Disclaimer: I don't own any of the rights to anything Star Trek. They are the property of CBS/Paramount. The storyline and the new characters in it are the only things I claim as mine. I'm not making any money off of this. I'm only playing with the characters and their world for fun. Thanks.

A/N: Okay, here is the start of the sequel to "Somewhere in the Night" where I first introduced the character of Mai. If you haven't read that story you'll probably still enjoy this one, but it does have some important background information for this current story. I'm writing this story from different points of view. "SWITN" was mainly seen through Archer's eyes. Chapter 1 is from Mai's perspective. The first few chapters will deal with Mai coming aboard Enterprise, and then I will delve into the main part of the plot, allowing the crew to do some exploring and meet a new species. Please let me know what you think about this new story by leaving a review, and any suggestions are welcome. I hope you like it.

Thanks once again to my faithful beta reader, LadyRainbow. She rocks!!

Chapter 1

A New Beginning or an Old Wound?

Major Mairead Donnelly sat in her seat aboard the Vulcan transport vessel, Sh'Mire,trying not to squirm. She was attempting, and succeeding, to maintain a cool, calm, collected, and professional demeanor. Her eleven squad members were watching her, looking to her as their commanding officer. Major Donnelly was the leader of an elite tactical and rescue Military Assault Command Operations (MACO) unit.

Her unit had received a transfer order six days ago to serve aboard the Starfleet flagship NX-01 Enterprise. This was a change from their temporary assignment on Earth at West Point, New York where they had been stationed to train a new class of special level MACO soldiers to be able to do what the major's squad did. The training consisted of highly efficient and complex stealth insertion, intelligence gathering, and combat skills that she and her team had been proficient at for five years now.

Part of the reason for the assignment on Earth had been to help Donnelly deal with the death of her husband, Tom Branson. He was a MACO corporal serving in a different unit. He had been killed in action defending a group of cargo haulers about three months ago. Being stationed on Earth had allowed Major Donnelly to plan and hold Tom's funeral and take care of his unfinished business.

Now her superiors had deemed her fit and ready to move on to a new assignment, a new mission. They felt a complete change in atmosphere would be the most beneficial thing for her. She agreed on some levels with their reasoning, but where they had ordered her to go had really shaken her up. Normally, she had a steel spine and took up any challenge with a "Bring It On" attitude, but this assignment was different, different because it involved Captain Jonathan Archer.

Mairead Donnelly had almost killed her older brother for initiating the whole situation. She knew right away the he had somehow talked Archer into this transfer; they were old friends. She had confronted her meddling, Irish brother.

"I asked ya ta tell Jonny about Tommy's death, Fergus," Mairead almost shouted at her brother, via the vidphone, "not to git 'im involved. I didn'ta ask ta be put aboard his ship!" Her Irish brogue came on thick in her anger.

Fergus had at least enough sense to look guilty. His blue eyes pled with her to understand. "Mai lass, I thought I was helpin' ya. I thought that if ya'd be 'round old friends, ya'd come out of the funk that ya've been in since Tommy's death." He ran a hand through his short, blonde hair.

"Ya know what 'appens when you 'ASSUME' right, Fergus?!" Mairead demanded.

"'It makes an arse outta you and me,'" Fergus quoted the old saying. "I really thought Jonny could help ya. Ya've always looked up to 'im. He was there for ya more than I was. I'm sorry, Mai. I didn't mean ta over step me bounds." Fergus' Irish brogue was just as strong.

Mairead's stormy blue eyes swirled in conflict as she spoke. "Well, tis too late now, Fergus. I 'ave me orders and I've got to follow 'em. I guess I shoulda sent Jonny a message meself. Ya don't know what ya've done, oh brother of mine."

"Why tis this so hard for ya, Mai?" Fergus was flabbergasted by her anger. "You and Jonny were the besta friends once. He was at the weddin' and everythin' seemed all right. You were at Enterprise's launch and again things seemed good. What 'appened lass?"

