On Approach To Vulcan

As the door chime roused them from their meditation, Trip gestured her to stay seated, seeing that her regained control was still brittle at best. He pushed the button on the panel and the door opened to reveal three elderly persons. Dismissing the young security crewman who had escorted them, he stepped aside and motioned them to come in. Seeing the visitors T'Pol shot up from the meditation cushions and took position at Trip's side.

Trip recognized one of the visitors as the old priest from yesterday's memorial service. He recognized the other two guests instantly, but he was not quite sure why his folks would arrive in company of a Vulcan priest.

"Ambassador Soval gave us a ride to Enterprise, son," his father said and Trip wondered why his folks still seemed to read him like an open book. Being busted as a kid for each and every mischief was one thing, but even well into his thirties, his parents still seemed to have this knack for knowing instinctively what was going on in his mind.

"I'll say thanks when I see him," Trip answered. "I'm glad you could come."

He offered a silent Ta'al to the Vulcan priest that was equally silently returned, before he took the hands of his mother in his, trying not to be too expressive in the presence of two Vulcans. He should of course have known that his mother did not have such reservations as she wrapped him in a bear hug.

"Mom," he whispered. "not in front of the Vulcans."

Seeing his mothers confused look as she let go of him, he was prevented from having to explain any further by Toroks interruption.

"Your consideration honors you, young man, but such restrictions are not necessary. You are human. The former government of Vulcan had a predilection to impose their cultural views on other species, but these times are in the past."

"Thank you, sir," Trip said with an appreciative nod towards the Vulcan.

"The correct address is 'Excellency', Trip," T'Pol answered slightly scandalized. "High Priest Torok is the highest priest of Vulcan."

Before a stunned looking Trip could offer an apology, Torok again prevented him from doing so by raising his hand.

"His address is not unseemly. He is not a Vulcan and I do not have the same status in Human society. The need to adjust it may still arise though if my suspicion is correct."

Trip shot Torok a questioning look.

"I did not come here without reason, young man. During the ceremony I sensed a connection between you and T'Pol that is unusually strong. Such bonds have not been heard of since ancient times."

"Bond? What bond?" Charles Jr asked, now looking equally confused at Torok.

"When two Vulcans marry, they develop a telepathic connection between their minds. Such bonding is initiated by a priest during the joining ceremony. Since there is no evidence of such a ceremony in Vulcan records, the bond between these young people must have established itself without a priests intervention."

"That's true, sir," Trip said, nodding. "We didn't notice until we were separated, when I transferred to Columbia."

Motioning them all to take a seat, Trip held out a chair for Torok, while his parents sat down on T'Pol's bunk. They all waited for the explanation from their Vulcan guest.

"A bonding without a bonding meld is unheard of since the time of Awakening. I believe the human expression for it is 'a blessed union'. "

"May I ask something?" Charles interrupted and Trip saw Torok nod.

"You said it is a telepathic connection. Does that mean they can read each others minds? They are in each others heads?"

"The description is crude, but considering that most humans are not telepathic and therefore have no comparable images it would be a fitting one. In a typical bond between mates they can sense each others presence and, if they are strong, they can sense each others emotions. The bond between T'Pol and your son is the strongest that I haven ever sensed. Ancient texts speak of mates that can speak without words. With the proper training they may one day be able to exchange thoughts and images without restriction and over long distances."

"Isn't that... you know... a bit unhealthy?" Charles asked and Trip could hear genuine concern mixed with utter confusion in his father's voice. He could only begin to imagine how confused his parents must be at the moment. Coming for a funeral of a granddaughter they never knew about, they were suddenly facing a daughter-in-law from another planet they never met before, and all of it was explained to them by the Vulcan equivalent of the Pope.

"Dad, if that's unhealthy, I'll be happily sick for the rest of my life," Trip said and tapped his temple.

"As I suspected," Torok said. "You have decided to accept this bonding?"

"Yes, Excellency," T'Pol answered.

"In this case I shall offer you my services to witness your bond and make your marriage official," Torok said.

"We'd be honored, sir," Trip said in awe. "But we don't know when that will be. Our ship needs to be refitted and we don't know when we'll be near Vulcan next time, but we would certainly like to accept your gracious offer once we get a chance."

"Leave that to me, young man," Torok said and stood up. "I shall leave you now to make the necessary preparations. Peace and long life."

