A Thousand Years

By Drogna

AN: Thank you to all my reviewers, your comments have made my day. I hope you enjoy the final part.

The short shuttle ride to Athena was sombre, neither Archer nor T'Pol felt in the mood for conversation. T'Pol stared out of the window, looking at the four ships that hung in space. The three strong ships protected the weakest member of the group. Even from the shuttle, T'Pol could see evidence of the damage wrought on Excalibur and Tyrfing by the Romulan attackers. Engineers from all three of the other ships had been sent to get Excalibur ready to be moved again. Durandal had the supplies on board to fix the warp engine, but Lieutenant Flintoff was assessing whether they had time. The immediate threat might be gone but none of them wanted to invite trouble by hanging around any longer than they had to.

Athena was the smallest of the four ships, only slightly larger than the NX class. She was the next step on from Enterprise, the next generation of exploration vessels. Archer had admitted grudgingly to T'Pol that he liked the ship's design. She wasn't as overtly a warship as Excalibur or Tyrfing, but she had hidden assets that made her more deadly than Enterprise had been. War changed everything, and that included ship design. People marvelled at how anyone had ever thought that the phase cannons and torpedoes Enterprise carried would be enough to protect anything.

Athena had drawn the short straw when she had been designated their makeshift morgue. It was the duty that no ship wanted, but the bodies had to be kept somewhere. Too many people on board both Excalibur and Tyrfing had died in the final skirmish to be stored in any one ship's morgue. The solution had been to drop the temperature of one of Athena's cargo bays low enough to turn it into a giant fridge.

Archer and T'Pol stepped through the hatch and into a silent room. Bodies were laid out on the floor in rows, each corpse under a white sheet. Some of the bodies had been given tags to indicate that they had been identified. A crewman bearing a blue stripe on his uniform was noting down each identified body and taking blood samples from the unidentified in the hopes that a genetic information match could be made. In some cases genetic information was the only identifying mark left, the rest having been burned away.

T'Pol's breath formed white fog in the air as she looked at the rows of men and women who would not be returning home from this mission. She watched Archer go over to the crewman and explain to him who they were looking for, the Admiral's voice echoing against the walls. The crewman shook his head as Archer asked him if he had identified a Captain Tucker. T'Pol caught the Admiral's eye and knew that they would have to check each body themselves if they wanted to know if Trip was here.

T'Pol started at the top of a row. She crouched down on the floor and lifted the sheet. The face of a fair skinned young man presented itself to her, he had blond hair. For a moment, an awful, dragging moment, she thought it was Trip lying there, but she blinked and it was not him. She calmed her breathing, replaced the sheet carefully and moved down the line to the next unidentified body. This was a woman, dark haired and brown skinned, badly burnt across her face so that she was unrecognisable. Once more T'Pol replaced the sheet and noticed that Archer had started from the other end of the row, lifting sheets with quiet reverence.

Every time a sheet was lifted she knew that under it she might find her t'hy'la. Equally with each sheet that she replaced she improved the odds that Trip was not in the room. Even as she looked at a body, glad that it was not Trip, she felt guilt for being pleased that someone else was dead and not her t'hy'la. Emotions swirled inside her and it took all her will to suppress them. She would meditate on these feelings later but at the moment she needed to find Trip, and that alone kept her going as she looked into the faces of the dead.

Finally, she lifted the last sheet. The man beneath it was too badly burned to identify but T'Pol was certain that it was not Trip. Archer had finished his side of the room and been unable to identify any of the bodies as that of his friend either.

"He is not here," said T'Pol.

"Some of these bodies are completely unidentifiable," Archer, pointed out gently. He couldn't tell if one of those burned bodies was Trip and he didn't understand how T'Pol could state with such certainty that Trip was not among the dead.

"I cannot explain to someone who hasn't experienced a Vulcan bond, but I know he is not among the dead," said T'Pol.

Archer nodded, unwilling to argue with T'Pol when he fervently wanted to believe that she was right. "Then where is he?"

