Disclaimer: Star Trek: Enterprise is the property of CBS/Paramount. All original material herein is the property of its author.
A/N: Thanks again to the invaluable Vulcan Language Dictionary for the lingo, and to my betas boushh and Stephanie.
"Too Late Now" lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner. All lyrics are the property and copyright of their respective rights holders. No infringement is intended, nor is any profit sought from their inclusion herein.
Closing Author's Notes at the end of the chapter.
Chapter 12: Home Again
October 11, 2154
Callahan's Jazz Club
San Francisco, Earth
It was Friday night, and the joint was packed to the rafters. Kyle had been working her tail off at the bar, which was just fine with her. Enterprise had returned, and she preferred to be busy rather than keep wondering when she would see Jon. He probably had a hell of a lot of business to attend to, after being gone for three months.
Of course, the guys were teasing her mercilessly. Every time she turned around, there was Enrique or Sammy or Don. "Did he call yet? The ship is back, y'know. Have you heard from him?" Even Patch, the drummer, who never said much at all, circled past the bar a couple of times. "He hasn't called yet? But the ship is back..."
When Callahan turned up at barside a couple of hours into her shift, Kyle put up a hand in warning. "If you ask me whether he's called yet, I'll dump a drink on your head, Boss. I swear."
"Not gonna ask," Callahan said.
He took her bar towel from her hand. "Seein' as how I know why he hasn't called."
"Well?" she prompted. "Tell me!"
Callahan smiled. "Ask him yourself."
She bounded out from behind the bar, heading toward the back, assuming Jon would have slipped in unnoticed, staying out of the public eye—
Callahan snagged her by the arm. "Wrong way, hon." He turned her to face the main entrance.
Jon was striding into the room, trailed by a few reporter-types with headset-cams. He was wearing civilian clothes, a forest-green turtleneck and slacks, but with his height and bearing, he was still an impressive sight. Heads turned his way from every corner of the room, and a knot of admirers quickly gathered around him.
Kyle felt a rush of joy at the sight of him—but she wasn't sure what to do. Jump into his arms? Play it cool? She was thrown for a loop, seeing him in the smack middle of the club, surrounded by people. Then his eyes met hers and he smiled at her, and she practically melted.
He worked his way across the room to her. "Hello there," he said pleasantly.
"Nice to see you again, Captain," she replied smoothly, following his lead.
He leaned closer. "Have you ever imagined living life in a fishbowl? Having your every move documented, photographers taking your picture every time you turn around, reporters asking all sorts of personal questions?" His green eyes twinkled. "All because of who you're dating?"
Here it was, the big moment where she and Jon went public, and her life changed forever. She could practically feel all the eyes in the room trained on them, not to mention the reporters' cameras. "It must be quite a challenge," she remarked.
Jon raised his eyebrows expectantly. "So are you game?"
She smiled. "Try me."
He took her hand and pulled her into a warm embrace. She heard whispers of reaction from the onlookers, but Jon didn't seem to notice. "It feels good to hold you again," he said.
She sighed happily. "I'm so glad you're home."
He pulled back, glancing toward the stage, where the guys in the band were getting ready to begin another set. "How are you on the dance floor?"
Kyle shrugged. "I know enough to keep from falling on my face."
He bowed over her hand. "Shall we, then?"
She looked hopefully at Callahan. The big man shooed her away, grinning from ear to ear.
Jon led Kyle to the parquet dance floor. It was a surreal experience for her, watching the crowd part like the Red Sea to make way for the two of them. She knew a lot of these people, had been serving them drinks for years, but they were looking at her in a whole new way. Even the boys in the band were trading goofy grins. She'd never been the center of such attention in her life.
Jon nodded to Don, the bandleader. "Maestro."
"What's your pleasure, Captain?" Don asked.
"You got it."
A moment later, the band launched into a slow-tempo rendition of "Too Late Now," with Gene carrying the melody on his sax. Jon took Kyle in his arms and began leading her through a simple, elegant slow dance. She wasn't any great shakes as a dancer, but it was so easy to dance with Jon. His lead was understated but steady, making her feel secure and even graceful in his arms.
Too late now to forget your smile,
The way we cling when we dance awhile.
Too late now to forget and go on to someone new...
He held her closer. "I thought I was never going to make it home to you."
Too late now to forget your voice,
The way one word makes my heart rejoice.
Too late now to imagine myself away from you...
There was something about the way he said it, a catch in his voice, that made Kyle pull back and search his face. Suddenly she was afraid to let go of him. "What happened out there?"
"There was a virus," Jon said quietly. "Highly contagious, fast acting, deadly. Trip and my comm officer were infected."
"Oh my God..." Kyle knew that Trip Tucker was Jon's closest friend.
"Dr. Phlox kept them in isolation while he tried to find a cure," Jon went on. "The whole ship was at risk. Then I was exposed."
She drew in an involuntary gasp.
"I did it deliberately, Kyle," he said steadily, as he held her eyes. "I had a choice between protecting myself from the virus, and safeguarding my crew."
It took her a long moment to absorb the wallop of stark reality he was giving her.
Jon looked away. "I watched Trip and Hoshi die...or so I thought. By some miracle that Phlox still can't completely explain, they recovered, and so did I."
