Never and Always...
#9 in the Reconnecting Series
Rating: PG-13 for now
Genre: T/T, romance, drama, ensemble, AU
Archive: Please ask me first.
Disclaimer: Star Trek: Enterprise is the property of CBS/Paramount. All original material herein is the property of its author.
Spoilers: Through "Kir'Shara," plus references through the rest of Season 4.
Summary: Sequel to my story "For As Long As Ever Lasts." As Enterprise journeys home from Vulcan, Trip and T'Pol discover what Soval already knows. Back home, Lorian gets an offer from Captain Hernandez.
A/N: It took me eight stories to fix what "Home" and Koss broke, and I really thought my work was done and the Reconnecting series was complete. Then, as I was putting the finishing touches on that last story, Star Trek: Enterprise was unceremoniously cancelled.
However, unlike in past instances when a TV show I loved was prematurely axed and I could do nothing but mope, I had an alternative this time. I could keep Enterprise and its characters alive by continuing to write about them. So I kept going.
With this story, the focus of the Reconnecting series widened, becoming even more of an ensemble piece, following not only Trip and T'Pol's relationship, but those of their extended family as well. Hindsight being twenty-twenty (thank you, Billy Wilder), I now think of the preceding eight stories as "Book I," and the stories that follow as "Book II" of the series.
Note: I wrote this story with the assumption that Enterprise took a couple of weeks to return to Earth from Vulcan, rather than roaring back in three days at emergency speed, the same way she did to reach Vulcan in order to deal with the embassy bombing.
Bountiful thanks, as always, to my beta goddess slj91.
The Reconnecting Series: Book II
Never and Always...
Chapter 1: Objects Are Much Closer Than They Appear
June 25, 2154
Spacedock, orbiting Earth
As soon as Captain Erika Hernandez stepped off the turbolift onto Columbia's bridge, she spotted Commander Lorian and Lieutenant Archer in a tangle on the deck, under the helm console.
So much for discretion.
Hernandez had to admit she was disappointed. Up to now, Lorian and Karyn had done as Hernandez had requested when they signed on, and had kept their professional and personal lives separate. In fact, they were the most focused and dedicated members of her crew. She hadn't seen so much as a hand-hold or moony smile between them while on duty—or even off-duty, when they were in the public eye. If she hadn't seen them with her own eyes at Callahan's, exchanging smoldering looks as they danced that rumba, she would never have suspected they were madly in love with each other.
As to what they did when they were alone...well, Hernandez had stuck to her part of the bargain and remained officially uninformed.
But now...Hernandez sighed to herself. Not that she or any of the half-dozen other crew on the bridge could see what the two of them were doing under that console, but it wasn't hard to guess. She approached the helm and kneeled down to break up the clinch, before anyone else got a look.
What she found was not quite what she expected. Lorian and Karyn were squeezed together under the open panel of the navigation board, practically in each other's laps, their faces a hair's-breadth apart...but they were so intent on their minute adjustments to the delicate circuitry that they seemed entirely unaware of their intimate proximity to each other.
"That's the last one," Karyn said. She lowered her arms, shaking them to get the circulation going again.
As Lorian closed up the panel, Hernandez hid her relief and gladly got down to ship's business. "How's it coming?"
"The speed and maneuverability of the navigational systems should improve by a good fifteen per cent," Karyn replied. "At least, that's the jump we saw on Enter—" She stopped, and with a faintly annoyed little shake of her head, switched to the code word dictated by Starfleet HQ. "On E²."
Hernandez smiled in sympathy. She couldn't imagine how Lorian and Karyn must feel, having to censor every reference to their existence before their arrival at Spacedock in May, due to Starfleet HQ's insistence on keeping the "time travel element" in strictest secrecy. She knew that none of Lorian's former crew was happy about having their lives labeled Highly Classified. A few crewmembers had good-naturedly rebelled, taking the original code designation for Lorian's Enterprise, E-2, and re-dubbing it the decidedly less official-sounding E², a moniker quickly adopted by the rest of the crew in cheerfully mutinous solidarity.
But they were all still stuck with pasts that could never be discussed among the rank-and-file of Starfleet personnel. Oh, they were allowed to admit a few necessary details to family and co-workers. Karyn, for example, had been given clearance to address the inevitable curiosity by her Columbia mates about her appearance. She could say part of her ancestry was Ikaaran and that she was "related" to Jonathan Archer, though questions about Ikaar and Archer were to be answered with the standard "Sorry, that's classified." Lorian passed as a full Vulcan, albeit an unusually personable one, who displayed a wry sense of humor and an occasional smile.
Their Starfleet-ordered reticence created a mystique about them almost from the moment they arrived on Columbia. Hernandez's request to the crew not to pry only made everyone more curious. Rumors began spreading that the pair's last posting, the elusive E², had been part of the "secret spy section" that some whispered about here and there, but no one would go on record to confirm. Lorian and Karyn were instructed by HQ not to deny the rumors, which succeeded in providing a storm of diversionary gossip that would have done the now-defunct Vulcan High Command proud.
Despite the mystery and hearsay swirling around Lorian and Karyn, the crew took an instant liking to them. They were friendly, generous, resourceful, and damn good at their jobs. Improvements to engineering and navigation were noticeable right away. Lorian seemed especially pleased, not to mention a touch amused, by the comparisons the engineering crew was soon making between him and Enterprise's famed miracle worker, Commander Charles Tucker III.
