Trip ran his thumb across his lower lip, looking down at T'Pol, "Guess we've got a lot of work to do", then turned and walked off towards engineering.

T'Pol stared down the passageway where he had disappeared and wondered if he had been referring to the condition of the ship or the condition of their relationship. Perhaps he had meant a bit of both. Certainly, the bond was going to require some additional time teaching him Vulcan mating protocols.

Later that Day

Trip had just stepped out of the shower when the intercom sounded. "T'Pol to Commander Tucker."

"Go ahead."

"You stated earlier that we have considerable work ahead of us. Would this be an appropriate time to continue?"

*Damn, is she referring to us or the ship repairs?* Either way, he was not about to let her off easy. "I was just about to go get some food. Join me in the mess hall if you want, we can discuss what needs to be done over dinner."

Silence then, "Agreed." *She doesn't seem real thrilled to be meeting in the mess hall, so I guess this is gonna be about us.*

A few minutes later Trip entered the dining area to find T'Pol was already seated, nibbling delicately on a piece of celery from the plate of raw veggies in front of her. He quickly filled his plate and moved to take the seat next to her at a small table in the corner of the room.

"Mind if I join you?"

That earned him a peaked eyebrow. "As we agreed to meet here, that is an illogical question."

Trip raised both eyebrows and threw a grin back at her, "Just bein' polite." *Hah! Two can play the eyebrow game.* "You wanted to talk about something we need to work on?"

"Indeed." She carefully set down the last bit of celery and settled to face him. "I believe that it is important for you to learn more about the bond that develops between Vulcans when they mate. There are certain protocols you must learn."

Coffee sprayed across the table as Trip fought for both air and a response. He blurted out the first words that came into his head. "What the Hell is that supposed to mean?"

"I believe it to be important that you understand what the bond is, and what it is not. That you learn some level of control over your reactions to it. Just as I must."

"Hold on a minute. Are you saying that this bond thing is bad?"

"Not at all. Among Vulcans, it is considered very natural, highly desirable in a marriage. *Highly desirable in a marriage! Did I miss a wedding someplace along the way? Other than the one where she married Koss while I stood watching like a fool.* However, between a Vulcan and a Human...no such event has ever occurred before. There are bound to be differences from a normal Vulcan bond. We need to understand the bond, to explore its limits, so that we can better understand how to proceed."

"Wait a minute. Let me get this straight...when you refer to Vulcans mating, do you mean, "get married" or just have sex?"

"That this bond has formed si-kun-utik, outside of marriage, is very unusual even when both parties are Vulcans. This is part of the reason why I believe we need to determine the exact nature of this bond."

"You didn't answer my question T'Pol. Does "mating" mean the same thing as "married?"

"Not necessarily, although Vulcans do not often engage in sexual relations outside of marriage. However, I think that perhaps it would be prudent to continue this discussion in a more private manner."

"I've gotta agree with that. Your place or mine?"

"Please raise your right hand extending only the first 2 fingers."

"Huh?"

"Raise your right hand like this." T'Pol proceeded to raise her own hand in what looked suspiciously like a scout salute. "Trip...Please..."

Eyes rolling, Trip raised his hand and presented his fingers to her. T'Pol placed her fingers against his at a slight angle so that only the tips were in contact. The mess hall vanished and was replaced by that blinding white emptiness in which he had found himself during his recent dreams. He looked down and found T'Pol next to him, their fingers still joined.

"Ok T'Pol, I am getting mighty tired on being bounced in and out of this place. What just happened? And where, exactly, are we?"

"This is not a physical place, it is a...perhaps the best description would be thought-space? This is the place in my mind where I go to during meditation. We are here because of the physical contact in which our bodies are currently engaged."

"You mean, just because we touched fingers, we are all of a sudden inside your head?"

"It is called ozh'hesta in Vulcan. The closest English translation would be...finger caress. It would be more accurate to say that we are inside OUR heads. It is specific type of contact, acceptable in public, which allows Vulcans who are bonded to communicate directly, mind-to-mind. I do not believe the result is typically this concrete, more an exchange of thoughts. However, as you are human, perhaps your mind has provided us with this appearance of a physical place as a way of interpreting the unaccustomed mental contact."

"Let me see if I got this straight. We did this ozesta thing...and now we can talk mind-to-mind, some sorta mental telepathy?"

*Fascinating...even inside his mind, his Vulcan accent is terrible* "It is pronounced Ozh'hesta, but your description is essentially correct. As long as we are in physical contact through the caress, we can communicate directly. With practice, the result will perhaps be less physical and more mental."

"Hey, what's wrong with being physical? Although this isn't bad. Kinda bland for my taste, but it sure is private. So where do we go from here?"

"I believe that your earlier question is not entirely inappropriate."

"Which one?"

"Your place or mine?" T'Pol broke contact with his fingers and the mess hall reappeared around them.

Trip's head nearly exploded along with the sudden switch. He squinted against the pain, "Damn woman! Warn a guy before you do that!"

"There is no need to shout Commander. You are drawing attention to yourself."

*Beats me how she can make my rank sound exactly like my Mom calling me "Charles Tucker III" when I'm in trouble.*

"I really don't care! Having my mind yanked around like that has given me a headache. I think perhaps I have "worked" enough for one day. Perhaps it's time you mastered a few "protocols" yourself. Start with the definition of RUDE."

Trip got up and stalked out of the room leaving T'Pol to endure the curious stares of their shipmates. Displaying her considerable Vulcan aplomb, she rose slowly, collected both of their trays, deposited them in the disposal area, and then walked out of the room.

Once behind the closed door of her quarters she sank to the edge of her bed and tried to take stock. *What did I do that upset him so badly? I only pointed out that he needed to learn more about our bond. He seemed quite happy about it until I suggested that we move to private quarters from the dining facility. Now I have also acquired a headache* T'Pol headed off to discuss the situation with the only other person on the ship with whom she felt she could discuss such things.

As she stepped into Sickbay, she called out for the Doctor, who promptly appeared from behind one of the ubiquitous privacy curtains, "What can I do for you Commander"?

"I have a headache."

"Hmph, seems to be a bit of that going around this evening. What seems to have caused yours?"

"Commander Tucker."

"I see", was all the Doctor said, but the look he gave her spoke volumes, nor did a hypo-spray appear to be forthcoming.

"I do not understand him."

"Perhaps if you tell me what it is that you don't understand, I could be of more assistance."

"We were having a very rational discussion when he became angry, said I needed to learn the definition of...rude and left the room."

"Curious. WERE you rude to him?"

"I do not believe so. It was certainly not my intention to be less than cordial."

"Perhaps if you told me of the events leading up to his outburst I could more easily help you determine its cause."

