Author's Note: Look! I'm back! Finally, huh?

Um, well, I've been working very hard on this story for a couple months now- kind of evident from when this takes off from. It's supposed to be a little after 'Harginger'.

Well, enjoy the story and please review. Tell me how the first chapter and all is going for you.

Summary: What happened onboard the Enterprise when a mysterious visitor arrives? Why's he there and what does he want?

Pairings: Trip and T'Pol

Rating: PG-13 for some strong language later on, suggested adult situations, and mild violence

Genre: Action/Adventure, Romance

Through Fire: For Family and Duty

The Vulcan looked at the screen. He knew what it said; he knew the conditions first hand. His eyes closed, imagining what it must have been like. He remembered the other victims… those of their enemy and how they had looked… how they had suffered, how they had died. He remembered the young girl and her little brother and thought of all the children on the three colonies.

He thought of all the families he had seen die on that planet… thought of them as they slowly suffocated to death… their heart gradually coming to a stop… the numbness they must have felt.

And, for a moment, he wished he had been there. That he had been there to comfort them, to be with them in their final moments, to die with them like he should. He never should have left there… his father had been right, the military had not been a good idea for him. Just heartbreak… for everyone.

But, then, rational thought took over and told him how stupid that sounded. He needed to be in control, logical… emotionless if he was going to complete the mission his superiors were sending him on. No matter how crazy it sounded, it seemed better than living through the hell he called his life. He just hoped that it worked…

-----Enterprise, Bridge-----

"Captain, I'm picking up a distress signal," Ensign Hoshi Sato announced, looking over at her Captain.

Captain Jonathan Archer stood, looking over at his Comm. Officer. "Xindi?"

"I don't think so, sir. It looks more… Vulcan, sir," she announced with surprise.

"Where is it coming from?"

"That nebula."

"Travis," Archer said, his order understood by the Helm Officer, Ensign Travis Mayweather.

"I'm on it, sir." Expertly, Mayweather piloted the starship closer to the escape pod where the signal was coming from. As they got closer, it was easy to see the damaged condition the ship was in.

"Any lifesigns?" Captain Archer asked, taking in the sight of the grayish green pod against the swirling purples, pinks, and blues of the nebula.

"One, sir. And it is Vulcan."

Archer nodded at his Comm. Officer before telling Lieutenant Malcolm Reed, "Can you pull it in with the grappler?"

"I can try, sir," Malcolm answered, his English accent adding a different cadence to his voice than the Indiana-native. Archer turned back to the view screen, watching the mechanical grapplers grabbing onto the pod. "Got it, sir. I'll try to pull it into our Shuttle Bay."

"Good. T'Pol, come with me. Hoshi, tell Phlox to meet us down there."

"Yes, sir," she responded, not taking the time to watch her two highest-ranking superiors walk out the bridge.

-----Enterprise, Sickbay-----

Slowly the young Vulcan began to rouse from his deep sleep, starring blankly at the ceiling above him. Looking to his side, he found that his surrounds were completely unfamiliar to him. Lifting himself up on his elbows, he took a deep breath, trying to stop this head from spinning. Listening, he heard the sounds of a door opening and footsteps walking through the threshold.

Though he couldn't see them, he listened to their conversation quietly; it was as if he was trying to assess where he was and who they were along with any threat they might pose him.

He could hear the higher pitched voice of a male, speaking to the others. He was telling them about his patient's- presumably the Vulcan's- condition. The next voice to speak- a deeper, commanding voice- asked something about his being a Vulcan and questioning that possibility.

A new, female voice jumped in. Her voice was more monotone rather than the giddy man and other, bewildered, one. She stated the possibility that he had come from one of the two Vulcan ships they knew had entered the Expanse.

The deeper male voice spoke again, seemingly accepting the possibility, and inquiring if the Vulcan could be woken. The higher pitched voice- the Vulcan deduced was the Doctor- responded with an affirmative answer.

At that moment, he could hear footsteps approaching his concealed bed. Acting as quickly as he could, the Vulcan folded his shirtsleeve up and removed the device it contained. Breaking it opened, he knew that whatever was in it would quickly spread throughout the large ship.