Kyle exhaled with relief. "So you're fine now? All of you?"
"Yes." He paused. "It wasn't until it was over that I had a chance to think... There's a clarity that comes with looking death in the eye like that."
She didn't say anything now, just kept her focus wholly on him, letting the rest of the room fade away. Somehow, she knew this was the most important thing she would ever hear.
He regarded her solemnly. "Kyle, as long as I command a ship, I will have a responsibility to the welfare of my crew. As long as I am an explorer, I will face unknown risks. I understand more than ever why tradition has ship captains pledging heart and soul to their careers." He came to a stop, taking her hands. "But I also know how I felt when I thought I would never see you again. I knew how very much I loved you."
She gripped his hands tightly as tears welled in her eyes. Jon reached up and caressed her cheek, his expression warming with affection. "I've believed for so long that I was going to be alone all my life, but everything has changed because of you." He paused again. "I know it won't be easy...I'll be gone a great deal. There will be a lot about my job that I won't talk about, that I can never talk about. The press will be a pain..."
"Jon, my eyes are wide open," Kyle said with calm certainty. "I understand the depth of your commitment to your work. It's part of why I fell in love with you." She smiled serenely. "I've waited my whole life for you. So I'll put up with your job, and your secrets, and your celebrity. I'll take all of it, as long as I have you."
He broke into the most glorious smile she'd ever seen. "You wouldn't believe how much I want to kiss you right now."
"What's stopping you?" she asked invitingly.
Jon nodded toward the knot of reporters at the other end of the dance floor, talking softly into their mics as they kept their cameras trained on the captain and his new lady friend. "The fourth estate."
"And how thoughtful of you to bring them along."
"I can't wait to ditch them so we can greet each other properly." He gave her a twirl, then pulled her close as they started dancing once more. Softly, for her alone, he began singing to the music, in a clear, pure tenor.
How could I ever close the door
And be the same as I was before?
Darling, no, no, I can't anymore.
It's too late now.
As the song ended, Kyle felt an almost tangible connection between them, like an electric charge. Jon drew so close to her that she thought he was going to kiss her anyway, and to hell with the reporters. At the last moment though, he held back, his lips a hair's-breadth from hers. "About that dinner I promised you..."
"I'm not hungry for food," she whispered.
His eyes smoldered with desire. "Let's get out of here."
Office of the Ambassador to Earth
When Trip and T'Pol were ushered into Soval's office, they found the venerable ambassador at his desk, sifting through several padds. Beside him, making notations, was T'Shara, the archaeo-linguist and recent addition to the diplomatic staff.
The Enterprise officers raised their hands in the ta'al. "Sochya eh dif," Trip said in greeting. Peace and long life.
Soval and T'Shara both rose, returning the ta'al. "It is agreeable to see you," Soval replied. To Trip, he added, "Your accent is improving, Commander."
"I have a good teacher," Trip said, with a smile to T'Pol. He indicated the paddwork spread across the ambassador's desk. "I hope we're not intruding."
"Not at all," T'Shara replied, in that melodic alto that Trip remembered.
"We are preparing a collection of cultural information relevant to Earth and Starfleet," Soval explained. "It will be distributed to the Vulcan members of the proposed officer exchange program."
T'Pol nodded in acknowledgment. "Enterprise received word as we entered the system that the Earth/Vulcan Alliance has been formalized."
"Finally," Trip added under his breath.
"Diplomacy is not a thing to be rushed," Soval remarked mildly. "The negotiations were a delicate matter, involving many dynamic personalities." He indicated T'Shara. "I suspect the process would have taken far longer, if not for the Lady T'Shara's facility for fostering communication between the Vulcan and human representatives. She is quite perceptive."
"I observe," T'Shara said modestly.
The appellation used by Soval did not escape T'Pol's notice. "Lady T'Shara?" she said to the novice diplomat. "You have recently wed, then?"
"I have," T'Shara confirmed.
"There must be something in the air," Trip remarked. "Congratulations, ma'am. Who's the lucky bondmate?"
T'Shara turned smoothly to Soval. "The ambassador."
T'Pol was caught so completely off guard that she looked visibly surprised, while Trip's jaw dropped. "Why didn't you tell us you were getting married?" he exclaimed.
Soval looked faintly puzzled. "We saw no need for a public announcement."
"I'm not talkin' about the public—I mean us," Trip said emphatically. "You didn't say anything before Enterprise shipped out."
"At that point, no plans had been made," T'Shara explained. "The ambassador required time to consider the prospect."
Trip was tickled. "She proposed to you?" he asked Soval.
The ambassador arched an eyebrow at his wife. "As I recall, it was a mutual agreement."
Trip and T'Pol watched the back-and-forth with amusement. "How long did it take for him to decide?" T'Pol inquired.
"Thirty-four years," T'Shara replied matter-of-factly.
"I wished to be certain that it was the most logical course," Soval with dignity, and a touch of exasperation.
Trip cleared his throat to keep from laughing. He was loving this. It certainly looked as though Ambassador Cranky had finally met his match. "Uh...so anyway, did you have any luck locating a priest?"