T'Pol hesitated, their bond was deeply personal and she did not really want to discuss it with anyone other than Trip, but it seemed that she was going to need help to make that happen. The Doctor was certainly discreet and she knew him to be an astute observer of human behavior. She proceeded to try to explain the existence of the bond that had formed, as clinically as possible, as well as their conversation, describing Trip's reactions as best she could. When she finished, it was a long moment before the Doctor replied.

"I do seem to recall some mention in the Vulcan medical database of married couples being capable of developing strong mental bonds. Is this the type of bond that has formed between you and the Commander?"

"I believe that to be the case. It is a logical explanation for certain recent events such as his immunity to the Orion females."

"How extraordinary. Wouldn't it be more usual for you to have formed such a bond with your husband, what was his name...Koss?"

"The formation of such a bond requires close proximity over an extended period of time. Koss and I never...shared a residence. There was neither time nor inclination to form such a bond."

"You and Commander Tucker have certainly been in close proximity for the past several years. Is that the only thing required for a bond to form?"

"There must also be a certain level of emotional attachment…affection."

So...in human terms, spent a good deal of time together, fell in love and this bond was formed."

T'Pol though about that for a moment. "That is perhaps the closest English translation of how such a bond it formed, yes."

"How wonderful! I am very pleased for you both. However, considering that the two of you are from different species, I would like to do complete neural scans on both of you, as soon as possible."

"Doctor! This is not helpful. I need to understand why he was so angry."

"When you were explaining to the Commander about the bond, did you explain the emotional aspects? Or did you use the same detached, technical language that you used to explain it to me?"

"I explained the exact nature of it and my concerns about the possible abnormalities involved in an interspecies bond. It will mean a great deal of work for us both, exploring the nature and limits of this unusual occurrence. There really is no frame of reference by which to judge the…", Phlox cut her off.

"T'Pol, listen to yourself. The Commander is HUMAN, not Vulcan. You are discussing an intensely emotional situation that should fill you both with wonder. Instead, you sound like you're describing plans to rebuild a warp drive. Did you TELL him that you were in love with him?"

"He should have understood my emotions through the bond. There should be no need to verbalize the..."

"But he is not Vulcan! Perhaps he is not yet capable of understanding what he is sensing through the bond. On the other hand, perhaps he is unsure of which emotions are yours and which are his own. It might be useful to TELL him how you feel. I would also suggest that you move more slowly in your experimentations. As you noted, there may be unexpected aspects to a Human-Vulcan bond. It may be that the Commander is not yet ready for what you tried today. Are there perhaps any other activities in which you can engage to strengthen the bond without causing quite so much mental stress?"

An image of Trip, naked above her, flashed into her mind causing T'Pol to flush a delicate green, "Perhaps. However, I will have to get him to talk to me first. He IS very upset."

"Well, you might start by apologizing for having given him a headache."

Later that evening…

Trip answered the buzzer and found T'Pol standing outside his quarters with a covered dish in her hand. He did not move to let her into the room, just stood in the doorway, propping himself against the wall with one outstretched arm.

"What do you want T'Pol? I'm not in the mood for any more of your damn mind games tonight."

She held the plate out to him, "I owe you an apology. Since you did not get to finish your meal, I thought I would bring you dessert as well. Cook said it was something called Baklava. He thought that you would enjoy it."

"You asked the cook what I wanted for dessert."

"Actually, I asked for a slice of Pecan Pie, however there was none available. When I told the cook that I owed you an apology, he suggested that you might find this to be an acceptable substitute." She paused at this point to take a close look at him, noticing for the first time how tired he looked, the lines forming around his eyes...beautiful blue eyes which had lost their usual sparkle. "I do apologize. It was not my intention to cause you any discomfort."

"Well you damn sure did. It hurt like hell when you broke the link so abruptly."

"Could I come in please? I think perhaps the passageway is not the best place to conduct this discussion."

Surrendering, Trip turned and moved to stand staring out the portal at the stars, leaving T'Pol to enter and place the small plate on the table. The door closed and she stood for a long moment waiting for him to speak again. Eventually it became apparent that he was not going to help her out by restarting the conversation.

"In my impatience to investigate our bond, I allowed myself to forget that you are not Vulcan and therefore may not understand what the bond really means to us."

Trip turned slightly, just enough to glare at her out of the corner of his eye.

"I'm NOT Vulcan and I wish you would stop trying to turn me into one. I like myself just the way I am."

"I like you as you are also. I do not want to turn you into a Vulcan, even if such a thing were possible. Nor do I have any desire to become Human. However, if we are to maintain our sanity, we must find some way to exist between both worlds. The bond can help with that...which is part of why I was so eager to explore it with you."

Trip sighed, ran a hand through his hair, and turned to face her. "So, what DOES the bond mean? Besides bein' a really good way to make my head explode?"

"Does you head still hurt?"

"Don't change the subject. What does the bond mean?"

"I was not trying to change the subject. However, the explanation is likely to take some time. If you still have a headache, I thought that I could complete the explanation during a neuropressure session. As I caused your headache, the least I can do is try to provide some relief."

"I don't think so."

"You would rather remain in pain?"

"Honestly, after what happened in the mess hall, I am afraid to let you touch me. The last thing I need right now is to have my head messed with again."

"The ozh'hesta is a very specific type of physical contact. While there are some of the more advanced positions in neuropressure that can be used in a similar manner, I do not believe that our usual postures would have the same affect. I was thinking perhaps of some simple spine and foot techniques for releasing stress. I could explain about the bond at the same time."

"I guess I am willing to try. Promise me that if we do end up in that thought-space again that you'll warn me before you break contact so that I can prepare."

"I promise."

The two of them proceeded to strip down to their blue regulation underclothes, arranged themselves head-to-toe on the carpet, and began to work on each other's feet.

"So, explain to me about this bond. What does it mean and how did we end up getting' one?"

"What I told you is basically true, when Vulcan's mate they can sometimes form a mind-link or bond."

"Yeah, you said that before. Just what do you mean when you say, "mate"? 'Cause I'm getting' the feeling that we don't have the same definition for that word."

"Most often the term is used to mean marriage, but can refer to any relationship in which sexual partners make a long-term commitment. Does it not mean the same thing among humans?"

"Not normally, where I come from what your describing is called marriage, or if you're not married it called being lovers. Mating is what barnyard animals do, its sex without emotion or commitment, Humans don't "mate" *not the nice ones anyway* they make love".

"I see. I believe I now understand why you became so annoyed each time I used the term. You thought I was describing our relationship in less than agreeable terms. That was never my intention."

"Yeah, I see that now. It sure clears up a lot of things. I know that there probably isn't a Vulcan word for things like love or lovers, so perhaps it would be easier for both of us if you just talk about bein' in a relationship."

"Actually, there are several Vulcan words for love, depending on the usage. However, they are rarely spoken in public as that would require revealing a depth of emotion that most Vulcans would prefer keep hidden."