Three soft thuds were heard on the other side of the curtain and the Vulcan knew they had been the first to come in contact with the drug. Standing on two wobbly legs, he retrieved a circular object from his pants pocket.

It would take time to finish his work before they woke, which wouldn't be for another twenty hours. Plenty of time to do what he needed done. But first things first…

-----Enterprise, Bridge-----

In one fluent motion, the doors to the turbolift opened. Archer, curious, turned to look in that direction just as Selak walked out. Dressed in his crisp uniform, he walked without thought to his position at the engineering console. Even through all of Trip's complaints, he had still been put as the second in command of Tucker's engine room, and the man had been furious at the time. Of course, over the past few mouths, he had warmed up to the Vulcan.

Archer shot a suspicious look over at the Vulcan. He still didn't know how much he could trust the young officer. But, just as it happened with T'Pol, he was beginning to get used to the man as he, too, was starting to integrate himself into the crew.

Looking back out the view screen, he looked at the large nebula they had been investigating. Nothing had turned up as important and they were preparing to leave. But something seemed out of place about that, Archer just couldn't pinpoint it. Shrugging it off, he ordered Travis to take them away and start back on their destination.

The stars whizzed by, enchanting Captain Archer as he slipped back into his mind to contemplate his latest situation. They were on their way to an old mining colony, Trip and Selak having volunteered to help fix some of their broken equipment. In exchange, they were to receive the necessary dilithium Enterprise needed to continue running.

But, as long as those two were occupied leaving nothing else to accomplish, Archer wanted to explore some of the other interesting features the area had to offer. He wanted to go back to the old ways. To the days when they were able to explore and meet other people rather than seeking to fight off another in order to save themselves.

Archer sighed. Looking around, he saw the familiar faces that- for most of them- had been there since the beginning. Those officers who had gone with him to fend off the Suliban and save Klaang. Those who he had immense respect for and those he knew would go as far as it took to save their world. And that was what he loved about his dedicated crew.

His eyes continued to wonder, to remember every fact about every officer on the bridge. To remember their names, their families, some of their interest. And, when they settled on Selak, he paused. It was true he knew very little about the young man. That, as a Vulcan, he isolated himself from the crew most of the time. But Archer knew that, no matter what, the man would give his life to protect the ship, the crew, and Earth… even without the blood or genetic ties to any Humans. And that was something he envied about the emotionless Vulcan. Both Vulcans that he knew.

His eyes turned back to the view screen, once again enchanted by the white stars stretching as warp speed distorted them…

-----Darius Prime, Dilithium Mining Facility-----

"Are you guys all set?" Captain Archer asked his long time friend over the comm., his eyes set on the planet they were currently orbiting.

"Yeah, I think so," Commander Tucker replied, glancing over to Lieutenant Selak- the Vulcan talking to some of the workers. Trip looked the aliens over quickly, noticing immediately their pale skin tone and cheek and forehead ridges. "We'll see ya in a few. Have fun without us."

Archer nodded, even though he knew Trip couldn't see him. A soft smile tugging the corners of his mouth and a long forgotten feeling crept into his stomach. He was excited; finally, a break from the Xindi, even if its only a few hours.

With that, Archer closed the comm. link between them just prior to giving Travis the order to go to warp.

Trip walked over to Delert, the owner and manager of the dilithium mines, "You wanted us to fix somethin'?"

"Right this way, Commander, Lieutenant."

-----Enterprise, Mess Hall-----

"Hey! Valiente! Come sit over here."

Lieutenant Valiente looked through the afternoon crowd that had formed, coming in for a quick meal before their shift. A few tables down from where he stood, he could see his newest friend, Gary White, sitting with two others he didn't recognize. With his tray in hand, Valiente strolled over to their table, very conscious of the fact that all three were MACO's.

The other two watched as the blonde man sat down, noticing his pips and the red lining of his uniform. He, too, took in both of them, seeing that little was the same except for their MACO uniforms. The woman's short, dark hair, deep drown eyes, and darker skin separated her from the brunette man and his green eyes, his skin ghostly white by comparison.

