#12 in the Reconnecting Series
Disclaimer: Star Trek: Enterprise is the property of CBS/Paramount. All original material herein is the property of its author.
Genre: Romance, drama, T/T, Archer/Kyle, ensemble, AU
Spoilers: Major spoilers for "North Star," "Damage," "Daedalus," and "Observer Effect." Minor spoilers through "Terra Prime."
Summary: Sequel to my story "First Light." Enterprise sets out for the Barrens with the Ericksons, returning via a planet under observation; Columbia's maiden voyage takes her to the Delphic Expanse; and relationships reach turning points for Trip and T'Pol, Soval, and Archer.
A/N: Thank you again for taking the time to read and comment, especially those of you who have stuck with the series from the beginning. I have enjoyed the reviews very much.
Thanks also to my stalwart betas slj91 (with me virtually from the beginning, whatta champ), Jenna, and boushh. I couldn't have come this far without : /Dialogue between slash marks/ denotes inner-mind bond-speak.
red-i-vi-vus (rědʹ-ǝ-vīʹ-vǝs, -vēʹ-), adjective
Come back to life; revived. [Late Latin redivīvus, renewed.]
Chapter One: The Dog-And-Pony Show
San Francisco, Earth
Trip stared in disbelief at the three members of the Board of Inquiry seated before him. Have they heard one thing I've said? "Objectivity?" he repeated. "T'Pol's tried to kill me more times than I can count!"
"But that was before you and she made the decision to marry," Admiral Tanith pointed out. "The circumstances were different."
"No, sir, the circumstances aren't different at all," Trip said patiently. "Don't you see? If we were married, she'd try even harder."
Admiral Zhang looked puzzled. "To kill you?"
Trip rubbed his eyes tiredly and sighed. "You're not gettin' the point."
"And your point is, Commander?" Minister T'Kau inquired.
T'Pol regarded the trio with serene confidence. "Your assumption appears to be that Commander Tucker would have less regard for me if I were not to put his life before the lives of others. I put to you that the commander can have no regard for me if I put his life before any other."
T'Kau nodded, apparently satisfied. The two admirals, however, were not. "Go on," prompted Zhang.
"Consider a hypothetical scenario," T'Pol said. "Enterprise is damaged; many lives are in peril. The only action I can take to save those lives will result in the death of Commander Tucker. If I do not act, he lives, but the others die." She paused, eyeing each board member in turn. "Commander Tucker possesses strong moral principles, one of which is the willingness to serve a greater good. He has risked his own life numerous times to save the lives of others. If I were to choose inaction—save him, while letting countless others die—I would violate that principle, betraying the very foundation of our relationship in the process."
"Why would you tell him?" Zhang asked.
She looked blankly at him. "I beg your pardon?"
He shrugged. "He wouldn't necessarily know what you had done if you kept him from finding out."
T'Pol blinked, taken completely aback by the suggestion. Quickly, her astonishment gave way to an icy calm. She arched one eyebrow at the admiral. "You propose that I commit mass murder, then lie to my chosen lifemate to conceal a purely selfish act?"
Minister T'Kau turned coolly to Zhang. "I am most interested in your response to this question as well, Admiral."
Tanith leaned back in his seat, looking at once amused and a bit dumbfounded. "Me three."
Zhang didn't even flinch. "Even Vulcans have been known to justify the most heinous acts by twisting logic to suit their purposes. I need not remind you of what ex-Administrator V'Las pulled last month." He crossed his arms resolutely. "No offense, Commander T'Pol, but I'm not going to assume you're incapable of making the wrong choice under pressure simply because you are Vulcan. Especially if it involves your 'chosen lifemate.' I need more compelling evidence than your word."
Archer stood before the board, hands clasped lightly behind him, and eyed the three members quizzically. "To expect that two seasoned officers, both with command training and years of experience in their respective fields of expertise, would, in a time of crisis, dispense with that hard-earned discipline and behave like selfish, smitten schoolchildren, is not logical."
Tanith squinted at him. "You sound like a Vulcan."
"Do I?" Archer smiled faintly. "I had a rather notable Vulcan inside my head for a few days last month. I guess he rubbed off on me."