Soval seemed grateful for the change of subject. "There was no luck involved, Commander," he replied. "Two months ago, such a priest arrived here from Vulcan. V'Utan is well-versed in the ancient ways of Surak's time, including marriage bonding and mind-melds. With the old rituals coming into favor again, I requested that he come here to fill a need for his knowledge and abilities."
"You mean our wedding?" Trip beamed at him.
"No, our wedding," Soval corrected him. "But he is not averse to a marriage between a Vulcan and a human."
"I have arranged for you to meet with V'Utan tomorrow morning," T'Shara added.
Both officers nodded their thanks. "Your assistance is most welcome," T'Pol said.
The Baytowers Apartment Complex
North Tower, 39th Floor
As Jon ushered Kyle into his apartment, Porthos bounded up in enthusiastic greeting. Jon petted him affectionately while Kyle surveyed the spacious surroundings, decorated in warm golds and browns. "Sweet," she said admiringly. "And the place comes complete with its own welcoming committee."
Porthos turned to Kyle, eager to lavish the same attention on his master's guest. As she gave the little beagle a good scratch, Jon smiled. "He sure remembers you."
Kyle spoke to Porthos directly. "I hope you still like me after I introduce you to my cats." She gave him a final pat and rose, crossing to the big picture window, which had a spectacular nighttime view of San Francisco Bay far below. "This is incredible."
"I was hoping you would like it here." Jon came up behind her, slipping his arms around her. "It's your home too now. That is, if you think there's enough room for both of us."
"Are you serious? This place is huge." She leaned back against him. "This is really happening, isn't it?"
"Yes." He kissed her hair. "Love you."
"Love you, too."
Suddenly Porthos was between them, scrabbling up Jon's leg as far as he could reach. He barked eagerly, wagging his tail.
Kyle laughed. "Porthos wants a hug, too."
"Let him get his own girl." Jon turned her head to kiss her, long and deep.
Kyle reached up to caress his cheek, humming contentedly as she returned his kiss. "Why aren't we in the bedroom?" she murmured against his mouth.
"I have no idea." He swept her up in his arms and carried her there, kissing her the whole way.
Jon fell back against the pillows as he and Kyle caught their breath following another round of lovemaking. "Okay, you've convinced me," he said. "We're compatible."
She nestled against him. "I'm glad that's settled."
Idly, he caressed her. "Have you ever given any thought to going back and getting your doctorate? Starfleet's warming to the idea of putting counselors on starships."
She nodded. "I've even done some research into it, and visited a couple of campuses." She smiled. "But after you called two weeks ago, I realized I might be a little too busy for school, or counseling. At least for a while."
"Busy? Doing what?"
She took his hand, lacing her fingers through his. "Raising our kids."
He was surprised by how much joy her words gave him. "We haven't even talked about children."
"I've seen you with Karyn. Do we really need to talk about it?"
"I love you." He kissed her. "But you haven't told me what you want."
She rested her chin placidly on his chest. "I'm thinking two or three, at least. Then they'd always have someone to play with, someone to look out for. I missed having a sister or brother as I was growing up."
Jon liked the idea of a houseful of children. "Okay, lots of kids."
Kyle climbed on top of him, settling herself on his lap. "Let's get to it, then."
He stroked the smooth swell of her backside, enjoying the feel of her as she moved against him. "What's the rush? Not that I need any urging to make love to you again."
"When I make up my mind about something, I don't mess around." Kyle leaned down and kissed him.
He buried his fingers in her hair, returning her kiss with enthusiasm. "Well, I'm old-fashioned. How about we get married first?"
"Fine by me," she said brightly. "Tomorrow?"
She pouted prettily. "Why not?"
He nuzzled her throat. "Because Trip and T'Pol are getting married in a day or two, as soon as his folks get here from Mississippi. I'd rather not take any attention away from that."
She sighed elaborately as he kissed his way down between her breasts. "Okay. But don't go changing your mind."
"Never." He rolled her underneath him and captured her mouth with his, giving her a slow, thorough kiss. "In fact, I'll give you a preview." He climbed out of bed to retrieve his slacks from the floor.
Kyle sat up, watching curiously as he fished out the small velvet pouch Karyn had delivered to him earlier in the day. He turned back to Kyle...stopping for a moment to admire the delectable sight of his fiancée in their bed, clad only in her long auburn hair. "God, you're gorgeous."
She smiled. "Thank you. You're not so bad yourself. Now get back in here."
He slid back into bed beside her, taking her hand. "This has been in my family for a long time." He upended the pouch, letting Esilia's wedding ring fall into Kyle's open palm.
She gazed speechlessly at it for a long moment. He smiled, enjoying her reaction. When she finally looked up at him, there were tears in her eyes. "Jon, it's beautiful."
He closed her hand over the ring. "So it's all right with you if we hold off for a bit?"
"I suppose I can wait a little longer." She eyed him coyly. "If you'll tell me something."
He rolled his eyes. "Uh-oh. The demands begin."
She lay back against the pillows with a sultry smile. "Now that I'm here in bed with you, all naked and affianced, I figure I have some leeway."
"Conniving wench. All right, ask."
She propped herself up on one elbow. "Is Karyn your daughter?"
Jon had been expecting this question, but now that she had asked, he didn't quite know how to go about answering. Not without violating all sorts of security protocols, at any rate.