"Oh, guys, this is Lieutenant Dixion Valiente. Valiente, this is Sergeant Glen Anthony and Sergeant Nila Eveleen."

"Hello," Dixion said hesitantly to the other two, suddenly feeling far more awkward than he had at Starfleet Academy.

Anthony merely nodded at him, looking back at his food. Nila, however, gave him a pleasant smile, saying, "Nice to meet you," in a very thick accent- it sounded French or something. African perhaps, but that was hardly Dixion's department.

A blanket of silence fell over them, only disrupted by the endless chatter and sounds made from the others in the room. Dixion sighed, he hated to feel like the odd one out, perhaps he shouldn't have sat with them, but then there really wasn't anywhere else to sit.

"So, how's engineering been? Like it down there?" Gary asked, his freckled face splitting into a teasing smile. Dixion shook his head, reminding the man that he only worked on the environmental systems. "Well someone has ta do it."

Dixion smiled at his friend's accent; it was clear that he came from Ireland, his firry red hair only standing to prove his claim. Valiente had always loved the Irish cadence in their voice, it made them sound jovial all the time.

"Yeah, but it sure can be boring work."

"Well, at least it keeps others from having to do it," Nila joked. Apparently she didn't mind the young, Starfleet engineer.

"So they stick it on me?"

"Who else would want it?" Gary retorted.

"You can have it for all I care." Dixion sighed, admitting, "To be honest, I'd clean the warp injectors for the entire trip, just as long as I get to be in space on a starship, I couldn't care less."

"But you'd rather have some cushiony position, right?"

"That would be preferable," Dixion told Nila, finding that he really liked her odd accent. Maybe it was a little English.

"We should be going; our shift starts in five minutes."

Dixion looked over at the other man- introduced as Glen. This was the first time he had spoken since he sat down, it shocked him a little to hear him interrupt the conversation with his rough, almost scratchy voice.

"Yeah. Sorry, Dixion, but we've got to leave. I'll see ya later, huh?"

"Yeah. Later. It was nice to meet both of you," he said politely, receive a grin from Nila and a scowl from Glen. Sitting back down, he looked at his tray. It was only half eaten but he was hardly hungry.

With a sigh, he picked up the tray and followed the three MACOs' course out of the room.

-----Darius Prime, Dilithium Mining Facility-----

"Hey, kid. Think ya could go in there and turn off the main power relay? I'd rather not get electrocuted when I try t' fix this," Trip joked, pointing at the shaft he wanted him to go into.

Selak looked up from his work, nearly done but relatively unimportant for the time. Following Trip's hand, seeing it pointing at the hatch door. The Vulcan stood, walking in his regular, long paces to reach the shaft. With ease, he pulled the door off and set it aside.

Trip heard the sudden sound of quickened breathing. He looked up at where the sound was coming from. For a moment, he was shocked to find the condition the young Vulcan was in. His normally bronze skin paled, his breathing quick and shallow, and his eyes starring with untold fear as he gazed into the small shaft.

"What'sa matter?" The southerner asked, standing and walking over to Selak with curiosity.

"Nothing," he responded, suddenly pulling himself out of his stupor.

Trip grabbed his arm, looking at him with concern. "Are ya sure? You don't look too well."

"I am fine…" The Vulcan stopped as he saw the knowing look the Commander held in his eyes. "I am… claustrophobic."

"Really?" Selak nearly smiled, amused at how shocked he seemed at the revelation that Vulcan's truly did have fears.

He raised an eyebrow, a seemingly natural Vulcan gesture, and informed the Human, "Vulcan's do have fears just as Humans. We merely do not display them as often or casually as your species does."

"Right… well, would ya like me to do this? You can do my part instead."

"That would be… most appreciated."

"No problem," Trip responded with a smile, handing over his tool and slipping into the shaft.