"Where were the wounded taken from Excalibur?"

"They were split between Athena and Durandal's sickbays," said Archer. "I guess we'll start with Athena's sickbay since we're here."

T'Pol didn't wait for further instructions from Archer, but headed out of the cargo bay, almost colliding with Lieutenant Commander Reed who was entering.

"Malcolm, what are you doing here?" asked Archer. Reed looked considerably better than when Archer had last seen him on Tyrfing's view screen. The cut on his head had a square of gauze over it and his arm was encased in a plastic cast in a supportive looking sling. Bruises were beginning to turn purple and yellow but he was wearing a clean uniform and had obviously showered recently since his hair was still damp.

"Someone needs to identify the dead," said Reed in a tone somewhere between resignation and sorrow. "I still find myself in command of Excalibur and I couldn't spare anyone else for this happy little task. Why are you here, sir?"

"Trip's missing," said Archer.

"I thought he was transferred with the rest of the wounded," said Reed.

"His name isn't on any of the lists," said Archer.

"And you were checking the morgue," said Reed, solemnly.

Archer nodded. T'Pol remained silent.

"We didn't find him so we're on our way to sickbay," said Archer.

"I'll come with you," said Reed. "The dead can wait a little while longer."

The three officers walked towards Athena's sickbay. T'Pol's stride was purposeful. Archer and Reed were finding it hard to keep up with her as they moved towards sickbay.

Athena's sickbay was smaller that Tyrfing's but was equally crowded. T'Pol entered the room to see medical personnel bustling around between the wounded. She felt out with her mind once again, trying to find any trace of her t'hy'la, but there was nothing. Archer went to find someone who knew what was going on and returned a moment later with Athena's doctor.

"Doctor, we're looking for Captain Tucker. He was in the corridor outside sickbay on Excalibur and I gather that some of the wounded from there were brought to Athena," said Archer.

"Yes, we have some wounded from Excalibur's sickbay, but I would have remembered Captain Tucker if he'd been brought in," said the doctor. "We served together at the Mars research facility. He could have been taken to Durandal, all the critical cases were taken there. Their sickbay is better equipped."

"What about the others? Are any of them awake? We need to find out what happened over there," said Archer. "You have Doctor Phlox here?"

"Doctor Phlox is still unconscious, I'm afraid. The injuries sustained by Excalibur's crew were severe in a lot of cases, but I think one of the ensigns was awake a moment ago," said the doctor, leading them towards a biobed where one of Excalibur's crew lay sleeping. "Looks like he's drifted off again, he's on some strong pain medication."

"Doctor, that's Lieutenant Simon Jones, my Armoury second in command," said Reed. The Lieutenant was badly bruised, burned and had a broken arm.

"He was wearing Ensign's insignia when he was brought in," replied the doctor, correcting the name tag on biobed. "If you'll excuse me, I need to see to my other patients." The doctor rushed off to tend to more of the injured.

"I think I know what happened," said Reed. "They were expecting the Romulans to try to capture members of the crew who would be useful to them, so they took off their rank insignia. I'd guess that in the hurry to treat the wounded no one checked the crew roster against the people they had coming in."

"In other words, they ignored standard operating procedure. At least that explains why no one above the rank of Lieutenant was recovered from Excalibur, but it doesn't help us find Trip," said Archer.

"On the contrary, there is only one other place that he could be," said T'Pol. "We should go to Durandal."

"Agreed," said Reed.

Archer just nodded and led the way out of the sickbay back to the shuttlepod. The doctor had told them that the critical cases had been taken to Durandal and that could only mean one thing. If Trip wasn't dead, as T'Pol affirmed, then he was badly hurt, and Archer wasn't sure if he could go through that again.

Durandal's sickbay was in a very similar state to Athena's. It was crowded and beds had been placed in every spare corner. The only difference here was that the people in those beds were, for the most part, more seriously injured than those on board Athena.