"I do not doubt that the no-fraternization policy has proven useful to Starfleet," Lorian told the board members.
Quite diplomatic of him, Karyn thought.
"That being said," Lorian went on, "such a policy—according to the medical and captain's logs of E² over the course of 117 years, and confirmed by my own observation—is unnecessary when certain ethical guidelines and disciplines are observed."
Karyn saw Admiral Zhang purse his lips skeptically. That guy is going to be a tough sell. "Tell me more," the admiral said.
Karyn smoothly picked up where Lorian had left off. "The original crew knew that families—marriage, children, succeeding generations—were vital to the future of Enterprise and the success of Captain Archer's new mission. But each crew member also understood the need to keep personal relationships in their proper perspective. They must yield, when necessary, to the greater goal of the well-being of the ship. Without the ship, there would be nothing: no success, no future."
"Captain Archer began with one of the teachings of Surak, the father of Vulcan logic," Lorian continued. "'The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.' He developed it into a code of conduct that was strictly adhered to by the crew and taught to each succeeding generation. As a result, crew members were able to manage both personal and professional relationships quite successfully for over a century."
"Your crew lived in a continually heightened state of awareness," Zhang observed. "The stakes were high—the survival of Earth itself. The situation is different for Starfleet today. We are at peace."
"With respect, Admiral," Karyn said delicately, "you may be underestimating the dedication of your personnel. Even the children aboard our ship, who didn't really have a sense of the full implications of the war, or of time travel, understood that the needs of Enterprise came before family plans or personal wishes."
"Moreover," Lorian added, "several dozen personnel to whom you hesitate to entrust the responsibility of personal relationships aboard ship are the very same men and women on board Captain Archer's Enterprise who were thrown back in time to become our ancestors. They put into practice the code of conduct of which we now speak. The captain demanded a higher standard from them, and they met that standard—because they could."
Tanith glanced sidelong at Zhang. "Touché, Jubal."
"In the future," Karyn said, "as starships develop greater speed and distance capabilities, and as missions get longer, it's reasonable to expect that spouses and families living aboard ship will become routine, the way they are on cargo vessels now. Striking a balance between personal and professional responsibilities will be a necessary skill for everybody."
Zhang made a face. "Families aboard starships? Kids?"
"It would be a logical progression," Minister T'Kau commented.
"It would be damn irregular," Zhang muttered under his breath.
It took a good deal of effort for Karyn to keep her expression neutral. She picked a spot on the wall just past Zhang's ear to stare at. Let me guess, Admiral...never married? Or perhaps you run the family home like a military vessel, summoning the little woman and each child with different whistle signals, like Captain Von Trapp in "The Sound of Music"...
Tanith was trying to hide a smile. "Let's table the issue of children for the moment and get back on topic, shall we?"
Karyn felt a whisper of amusement from Lorian through the bond as well. At least there's someone in here who seems willing to hear us out, she thought hopefully.
When Karyn and Lorian emerged from the conference room, they found the rest of the Family camped out in the corridor. Trip and T'Pol were perched uncomfortably on a divan against the wall, while Archer paced back and forth, and Soval stood in contemplative repose nearby.
The captain pulled up as the newlyweds approached. "How'd it go?"
"Admiral Zhang appears to be quite tradition-bound," Lorian replied.
Trip rolled his eyes. "I woulda picked a different word."
"Admiral Tanith seems to have potential," Karyn said.
"Out of the mouths of eternal optimists." Trip slouched back in his seat as he looked at Archer. "You said Gardner called this whole song and dance a formality, but it sure didn't feel like that while I was in there."
"I know, Trip." Now that Archer was standing still, his hands were fidgeting restlessly. "They're just making sure."
"We are, after all, 'trailblazers'," T'Pol said, deadpan. Her dry delivery sliced through the tension, leaving the others smiling. Even Soval's eyes lit with amusement.
Archer glanced at the wall chronometer, then turned apologetically back to his two friends. "I have to go. I'm meeting Erika—she wants to pick my brain about the Expanse."
"That sounds like a jolly way to spend the afternoon," Trip said with sympathy.