Selak moved away from the opened hatch. His heart was still pounding in his ears and he knew he was struggling to maintain control over his breathing. His mind was flooded with old memories, even as he tried to force them away. For the past two years he had not been able to even think about entering something like that without freaking out, now was no different.

Taking one last deep, calming breath, Selak knelt down and began finishing the Commander's work. All the while, he banished all thoughts and memories, focusing solely on the problem at hand.

-----Darius Prime, Dilithium Mining Facility, A Few Hours Later-----

"I'll be right back, ok? I just have t' ask Delert something," Trip informed his coworker, standing and heading out the door, the Vulcan hardly acknowledge his statement.

Walking along the quiet corridors, he tried to recall the path they had traveled earlier to find Delert's office.

Strolling up to the door, he paused as he heard voice speaking rather loudly inside. Trip, even though he knew that he shouldn't, pressed his ear to the door and listened in on the conversation. He could barely hear through the thick door but was able to make out most of the words.

"Just give them a little longer. They seem to be working quite well with the pumps; they'll have them operational in a day or so," he could hear Delert plead.

"We can not wait any longer. Their ship might return at any moment," said a second voice. It was powerful, commanding.

"They can fix the pumps faster and better than we can, which means more deuterium for you." Delert sounded desperate. Even more so, he was afraid of this other man.

"They have thirty more minutes." Footsteps sounded in the other room and Trip knew they were leaving. Hiding around the corner, he saw three Reptilian Xindi walked out of the room.

Sighing with silent relief, he watched them walk away, thankful they were heading in the opposite direction. A thought dawned on him: they had been talking about Selak and him. And, in thirty minutes, they would be coming to get them.

-----Enterprise, Bridge-----

"Ain't that a site," Archer smiled, marveling at the view he and the bridge had.

Barely a few thousands kilometers ahead of them, a pair of twin stars filled their view, and, just behind that, a large gas nebula provided a backdrop; the sensors indicated that it was almost one kilometer long and wide.

Ensign Mayweather let out a low whistle. Never in all his travels- which had been his whole life- had he seen anything as breathtaking. And he had seen some interesting things in his life- gas giants, new species, super novas, nebulas, and thousands of other such things.

All Ensign Sato could do was awe at the site. With her mouth slightly a gap and a tiny smile forming on her lips, she found the beauty to be a great relief from the war and death that had been raging on for almost eight months.

Even Malcolm, though unimpressed with many natural wonders, couldn't help but find himself the least bit intrigue and stupefied by the image. The shear size and color- the bright pinks, purples, and reds and blues- that created the nebula.

But T'Pol, ever the scientist, took little time to admire the view. Albeit, underneath all her Vulcan logic and control, she was amazed, her "Vulcan-ness" wouldn't allow for any "drooling" over the find.

Once over his initial shock, Archer could still only mutter, "It's good to be back to exploring."

-----Darius Prime, Dilithium Mining Facility-----

Trip's heart pounded in his chest, racing faster and faster until he feared it might explode. Though he had managed to quiet his breathing, he knew it was still unusually fast and labored. He strained to hear outside of the familiar walls he and the young Vulcan had taken refuge, the pounding against his ribcage causing a problem.

He glanced over at Selak, noticing his pale complexion and shallow breaths. The engineer knew that he didn't want to be in there; that his phobia was scaring him more than the immediate threat outside. He was still curious where his fear had developed and how but chose not to push the already tender subject, not that now was the time.

The noisy footsteps of their hunters echoed in the small area, alerting the two to the movements outside. Words were exchanged in a foreign language, sounding like orders in the form of harsh shouts.

Trip's eyes shut tight, hoping that they weren't going to check their location. They had successfully evaded them three times, finally hiding in the shaft. But, as they knew might happen, the Xindi had found them before their shipmates.

Trip heard the cold, mechanical lock disengage and the hatch being pulled opened, betraying the shaft's hidden refugees. The soldiers beamed with pleasure, pulling the occupants from their hiding place and holding them with firm grips.

Selak watched the scene as it seemed to fly by him in slow motion. His mind flashed with recognition, recalling similar events happening in his life but not daring to speak of them. He hardly allowed his mind to retreat to those memories at all.