Reed spotted Doctor Sonok, who was helping out on Durandal while Excalibur's sickbay was in disrepair.

"Doctor, we're looking for Captain Tucker," said Reed.

"The only patient I have met who is more loath to remain in sickbay than you are," said Sonok. Reed looked a little embarrassed at that remark from the doctor. "I have not seen him, however I have not dealt with all the admissions from Excalibur. As you can see we are treating a large number of patients at the moment."

"Do you mind if we look around?" asked Archer.

"As long as you do not disturb the patients, I have no objection," said Sonok.

Archer, Reed and T'Pol split up and began to check behind the drawn curtains and in the corners of sickbay. Archer noticed that there was an area of the main sickbay that had been curtained off. Medical staff were entering and leaving with equipment and supplies. He caught the attention of one of the Ensigns assigned to sickbay who was replenishing a bag of IV solution for one of the patients.

"What's through there?" he asked.

"That's the intensive care unit," replied the Ensign, barely taking her attention away from her task.

Archer glanced over at T'Pol who was still checking behind curtains around individual biobeds. Reed was talking to crewmembers who occupied the makeshift beds on the deck. Archer went over to the area that had been designated intensive care, and pulled back the curtain to enter. The sight that greeted him was not a pleasant one. At least one of the patients was so badly burned as to be almost unrecognisable, but she was still obviously female and therefore not Trip. Other patients were on life support, being kept alive only by machines. It reminded Archer of the first time he had seen Trip in the hospital in San Francisco. It brought back a lot of bad memories of sitting at his friend's bedside, waiting for Trip to wake up or at least show some sign of improvement.

He walked around the beds, looking each of the officers he passed in the face. He doubted that any of the five men and women in this area would last the day, another few bodies to be added to the morgue. This was what had in the past been called a "dying room", where the wounded from a battle who were too badly hurt to help were placed. It was simply somewhere quiet where they could breathe their last and not disturb anyone else.

Trip was not here. Archer felt a wave of guilt tainted relief wash over him. He knew it was natural to be pleased that his friend wasn't this badly injured but he couldn't shake the feeling that he was responsible for these people's injuries. He stepped away from the source of that guilt and back through the curtain, his eyes fixed on the floor rather than look at any more wounded. Sickbay suddenly felt very enclosed and he had to take several deep breaths before he was able to continue.

He looked up and his eyes rested on the figure lying in the bed opposite. A curtain was half drawn around the bed but Archer could see the upper half of the patient lying there. The man was covered in a blanket up to the top of his head, only dirty blond hair poking through the gap.

Archer didn't think that he'd ever moved so quickly in his life. He was across the gap and pulling back the curtain before he'd even had time to think about what he was doing. He gently removed the fingers that clung to the blanket, holding it in place with dread determination, and pulled it down enough that he could catch a glimpse of the face beneath. He saw blond hair and pale, flushed skin, slightly warm to the touch.

He closed his eyes briefly in relief. "Trip," breathed Archer. He turned to summon T'Pol only to find that she and Reed were already standing beside him, having seen his rapid move across sickbay.

"Thank god," said Reed. "I'll get a doctor who can tell us what his condition is."

T'Pol simply moved to grasp Trip's hand and she stared down at her t'hy'la with an intensity that Archer would not have believed possible. Her stance was protective but also caring. She ran a hand through his hair, brushing it away from his face and tidying it.

Trip, for his part, was completely oblivious to all the attention that he was getting. However, Archer would have sworn that the engineer now looked more relaxed than he had before T'Pol had taken his hand. He lay on his side, various tubes running into the back of his left hand, which rested on the top of the blanket. An oxygen mask was positioned on his face and he showed evidence of a head injury.

"No, no, we don't have any Captains," said an approaching doctor, Archer assumed that this was Durandal's Chief Medical Officer.

"I believe you're mistaken," replied Reed drawing back the curtain. "I'd like to introduce you to Captain Charles Tucker III. Perhaps you could tell us his condition."