"She doesn't much look like you," Kyle went on. "But she's such an Archer—her skill, the way she carries herself. Except you've only known each other for a few months, so..." She trailed off, waiting.
"She might as well be," he said at last. "She is my flesh and blood...but no, not my daughter. I haven't told you more because her background was classified by Starfleet."
"Classified? Why in the world—" Kyle stopped herself, backing off with a rueful smile. "Sorry. We're getting into forbidden territory, aren't we?"
Jon could tell she was bursting with curiosity. He respected her for accepting his work without question...but it dawned on him that he could lower the barriers a little now. "Family is permitted to know some details. And as of seventeen days ago, you became family."
"I knew there would be perks to marrying you." Kyle snuggled against him. "Tell me a story, Jon."
He settled back and began. "Do you believe in time travel?..."
October 12, 2154
High Security Incarceration Facility
San Francisco, Earth
Arik Soong nodded approvingly as he read through the medical data on Phlox's padd, with that uncanny speed of his. Finally he set it down beside him on the modest little desk inside his cell. "You've made remarkable progress these last few months, Doctor. At this rate, you should have your genetic hybridization technique perfected within a few months."
"That's quite a compliment, coming from you," Phlox said graciously. Of course, Soong was essentially complimenting himself.
"I mean every word," Soong said magnanimously. He tapped the padd. "This is the work of a genius."
Really, the man was shameless. But Phlox was quite content to put up with Soong's ego. The geneticist's clandestine assistance had shaved years off Phlox's research. "I assume your upbeat attitude is due to the return of your regular visitors."
Soong smiled. "After more than two dreary months, with no one but Starfleet security guards for company, I now have Lieutenant Archer and her singular husband regaling me with more stories about their experiences in the Expanse. Quite harrowing at times, what they went through."
Phlox noticed that Soong was finger-doodling on the padd, as he had done during their last visit—his way of conveying research information on the sly. "Yes," Phlox said in agreement. "All of the crewmembers I met impressed me with their dedication and positive outlook. Quite a feat, considering the enormous pressures they faced."
"Speaking of Columbia's newlyweds..." Soong looked thoughtful. "You wouldn't happen to have any medical records for Lieutenant Archer, would you? Specifically, DNA information?"
Phlox was curious. "And if I did?"
Soong shrugged casually. "She has talked quite fondly about children. It seems a given that she and Commander Lorian will want a family of their own someday. It occurred to me that after all the work you've done with human and Vulcan genomes, it would be a simple thing for you to develop a method by which the lieutenant and her husband could have children."
Phlox rather liked the idea. There would be a DNA profile for Karyn Archer in E²'s medical database. "It's certainly worth looking into."
His words seemed to energize Soong. "Since the subject interests me, I did a bit of preliminary research on my own. I would have jotted down my thoughts for you, but..." He raised his hands, indicating the metal restraints securely fastened to his wrists. "My jailers have an annoying habit of confiscating my work as soon as it's down on paper. Nevertheless, if you have the inclination to pursue the matter, I would enjoy bouncing ideas back and forth with you."
No doubt he wished he could take credit for it as well...but he seemed to understand that Phlox would have to appear to be spearheading such a project. "Thank you," Phlox said. "Tell me, what has prompted this latest bout of generosity?"
"I've grown quite fond of Lieutenant Archer," Soong replied airily. "Contributing in some small way to her future happiness would be my privilege." He handed the padd back to Phlox. "Consider it my belated wedding gift to two of Starfleet's finest."
A quick glance at the padd's settings told Phlox that Soong had deposited more hidden information during their conversation. "You've given me a lot to think about," the Denobulan said.
Soong smiled slyly. "It's amazing what you can accomplish with the right information at your fingertips."
Phlox couldn't help but be impressed by Soong's brazenness. "Yes, it is. I appreciate your encouragement." He motioned to the security guard outside the cell, indicating that he was ready to leave.
With a resigned sigh, Soong held his hands out, watching as the restraints locked together with a metallic clack. Then his air of blithe superiority returned. "Don't be a stranger, Doctor. There are so few geniuses such as ourselves who are able to keep each other's minds sufficiently engaged. It's a moral imperative that you visit, you know."
Despite his attempt at nonchalance, Phlox heard a subtle edge of pleading in Soong's voice. The man must feel quite lonely, with his children dead and his dreams shattered. He was fully responsible for his imprisonment, but Phlox had hopes that Soong's re-emerging humanity—his remorse, and his desire to make amends—would enable him to leave a positive legacy, once all was said and done.
He put a hand lightly on Soong's shoulder. "Rest easy, Doctor. I'll be back."
Soong's sans-souci façade fell away, and he gave Phlox a smile of genuine gratitude.
October 13, 2154
San Francisco, Earth
It was even more beautiful than the picture Lorian had painted for Trip so many months ago.
The meditation garden was an elegant arrangement of flagstone-paved footpaths, stone sculptures, and whisper-soft fountains, a serene oasis far removed from the noisy bustle of the outside world. The morning fog had burned away, leaving the late-autumn sun shining down on the wedding party, which had gathered at a meditation circle flanked by evergreen pines.