"I'll be back as soon as I can get away."
T'Pol stood. "You have already testified, Captain. There is nothing more you can do here." She brought her most imposing Vulcan countenance to bear on him. "You need rest."
Karyn watched with fascination as Jonathan Archer, savior of the universe, began to back down in the face of T'Pol's subtle but formidable presence. "But..."
Trip stood as well, doing a pretty good imitation of his bondmate in the understated-intimidation department. "How long has it been since you've slept, Cap'n?"
Archer glared at him without answering.
"I thought so." Trip's manner softened. "Y'know, after several hours of hearing all about what you don't get to do for the next few months, you deserve some shut-eye." He waggled his eyebrows a little. "Or...maybe a little jazz."
Archer's scowl dissolved into a smile, and he looked down...almost shyly, Karyn thought. She turned to Lorian, whispering, "What'd we miss?"
Lorian shook his head, as intrigued as she was. "Unknown."
"C'mon," Trip was prompting Archer. "We launch in three days."
"Do I look like Casanova to you?" Archer retorted doubtfully.
Karyn's jaw dropped. Oh my God. Did he find his Esilia already? And not tell me?—
Lorian reached over and tipped up her chin, shutting her mouth. "A private interrogation might be wiser than a public confrontation," he murmured. "As well as far more interesting."
He was right, of course. Now was the time to put a lid on her curiosity and focus on Trip and T'Pol.
Luckily, Karyn saw two people coming down the corridor who pulled her attention away from her great-grandfather: Admiral Gardner and the most beautiful Vulcan woman Karyn had ever seen, other than T'Pol. She appeared to be about T'Pol's age—meaning, anywhere from thirty to seventy years old—with uncharacteristically long hair fashioned into an intricate braid. Her exquisite features didn't reflect the cold remoteness typical of her species, but rather a gentle warmth that seemed infinitely more approachable.
The Starfleet officers automatically snapped to, but Gardner indicated with a wave of his hand for them to relax. He gave Lorian and Karyn a look of faint reproach. "Aren't you supposed to be on your honeymoon?"
"We are testifying on behalf of the commanders," Lorian explained.
"I see." The admiral flashed a small I-should-have-known smile before presenting the Vulcan woman. "This is T'Shara, the newest member of the embassy's diplomatic staff. Captain Archer, Commanders Tucker and T'Pol of Enterprise...Commander Lorian and Lieutenant Archer of Columbia...and of course, the ambassador—"
"Ambassador Soval and I are already acquainted," T'Shara said, in a pleasantly melodious alto.
Karyn noticed Soval's demeanor shift from his usual calm to reveal a subtle hint of...what, exactly? She couldn't quite place it. Puzzlement? Uncertainty? "T'Shara," he acknowledged. "I was not informed that you had taken a position here."
"Recent events on Vulcan compelled me to 'return to my roots,' as the human phrase goes," she replied smoothly.
"You used to work at the embassy?" Gardner inquired.
She nodded. "Long ago."
"T'Shara joined my staff soon after I began my tenure as ambassador," Soval explained. "However, her proficiency in archaeo-linguistics soon made her far more valuable elsewhere."
T'Pol studied the woman with new interest. "You are the linguist T'Shara? I have read your translations of the ancient texts of Gol. I found your annotations regarding the culture and history of the time fascinating."
T'Shara inclined her head in thanks. "I am honored."
"T'Shara asked to meet you, Captain," Gardner told Archer. "She has a few questions about that whole Surak episode."
Archer gamely focused his attention on the Vulcan woman. "How can I help you?"
"I am preparing a new translation of the Kir'Shara, at Minister T'Pau's request," T'Shara explained. "I shall focus my interpretation on the culture of Surak's lifetime. Because you guarded his katra, I thought you might have memories of him that could aid in my translation."
"I still remember a little," Archer said. "Right now I'm on my way to an appointment—"
"I, too," T'Shara responded. "Perhaps we could walk together."
"Of course." Archer looked back to Karyn. "Lunch tomorrow?"
"It's a date," she said brightly. And I'll get a chance to grill you about...whoever she is.