"Are you sure, Commander?" he asked and then stopped as he noticed who else was standing in his sickbay. "Admiral," said the doctor, completely surprised to see Archer. "I didn't realise that you were here, sir."

"I didn't exactly announce my visit, doctor, and I'm sure you have better things to do than talk to visiting Admirals. If you could just let me know Captain Tucker's condition, you can get back to your other patients."

The doctor pressed a button on the display above Trip's head. "His lungs are badly congested," began the doctor.

"He contracted viral pneumonia a few days ago. You should be aware that a previous injury reduced his lung capacity," said T'Pol.

"That explains the scar tissue in his lungs. It was too well healed to be caused by the Romulan attack on Excalibur."

"What else?" asked Archer.

"He has a mild concussion, fever, and a fracture of his right tibia. Neither are particularly serious, but, given his existing condition, it was decided that he should come to Durandal with the critical cases. He was in considerable respiratory distress and some pain when he was brought in, so he's been sedated and put on oxygen. I've also started him on the required anti-virals and some other medication to help his breathing."

T'Pol nodded, knowing that the doctor was simply continuing the treatment that Phlox had started.

"I've set the fracture in a plastic cast and we're monitoring the head wound. The prognosis is very good. With a little rest he'll be up and about fairly soon."

Archer and Reed exchanged a look that was lost on the doctor completely. Both men were well aware that Trip didn't like resting and, with a broken leg, he'd be insufferable.

"I will stay with him here," said T'Pol.

"He won't be waking up for a few hours," warned the doctor.

"We can spare Captain T'Pol for as long as she needs," said Archer. "I, on the other hand, need to get back to Tyrfing and start unravelling this mess. I've got four ships that need to be got out of the Neutral Zone."

"Of course, sir," said Reed. "I should go too, I have duties to attend to back on Athena."

Archer gave Reed a sympathetic look, acknowledging the difficult task that Reed had ahead of him. The Admiral rested a hand briefly on Trip's shoulder before he moved away towards the sickbay exit. "You might want to check your patients against Excalibur's crew roster, doctor," said Archer over his shoulder. "We don't want any other cases of mistaken identity."

Trip vaguely remembered a pain in his leg and then more pain in his head before he'd lost track of time. After that there had been some fuzzy images. People were shouting and calling him Ensign, which he hadn't understood because no one had called him Ensign for over ten years. He was struggling to breathe and really he didn't care what people called him as long as they helped him. Eventually blackness had closed in around him again.

Then suddenly a voice asked him "are you awake?" and it was as if that pulled him out of unconsciousness. His eyes snapped open and fixed on T'Pol who sat beside him.

"Are you awake?" she asked again.

"I guess," he replied. His voice sounded muffled. "Could be dreaming." T'Pol was the a very welcome sight. She gave him the barest hint of a non-smile and he felt the analogous feeling of happiness from her across their bond.

"Feel a bit fuzzy," he added and then realised that his voice sounded strange because he was breathing oxygen through a mask. "Where am I?"

"Durandal's sickbay," said T'Pol. "Don't talk, your breathing is not optimal."

Trip knew that he wasn't breathing well and didn't need T'Pol to tell him that, but he was aware that she was just worried about him. He took T'Pol's advice and asked his question through their bond. "What happened? I guess it all turned out okay or I wouldn't be here."

T'Pol replied telepathically. "I was unconscious, but the Admiral informed me that Durandal and Athena arrived in time to prevent Virideth destroying Excalbur."

"Their intention wasn't ever to destroy us, svai. They wanted that ship really bad or they wouldn't have gone to all this trouble. You don't send the Admiral of the fleet to deal with a border skirmish."

"We did." T'Pol accompanied her reply with a mental picture of Admiral Archer.

"That's different. The Admiral happened to be in the area," replied Trip.

"The Romulans saw an opportunity and took it."

