T'Pol sat tensely in her quarters, meditating. Her bondmate was absent, deeply asleep in his quarters, his exhaustion absolute. His body was slow to heal the contusions and strains dealt it over the preceding weeks and this concerned her greatly. She had relentlessly hounded him to sickbay and forced him to sit still for Phlox's many tests to find out why. The results were unsurprising.
The cancer had been caught before it could grow out of control, but it was only one incident in a host of potentially catastrophic health problems. He was a delicate being, a special being, a being that required far more protection from the hazards of space than he was getting. Thoughts of the many environmental hazards, alien violence, disease, radiations and toxins that he had been exposed to in the preceding months caused her to diligently suppress a monumental surge of killing rage.
T'Pol gave up her pretense at the secondary phase of meditation and looked at her hands. They were extraordinarily capable hands, hands that could caress her bondmate or crush an enemy throat with equal efficiency. They were hands trained in the Old Vulcan tradition of ke-tar-ya-tar as well as the newer, less lethal disciplines of the V'Shar. They were very experienced hands.
Taking a breath, T'Pol began her meditation again, at last letting her hidden emotion seep to the forefront of her mind so that it might be understood and released.
The emotion was fury. She had been filled with the near-overwhelming urge to snap Captain Archer's illogical neck when he had recently assigned her Adun for service in yet another pointless landing party. Instead, T'Pol had composed a scathing report on the matter and submitted it to him.
The Kilai had proven to be peaceful and friendly, but that was by far the exception. It was foolish to risk all of the command officers on a single landing party with unknown aliens. It was self-evident to her that a team of first contact specialists should be developed for such duties. To risk the life of an officer of her bondmate's importance to Enterprise on a casual visit with the poverty stricken barbarians of every passing dustball was nothing short of arrant nonsense.
The door annunciator chirped and T'Pol stood, putting on a heavy brown Vulcan robe. Composing herself, she lifted her chin imperiously.
Captain Archer entered, looking around apprehensively. "I half expected to see Trip here."
T'Pol assumed the relaxed, attentive stance that all Vulcans were taught. She knew that the stance, along with the traditional robes would unsettle Archer. She wanted him unsettled. She wanted to apply her foot to his fundament until he dented the ceiling multiple times.
"He is in his quarters, sleeping deeply, recuperating from his surgery."
The cancer had been removed using largely noninvasive means, but Charles Tucker's troubles loomed overwhelmingly large in T'Pol's mind.
Archer stole a look at her eyes and almost smiled, quickly hiding it with a squinty frown. "Do you have some time, T'Pol? I would like to discuss your report."
T'Pol inclined her head in agreement. "I had finished my meditation. Please be seated. May I get you a beverage? I have a number of Vulcan drinks in stasis as well as chocolate soda." The rituals of human hospitality were far more accessible to her now that she shared a bond with one.
Archer's eyebrows rose. "I wouldn't turn down chocolate soda." Trip drank yoo-hoo's and Archer was unsurprised when she produced a bottle, icy-cold, just the way Trip liked them. Obviously he spent a lot of his off-duty time here.
Seated and having thanked her for the drink, Archer cleared his throat. "I just finished reading your report. You made some very good points. Enterprise should never be left without a senior officer on the bridge."
"Indeed." T'Pol wasn't budging an inch.
Archer gritted his teeth, sure that hysterical laughter wouldn't help heal the rift. "However, I thought the suggestion that I pour barbeque sauce all over myself and go down alone next time was a bit much."
T'Pol cocked her head curiously but made no other acknowledgement. She could tell that he was in the grip of some powerful emotion, but not what it was. She could read Charles instantly but other humans were still a little hard for her.
Archer waged war on his laughter and finally won, keeping a straight face. "Um, T'Pol, you have to understand. Trip and I go way back. I like having him along on landing parties. He's great company and the fact is he's pretty darn good at first contact."
T'Pol closed her eyes, blotting out the earnest fool. Under the robe's concealing folds, her fists clenched. The overripe image of then-princess Kaatiama had popped into her mind full-blown, quickly followed by a host of others that had either seduced or seriously pursued her bondmate prior to their bonding.
Archer cleared his throat nervously, some of the same images belatedly popping into his consciousness. "I- T'Pol, are you and Trip… involved? Is that what this is all about?"
"I am his superior officer." T'Pol opened her eyes and used them to bore through Archer's empty head.
Archer swallowed, intimidated. "T'Pol… Are you and Trip romantically involved?"
"He is my bondmate." T'Pol's expression never wavered. "We are a mated pair."
Archer felt his jaw sagging open and snapped it shut. "You're married?"
"By Vulcan standards we are indeed considered to be married." She hadn't told them yet, but under Vulcan law stretching back into antiquity, Trip was now a Vulcan citizen of her clan.
"I see." Archer gave her a troubled look. "I guess it's not really anyone else's business, least of all mine, but congratulations."
"We do not intend to hide it, but we do not consider it to be an extraordinary matter either." T'Pol folded her hands, relaxing slightly, her glare muting into something less incendiary. "Thank you, Cap'n."
Archer smiled, some of his guesses confirmed. "Tell me about this bond. How does it work?"
"It is a telepathic phenomenon common to close Vulcan couples. We are able to share our thoughts and emotions. Our bond is abnormally strong by most standards." T'Pol couldn't help the pride in her voice. "We are a hell of a team."
Archer struck with the suddenness of a mongoose. "What would happen to you if he were killed, T'Pol? What if he died on an away mission?"
T'Pol paled and then choked out, "I would… cease to function for a lengthy period of time, if not for good."
"That's enough. Relax." Archer stood, putting down his bottle. "Commander T'Pol, I have orders for you."
T'Pol stood. "Yes sir?"
"You are to draft a very plausible and logical sounding away team policy that will keep both you and Commander Tucker on the ship during the initial contacts with new species." He smiled at her. "I can't afford to lose you both, but I also like first contacts. I'm not going to give it up myself." His brow wrinkled. "Trip won't like it though. Can he find out what we're up to using the bond?"
"Thank you, Captain." T'Pol almost swayed, feeling her anger draining away. "Thank you very much. I will simply avoid thinking of the matter when he is awake."
"You can do that?" Archer was amazed. "Never mind. Of course you can do that. I remember sharing a skull with Surak." It had been a crushingly tight fit. He had felt like a gnat riding an elephant's back.
T'Pol nodded. "Mentation is not a difficult discipline to learn. Commander Tucker practices with me regularly and is progressing well."
Archer smiled wanly. He hated it when his old friends got married and changed. On the other hand, they were both already his closest friends. Maybe things wouldn't change too much.
T'Pol strode forward and abruptly hugged him. "Jon. You are a very good friend to us and a fine captain. You have our full confidence."
Archer stood for a second in shock, and then hugged her back, patting her on the back. "That means a whole lot to me, T'Pol."
T'Pol released him and stepped back. "We will formally marry when we get back to Earth. I hope that we can count on your attendance?"
Archer nodded. "Sure! But what about the Vulcans? What are they going to say?"
T'Pol didn't hesitate. "Ambassador Soval has promised to be on hand to perform the function of giving the bride away."
Archer's eyes widened. "Soval? Soval knows?"
T'Pol inclined her head proudly. "He was most impressed by T- Commander Tucker."
When Archer left T'Pol's quarters, he was whistling. The breach was filled and the problems solved. Instead of the anticipated weakness, his command echelon was vastly stronger.
Entering his own quarters, he picked up Porthos and laughed at the little creature's wild struggle to lick him.
Petting the dog, he looked into his mirror and smiled at his reflection. "We're one hell of a team, Port. Enterprise is one hell of a team."