Trip's face lit up in a grin, "Really? What are they?"

"Ashaya, ashalik, shan'hal'lak, among others, each denoting various degrees of emotion or specific relationships."

"You're kidding, right?"

"No"

"So, is there a word to describe us?"

"I believe the correct word would be t'hy'la. The closest English translation would be 'soul-linked'. It is used to describe one who is a...lover or lifelong-companion and implies the co-joining of minds in a bond similar to our own. Please lie on your back."

He moved, "Thy'la. I like that, it has a nice sound to it."

She knelt straddling his head and leaned over to place her hands near his waist, "The correct pronunciation is t'hy'la".

Looking up from where his head was resting between her thighs, images from past neuropressure sessions flowed through his mind. Visions of her little blue silk top hanging loose, providing a wonderful view of her naked breasts. "Te-high-la, got it." T'Pol's thumbs dug into his stomach, hard enough to make him yelp, "Hey, not so rough!"

"I apologize. I was distracted by the sudden realization of why you always expressed a preference for this particular position."

His grin got bigger, "Yeah, well it always made me feel like my head was in the right place. You mean you never figured that out before tonight? Why now?"

"I believe that I received an image from your mind. A view from your current position of my bare torso? Since I am not currently wearing that particular item of clothing, I assume it was a memory. Sharing of memories IS one aspect of a bond."

"Really? I'm gonna have to be more careful what I'm thinking *oh my GOD she can read my mind!* from now on. How do you Vulcan's ever have any private thoughts if your t'hy'la can hear everything you think? Seems to me that could just about drive a body crazy."

She leaned back to an upright position and gazed down at him, "There are certain mental disciplines that we are taught from a very young age. These allow us to control the flow of thought and emotion across the bond. This is done because similar bonds exist between parents and their offspring and can also exist between siblings. It would be very difficult to raise children if you constantly had their uncontrolled thoughts running through your mind."

"And since I am human..."

"You were never afforded an opportunity to learn the control that these techniques impart."

Trip drew a deep breath and took the plunge, "Do you think I could learn them now? I mean, I'm not too old or anything am I? Do you think being human would make it impossible?" *'Cause if I don't do something, this is going to drive me crazy*

"I see no reason why you could not learn them. Certainly, you are not OLD and the techniques are not difficult. Perhaps the fact that you do not know them is why our earlier sharing caused you pain. Your mind was not properly prepared for the contact."

"So, what would be involved?"

Leaning forward again, she resumed her ministrations to his abdomen. "The first lessons involve being able to communicate deliberately across a mind-link. You would try to send an image to my mind. Make the image as clear and detailed as possible. As you are just learning, the image should be associated with strong feelings or some particular…"

Her hands slipped and hit the floor on either side of his body, nearly pitching her face first on top of him, as his thoughts burst into her mind. Sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, overwhelming physical sensations, all from his perspective, showing clearly, why he felt that this position put his head in the "right place".

After a few moments, the images faded and she found herself back in her own body. She gasped, realizing that she had forgotten to breathe. Not daring to try moving very much, she tipped her head forward to look at him, her gaze traveling up his body to his face. His eyes were closed and he was breathing heavily, the warm, moist air from his breath fanned her lower body.

"Trip…", his eyes didn't open, "I…think…that was a…VERY successful first lesson."

Trip spent the next few days practicing his newly discovered ability to send information through their bond and he was making "satisfactory progress" according to T'Pol. Phlox had run his coveted neural scans on both of them, telling the Captain that he wanted the scans to continue investigating their immunity to the Orions and had then cleared them to move ahead with exploring the capabilities of the bond. The plan this evening was for T'Pol to begin sending complex information back to him for the first time.

He was looking forward to that part. So far, he had been sending a lot of images from Engineering, a few memories of his childhood, that sort of thing. He was curious to see what types of images she would choose to share with him. First, however, there was dinner with Malcolm and the Captain.

Captain's Mess, 1820 hours

The remnants of an excellent meal were scattered across the table top and Trip was just finishing the last of his dessert when the Captain leaned back in this chair, waved his glass and smirked, "You're adventures with alien women are fast becoming something of a legend among the crew Trip."

The last bite of Baklava went down the wrong way and Trip endured a prolonged coughing fit while thinking fast for a suitable reply *Damn! I thought we were being pretty discreet*. It didn't help that T'Pol was peaking over the top of her teacup at him with that wide-eyed innocent waif look she got when she was avoiding giving a response to something. A look that always made him want to grab her and kiss her senseless.

As he turned to face the Captain he sent her an image of him doing just that and was rewarded by a glimpse of her fingers tightening around her cup. What finally came out of his mouth was nothing less than pure Tucker brilliance under pressure.

"Huh? What's that supposed to mean?"

"Face it Trip, if there is a non-human female within a couple of light years, you usually manage to get mixed up with them somehow.

"That's an exaggeration" *What's he gettin' at?* "I've always been a perfect gentleman."

"Let's see, there's Trip, first human male to get pregnant"

Trip sighed, "I was really kind of hoping that nobody would ever mention THAT again".

"By an alien female no less. Then you got robbed and left tied up, wearing nothing but your underclothes, while trying to pick up alien women in a bar."

"That wasn't just me y'know, the same thing happened to Malcolm.

Malcolm joined into the spirit of the game, "Then you got stranded with that alien princess,

"I keep telling everyone…nothing happened!"

"You WERE both partially unclothed when rescued", T'Pol quipped from behind her teacup.

Silence.

All three men gapped at her, although Malcolm was the first to pick his jaw up off the floor,

"She did it again, this time I'm sure of it, she made a joke".

"I was merely stating a well documented fact relevant to the episode being discussed."

Trip decided to head off that conversation, "Where are you going with this Captain?"

"And now you're the only human male known to be immune to the Orions; something for which Phlox still has not managed to provide any kind of a rational explanation. Sorry to tell you this Trip, but that is definitely the stuff of legends, by any definition."

Malcolm chimed back in, "I heard that some of the junior personnel have set up a pool on what will happen to him next".

The Jon raised his glass in a toast to Trip, "See? A legend."

T'Pol set down her cup and looked curiously at Malcolm, "Exactly what is a "pool" in this context?"

A growl came from Trip's end of the table, "Leave it alone T'Pol".

"It's a sort of wager. Each person chooses what they think will be the next thing we hear about Trip and a non-human female. Then we all just wait to see what happens. The person whose guess is closest to what actually happens wins a prize."

Jon leaned forward, "So, What's getting the best odds right now?"

"CAPT'N! He's just kidding! Right Malcolm?"

"Not at all mate. I believe the current favorites are variations of; he gets kidnapped and sold into an all male harem or he unwittingly says the wrong thing on an away mission and ends up married to an alien female by accident."

