What were the odds of this happening? To whom did that image belong? An emperor? A nobleman? A soldier? An artist? Who...?

And as she had expected, her childhood dreams had returned. True, they did not occur often, especially with the same amount of intensity. But when they did, they had the capacity to unsettle her for the next twenty-four or so hours.

There were times, when things on the Bridge were slow and her duties were only that of correlating mostly unremarkable data, when the Captain would sit almost idly in his chair, his long, strong fingers tap-tapping an unknown Terran melody on the armrest, or when he would be pacing the deck in somewhat impatient strides waiting for something to happen, that she would find her eyes straying to his profile. And there they would stay. Every once in a while, he would swivel around unexpectedly and their eyes would meet, causing her to blink and look away. She knew very well that Terrans found steady regard uncomfortable. Depending on the circumstances, he would either stare back, or nod and smile, or look away after a moment. However, even though it may have happened more frequently than was perhaps normal, he never asked why.

For that she was thankful.

---

As they walked along... they were greeted here and there, albeit a little tiredly. Crewmen were bustling about, attempting to get back to their normal lives aboard the vessel. It had been a trying week for T'Pol. In close quarters with the rest of the crew, she had not had the opportunity to meditate for lengthy periods of time. The Captain had tried to give her time alone and undisturbed in the back of the Command Center. However, the jerry-rigged "bridge" had been only a few paces from their shared sleeping area. As such, the noise of the daily, understandable hubbub had been excruciating, especially during moments of intense focus that even a light meditative session necessitated. He had apologized to her almost daily, making Travis work with earpieces at one point and ordering a general muting of commlink chirp between 2100 and 0700 of the ship's hours.

They had had an interesting dynamic these past few days, an interaction that T'Pol had found doubly intriguing, given her already sensitive antennae as far as he was concerned. The nights had been physically discomfiting yet fascinating and she had realized that she had never spent so much time with a male before – during the course of a day, as well as the night.

They had spent most nights talking each other to sleep. And the most surprising discovery she had made was that, in close quarters, he was a restful and perceptive listener and a most entertaining and enlightening conversationalist. She fully appreciated his love of books, especially literature and philosophy, and they often debated Surak (he had brought her gift with him, expressly, to debate her on some of the more obscure points he found "totally confounding") until late hours of the night.

She also found that he was exceedingly considerate and, what Humans called, a gentleman. He always deferred to her in terms of their personal habits and adjustments. And he never took her comfort for granted. The only problem she had was his incessant obsession with the game of water polo – a game both he and Commander Tucker seemed to find fascinating beyond normal parameters.

She only wished that, in terms of the command structure, he would be as "gentlemanly".

Curiously, she had realized that Terran males tended to treat males and females of any species the same way when it came to work related activities. Hence, his, at times, slightly "rough" handling of her sensibilities. And of course, their previous animosity had not completely disappeared. Although mostly contained, she thought they had yet to settle some latent bitterness on his part. But that would take time, she assumed.

By the fourth day, after the situation with the aliens had been resolved, they had both fallen into a routine of sorts. When they awoke at dawn, most of the catwalk would still be sleeping except for a skeleton crew in the Command Center. She realized, in their time together, that he was a light, easy sleeper and an early riser. He would be up by 0500 and would allow her to meditate while he went off aft. In about an hour, she would hear the low, rumbling sound of his voice, speaking to the dawn shift in the jerry- rigged Command Center. She would then get up and perform her morning ablutions in the little alcove beside their sleeping area that he had especially asked Commander Tucker to provide for her. They would then meet for a shortened version of the daily schedule and travel to the crew compartments together to have breakfast with the crew and other bridge officers.

"Here's a chance to learn," he had advised.

And she had taken it to heart. As much as was possible for her, she'd fraternized with her crewmates on the catwalk. But the Captain "took the cake" as they said on Earth, in terms of fraternization. Of course, T'Pol knew that he would be hard pressed to beat Commander Tucker in that regard. But, as the week wore on, she was amazed... yes, amazed, to know how many of the crew Captain Archer was personally acquainted with. And also how many of the crew, young and inexperienced as they were, looked to him as their mentor and guide. Even their hero.

Food was usually not an elaborate affair, and Lts. Reed and Sato often helped the chef dole out the ration packs to the crew. The Captain, as was his express order, was always the last to receive his packet. In the evenings, Commander Trip insisted on showing what he termed Terran horror "classics" – films that she had a notion no one except he and Mr. Reed liked to watch.

