A/N: Thanks everyone! Your feedback has really jazzed me up about this story. What I intended to make a small story, based on what you wanted, turned into something much larger and longer than I ever expected. Thanks to Monica, as always. Thanks also to Neph, Dennis, Archangemon, Miss Krux, Bakulalady, Rocky (you know who you are) and too many other people to mention. Shakespeare ends every comedy with couples pairing up for a wedding. Be well.
Archer woke up, curled up to a naked woman and smiled. Propping up on his side and shoving an elbow on his pillow and a hand under his cheek, he watched her. And then lazily, he drifted his fingertip along the curve of her ear and then gently touched the point. With her hands tucked neatly under her cheek and her lips parted only marginally, he had to admit – she looked adorable. It made his face automatically twitch into a lopsided smile.
On the one hand, he hated to wake her from such a restful looking slumber and on the other he desperately wanted to talk with her … even if he was unsure what to say.
She stirred and raised an eyebrow at his beaming.
"Sleep okay?" he asked.
He decided to be truthful. "Best sleep I've had all week."
He gave a contented sigh.
"What time are you scheduled to be on the Bridge?" she asked.
Glancing over his shoulder, he saw the clock. "Two hours. You?"
Peeking over his shoulder at the same clock, she answered him. "Three."
"You hungry?" he asked.
"Not at the moment."
The two studied each other for a few moments, which Archer took to mean they were hoping the other would speak first.
Since he knew the Vulcan could outwait him, he took the plunge as his fingers fidgeted to smooth his bed sheets over T'Pol's bare shoulders.
"I loved being with you last night," he said. "It was incredible."
She gazed at him in response, but didn't say anything. Furrowing his brow, he admitted to himself it was a hit to his ego. So, he swallowed deeply.
"I … uhm … huh," he said. Pausing, he stared at her, hoping she'd say something.
When she didn't, he rolled onto his back and stared at the ceiling. Suddenly all the little emotions he should've felt before being pushed to the bed and then stripping her out of her clothes niggled his brain; guilt was the biggest. Although he hadn't taken advantage of her, in the back of his mind he'd wondered if they were both vulnerable and giving into lust. Well, for his part he wasn't. He'd assumed by everything she'd said, she wasn't either.
She turned onto her side. "Have I upset you?"
Both of her eyebrows slid up near her bangs, as if she was unconvinced so he opened up a little.
"Did you enjoy last night?" he asked.
"Couldn't you tell?" she asked.
Producing a small smile, he thought about her whimpers and the way her entire body clutched his several times over. Touching the side of her face and running his thumb along her cheekbone, he provided a nod.
"I think you enjoyed it."
To confirm it, she gave him a kiss. Backing away, she whispered to him. "Very much."
Her foot ran along his hairy leg and he took another deep breath. I could get used to this.
"You … don't regret anything? Do you?" she asked. Her foot stropped teasing his feet and left calf.
"No," he said, grinning. And then suddenly his face fell. "Why do you?"
As if relieved, her toes rubbed against his hairy ones. "No."
His eyes slowly blinked, drowsy with sleep, and his fingers reached for hers to play with them. Even last night, he noticed when their hands touched his spine tingled as if harmless shocks of electricity zapped it.
"Do you like touching my fingers?" she asked.
Stopping her fingers from intermingling with his, she pressed her forefinger and middle finger together and held them out into the air, demonstrating the gesture.
"Hold your hand like this," she said.
He obeyed and felt her fingers slide along his. Immediately, he felt the ticklish sensation of electricity zinging along his spine. The longer their fingers caressed though, the more he realized the shocks were affecting other parts of his body and he gave a pant.
"You are fond of that?" she asked. Her own mouth hung open as if in pleasure.
"Yes," he whispered.
As she glided her fingers up his arm and shoulder, he heard himself groan.
"This is how Vulcans express … care and affection."
Dancing up his throat and jaw, her fingers eventually ran along his lips. He kissed at them and tugged her to him, to plant his mouth on hers. But, before doing so, he said the words he'd been really waiting to say for sometime … ever since they were captured on Coridan.
"I love you, T'Pol."
"I cherish you as well."
And then his lips captured hers as his fingers mimicked the movements she'd just shown him. With satisfaction, he watched her eyes flutter closed.
His fingers gently ran along her bare shoulders and his mouth nibbled at her neck. Quietly, he spoke into the nape of her neck.
"I want to …."
Before he could finish, she interrupted him by covering his body with hers and pressing her mouth to his. The moment she broke for air, she whispered against his lips.