"Either that or Valdore knew the Admiral was here and decided to get a little revenge. His plans never seem to work so well when the Admiral's around."

"Perhaps the civilian ship was simply bait."

"Yeah, I'd thought of that too. The Romulans could have messed with their navigation. Lure in the ship, and wait for someone to come and rescue them. Given that we had all that trouble getting a signal out, it makes me wonder how a civilian distress signal could penetrate all that jamming. I'm thinking that the Romulans might have given it some help."

T'Pol detected that Trip was already working out how he could prove his hypothesis. She could see a flaw in his reasoning however. "If it was a trap, then it was poorly executed."

"They disabled one Starfleet ship and nearly disabled a second," pointed out Trip.

"They did not take into account how many ships we have patrolling the boarder," thought T'Pol.

"Oh I think they did, they just underestimated how many Romulan war-birds it takes to capture any ship that has Lieutenant Commander Malcolm Reed in charge of the Armoury."

Trip could tell that his comment amused T'Pol, although she never showed any external sign that this was the case. Trip shifted slightly on the biobed and suddenly realised that he had some aches and pains that he hadn't been aware of before. T'Pol was unable to shield either her concern or the facts of Trip's injuries from him. Their bond was a continuous feedback loop on both their emotions and physical sensations.

"Could have been a lot worse," Trip thought to his mate. It wasn't much of a consolation, but it was all he had to offer her at this moment. He grasped T'Pol's hand and threaded his fingers through hers. His expression suddenly changed. "You thought I was dead?"

"I couldn't sense anything through our bond from you. As I discovered later, you had been heavily sedated. The Admiral was unable to find your name listed among the wounded and assumed the worst."

"And I removed my rank insignia, so no one knew who I was," Trip thought. He stared up at the ceiling, feeling guilty that he had put T'Pol through so much anxiety.

"The medical staff did not follow procedure in identifying the wounded. You made a logical decision to attempt to confuse the Romulans."

"If they had the ship then all they would have needed to do was look up the personnel database."

"It would have taken them some time to work out who was who," replied T'Pol. They both knew that no one had ever returned from a Romulan prison camp. Usually the Romulans killed anyone that they captured, but they had never had good reason to keep their captives alive before. Capturing a Starfleet vessel would have meant needing someone to tell them how it worked.

"I thought Malcolm was going to destroy the ship if it looked like the Romulans were going to take it," Trip said.

"He tried. I believe there was a malfunction," said T'Pol.

Trip laughed silently and T'Pol felt his amusement. "I fail to see the humour. If it had worked then you would be dead."

"Sorry, it's just so damn ridiculous. It only ever gets used once, and the one time we need it, it fails. The one system on the ship that's meant to keep working no matter what. It has quadruple redundancies." Trip paused a second and his expression changed to puzzlement. "Maybe whatever drugs they have me on are making me a bit strange."

"I suppose that it could be seen as humorous after the fact," replied T'Pol. "I doubt that I will ever understand your sense of humour, even when you are not on pain medication."

T'Pol felt immense affection and love radiate from Trip. He loved the fact that he challenged her perceptions and continued to confuse her. He reached out a hand and touched the dressing on T'Pol's head wound. He was worried about her. T'Pol gently took his hand in hers again. She was worried about him too.

"You continue to put yourself in danger." T'Pol's thoughts were clear and sharp, and Trip knew that she felt very strongly about this. There were unresolved issues here that they needed to talk through.

"So do you. I told the Admiral to look after you." Behind the thought were so many echoes of other thoughts. How precious T'Pol was to him, how worried he had been about her and how much it would have hurt to lose her.

"It was not his fault that I did not move out of the way quickly enough." She sought to reassure Trip that she wasn't badly injured, whilst absolving the Admiral of responsibility. She did notneed looking after.

Trip nodded in understanding and yawned.

"We will talk more about this later. You should go back to sleep," T'Pol thought. She began to think calming thoughts toward her t'hy'la, knowing that it would ease him into sleep. If performed properly, then what she was doing was as good as a sedative and it had worked for Trip before when he had been having trouble sleeping.