And, perhaps, Dr. Phlox and Ensign Cutler.

After the movie, they would all congregate in the widest section of the catwalk. There would be some scattered jokes, laughter and some very Terran- style "ribbing". She quite enjoyed these, she found. Mostly because she realized she liked to see Humans laugh. They laughed with such abandon. As if they would, at any moment, begin rolling around on the deck plating.

But most of all, she liked to see Jonathan Archer laugh. Especially when he would throw his head back and emit a loud guffaw, followed by a hand over his mouth and subsequent choked sounds of, what she assumed, barely suppressed mirth. The long, masculine line of his throat would be exposed to discerning eyes and his eyes would sparkle and turn a lighter green.

She had noticed quite a few female members of the crew openly admiring the sight. She could not fault them: it was spellbinding.

Of course, she told herself – as she observed him – that she was an incipient artist and he, or someone like him, had been her first muse. That gave her ample reason to observe and file away certain visual treats for later, closer, examination.

The last night they all spent together in the catwalk had been a definite tribute to the bravery and camaraderie of the crew. As if to seal the envelope, the Captain had spent the whole evening with the crew, talking, joking, and singing popular hits from Earth's earlier centuries as well as from the current one. He had looked happy and content while he sang. She could tell that most of the crew knew that the Captain could sing. And they were loud and enthusiastic, egging him on... Commander Tucker, naturally, in the forefront of the melee. T'Pol thought the Captain had a mellifluous, melodious voice, definitely an asset. She especially liked a song he sang toward the end of the evening – once everyone had almost fallen asleep.

She had been sitting in a corner with Ensign Cutler as he strolled along the catwalk, checking on the sleeping crew. He had paused by them, his eyes resting on her face.

"Subcommander, isn't it past your bedtime?" The corner of his lips had quirked a little as he'd asked the question.

Ensign Cutler, almost asleep herself, had piped up – "One last song, Captain, please?"

He had hesitated for a moment. T'Pol had looked him, and he at her. Then he'd smiled at the young Ensign and shrugged.

The next moment, he'd dropped down on the catwalk, facing them, his legs hanging off to the side, swinging slightly. And he had sung, in a low, almost hushed voice, a short melody T'Pol could not help but respond to, aesthetically. It had sounded almost like a "lullaby", as the Humans called it.

By now, the lights had been dimmed all over, and much of the crew was dozing, including Elizabeth Cutler.

T'Pol and the Captain were two of the few who were still awake. As she had stared up at him, he'd crooned the last line – "nothing's gonna harm you... not while I'm... around" – gazing back at her, his eyes dark, deep. And a bit troubled.

Some scattered applause had rung through the catwalk. After a moment, he had looked away from her and toward the already sleeping form of Elizabeth Cutler. He had murmured a soft "sleep tight" to the Ensign and stood up to bid goodnight to the rest of the crew.

Then he had looked back at her, held out his hand, and hoisted her to the catwalk.

After that, they'd walked to the back of the command center and had gone to bed without any more conversation. But T'Pol had lain awake for a long while, listening to his breathing, thinking over the lines of the song and the look in his eyes while he sang her his lullaby.

For she knew he had sung it for her. Some things, between them, had never needed any extra analysis.

***Life is complicated, my mother. And I am afraid that I may not be ready***

The next morning, their last day in the catwalk, she woke first, at around 0400 hours, and had stayed prone in her sleeping area while in light meditation. After half an hour, she had come out of her trance only to glance toward his side and find him lying on his makeshift bed, his head resting on his crossed arms, his eyes on her.

When her eyes fell upon him, he had smiled a little.

"Good morning, Captain," she'd said, sitting up, slightly disconcerted at his steady regard. Last night, his gaze had been similar in its... probing quality.

"Morning. Am I disturbing you?" His words were an echo of an earlier conversation.

She had shaken her head in answer.

"You want to get up?"

"I can sit for a while." And talk, she had added silently. When had she become so addicted to the sound of his voice... their mingled voices?

He had smiled a little more at that. Then sobered.

"T'Pol." He had glanced up at the low-slung ceiling, actually, the upper rightmost angle of that part of the nacelle, she surmised.

"I am worried." He had said, after a pause.