Mairead hadn't wanted to give her brother a confession of her sin against friendship. "Tis none of your concern, Fergus." She evaded his question completely. "I jist wish ya would've consulted me first. I know ya did it outta love lad, but it was the wrong call," she said softening her tone considerably. She loved her big brother, but he was just clueless sometimes, plus she had never told Fergus about the incident between her and Archer.

"I know that now, and I swear ta ya, Mai, that I won't ever forget to consult ya again," Fergus said humbly. "I jist want my little sister to be happy. I only had good intentions."

"I love ya too, ya Irish toad," Mairead told him, ending the argument.

The reason Major Donnelly didn't think her brother's interfering with Captain Archer was a helpful action was a very painful one, at least to the major; in fact, it might just ruin her and her career if she wasn't careful. Jonathan Archer had been at one time and still was, despite the fact that Donnelly had been married, the love of her life. She had never told Archer this fact, hence her problem.

Captain Archer had been a role model, a mentor and instructor, and then a best friend. The major, however, had fallen for him the second she met him through Fergus. Archer was ten years older than she was and had her spellbound with all he had accomplished and all the experience in Starfleet he had. He was handsome, intelligent, skilled at flying, and he was always so patient and kind. Donnelly had done everything she could to be around him, and it had delighted her that almost all of their interests had coincided. When he had agreed to help her through flight school and Starfleet Training, she had been ecstatic. His friendship had been so fulfilling for a while, until she'd wanted more.

Mairead had been too shy and too scared to see if he would be interested in her romantically. She knew her feelings were more than a school girl crush, but she didn't want to ruin the great friendship and rapport they had going. Archer meant too much to her to not at least have the strong friendship they did have. So, she pined away after him, all the while doing everything she could to be a real friend to him. Having his respect and guidance would have to do.

That was all good until the Christmas up at Colonel Monroe's cabin, where she blew it big time. After that she couldn't look him in the eye or really speak to him for that matter. She was too ashamed and too embarrassed. She had pushed their friendship too far and she'd lost him, which was her worst fear come true. Even though he had never confronted her about the incident or spoken any harsh or cross words to her about it, he had withdrawn from her. She felt the loss of his respect and his disapproval toward her actions. They parted still friends, but not on good terms, at least in her opinion.

Seeing Jonathan Archer again after five years would be paradoxical. It would be positively invigorating to see him again, to be in his presence, but it would also be absolutely terrifying too. If losing Tommy hadn't been enough, now she had to face the man she truly loved again, knowing that love was not returned.

Now she would be serving under Archer's command as a MACO soldier. She knew her decision to leave Starfleet and join the MACOs had upset Archer too. She had left a promising career in Starfleet to pursue Tom Branson. He had been a MACO and wouldn't give her the time of day, until she became a MACO, and then she had wowed him with her proficiency; in fact she had far surpassed him in every aspect of being a MACO. She continually advanced, whereas Tom's cocky attitude kept him at the rank of a corporal. Tom was supposed to be a distraction from Archer, and deep down she had wanted to see if she could make him jealous or uncover in him any feelings other than friendship. She had even made a big deal about marrying Tom to see how Archer would react, but it massively backfired on her.

She went ahead and married Tom, because she had made her bed and now she was going to lie in it. She had to see it through; she had started it and she had to finish it. Mairead never really loved Tom, but she had to make good on her commitment. His death was gut-wrenching and tore her heart out. She had lost the one stable constant in her life; she had been comfortable with Tom and was used to him always being there, even though she wasn't in love with him. Now that he was gone, she didn't know what to do. The only choice she saw she had was to throw herself into her job. It was ironic that her whole reason for joining the MACOs was gone, but she still wanted to hold on to it.

A comm crackling to life brought her back to the present. "Enterprise to Sh'Mire, please respond," a soft and feminine voice requested.

The Vulcan captain stoically signaled for his comm officer to reply to the Enterprise's hail. The major felt her stomach flutter and her nervousness build, like an animal trying to claw its way out of her. Her outside appearance betrayed none of her inner turmoil. She was a good actress, especially in front of her men; she had to set the example for them. Her honey blonde hair was back in a tight French braid that went about to her shoulders. Her gray camouflage MACO uniform was pressed and clean. She had already replaced her West Point patch with that of one from Enterprise on her left shoulder. The other shoulder had a patch with a Mako shark on it. Her boots were spit and polished to a nice shine.

