A/N: A "what would've happened" if the first solution Travis and Hoshi found actually turned out to be the one they followed. Thanks, Monica!
Spoilers: United and the Andorian arc.
Travis looked over a PADD containing combat information and gave a wry smile. Ever since Hoshi had pooh-poohed his idea of getting the captain hitched, something in him knew it was the right thing to do ... the only thing to do.
One of the MACOs, Donahue, entered the Bridge to drop off something with the woman sitting at Malcolm's station – Yates. It was then they all got the word that Archer had agreed to replace the Tellarite in the duel. The captain would be in a fight to the death with Shran.
As the words were spoken, the Vulcan stood up from the captain's chair.
"We had not spoken about this," she said. It was obvious she was hoping to correct the MACO.
"Sorry ma'am," he said. "I was outside Commander Shran's quarters when it happened."
"Where is the captain now?" she asked.
"I think his room. He joked he needed to brush up on his fighting skills and read more about Andorian law."
"Oh?" she said. The tone of her voice was neither angry nor mocking, but stoically dry … as if somewhere between angry and mocking.
With that, she made a beeline for the turbolift, barely mentioning Hoshi was in charge. Donahue raised his eyebrows and continued to talk with Yates.
Hoping to make eye contact with Hoshi, Travis gave her a sheepish smile. The communications officer always had theories about what was happening, mostly because she monitored all ship's communications. Although a born gossiper, she tried to keep private communications private. Fortunately for everyone who wanted to gossip with her, they could usually trap her into telling them through cunning and deceit. For example, when she got the news about T'Pol's divorce, she gasped. It was like a tactical alert to gossip. In an instant Reed was at her station trying to guess the news. Twenty minutes later almost the entire bridge knew about Koss' communiqué.
This time Hoshi wasn't budging and kept her eyes focused on the boards.
After about half an hour, near the end of his shift, he got up and watched the Vulcan skulk out of the elevator and over to Hoshi's station. Yeah, the Vulcan was definitely mad.
"Hoshi, I'd like you to look into something for me," T'Pol began.
These orders usually lasted hours. Actually, the communications officer rarely got those orders from T'Pol, but when she did – they meant business. Travis gave a sad shrug and filed into the turbolift.
That was six hours ago and he the communications officer were in the deserted Mess Hall looking over files trying to find something, anything, that might help the captain. As the clock ticked over to 0210, Travis leaned over to Hoshi.
"I think the captain is screwed. The best I could do was find a few rules about incapacitating an Andorian. But, let's face it … Captain Archer can't take Commander Shran."
Hoshi's mouth slid down. "You're right."
"I've got a crazy idea, and before you say 'no,' just hear me out. You said Captain Archer had to have a wife, right?"
Hoshi gave a nod and was about to protest, when Travis spoke up. "And he has no heir."
"Why are you looking at me?" she asked.
"Well, I was thinking you're not married and …."
Hoshi shook her head. "No way. I mean, I want to help him, but …."
"All right, well … you told me that T'Pol got divorced …."
"If I won't go for the idea, there's no way in hell she will."
"I'm willing to ask her."
"Even if T'Pol says 'yes,' which I seriously doubt she will, the captain would never … never agree to it."
Travis gave a shining smile. "What if the captain doesn't know?"
"How are you going to get him married without him knowing about it?" she asked.
"Phlox told me one of the degrees a Denobulan doctor has to have is in theology, so they can perform last rites or a funeral if necessary. He let it slip after a few drinks on Earth that he could also perform weddings."
Skeptically, Hoshi wagged her ponytail in the air to strongly disagree with her friend. "You haven't answered my question."
"Leave that up to me. Come on," he said, getting up.
T'Pol sat on her meditation mat pondering the words she'd spoken to Captain Archer and contemplating what he'd said to her. One of the things that bugged her, as her human friends would say, was his stubbornness. Like a sehlat who had a meal in its sights, nothing would deter him from his path – not logic … and not even the gentle plea of a friend.
She knew it was futile to ask Hoshi to find something in Andorian law that would enable both Shran and Jonathan to "save face." However, she would've been remiss for not trying, and she couldn't let her friend down. She'd been unable to dissuade him from giving his life to destroy the Xindi weapon and thought he was dead; this time she couldn't face the … emotions … that awaited her if he did meet his doom. And judging by the training Shran had, his skill with the blade and his need for vengeance, she was sure her friend would lose. No man, not even Archer, was that lucky.