"Tell them to put me down for "infected by an unidentified agent, he turns INTO an alien female".

"Sure thing Captain."

"That's it; a man can only take so much." Throwing his napkin down on the table, Trip started to get up from his chair when, "What is the prize the winner will receive?", came from behind the teacup.

He fell back in the chair, sending a mental image of turning her over his knee for a spanking.

"The winner gets to choose the films for the next three movie nights."

"Considering some of Commander Tucker's selections, that is certainly a worthwhile prize. Perhaps I should also select a possible outcome. I am certain that if I apply logic to the question an appropriate answer will emerge."

Trip gulped coffee as, for a moment, he found himself in the Decon chamber, enjoying the sensation of someone massaging Decon gel onto the back of her neck and the tips of her ears. *What the…* "The most reasonable answer is that he will be exposed to a biohazard and have to spend several hours in Decon with a non-human female, applying Decon gel."

Archer looked at T'Pol, eyes wide, "Now that's interesting. *Cap'n you don't know the half of it!* Why is that the most reasonable answer?"

"Commander Tucker has already been in that situation on a number of occasions. It is logical to assume that it will occur again. Based on a statistical analysis of past events, he has a higher probability than most other crew members of being exposed to unexpected biohazards."

Archer shook his head, "Won't work. That might be the most likely thing to happen, but the idea of the pool is to think of something that has never happened to him before."

"If the choice must be an event that has never occurred before, then what is the basis for selection? It would appear that there is no logic associated with this 'pool'."

"Of course not, the fun is in dreaming up something truly unexpected and outrageous."

"With so significant a prize for the winner, I believe I shall have to give this matter more thought. Perhaps something 'outrageous' will come to mind."

Archer looked bemused, "What's going on T'Pol? That's three times in as many days that I've heard you tell a joke."

Resting her teacup delicately on the table, T'Pol turned to give him her best, bland Vulcan gaze.

"My studies of ancient Vulcan philosophies have led me to a greater understanding of various aspects of human behavior. As you have always encouraged me to increase my interactions with the crew on a social level, I have been using this new understanding to try to mimic various conversational methods that I have witnessed, either among the crew or in Commander Tucker's movie selections. Have I have applied the technique incorrectly?"

"No, no, you're doing just fine. It just kind of took us by surprise."

"It is gratifying to know that. However, at the moment I still have some work to accomplish before retiring. Good night Captain, Commanders."

She rose and strode out of the room before any of them could collect their wits, effectively ending the conversation and leaving three stunned men staring after her.

Archer recovered first. "Well, I should get back to work as well. I still have a stack of crew evaluations to review."

His words signaled an end to the evening. The three men rose from the table and departed for their various destinations.

Trip strode briskly into the room as soon as T'Pol opened the door to her quarters. "What in the world was THAT all about?"

"I sensed that you wished to divert the Captain away from pondering your hypothetical sexual activities. I took steps to redirect his attention elsewhere."

"Yeah, well, you sure succeeded. Now he's wonderin' what's happenin' to you."

"I provided a perfectly logical explanation for my behavior. I also pointed out that it was, to use an earth phrase, "all HIS fault" for encouraging me to act more like a human."

"Maybe, but I'm not real sure he believed that explanation any more than I did. Anyway, I want to talk about something else. Right when you mentioned the Decon chamber, I seemed to be in the chamber, only I was you, and I, that is Trip…this is pretty confusing to describe, I was you and I (Trip) was rubbing Decon gel into my…your…OUR ears and neck. Darn it! How do you Vulcans keep this stuff straight?"

"We do not normally attempt to describe such things in words. Direct experience through the bond is much simpler and more direct."

"Okaaay, but how do you know that you're getting it right; that what you are receiving is what the other person is sending?"

"Such concerns are only an issue with the very young. As ability improves, a level of certainty develops regarding such things. As an example, you know you received a valid image this evening based on what I was saying at the time."

"Uh Huh. In that case, I guess you really enjoyed having me rub that gel all over you. At least that's what it seemed like you were feeling at the time.

"It WAS a pleasurable sensation."

"Yeah (sigh) I always kind of enjoyed those Decon sessions. All warm and slippery. Of course they were sort of frustratin' as well, considering that I never figured on getting my hands on the rest of you." He leered at her playfully, "Maybe we should volunteer for an away mission again sometime soon." *On the other hand, maybe I should just offer to wash your back for you*

An image of a steamy shower bloomed in his mind, him rubbing the back of her neck and ears with sandalwood scented soap. His reverie was just getting to the really interesting parts when it was abruptly broken off by T'Pol.

"I'm impressed. Your skill is progressing very rapidly."

Trip drew a deep breath and looked her in the eye, "Thanks…I think. That wasn't one of MY memories so I guess that little interlude in the shower came from your mind?" *…and how come I don't remember it? I'm not likely to have forgotten something that intense.*

"Indeed. Do you remember me telling you about the nightmares I was having in the expanse?"

"THAT was what from your dream? Now I'm impressed, I didn't know Vulcan's had that much imagination."

"Normally we do not dream…in that fashion. That is why the dreams were so disconcerting."

"An here I was thinkin' that trying to kill me was what bothered you."

"That is also true."

"Glad to hear it. So, what's on the agenda tonight?"

"I think we should start with some neuropressure to help you relax. During the session I will supplement the conversation with other information through the bond in order to help you gain confidence in the accuracy of your reception."

Trip was already taking off his shoes, "Sounds good to me, you wanna start with feet?" A mental picture formed of him massaging her cute little toes, which he promptly sent her direction. What he got back was his own feet, fresh from an entire day is work shoes, mere inches from her oversensitive Vulcan nose.

*Phew! What is that disgusting sme…* He froze. Slipping his shoe back on, he slowly straightened back up. "On the other hand, maybe we should start with shoulders."

"We may start with feet if you wish."

"Damn T'Pol, why didn't you just tell me my feet stank. I'd have washed them before we started."

"I have long since trained myself to ignore the various odors associated with being among humans. Doctor Phlox's olfactory inhibitors are also a great help…as are the extra candles I always light before we start."

"Seems to me that you didn't do all that good a job of ignoring them if you could send the smell along with the image. I'll be back in a minute." He strode off to bathroom and proceeded to scrub both feet thoroughly, removing several layers of skin in the process.

Returning to the room, he dropped his shoes near the door and padded barefoot back to where she was sitting. "NOW we can start with feet."

T'Pol glanced down at his feet, noted their bright pink color, and simply nodded assent, turning to stretch out on her side in preparation.

A long time later Trip gazed up at her from his position on the floor, "Your turn. Lie down on your back".

"I think perhaps we have done enough for one evening."

"I am nowhere close to being done. You still owe me a lot more answers. Lie down."