"Live long and prosper," Trip and T'Pol answered.

After escorting Torok to the door, Trip turned to see the shell-shocked faces of his parents.

"Sorry you got it all dumped on you so quickly," he said apologetically.

"Got any other surprises?" Charles asked warily.

"Um,well, there's Lorian... or was... We don't know..."

=/\=

Charles watched the face of his son as they made their way to the airlock after a long day spent with Trip and T'Pol, a complete tour of the ship with Jon and a nice meal in the captain's mess. He admired the composure and strength that Trip showed in this difficult situation and he was convinced that T'Pol had a major hand in this. Whatever people thought about Vulcans – whatever he himself had thought about them – seeing them together was every proof he needed to see that she was the best that ever happened to his son. Considering his abysmal track record with the female of the species, that was saying a lot.

On the other hand, he still felt as if he was having a weird, booze-induced dream. His boy was getting married to an alien – a very beautiful one – and Elizabeth wasn't the only grandchild he never new about. There was or had been a grandson too, and to make it that little bit weirder he had actually been older than him. He decided to keep that story to himself, because Trip had told them that it was classified material, only divulged to them because of a special permit from Starfleet and because he didn't fancy being carted off to the mental home by his friends. Nobody would believe such a bizarre story.

"You don't know what it means to us that you came up here," he heard Trip say. "I'm so sorry I couldn't be with you after the Xindi attack."

"Don't worry, boy," Charles said. "If you guys hadn't gone after them, we wouldn't be having this conversation now and we couldn't have helped each other anyway. It took us half a year before we could even talk about it. We spent more time in Counselor Browns office than at home. I don't think we can ever thank T'Pol enough for getting you through that."

"She's been my life-line, that's for sure," Trip agreed. "You sure you don't want to come with us to Vulcan? We'd love to have you at the ceremony."

"No son, you heard what that high priest said. There's nothing that forbids a human ceremony after it is made all legal on Vulcan and your mother has waited all her life to organize the weddings for her kids. We lost one chance with Lizzy, we ain't gonna waste the second," he said with a sad smile.

"Looking forward to that," Trip said and put a kiss on his mother's cheek.

=/\=

Minister Kuvak walked into the chamber of the High Council, where First Minister T'Pau was already waiting for him.

"You wished to see me, Minister?"

"Yes, Kuvak. I received a communique from High Priest Torok. He will return to Vulcan on the Earth vessel."

"I was informed that the vessel was severely damaged and needed extensive repairs," Kuvak answered. "Would it not be more prudent to provide our own transport?"

"The situation has changed," T'Pau explained. "Enterprise will undergo temporary repairs and set course for Vulcan. High Priest Torok shall witness the bond between Commander T'Pol and the human Commander Charles Tucker III on Mount Seleya."

For the first time in 140 years Kuvak was rendered speechless. He knew who Charles Tucker was, but a witnessing ceremony had not been held for almost 2000 years, much less between a Vulcan and an off-worlder.

"Does that mean...?"

"Yes, Kuvak, they are true Ashayam as the ancient texts describe. The commanders have expressed their wish to visit Lady T'Les's burial site prior to the ceremony. During that time the Earth vessel will be refitted at the T'Kuth shipyards. We never offered the humans an appropriate gesture of gratitude for their part in overthrowing V'Las' government. We will use this opportunity to do so."

"I agree with the gesture, but is it really advisable to allow them entry into the Forge?"

"High Priest Torok has been made aware of the dangers. I have witnessed the humans myself in the Forge. They are capable of defending themselves," she dismissed Kuvaks worries before returning to the topic of the ship refit. "Since you are responsible for fleet operations, I charge you with organizing this project. Your liaison in Starfleet is Commodore O'Riordan of Starfleet Engineering. We have agreed to share some of our shielding technology with Earth. Starfleet Engineering is currently reviewing the schematics to determine how to incorporate our technology into their designs. Professor Solan will oversee the technical aspects of this for Vulcan.

"I shall contact Earth as soon as I have reviewed all data," Kuvak said, taking the PADD from T'Pau.

=/\=

As Malcolm came into the mess hall after a long day of trying to put the armory back together, the room was almost empty. After fetching two sandwiches from the food selection, he made his way towards a table where Trip sat with a mug of tea, reading a PADD.

"Engineering reports?" Malcolm asked and put his tray on the table.