As she stared into the half-lighted room, she heard her door chime.
"Come in," she said, standing.
Travis was wearing an enormous smile and Hoshi seemed hesitant; it meant they found something, but it wasn't necessarily information she would rejoice in.
Excitedly, Travis spoke up. "Ma'am. Sorry to bother you, but after helping Ho … Ensign Sato go through the information, it looks like we hit on something."
Offering her condolences, Hoshi quickened to add something. "You're not going to like it."
T'Pol cocked her eyebrow. "What is it?"
Proudly, Travis handed the Vulcan his PADD which highlighted certain words as the young man said them aloud. "According to rule 1100.32, section 2, paragraph 3, 'A combatant who has no heir is precluded from commencing in the challenge.'"
She eased her eyebrow. "The captain does not have children."
"According to paragraph 4, 'His or her spouse will not be dishonored. The combat is nullified; compensation can be reached at a later date hereto with."
Spouse. T'Pol's eyes fell on the ground. "Ensign Mayweather, I thought you had something."
"Ma'am, there are no stipulations on when 'the combatant' is married. So, I was thinking …."
Hoshi shook her head. "Travis thinks one of us should marry Captain Archer. I don't know about …."
"Travis is right, but the captain would never agree to it."
A little taken aback, the helmsman stammered the rest of his thoughts. "Phlox told me … he was a … minister … and I was thinking maybe …."
An idea percolated in the Vulcan's brain. Acting quickly, she waved to the door and suggested the two discuss the plan with the doctor in the Mess Hall.
Phlox waddled into the Mess Hall shaking his head at what he'd heard over the comm; it seemed preposterous. As soon as he stepped across the portal, he was greeted by one very eager face (Travis), one very skeptical face (Hoshi) and a stoic one (T'Pol).
"Doctor," T'Pol said.
Placing a warm beverage in his hand – coffee, something he enjoyed – the Vulcan began what Phlox had heard the humans call 'buttering him up.'
"It was good of you to come on short notice, especially since I know you're busy. Travis indicated, among the number of degrees you hold, you have one in theology. I'm fascinated by the …."
Atypical for the Denobulan, he wanted to get straight to the matter at hand. "You asked if I could perform a marriage ceremony between you and Captain Archer?" asked Phlox.
"It's unethical, as I've already stated, to marry someone without their consent." He was about to say more when the Vulcan interrupted him.
"I'm giving my consent," T'Pol said.
Phlox was about to continue to protest, when T'Pol explained the extreme circumstances: Archer had agreed to a fight to the death with Shran and the Andorian was a superior fighter, trained since childhood and raised with the weapon of choice. The logical conclusion to both factual statements was: Captain Archer would die. The doctor already knew these conditions, and had drawn the same conclusion himself.
"Neither man appears willing to back down," she said.
"T'Pol," began Phlox, trying to appeal to her logic, "it was his decision to make. Besides, I don't know his religious beliefs ..."
Travis hastened to add, "Captain Archer isn't very religious."
"I'm not certain whether this would impose on his beliefs."
Hoshi shook her head. "I doubt it."
"But, we just don't know," Phlox said. "I'm sorry. I can't help you." About to turn around, he glanced at the Vulcan. Stunningly, she gazed up with large brown eyes, blinking them with vulnerability - something she hadn't done since reading the Kir'Shara.
She made the request again. "Phlox, I'd like you to marry us."
The Denobulan gave a small frown and then made the mistake of looking at the two humans who accompanied her. He'd heard that humans, when sad, ended up looking like a wounded puppies – their large eyes batting sadly and their mouths turned down as if scolded. Silently he mused that even Porthos didn't look as pathetic as either Travis or Hoshi. Turning to his own instincts, something he did frequently, he knew he'd miss the captain as well; although not perfect, the man had successfully led Enterprise through many scrapes. There was something larger than life about him, as if destiny belonged to him. It was something he'd never thought in his more than one hundred years of life, he'd ever admire. Besides, it would be bad for morale to see someone so irrepressible killed.
The ethics of the situation still bothered him, but he'd sacrificed his morals for other more difficult decisions. Unlike those times, this might actually help. Jerking his head back and swaying his body, he gave in.
"I can't believe I'm going to say this, but ... all right. I just hope he doesn't take this marriage as seriously as I think he might."