She had looked sideways at him.

"About?"

"Ohh... just about... everything." He had sighed a bit.

During her time on Earth, she had trained her voice to be more reflective of Human speech patterns – general nuance and inflection in Standard English were different from that of Vulcan. But she had found, with the Captain, she tended to keep that part of her training to a minimum. When they spoke with each other, especially when they were alone, she spoke mostly in her own Vulcan monotone. She had no idea why.

"That is to be expected."

At her answer, he had glanced back at her sharply.

"T'Pol!"

"Yes, Captain?"

He had turned his body fully toward her then, his head resting on one arm. He had looked at her, his eyes intent on her face, for about four seconds.

"T'Pol... are you pulling my leg?"

At her quick glance toward his legs he had grinned.

"No, Captain. I am merely awaiting your full report on your... malaise."

He'd sat up then – his gaze steady on her face.

"Never mind that." His eyes had suddenly looked very green in the semi- darkness, his face serious.

She sat silently, watching him fidget, his hands pulling at the rough fabric of the woolen sheet covering him.

When he spoke, his voice was low, almost a whisper.

"T'Pol, why do I sometimes find you... looking at me... oddly?"

It had come.

The surprising thing was, despite her long anticipation of this moment, she had had no ready answer.

"... Oddly?" It was all she could say.

"Yes. Oddly. Quietly. Discreetly. As if you have never seen me before..."

For a moment, she had been speechless.

And, in a split second, she had decided to remain in that state. Well, almost.

'...Or, as if I have, Captain.' she had said to herself.

Aloud, she had said, "I don't know..."

"... What to say?" He had finished for her.

She had sighed inwardly and taken a deep breath. This man was too perceptive. She had to be careful.

"Captain, I am sorry if I do not always adhere to acceptable Human modes of behavior. I realize that I am not always mindful of how Humans approach personal space and privacy—"

"—No, no, T'Pol! It's not that... oh geez!"

He had run a hand through his already disheveled hair. "No, it's just that it doesn't look to me like you do it to anyone else... I mean," he had looked at her a bit warily then. "At least, it doesn't seem like it... umm... do you look at Trip the same way? I mean..."

His voice had seemed to have an edge to it all of a sudden.

She had almost shaken her head but, at the last instance, refrained from doing so. Instead, she had just sat there and looked at him.

He had gotten up then and come to her side and squatted down. As he lowered himself, she had almost stopped breathing. The nearness of him had been suddenly too overpowering. She couldn't understand why. This wasn't new. They had always worked within each other's personal space. It actually wasn't strange that she had become used to his particular odor to the point that she no longer needed her nasal numbing agent to be refilled every 24 hours around him.

But this time, as he'd hovered near her, his scent dove into her with a power that was ancient, even primitive: a mixture of Earth wood and Earth musk and something... something... very... Jonathan Archer. She had gasped slightly. Nasal cells are highly adaptable, she had reminded herself, trying to maintain her training, her control. It had proved difficult, however. He was sitting... squatting... right in front of her, his right knee almost touching her left. She had looked at him and, all of a sudden, had felt the full blast of his Humanness... his maleness...

He had taken the jacket of his uniform off, and had been wearing just the inner vest, with the sleeves rolled up and the top three buttons undone. She had felt her eyes drawn inexorably to him. It was as if she was discovering anew the image held long in her brain. Only, this time, instead of damp clay, her hands were molding flesh, warm and pliant, and undeniably responsive. Her eyes had traveled involuntarily, down the column of his throat rising above the outspread wings of the black collar of his vest, to the little curlicues of dark golden hair peeking out from atop the last undone button.

All of a sudden, she had felt heat spreading outward from the nexus of her stomach muscles – a searing, pulling ache that made her gasp. Her breathing had quickened and she had realized, much to her surprise, that her hands itched to travel over the bare expanse of his flesh, her fingers mingling in his hair, her lips nibbling at the slight protrusion at the center of his throat, her tongue dipping into the dark hollow at its base...

She had sat there, stunned by the images in her conscious mind, her body's response almost a betrayal to her long-assumed control.

All of her life, she had awaited Pon Farr – the ultimate undoing and redoing of every Vulcan's individual existence, and at that moment, in the darkness, listening to the hum of the impulse drive and the racing of her hearts, she had begun to believe that her Time may have come.