T'Pol, wearing her mother's wedding robes, was a vision in flowing burgundy silk. Trip's ceremonial robes, which T'Pol had selected from her father's things, were a rich sable with gold trim. Lorian and Karyn, dressed in robes of the same rust color as Vulcan's sands, stood to either side of the bride and groom, acting as best man and matron of honor.
In keeping with Vulcan tradition, Trip and T'Pol had gathered their family and closest friends to witness the ceremony: Chuck and Catherine, Captain Archer, Malcolm and Hoshi, Travis and Anna Hess, Phlox. Ambassador Soval represented the Vulcan High Council, while Admiral Gardner was there on behalf of Starfleet Command.
Trip and T'Pol knelt before V'Utan, the silver-haired Vulcan priest, his thin frame clad in brocade robes of muted blue. As the couple touched fingers in a ritual ozh'esta, the priest began to speak in a strong voice that belied his appearance. "Ra tu ak gla-tor tev-tor s'wak t'Palikaya."
Trip heard Hoshi's quiet voice as she translated for the others. "What ye are about to witness comes down from the time of the Beginning."
V'Utan paused. "Hi stariben rik'rubah nam-tor rik'ozhika."
"To perform it without change, however, would be illogical," Hoshi translated with mild surprise. The onlookers traded curious glances.
The priest smoothly switched to Terran Standard. "The man is human. The couple is bonded. Vulcan's Awakening has brought the ancient laws back into favor, and the validity of the ritual marriage bond is recognized once more. It would seem that even our contemporary wedding rites are obsolete."
Trip let his solemn demeanor slip, breaking into a little smile as he listened. He and T'Pol had worked out the particulars of the ceremony with V'Utan during their meeting yesterday, but the priest's artful preamble was new to them. Though T'Pol's expression remained placid, Trip could see her smile with his inner eye.
"Therefore," V'Utan continued, "let this ceremony be a confirmation that T'Pol and Charles have forged a bond in defiance of tradition, culture..." —he arched a wry eyebrow— "...and all logic. In their union, may we find meaning and beauty, as we do in the diversity of all things."
He turned to T'Pol. "T'Pol, ko-fu Sochya, ko-fu T'Les, afsak nash-veh nam-tor telsu kwon-sum na't'sosu Charles, khaf-spol eh katra?" T'Pol, daughter of Sochya, daughter of T'Les, do thee declare that thee art bound irrevocably to the man Charles, heart and soul?
"Afsak nash-veh," she said softly, holding Trip's gaze. I do declare.
V'Utan addressed Trip. "Charles, sa-fu Charles, sa-fu Catherine, afsak nash-veh nam-tor telsu kwon-sum na't'kosu T'Pol, khaf-spol eh katra?" Charles, son of Charles, son of Catherine, do thee declare that thee art bound irrevocably to the woman T'Pol, heart and soul?
Trip gazed happily at his bride. "Afsak nash-veh." Out of the corner of his eye, he saw his mother brushing away a tear. Chuck fished out his handkerchief, and she took it with a smile.
The priest nodded to Lorian and Karyn, who presented him with matching gold wedding bands, each inscribed in ancient Vulcan script with the word "kwon-sum." Always.
V'Utan placed the larger ring in T'Pol's hand. "Tan-tor na'telsu nash sehtebuhk t'terau." Bestow upon your bondmate this symbol of your joining.
T'Pol gently slipped the gold band on Trip's finger. "Etek nam-tor veh, t'hai'la," she said. We are one, beloved.
The priest gave the other ring to Trip. As he placed it on T'Pol's finger, he felt himself choking up with emotion. He hadn't thought this day could be as profoundly moving as the night he and T'Pol had performed their bonding meld, but this ceremony, in its own way, was equally powerful. As his eyes rose to meet T'Pol's, he felt her loving embrace through the bond. "Etek nam-tor veh, t'hai'la," he said.
V'Utan addressed the group. "Fupa t'sha'to-gavlar heh s'oyutlar t'Khasi eh Terra, aifa dahkuh i'nam-tor sa-telsu eh ko-telsu." According to the laws and customs of Vulcan and Earth, these two are now husband and wife.
He nodded to Trip and T'Pol in benediction. "Sochya eh dif, T'Pol eh Charles." Peace and long life, T'Pol and Charles.
Trip touched his fingers to T'Pol's in another ozh'esta. This had been planned as the last gesture of the ritual, but Trip couldn't resist—he took his wife in his arms and kissed her. Their audience broke into spontaneous applause before surging forward for hugs and handshakes all around.
V'Utan observed the celebration with bemusement. "They are a most demonstrative species," he remarked quietly to Soval.
"One acclimates to them, after a fashion," the ambassador replied sagely.
Archer gave Trip a bearhug, and took T'Pol's hand fondly in congratulations. "It's about time," he said happily.
"You took the words right outta my mouth," Trip grinned.
"Mine as well," T'Pol agreed, and Archer laughed.
Catherine was still dabbing at her eyes as she collected a hug from her son. "The four of you look like a picture together. Which reminds me—promise you won't get out of those pretty clothes until we take your picture."
"We promise, Mom," Trip assured her.
"Any honeymoon plans, Chief?" Hess asked.