"I want to as well."
Trip opened his eyes and glanced around his new quarters with surprise.
I still can't believe I'm not aboard Enterprise.
Glancing at his sister, who was smiling in the frame next to his head, he remembered the event. It was about seven years ago when he managed to get a promotion from Lieutenant to Lieutenant Commander. He had taken her to one of the fanciest restaurants in San Francisco. She'd just accepted a job offer to work close to home for a small architecture firm. Deciding the two needed to celebrate, she'd insisted on buying dinner for her. After having too much wine and too much food, the two had wandered back to her hotel and spent the entire night reminiscing about every single high point in their lives including a fight he'd caused because someone called his little sister a name he couldn't remember, the time she'd covered for him when he'd stayed out all night with a girl and his graduation from the Academy where he'd sneaked her in to have alcohol and hang out with some of his friends.
I miss you, he thought.
As he was about to put his head on the pillow again, he overheard someone on the comm.
"Hernandez to Tucker."
Jumping up to find the comm, he finally located it hiding across the room. Definitely not where the old one was.
"Tucker here," he said finally.
"Commander, you going to sleep all day, or you going to have breakfast with me?"
Oh, shit. I was due there about five minutes ago. "Coming, ma'am!"
"Good. I wanted to debrief on the status of the engines before your first day."
"Be there in two shakes …."
She laughed. "Very well."
After taking five minutes to get ready – including brushing his teeth, washing his face and taking a quick shower – he jogged down the hallways to the Captain's Mess glad that it was in the same location as the one on Enterprise.
As he walked in, Erika was dressed in her coveralls drinking tea. Once she saw him she smiled.
"How was your first night in your new home?"
"Okay," he lied. It took him a while to get to sleep.
"Good! You know we're more than six months behind launch."
"Yes, ma'am. Already looked at the specs and schematics. I think you're having the same problem we did when we first launched – slight flux with the intermix ratio. Should be a quick fix. I might be able to have her ready in 72 hours."
She smiled. "Excellent. Jon was right – you're a whiz."
He gave a lopsided grin and then looked down at his breakfast, which was brought directly to him … even without ordering. The woman obviously knew what he liked – two eggs – sunny side up, two bacon, two pancakes, a glass of orange juice and coffee (without cream and sugar).
"I heard from some of your pals you might like this."
"I had this for breakfast nearly every day."
His fork tore open the eggs, letting the yellow yolk stream across his plate, and then stabbed at a pancake. Shoveling it into his mouth, he had to grin.
These pancakes are better than Chef's.
Almost reading his mind, Erika pointed to his meal. "Cook doesn't let anyone know the secret ingredient to what makes those pancakes so damned good. But, I have it on good authority he uses almond as well as vanilla and only egg whites."
"These are better than the ones on Enterprise," he said – a mouth full of the substance.
"I know you chose to stay with Columbia to … escape some of your problems."
Yeah, she knew that first hand.
"But, I'm hoping you'll like staying here. I think there are plenty of advantages, including our food."
"You certainly have made me feel at home. And you're right about the observation deck. I wish Enterprise had something like that."
Sipping her tea, she beamed at him. "I think we're going to be friends."
Throwing down a little of his orange juice, he gave her a sly grin. "I'm sure we will be."
Placing her mug carefully on the table and standing up, she hurled a look of authority his direction.
"You owe me a bottle of champagne, Mister."
He agreed. "Same time tonight?"
"Look forward to it." With that, she left.
Shran looked out the window, staring at the stars zipping past. Only an hour earlier Archer told Shran and Jhamel to expect to be back on Andoria in about a day. Ever since then, the Andorian had wondered what would happen when he returned to his home planet.
I certainly won't have a ship to command. The General will see to that.
Worse, he couldn't imagine what would happen between he and the Aenar. Sharing quarters with her, almost as he'd done with Talas, he'd grown attached to her. Although she wasn't like Andorian women, he'd learned to appreciate that subtle difference. The young woman was sage and refined. Instead of snarling about vengeance and honor, she discussed the pacifism of her people and the way in which those who cared for each other touched minds.
Another thing that seemed foreign – Andorians were ruthless when it came to their gene pool. Those with disabilities were abandoned or killed. Jhamel was blind … and would be seen as a misfit from his own people.
Ironic she has better eyesight than anyone I know.
Jhamel, who must've been sensing his pensive mood, sat down on the bunk with him.
"You're thinking about your home?"
"Yes," he said. "Reading my mind?"