She didn't know how long they sat there, facing each other, but she had slowly become aware of the silence around them, realizing that time had passed and he was probably waiting for an answer.

Then she had looked up and met his gaze, and had found it impossible to look away. As they had stared at each other, she realized two things, almost concurrently.

One, the previous face in her mind had been replaced almost completely with his. She could not even remember the lines of the original any more. It had ceased to matter.

His was the image. It was as simple as that.

And two, he knew.

He knew.

He was, after all, a male of his species. And she knew that, unlike her, he was enough experienced in matters of the flesh to know that actions spoke louder than words.

At some point, they had looked away from each other and down at the small expanse of deck plating between them.

Neither of them said a word.

Then he had cleared his throat and, after a moment, stood up.

As he stepped out of their sleeping area, she had heard him say to the crewman relieving Mayweather for the early shift – "Lt. Tanner, please remember to keep it quiet. The Subcommander is meditating."

She had meditated for a full two hours that morning. The Captain had not come back in. The next time she had seen him, around 1045 hours, he had been in the crew section, helping to empty the catwalk of the last of its temporary residents. They had exchanged a quick look, and he had, almost brusquely, asked her to do a final head count. Yes, Captain, she had said. And those had been the only words they had exchanged before leaving the catwalk.

So, for her, it had been a week of discovery. And now it was at an end.

***I feel a touch of melancholia, as well, my mother***

The ship was secured now, but for a while when they were in the catwalk, she knew that the Captain had been extremely worried about losing his ship and his crew to either the Neutronic Wave or opportunistic aliens. It still worried him: how easily the aliens had been able to get on board, gain entry into various systems (granted, most of them not command or principal), and even read his personal logs.

Maybe there should be audio and video links at every corridor junction on the ship, the thought, idly. She would suggest it to him during their next meeting.

---

Then, there was that conversation they had had in his ready room, just before moving into the catwalk. She still had no idea why she had prevaricated about the T'Plana.

She'd felt her eyes dwelling on her as soon as she'd joined him by the window.

"I didn't expect it to be beautiful."

She had not been sure how to answer.

"I thought you said it was nearly destroyed," his voice had been soft, and when she'd looked at him, his eyes had been intent, knowing, on hers.

"I must have remembered incorrectly."

He had accepted it at the time. He always accepted her. That was one of the most reliable traits of this most unpredictable human, she had discovered. Even after she had almost convinced herself of his rigid stance toward most Vulcans, and consequently, her, she had discovered, as far back as the time of their first visit to P'Jem, that he could be startlingly flexible, and could compromise without seeming to be defeated.

It was most off-putting, this behavior. But she had to admit, if only to herself, that it was also endearing. And exciting.

He had accepted her explanation of the T'Plana without further questions. Of course, he knew the truth. But he had not pushed her for it. That had to be the most significant change in their relationship over the past two years.

But there were truths she still could not tell him. Not now. Not yet.

She had turned back to the window as he had resumed his packing. She knew he was choosing reading material, some of his precious hardbound books. Idly – watching the wave front make ribbons of light on the dark fabric it was tearing apart – she wondered whether he had read the Teachings of Surak she had given him. Or had he spent most of his time "relaxing" with the woman he had found on Risa?

As they had prepared to leave the ready room, he had picked up his carryall and turned to her.

"T'Pol," he had said, the barest traces of a smile hovering around his lips. "You don't mind sharing the so-called command quarters with me, do you?"

"Not at all, sir," she had answered smoothly. "Dr. Phlox has provided me with two week's supply of the nasal numbing agent."

She had missed his muttered reply as the comm. had beeped at the same time. But she had almost been sure that he had said – "I bet he has" – or something to that effect.

A bit later, as she had passed him on the way out of the bridge, a whiff of his natural scent had penetrated her numbing shield, and she had felt a sudden, strong sense of longing. For what, she had no idea. But he smelled of loose sand and salt-sweet water – and the time she had spent strolling the boardwalk over the beach in Venice, California.

He'd smelled clean yet musky. A smell she had, over the years, come to associate with Jonathan Archer.

---

Now, as they walked down the corridor, the smell most overpowering to her was emanating not from the owner, but his pet. Porthos ambled along beside them, then stopped, wagged his tail, and looked up at her.

She cleared her throat. At least Porthos seemed to know that they had arrived at the door to her quarters.

