#11 in the Reconnecting Series
Rating: PG-13 for now, with a few R-rated romantic interludes to come
Disclaimer: Star Trek: Enterprise is the property of CBS/Paramount. All original material herein is the property of its author.
Genre: Drama, romance, ensemble, AU
Spoilers: Through "Terra Prime"
Summary: Sequel to my story "...Touching and Touched." Early on the morning after Lorian and Karyn's wedding, a series of vignettes takes a look at our extended family, and several other characters, some new to the series, to see what is on the horizon.
A/N: Thanks go to my betas boushh and TJ, and to pookha for inspiring me with her musings.
The character T'Shara first appeared in my story "Let Me Be Her." (Note: "Let Me Be Her" is R-rated.) Reading that story is not necessary to follow this one, but it does serve as backstory.
Chapter One: Soval
July 11, 2154
San Francisco, Earth
The beach below the Vulcan compound was just beginning to lighten as Soval padded barefoot onto the sand, wrapped in extra robes to ward off the pre-dawn chill. He knelt before his makeshift meditation table, a flat-topped slab of stone, and lit the solitary candle that was sealed onto the rock by rivulets of dried wax. As he watched the flame dance in the faint breeze, he listened to the waves lapping against the beach, and gradually focused his attention inward. He had been sensing a pattern in recent events...a number of turning points on the horizon, for the individuals whose lives were most closely intertwined with his.
In a few hours, Commanders T'Pol and Tucker would challenge Starfleet's long-held policy that if two of its personnel became romantically involved, they would be incapable of maintaining their objectivity when posted to the same ship.
Captain Archer—haunted for months by the war, still grieving for his lost friend Admiral Forrest, and robbed of the chance to return to the Expanse—seemed finally on the verge of something positive. The shy smiles the captain had exchanged with the lady bartender at Callahan's Jazz Club last night had not escaped Soval's notice. He hoped Archer had found an understanding soul.
Earth, which had chafed for so long under the too-watchful eye of the High Command, would now be making her own way in the galaxy, with Starfleet as her representative. Starfleet and the new Vulcan High Council were already in discussions regarding a formal Earth/Vulcan alliance. It would be interesting to witness the steps Starfleet would take in the coming months to demonstrate her newfound independence—overtures to other species, perhaps—as well as the reactions those steps might engender from isolationist groups such as Terra Prime.
Columbia would set out on her maiden voyage, journeying to the Delphic Expanse to make further contact with the descendents of humans long since spirited away from Earth. It was appropriate, Soval thought, considering the ship's crew included two of the complement of E², who were themselves over a century removed from Earth. Hopefully, Columbia would also locate an Illyrian ship slowly limping homeward, crippled by the ill fortunes of war.
Commander Lorian and Lieutenant Archer were setting out on that new starship, in a new marriage, newly bonded. Before they departed, Soval would assist Lorian in determining the extent of his nascent telepathic ability. After a century, Lorian would at last be able to embrace this aspect of his Vulcan heritage...though Soval doubted the commander's thoughts were consumed with mind-melding at the moment.
Soval had been pleased to hear that Lorian was being considered for the captaincy of the NX-03, Intrepid. It was gratifying to know that he and the hybrid members of his former crew had found a place of belonging in Starfleet, where they were judged by their merits, not condemned for their alien heritage. Forrest had rejoiced in their differences. How Vulcan of him.
I miss you, old friend. How human of me.
It was a consequence of living a span twice as long as these shorter-lived, frailer beings. Acquaintanceships and lives passed away all too soon. One became accustomed to it, after a fashion...but a precious few relationships ran deep. Those losses, Soval knew, would linger, sharp and stinging, before they finally softened to fond remembrance.
He would feel Maxwell Forrest's loss for a long time.
There was another, too...one whose absence, despite the logic of her leaving, had left a noticeable void in Soval's life. He had no right to miss her, of course. She had never been his to begin with; he had made certain of that. A woman of her youth and singular abilities deserved far better than a widower notably past his prime, of notably brittle temperament.
He often found himself wishing that it could have been otherwise.
Soval had thought of her often since Forrest's death, as he contemplated an array of regrets and missed opportunities. Now, with the deep joy of Lorian and Karyn's marriage bond still resonating in his consciousness, he was again assailed by thoughts of her. He even imagined he could smell her sweet scent, carried by the sea breeze from whatever far world she now called home. It drifted slowly over him, haunting him with memories of her warmth, her voice, her touch—
"Kroykah!" He stood in frustration, kicking up a spray of sand. The candle sputtered and died, strangled by a shower of damp granules.
Why did he find it so impossible to put her loss behind him?
As he stared out at the blue-gray sea, he heard a voice close by. "It appears I have arrived just in time."
Soval turned in astonishment. He had not imagined that wondrously sweet aroma after all. T'Shara had returned.
She was wearing a traveling cloak over her robes, with her lustrous ebony hair—worn long, in contrast with Vulcan custom—woven into a single thick braid that extended below her waist. She looked even more beautiful than he remembered.
