USS Independence
Aurora Class Explorer (NC-121)
Proxima Maintenance Yards
(December 22, 2163 - 7 years later)

Commander T'Pol greeted the five-man Vulcan security team at the rear launch bay on Deck E. To either side, no less than four stewards waited to attend.

While the majority of the remaining crew arrived and were greeted at the hard dock connecting the ship with Ready Station Two of the Proxima Maintenance Yards complex…these particular personnel had arrived via shuttle. From the Kohlinar, parked just a few hundred kilometers to port, where it awaited the shuttle's return.

These men were not Starfleet officers or crewmen, after all. They were agents of Vulcan Intelligence.

And so they were only technically assigned to the Independence.

Subcommander Solek exited the shuttle ahead of his men, climbing the short ladder to stand at attention before T'Pol.

He presented the Vulcan PADD to her immediately, once his men had likewise arrived and stood at attention behind him.

"This confirms that I was formally transferred to your command at oh six hundred hours." He said, sharply. "Reporting for duty, Commander."

T'Pol accepted the PADD, reviewed the information casually and tucked it away to be processed and filed later.

"Very well." She said. "You will turn your belongings over to the stewards and attend to me."

They did. In an entirely efficient and expeditious manner. But she didn't move from the spot where she stood, to lead them anywhere in particular just yet.

She waited instead until the stewards had departed with their gear and they were left alone.

And she folded her hands comfortably at her back.

"Let us be clear, from the very beginning." She said. "I retain my position with the Vulcan Security Directorate and Vulcan Intelligence specifically. I have served in this capacity for decades and I am far more familiar with the inherent necessities of that service than all of you. Arguably more than all of you combined. So I will make one clear point here and you will of course understand and internalize that point perfectly. Because it is logical for you to do so.

"In order to serve the interests of Vulcan High Command and the Vulcan people at large…you must develop an associative relationship with the crew of this ship immediately. You are trained intelligence officers. You are prepared and able to accomplish this. And so you will.

"Otherwise I will have you expelled from the ship the very moment it becomes clear that you have failed to do so. Even if the ship is not at that moment attached to anything other than the vacuum of open space.

"Is this perfectly understood?"

There was little hesitation, of course.

"Understood, Commander." Solek said. Even nodding in the process of that, in order to fully convey his understanding.

"Very well." T'Pol said. "Follow me."

She led them down the corridor. Down to the waiting lift, up two decks to the corridor there and down still more to the MACO contingent temporary quarters on Deck D.

Passing many crewmen and officers along the way, either having just arrived themselves or having already been hard at work preparing the ship for its shakedown cruise.

Which prompted some measure of discussion almost immediately.

"There are several crewman present who are also non-Human." Solek observed. "That is unexpected."

And indeed, they had already passed two Andorians, a Tellarite and an Orion in this corridor alone.

"A recent development." T'Pol explained. "Otherwise your briefing for this assignment would have at least eluded to that fact. A concession we were forced to make with Starfleet in order to secure various concessions of our own."

"I question the logic of this." Solek said. "It places further relational stress on the crew, and unnecessarily so."

"True, but as the ship is already seen as a sort of testing ground for various technologies and protocols, it seemed prudent to Starfleet to test inter-species integration on a somewhat broader scale than they have before. I also question the logic of this…but as I've said, it was a necessary concession."

They arrived at the door to the MACO contingent quarters. And she turned to face them before leading them in.

"Another point, related to the one previously established." She said, eyeing them all critically. "I needn't remind you that you represent Vulcan on many different levels with your service aboard this vessel. I expect that you will represent her in your association with the crew in particular. I expect, in fact, that when the matter is finally assessed, it will be found that the Vulcan members of this ship were the most successful in integrating with a multi-species crew. Am I understood?"

"Understood, Commander." Solek nodded.

"I realize this increases the difficulty of your assignment overall." She acknowledged. "But it is a unique opportunity to illustrate the reliability and acceptability of the Vulcan people in general. And in the face of recent events, with our reputation suffering significantly as a result of our relationship with the Romulan people having come to light, we can afford to allow no such opportunity to pass unanswered."

"That is perfectly understood, Commander." Solek nodded. "Our briefing stressed this particular point many times. We will avail ourselves of every such opportunity presented and will do so to the best of our ability. Which can be expected to be considerable."

"We will see." T'Pol said, sternly.

And she tapped the panel, opening the door to lead them into the room.