"Hey, no fair," Trip thought slightly fuzzily, as T'Pol's thoughts calmed him and sleep took hold of his mind.

T'Pol continued to meditate as Trip fell asleep. They both felt comfortable with each other's minds, true communion forming as they drifted in dreams and nothingness.

It took a little time, but eventually a procession of four ships made its way slowly out of the Neutral Zone. No Romulan pursuers appeared on their sensors for the duration of their journey.

Archer breathed a little easier when they had finally left the Neutral Zone behind and started toward Deep Space One. They had to travel at the speed of the slowest ship, so it took them nearly three days to reach the space station. Unfortunately, as they left the influence of the Romulan jamming frequencies, they came into range of sub-space communications again. The newly formed Federation had a diplomatic nightmare on its hands. The Romulans were crying foul and demanding Archer's head for the transgression.

By the time the ships docked at Deep Space One, Archer had already told his version of the story several times to the ranking Admirals of the Fleet. It was becoming tedious to say the least. T'Pol was having a similar experience with the Vulcan high command. They wanted her perspective on the story and didn't seem entirely satisfied with Archer's version. Archer could tell that T'Pol was sorry about this but there was very little that either of them could do to cut through the bureaucracy.

Deep Space One was a welcome port in a storm. T'Pol gave him back his guest quarters and she made sure that he was undisturbed while he played diplomat. At least at Deep Space One Archer had the support of his fellow Commanding Officers, who were all either waiting for their ships to be repaired or helping out with the repairs. Austin and Reed were both prepared to back his account of how things had happened in the Neutral Zone, along with the civilian transport's captain. Captain Vaughan of Durandal and Captain Stewart of Athena were also able to corroborate later events. Unfortunately the Romulans refused to believe anything that they said.

The door chime sounded.

"Come in," shouted Archer.

He turned around on his chair to see the silhouette of T'Pol outlined in the light from the corridor. She entered and sat on an armchair at the end of the bunk facing Archer.

"Captain T'Pol, have you managed to catch up with everything yet?" asked Archer. T'Pol had left a half built station in the hands of her third in command while she had been away. Archer knew that T'Pol had to be pleased to come back and still find work progressing satisfactorily.

"I have a capable crew," replied T'Pol. "Have you made any progress?"

"A little," said Archer, looking back at his screen. "The whole thing is a nightmare, but at least Malcolm got his promotion to full Commander out of it. I've just signed off on the paperwork to make him the first officer of Excalibur, under the newly promoted Captain Street. It's the fastest I've ever seen anyone make full Commander, with the possible exception of Trip."

"Commander Reed performed well. What is the latest from the Romulans?"

"They're not admitting to setting a trap and the evidence we need to prove it is still in the Neutral Zone. Valdore is trying to save face by stirring up trouble for us, but I don't think the Romulans really want a war. They haven't recovered from the last one yet."

T'Pol nodded in agreement. She paused unsure how to broach the next subject that she had come to discuss. "The Vulcans are unhappy with my involvement in this incident. Even though I have been a Starfleet officer for over six years, they still regard me as their representative."

"This was a Federation mission, T'Pol. If that had been a Vulcan ship stuck in the Neutral Zone I would still have gone in to get them," said Archer.

"I am well aware of that, Admiral, however the Federation is still young and they are not accustomed to thinking of Starfleet as a force for the defence of the alliance."

"I know, but I wish they'd at least start trusting us."

"It was suggested that now Vulcan ships are also part of Starfleet, I should consider a posting with my fellow Vulcans again."

"What did you say?"

"That Deep Space One would be providing me with sufficient challenges for the time being," replied T'Pol.

Archer smiled. T'Pol was an asset to the Federation wherever she chose to serve, but he was pleased that she had decided to remain on Deep Space One. He had of course never doubted for a moment that she would stay. There was one obvious tie that kept her on the space station.