The captain finally looked up from his contemplation of nothing (it seemed). She now knew that she had been right. He did look disheartened and a bit depressed.

***I do not want this to end, my mother. I want to know...***

Living with Humans is making me exceedingly rude – what they conveniently term 'curious", she thought.

But this was the right thing to do, she knew. This man, no matter what, had always been there for her. Even if he did not agree with her, he had been there. Always. That meant something. As to what it exactly meant, she could only ponder.

She opened her mouth to speak, but this time he beat her to the punch.

"T'Pol, have a good sleep, you deserve it," she saw him emit a small sigh. "I know I do."

Something was needed here... what was it? Yes, Commander Tucker was a great believer in these... what did he call them? Ice breakers. That was it.

"Captain, I think our primary need at the moment is a thorough wash." The words sailed out before she could think them through or re-arrange them.

Almost immediately, she felt the change in the air between them. His eyes dwelled on her and, for some unknown reason, she felt her entire body heat up. She could feel the tips of her ears turning a deep shade of bronze. She wanted to press her palms to her cheeks to keep them from getting warmer.

She turned, quickly keyed in her command code, and the hatch to her cabin opened.

The swishing sound acted like an alarm, it seemed. As she turned back to him, he blinked all of a sudden, and stretched his shoulders and neck.

Her eyes went, almost involuntarily, to the expanse of his chest, now encased in his uniform. He had a long muscular torso, she idly thought, and a pleasing form.

She looked up at his face, finding his eyes on hers.

For a millisecond, she thought she saw his face change, soften...

Then he straightened. "Yes... we both need a shower. G'night, T'Pol."

With that muttered comment, he turned away and strode through the now normally lit corridor toward his quarters.

T'Pol stood at the hatch to her quarters for a moment longer, contemplating his receding back. Yes, Jonathan Archer was an enigma, and more so after this particular experience.

She went to the back of her living area and entered the bathing alcove. The mirror was cracked in the lower-left hand side and she immediately noticed it. She traced her index finger over the fissure. It was a deep crack. She stepped back out and looked around her cabin. Various objects were strewn on the floor. The storm had been rough on the ship if this had happened even here, the most well protected area of the ship. It housed quarters for the bridge officers, including the Captain's – surely the most valuable of all crewmembers.

She found herself wondering if he was all right. That is, if his cabin was all right.

She felt very dirty, and her body smelled of musk and sweat. She realized she needed a shower.

But the time for thinking, and rethinking, was over.

She walked smoothly out of her quarters, uncaring of detection, and went over to the hatch of his.

Don't think. Don't analyze. You are only checking if he is all right.

Yes, Vulcans and rationalizations went hand in hand.

Ignoring her inner dialogue, she chimed his door and waited. She thought she heard a faint thud. Then Porthos barked. Once, twice, thrice. Yes, he at least, knew she was here. So she waited.

***Impatience is not a Vulcan virtue, beloved daughter***

She turned to go. And the door swished open.

"Yes?" His voice was impatient, rough.

She opened her mouth, and closed it again. He was wearing just his uniform pants. And nothing else.

Have I ever seen him without his top garment? She thought.

"T'Pol." Her name was a statement. Not a question. It was almost an affirmation. She saw him put up a hand and run his fingers through his hair. His eyes looked shadowy and his chin dark with stubble. He smelled just as before. Earth wood and Earth musk, with a touch of Jonathan Archer. She inhaled deeply.

"Captain...I..." Her lips felt chapped, her mouth dry.

She found herself, all of a sudden, being pulled into the cabin, heard the door slide shut behind her. But she had to finish what she had started to say.

"... wanted to find out if you were alright—"

Then his lips were on her jaw, her throat, her neck. His hands were on her arms, pushing her against the wall by the door, holding her captive. She found that she could not breathe. She did not need to breathe.

She turned her head toward his and found his lips with hers, parting them slightly, waiting for him.

She felt his lips move, and heard him say two words against her mouth – " Oh god!"

Then he let go of her arms, took her face in his hands, and looked down at her.

"T'Pol... oh god... we can't..."

"Stop talking," she said, and reached out and pulled his head closer. As their mouths meshed, she heard him groan, his voice rough and deep. She did not want him to talk. She did not want to talk. Time for talk was over. We will talk later... there will be time for talk later.