The captain gave Trip and T'Pol an encouraging nod, then escorted T'Shara out. "The quality I remember most vividly about Surak is his subtle sense of humor..."
After they were gone, Gardner surveyed the remaining officers. "So? Making any headway in there?"
"We hope so, Admiral," T'Pol replied.
"Why aren't you on the Board of Inquiry?" Trip asked.
"Because I am notoriously biased in the matter," Gardner said. "If it were up to me, you'd not only be on the same ship, I'd be marketing the hell out of it. It's great PR, even if it is bad Starfleet policy."
"Publicity?" Lorian inquired. "With xenophobia still cause for concern?"
"Your parents would be safe enough on Enterprise, Commander," the admiral said. "We might see an uptick in the number of demonstrators outside Starfleet and the Vulcan Embassy, but there's plenty of security to keep them from getting out of hand. I'm talking about a larger goal." He nodded toward Trip and T'Pol. "The sight of those two together, in both work and life, might quell the fears the 'phobes keep stirring up." He grinned. "Plus, being on the famous Enterprise under Captain Archer doesn't hurt. It would be a publicity gold mine."
Trip chuckled. "You have this all figured out."
"Damn straight." Gardner cocked his head toward the conference room. "Except for those three in there. I had to leave something for you to do." He headed out. "Carry on."
Trip scratched his chin thoughtfully. "Maybe I shoulda sicced Dad on the Board."
"Why?" Karyn asked.
"He suggested we cut through the bullshit and just tell 'em we're already married, and the world hasn't ended yet."
Karyn laughed as Lorian raised an eyebrow. "Your father?" he said, clearly impressed.
Trip nodded proudly. "That's proof right there that things can change, eh?"
Soval, who had been listening unobtrusively to the conversation, raised a pensive eyebrow. "Indeed."
An assistant stepped out of the conference room. "Ambassador? The Board will hear your statement now."
"Do you have something relevant to contribute to this discussion, Ambassador?" Admiral Zhang asked.
Soval had planned on speaking at length regarding Vulcan's unfortunate cultural aversion to interspecies relationships, the negative stereotypes encouraged in past decades by the High Command, the tolerant perspective espoused by Surak's teachings, the potential for Commanders T'Pol and Tucker to aid the Vulcan people in overcoming their longtime prejudices...
But he dispensed with all of it. "These proceedings, while of good intent, are irrelevant," he stated flatly. "Commanders T'Pol and Tucker are already married in the eyes of Surak, and therefore have demonstrated that they are capable of performing their duties aboard the same vessel with sufficient objectivity, since they have been doing so for some weeks now."
The two admirals looked confused. Minister T'Kau, however, appeared intrigued. "Explain," she said.
"They are bonded, Minister," Soval said simply.
She arched an eyebrow. "Indeed? A Vulcan and a human? With T'Pol already married to another?"
"The bonding was inadvertent. It began to form without their conscious awareness before her marriage took place."
"Fascinating," T'Kau murmured. "Have you confirmed the existence of this bond?"
"I have," Soval said.
Zhang held up a hand. "Hold on. What the hell are you two babbling about?"
"My apologies." Soval turned to the two admirals. "A psychic connection formed between T'Pol and Tucker as a result of their establishing a relationship with one another over a period of several months."
"It is the Vulcan way," T'Kau supplied. With a touch of wryness, she added, "No longer exclusively so, it would seem."
"After T'Pol's husband released her from her marriage, she and Tucker became fully aware of their nascent bond," Soval continued. "They chose to complete the connection with a bonding mind-meld, a ritual conducted as a marriage rite during Surak's lifetime, roughly two millennia ago."
"So...this 'bond' means they can read each other's minds now?" Tanith asked.
Why is this the first conclusion humans invariably make when the bond is explained to them? Patiently, Soval answered, "The nature of the connection depends on the telepathic ability of the individuals involved. In the case of the commanders, each is a constant, subtle presence in the other's mind. They are aware of one another's moods and emotions."
"This evidence validates Tucker and T'Pol's earlier testimony," T'Kau stated. She looked pointedly at Zhang. "Casual subterfuge between them would be out of the question."