Introducing them both individually and as a unit to Major Harris and his men once they arrived. Being sure each of the two teams were well acquainted with one another before ordering the Vulcan team to begin socializing with the MACOs.

The two units would naturally be required to work closely together in many instances. While the security team would largely focus their efforts on the security of the ship itself, and the MACOs would run escort in any and all instances beyond the ship…they were both charged with security and it could be expected that the two seemingly divergent fields of interest would converge and overlap quite often.

Therefore the Vulcan crewmen's development of an associative relationship with the crew should logically begin here, with the MACOs.

She stood comfortably with Major Harris, with whom she'd long since developed an associative relationship herself. And she oversaw the integration as it took place, in order to debrief the Vulcan team on their performance afterward and offer her insights and guidance at that time.

And as she stood there, watching over that…she decided that enough time had passed since her last attempt that it would be logical to take the opportunity to manage a certain relationship of her own.

One that was proving…challenging at the moment.

She opened the pathways, just those specific ones…seeking him out, finding him and allowing her presence to be perceived…


Subcommander Solek and his team have arrived. They are currently in the process of associating themselves with the MACO unit.


Have Admiral Archer and the other members of the…?

Just about.

Then we both have some measure of free attention to devote to clarifying the matter further.

At the reception area of the Starboard hard dock airlock, Trip frowned.

He glowered, in fact.

But he had to stop that before he could really get into it, because the airlock opened and the Admirals were suddenly there.

Trip put on his Captain face and squared his shoulders.

Archer stepped out first, though. So he suddenly found the whole damned thing a lot easier to bear.

"Permission to come aboard, Captain?" Archer asked, smiling.

And Trip grinned back. He couldn't help it.

"Absolutely, Admiral." Trip said, grinning. "Good to have you…"

"One moment."

Trip stopped. And he almost sighed.

But he waited a moment. As did Archer and the other two Admirals in attendance.

For nearly three seconds, even. So that he was finally forced to give them all a shrug and an apologetic look…

"Life sign sensor individual identification confirmed. Welcome aboard, Admiral Archer."

"Thanks, Alice." Trip said, sarcastically.

"It is my pleasure, Captain. And it is good to finally meet you, Admiral Archer."

"You, too." Archer said, sparing a glance around at…wherever Alice was. "I've heard a lot about you. I hope this cruise goes a lot more smoothly than the last one."

"I will endeavor to insure so, Admiral."

"Okay." Trip said, breaking in. "Sorry about that. Starfleet Intel fiddled with the security protocols before I could stop them. And don't encourage her, Jon. We're still having trouble convincing her she's not the same Alice."

"That is not possible, Captain. By every reasonable measure, I am. And so suggestions to the contrary are not rational."

"Well, as much as I'd love to have the same argument with you again, how about we show the Admirals around the ship instead?"

"I would enjoy that immensely, Captain."

Trip swung out his hand, showing the admirals the way.

His right hand, the new and improved version.

And, yeah, he'd tinkered with it a bit over the years. He could practically crush rocks with the thing now. So he was pretty proud of it and took every opportunity to show it off.

Trip led the Admirals down the corridor, heading for Engineering first.

And T'Pol was considerate enough to lay off picking a damned fight just long enough for him to greet the admirals politely and start leading them in that general direction.

Picking up again the second he had the attention to spare.

She was real efficient like that.

I believe the critical point of the disagreement is your refusal to acknowledge the decision lies entirely within the female prerogative. It is not appropriate for the male to intrude upon decisions in that area beyond general support and acceptance…

For Vulcans, T'Pol. I'm Human. Humans discuss these things and make the decision together.

That is irrelevant. I am Vulcan and female. The decision falls within the Vulcan female prerogative.

"Trip, why don't we start with the holographic interface systems?" Archer suggested, as they walked along.

Admiral Holstein piped up immediately.

"I saw the combat reports from the Tempest." He said. "I have to admit, I was damned impressed at the increased efficiency it suggested. You have that same setup here, is that right?"

"Yes, sir." Trip nodded. "All bridge consoles. Individual department consoles as well, all throughout the Independence. So you're looking at the same roughly fifteen percent jump in combat efficiency, but with maybe a twenty percent jump in general efficiency as well."

"That's damned impressive, Captain." Holstein said.

Admiral Barrett had to offer his disagreement, though.

"And all it takes is one solid hit to Operations and you lose all those fancy interfaces. Then what?"

