Title: One Night On Earth
Summary: With war on the horizon, it becomes harder for the crews of Starfleet's two warp 5 ships to get home. For just one night, Captain's Archer and Hernandez can speak face to face about their orders, their ships and most of all, the gossip of being home.

As so many stories begin at the moment, this was a roleplay over on Tumblr, my fabulous Archer (aka Kuka) and I were playing this out and, originally, it was supposed to be quite serious. But give two characters who love each other a chance to play, they will. So. Massive thanks to my co-author for this piece, Kuka. *mwah*

It had been six months. Six long, tiring and devastating months, but finally Erika Hernandez and Jonathan Archer were finally both on Earth at the same time. The timing couldn't have been better, either, as the war pushed closer to being officially declared, Columbia and Enterprise were being sent on progressively more dangerous missions, and right now, all she wanted was to see for herself that he was alright, as well as discuss the recent intelligence reports.

She'd been lucky to get a couple of messages through to Enterprise the day before, Enterprise had been having a lot of problems, but she and Jon had agreed to meet at Madam Cho's. A favourite with Starfleeters now, and as she looked around she spotted a few junior officers she knew. When Jon finally walked in she refrained herself from standing up and waving. A second after he spotted her his face cracked into a grin that didn't fade as he slid into the seat opposite her. "Made it this time! Surprised?" She almost laughed at his remembrance of the tactical meeting with Shran he'd missed only a few weeks earlier. She had teased him relentlessly about it, and she probably always would. At the look on his face she started chuckling as she handed him a menu.

"Permanently. How did your command staff take the news that you were off ship for the night?"

"Well, given we gave most of the crew the night off on leave to make sure the repair crews had space, they weren't surprised. Malcolm wasn't too keen on Trip being in command. T'Pol had a meeting with the Vulcan Consulate and Trip needs to oversee some repairs, so it made sense. Did yours have a problem?" He asked, reaching over and taking a sip of the drink she had in front of her. She was far too used to his dining habits to even try and bat his hands away.

"Veronica is still jumpy about being in charge when I'm off the ship. She'll fall into it." She smiled, happy to see him still in one piece and more cheerful than he had been in a while. She still worried that he would slip back into the depression that had claimed him after the mission to the Expanse, but seeing him when she needed him always helped them both. "We're probably leaving again the day after tomorrow."

"I'm sure she'll do great. It will do her some good to get some command time." He finally poured his own drink from the water jug on the table, he shook his head, clearly surprised that Columbia would be leaving so quickly, they'd only been in dock for a few hours. "So soon? Enterprise is probably going to be in dock for at least two days just on the communications systems. Trip has a list of other minor repairs, so I'm sure we will be here a while. "

"I'm sure she will too, I wouldn't have hired her otherwise." she shook her head and looked at the menu she had almost memorised while she'd been waiting for him. "We only have some minor damage from a skirmish to repair, take on some more supplies." She sighed, and looked towards the window before she looked back at him. "I pick up our orders from Admiral Gardner tomorrow."

Jon smiled at her, studying her face for a moment before he continued, she wondered what he'd seen, had she changed that much in 6 months. "We don't need so many supplies, we just left. The communications system just seemed to collapse and take a few other systems with them." His voice turned more businesslike, and they both switched, mentally, from friends to Captains. "Do you have any hint of what the orders will be about?"

"We gave a lot of aid out toward Rigel." She looked around and leaned toward him over the table, dropping her voice to barely above a whisper. "Have you seen the Andorian intelligence reports?"

He mirrored her actions, leaning down and whispering at the same level. "I received them, but I haven't had a chance to read them yet. I take it there is something important I should be look for."

She looked around again, wary of the public place they were in. "We shouldn't talk about this in public. It's classified." She shook her head, sitting back again, making it clear she wasn't going to risk talking about it publically.

"Perhaps we should get some take-out and go to my place. Its a bit more secure, and now you have me interested." Jon nodded then suggested after thinking the options over, and her place was the other side of town.

"That might be a plan. I'll have spring rolls and egg drop soup. Starfleet discount applies too." She stood up and motioned for him to walk up the aisle before her.