"No," Trip answered, putting his PADD to the side. "It's some stuff I got from High Priest Torok. It's for me to prepare myself. T'Pol and I will go into the Forge when we get to Vulcan. We want to visit T'Les's grave."

"How are you two holding up?" Malcolm asked.

"We're doing OK under the circumstances. T'Pol is past the worst and the Cap'n has really been a help by not making a fuss that I spend all my time in her quarters."

"Well, he probably knows that you two are together, just like the rest of the ship. And everybody with half a brain knows that you need each other to cope with all that."

"Maybe," Trip said, and it looked to Malcolm as if he was thinking hard about something. "Mal, can I ask you a favor?"

"Sure."

"I mean, it's a little late," Trip said, "but it's important for me and especially T'Pol. On Vulcan each kid gets a set of godparents and... and I'd like you to be Lizzy's godfather."

Malcolm choked on his sandwich, desperately trying not to show how much Trip's question moved him. Although there were only a few people in the room, at least three of them were from his department and the last thing he needed were rumors of the boss going soft.

"I'd be honored," Malcolm uttered.

=/\=

Sensing his approach, T'Pol opened her eyes after a long meditation. For the first time since Elizabeth's death, she felt firmly in control of the raging tidal waves of emotions which had taxed her mind over the last few days.

The door opened and Trip entered the room in civilian clothes. T'Pol knew that meant he desired to spend the night with her. Actually that had been the case every day since he fell asleep during their joint meditation and she realized that she had had the same wish every time. Considering what they had learned about the nature of their bond, it was only logical to continue the practice, even if it meant resting on the meditation cushions on the floor as the bunk was way too narrow for two persons to rest comfortably.

"How're ya doing?" he asked softly after she returned his kiss.

"Meditation was most effective," she said, taking the cup of tea he had brought her. "There is something we need to discuss."

"Go ahead," he said, taking a seat on the opposite side of her still-burning meditation candle.

"I asked Hoshi to be Elizabeth's En'ahr'at. She accepted."

T'Pol expected him to be upset about not being consulted on such a matter, but instead Trip smiled for the first time in days. She was confused.

"You find this amusing?"

"No, it's just... I sort of had the same idea and asked Malcolm to be her godfather. Isn't that the same as Ener..."

"En'ahr'at means both godparent and adoptive parent in Vulcan. I find the selection of Malcolm Reed as her male En'ahr'at agreeable. "

"And Hoshi is who I'd have chosen myself, too," Trip continued her sentence. "She's the closest friend you have on the ship. Besides me, that is."

"Indeed."

"That gives me an idea," Trip said. "What would you think about inviting Malcolm and Hoshi to our ceremony on Mount Seleya? Bit like bridesmaid and best man in a human wedding."

"That would be most agreeable and I also wish them to assume these positions in our human ceremony."

"Great," Trip said and T'Pol saw with satisfaction that his endearing smile was starting to return, even if not as frequent as it had been. "Do you know the com code of Hoshi's quarters?"

"Fifty seven," T'Pol answered and seeing his concentrated look of mental calculation, she added: "Two-fifty-six is their combined code."

"Thanks darlin'."

He entered the code and hailed them. "Commander Tucker to Lieutenant Reed and Ensign Sato."

"Can you please come to T'Pol's quarters?" he asked, after they had both answered his hail. Both answered in the affirmative, almost simultaneously.

=/\=

"Come in," T'Pol answered the door chime a few minutes later. As both Lieutenant Reed and Hoshi entered together, she surmised that Mr. Reed had waited for Hoshi to arrive, since his quarters were much closer to hers than those of Hoshi.

"Please take a seat," she said and indicated the places left and right of the candle. She saw and silently enjoyed Trip's smile at Lieutenant Reed's slightly awkward attempts to find a comfortable posture, while for Hoshi as a Japanese it was second nature to sit on a mat on the floor.

"We have realized that we both – independently – wished for you to be Elizabeth's En'ahr'at."

"We're honored," Hoshi answered for both of them.

"We also wish you to be the first to be informed that High Priest Torok has offered to perform the witnessing ceremony. It is the Vulcan equivalent of a wedding ceremony on Earth and we wish both of you to be present at the ceremony."

"Now there's a predictable surprise," Malcolm said and offered Trip a congratulatory pat on the shoulder, while Hoshi smiled silently with a tear forming in her eye.