"When will you be ready for our final set of warp trials?" Hernandez asked Lorian.
"Two days, I should think," he replied.
"We'll test out the modifications to the navigation systems then, too."
Karyn nodded. "Aye, Captain."
Yarrow, the Communications officer, looked up from her board. "Captain, there's a subspace message coming in. For Lieutenant Archer or Commander Lorian."
Karyn and Lorian stood with Hernandez. "It's from Enterprise," Yarrow continued. "Commander Tucker."
Hernandez noticed the pair brightening considerably. Lorian explained, "We have had no communication since Enterprise left for Vulcan."
"Transfer the call to my ready room," Hernandez told Yarrow. She waved Lorian and Karyn away. "Be my guests. Enjoy the privacy."
"Thank you, Captain," they responded, almost in unison. As they made for the ready room, Hernandez took the center seat, smiling to herself. They could probably use the privacy for more than the call, anyway.
-- -- --
As soon as the door was closed and they were alone, Karyn took Lorian by the shoulders and gave him a brief but intensely passionate kiss. He pulled her close, matching her fire, feeling her shiver with pleasure. She tasted especially delicious to him.
She stepped back, a little embarrassed, but only a little. "After sitting next to you all morning under that helm console and not even touching you, I needed that."
He raised an amused eyebrow. "Will you last until we finish our duty shift?"
She sat behind the captain's terminal, wearing a satisfied smile. "I'll manage. But you might want to plan for a clandestine rendezvous tonight."
Lorian felt a thrill of anticipation as he watched his fiancée punch up the subspace call. They spent every night together now, in her quarters or his, whether they indulged in lovemaking or simply lay contentedly in each other's arms. Lorian had even jury-rigged their comm systems to forward hails. Off duty, out of the public eye, they were inseparable. They simply did not wish to waste a moment together.
The viewscreen came alive, revealing Trip and T'Pol at the other end of the transmission, in T'Pol's quarters on Enterprise. Karyn noticed at once that they weren't in uniform; in fact, Trip wasn't even wearing a shirt. Wait, did that mean—? No, they could've just finished a neuropressure session or something. She forced herself not to jump to any conclusions.
Trip grinned. "Hey, you two." Then he scowled, almost at once. "You didn't tell us you were Starfleet already."
Lorian was staring with concern at the bruise still visible on his mother's cheek. "You did not tell us that you had been injured."
"You did not tell us that you were joining the crew of Columbia," T'Pol countered.
"Hold on, everyone," Karyn interjected gently. "It's been a while since we've talked to each other. We all need to catch up."
As the rest of her family eased down, Karyn felt oddly like a family counselor...which was hilarious to her, considering she was the youngster of this bunch. She took a deep, calming breath, in pointed demonstration, then continued, "Trip, T'Pol, you know most of our news already, so—"
"There's more?" Trip blurted.
Karyn raised a warning eyebrow, and Trip subsided. Lorian had not told anyone else yet about his decision to apply for the captaincy of Intrepid. And Dr. Soong's little "project" would remain secret until Phlox had the completed research for safe Vulcan/human hybridization in hand. "All in good time. First, it's your turn."
A joyful smile blossomed on Trip's face, lighting up the viewscreen. He looked expectantly at T'Pol. She wasn't as demonstrative, of course, but the same happiness shone in her eyes. Karyn could even swear she saw the corners of T'Pol's lips quirking up in what appeared to be a serene little smile. Karyn gasped softly, latching onto Lorian's hand without even realizing it. Could it be?...
"Lorian was correct about Koss," T'Pol began.
Lorian felt his own breath quickening, much like Karyn's. Displaying distressingly humanlike impatience, he prompted, "And?"
"He released me from our marriage," T'Pol announced.
"And I proposed," Trip added.
"And I accepted," T'Pol finished.
Karyn squealed with delight before she could stop herself. "Finally!"
Lorian found himself nearly overcome by a tremendous surge of relief. He actually felt tears in his eyes. He squeezed them shut, swallowing hard, gripping Karyn's hand tightly. He had not realized until this moment how profoundly important it had been to him for his parents—these parents, in this timeline—to find happiness together.
"Lorian?" he heard Trip saying. "Are you all right?"
Lorian felt Karyn squeeze his hand. She understood. He opened his eyes, blinking the tears away, and looked into the concerned faces of his parents. "Yes," he replied, his voice low and rough with emotion. "Now I am all right. I feel as if a terrible wrong has at last been set right..." Overwhelmed, he was forced to stop.
Karyn was surprised to feel her eyes tearing up, too. She couldn't explain it, but she knew that, somehow, these tears were Lorian's. She felt as though a part of him was inside her. She imagined she could feel his relief, his gladness, his love for his parents.
Trip and T'Pol's expressions softened at Lorian's heartfelt words. "Lorian," T'Pol said quietly, "when you gave us your assessment that my marriage would not be long-lasting, you restored our future."
"You gave us something to hope for," Trip smiled. "It made all the difference in the world. Thanks, son."
Lorian was watching T'Pol more closely now. She was clearly pleased about the engagement, but something was...wrong. "Mother? What else has happened?"
T'Pol looked away. Karyn saw it too, now...a sadness shadowing T'Pol's joy. Quietly, she said, "My mother is dead."