Trip shrugged. "I'm finishing up the diagnostics and testing of all the systems we've been changing out since we got home."
"I have more modifications to make to the long-range sensors," T'Pol offered.
Hoshi shook her head. "I don't think you two are grasping the finer points of honeymooning."
"On the contrary," T'Pol said, "Commander Tucker explained the concept quite clearly to me some months ago."
Malcolm turned to Archer. "D'you hear that, Captain? These two are in serious need of some time off."
"Don't worry, Mal," Trip chuckled. "The captain's been letting us spend a lot of time together these last couple of weeks. You might say we did the wedding-and-honeymoon thing in reverse."
"Still," Archer said, "I think Malcolm has a point." He turned to Hess. "Lieutenant, you can handle things in engineering, I trust."
"No problem," she confirmed promptly. "We won't need the commander for days."
"So much for your vaunted indispensability, old man," Malcolm said to Trip with a wink.
Archer addressed his helm officer. "Travis, you'll be able to make some progress with those sensor specs, won't you?"
"Yes, sir," Travis responded with confidence. "Growing up on the Horizon made me a jack-of-all-trades. I'll be able to manage without the commander for a while."
T'Pol looked from Travis to Archer. "As you wish."
"So take a few days off and just enjoy being married, okay?" Archer concluded good-naturedly.
Trip gave his wife a light ozh'esta. "Far be it for us to refuse an order from the captain."
"You can help us with our apartment-hunting," Karyn said brightly.
"You're moving?" Admiral Gardner asked. "But how could you ever grow weary of our cookie-cutter décor and bland cafeteria cuisine?"
"We have availed ourselves of Starfleet's kind hospitality for long enough, Admiral," Lorian replied diplomatically.
"We were hoping to find a place near the Vulcan compound, since Lorian will still be training with the ambassador," Karyn said. "But trying to locate available housing in the city has been next to impossible."
"You might have better luck across the bay," Hess suggested.
"Starfleet has some private housing set aside near Starfleet for senior officers and their families," Gardner said. "Let me work something out."
"I appreciate your offer, Admiral," Lorian said, "but I don't think I deserve any special—"
"Believe me, Commander, you'll want to stay in the city," Gardner said firmly. "In a few months, you'll be spending an inordinate amount of time at Starfleet. That is, when you're not visiting the shipyards or Spacedock."
Lorian went very still. "Sir?"
Gardner smiled broadly. "It won't be announced until the first of the year, but the decision's been made. Intrepid is yours, Commander. She'll launch next September."
Lorian was too overcome to speak at first. He accepted Karyn's ecstatic hug and the congratulations of the rest of his friends and family before finally finding his voice. "Thank you, Admiral, for your confidence."
"You've earned it, Lorian." Gardner's smile grew wry. "In fact, I believe Captain Hernandez will be holding it against me for quite a while that I'm stealing you away from Columbia. But I'll leave you there long enough to break in whomever she chooses as her next first officer—and her next chief engineer. In January you'll be assigned planetside to oversee the final stages of Intrepid's construction, and to put together your crew."
"Yes, sir." Lorian was outwardly calm, but Trip saw by how tightly he was holding Karyn's hand that he must be thrilled about this turn of events. His own command again! It was a dream come true for him. Trip couldn't be more proud of his son, and he sensed the same from T'Pol.
"The Officers Exchange Program will be up to speed by that time," Gardner was saying, "so you'll have several Vulcans available for your crew. I assume you'll be considering your former shipmates from E² as well."
"Yes," Lorian nodded, his reserve giving way to quiet excitement. "They're all fine crewmen."
"The brass envisions Intrepid as being our first true multi-species vessel—an Earth ship commanded by a Vulcan, manned by a crew that hails from many worlds." The admiral's gaze included Trip and T'Pol as well as Lorian and Karyn. "You're all unofficial ambassadors now, the embodiment of the ideals of the Alliance—humans and Vulcans working together for the betterment of both worlds."
"Together?" T'Pol repeated, with unmistakable hope in her voice.
"Oh...sorry, didn't I tell you?" Gardner's eyes twinkled merrily. "The Board of Inquiry has decided to keep you both on Enterprise."
"Hot damn!" Trip swept T'Pol up in a hug, Vulcan propriety be damned. He smiled as he felt her return his embrace without a hint of self-consciousness. "It's as last-minute as they can get, but we'll take it."
"Brace yourselves, Commanders," Gardner warned good-naturedly. "As soon as the press and the xenophobes get wind of this, they're going to have a field day."
"How ironic that the ship's grapevine will have far less to gossip about now that you're married," Phlox observed.
"I wouldn't say that," Hoshi countered, glancing mischievously at Archer. "I have a feeling someone else is about to become a prime source of interest."
Archer looked pained. "You're joking."
Trip laughed. "Welcome to a whole new kind of fishbowl, Cap'n."
Malcolm perked up. "What's all this then?"
"Captain's got a girl," Trip said.
Chuck broke into a grin. "I'll be damned."
"Well?" Catherine prompted eagerly. "Don't just stand there like a stump, Jon. Tell us about her. What's she like?"
"Her name is Kyle, and she's..." Archer hesitated, clearly attempting to choose between too many compliments. Finally he gave up, his expression one of sublime joy. "She's everything I ever hoped for."