Travis blew out a long breath of relief and Hoshi threw her arms around the physician as T'Pol's body righted itself a little - the Vulcan version of pleased.
"Then, might I make a suggestion?" the Vulcan began.
Archer lay on his back staring at the ceiling. In a way, it was kind of funny – he couldn't imagine himself dying. For some reason, things usually had a way of working out; they always had before - just seemed this time was a bit trickier. Instead of giving his life for Earth or a friend, he was hoping that somehow fate would smile on him again and prevent him from having to kill Shran, a man who was a friend, an enemy and an ally (all rolled into one), or being killed by him.
That, strangely, wasn't what was keeping him up.
It's odd that T'Pol came to see me.
Pleading, almost with passion, she asked him not to fight. The timbre of her voice and the gentle touch of his arm – her voice and gesture showed even more concern than those she displayed the day he'd jumped into the Insectoid vessel and headed for Azati Prime to blow up the Xindi weapon. It had shocked him then; this time, it touched him. Only a few hours ago, her voice rippled with friendship and her eyes gazed up at him as if he was … important to her, not just as a captain.
Important? it is admiration? Friendship? Love? Love!
Don't go there.
T'Pol's divorce and Shran's confession that he and Talas were lovers, had been lovers, weaseled thoughts that had been long abandoned ... maybe too long
Don't go there, he reminded himself - again.
He'd avoided such notions before. But, he had a hell of a time not taking her into a hug and reassuring her everything would be okay … just like he'd wanted to do when he heard about her divorce.
Divorce. I wonder if this means things are finally over between T'Pol and Trip. I haven't seen them together since ….
"Commander T'Pol to Captain Archer."
Speak of the devil.
"Archer here. Go ahead."
"Captain, I believe there is a tradition to wish someone luck before he goes into combat?"
He smiled. "Yeah?" His finger thoughtlessly slid along the panel, caressing it.
"Ensigns Sato and Mayweather, Dr. Phlox and I are in the Mess Hall. I believe Travis indicated he had some … booze to share to toast the occasion?"
Giving a gentle laugh he agreed. "I'll be right there."
This was more the reception he'd been waiting for – friends gathered together who believed in him, rallying him on to victory. It didn't take long for him to get ready, walk confidently down the corridors and reach the nearly deserted dining facility.
Phlox smiled broadly. "Ahhh, Captain!"
Travis immediately stuck a drink in his hand. "To your future!" the young man chanted.
Archer grimaced for a moment, clinked glasses and then swallowed the alcohol. It was scotch, but it was the cheap stuff – apparently ensigns didn't make enough or young men didn't know enough to get the good stuff. Smiling, he pretended to enjoy the concoction. After all, the ensign was being generous and more than that, he was being a friend.
"Captain, I hope you'll allow me to say a few words," Phlox asked.
Archer gave a quick nod.
"Hklath'! Plhaht. Branak etal ipoph'klat manaok oklalath vandangu. Plagnar Archer plath'ak uku akatakal manaok polga T'Pol lalath skak blathal alaath. Flazal etal a'klaak. Blaphnet u uku glath. Flazal etal a'klaak vandu klagath kla'aak blanar."
Furrowing his brow, he wondered why his and T'Pol's name came up and reminded himself to start taking language lessons.
The Denobulan smiled and lied, "I said 'Good luck to you Captain Archer, and I hope if T'Pol is asked to be captain is decent and fair.'"
A frown worked onto his face. "So, you think she'll be asked to command?" he asked.
Hoshi decided to level with him. "Sir, you're an excellent leader, but Commander Shran is part of the Imperial Guard. I've looked up information about him –- they advance in rank by proving their fighting prowess. To advance to the level of commander .…"
"All right, I get it, Ensign. Well," Archer gave a slight pause. "I've never had any doubts in T'Pol's ability to command. I'm sure she'll be … decent and fair."
The five chatted briefly, surprisingly not about the battle, sat through one more guttural toast from Phlox and then the evening broke up. Archer shuffled back to his room to try and get at least four hours rest.
It was late into the night, but if T'Pol knew Shran (and despite their species being nearly mortal enemies she thought she did), she knew he'd be awake preparing for battle. Stopping in front of his door, she rang the chime.
As the door slid open, two antennae stood at attention, showing the shock that he must've felt.
"What do you want?" he asked, suspiciously.