Mairead was aware of the conversation between the Vulcan captain, Saron, and the voice from the Enterprise. She figured it must be Ensign Hoshi Sato, the Enterprise's Communications Officer. Mairead had read up on all the key personnel aboard Enterprise in an attempt to know what she was walking into; she especially studied the senior staff's service records. She had also read up on the Enterprise's mission logs and reports to Starfleet Headquarters to see what they had actually been doing for the last five years.

Ensign Sato had a very impressive record. Her linguistic skills and pressure under fire had earned her many commendations. The young Japanese woman was looking at a promotion to Lieutenant soon. She was also researching into how to create a multilingual matrix for the Universal Translator and that had Mairead fascinated. Sato had also been a language teacher in Brazil, reminding Mairead of her sister-in-law, Fergus' wife. She taught communications skills at Stanford University in California.

It had thrilled Mairead to see that Commander Charles Tucker III, or Trip, was still included among the senior staff as Enterprise's Chief Engineer. She had heard that he had transferred to Starfleet's second NX class starship, Columbia. Trip was an old friend and hopefully seeing him again would bring her a little comfort. Mairead had liked Trip from the moment she meet him years ago, through Archer. She had always thought the native Floridian was an attractive and fun loving guy, but her attraction had been centered on Jonathan Archer alone. Trip was really like another brother to her. He had always treated her as such and she just felt safe around him. He had never let her down and had been at times a great confidant, but not with anything to do about Archer. Mairead never spoke to Trip about that; she couldn't.

Her thoughts now turned to Lieutenant Malcolm Reed, as Saron and Sato went over the docking protocols for their two ships. Reed was Enterprise's Tactical and Armory Officer; the man she had to now report to aboard Enterprise. She technically outranked him, a major in the MACOs was equivalent to a captain in Starfleet, but she would have to accept Reed as her superior aboard Enterprise. That didn't bother her one bit. She wasn't in the military for power and authority; she was in it for the adventure.

Reed was a Brit and that made Mairead smile wryly. Working with him would be interesting to say the least. His service record had been impeccable. The work he had done on redesigning and installing phase cannons, torpedo launchers, and experiments in forcefield technology was extensive. He knew his weapons. Some of the expeditions and investigations he had led were extraordinary. He was skilled at solving crimes as well as planning and executing tactical strategy. Picking his brain would be fun Mairead decided. She might be able to learn a lot from this man.

The only trepidation about Reed she had came from information she had received about him through Major Matthew Hayes. A twinge of sadness and sorrow pulled through her as she remembered her fallen comrade. Hayes and Mairead had done some MACO training together at West Point and had become good friends. In all things militarily, they thought alike. Matty had taught her a lot about how to be a true soldier and what leadership over others under your command really meant. Most of her hand-to-hand combat skills Matty had helped her develop and hone. He knew how to fight better than anyone she knew.

Major Hayes had sent her a few subspace messages while he and his MACO unit were stationed aboard Enterprise during its Xindi mission in the Delphic Expanse. Mainly, he would blow off steam about Reed: how the Lieutenant would ignore his suggestions and fight him on security issues, how Hayes had gone over Reed's head to Archer and the disaster that had been, how Reed was paranoid that Hayes wanted to take over his job, how the two had tried to pulverize each other, and so on.

Matty's last message had been different. Somewhere along the way he and Reed had come to respect each other and work well together. Hayes had admitted to her that he had a lot of preconceptions about people in Starfleet that he had to overcome. He knew he had been part of the problem with Reed. His shortcomings needed to be worked on too. Then Matty was killed in action, just like Tommy now had been.

Mairead felt her eyes tear up, but she refused to let her emotions get the better of her. She envied the Vulcans' precise control over their emotions. It wasn't an easy task to suppress them. A human could do it, but only for short periods of time. Major Donnelly wanted to set a record for her species' emotional control. It was the only way to deal with Tommy's death. She just couldn't face it right now; grief wasn't the only emotion that threatened her sanity, guilt did too. She also knew she had to push down her feelings toward Archer. She had to pretend they didn't exist to be able to work with him again.