Taking a close look at him, she noted that he certainly seemed more relaxed and the sparkle had returned to his eyes. She moved to comply, stretching out with her head resting between his knees as he knelt above her. He leaned forward wrapped his hands around her sides and began to work his thumbs into her stomach, squeezing slightly with the fingers that wrapped around her sides and behind her back.

"So…help me out here, I still don't understand, just how this bond got created in the first place. I heard what you said about Vulcans choosin' a mate and all, but I still can't figure out what triggered it in our case."

"I believe it might have been my marriage to Koss."

"Whaaaaat?" Trip stopped moving and looked down at her, "Would you mind explainin' that to me? Because it sure doesn't seem to make much sense."

"I believe that the bond between us might have been initiated during my wedding to Koss."

Trip's voice dropped to something resembling a growl, "You're gonna have to do better than that T'Pol. That's just not LOGICAL."

"The Vulcan joining ceremony is intended to help form the initial link, which is then strengthened over time as the couple lives together and engages in the...normal activities of a marriage. Part of forming that initial link requires that the individuals concentrate their attention on each other, to the exclusion of all others in the vicinity."

"Seems to me that there's a hole the size of a shuttlecraft in your logic. Shouldn't that mean you would have developed a bond to Koss instead of me?"

"Under normal circumstances that would be the result. However I had no desire to be married to Koss nor did I wish to bond with him. I therefore focused my attention elsewhere."

"Poor Koss, I can almost feel sorry for the guy. So what were you thinking of?"

"You"

Trip dropped back to a kneeling position and stared at her, "Wait a minute, you were thinking of ME…in the middle of getting married to HIM?"

"I did not wish to be linked to him so I directed my attention along a more appealing line of thought."

His jaw dropped, "Let me get this straight, you were thinking of me, and just like that, we formed this bond".

"I did not realize that humans were capable of forming a bond. Initiating a bond requires that BOTH parties be focused completely on each other…along with a certain level of mental discipline."

"Which means that you chose the one person in the area that you thought was SAFE. I'm not sure how to take that."

"It means that I chose to think about the one person I would have preferred to have next to me at that moment. I never considered whether or not a bond could form. Only that I would have preferred you instead of him."

"Oh." His eyes softened along with his voice, "I would have preferred that too".

He finally leaned forward and resumed his attention to her abdomen, his calloused hands warm and gentle.

"Y'know, you mother told me I could stop the wedding, if I told you how I felt. I'm thinking now that maybe I should have taken her advice, 'cause it just about killed me to stand there and watch while you married him."

"My mother was wrong." *Damn, when am I going to learn to keep my big mouth shut?* "I would have proceeded with the ceremony even if you had spoken to me of your feelings. Nor would it have made a difference to the events following the ceremony."

*If she tells me about "after" the ceremony, I might just throw her out an airlock*

"I would still have departed Vulcan as soon as the guests had left and returned immediately to the Enterprise".

"You would have gone through with it anyway?" He gave up all pretense of trying to concentrate on the neuropressure and moved to sit facing her so that he could look her in the eye. She joined him, slipping into her meditation posture.

"The threat to my mother still existed. Had you spoken of your feelings, the threat would not have simply vanished. There was no logical alternative to marrying Koss. No alternative which would still have accomplished the goal of protecting her. You would only have made it more difficult for me to do that which I HAD to do."

Trip felt like pacing, hitting something, anything. He had been tearing himself apart for so long thinking about "what if", that knowing it wouldn't have changed anything left him torn between laughing and crying. He kept replaying in his mind his doubts as he had stood there, shock when she had stopped to gently kiss him on the cheek, despair as he watched her exchange vows with Koss, and most of all panic at the thought of staying on Vulcan while she was off someplace for her wedding night.

The full force of his memories crashed through her mind. She pressed back with her own memories of that day. Her desperation as she forced herself to walk through the door into the open-air ceremony. A moment of astonishing joy as she saw him standing there as if it were him waiting for her instead of Koss. A calm resolve to avoid being mind-linked to Koss forming as she walked to Trip and kissed his cheek, wanting a moment of joy to carry her through the upcoming ceremony.

For a very long time, they sat frozen, their minds linked in a sharing so complete that they would have been hard pressed to define where one began and the other ended.

Finally…after all the heartache and frustration, finally he understood. She had used memories of their times together to hold Koss at bay. Instead of concentrating on her husband, she had been replaying, in detail, conversations conducted during neuropressure sessions, working on shared projects on the ship, even that incredible night when they had first explored each other's bodies. She had narrowed the focus of her mind to these intense moments with him, not realizing that his mind had been responding in much the same way. When the ceremony had ended and the last guest had left the house, she had also left, fleeing back to the safety of the Enterprise…back to him.

She also, at last, understood. She had never really married Koss. Regardless of what others perceived, what Vulcan law and custom pronounced, even what she herself had believed at the time; the marriage to Koss had been no more substantial than her nightmares in the expanse. Her true marriage, the marriage of her heart and soul, was to the blue-eyed Earthman before her.

They had been spending most of their free time together. Trip was studying Vulcan mental disciplines that would help him cope with the cerebral side effects their bond, T'Pol learning human physical practices that would help with her cope with the physical side effects of their bond. In other words, after a couple of hours of mental exercises, the evenings usually degenerated into a free-for-all of mixed Vulcan-Human sexual explorations.

On the positive side, Trip was getting much better at managing the telepathic link, he rarely lost track of what he was doing anymore when receiving information from T'Pol. The headaches had pretty much disappeared and he was physically more relaxed than he had been in years. If he thought about her, he knew exactly where she was and what she was doing almost all the time. It wasn't quite absolute, but even when he didn't know exactly where she was, he knew that she was OK. It was like a melody inside his head, uniquely T'Pol. As long as it was there, she was fine.

On the down side, he found himself almost obsessed with watching T'Pol's escalating sexuality. She no longer strode purposefully down the halls of the ship; she damn near sashayed. The Captain and several others had mentioned that associating with humans seemed to be rubbing off on her. It wasn't that she was less Vulcan, but there was a relaxing of the strict hold she usually kept. Travis had asked if she was doing her hair differently (she wasn't) and Hoshi had asked if she had changed shades of lipstick (she didn't use any). Nobody had suggested that it was due to Trip's influence except the Captain, who had mentioned that she seemed to be getting a better handle on the nuances of human social interactions. Then again, who knew what Archer had meant by that observation?

All in all, life was mighty fine for Commander Charles Tucker III. His ship was running smoothly, the Engineering crew was starting to progress towards being the finest crop of young engineers in the fleet, he had the love and admiration *returned tenfold* of a truly amazing woman. The only dim spot was the fact that they both believed their relationship needed to be kept secret. He wanted to stand on the Bridge and shout at the top of his lungs, "I LOVE THIS WOMAN". He wanted to get down on his knee in front of the entire crew and ask her to marry him. He wanted to fall asleep in her arms each night and wake up with her each morning.