She struggled but found she could no longer think rationally.

Was this... the Time? My Time? Is it upon me? Is this what it is?

She wasn't sure. All she knew was that she needed the touch of his hands, his lips, his body upon hers. His hands were touching her back, sliding down, flat and firm on her flesh, his lower body pushing hers deeper into the wall. She gasped and opened her mouth and felt the gentle nudge of his tongue on hers. He tastes good, she thought, in some surprise. Like t'sulaki and sweet pliva; and a little like the Terran cashew nut. Buttery and smooth. His tongue was cooler than hers, and a little rough as it probed the moist heat at the recess under her own tongue.

She moaned, her own ears disbelieving of the sound.

She thought she heard him answer in kind.

She wanted to explore every part of his mouth with hers, every inch of his body with hers. She felt a fire within herself that had not been lit at all. Now it was burning out of control. Why was this considered a negative thing? Why are Vulcans so fearful of this Time? She thought, a little hazily.

She wanted to open her eyes and look at him. But she couldn't. The heat between them was too strong. So she squinted in the half-light as she put her hands on his chest. Dark golden hair everywhere... she breathed heavily as she twirled her fingers in them. He groaned her name.

And said something like... "not here."

She could not hear other sounds very well. There was a hum in her ears that drowned out extraneous noise. But she was honed to his voice. She heard him well. She heard his voice in her ears, and felt the rumble of his words within her own body as he spoke.

"T'Pol..." He pulled slightly back from her. She almost whimpered.

Was there a smile in his voice? "...You don't mind the odor?"

She felt amused. He was worried about his body odor. Now? How very Human!

"I have not showered, either."

"Yeah, but you smell wonderful. I, on the other hand..."

"Well, now we both smell like you... Jonathan."

She felt, rather than heard, the sharp intake of his breath.

She slid her hands down his chest to his abdomen. The flesh, flat and carved as if in stone, quivered at her touch. What a beautiful man! Her entire body was trembling now. As she placed her mouth over the little protrusion she had often watched bobbing at his throat – the Adam's Apple, a quaint name, as the Human's called it – she heard him groan. She licked his throat, then slid her mouth over to the hollow at the base of his throat.

"T'Pol..."

"Jonathan..."

She felt him stiffen. She knew why.

"Jonathan," she repeated, and looked up at him. He was looking down at her, his eyes dark, his face unreadable. She reached up and kissed him firmly on his mouth, a human gesture, she knew. Then she looked down at his hands, resting on her hips. Taking his left hand in hers, she curled the index and the middle fingers of her right hand around his. He gasped a little, and looked a bit dazed. He shook his head a little, as if clearing something in his ears.

She smiled up at him. Now she knew she had his full attention.

"Jonathan... I pledge to thee my deepest self," she said, her voice low, soft. "The time for doubt is past."

***Someday, my mother, I will tell him***

She put her hands on either side of his face, and brought it to hers. Closing her eyes, she touched her left cheek to his, rubbing softly, gently, her lips teasing his earlobe with the barest brush. She snaked the tip of her tongue out and licked the skin underneath his earlobe. She deposited the most fleeting of kisses on his cheek, on his eyes, on the tip of his patrician nose...

He moaned, his body flush against hers. She thought she heard him say something, but the singing in her veins was too loud, the hum in her ears deafening.

She felt herself being hoisted over his shoulders and carried in the air. The next moment, she was sitting on his bed. In the starlight from his window, she looked up at him and saw his face.

Her noble warrior.

She arched up as he bent down and kissed her. Savagely, now. She felt herself responding in kind. His hands went to the back of her neck and tore at the zipper of her uniform, rending it in half. She gasped as the coolness of the air in his cabin hit her naked flesh and gave a stifled cry at the touch of his hands on her breasts as he cupped them, holding them up slightly. They swelled at his touch, the peaks coming alive under his thumbs. She moaned, looked up at him and saw his eyes on her – her face, her throat, her breasts, her stomach. She felt heat, impossible and unbelievable, spreading inside her, deep in her belly. He was looking at her as he had never before. His face was intent, his eyes smoky, narrowed in passion, his lower lip swollen, his jaw jutting. He was breathing in soft gasps. He let her go for a few moments and she felt adrift, bereft. She thought she heard herself whimper.