The Xindi commander walked up to them, his height allowing him to look down at his captives, giving an even more intimidating look to the ugly alien. His lips tugged up in, what appeared to be, a boastful grin.

"Well, well, well, I finally get to met one of the vile Humans." Trip tried hard not to flinch away at the smell of his hot breath, his ears not missing the sarcastic note the man had put on 'Human'.

Trip struggled against his captor, trying to make himself more comfortable rather than any attempt at escape. Looking out of the corner of his eye, he saw Selak gaze on with a cool look, masking his former fear.

"Take them away," he spat and spun around to leave.

-----Location: Unknown-----

Trip and Selak were taken somewhere by the Xindi, their destination was still unknown to them. Selak looked around the dark interior of the alien facility, unsettled by the eerie feel it had to it.

Walking along the long corridor, he observed the two Xindi guards in front of them. They were in no position to attack quickly if Trip or Selak did anything. But the other two, standing behind them with their weapons aimed at the Human and Vulcan's back, were the true problem.

Selak's eye caught something on the floor, his mind hurrying to find a way to use this to his advantage. It was only when the other two guards turned down the opposite hallway, that Selak took the opportunity. Reaching behind himself, he grabbed for the alien's weapon, trying to pull it out of his hold. But he wasn't quick or strong enough to remove it from his captor.

His jaw made a horrible cracking noise as the butt of the weapon made contact with his face. Selak was forced to the ground, the back of his head hitting the wall. After several seconds of not moving Trip, who was being firmly held by the other Xindi despite his protests, was fearful that he had blacked out.

When the Vulcan moved it was only when he felt the Xindi's foot make contact with his right side, the pain practically blinding him in its intensity. His breath caught, his eye shutting in pain. A soft moan escaped his lips, his mind able to at least stop the scream from leaving his throat.

"Get up!" The harsh yell echoed in his ears, his mind telling him to obey but his body not able to comply. Cold, leather covered hands grabbed his arms, leaving behind bruises as he pulled the young man to his feet and pushing him along.

-----Enterprise, Bridge-----

Captain Archer's mind was on the passing stars, flying past at warp speed. The sight, he had to admit, was beautiful, but all too familiar. He smiled, though. Familiar. That was what exploring had been; now it was fighting.

Archer relaxed back into his chair. Relaxing, as well. He hadn't had the chance in some time. No, not in a long time. Even during the first two years of their mission he hadn't thought of himself relaxed for half the time- he had no idea what stress really was then, though.

But now he knew it all too well. The stress, the pressure, of not knowing where some of your men were. The stress of sending men to their deaths- his own people or others. The stress of finding the weapon, of not failing his people… his world.

Sighing, Archer thought back to his two officers. They- at least Trip- would have enjoyed the sight, the exploring. He wasn't sure how much Selak could appreciate it, after all the Vulcan had spent most of his life on Vulcan studying and a year or so with Humans. He couldn't possibly understand what it had been like for the crew to have those few relaxing hours.

Trip would have as well. He would have liked the chance to take a break- or as much as was possible for the man. He probably would have taken all the time fixing his engines or something. But, like that, he probably had a ball fixing their problem- anything he could get his hands on. He seemed all right with being left behind, right?

But, truth be told, Archer and his long time pal were slipping away from each other. The war with the Xindi had pulled Archer into it, into finding the weapon. He hadn't had time for Trip- but couldn't he have made it for him? Trip did, after all, lose his little sister. He should have been there for him. But there were more than one person hurt from what happened. More than just Trip at risk in that moment.

And he had, after all, plunged himself into his engines. He had worked constantly to hold the ship together. He had contributed to why it was only official reasons that they saw each other now, except the occasional breakfast and dinner. Right?

Archer had tried to rationalize their problems, their friendship, but it all came back to the Xindi. It always did- or was that just an excuse?