How long had it been...? Five years, eleven months, and three days since his last pon farr. T'Shara had come to him then, as she had every seventh year since she had first quenched his blood fever thirty-four years ago, renewing his passion for his work and his life in the process.
While Soval's resulting affection for T'Shara had been quite unexpected, her affection for him had been wholly unacceptable. After one glorious, maddening year in her company, he had finally compelled her to leave, to seek out a proper bondmate and see to her career. Nevertheless, she had returned each time the pon farr overtook him, despite his insistence that she should stay away. The last time, he even attempted to refuse her, but the fever left him unable to resist her. Afterward, she departed while he slept, without even bidding him farewell. He concluded that she was sufficiently disillusioned to refrain from returning again, and he thought his hopes would finally pass away...
"I see that you remain insolent enough to ignore my counsel," he said stiffly.
T'Shara arched one lovely, upswept eyebrow. "And I see that you remain arrogant enough to believe your logic superior to mine."
"I am no younger," Soval stated flatly. He was finding to his annoyance that it was more difficult to present his argument while of sound mind, far removed from the helpless desperation of the blood fever. How had he let himself remain so attached to her, against all logic?
"Your age remains irrelevant to me," she responded calmly.
"For you to bind your life to mine would be an egregious waste of your potential," he maintained.
"Too much time has already been wasted," T'Shara stated, with that same equanimity. "For thirty years I did as you asked. I nurtured my career, diligently. I have, in fact, attained pre-eminence as a translator of ancient texts. But it has meant little to me, compared to what I lost."
"Why didn't you marry?" he asked. Why didn't you put an end to your longing, and mine?
"No other man has proven your equal," she said simply. "I chose to be alone rather than be discontent."
Soval was overwhelmed. He felt his hope sparking to life again...and this time, he did not try to stamp the flame out. "T'Shara, why are you here?" he asked in a hushed voice.
"I was in an outlying system when I learned of the embassy bombing, and Admiral Forrest's death." T'Shara's voice softened with compassion. "I grieve with you. I know he was your friend. It was his loss that compelled me here." She drew nearer. "Soval, I have been with no man, save you, since my husband died. I wish for no other, contemplate no other. We complement one another, you and I, in intellect and interests, in tastes and mutual passion. To be apart from you any longer would be illogical...a true waste of potential, our potential."
She touched her fingers to his in a light ozh'esta, sending a pleasurable flush coursing through him. "Of course, the decision is not mine alone to make," she said. "Do you still wish me gone?"
Soval could hardly believe what was transpiring. Perhaps he was approaching a turning point as well, one he had not anticipated. "I never...wished you gone," he confessed.
T'Shara's dark eyes warmed in the dawning light. "That pleases me." She turned to go. "I have taken an apartment in the compound. I shall leave you to your meditation, and we will talk later."
"You have already secured quarters?" Soval blurted in surprise.
Looking back at him over her shoulder, T'Shara nodded, her expression serenely innocent.
"Before speaking with me?" Soval went on, with a touch of irritation. "What if I had been of the same mind as before?"
"Your question is irrelevant, since you are of a different mind," she said.
"I have not made up my mind!" he insisted.
"Precisely the reason I have made arrangements to stay," T'Shara responded smoothly. "Such a decision will take time."
"Quite right," he declared, attempting to maintain some semblance of control over the situation.
"And in the interim, I have no wish to leave you again," she added softly.
All thought of control suddenly seemed immaterial to him. "I find your plan acceptable."
"Then we are agreed." With a nod of farewell, T'Shara crossed the sandy beach to the wooden stairway that led up to the compound. As she climbed the steps, Soval saw that her feet were also bare. He doubted that any other Vulcan in the system would choose to sink barefoot into the damp sand of a Terran beach, other than himself.
What a provocative, captivating woman.
With an effort, he turned away, kneeling before his meditation candle once more. He lit the taper, focused on the flame...and with a shake of his head, he blew the candle out. It would be impossible to clear his mind now.
Chapter Two: Danica
Erickson Research Center
Palmdale, North American Region
Dad had slept soundly for a change, after his last treatment. Usually the pain from his twisted spine kept him from experiencing anything resembling restful sleep, but the bliss of knowing he had gotten everything he wanted—that was bound to make any pain bearable. Danica, on the other hand, hadn't slept a wink. She'd finally given up and gone outside to watch the sky slowly lighten, revealing the silhouettes of Joshua trees scattered like a ragged army across the flat Palmdale desert. A century ago, the Joshua trees had all but disappeared, plowed under by the press of civilization. But the war's destruction had made great inroads into the population in the American Southwest, and nature had stepped in with her customary efficiency to fill the void.
It was almost six: time for Dad's next injection. Danica went back inside the quiet, shadowy ranch house, passing walls lined with pictures, shelves crowded with knickknacks, mementos, and more pictures. There were homages to Quinn at every turn. Dad took comfort in the jumble of remembrances to the son he refused to let go. Danica had long ago learned to move through the house without looking at the makeshift shrines. Her eyes would automatically pick out the pictures of Jon as she passed; she would rather see reminders of the living, not the dead. But she couldn't help but see the images of Quinn anyway, hovering at the edge of her peripheral vision, like a ghost haunting her.