"There's that goofy look again," Karyn teased.
Soval studied the captain's expression with interest. "Is there a particular significance to a 'goofy' countenance, Lieutenant?" he asked Karyn.
"For an Archer, it means true love," she explained.
Soval nodded, filing it away as he would any bit of cultural minutiae. "Then, Captain, may we assume you plan on marrying as well?"
"You may indeed." Archer gave the ambassador a beatific smile. "...Uncle."
Karyn put a hand over her mouth in a fruitless effort to stifle a giggle, as Soval drew himself up indignantly. "I beg your pardon?"
Archer blinked innocently. "Why, I distinctly remember you saying that if I ever planned to marry, I could call you—"
"I said we would discuss it," Soval said stiffly.
The ambassador arched an eyebrow. "The discussion is now at an end."
Archer looked wounded. Trip stepped forward protectively. "Aw now, Soval, is that any way to talk to my Pappy?"
The captain winced. V'Utan appeared mystified by it all. And for probably the first time in its many decades of existence, the quiet little Vulcan meditation garden filled with the sound of laughter.
Orpheus Mining Colony
Josiah entered John Frederick Paxton's office to find him watching Admiral Gardner's press conference on the big vidscreen. "...Earth and Vulcan have just agreed to a formal alliance," Gardner was saying. "A pledge to work together as equals. Commanders T'Pol and Tucker embody the principles of this alliance in every way, professionally as well as personally. They demonstrate the unlimited potential of our two peoples..."
Paxton switched off the display. "So Romeo and Juliet end their play with marriage instead of death, and turn their Shakespearean tragedy into a comedy."
"An unfortunate development," Josiah agreed.
Paxton shrugged faintly. "There is still good use to be made of them. The publicity that results from this will aid us in the long run." He turned his attention to his right-hand man. "The good doctor?"
"Waiting outside, sir."
"Show him in."
A moment later, the perpetually nervous Dr. Mercer entered. He carried a padd, turning it over and over in his hands.
"Good morning, Doctor," Paxton said. "How goes our little project?"
Mercer consulted his padd with slightly trembling hands. "I have the results of the analysis. Unfortunately, the latest round of genetic manipulation hasn't altered the creature's blood factors sufficiently to meet the minimum criteria we've set."
With the Rigellian gene therapy steadily losing its efficacy in managing Paxton's Taggart's Syndrome, this was unwelcome news. "I'm disappointed to hear that, Doctor," he said. "You're planning to begin another series, of course."
Mercer hesitated. That annoying twitching of his was an indication that he had something to say that Paxton wasn't going to like. At last the doctor ventured, "Nurse Khouri is concerned about risking another infection." He braced himself, looking as if he believed he would be struck down for making such a statement.
Not a bad thing, really, being feared. Paxton found fear as useful as idolatry; both kept his followers in line. "She is the expert when it comes to day-to-day maintenance of the monster," he acknowledged. He rose and crossed to the viewport, where he gazed out at the shaded grays of the lunar surface. "However, I can't help wondering if there will come a time when her loyalties are tested."
"She has as much reason to hate aliens as anyone!" Mercer protested. "They derailed her career—"
"We are Terra Prime, but we are also cursed with the milk of human kindness," Paxton said, with a hint of lament to his voice. "It is a quality we need to guard against. Even a kidnap victim can grow to adore the kidnapper, if sufficiently brainwashed." He turned back to Mercer. "We must keep a careful watch on her."
"Yes, sir," the nervous man nodded.
"As for the monster, I'm invested in its continued good health, of course," Paxton went on. "Not only for its blood, but for the vital role it will play in Terra Prime's cause, when the time is right." Judging from the reports he had been receiving from Mars, it was becoming more apparent that, in order to bring Terra Prime's most ambitious project to fruition, Paxton would need an engineer on hand of the caliber and creativity of Charles Tucker III of Enterprise. The monster would serve quite nicely as an irresistible lure.
He walked Mercer to the door. "I want to see forward progress with the genetic program, Doctor. Time is of the essence."
"I understand, sir," Mercer said obediently.
As the doctor departed, Josiah ducked his head in. "Ensign Shaughnessy to see you, sir."
Paxton nodded, and Josiah brought in Patrick Shaughnessy, relief helmsman of Columbia and Terra Prime operative. The young man looked even more disgruntled than usual...but then again, having to answer to an alien half-breed would be reason enough to keep anyone in a foul mood.
Paxton settled himself behind his desk. "It's good to see you again, Patrick. What news of Columbia? "
Shaughnessy slapped a padd on the desk. "This Eyes-Only bulletin was sent by Admiral Gardner to Captain Hernandez yesterday. Lorian is to be given command of the new NX-class starship under construction, Intrepid."
Paxton scanned the bulletin with a sigh of disgust. "No doubt he'll gather his ragtag group of alien riff-raff to populate his ship of fools."
"There'll be Vulcans aboard, too," Shaughnessy added bitterly. "Starfleet is planning an officer exchange program. They want this ship to be a shining example of the Alliance in action—a beacon lighting the way for the future of inter-species relations."