Archer sighed again, shifting in his chair. And then there was T'Pol. She seemed to have been there for Trip. She was starting to become a close friend with the engineer, and Archer wasn't sure how that made him feel. Did it bother him? No, not really. It was just… different. Was he jealous? He had tried, after all, to get closer to the Vulcan himself. He wasn't sure. Was he over her? Maybe. He liked how things were between them at the moment, he liked how Trip and T'Pol were no longer constantly bickering. But did he like them together?

"Sir, we're approaching the rendezvous coordinates," Travis announced, pulling Archer out of his musing.

"Slow to one quarter impulse." Archer looked out the view screen, seeing the stars go from stretched to small, points of light. He looked around, his eyebrows creased in confusion.

No one was there…

Archer could feel the bottom drop out of his stomach. They weren't there. They should have been, Trip had assured him that it wouldn't take any longer to fix. He would have been able to contact Enterprise almost an hour ago, had he needed to.

What if they had been intercepted by the Xindi? What if their shuttle had been destroyed? But Archer didn't want to think that way. No, he couldn't. The more logical side of his brain took over- they were just running late. They had lost track of time or something. Or thought that Enterprise was going to take a little longer. That was it. Nothing was wrong.

At least he hoped that was true.

"Malcolm?" The voice that came out was almost whispered, but loud enough for the Security Chief to hear.

The British man shook off his surprise. Looking down at his console, he announced, "No debris within ten thousand kilometers. No ion trails. They haven't been here, Captain. Not yet."

Good, they weren't dead. Not necessarily. No, they were still on Darius Prime. Something else had popped up unexpectantly. Nothing to worry about, Enterprise could just go and pick them up. No problem, right?

"Maybe they're having trouble with the repairs. They may have just not left yet," Hoshi said, hopeful that her friend- and, perhaps, friends- were alright.

Archer nodded, that's what he hoped. That's what they needed to be true. "Let's hope so, Hoshi. Travis, lay in a course to Darius Prime. I'll be in my Ready Room," the Captain said as he got up, walking off the Bridge.

-----Location: Unknown-----

Selak dropped to the floor, leaning heavily against the wall as he desperately tried to hide his pain from the Commander. Without his permission, his mind raced back to the last time he had been incarcerated… when he had bought freedom with the wound that still haunted him…

His feet felt heavy, his breathing labored. His lungs burned, his throat dry. His muscles were tight, barely willing to function. The adrenaline in his system five times what it should be. But his eyes, they were focused on his destination: Freedom.

A mechanical clicking alerted the four; locking mechanism were sealing all doors and halls were about to be blocked by doors. They sped up, their escape dependent on it. The first man ducked underneath the descending door, making it to the safety of the other room. And then the next man, following the first, made it under easily. The women ducked under, the Vulcan urging her to go first. Then he dropped to the ground, trying to roll under the door to make it through.

He was almost out… almost to freedom…

Hands grabbed his feet, turning him awkwardly under the closing door. A sudden white-hot pain ran through his torso, spreading over the rest of his body. A shriek of pain alerted his friends of his distress. They turned, seeing him trapped underneath the door, crushing him to the floor…

"How are you doing?" Trip asked quietly, oblivious to his memory.

"I am fine. But I do believe the guard bruised one of my ribs," he explained.

"I meant… other things."

"This cell is relatively large, it will not bother me."

Trip nodded, thinking it was, even to him, a tight confinement. But that must have gone to show how much Selak knew of cells… and probably how he came to be claustrophobic. Throughout the mouths the two had known each other, he had barely ever told him a thing. Only his claustrophobia had been revealed to the man, besides his exemplary engineering skills.

Trip watched him, knowing that the distant look on his eyes spoke volumes about his fears. Yet, at the same time, revealed nothing about himself to the southern man. Perhaps, as time went on, Trip would learn more about the Vulcan.

Or, rather, he hoped that he wouldn't have to wait much more than a few hours to discover what he wanted to know.

-----Enterprise, Bridge-----

"Delert. It's good to see you again."

"Captain Archer," the alien replied over the comm. "I did not expect you back."

"We're here because our men weren't at the rendezvous coordinates. I thought they might have run into a problem with the pumps and hadn't left," Archer informed the man, pushing himself out of his seat and approaching the view screen.