Then he was back, kneeling between her thighs, his body naked and slippery with sweat. She felt faint. Something, someone, deep within her, rejoiced at the sight of him. At the thought of them... together... here... at last.

He was panting a bit, but he looked at her quietly, as if asking for her permission.

Then he took a deep breath.

"T'Pol, I love you... I always have..." His voice was hoarse. His eyes glistened a little.

In answer, she caught his head in her hands and brought it down to her breasts, her body surging against his as she felt his lips on her swollen flesh. The feel of him against her, hot and hard, made her almost insane. She knew she was beyond control, her hips urging him on, her body arching against his.

Was it Time yet? How much longer, Jonathan? How much longer?

Had she said that aloud? She had no idea.

Then, as she neared unconsciousness, she felt his hands on either side of her hips, holding her to him, holding her steady. He was saying her name over and over again, as if he knew the extent of her dementia, as if he was pulling her back from the brink. His touch helped her focus and she heard him call her name again – once, twice. On the third sounding of her name on his lips, she felt his heat penetrate hers. She thought she heard him moan. Louder this time. But she was too lost in her own madness to truly feel his. She felt him let go of her hips and wrap his arms around her body, then taking her arms and legs and wrapping them around his. She moved with him, paying no heed to anything else except his calls to her as they echoed within her body and her mind. Then it was too late. She thought she heard him cry out as she felt the fire between them explode, igniting their souls into near-oblivion.

As she had predicted, no words were necessary. In the moments before she fell asleep, she looked up at him. He kissed her gently and smiled, his face a mixture of wonder and understanding.

And she knew she had finally completed her quest.

***Rest now, beloved daughter. You are home***

---

Jonathan lay awake. The stars were whizzing past his cabin window and space felt quiet tonight.

Hmm... illogical, he knew, as someone would surely remind him.

His body was at a point of utter and complete satiation. But his mind was in turmoil.

What had just happened here?

He looked sideways and saw T'Pol, on her side, her head cradled against his chest. She had fallen asleep right after he had kissed her. She must have been tired, he thought.

Heck, I am tired!

But oh dear god! What did I... what did we do here? Was this okay? Would it all be all right... after this? Could it? Would she be all right? Would they?

Oh god, what if this was all a huge mistake?

What had happened to them?

Could it have been the intensity of the close quarters of the week spent together on the catwalk?

He shook his head.

T'Pol, Vulcan or not, was a woman, after all. And he was only a man. Only a man. In love with the woman of his dreams.

He knew he could never deny the feelings he had for his first officer. But he had never, in any moment of madness, imagined the full extent of what had happened between them just a moment ago. His mind reeled at the thoughts, the images... the utter, total dislocation of his self he had felt when they were together.

He still felt it...

Jonathan rubbed at his temples. His head throbbed a little.

'Go to sleep, Jonathan.'

Wha..?

Huh?

He looked around.

'Go to sleep. Now.'

"T'Pol?"

'Yes, beloved?'

He sat up.

"Are you talking to me, T'Pol?"

"I am," her voice held a quiet amusement.

"In my head?"

'Yes.' Even her voice in his head sounded amused.

"But I..."

'Jonathan... slowly, take it slowly. We have a lot to teach each other.'

"Oh boy!" He let out a huge breath.

His head felt a little better after that.

He looked down at her. In the starlight, she seemed ethereal; her elfin features a step away from melting into nothingness. Her hair lay fanned out on his pillow and her legs were entwined with his.

He swallowed. His throat felt dry.

"T'Pol..."

She sat up too. And pulled him by the waist to her.

"Yes, Jonathan?"

Was there a little smile on those full, sexy lips?

Ahem.

He tried to breathe. Slowly. Deeply. In. Out. Okay?

Okay.

"T'Pol. We... I...what..."

She waited. He waited too. For words that just would not come out.

"... Jonathan Archer, man of many words. Effectively silenced, I see."

She was smiling, in the dark.

But he felt as if someone had just turned the lights in his cabin to 2000%.

He smiled back. Tentatively.

Then he reached out and took her face in his hands. She really was here. With him. And she was leaning against him, her chin rubbing against the stubble on his.

"I... love you." He mouthed the words. Silently. Was he still afraid?

No.

No, he was not.

"T'Pol... I love you." There, he'd said it.

She was looking at him. She was no longer smiling. She looked earnest, and solemn. Then she raised her face to his, her lips pursing a bit.