"Speaking of challenges, how's Trip doing? I haven't been able to get down to sickbay much."

"He is demanding early release and complaining about the sickbay food," said T'Pol.

"Feeling better then?" asked Archer with a grin.

"His lungs are almost clear of all congestion. The pneumonia should be completely dealt with in another two days. His head injury is healing well and the cast will come off his leg in three weeks time, assuming that the bones have healed satisfactorily."

T'Pol looked down at the ring on her finger for a moment. Archer's curiosity got the better of him and he had to ask the question he'd had on his mind ever since he'd spotted the simple band on T'Pol's finger. It had a single, small, round, purple stone in its centre, set flush into the gold of the band. It wasn't ostentatious and it suited T'Pol perfectly.

"I've been meaning to ask about your ring. Did Trip give it to you?"

"It is not a Vulcan custom to give rings to one's mate but he seemed to think it was important."

"So you two got married?" Giving rings could only mean one thing.

"No. That would mean we would be breaking Starfleet regulations regarding our both being posted to Deep Space One. I may have bent several regulations so that Trip and I can be together, but I will not break them. You are aware of our telepathic Vulcan marriage bond." A statement not a question, but Archer nodded. "Despite this, we have never formally been joined in Vulcan or Human law. Trip has said that we are "engaged" and given my research on human marriage terminology this seems to be an acceptable…state of affairs."

"Are you planning on getting married?"

"Once we have completed our tours of duty on Deep Space One we plan to uphold both culture's marriage traditions. Now that the Federation has been formed we feel that we may stand a better chance of being accepted." T'Pol inclined her head slightly as if she were listening to someone. "Trip would like me to ask you to be his "best man"."

Archer laughed and accepted. After all what else was there to do? He was told that he gave a pretty good speech.

Trip was released from sickbay five days after his return to Deep Space One. His leg was still in a plastic cast, but Phlox had given him crutches and instructed him how to use them. He and T'Pol had limped down the hallway to their quarters. Two single cabins with a connecting door between them. They used one cabin as a lounge and the other as their bedroom.

"Did I mention that I hate crutches?" said Trip, as he struggled in through the door. Trying to use crutches and get over a door lip was tricky.

"Your feelings on the matter are very clear to me," replied T'Pol. Trip had been radiating annoyance and frustration all the way down the corridor from sickbay.

He slumped down in an armchair, propping up the crutches beside him. The walk back had exhausted him. He reached down to the table beside the chair and picked up a padd.

"What are you doing?" asked T'Pol.

"Catching up on paperwork," replied Trip, immediately realising that T'Pol was unhappy with him.

"You are meant to be resting," said T'Pol.

"I can rest and do paperwork. Stop fussing over me."

"I am not fussing. We need to discuss this." T'Pol mentally felt out for her t'hy'la and found ironclad shields. Trip was angry and had shut her out. They were going to have to have this discussion verbally.

"You're worried that I have a death wish. Even with our bond, you still can't understand me."

T'Pol got the impression that Trip would have liked to have paced around the room if he hadn't had a cast on his leg.

"It is not that I think that you want to die, I just believe that you do not value your own life enough. I cannot have a relationship with you if you continue to risk your life in this way."

"Did you want me to leave Malcolm out there in the Neutral Zone?"

"No. However you left sickbay twice in order to help in the rescue attempt. You put your health at risk. You went to Excalibur and put yourself into a dangerous situation."

"It's what I do, T'Pol. It's what we both do. You put yourself in danger to save my life after the explosion. Why won't you let me do the same?"

"You said that I don't understand you, but you also need to understand me, especially if our future plans are to come to fruition. I cannot continually be concerned for your safety. Our work does involve dangerous situations but we calculate the risk in those situations. You are placing yourself in additional, unnecessary, danger. I love you, t'hy'la, and I do not want to see you hurt."