"Why is it called a witnessing ceremony?" Hoshi asked, her voice thick with emotion.

T'Pol could see the tears in her friend's eyes, and surmised that this was one of the instances in which humans did not cry out of distress, but out of exceedingly moving, positive emotions. Before she could answer, however, the door chime interrupted her.

"Enter," she said, and to her surprise Torok entered their quarters.

"I see that I have arrived at an inopportune moment," Torok said.

"Not at all, Excellency," T'Pol answered, while Trip moved over to sit with Malcolm, vacating the spot opposite of T'Pol for Torok.

"May I introduce you to our guests? These are Lieutenant Malcolm Reed and Ensign Hoshi Sato, Elizabeth's En'ahr'at."

Torok regarded them both with a nod after he had assumed his position – surprisingly swiftly for a man of his advanced age.

"This means I may have indeed arrived at a most convenient time," Torok said and looked at Malcolm. "Lieutenant Reed, you are in charge of the vessel's security, are you not?"

"I am, sir."

"In answer to my communique to the High Council, I have received instructions to advise Commanders Tucker and T'Pol against venturing into the Forge. The latest intelligence suggests that remaining followers and perhaps even V'Las himself might be hiding there."

"Sorry, sir, but this is important to T'Pol," Trip started to protest, but T'Pol saw him go silent immediately after Torok raised his hand.

"I expected you to be insistent, young man. I agree with Minister T'Pau that it is a dangerous endeavor, but maybe, if you chose to take Lieutenant Reed with you, he might be able to provide defensive measures, should they become necessary."

"I'll go with them, sir," Malcolm answered immediately, without waiting for Trip or T'Pol's consent. Now that he was aware of the danger, T'Pol knew that he would never let them off the ship if they declined, so she made no move to do so.

"I'll go, too," Hoshi offered. "Four eyes see more than two."

"We are grateful for your help," T'Pol said and before she could warn him against it, Trip was already on his feet, offering a hand to help Torok stand up. To her surprise the wise old man accepted it without a hint of protest – on the contrary, he even offered a silent nod of gratitude - before leaving her quarters.

"So, back to my question," Hoshi said after the door had closed. "Why is it called a witnessing ceremony?"

"I shall explain," T'Pol began.

=/\=

Hoshi lay in her bunk, recalling the events of the evening before. That Trip and T'Pol were an item had been plainly visible to anyone who bothered to look, but what T'Pol had explained after Toroks departure was hard to fathom – a telepathic link that had established itself spontaneously and they were getting married, too. She had of course read about it in the writings that she could access after the Kir'Shara had been found, but reading about it in theory and seeing and knowing two people who actually had such a connection, were two very different things.

Ever since first reading about it, she had dreamed what it would be like to feel the emotions of the man who had stolen her heart. Would she be able to sense feelings that concerned her? Would she sense how it hurt him to ignore these feelings in favor of antiquated rules that prohibited relationships between fellow officers? Maybe there wasn't anything to feel at all and Malcolm had someone else he pinned for?

Hoshi sighed as her thoughts spiraled into the same turmoil that had been an almost constant companion ever since she had found herself embraced by his strong arms after Elizabeth's funeral. To feel the usually reserved Brit so close was something she would savor for a long, long time.

Her brooding was cut short by a chime from the com panel.

"Lieutenant Reed to Ensign Sato."

"Sato here."

"Ensign, could you please come to the Armory? I need your help."

"On my way."

When she walked into the Armory she found it empty except for Malcolm, who was bent over a computer terminal muttering to himself.

"You wanted to see me?" she said as she approached him.

"Uh, yes," Malcolm answered and pointed towards his computer screen. I'm searching for a weapon that we can use in the Forge and I'm drawing a blank, every time I look something up. I spoke to the captain. He said that Vulcans in the Forge use a weapon called lirpa."

He put up an image of the weapon.

"As you can see, it looks like a battleaxe on one side and a war hammer on the other. Unless we ask Engineering to build us some spiked clubs, I cannot think of any useful weapon in our arsenal to go against that. We could use MACO batons, but I don't think they are a match against physically superior Vulcans with a bladed weapon. I thought, with your cultural background, you might have some idea?"

"You want to go ninja?" Hoshi asked coyly and flashed him her brightest smile. She could barely keep the giggle down when she saw him blushing slightly.