"Are you ready to depart, Major?" Saron's deep and rich voice asked her, breaking into her thoughts. He was a tall, dark-haired Vulcan with streaks of gray throughout his hair. Mairead would never get over the pointed ears Vulcans all had.

"As soon as I receive yer go ahead, Cap'n," Mairead replied, "and receive Cap'n Archer's permission to come aboard Enterprise."

"I will escort you and your team to the airlock," Saron then told her. "My men will help you transport your belongings and equipment to the Enterprise."

Major Donnelly stood with military precision, snapping to attention in front of Saron; all eleven members of her squad stood with her and snapped to attention as well. Saron raised a long, pointed eyebrow at the impressive display. These humans had been nothing but professional, to the point, and emotionally calm. They were warriors, but not with the single-mindedness of the Klingons. It surprised Saron, but he also saw it as refreshing. Maybe humans weren't such an immature species after all.

With a curt nod, Saron headed off his bridge, signally some of his men to follow and some to go and retrieve the MACOs' cargo. He knew that Major Donnelly and her people were right behind him. It was a short distance to the airlock where the Sh'Mire had docked with the Enterprise. The group waited a moment as the chamber pressurized properly.

"Thank you, Cap'n Saron, for givin' us a lift," Mairead couldn't help but quip; Vulcans were fun to ruffle now and then with human colloquialisms.

Saron's elegant eyebrow shot up again at the major's terminology, but he replied kindly, "It was a fascinating study of human nature. I am pleased that we could be of assistance in this matter."

Mairead heard the airlock door click and slide open. Now came the test of her strength. In moments she would see Jonny; Captain Archer, she had to correct herself. She let herself fall into full military mode like a second skin. She snapped to once again, straight lines and tight movements. Her squad mirrored her exactly. They would be the perfect image of military exactness.

Saron and a few of his men went through the airlock first, to greet the crew of the Enterprise and to announce the arrival of Major Donnelly and her squad. A cold fist clenched in Mairead' stomach, but a tingle slid down her spine, part anticipation and part excitement. She really did want to see Jonny again. She continued her facade of the perfect soldier; alert, cautious, meticulous, thorough, and professional.

"Greeting and felicitations, Captain Archer," Mairead heard Saron say cordially.

"Welcome aboard, Captain Saron," Mairead then heard Jonny's voice answer the greeting. Her gut tightened further and the tingling in spine increased greatly. "I was told that you have some passengers to drop off." Mairead had to stop thinking of Archer as Jonny, but she couldn't; it was who he was to her.

"Yes," was Saron's reply, not responding to the humor in Archer'svoice. "I present to you the Seventy-Eighth Special Tactics and Rescue Squad from Earth's Military Assault Command Operations," he went on with a very formal introduction.

At his words, as if right on cue, Major Donnelly marched forward through the Sh'Mire's airlock and then through Enterprise's. Her team came right after her, all pomp and circumstance. She stopped few meters from Archer. She took an appropriate glance at Archer to acknowledge her new CO, after which she then stared straight ahead at full attention, straight and rigid.

"Permission to come aboard, sir!" she said crisply, her Irish accent not as pronounced.

Archer gazed at her for a moment, studying her and her team. Then he said curtly, "Permission granted to you and your squad, Major Donnelly." With that said, he stepped aside and motioned for his senior staff and the ship's current group of MACOs to also step aside and allow the major and her men to come fully aboard the ship.

With sharp steps and turns, Mairead commanded her men, "Ten hut! Forward march!" All twelve MACOs moved in perfect sync and with practiced skill as they marched aboard. The major stopped again in front of Archer in his new position in the corridor of his ship. She made a sharp right turn to do so and the rest of her men moved into three lines behind her of three, four, and four. They all stood at full attention once more, straight and tall. Their stances were hard and proper.

"Squad Seventy-Eight, Special Tactics and Rescue Unit, reporting for duty as ordered, sir!" The Major was again crisp with her words.