Trip was about to reply when he stopped for a second. "You know, you've never said that you love me before. You've told me ashau nash-veh du and you've thought it, but you've never said "I love you"."

"I was not aware that it was important to you that I say it in English."

"I guess I didn't know that it was until you said it." Trip sighed. "I can be a stubborn son of bitch when I want to be and I'm real sorry that I haven't been listening to you. I know how much you mean to me and if I mean the same to you then I have a good idea of how much hurt I've been causing you."

"You have felt both my love and concern for you," said T'Pol.

"Yeah, and ignored them. I'm not saying I can stop being who I am, but next time I'll think before I do something stupid. No more unnecessary risks without thinking them through. Okay?"

"That is acceptable," said T'Pol. "And I will endeavour to stop "fussing"."

"Good, but I do need to finish this report for the Admiral, so will you let me off this once?"

"You may finish your report but I will not allow you to start on the Engineering data," said T'Pol. "You are still recovering from your injuries and you need rest."

"Sounds like a fair deal to me," replied Trip.

They settled down to their work, T'Pol scanning through padds of data on the progress of repairs and the latest in the diplomatic soothing of the Romulans. War was now no longer likely but the Romulans were probably going to use the incident as an excuse to cause further trouble. T'Pol dropped her shields and felt Trip do the same. His thoughts merged with hers and they were content, happy to simply be able to spend time together without intergalactic incidents interrupting.

"T'Pol, what was the name of the civilian ship that started this whole mess?" asked Trip.

T'Pol looked up briefly from her own work. "It was the Kobayashi Maru."

Ship names:

USS Dauntless – Named after HMS Dauntless. There have been four Royal Navy ships of this name, the most recent is one of the new Type 45 destroyers and is due for launch in 2006.

NX03 Challenger, NX04 Discovery, NX05 Atlantis, NX06 Endeavour – This continues the naming scheme (ignoring the mirror universe) of the NX class which are called after the NASA shuttles.

USS Athena – Athena was the ancient Greek goddess of wisdom and battle.

USS Excalibur – Excalibur was the mythical sword of King Arthur, given to him by the Lady of the Lake.

USS Durandal – Durandal was said to be the sword of Hector, the oldest son of the King of Troy. Later it passed to Roland a heroic Frankish seneschal.

USS Tyrfing – Tyrfing was a magic sword in Norse mythology that was forged by dwarf slave labour for the grandson of Odin. The dwarves cursed the sword so that it would kill the man who had forced them to create it.

Dramatis Personae:


Captain Hajime Watanabe – Commanding Officer
Commander Nikolai Zukov – Chief Engineer
Commander Rachael Street – Second in Command
Lieutenant Commander Malcolm Reed – Armoury Officer
Lieutenant Simon Jones – SIC Armoury
Ensign Ian Bell – Security
Ensign Marcus Trescothick – Security
Ensign Steve Harmison – Armoury
Ensign Ashley Giles – Science
Doctor Sonok – Chief Medical Officer


Captain Amanda Austin – Commanding Officer
Commander Kelby – Chief Engineer
Lieutenant Andi Flintoff – SIC Engineering (on loan to Excalibur)
Lieutenant Kevin Pietersen – Armoury Officer
Ensign Riley – Communications Officer
Ensign Fisher – Helmswoman
Ensign Ohta – Engineer (on loan to Excalibur)
Ensign Julius – Engineer (on loan to Excalibur)
Ensign West – Engineer (on loan to Excalibur)


Captain Michael Vaughan – Commanding Officer


Captain Alexander Stewart – Commanding Officer

Deep Space One:

Captain T'Pol – Commanding Officer
Captain Charles Tucker III – Chief Engineer
Doctor Phlox – Chief Medical Officer


Admiral Jonathan Archer
Professor Hoshi Sato
Lieutenant Travis Mayweather – Helmsman USS Dauntless

The Romulans:

Admiral Valdore – Romulan Fleet Commander, Captain of Virideth
Commander Tamek – Captain of Evarra