She had been praying that Enterprise would be too busy, too vital, too famous to be pulled away from its scheduled assignment, whatever it was, to ferry one crippled old scientist and his caregiver daughter to the end of nowhere for a transporter experiment. Then this crazy scheme of her father's would have no way to be set into motion, and he would finally be forced to face the reality that Quinn was lost.
Yesterday morning, though, Admiral Gardner himself had called with the news that Enterprise would be taking them to the Barrens. For Dad, the news couldn't have been better. For Danica, it couldn't have been worse.
"It's not right!" she had told her father. "We're pulling one of only two NX-class starships out of service for months, under false pretenses—"
"There's no other way I can get the resources I need," Emory had placidly replied. "You know that, Dani. Even if I had proof that Quinn is alive—"
"You don't have proof because there's a greater probability that he's gone, Dad."
"No!" her father had declared firmly, as he wheeled his chair away from the comm terminal. "I've run the scenario dozens of times in simulation. He's caught in flux—suspended." His voice had faltered, as his hands tightened on the sides of his wheelchair. "I can't even imagine it...being frozen in subspace, with no way of knowing the passage of time, no sense of reality. I can't leave him there, Dani, in that purgatory of nothingness, not when I'm the one responsible for putting him there." Then his voice had hardened with resolve. "I will find him and bring him back. I'll do anything to get him back."
"Including putting eighty-five people at risk?" Danica had asked soberly. "Putting Jon at risk?"
Emory's attitude had shifted like quicksilver, to cocky confidence. His moods changed more quickly with each passing week. "I've had months to plan this, to put the proper safeguards in place," he declared. "You're worrying needlessly, Dani. There's no use going over this again. I am going to do this. I have to. This is what has kept me alive all these years."
And off he'd gone, to run more simulations.
This is what has kept me in suspended animation all these years, just like my brother, Danica thought as she headed down the hallway toward Emory's bedroom. Dad has had no thought of me or anyone else. He's lied to Starfleet, to his investors... All of us have been frozen in time, waiting to break the spell.
She peeked in on her dad. Surprise—he was already awake, sitting at the edge of his bed, carefully lowering himself into his wheelchair.
"Do I need to adjust the dose?" she asked.
Emory smiled. "No. I'm just excited, I guess."
She couldn't play along, not even to make him happy. "You shouldn't be, considering how many people we've snowballed with this phantom 'sub-quantum transporter' of yours." She glanced over at him as she readied his injection. "And I don't know how you expect me to look Jon in the eye and lie to him. I've never lied to him."
Emory waved a hand dismissively at her as he settled himself in his chair. "If you don't think you can handle this, Dani, then I won't put you through it. Stay home. I'll hire a nurse."
Danica looked away, feeling the hot, sharp edge of his words as they cut through her. Her dad was just like he had always been. He loved her when she was useful, but if he ever had to choose between her and Quinn, it was as if she didn't even exist.
With impersonal efficiency, she pulled up his pajama top, felt for the injection point between his metal-reinforced vertebrae, and drove the needle home, more roughly than usual. "I didn't realize I was so expendable."
He sucked in a hiss of breath as she yanked the shot out. "I don't have time for your sulking, Dani. I'm going to get Quinn." He looked over his shoulder at her as he pulled his top back into place. "You can help me, or you can stay out of my way. There aren't any other choices."
Biting back an acid retort, Danica stalked out of his room. It took all her self-control not to slam the door behind her.
She kept going, out of the house, away from the compound. She knew exactly how far she needed to go to be able to cry and scream and bellow out her pent-up frustration and hurt and anger, without her father being able to hear her. Even during these moments when she hated him, she loved him too much to hurt him the way he was hurting her.
Dammit, she should let him go off without her. Let him see just how long he'd last with some rent-a-nurse who wouldn't put up for one day with his ego, or his quirks, or his demands. Let him tell Danica how expendable she was then.
Only problem was, he wouldn't come home all aglow with renewed appreciation for her. He'd disown her and never speak to her again.
Even that was tempting, to the part of her that had given the prime of her life to him.
When her throat was raw and she was too tired to yell any more, Danica started back. She would go with her father on Enterprise to the Barrens. She would find a way to lie to Jon, though she would hate herself for it. And when Emory's elaborate scheme failed and they were exposed as frauds, she would stand by her father as Jon turned his back on them for betraying him...as they were banned from all Starfleet research facilities in perpetuity...as they lost everything.
The worst would be Jon. Danica didn't know how she would survive losing another brother, but she would get through it somehow.
Her father wouldn't care about any of it, of course. He wouldn't be aware of anything except his failure to retrieve Quinn. But he would no longer have the resources to put together another plan to get his son back. It would finally be over.
Then maybe, just maybe, he would remember that he had another child who needed him.
Danica didn't have the courage to hope that Quinn was dead. But she hoped with all her heart that he was at peace.