"Acknowledged and so noted, Major," Archer responded to the report with formality. Then he said, "At ease." The unit relaxed only a notch as they eased into a little wider stance, arms at their sides or placed behind their backs.

The whole time Mairead was following all the proper military protocols she was carefully observing her once best friend, Captain Archer. Command of Starfleet's flagship had aged him, plus the five years that had gone by since she had last seen him. He was still stunningly handsome with his strong jaw, long nose, short brown hair, hypnotizing hazel-green eyes, broad shoulders and chest, and long legs. He looked like he belonged here. He still seemed confidant and commanding. He appeared a little tired, but damn he looked good! Mairead had to fight to control her breathing and the tingling in her spine intensified once more.

Archer was surrounded by his senior staff. Mairead recognized all of them from the pictures in their personnel files. Lieutenant Malcolm Reed, Trip, and Commander T'Pol, Archer's First Officer, Science Officer, and a Vulcan female stood off the Captain's right. Ensigns Hoshi Sato and Travis Mayweather, Helmsman, along with Dr. Phlox, the Chief Medical Officer and a Denobulan were standing off to the Captain's left.

Behind them were twenty-four MACOs; twelve of whom were leaving and twelve of whom were staying. They were also standing in a professional at east position. Mairead recognized Sergeant Nathanial Kemper right away. A sense of delight shifted through her. She was still miffed at Hayes for asking her to fail Kemper when he had tried to out to be assigned to her unit. He should have passed with flying colors. The young man had the skills, the intelligence, the determination, and the expertise in every way to have benefited Mairead's squad. But as a personal favor to Matty, because he really didn't want to lose Kemper from his squad, she had flunked Nate out. Hayes still owed Mairead big time for the favor, and now sadly she'd never get to collect the debt.

Maybe this assignment would be a good one after all. Maybe she could handle this situation. Mairead did not recognize the other MACOs, but she assumed the young blonde woman towards the front of their lines was Corporal McKenzie and the slightly older Asian man was Corporal Chang. Matty had had nothing but good things to say about all his people. She felt confidant she could work with this new group of MACOs.

"On behalf of Enterprise and her crew, welcome aboard," Archer's strong voice interrupted her appraisals. Then all the introductions began. Through it all Mairead remained outwardly curt and straight-laced, but inside the nervous, clawing animal was going wild.

When Trip shook her hand and formally introduced himself to her and her men, he winked at her. It took everything Mairead had inside of her not to smile at him. At least he seemed happy to see her; that was comforting. Lieutenant Reed had a strong grasp and an air of total no-nonsense about him. He was all Matty said he was; lean, wiry, confidant, a little cold, but very calculating and very alert. He eyes missed nothing; he watched everything that was going on like a hawk.

Ensign Mayweather had a firm handshake, but he smiled brightly at her. Ensign Sato also smiled warmly at Mairead and shook her hand with purpose. Dr. Phlox took the major's hand in both of his and patted it gently. His large, blue eyes seemed to sparkle. T'Pol even shook Mairead's hand cordially. The Vulcan must have spent way too much time around humans to pick up such a gesture; normally they didn't like to be touched. It was another thing to comfort Mairead about this new assignment. Kemper shook her hand enthusiastically. McKenzie and Chang did so as well, but were more subdued.

"Well," Jonny began after all the meeting and greeting, "I'm going to ask Ensign Sato, T'Pol, and Dr. Phlox to take care of our Vulcan guests. Our chef has prepared a fine meal for you all," he addressed Saron and his men. Come on Mai; he's not Jonny out here, he's Captain Archer, Mairead told herself stringently.

"Thank you, Captain," Saron responded. "It would be agreeable with us to eat at this time and perhaps see more of your Starfleet vessel."

Archer nodded at him in agreement, and then he went on, "Lieutenant Reed and Ensign Mayweather will look after the major's men; giving them a tour, assigning them quarters, getting them acquainted with our protocols and systems, and getting them something to eat as well. Kemper, McKenzie, and Chang should tag along too. The rest of the MACOs should return to their stations or finish preparing to depart.

"Commander Tucker and I will give Major Donnelly a tour and orient her with department heads and other key personnel. Later she will meet with Lieutenant Reed to go through all the security briefings she will need to have to be brought up to speed on how things operate aboard Enterprise," he finished.

