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Redivivus- Ch 9
Author - Hopeful Romantic
Fan Fiction Main Page | Stories sorted by title, author, genre, and rating
Series Summary: The Reconnecting series is a reinterpretation of certain events of Season 4 that went AU shortly after Home. It focuses on the relationships of Trip and T'Pol and their extended family, and features characters introduced in Season 3, as well as original characters.
"Too Late Now" lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner
A/N: Thanks as always to my betas boushh and Stephanie.
Closing Author’s Notes at the end of the chapter.
Chapter 9: Home Again
Captain’s Ready Room
Captain’s Starlog, September 23rd, 2154. Thanks to the use of several Xindi subspace vortexes, the coordinates of which were provided by Councillor Mallora, Columbia was able to traverse the former Expanse in days instead of weeks. We are now approaching the Sol system, and the crew is visibly eager to return home after our lengthy, but very productive, maiden voyage.
Hernandez took another sip of tea as she looked over the latest neat pile of padds that Commander Lorian had left for her to review. The bane of the XO’s job is the paddwork, she recalled with a wry smile. Lorian had pulled another all-nighter in engineering to monitor the stability of the intermix; those last two vortex jumps had been a little rocky. Now he was on the bridge, getting updates from each department as they attended to the myriad details involved in preparing for Columbia’s return to port. He had certainly proven the old adage that Vulcans could dispense with sleep for long stretches if—
Her comm beeped. “Captain,” came Yarrow’s voice, “we need you on the bridge right now.”
There was an uncommon urgency to the comm officer’s voice. Moreover, it wasn’t Lorian calling, though he had the conn. Both were warning bells to Hernandez.
She bolted out of the ready room and onto the bridge, looking at once to the center seat. Lorian was on his knees in front of the command chair, as if he had collapsed. He appeared almost catatonic: stock-still, eyes open and unseeing.
Exhaustion? Hardly likely, for a Vulcan. Then Hernandez saw the anguish in Lorian’s expression. Whatever was happening, it probably had something to do with his empathic sense.
Several crewmen hovered near the commander, their faces filled with concern. Lorian was well-liked, and famous for his trademark calm; it was natural that personnel would be upset to see him like this. But it wouldn’t do for one of them to help him up. Lorian’s empathic ability was not yet public knowledge, and the crew wasn’t aware that being touched had become something of a burden to him. Quickly, Hernandez stepped forward. “Give him room.”
As the crewmen backed away, Hernandez knelt beside Lorian, being careful not to touch him. The last thing he needed now was another dose of emotion. “Commander? It’s Captain Hernandez. Can you understand me?”
No response. He seemed desperately focused on something far away. He was breathing hard, clearly fighting for control. He spoke, his voice agonized. “I—I can’t...”
“Dr. Motumbo is on his way,” Yarrow told Hernandez.
The captain nodded, keeping a tight lid on her concern. Lorian’s control over his ability had improved slowly but steadily over the last two months; she hadn’t expected to see a setback like this. What horror had he sensed that could cause such a reaction?
She knew better than to try to shake him out of it. It was cruelly bad timing that his wife wasn’t on duty right now. “Call Lieutenant Archer up here, too.”
Yarrow nodded and started toward her console—only to stop as the turbolift opened to reveal Karyn Archer. The helm officer was barefoot, wearing damp sweats, her hair wringing wet. She must have been in the shower. Amazing, that bond of theirs.
Karyn went straight to Lorian, dropping to her knees in front of him. Gently, she touched his arm. He flinched back with a tortured gasp.
Karyn spoke quietly to him, her voice tight with concern. “I saw such darkness...”
He managed to speak again, hardly more than a whisper. “Father is dead. Mother is dying.” As his eyes focused on Karyn, he looked afraid. “It’s happening again, but this time I’m not there to save her.”
Karyn took his hand, her face filling with shock and sorrow. Behind her, the bridge personnel exchanged glances of worry and confusion.
With a start, Hernandez understood. She had read the E²’s logs after Jon recommended Lorian as chief engineer; she was aware of the sudden death of Lorian’s birth father, and that the trauma had almost killed the other T’Pol. According to the E²’s Captain Archer, Lorian’s presence, and his connection with his mother, had somehow brought her back from the brink.
My God, Tucker is dead? What the hell has happened on Enterprise?