Star Fleet regulations made that impossible. They were both senior officers on the same ship. There was no place in the regulations for married couples in the same crew. There were regulations about "fraternization" between a senior officer and anyone they might have under their authority. If the Captain were unavailable, T'Pol would be in Command. Personally, Trip had never had a problem with that. The times when she had been in Command, he had taken orders from her just as he did Archer. No favoritism, no emotional games; both of them understood their place in the world and they worked together flawlessly. Being open about their relationship would only cause Star Fleet, in an excess of regulatory zeal, to try transferring one of them *which made them both sick last time* or ground them both planet side. Eventually, something would have to give, but for now they would wait. They had each other; both body and mind, and that would have to be enough.

Walking the halls towards the Captain's Mess and dinner with Archer, Malcolm and T'Pol, Trip allowed himself to reach out to her, touching minds briefly. She was in sickbay. "T'Pol? Are you OK?"

"It is just a quick checkup. Phlox thought he saw something unusual in my last bioscan and wanted to confirm it."

Panic struck,

"There IS something wrong, isn't there?"

"According to Phlox, my bioscan shows only normal biological functions. I will arrive at dinner shortly, please let the Captain know I will be a few minutes late."

She was more than a few minutes late. It was almost 30 minutes later that she walked into the Captain's Mess. During that time, Trip had been unable to get anything more than "I'm Fine" from their bond; he couldn't even tell if she was still in Sickbay. Just about the time, he was ready to head out in search of her, she strolled in with a very odd look on her face and her mind completely closed to him.

All three men rose as she approached the table. "I apologize for being late. My visit with Dr. Phlox took somewhat longer than expected.

"Trip told us you were in Sickbay, are you all right?"

"Yes Captain, I am… according to Phlox, "the picture of health".

Trip practically growled at her, "Then what took so long?"

"Trip, I really think that is between T'Pol and the Doctor, don't you? I'm just glad that Phlox didn't find anything wrong."

Malcolm chose that moment to chime in from the sidelines, "To your continued good health"; he raised his water glass to complete the toast.

For a bit things quieted down and T'Pol proceeded to have her dinner. Trip was growing more and more agitated because T'Pol wouldn't at allow him to make contact, either by eye or mind. Because he was so preoccupied, he was caught off guard when the topic of the betting pool came up.

"So Malcolm, have there been any interesting new additions to The Pool recently?"

"What pool would that be Captain?"

"You know Malcolm…The Pool…" Captain Archer nodded his head to the side to sort of point at Trip.

"Oh, THAT Pool. Yeah there have been a few rather interesting new ideas come up." Malcolm consulted a data PADD. "Let's see, after the more common variety ideas of Trip catching diseases, including an "ugly" bug which makes him even uglier than he already is…"

"Hey! I am not ugly!"

"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder mate. There are also bets on catching diseases that make him impotent, or sex-crazed, of both. I haven't quite figured out how that one is supposed to work yet."

"Maybe it cycles back and forth, or maybe he becomes sex-crazed but can't do anything about it. That sounds like his kind of luck."

"Captain…"

"There's also: Trip catches a non-human female and ends up keeping her as a pet. Trip catches a non-human female that and ends up keeping her as a concubine. Trip ends up getting married to a non-human female after he saves her life. Trip ends up getting married to a non-human female after she gets HIM pregnant. I'm not sure that one is valid since he's already been pregnant once. What do you think?"

T'Pol lowered her teacup slightly, "Since he did not get married the first time he got pregnant, this would seem to be a unique variation".

"Not you too T'Pol!"

"Let's see, of the newer entries there is: Trip gets involved with a non-human female, goes AWOL and starts a revolution on her home planet. I can certainly see that one happening. Trip develops a telepathic bond to a non-human female."

Trip began looking for a reason to escape from the room because they were getting awfully close to the truth.

"Trip gets involved with a non-human female but they have incompatible atmospheric needs. Trip gets involved with a non-human female who eats him after they mate. Sort of a black widow spider type non-human? Can't say as I can picture that one myself...spiders just don't seem your type."

"Thanks a lot."

"Trip develops a telepathic bond with a non-human female, gets married to her and they have Triplets. Hm…who do we know in the crew that is into puns, bad ones at that?"

"Buns?"

"Archer chuckled, "Puns, T'Pol. It's a form of humor in which a word with more than one meaning is used in a sentence where either meaning could be valid."

"I am not sure I understand the reference or why it is supposed to be humorous."

"Let's see if I can give you another example. If I stand three men by the wall, give you a weapon and say "Fire at Will." How would you interpret my command?"

"I would believe that you meant for me to shoot at the three men."

"Now, what if I told you that one of the three men was named Will? How would that affect your interpretation of the order?"

Silence.

"The order might mean either "shoot at the three men" or "shoot at the man named Will."

Archer sat back with a look of satisfaction. "Exactly."

"I fail to see the humor in such a vague and imprecise order."

Trip decided to try his hand at explaining the pun, especially since he was kind of a fond of them himself. "It isn't really funny as in laughter, more funny-odd, that the exact same phrase can have such wildly different meanings. It is an oddity of the English language. Some people put a great deal of energy and thought into deliberately thinking up such phrases."

"I see. They believe that they are being "clever". Interesting. However, I do not understand the pun being referred to in the last wager."

Archer was chuckling himself at that point. Conversations with T'Pol could be pretty challenging when trying to explain strange human customs.

"Adding the suffix –let to a name creates the diminutive form of the name. So, in this case, Triplets can mean either smaller copies of Trip, such as children that are very like him, or it can mean three children from a single pregnancy."

"I see. Therefore, in this case, the sentence could be literally true in both meanings, three infants who were smaller versions of the Commander. Fascinating, the ways in which humans twist their language."

"Exactly!"

"Perhaps whoever placed this wager was not aware of the inherent pun and only meant to refer to the multiple births?"

"Sure, it's possible, but unless we ask them, we won't know if that is what they meant or if they were just being clever. If they were just being clever then anything more than a single child would qualify as a win.

"This is stupid. Since I don't expect to be having ANY kids in the near future the entire discussion is kind of academic, isn't it?"

"You never planned any of the other things either. Unexpected things just seem to happen to you Trip. I think the only way to describe your luck with women is…unique. Malcolm, who placed that last wager about the "Triplets"?

"I'm not sure Captain, I don't recognize the name; perhaps it's a nickname?"

"Well…what is it?"

"It looks like 'T.H.Y.L.A…perhaps it would be pronounced Thigh-la?"

Coffee sprayed across the table as Trip vaulted forward in his chair, gasping for air. The men at the table started laughing.