Paxton looked to Josiah, standing quietly at the door. "How many of those mutants did Gardner admit into Starfleet? Fifteen?"
Paxton shook his head in simmering frustration. "Today, nineteen. How many next month? Next year? It sends the wrong message. Earth is devolving into a melting pot of tainted metals. Starfleet should be sending purest gold to represent our planet."
Josiah chuckled dryly. "I would suggest you tell them...except that you and Starfleet don't exactly see eye to eye."
Paxton smiled faintly. "Perhaps we can open their eyes. It might be a good thing, in the short term, to have all these monsters in one place. The better to observe them—and weed out the impurities."
"Why wait?" Shaughnessy said hotly. "Having Lorian on Columbia, being forced to take orders from him—it's insulting! He needs to be dealt with, not given his own command!"
"Patience, Patrick," Paxton said calmly. "All in good time."
The child was cranky today. Susan was having no luck getting her to take her bottle. But she was still weak and underweight, and Susan didn't want to resort to another round of IV feeding. It was time to take drastic measures again.
She took a quick look around the nursery—the rest of the Primers called it the Dungeon, this being the place where the Frankenstein monster was kept—to make sure she was alone. Then she gathered the child up in her arms and rocked her, stroking her wispy blond hair and softly telling her how beautiful she was. Within moments, Susan had coaxed the girl into drinking her formula.
As she was burping the baby, she heard a scandalized voice behind her. "Nurse Khouri! What are you doing?"
Susan turned to see Dr. Mercer in the doorway, staring at her in alarm. "You're not supposed to be handling the creature," he said sharply.
With care, Susan returned the child to her crib. "She hasn't been doing well in isolation. She's having trouble bouncing back from that last infection." As she tucked the baby's blanket securely around her, Susan eyed the doctor. "You know as well as I do that human patients respond well to physical contact. It comforts her, makes her feel better. It's as important a part of her healing process as the antibiotics."
Mercer still looked queasy. "Relax," Susan said lightly as she recorded the baby's feeding on her chart. "If she were a rhesus or a lab rat, I'd be doing the same thing."
The doctor calmed down, but only a little. "If Mr. Paxton thought you'd become emotionally attached to your lab rat, it wouldn't go well for you."
She gave him an unconcerned smile. "You worry about your blood workups, Doctor. I'll worry about the lab rat."
"He wants me to begin another round of gene therapy," Mercer said.
Susan didn't look up from her chart. "No."
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Mercer's face clouding up angrily. "Excuse me?" he said testily.
Susan turned to the monitoring equipment to record the baby's vitals. "She's still too weak—that last infection took a lot out of her. But this shouldn't be a surprise to you, Doctor. Her immune system has never been in great shape to begin with because of her accelerated gestation, and it's taken quite a beating over the last three months, considering what you've put her though."
Mercer fidgeted self-consciously. "Mr. Paxton is not a patient man. He wants results."
She looked over her shoulder at him. "He's not going to get any if he kills the rat, is he?"
The doctor's face screwed up in annoyance. "You don't seem to understand who's in charge here, Miss Khouri," he said tightly.
She faced him squarely. "You brought me here to make sure she stays alive and well. I'm doing my job. If you have a problem with that, you're free to take it up with Mr. Paxton."
That shut him up. Susan knew Mercer was scared to death of Paxton; he wouldn't dare cross the Fearless Leader. If the child were to die, Mercer would be the one held responsible. Still, it wouldn't be wise to push the man too far. Adopting a more conciliatory tone, Susan said, "Give her another week. She should be strong enough to tolerate the therapy by then."
"Very well. A week." Mercer started to leave...then stopped, turning back. "Remember, Miss Khouri, that our collective goal is to serve Terra Prime, not our own selfish ends. You're not here to nurture the creature, but to make sure it lives to serve the cause as well."
She nodded. "Of course, Doctor."
Looking more sure of himself, Mercer swept out, leaving her alone in the Dungeon with her monster.
Susan picked up the girl and cuddled her again, cooing to her until she smiled. The child had a beautiful smile. With her pointed ears and cherubic face, she could be an elf from a mythical fairyland. She was a quiet child, but those bright blue eyes were already remarkably observant, even at three months. Susan admired the grace with which the child endured the rigors and pain of the tests Mercer was subjecting her to. She had a serenity about her that seemed to transcend earthly travails.
Susan had prevailed over Mercer, but only for the moment. She would need to choose her battles carefully. As long as Fearless Leader needed the child, Susan had tremendous power. She intended to use it for all she was worth.
Closing Author's Notes
I love this series. I've put my heart and soul into it, and the characters have all become like family. My original plan—once I actually broke down and started planning—was to take things all the way through "Terra Prime." But Real Life has gotten busier, and spare time to write fanfiction has grown scarce. For these reasons and others, I've decided to call it a day. "Redivivus" is the final story in the Reconnecting Series.
I offer heartfelt thanks to all of you who have taken the time to read and offer feedback for my stories. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to PM me here or visit my blog at http: / hopefulromantic117 .wordpress .com (just take out the spaces). You can also find me at TrekBBS, where I am a moderator in the Enterprise forum. I go by the name HopefulRomantic.
As for a sequel series to Reconnecting...perhaps someday.
Take care, and happy reading.