"Unlike the Tempest," Trip said. "We retain traditional manual controls beneath the holographic projector panels everywhere. Just a flip of a switch and you've got a hardwired control scheme right there, if you need it."

"Two entirely different control schemes." Barrett argued. "With two entirely different protocols to go along with that. I can't say I see the wisdom in making things more complicated, Captain. Maybe you increase your efficiency by one measure, but overcomplicating the hell out of everything renders that void."

That set Barrett and Holstein arguing right away. Holstein thoroughly loving the idea. Barrett…not quite so comfortable with the dramatic change.

Trip and Archer just shared a look. And slight smirk.

And T'Pol jumped right in again…

I was given the authority to negotiate the terms of your early retirement, Trip.

Because I trusted you. I knew you'd do a better job of it than I would. So maybe you should have trusted me, too.

I trust you implicitly. This is not a matter of trust. The offer was especially…

I didn't expect you'd agree to have me command the damn ship for the whole shakedown, T'Pol. Sure as hell didn't think you'd agree to that considering what's coming in just…well, hey, look at the date today…three months from now, T'Pol!

That is irrelevant. This represents several unique opportunities…

How the hell is it irrelevant?

unique opportunities. The benefit bonuses that were offered following this mission will make full retirement immediately available. In addition to our already respectable savings and investments, we will be set for life, so to speak.

Whoopty freakin' do.

That is not a rational or logical response, Trip.

"What about the holochamber training simulator?" Archer asked, suddenly.

As much to give the two Admirals with him something else to focus on, other than butting heads about the control setup.

"Yes, what about that?" Barrett asked, suddenly interested. "Any chance we'll get to see that, Captain?"

"Oh, I'm sorry, Admiral." Trip said, regretfully. "Jackson over at the Proxima Maintenance Yards decided at the last second to reroute the conduits in there. I guess somebody forgot to send me a memo on that. If you'd like to give him a little grief about it, I'd sure appreciate it. I really wanted to let you try your hand at some of the scenarios."

"Well, I think I just might." Barrett grumped. "I was looking forward to that."

T'Pol led the security team to their quarters. Individual quarters, located adjacent to one another. Which she knew very well they would appreciate.

And she left them there, with a final reminder that she intended to be entirely unforgiving of any possible failure.

"As a final reminder," She said. "I intend to be entirely unforgiving of any possible failure. Tread lightly and considerately. And do not expect that I will adopt any other position toward you and your unit other than aggressively dominating and disturbingly intrusive until it has been settled to my satisfaction that you have integrated fully with the ship and crew."

Subcommander Solek allowed himself a moment to fully absorb that.

"Understood, Commander." He said, very clearly.

So T'Pol nodded, spared a very Vulcan glare for the entire unit…and left them.

To head to Engineering, in the hopes of catching Trip there before he could evade her. So that she could reinforce her position on that issue as well. With her presence.

Trip, my time will come and go. I have already experienced this with you. It is not a matter of significant concern.

Okay, don't do that. Don't just gloss over the real point here…

Of more immediate concern would be the benefits this very short mission will make available to us.

I can pay the bills with a little R&D work on the side, T'Pol. We talked about that and I thought we agreed…

And now that will no longer be necessary. We will be able to pursue personal pursuits at our leisure. And we will be able to enjoy our relationship without distraction.

And that's just great. Except that in three months…

There is also the matter of Xyrillia. Transporting the diplomatic detail there and waiting on hand for the projected one month period allows the opportunity to…

It's not worth the damned risk!

That risk is mine to assess and accept. And I have done so.

Without consulting me.

That was not necessary, nor was it appropriate.

Admiral Barrett was talking.

And Trip had missed half of what he said.

So he let his anger at that flow through the bond a bit. Because it might just shut her the hell up for two seconds.

"…under the impression you were developing some new variant of the old Whipple shield concept." He was saying.

"Well," Trip said, taking his chances with guessing what he'd missed. "That's where we started out."

He gestured at the three-dimensional display floating in the middle of the Engineering diagnostics room.

"We do employ that overall, in fact." He said, pointing that out. "All along the hull in the saucer section. Just a good, solid three meter spacing between the polarized armor and the internal hull itself. And it'll help cut the splash damage a bit with anything that gets through deflector shields. But we ended up going with nanofluid reinforcement instead of digging any deeper into the Whipple concept."

He tapped at the console controls, zooming in close to the internal hull. All the way in, showing a crosscut section of one portion.