"Recognize the name, do you?"

"Anybody we know?"

T'Pol sipped her tea, peaking at him over the rim of the cup.

"When...cough…when did that entry get made?"

"Let's see…it was just added in the last hour or so."

Trip's mind reached out frantically to T'Pol for confirmation. When it came, accompanied by a tiny nod as she set the cup on the table, he almost fell out of his chair. She flooded his mind with all the images and emotions she had been ruthlessly suppressing for the past several hours.

Trip gazed helplessly back and forth among the three people closest to him in the entire universe. "I didn't think it was possible…I just never thought…How could it…?"

As he floundered about, trying to complete a single coherent thought, both Archer and Malcolm stared at him in wonder. Malcolm figured it out first and looked back and forth between the sputtering Trip and serene T'Pol.

"You don't mean to say…Commander?" T'Pol gave him a confirmatory tip of her head. "That's FANTASTIC! I always thought there must be more going on…I mean that the two of you made a good couple, especially after that whole generational Enterprise alternate timeline with Lorian and all."

Archer was a bit slower to comment. "I can't say that I'm all that surprised in some ways. What will you do now?"

He barely got the words out before Trip was scrambling to get around the table to T'Pol, dropping to his knees and reaching out tentatively to place his hand on her belly.

"Are you all right? Phlox didn't find anything wrong did he? I didn't think that we could have kids, at least not without a lot of laboratory help. When…how…we need to talk. But first there is one question I have to ask. It's one I have wanted to ask you for a long time. T'Pol, will you marry me?"

T'Pol looked down at him, his gaze steady on her even though there were tears in his eyes. She gazed into his eyes and …smiled. "That would be quite acceptable."

Before she could say anything else, she found herself enveloped in an almost crushing embrace.

For the next few moments they simply held each other while Malcolm and the Captain stared in amazement. Within the embrace their minds converged, blending their emotions and sharing information. When they finally separated, they found that Malcolm had moved into the seat previously occupied by Trip, leaving Trip the empty chair nearest T'Pol.

They arranged themselves on the chairs facing the two bemused men. This would be their first test of public reaction to their relationship. There would be plenty of people on both their worlds who would object to their marriage and the birth of hybrid children. If these two, their closest friends, objected then they could certainly look forward to a very hard road ahead.

It took a few moments for Malcolm to break the silence. "That bit about Triplets. That was just a joke, right? You meant Little Trips?"

"It was not a joke. It was, in fact, the reason why I spent so much longer with the Doctor than anticipated. Multiple births are virtually unheard of among Vulcans. The advent of a triple birth, particularly across species, is causing him some concern. There is no precedent for prenatal care in such a case. There isn't even a way to calculate the expected term of the pregnancy. It will be several more weeks before he can conduct sufficiently detailed cellular scans to determine if the human or Vulcan gestational norms can be applied at all."

All three men looked a bit stunned at this announcement. Even though Trip had known from their mental sharing that she was actually having three babies, the complications involved in the pregnancy hadn't really sunk in yet. With no way to know how long the pregnancy should last or what could be considered "normal" there would be no way for the doctor to know if T'Pol and the babies were really OK. With her tiny size and slender build, a triple pregnancy in a human would be tricky, but across species?

"Does the Doctor think you are in any danger? I would love for us to have children, but I don't want to lose you either."

"For the moment, things seem to be proceeding along a "normal" pattern for an early pregnancy of almost any species. The doctor has promised to monitor all four of us very closely and is researching both human and Vulcan Obstetric texts in order to plan as best he can. He will be presenting some recommendations to you Captain, such as restricting me from planet side missions for the duration of the pregnancy, in order to reduce any risk from chemical or biological exposures. Other than that, he has expressed no concern for my life or well-being. Pregnancy is, after all, a normal biological function."

"So that's what you meant earlier…but this isn't a normal pregnancy. There are so many unknowns and variables that he really can't be sure, can he?"

"Unlikely. However, given the existence of our bond, it is quite possible that I will share a similar bond with our children and be aware of any distress they may experience. Possibly even before the Doctor could identify anything overtly abnormal."

"I hadn't thought about that. That will be kinda' handy, won't it?"

"Wait a minute…the wager did mention a telepathic bond. Are you saying that the two of you are actually linked already? That you can read each other's minds?"

"It is normal among Vulcan mates to share such a bond. It was, however, a surprise to learn that humans are also capable of forming such a bond.

Leave it to Malcolm to ask the logical question, "Hold on…if you can read each other's minds, how come Trip didn't know that you're pregnant?"

"We retain the ability to keep our thoughts private from each other, if we choose to do so. In addition, the bond is strongest during physical contact. Over distance the information transfer weakens." Trip could feel himself blushing when he realized how her comment about physical contact might be interpreted by the other two men. T'Pol turned to look at Trip as she finished her response. "I chose to suppress the information until after the Doctor had finished his examination and confirmed the pregnancy and was planning to share the news with you later this evening. I did not expect that the existence of my entry in the pool would be revealed during the evening meal."

"That's right, you won the pool. Or did you?" Malcolm looked at the others, "Since T'Pol already knew the answer, is her entry in the pool valid?"

"There's no rule against using insider information for irregular betting so I guess she wins. How about it T'Pol, do you know which movies you will chose?"

"Awara Soup, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, and Like Water for Chocolate."

"Food movies?"

"If the descriptions are accurate; these movies address human group reactions to dissimilar persons and how others react to what is referred to as "forbidden relationships". If I understand the term correctly these relationships are between persons for whom the differences are supposed to make a lasting relationship untenable. Yet in each case, the relationships do endure. I had thought that perhaps they might be instructive."

Trip rolled his eyes, "In the 20th century, they used to call those kinds of movies "chick flicks", but I think I see your point. The relationships generally survive in those stories because the individuals involved are strong willed and willing to ignore the bigots in order to make their own path through life. Yeah, we are sure going to have to make our own path aren't we. Not entirely Vulcan or Human but a blending of the two."

"So, how long have you had this bond thing anyway?"

Trip looked a bit sheepish. "Since shortly after we returned from the expanse."

Archer looked like he couldn't decide if he was annoyed or intrigued. "Do you mean to tell me that the two of you have been in telepathic communication with each other all this time and never thought to mention it to anybody?"

"The Doctor is aware of the situation and has been monitoring the progress of the bond since we first became aware of it. It was a medical issue and did not have any negative impact on the performance of our duties."

Eager to avoid annoying the Captain, Trip chimed in, "In fact, the Doctor thinks that the bond might be the reason I was immune to the Orions. Besides, it took a while before we really understood what was going on."

"Just exactly when did you figure it out?"

"Um…when I got transferred off the Enterprise. It was part of the reason why I came back. Bein' so far apart for so long was causing physical problems, headaches, and such. Besides, look what you did to my engines while I was gone."