Mairead listened attentively to all he was saying, but she couldn't help but observe as Trip finally recognized a familiar face in the crowd of her men, Sergeant Ellen Bates; not all of Mairead's men were actually men, some were women too. The major had to bite her tongue to stay serious as she watched his jaw drop to the floor in shock. Trip had never been very good at disguising his feelings, and it appeared he still wasn't. Trip and Ellen had a little romantic history together from years ago, and he obviously didn't realize that she was part of Mairead's unit.

"You heard Captain Archer MACOs, fall in line!" Major Donnelly ordered her men. They fell in line almost instantly ready to follow their designated tour guides, Reed and Mayweather.

"We'll make sure all your belongings and equipment make it to where they're supposed to be," Archer told the new MACOs. "Dismissed," he said to all of those assembled.

Reed and Mayweather took over the major's squad and led them off down the corridor. As Mairead watched them go, a bolt of excitement hit her. She was on "the" starship Enterprise. She was going to get to explore the final frontier at last. It was very ironic that the man who had once mentored her to do just that, during her brief time in Starfleet, now had made it possible for her to travel to distance worlds and meet new species as a MACO. Maybe, just maybe, Fergus had been right in talking Jonny into this transfer.

The Vulcans left the corridor as well with their respective escorts. The other MACOs had done as Archer had ordered, leaving Mairead alone with Trip and Captain Archer. Mairead was stilling standing in the at ease position in front of Archer. It was Trip who broke all the formality first.

"Okay," he drawled in his strong Southern accent. "I can't take it anymore. Come here, Mai," he demanded playfully, using her nickname.

He swooped forward gathering the major in one of his typical Tucker styled bear hugs. He lifted Mairead off the floor and swung her around at least three times before setting her back down again. A little stunned, a little out of breath, and a little disoriented she couldn't help but laugh out loud.

"Oh my," she gasped. "Hi ya, Trip, lad. Tis good ta see ya too." Her Irish brogue was back. Archer's chuckling at the highly emotional display of friendship reminded her of his presence.

"Don't I get a hug too?" Archer asked trying to sound left out.

Mairead turned to him. His formality was gone too, but he still seemed slightly distant to her despite his words. She tried not to gulp as she replied, "Of course, Cap'n."

She extracted herself from Trip's monster grip and slid her arms around Archer's waist, up his back and shoulders to pull him into a hug. He did same with her. It was then that some kind of wall separating them collapsed or a dam between them broke. Jonny hugged her to him for all he was worth. It took Mairead by surprise, but she couldn't help but embrace him more tightly too.

Suddenly it was like no time had passed and nothing had come between them. Mairead felt herself instinctively lean into the embrace, pressing against Jonny's broad chest. He was at least a half a foot taller than she was. He was a little over six feet tall and she was barely five five. Her face rested against his shoulder and upper chest. Her head was the perfect resting spot for his chin. Mairead found herself clinging to him, absorbing his strength and inhaling his deep, masculine smell, along with his delightfully strong aftershave.

"Hi, Mai," he whispered softly in her ear. The tingling in Mairead's spine spiked at his words and their soft and tender tone. It had been way too long.

"Hi, Jonny," she whispered back, holding him more tightly to her, not wanting to let go of him. Her emotional detachment and control was gone; so much for setting a record. She felt the sting of tears in her eyes. She needed this so badly.

"God I've missed you, Mai," Jonny breathed with a trembling voice. "I'm so glad you're finally here."

"Me too lad, me too," Mairead said agreeing wholeheartedly with him. Jonny wasn't mad at her, he still cared about her, and he was still her friend. The way he was hugging her proved that to her and filled her with relief. The knot in her stomach loosened considerably. Hope threatened to blossom within her that maybe, just maybe, this could be a new beginning for her.


Did any one catch my ode to "The Lord of the Rings"? I couldn't help it, the name just worked well for the Vulcan captain. I know the name is really spelled with a "u" in it, but I changed the spelling a little for my character. Let me know what you thought? Is it any good?