"Maybe something like that," Malcolm said. "I thought about nun-chaku, but I doubt we could learn to use them quickly enough."

"Why don't we use ranged weapons?" Hoshi asked, wondering why the armory officer of all people hadn't thought about that.

"Nothing but mechanical devices works down there," Malcolm said with a frustrated head-shake. "The captain still has one of the revolvers from the human colony in the Expanse, but we don't have any ammunition for it, and even if we could replicate bullets for it, it would still leave three of us without a weapon."

"Bows and arrows would work," Hoshi said, and let out a giggle at the incredulous look she got from him.

"You want to go down there with bows and arrows like a bunch of Sioux?"

"Well, they worked against buffaloes, so they should be enough to cope with a Vulcan. They are relatively easy to build, too."

"But it would take too long for Trip and me to learn to use them effectively, I'm afraid," Malcolm said.

"Then we use crossbows. They're handled like a rifle, but are almost as easy to produce as a bow," Hoshi explained, taking a PADD from a nearby table. Using a small electronic pen, she started to draw something.

"What's that going to be?" Malcolm asked, standing by her side and looking over her shoulder. Hoshi found it hard to concentrate with him so near.

"Hira-shuriken, " Hoshi explained. "They're bladed stars that are thrown. Engineering could produce them in numbers very quickly and they are extremely effective."

"So who's going ninja now?" Malcolm asked and she returned his little smile with a bright one of her own.

"That leaves one final question though," Malcolm said. "If they sneak up on us or we're ambushed, we might still be forced to engage in hand-to-hand combat. I thought of replicating lirpa's, but except for T'Pol, none of us has any experience in using them and we don't have much time for practice."

"I have an idea," Hoshi said, quickly calling up one of the MACO files. It showed a combat baton made from steel. Each officer had been given basic training with those during their Expanse mission, even if it was not as intensive as the training of MACO troops.

"T'Pol told me about the gallicite deposits in the Forge. That means static electricity works just fine down there. The lirpas are made of metal. That means if we drill a hole in these batons, let Engineering fuse a few ridges to it to act as a cathode, fill them with a paste of chemicals that react slowly and produce enough electricity, all you need to do is hit the lirpa or an exposed bit of skin with it and they'll be electrocuted or at least immobilized."

"Wouldn't we do the same thing to ourselves?" he asked

"Vulcans don't use gloves, but we do," Hoshi answered. "Their blood is copper based, so it is much more conductive than ours, too."

"I didn't know you were a chemistry expert," Malcolm said.

"I'm the com officer and I had to take lessons in communication history. There's a reason that telephone cables had copper cores, before they were made obsolete by optical transmission."

Hoshi looked up at him and saw him in deep thought, before he broke into a smile. Before she knew what was happening, he grabbed her and planted a peck on her cheek. "The whole thing works just like old fashioned batteries. Hoshi, you're a genius!"

Touching her hand to her cheek, she didn't know what to answer.

"I...I'm sorry, Ensign," Malcolm stuttered, when he realized what he had done.

"Nothing to apologize for," she said and returned the favor. Sauntering over to another terminal, she left a stunned and very blushed Malcolm behind.

=/\=

"Now, old boy; It's not the same as it was, is it?"

Porthos raised his head from his paws and gave a little yelp, before continuing to doze in his corner of the captain's quarters. Although it had been a quite day in Vulcan orbit, Jon felt empty, tired and very lonely.

Their honored guest had – quite surprisingly – accepted an invitation to a dinner after leaving Earth orbit, but ever since then he was scarcely seen, spending his time alone in meditation or in T'Pol's quarters practicing meditation or other mental disciplines with her and Trip. A weak smile graced his face when he tried to imagine Trip sitting ramrod straight staring into a candles flame, but as quickly as it came the smile made way for a frown as realization grew stronger and stronger, just how much he missed his estranged friend. Between practicing Vulcan discipline in T'Pol's quarters and building strange weapons in engineering he had barely seen anything of Trip or T'Pol during the entire trip to Vulcan.

Friends were a rare luxury to begin with for a man in his position and maintaining the few close friendships as a starship captain was hard. Being forced into a bloody conflict with the Xindi had made it impossible and the motto 'It is lonely at the top' had become a grim reality.

Sighing, Jon called up one of his numerous water polo recordings and fetched a bottle of Andorian Ale from a drawer.