Delert seemed to be nervous, his expression not showing any of the concern Archer thought he should have when he said, "No. They are gone. They left some time ago."

"I don't think so, Delert. If they had, we would have seen them," the Captain protested, not really angry but more upset by the news.

"I am afraid I do not know what you are talking about, Captain. You are people left hours ago, just as they were supposed to. Now, I really must be going, Captain. Lot of work to do."

"Wait just a second, Delert. What are you talking about? They're not there, no one was. Which means they must be here," Archer told him, trying hard to mask his anger and concern.

"Well, they are not. Just… just leave. There is no longer anything we need from you." With that, Delert closed the channel, leaving the bridge crew starring at the view of his planet.

"Malcolm. You're with me," Archer announced braking the silence that had fallen over the usually noisy bridge.

"Captain?" The tactical officer question, looking up at Archer, the man rising from his chair and heading for the turbolift.

"I'm going down there myself."

-----Location: Unknown-----

"Ya know, even after all this time, I don't think we've ever really… ya know, talked," Trip stated suddenly, braking the uncomfortable silence that had existed for almost two hours.

"No, Commander, I do not believe we have," Selak admitted, looking up from his place in the cell opposite the Commander.

"Well, tell me 'bout yourself," Trip suggested, looking up with mild expectation in his eyes. After he saw Selak's raised eyebrow, he tried, "Do you have any siblings? Big family?"

"My family is relatively small." Trip nodded. He had underestimated the Vulcan ability for stating the obvious. "Yours?"

Trip raised his head in surprise. He hadn't really expected him to ask. "Well, my older brother and his wife live in Ireland with their two sons, Matt and Brian."

"How old are they?"

"Matt's twelve and Brian's… seven." Trip was surprised at how much Selak seemed to be interested in his family.

"Your sister? She… died in the attack on your world, correct?" For an emotionless Vulcan, Selak's voice seemed to reflect his sympathy well.

"Yeah," was the hushed reply.

"My brother is dead as well."

Trip looked up at the admission. He could see in the young man's eyes that he reciprocated his feelings, understanding what it was to lose someone as close as a sibling. "Was it… recently?"

Selak sighed; a curt nod was his only response. "Did you lose any other family?"

"No, thankfully. My parents had moved north and my brother lives in Europe. So, no."

"My home was not as lucky." Selak could see the confusion in the engineer's face, knowing that he had heard the quiet sentence.

"Where do you live?"

"No where on Vulcan, at least I did not grow up there. My brother and I were raised on a science and research colony."

"What happened?"

"A rare viral outbreak killed everyone there. It has been too contaminated to return. I was… fortunate enough to be away because of my job." Trip could hear the faint emotions in his tone, see some flicker of pain and sorrow in his eyes as he fought to remain in control through his story.

"So you lost your entire family to an epidemic?"

"Both directly and indirectly." Selak was content to finish there, Trip's curiousity remaining unspoken while known. "My parents wanted both my brother and myself to go into the medical field and work there with them. But… I wanted to be an engineer and my brother, Vir… he just wanted to get away."

"What did he do? As a job, I mean?" Trip was intrigued by the Vulcan's story, listening closely and watching with interest to his tale.

"He became a medical researcher. Vir had always been quiet intelligent, a genius perhaps. The pressure he put on himself was enormous. And, what he explained to me about his work, he dealt with some… appalling projects. When our parents and friends died, he just… killed himself. I do not blame him…"

If the story hadn't been so depressing, Trip would have smiled at the Human mannerisms he had introduced into his speech. And I thought my life sucked, Trip mentally scolded himself, easily understanding that what Selak had explained was only the tip of the iceberg in his complicated life.

"Well… that was depressing," Trip commented, trying to lighten the mood but saw how little effect it had on the Vulcan. Then began, "You know…" /-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/

Well, there you have it- the first chapter of my newest story.

Please R/R and tell me what you think so far. Hopefully some of you will return to go on and read the next couple. If that means you, look out for chapter two in about a week. Thanks for reading!