"I'll have that as well, as well as an extra serving of spring rolls and rice wine." He ordered, handing over the chip card and their proof of service cards, she shook her head as he batted her hands away from the bags. He lead her down the backstreets, and she began to remember the way, keeping up with him. "Welcome to La Casa de Archer," he stated with a smile as he typed in his entrance code and motioned for her to enter his apartment. "I don't believe you have been here since I remodelled."

"I don't think so either. It's been a while since we had reason to come to either of our Earth apartments" She smiled, unzipping her jacket as she sat down on the sofa. "I forgot how close to downtown you lived." The smell of the food wafting over her, reminding her how much she'd missed authentic Chinese food.

"I do recall you complained about the night noise," he teased. His grin huge as she followed him with her eyes, the open plan room helpful for the conversation "The walls are better at keeping it out now. What do you want first. Spring rolls or soup? Or both?"

"Just bring both, and the night noise wasn't all downtown," she looked around at the pictures on the walls and the cupboards. Seeing several of Jonathan's friends and family, a few of the two of them. One of Porthos, which reminded her, she hadn't been greeted by the Beagle. "Did you leave Porthos on Enterprise tonight?"

"Yeah, He seemed to be fond of staying with Hoshi and Malcolm lately. Although," he added with a pointed look while serving the food, "That plateful of cheese might have something to do with it."

"The cheese is probably helpful." She rested her chin on her hand, thinking about the intelligence reports. "Think, when you read the intelligence reports you'll already know basically what's going on."

"So, what exactly do I have to look forward to?" he sat beside her, putting the plates and the food on the coffee table in front of them.

She picked up a glass of the wine and took a sip while she thought of how to phrase the report she had read, and the proposed mission to combat it. "Shran's fleet picked up a sensor ghost as they returned from a mission the far side of Corridan." She took a deep breath as she remembered the argument she had had with Shran a week earlier when he had transmitted the data. "The coalition governments have been in a closed door meeting for two days about a possible mission to see if it's the Romulan fleet as it's rumoured to be."

"Does Shran think it it's possible?" Jon frowned. Swallowing a bit of his spring roll as he watched her

"Yes, and so do I. There have been enough attacks on Cargo ships out that way." She shook her head, knowing that he must feel her discomfort that the Romulans could be so close to a Coalition world. "If the mission is approved, Gardner thinks they'll send Columbia, Republic and Lovell to inspect. I wouldn't be happy being the only NX class, but Enterpriseis considered 'more important'." She added the last two words in quotations, trying to hide her disdain of the way that had been described. Jon's frown on deepened, and she could see his annoyance at Enterprise possibly being sidelined for a mission as important as this.

"Enterprise is docked until its communications system is truly fixed. We can't function without a comm system that works. I wish the NX-03 was finished. I don't like there only being one ship, as grand as Columbia is, with warp 5. I'm going to have to talk to Malcolm about upgrading our weapons. It seems like we will need a little more of a punch if the Romulans continue in this manner."

Erika nodded, agreeing with everything he'd said. "If Malcolm has any ideas for Columbia I'd be grateful. Kiona's a good tactician, but my crew don't have the experience yet." She sighed even as she took some of her soup. "This could all be speculation, and we could be sent back out to patrol the shipping lanes. I just have a bad feeling about it, and honestly, I'd rather not only take three ships, two of them being Intrepid-class, out to Corridan to spy on a potential Romulan fleet."

I'll be sure to have Malcolm transfer any ideas he has to Kiona. He's probably had a list of upgrades he wants for months." He paused, picking up the padd on the table and clearly sending a message to Reed. "Perhaps we can get both ships ready by the time you ship out and we can join you."

"I can ask to stay a few extra days. I'd feel better having Enterprise with us." She smiled at him with a chuckle "not to mention, you know more about Romulan tactics than I do. With your habit for trouble" She teased lightly, a smirk on her face.

"I would feel better with both of our tactics together working against the threat. And the one time I came across the Romulans shouldn't count. It was the Vulcans' fault." He smiled, the joke he'd made playing behind the smile.