"No," she whispered. "I don't have to read your mind to know when you are upset. You've been sitting on that bunk for two hours and haven't said a word."
"I have a lot on my mind," he said, letting his antennae droop.
"Like what?" she asked. Her fingers began to stroke his antennae, which he enjoyed … thoroughly.
Cooing lowly, he confessed to her. "My status as commander, living among my people again …." As his antennae nuzzled against her fingers, he quietly said one word. "You."
"You wonder about me?"
He didn't answer, hoping she would take the hint and divulge her plans.
"I will go back to my people and tell them what has happened to my brother."
With a boyishly hopeful voice, he asked a question. "And then?"
"Shran," she said, smiling, "you want to know about us."
His antennae suddenly fled from her hand and he puffed up his chest. "A member of the Imperial Guard doesn't ask about relationships."
A then he gave a sideways glance, wondering what she was thinking.
Weaving her finger in his white hair, she whispered to him. "It was not grief that let me fall into your arms."
He tried to stifle a grin, which he was mostly unsuccessful at.
"I was hoping we could continue our relationship," she whispered. "You said you liked the ice caves …."
"Among your people?" he asked. It was something he hadn't really considered.
Screwing up his lips into the side of his cheek, he wondered.
"I've been thinking … we could make a family there," she said.
Surprised antennae flung straight into the air.
"If you want a family," she said.
He was silent. In all his years, he'd always imagined himself attending marriages, not involved in one.
"You said Andorian women are more aggressive?" she asked.
Shran's head fell. "Yes."
"Then," she said, whispering. "I want you as my husband."
The Andorian gave a broad smile. "You know at proposals the couple sheds blood."
Jhamel blinked quickly and Shran gave a low chuckle. "I think we can forgo that tradition."
"Then you accept?" she asked.
He nodded. "Yes."
The two kissed deeply. As their lips left each other's, Shran decided to let her in on another Andorian tradition.
"I'm also supposed to impregnate you within one month of our marriage. It's a way our males serve our women and ensure their line survives."
She was still.
"You said you wanted a family," he whispered.
"I was quiet because the Aenar have a similar tradition. I wasn't sure if you would want that."
The Andorian gave a bashful grin. "I want children … with you."
Throwing her arms around his neck, she wept almost as a girl. "I love you."
Archer walked ahead with Shran and the two were mostly quiet. As they rounded the last of the corridors, the captain finally said a few begrudging words.
"I'm glad you came aboard, even if I regret the circumstances."
"I'm glad, too, pink skin."
After a pause, Shran spoke up. "I left bottles of Andorian ale for you. I hope you like them."
"That was thoughtful."
"Least I could do for … interrupting you and your wife on several occasions."
"The least," Archer said. The captain was tempted to give an eye roll, but held back.
"You know, the Vulcan … I guess I can understand the appeal. She's attractive, but … she's also serene."
Sighing a little, the captain nodded his head.
"Do all humans become this insipid after marriage?"
The human frowned. "I'm sure it affects everyone differently. T'Pol said you'll be joining that club?"
Puffing out his chest, he spoke up. "I accepted her proposal."
"Yes. Andorian men never make the first move."
Archer shook his head. "I had no idea."
"Males are the weaker sex, I'm expected to seed her with children and rear them. Good thing Andorian males are … potent."
"Tell me," Shran said. "Will you and the Vulcan have children?"
"I don't know." The question felt much more bizarre than it was intended and reminded the captain he was still married.
"Well, if you do, pink skin, I hope our children are friends. And … maybe you can visit us if you're in the solar system."
Archer clapped his back. "Maybe."
As the men continued to talk, Jhamel and T'Pol fell considerably behind. They had quite a bit to discuss.
"I wanted to thank you for saving Jonathan," T'Pol said.
"As I said, we were at a impasse. Besides, I owe you a debt. If I hadn't come here, I never would've met him and found love."
The Vulcan wondered with some irony if Shran hadn't visited Enterprise whether her feelings and the captain's would've come to light. Fascinating.
"Do you think Shran will enjoy living among the Aenar?"
Jhamel's antennae wiggled. "I wonder. I know I will enjoy his company and he will enjoy mine. I know it is a good place to raise our children."
"You are with child?"
Jhamel stopped the Vulcan, without touching her. Quietly, the women agreed. "I don't think Shran knows."
"Did your circumstance encourage your decision to marry him?"
She smiled sweetly. "No. Aenars when … happy … release multiple eggs. If I wasn't in love, I never would've conceived."