He smiled. He bent his head and touched his mouth to hers. Her lips were soft, hot, and parted eagerly beneath his. He groaned a bit, under his breath.

As they came apart, she looked at him. Her eyes were dark, her pupils enormous.

He thought she looked as if she was cross-eyed, so close were their faces to each other.

"... And I adore thee... my noble warrior."

He raised his eyebrows.

"Noble warrior?"

"Yes... my Alexander... my Achilles..."

She gently kissed the hollow at the base of his throat and looked up at him, her eyes crinkling at the corners a bit.

He grinned. Will wonders never cease! His Vulcan was a romantic at heart. And she knew Homer. Hmm, yet another topic of discussion. Would this woman never quit amazing him?

"Hmmm... well... you know... if I am Achilles... you'd have to be my heel then..."

"Then I am a heel," she said.

At that, he guffawed. Loudly. Some part of him noticed that she was now sitting back and looking at him. Her eyes were wide and her face intent, a little quirk pulling at a corner of her lips. She didn't say anything. She just kept looking at him as he laughed.

Her eyes were dark green, the whites an almost translucent, pale blue. She had long, thick lashes. Beautiful, he thought. She was beautiful.

He felt his breath catch.

She looks happy, he thought. My god!

He sobered a little. As he recovered, he knew he should explain.

He pulled her back to him, ran his hands over her disheveled hair and cupped the back of her neck. She gazed back at him, her hands sliding up and down his arms.

She has bedhair, he thought, idly. How endearing. How cute. She was cute, he thought.

"T'Pol, I gotta get you to read some of the books written during the 20th century."

"Why, Jonathan... did I say something wrong?"

"Oh noooo... noo..." He felt like sniggering again. "It's just that you and I need to work more on idiomatic English... shall we leave it at that??"

She nodded, solemnly.

He winked at her. She was adorable.

He took a deep breath. Hmm... but someone wasn't. Someone stank to high heaven.

He pushed the sheet off his legs. "And now I think I will stop torturing both of us and go take a shower."

She let go of his arms and sat back. "Now?"

"Yes. Now."

"All right," T'Pol yawned and fell back on the bed, her eyes closing almost in the next instance.

Jonathan eyed her, making up his mind. That nasal numbing agent was some miracle drug, huh? Phlox could get rich like no tomorrow.

Pulling away her sheet, he picked her up in his arms, cradling her head against his left shoulder.

She snuffled a little against his chest, rubbing her head into it. "Where are you taking me?"

"To the bathroom."

"But I don't need a shower—"

"—I'm sorry, baby, but you do..."

He caught his breath a little and stood leaning against his bed frame. Every time he picked her up, it hit him. She was heavier than she looked. Well, he knew she was stronger than him, as well.

"Jonathan... yes... you do. But I am so sleepy I can't detect your odor any longer..."

He grinned. He couldn't believe he was hearing that tone in his first officer's voice. She was whining!

"I wore ya out, huh?"

"Jonathan, please allow me to..."

Her words sounded a little slurred. Damn, she was sleepy, he thought. He walked slowly into the bathroom, careful not to bang her protruding feet against the side of the door.

"Just a nice, short, hot shower, sweetheart. You'll sleep better this way," he whispered.

"Hmm..." was all she said.

Her eyes were still closed but her left hand was on his chest, playing with his hair. He tried to trap her fingers in his.

"T'Pol..."

She raised her head and nuzzled his neck, her tongue poking at his skin. God! He thought. Time to get this woman into the shower stall pronto.

He stood her up gingerly against the smoked glass of the stall, and leaned over to turn the spray on. He had a sudden vision of her pushing him into this very shower stall and turning the spray full on his face.

He grinned. Tit for tat, huh?

He shook his head.

Nah...

She was leaning against him now, her hands on his back inching slowly down toward his buttocks. He slapped at them playfully. He could not help but smile. Who'da thunk this? His Vulcan was insatiable, passionate and downright sexy.

Well, he knew that.

He tested the water, checked for adequate shampoo and body wash on the counter nearby and turned to her.

She was looking up at him, her eyes wide and very awake. As he faced her, she slid her hands up his chest and pressed her body against his, nudging them both into the middle of the stall.

He gasped.

The water felt wonderful against his back, and T'Pol felt... Oh dear god...

The End. (