Karyn was talking to Lorian again. “Is she able to sense you? Can you reach her?”
He shut his eyes, shaking his head. “Don’t know...”
Karyn tightened her hold on him, pressing her temple to his. “Do whatever you can to grab hold and hang on. Just hang on...”
Hernandez didn’t know what magic Karyn was working on Lorian, but the effect was immediate. His tense body relaxed and his breathing calmed. They were almost like two statues, so focused were they on the tragedy unfolding before Lorian’s inner gaze.
Beyond the circle of crewmen, Hernandez saw Dr. Motumbo step off the turbolift, taking in the situation with a single glance. He was the only other person on board who was fully informed about Lorian. He moved to Hernandez’ side. “An empathic episode?” he murmured softly, for her ears only.
She nodded. “His father’s dead.”
“He must feel the loss as strongly as his mother,” Motumbo said somberly. He nodded toward Karyn. “His wife can do more for him than I at the moment.”
Tensely, they all watched and waited. A minute passed...two.
With a sharp intake of breath, Lorian frowned. Suddenly his eyes snapped open. He and Karyn stared at each other in amazement. “He’s alive!” they said together.
Hernandez was lost. “What happened?”
Lorian didn’t answer immediately; he bowed his head, working to regain his composure. Still holding him, Karyn smiled up at Hernandez. “They’re both all right,” she said. “I don’t understand it, but...Commander Tucker was dead. Lorian felt it. But now, somehow, he’s alive again.”
Hernandez exhaled with relief. She didn’t realize she’d been holding her breath. “Thank God.”
With the crisis apparently over, the crew was starting to buzz. “Enterprise must be twenty light years away.”...“How could he know what was happening there?”...“Must be a Vulcan thing.”
Then Ensign Shaughnessy spoke up from the helm, loud enough for all to hear. “Did he call Commander Tucker his father?”
Lorian and Karyn glanced apologetically at Hernandez, who just smiled. What’s another trade secret or two falling by the wayside?
As if reading her mind, Motumbo said, “I’ll leave the explaining to you, Captain. Right now I’d like to see Commander Lorian in sickbay.”
“That is unnecessary,” Lorian protested. “I’m fine now.”
“Let’s make sure of that,” Karyn interjected. She helped him to his feet and led him to the lift, with Motumbo following.
After they left, Hernandez turned to Yarrow. “Contact Enterprise. Ask them if all is well.”
“Aye, ma’am.” The comm officer returned to her station, while the rest of the bridge crew waited expectantly for the captain’s explanation.
Hernandez silently thanked Mallora for blowing the lid off that “highly classified” E² nonsense for her. “About the Tucker business...it started in the Expanse...”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Callahan’s Jazz Club
Kyle was at the bar, finishing up the weekly inventory of the stock, when Callahan emerged from the alcove that led upstairs to his office. “Yo, Kyle! There’s a call for you.”
Kyle glanced curiously at the bar terminal. “Nothing came in down here.”
“That’s ‘cause the thing was loaded with security protocols,” Callahan said. “The only comm terminal set up to accept those is up in the office.”
Security...? “Oh my God, he’s calling me?” Kyle jumped up and raced for the alcove, as Callahan watched with a grin.
As she charged up the stairs, she wondered what would prompt a call. She and Jon had communicated through letters since Enterprise left in July. Was it good news? Or wait—bad news? What if something terrible had happened? Anxious now, she sat down at Callahan’s comm terminal and opened the channel.
Jon appeared on the screen. He looked all right...handsome as always in uniform, relaxed, maybe a little tired. There was something different, though...almost a glow about him, as if he’d been reborn somehow...transformed by a wondrous epiphany.
As soon as he saw her, he smiled. “Hi.”
She smiled back, hugely relieved. “Hi yourself.”
“How are you?”
“Fine.” Now that I know you’re okay, I’m fine. “I miss you to pieces, but Callahan’s keeping me busy. How about you?”
He nodded. “I’m good. And I can’t even put into words how much I’ve missed you.”
She felt a thrill of happiness. “How soon will you be home?”
“A couple of weeks.” Jon cocked his head at her. “You’re wondering why I’ve called.”
“Now that you mention it...”
“I wanted to tell you...” He smiled again, a smile that seemed to transcend the light-years of distance between them and touch her very soul. “I’m in love with you, Kyle. Completely. I’ve never been so certain about anything.”