"The name's a little misleading." He explained. "No actual nanotechnology involved, of course. Just a dispersive gel sandwiched between thin layers of neutronite. It concentrates almost instantly at the point of kinetic impact to add a little protection against torpedoes, missiles and even plain old solid projectile attacks. But at the same time, it disperses energy almost evenly across the matrix. That helps a lot with managing energy dispersal, which is the real trick."

"I've seen the demonstrations on that, Tucker." Admiral Holstein said. "I like it and I'm glad you dug it up to give it another look. I'm more interested in the point defense system, though. I don't think anyone's used anything like that since the old sea-battle days."

"Jamming tech's just too advanced these days." Trip admitted. "The sensor systems and counter-sensor capability just about everyone in the galaxy has available…there's usually no point in even trying. Your best bet is just to make yourself a hard target or blow the other guy up before he can shoot too many missiles at you. But with Alice running combat sensors it's a whole new ballgame. She can hit one out of five incoming Mark I IF's, fired at point blank range. Now, that may not seem all that impressive, but think about it for just a couple of seconds and you'll see it's sure as hell worth it."

Admiral Barrett gave him an assessing look then.

"Most of your modifications…in fact, all of them, seem to lean more toward the defensive, Tucker."

"Yes, sir." Trip said. "The Independence is an explorer, so I focused on getting her out of danger a lot more than…well, being a danger."

"Don't get me wrong, Captain." Barrett said. "I approve. It's just a little surprising, considering your reputation."

That got Archer's back up a bit. And he started butting heads with some people all of a sudden.

Which meant Trip now had the attention to spare again…

This is a very fortunate opportunity that I have secured for us, Trip. If you would overlook the perceived negatives for a moment, I am sure you will be able to recognize that.

Sixty light years to Xyrillia, T'Pol. That's three months at cruising speed, warp five.

And one month there, Trip. That is a significant amount of time for you to avail yourself of in order to…

And three more months back. That's seven months, T'Pol. At least.

Only seven.

March of next year will come along before we get there. That's kind of a big deal.

Approximately three days of full plak'tow. One week of pon'farr requiring active seclusion. Two weeks seclusion in totality being most preferable. The matter will be concluded before we arrive. Residual effects, easily manageable.

And then you'll be pregnant.

"Explain the overall defensive concept here, Trip." Archer said suddenly, bringing him back into the conversation. "The design for the Aurora class itself."

"Right." Trip nodded, bringing his attention back around.

And zooming the display back out again, until the Independence was floating there in full view again.

"A single hull design." He said, indicating it. "Saucer section, nacelles directly attached, single solid wing support between the nacelles trailing. That gives you greater warp efficiency, maneuverability and overall speed. Not huge differences from your average cruiser, I admit. The Enterprise might have to push herself a bit to keep up…but she'd still manage it. But it's still a good tradeoff no matter how you look at it."

"But where's your rear mass?" Archer asked. Even if he already knew, taking the opportunity to pitch the design to the Admirals.

"Armor." Trip said, pointing the outer bulk of the nacelles. "Butted right up against the saucer like that, it brings the nacelles too close to center mass. You lose a lot of efficiency the way the field's center masses are so close to the overlap. But when you armor up the outside hull of the nacelles…then you've got your mass right back and the trailing field's center shifts back out again."

"And you don't run the risk of being stuck in a fight." Archer concluded. "It's a lot harder to take out your propulsion."

"Especially with that armor plating extended vertically up and down just a little when you go combat." Trip nodded. "Makes it harder to target your impulse systems, too. And they're already reinforced themselves."

"That plasma bleed thing." Holstein frowned. "Can't say I'm comfortable with that."

"Well, think about it." Trip argued. "With armored nacelles, added propulsion protection overall, the design itself giving that little bit of general boost to speed and maneuverability…all you really need is maybe a two or three second bleed and you're out of the fight. Disengaged and gone to warp just a couple of seconds after that. You don't have to stick around for any fight you don't want to."

The Admirals dove right into that, going over all the scenarios. Giving it a solid once over.

Leaving Trip, yet again, open to T'Pol's mind crushingly patient and methodical attempts to force him to embrace logic.

Because her position was logical. And therefore correct. So he should acknowledge that and get on board with it, rather than continuing to be an intractable Human about the whole thing.

The medical advances allowing for reliable conception between Vulcan and Human bondmates was not available until now, Trip.

It will be available next time.

You are forty-two years old. You will be forty-nine years old then. We have already suffered one pon'farr fruitlessly because the opportunity was not available. It is available now.