"I wanted to offer my condolences to you. Talas was a brilliant tactician. Even I could discern that in the short time I knew her."
"She was," he said. As if a moment of weakness hit him, he slouched against the door, letting the Vulcan enter his room.
With grace, she filed in and watched the Andorian sulk, sinking onto his bed. "I accept your condolences. I never would've expected a Vulcan to do so."
Cocking her eyebrow, she wondered what to say, but gathered the blue creature was speaking rhetorically.
"Still, you're not any Vulcan," he said, grunting to himself. "I wouldn't have expected one of your kind to stick around the humans. It takes a certain amount of courage, I suppose."
She continued to remain silent, gathering his ramblings weren't over.
"You came here for something else, didn't you?"
Wanting to sigh, but keeping from exhaling air, she agreed. "You can't go through with this."
Frowning, he picked up his blade as if continuing the practice she'd interrupted. "I can and I will." Jabbing the pick into the air, he said, "Talas requested it of me."
"You will kill Captain Archer."
Halting his motions, he stared her in the eyes and then looked down at the ground; his antennae sagged.
"I don't want to. I don't have any options."
"There are always possibilities."
"Not this time." Catching her eye, he pointed his finger at her. "If Archer hadn't agreed to the substitution, we wouldn't be in this predicament."
Just as T'Pol suspected, despite the run-ins, harsh words, fighting and yelling, Shran considered Archer a friend. It made what she had to say easier.
"Captain Archer does not have any heirs."
Shran's eyes fell to the deck plating; that only saddened him more. "I suspected as much. Then I put an end to the pink skin's line?"
"It's not definite. He's married."
"Oh?" he asked. She could see recognition settle in; he was obviously figuring out that it meant Archer would be unable to fight. His eyes narrowed and he stared at her. T'Pol could also hypothesize that now the Andorian was becoming suspicious.
Leveling her eyes on him, she spoke. "To me."
The ice pick dropped from his hand, clinking onto the deck plating, and he blinked more than a few times. "To you! A Vulcan!"
"When I told him about Talas, he didn't mention anything about you." Grinning, he said, "Although, he was very upset with me when I yelled at you the other day."
She let the remark stand without comment.
"Well … I always suspected he had a soft spot for you. There'd be no other explanation to want keep a Vulcan around. And I never for a moment thought it was only loyalty that kept you on Enterprise, especially in the Expanse."
"Then the duel tomorrow is canceled?"
Shran nodded. "Why didn't he tell me before?"
"He is a private man."
Mulling over the information, he agreed. Shran laughed and his antennae fell back in amusement as well. "Archer mating with a Vulcan …. Fire and ice."
She supposed that was again his rhetoric and quietly let his muse on the subject. "I'll let the captain know the competition is resolved."
As she scolded herself for calling him the captain, which might arouse more doubt, she turned on her heel and the door slid open.
"Why didn't Archer tell me about this yesterday to end the combat?"
"He didn't realize this rule precluded him from fighting."
"So, you've come to plea on your ... husband's behalf?"
Giving one more chuckle, he gave a broad smile. "You must love him."
"It would only be logical to assume such." Gracefully, she glided away deciding to ruminate on that idea as she heard the Andorian behind her grumble and guffaw at the same time.
According to rule 24.53, the challenge should always be performed at sunrise. Although Enterprise didn't have the advantage of a sun rising or setting, the Andorians agreed that the beginning of the Earth day was close enough to meet the strict stipulations. Wearing his uniform, Archer walked into the gym expecting to see someone … anyone. Glancing around the room, he noticed T'Pol at his heels.
"What happened?" he asked.
"The duel was called off."
"Shran will still lend you support, but the matter has been settled."
Furrowing his brow he asked, "You didn't fight him, did you?"
She'd actually considered it, but in the end knew that wouldn't save face for either men. Vulcans were naturally stronger than Andorians and she had been a trained military commander; taking a small Andorian would've been easy – especially since the male of the species weren't as strong.
"No," she said.
"Well, what happened?"
T'Pol carefully worded her statement. "Hoshi found a … loophole."
"And that is …?"
"You have no heirs."
"I read that. Andorian law requires that I'm married."
"I'm not married."
"Actually, you are."
Furrowing his brow, he loomed over her, expecting an answer. "T'Pol?"
"Perhaps we should discuss this in our quarters."