Her heart began racing, and tears sprang to her eyes. “Jon...”
“I had this idea that I would tell you in person, over a romantic candlelight dinner,” he continued. “But now I don’t want to wait another moment.”
There were so many questions Kyle wanted to ask him. Why now? What happened to you out there? What’s different? But she couldn’t talk around the lump in her throat.
Jon rushed on, like a nervous teenager. “I haven’t told you in my letters because I thought it would be presumptuous of me—after all, we’ve only been together face-to-face for a few hours...”
Finally, she found her voice. “I’m in love with you, too.”
He smiled with equal parts happiness and relief. “I thought I was crazy. This has all happened so quickly...”
“I guess it’s like that when you finally find the right person.” Kyle didn’t know whether she was laughing or crying, or both. But it didn’t matter. She was over the moon. “So? What are we waiting for?”
He laughed. “You’re a bold lass! All right then, will you marry me?”
“Hell yes!” she declared joyfully.
“Good!” He sat back, still chuckling. “This is going to be a long two weeks.”
“Volunteer for overtime. It helps.”
“You’re an authority on this, are you?” he said with amusement.
“Are you kidding? I am the queen of overtime.”
Jon’s smile was gentle now, full of affection. “I’ll see you soon.”
“I’ll be waiting,” she replied.
He gazed at her for a moment longer, then ended the transmission. Kyle regarded the dark screen with a wistful sigh. This is gonna be the longest two weeks of my life.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
T’Pol and Trip sat together at her desk, raptly watching the monitor viewscreen. On the other end of the call were Lorian and Karyn, in their quarters on Columbia. Lorian was searching for words to describe what must have been indescribable. “I remember a black void, a nothingness. You were there, Mother...the emotions were so intense, it was almost as if I were there with you.”
“You could see it?” Trip asked. “That thing you told us about, where the emotions manifest visually?”
Lorian nodded. “I felt Mother’s despair...the agony of your broken bond.”
Trip frowned thoughtfully. “I’d just about convinced myself that the bond hadn’t been severed, and somehow that was how I came back.”
“The pain of a severed bond is unmistakable,” Lorian replied quietly. “I recognized it...from years ago.”
Trip and T’Pol both knew he was speaking of his birth father’s death, and his birth mother’s descent into a hellish grief from which she almost didn’t emerge.
Lorian’s somber face lightened. “Then Mother found you, Father. I could see her gathering you up and nurturing you with her spirit, then bearing you back from the darkness, to the realm of light and life. There was joy instead of grief.”
Trip turned to T’Pol with a smile. “How about that. You saved me.”
T’Pol shook her head in wonder. “It is a remarkable account. I wish I could remember...”
“None of this is coming back to you?” Karyn asked.
“Nothing, after Trip’s death.” T’Pol found it surprisingly difficult to speak the word even now, with Trip safe at her side, alive and well. “Dr. Phlox has theorized that oxygen deprivation may account for the memory loss.”
“It’s a blank to me, too,” Trip said. “Although I have a better reason for not remembering, being dead an’ all.”
Lorian nodded with faint resignation. “Then you can shed no light on the others who were there.”
“Others?” T’Pol echoed curiously.
“When?” Trip added. “Where?”
“In the void,” Lorian replied. “Two distinct presences, quite powerful, at the edge of Mother’s consciousness. I became aware of them shortly before I felt your presence, Father.”
T’Pol was intrigued. “Interesting. Could you determine their intent, if not their identity?”
Lorian pondered the question. “I sensed no malevolence from them...more of an expectation. From one in particular, I felt hope, compassion...even exhilaration, as my vision of the void faded.”
Trip shrugged. “Ghosts, maybe? Trapped there between life and death, like T’Pol was?”
“Perhaps they were the Spirits of the Skies,” Karyn suggested. “Ikaarans believe they guide you to your next life, or watch over you in this one.”
“Like guardian angels.” Trip smiled. “Whoever they were, it’s comforting to think we weren’t alone.” He took T’Pol’s hand. “Maybe they brought me back from death, so you could bring me back to life.”
“Supernatural guides?” T’Pol eyed him with deadpan Vulcan skepticism. “It is a decidedly unscientific hypothesis.”
“The experience is open to interpretation,” Lorian offered. “I was, after all, perceiving it through a filter of emotion.”