"And you can tell your condition already?" she asked.
The Aenar gave an odd smile. "We are telepaths. I can feel the life inside of me."
T'Pol tipped her eyebrow.
"Would you like my advice?" asked the young woman.
The Vulcan stared on without showing surprise.
"It is a rare thing for a Vulcan, as I understand, to feel as you do."
She admitted as much. "You're correct."
"Then that's something to think about." With that, the little albino walked ahead and joined Shran.
Lovingly, the Andorian put his arm around her. "Are you ready?"
The two let their antennae wander and stroke the others as T'Pol and Archer watched, stunned at the site. And then suddenly they both stepped onto the transporter pad. T'Pol strolled behind it and gave a Vulcan greeting to them.
"Live long and prosper," she said.
"Take care, Vulcan."
Archer gave a small wave and the two shimmered out until they vanished. The moment they were gone, the captain hung his head to his chest and gave a deep chuckle.
"I'm going to miss Shran."
"I enjoyed their company as well," T'Pol said.
"You know," he whispered, "there's really no point in us being married any longer."
"Oh?" she asked.
"I mean … now that Shran is gone and the week is up."
"Do you want to end our marriage?" she asked.
"Do you?" he asked.
Without answering his question, she shuffled her feet. "I have grown … accustomed to your presence."
"I feel the same way."
"Perhaps, then, it's … logical to keep our status."
"Humans take marriage very seriously."
"As do Vulcans." Quietly remembering Koss, she decided to change her answer. "I take marriage seriously."
"I don't want to divorce, but it seems marriage is a big step."
"A step we've already taken."
"Sure technically … it just …."
"We've been married for almost an Earth week."
Closing in on her, he leaned his forehead against hers. "Maybe because we slept with each other, it feels more real today."
"We've been sleeping together for almost an Earth week as well."
He produced a small smile and leaned over to her ear and whispered his real meaning. "Since we made love."
"Oh," she commented. "Yes, I hypothesize that's true."
"Maybe we should just … stay married and let nature take its course. Either it works out or it doesn't."
"Do you think it won't … 'work out'?" she asked.
"I've cared about you for some time. We've had a week to get used to each other's flaws …. I think our chances are good." Looking into her eyes, he could feel his heart beat in his chest and said a few words earnestly. "I think our chances are very good."
"Sounds … logical."
"Until we figure things out … you can sleep wherever you want. I mean, we both can."
"I'd like to spend tonight with you," she said.
Surprise sprang onto his face.
"If that's acceptable."
"I'd like that."
As they headed back to the turbolift, T'Pol said something quietly. "Jhamel indicated she was carrying Shran's child."
"That was fast."
She agreed. "The Aenar indicated that her species is … highly fertile at specific times."
"You know …," Archer said as they stepped into the turbolift.
T'Pol's eyes focused on his.
"I read the last five paragraphs."
"Of Andorian law? The ones I indicated you didn't have to read?"
He shrugged and then slipped his hand around hers, giddy at the shocks traveling along his spine.
"When a human couple gets married … they talk about children. You know … whether they want to have them or not," he said.
"Yeah. And I was thinking … if we decide to stay married … would you want to …?" he asked.
"Have children?" she clarified.
"Sure. You know … if we agree to stay married."
"No. No … sometime in the future. If we're still interested in staying married."
"If we decide to stay married and if it's some time in the future … I would want to. And at least we've seen human and Vulcan DNA is compatible."
The two fingers she used for a Vulcan embrace slid along his, causing him to smile.
"What time should I expect you tonight?"
"I get off at 2200. My clothes and toiletries are still there. Perhaps for the time being I can keep them there?"
He smiled. "Sure. So, I'll see you at 2200?"
"I'll have a glass of wine waiting for you." Before she could say anything he explained. "I know you don't drink often, but I thought it might be … romantic."
Staring into his eyes, she said a few words. "I hope we'll be drinking in bed."
Just as he opened his mouth, she added a few more things.
"And I hope you'll be dressed as you do every night."
Confusion set in his brow.
"Nude," she said. As she did, her fingers fell at her side and she maintained a stoic veneer, excepting the turbolift to come to a halt.
The moment he was about to quip back, the doors to the Bridge opened. Attempting to cool the red that rushed to his cheeks, he provided a sheepish smile.
Sitting down in his chair, while no one saw him, he glanced carefully down at his watch. It was already 1900. He got off in an hour.
Excusing himself, he decided to head to his Ready Room and ask Chef to pull a bottle of red wine.