"So you can't be stationed apart…how convenient for you both."

"Hey, this isn't something we planned. It just happened."

"Like T'Pol getting pregnant just happened?"

T'Pol gave the Captain a bemused stare. "Neither the formation of the bond nor the pregnancy could have been predicted. In fact, both should have been physiologically impossible. However, both are now facts that must be managed."

"Two of my senior officers have been keeping house right under my nose and I have been blind to that fact. How would you suggest I "manage" that? Starfleet will certainly transfer you dirt side for the duration of the pregnancy and since you two can't be separated, that means I lose my two senior officers. Since there are no allowances for families onboard Starfleet ships, they won't let you come back afterwards either. Especially not since you will be married to each other, the regulations are pretty clear about relationships within the Chain of Command. You'll be lucky if some damn fool bureaucrat doesn't try to court-martial you both."

Trip stared, "I never thought that you of all people would react this way. You're acting like we are a couple of teenagers caught in the act. I had hoped that as our friend you would be supportive. You need us both here and you know it. There isn't anybody better qualified to deliver these babies than Phlox, so it makes no sense to transfer us for medical reasons and you know that as well. As for court-martials, I want to see anybody try." He looked at T'Pol then back at the Captain. "If we have to, we'll resign from Starfleet, but we will NOT be separated by the bean-counters down in Starfleet Headquarters."

Archer sat back and looked at the two of them. T'Pol looked composed and Trip looked like he was ready to take on all comers. A quick glance at Malcolm showed that he was behind them all the way.

"Hang onto that attitude Trip; you're going to need it. Don't get me wrong, as your friend I am delighted that you have found each other and I would be thrilled to officiate at the wedding, if you want to have it here on the ship. However, the problem of the bureaucrats won't go away just by wishing it. I'm not sure how much I can do in this situation but I'm willing to try. It may be that the best you can hope for is a transfer downside."

Malcolm finally found his voice. "Now that the Xindi war is over and we are at peace again, hasn't there been talk of shifting us back to primarily long range exploration? Most people don't really want to be separated from their loved ones for years at a time and there is plenty of good evidence that long term voyages tend to be more stable with families along."

"That's a good point Captain, d'you think we could convince Starfleet to allow for families onboard if the Enterprise were heading out on a multi-year exploratory mission? T'Pol and I would just be one of a number of families then. No different from any other family."

"No different huh? How many other Human-Vulcan couples do you think we will have volunteering to join the crew?"

"You know what I mean Captain. If we were the only shipboard family in Starfleet, it would look like special treatment and make things even worse. If there are a number of families…well then we would only be dealing with problems from interspecies prejudice instead of both that and people angry about special treatment from the higher ups."

"I could resign my Starfleet commission and revert to being a scientific advisor if necessary. That would remove me from any position of authority over my mate."

"Y'know Cap'n, it might not be a bad idea to ask Travis to help out with the family related arguments. Having grown up on a family run ship doing deep space runs, he might have some insights into why families are a good idea on long trips."

"Not a bad idea Malcolm. I think we need to have a major strategy session if we are going to pull this off. In the meantime, you two keep a low profile and let's keep your engagement and impending parenthood quiet for the moment. Strictly need to know while we try to get Starfleet to see things our way."

"It went just as we planned. Once they agreed that the Enterprise should undertake a long range, multi-year exploration mission, it wasn't that difficult to convince them that families would be a good idea, on a trial basis of course. As soon as the new regulation was signed, with sub-regs for allowing married couples to serve together as long as they served in different departments and were within a single rank step of each other…I handed them invitations to your wedding. You should have seen the looks on their faces. They were absolutely stunned. What really amazes me is that we got the whole thing through them and signed in less than a month."

Enterprise Shuttle Deck
The wedding took place several days after the new regulations were signed. It was, of course, held onboard the Enterprise. In keeping with their stated desire to blend both of their cultures within their lives, the ceremony was neither Vulcan nor Earth based. As they both felt that their marriage had truly begun with their bonding during T'Pol's Vulcan wedding, they felt no need to recreate that traditional event. Nor did they feel the need for a typical human ceremony with its religious overtones.

The groom wore Vulcan robes in the tan and brown of the Vulcan desert while the bride wore the emerald green of the Earth's lush vegetation. T'Pol was attended by Ensign Sato of Earth and V'Lar of Vulcan and Trip was attended by Soval of Vulcan and Lt. Reed of Earth. Trip's entire family came up for the ceremony; as T'Pol had no living immediate relatives she invited T'Pau and Phlox to stand as her family. The entire crew showed up to celebrate with them. Captain Archer officiated, providing a simple, eloquent affirmation of their commitment to each other. A reception followed immediately afterwards in the Space dock Reception Hall, it being the only place large enough for everyone to fit and still leave room for the buffet and bar.

As they were being congratulated by both the Vulcan Ambassador and several senior Admirals from Starfleet, Doctor Phlox joined them with his carefully choreographed news.

"Congratulations!" He beamed at the assembled dignitaries in his ebullient style. "I do love a wedding. All of my wives and co-husbands had such lovely ceremonies." He turned to Trip and T'Pol, "Well it seems that the refit of the Enterprise will certainly work out nicely for everyone. I understand that the extra time needed to create family quarters will mean several additional months in port. Even with the present uncertainties regarding the period of gestation, it appears that the children will be at least a couple of months old by the time we leave space dock."

The entire group sort of pivoted to face the doctor. "What children are you referring to Doctor?"

He waved his drink about and beamed as he spoke, "Why… the newlyweds of course. Given the unknown factors involved in a cross-species pregnancy, it has been quite difficult to determine an approximate date of delivery. We are currently projecting that the births will occur sometime in either May or June…or July, according to the Earth calendar. Fortunately, with the extension of the refit through to December, even if the gestation is closer to the Vulcan norm than the Human, the births should occur well before we leave. Although we have the best in Exobiology facilities onboard, it would probably be best to remain near to a more extensive planetary medical facility, given the uncertainties of a multiple birth across species."

Trip put his arm around the small of T'Pol's back and grinned at her. T'Pol nodded her head in acknowledgment of the Doctor's statement. "That would appear to be a very reasonable precaution."

Even the Vulcan Ambassador looked a bit shocked by the Doctor's exuberant announcement. It did not take long for them to realize that the entire argument about families and long-term missions had been a cover up. They had been suckered and they knew it. Without realizing it, having both signed the new policies and attended the wedding ceremony, they had provided public acknowledgement and approval of not only the marriage but the children that might result as well.

Admiral Forrest reacted first. "Archer. He set us up. When I get my hands on him…wait a minute. Doctor, you said children. Is T'Pol having Twins?"

Trip chuckled as T'Pol answered with a straight face, "Triplets".