Forty-nine is not that old. I don't know how it is for Vulcans, but Human males are pretty much fertile right up until they kick the bucket.

I would prefer more than two or three children, Trip.

I can make due with two or three.

That is not your decision to make. That is the prerogative of the female in the bondmate relationship. And regardless, in three more cycles you will be fifty-six years old.

And still fertile, still kicking around. Probably way after our kids have all gone out and got bonded or married or whatever themselves. Life expectancies are pretty good these days, T'Pol.

That is not my concern. You will have aged enough that it will impact your ability.

What's that supposed to mean?

You will be unlikely to be able to meet my requirement then. Pon'farr is quite demanding, as you recall.


At the starboard hard dock the admirals prepared to wrap up their review.

"Captain, I appreciate you taking the time to show us around." Barrett said. "I can't say I find everything you've developed quite to my liking…but I'm interested to see how it all shakes out. I'll be submitting my report to the Joint Oversight Committee immediately. It won't be as unfavorable as I expected it would."

"Good to hear, sir." Trip nodded. "I appreciate your taking the time to tour the ship."

He shook their hands.

Everyone nodded.

They departed.

Leaving Trip with Admiral Archer, in the reception area, as the airlock door closed.

Trip slumped right away.

"Sheesh." He said. "Does that ever stop being such a huge pain in the butt?"

Archer chuckled.

"Not even the hundredth time." He said. "Winslow and Cairns stopped by the Enterprise to poke at everything our last day. The day before she was decommissioned, if you can believe that. I had a headache after the first ten minutes and I must have been through it a thousand times already by then."

They chuckled about that for a bit.

Until T'Pol poked him across the bond.

Kinda hard.

Trip, I require a response.

And Trip winced noticeably.

Archer was immediately concerned.

"Trip, are you okay?" He asked, brow furrowed. "You've been a little off since we got here. What's going on?"

"Ah, nothing." He shrugged. "Just a big damned headache I've been fighting all day."

That is not humorous, Trip.

"Maybe you should see the doctor." Archer said. "I hear you managed to bribe somebody to get Andrews on board here. He knows his business. Why don't we stop by there before I go?"

"Nah, if I ignore it long enough it'll eventually shut the hell up."

Archer…looked a little confused at the wording. But he let it go.

T'Pol let it go for a bit, too.

Even if the not-so-subtle chill that descended across the bond made him shiver a little.

"But, look," Trip said. "That's actually not a bad idea. If you've got a minute, we didn't exactly catch up with everyone. Song was supposed to command this ship before T'Pol roped me into making this run. And we've got a few other folks from the old crew. Why don't you stick around for dinner? Wouldn't hurt my reputation around here to show off Admiral Archer for a while."

Archer grinned and even clapped him on the back one good time.

"Just what I was hoping to hear, Trip. Lead the way."

He did. And they caught up with the old crew.

And they had dinner and shared war stories. Captain Song and Doctor Andrews. Crowley, Steel and Roscoe.

And T'Pol, who Archer still hadn't recognized or realized was the very same Vulcan agent who worked alongside him in recovering the Kir'shara.

Or, as T'Pol would quickly correct, the agent who he'd helped recover the Kir'shara.

They hadn't ever taken the chance to nudge him to that realization. Or in any way so much as hint at it. It had long since become a fun little joke between them.

It wasn't funny right now, of course. Because as polite and gracious as they were at dinner…however friendly and how much fun everyone had catching up and spending time together again…

They were pretty pissed off at each other.

And by the time the meal ended, everyone said their goodbyes and Archer left the ship…to say that the bond was in an agitated state would be putting it mildly.

T'Pol sat on the bed.

Their bed, however technically the adjoining room might officially be considered her quarters.

Appearances required keeping up, after all. There were unwritten regulations that had to at least be passively acknowledged. Having separate quarters allowed the brass to pretend that they were. And never mind if T'Pol's official quarters were used by the stewards for spare storage.

This was appropriate and she'd insisted on it. Just as she'd insisted their quarters be officially his quarters. So that she could claim them as hers.

It was sort of a Vulcan thing.

But she sat on the bed. And she stared at the candle on the bedside table while she sat, attempting to meditate.

The insufferable, intractable Human in the bed beside her, however, was making that difficult.

He shifted slightly, where he lay on the bed.

I am attempting to meditate.

"I'm laying right here." Trip grumped. "I might even hear you, if you did something as normal as speaking out loud."