"It's always the Vulcans' fault" She laughed, placing her hand on his knee. "I'd feel much happier about the odds with both our ships out there. The fastest and best armed ships in the coalition should be paired together for these missions" She sipped her wine again as she stared off, worried about the orders that might be given in the morning. Worried that she might be taking her ship into a dangerous situation with little to no intelligence or information.

"There is nothing we can do but worry at this point. I've sent a message to Malcolm about the weapons upgrade, and Hoshi will probably know through him to try and complete the comm repairs a little faster. I suppose we should try to relax and rest up before we have to think of strategies with the Brass."

"Relaxing seems like an alien concept." She said as she yawned, before she looked to him again. "And worrying seems to be all I do. Want to come along to my meeting with Gardner tomorrow?" She asked, only half joking, she was sure her argument for Columbia to wait until Enterprise was ready would carry more weight if Jon backed her on it.

"Sure, if they let me," he responded, standing to gather their empty dishes. He brought a pair of tiramisu cupcakes over to the table after he put the dishes away, he slid onto the sofa again beside her "I need to go to explain I want Enterprise there."

"Gardner doesn't have the balls to stop you going anywhere." She pointed out, "He might be the Admiral, but you call the shots. He knows that and I know that. I think that's partly why he always recalls Columbia when Enterprise is on patrol." She smiled, knowing that he knew that fact too, all the while looking at the cupcake he handed to her. "I can't believe you remembered I like these."

"He knows I usually have sound judgement, and if I don't, Trip and T'Pol will make sure to make me rethink my decisions. And of course I remembered. Although to be fair, not many people resist the Chef's cupcakes." He jumped up again, starting toward the kitchen. "Would you like some coffee with your cupcake?"

"Yeah, can't generally fault Trip" as always, she avoided mentioning Commander T'Pol, it wasn't that she didn't like the Vulcan, she just didn't know her well enough to pass judgement. "Love some, you remember how I take it?"

"I should," he smirked. "I'll go make it. Why don't you pick something for us to watch?"

She laughed and started flicking through the selections. "That movie is due to start. The one you were asking me about last year. I don't know how I remember that. You said you wanted to see it though."

"Well, then start it, I'll be right in. So what is this movie about again?" He asked as he slid onto the sofa, putting the coffee on the table beside the cupcakes.

"It's a World War III setting, I've not actually seen it myself, it won all the awards though." She smiled, it had been a long while since they had sat and watched a movie together. "So if it sucks, blame the academy."

"I must admit that their score card lately has not been the best. They did let that remake of Ishtar get an oscar." He moved a little closer, wrapping his arm around her shoulders and giving her arm a gentle squeeze.

"Don't remind me, and then there was that Andorian drama last year, where everybody died." She leant into him a little, while she ticked off the bad movies that had won the awards "and don't forget the remake of the Matrix. When will they learn to leave the classics alone?"

"They never do. They think they have a good thing and want to continue that good thing untill it dies. How many times did they remake the Harry Potter films?" He muttered, almost directly in her ear.

"I think the last count was every 20 years or so the remake them, and change next to nothing." She smiled to him, resting her forehead against his cheek. "They are due another remake soon. Did you know there is a movie being written from the public reports from the Expanse. Completely inaccurate, of course. Tim McNeill is being tipped to play you." She smiled a little, watching as a second of shock passed behind his eyes and she silently thanked Sidra Valerian's incredible ear for hearing that bit of gossip when they returned to Earth.

"Really? They think I look like Tim McNeill? I thought I was more of a Will Rockwell. You of course would be played by Angelica Morgani." He smiled, and she decided to take the compliment as it was meant.

"Tim McNeill is more rugged" She teased a little, leaning back a little further so she could see his eyes. "Though, I do prefer Rockwell… He's better looking." She grinned, just watching him a second before leaning up and kissing him lightly.

He leant in, wrapping his free arm around her and moving her slightly, into a more comfortable position as he deepened the kiss. She thought it was almost inevitable, the two of them had never actually made it past the credits of a movie before, and they were keeping their record on that. At least it would take the worries away for the night, the war was her worry for the morning, for tonight she would just enjoy one night on Earth.