True to form, he remained skeptical. "You're telling me that some Vulcan mind-reading hoohah and a ceremony two thousand years out of date is supposed to convince me to sign off on amending a longstanding Starfleet policy?"
"Oh, give it up, Jubal," Tanith said. "The writing is on the wall. We have twenty aliens in the service today. How many will we have tomorrow? Next year? Five years from now? Times are changing. This whole concept of defining policy—any policy—on the basis of a strictly human cultural perspective is beginning to look a little narrow-minded."
Zhang did not appear wholly convinced, but Soval noted that the admiral refrained from making further objections. Perhaps he was at last seeing the logic of his colleagues' arguments.
Trip and T'Pol entered the conference room and silently took seats before the board members. Trip studied the three faces, but they were unreadable. He had no idea what to expect. Even now, he couldn't imagine either himself or T'Pol being transferred off Enterprise, not after all they'd gone through.
No matter what, we'll be together, he told himself, over and over. No matter what...
He felt T'Pol take hold of him through the bond, her mental touch as solid and secure as if she were literally holding his hand. He heard a silvery whisper in his mind...
He exhaled slowly as he felt her serenity calming him.
"Commanders," Admiral Zhang began, "two months ago, your request would simply have been a Starfleet policy matter. Now, in the wake of the embassy bombing on Vulcan, it's a lot more than that. If we do amend policy and you both stay on Enterprise after you marry, like it or not, you will be precedent-setters."
"You would be assuming the responsibility of serving as examples for others to follow regarding peaceful and productive coexistence between our two species," Minister T'Kau continued.
"You would be symbols of the future of interstellar exploration—of the human/Vulcan alliance being hammered out as we speak," Admiral Tanith said. "And of the ties that humanity will be forming with many other species as we continue to push further outward."
"There's a flip side to all this," Zhang added. "There are several factions prominent in the xenophobe movement, such as Purity Now, Humanity First, and Terra Prime, that are actively seeking a catalyst for insurgent activities. For them, you would be a very visible rallying point: Starfleet's first Vulcan and her finest engineer, both heroes of the Xindi War, on the most prominent ship in the fleet. You would be scrutinized, spied on, made the subjects of xenophobic propaganda, and probably blamed for the dilution of humanity's purity. They'll be watching and waiting for any misstep to use against you."
"There is no way to know whether you will diffuse xenophobia or inflame it," T'Kau stated. "You could be used to support both issues."
"The bottom line," Zhang concluded, "is that the only guarantee I see for you is a hell of a lot of pressure and conflict. Are you prepared for that?"
Trip spoke first. "Sirs, ma'am...Commander T'Pol and I have been dealing with this for a lot longer than you have. Walking past that crowd of demonstrators yesterday was no fun, but gettin' my hand to do the Vulcan ta'al was a damn sight harder...and it meant a whole lot more."
"Considering the myriad of obstacles that we have overcome in order to establish a lasting relationship," T'Pol said, "we are prepared to face whatever challenges yet await us. I did not anticipate becoming a precedent-setter, but I accept the role willingly, if it will ease the path for those who follow us."
Trip gave a little shrug. "All we want is to get married and get back to work, where we both belong. On Enterprise."
Zhang smiled faintly. "I figured you'd say something like that."
The three board members exchanged looks, then took on a more formal demeanor as they faced the two commanders once more. T'Kau said, "We have chosen to take your petition under advisement until such time as the Vulcan Social Ministry has made a pronouncement on the status of Commander T'Pol's marriage."
"In the meantime," Admiral Zhang went on, "you will, of course, maintain the status quo."
Admiral Tanith leaned forward with a small smile. "Off the record...keep it low-key, and we'll all be happy."
Trip blinked. Did we just get an unofficial seal of approval?
Then he saw Zhang raise his eyebrows expectantly, and he snapped out of it. He got swiftly to his feet, with T'Pol standing at the same moment. Stealing a quick glance in her direction, Trip saw the same look of quiet amazement in her eyes, even as he felt her giddy joy through the bond.
"Aye, sir!" they both responded crisply.
As they stood smartly at attention, Zhang intoned, "This Board of Inquiry is adjourned."