"You find our bond abnormal?"

"Kinda finding it a pain in the ass right now."

"Perhaps I should take my half of the bond elsewhere to meditate. So that you can feel free to shift about, shaking the bed to your satisfaction."

"That'd be just great. Maybe I'll get up and jump up and down on it a few times."

"You are being very difficult today."

"Then I guess I should have tried harder. I was aiming for making clear how completely pissed off I am at you."

"I received that impression quite clearly."

"Wonderful. So why don't you meditate so I can get some sleep."

"Trip, how long are you going to be angry with me over this?"

"Seven goddamned months."

T'Pol suddenly…found herself seething.

She had just about had enough of this. Almost reached the limits of her patience.

The limits of logic, in availing herself of any possible…

He shifted in the bed again.

And she slapped out, smacking the top of the candle on the bedside table.


Knocking the candle loose from the table in the process, where it thumped to the floor unobserved.

Slinging her legs forward from the meditation position, out over the edge to thrust herself angrily from the bed…

…catching her feet in the sheet in the process. Which snatched at her legs, since the insufferable, intractable Human was lounging lazily all over them.

Forcing her to snatch at the table to keep from falling off the bed.

Where her hand fell directly into the comfortably warm, but just precisely too slippery puddle of candle wax she'd spilled there.

So that her hand shot out, rather than gaining any traction at all, and she flipped forward off the bed. Head first.

Barely catching herself in time with both hands flat on the floor.

Forcing her to angrily shimmy loose of the sheet with her butt in the air.

Until she could scramble in outrage back onto her feet, huffing in fury…ready to verbalize her hot, burning Vulcan indignation at what a complete ass he was being…

…and she stepped…and slipped…on the candle laying on the floor.

And fell right on her butt directly into the other puddle of warm wax now waiting to smear itself all over her underwear.

Where she sat.

And seethed.

Tense and furious.

While the Human witnessed it all, both directly and through their bond.

Even the humiliating and uncomfortable sensation of wax already beginning to harden again, all across the connecting surfaces of her underwear and the floor of the room.

And he was amused at this, turned over on the bed to watch. One hand casually propping his head up so that he could do so comfortably.

It was humiliating.

And infuriating.

But…she suddenly perceived that she'd been granted the upper hand here. Granted a uniquely dominant strategic position.

She need only take advantage of it. Firing the one simple shot…making the one easy strike…that would win this battle and bestow upon her the undisputed victory.

She drew a deep breath, turning to face him…facing his amusement at her predicament.

And she fired.

"I just want to say…that I love you, Trip."

He stared, no longer amused.

And she sat, in that humiliating position.

Waiting for victory.


"I'm scared, darlin'." He said, sadly.

"Trip, I understand that." She said, softly. "But you forget. We are greater than the sum of both of us."

"Anything could happen, T'Pol. You could end up having our baby here on a damned starship. Who knows how many light years from Starfleet territory? Maybe even…"

"Trip," She said. "I am strong and capable. My mate is brilliant and resourceful. This ship is potentially the most advanced vessel in the fleet. Everything will be fine. You know this to be true."

"I don't want to do this."

"We cannot allow this opportunity to pass. It will be another seven years until I am able to conceive again. And you will have the chance to see Lynn, and to settle issues with Ah'len that have festered for far too long. In the process of these things, we will secure our future. This opportunity is well worth the inherent risks, because the risks are minimal in reality and of significant concern only in your very emotional imagination."

Trip considered that, frowning.

So she sat in the now hard wax, gluing her to the floor.

And she waited for him to embrace logic.

"Okay." He said. "I guess you're right. But I'm still pretty scared."

"I will help you with your fear, Trip." She said, holding out her hand to him.

And he was hurting in his fear, she could see, so that he reached out eagerly to be comforted.

They kissed, in the entirely Vulcan fashion. And peace and comfort descended on them again.

Their bonded rejoiced and rewarded them both. She for achieving victory and restoring it to balance. He for embracing logic and accepting that her position was, quite obviously, correct.

He smirked a little. And snorted slightly.

"I guess I just let my emotions get the better of me." He admitted.

And of course, that was likely the case. His concerns were completely unfounded.

"That is understandable, Trip." She conceded, magnanimously. "But there is nothing to be concerned about. It is only a shakedown cruise."

That's all, folks!

Thank you all for sharing this with me. :D

- Mary

(Dedicated to B. Simmons, candlelight)