“In the absence of empirical evidence to the contrary, guardian angels work for me,” Trip said with satisfaction.
Callahan’s Jazz Club
It was Friday night, and the joint was packed to the rafters. Kyle had been working her tail off at the bar, which was just fine with her. Enterprise had returned, and she preferred to be busy rather than keep wondering when she would see Jon. He probably had a hell of a lot of business to attend to, after being gone for three months.
Of course, the guys were teasing her mercilessly. Every time she turned around, there was Enrique or Sammy or Don. “Did he call yet? The ship is back, y’know. Have you heard from him?” Even Patch, the drummer, who never said much at all, circled past the bar a couple of times. “He hasn’t called yet? But the ship is back...”
When Callahan turned up at barside a couple of hours into her shift, Kyle put up a hand in warning. “If you ask me whether he’s called yet, I’ll dump a drink on your head, Boss. I swear.”
“Not gonna ask,” Callahan said.
He took her bar towel from her hand. “Seein’ as how I know why he hasn’t called.”
She stopped, staring expectantly at him. “Well? Tell me!”
Callahan smiled. “Ask him yourself.”
She bounded out from behind the bar, heading toward the back, assuming Jon would have slipped in unnoticed, staying out of the public eye—
Callahan snagged her by the arm. “Wrong way, hon.” He turned her to face the main entrance.
Jon was striding into the room, trailed by a few reporter-types with headset-cams. He was wearing civvies, a forest-green turtleneck and slacks, but with his height and bearing, he was still an impressive sight. Heads turned his way from every corner of the room, and a knot of admirers quickly gathered around him.
Kyle felt a rush of joy at the sight of him—but she wasn’t sure what to do. Jump into his arms? Play it cool? She was thrown for a loop, seeing him in the smack middle of the club, surrounded by people. Then their eyes met and he smiled at her, and she practically melted.
He worked his way across the room to stand before her. “Hello there,” he said pleasantly.
“Nice to see you again, Captain,” she replied smoothly, following his lead.
He leaned closer. “Have you ever imagined living life in a fishbowl? Having your every move documented, photographers taking your picture every time you turn around, reporters asking all sorts of personal questions?” His green eyes twinkled. “All because of who you’re dating?”
Here it was, the big moment where she and Jon went public, and her life changed forever. She could practically feel all the eyes in the room trained on them, not to mention the reporters’ cameras. “It must be quite a challenge,” she remarked.
Jon raised his eyebrows expectantly. “So are you game?”
She smiled. “Try me.”
He took her hand and pulled her into a warm embrace. She heard whispers of reaction from the onlookers. “It feels good to hold you again,” he said.
She sighed happily. “I’m so glad you’re home.”
He pulled back, glancing toward the stage, where the guys in the band were getting ready to begin another set. “How are you on the dance floor?”
Kyle shrugged. “I know enough to keep from falling on my face.”
He bowed over her hand. “Shall we, then?”
She looked hopefully at Callahan. The big man just shooed her away, grinning from ear to ear.
Jon led Kyle to the parquet dance floor. It was a surreal experience for her, watching the crowd part like the Red Sea to make way for the two of them. She knew a lot of these people, had been serving them drinks for years, but they were looking at her in a whole new way. Even the boys in the band were trading goofy grins. She’d never been the center of such attention in her life.
Jon nodded to Don, the bandleader. “Maestro.”
“What’s your pleasure, Captain?” Don asked.
“You got it.”
A moment later, the band launched into a slow-tempo rendition of “Too Late Now,” with Gene carrying the melody on his sax. Jon took Kyle in his arms and began leading her through a simple, elegant slow dance. She wasn’t any great shakes as a dancer, but it was so easy to dance with Jon. His lead was understated but steady, making her feel secure and even graceful in his arms.
Too late now to forget your smile,
He held her closer. “I thought I was never going to make it home to you.”
Too late now to forget your voice,
There was something about the way he said it, a catch in his voice, that made Kyle pull back and search his face. Suddenly she was afraid to let go of him. “What happened out there?”
“There was a virus,” Jon said quietly. “Highly contagious, fast acting, deadly. Trip and my comm officer were infected.”
“Oh my God...” Kyle knew that Trip Tucker was Jon’s closest friend.
“Dr. Phlox kept them in isolation while he tried to find a cure,” Jon went on. “The whole ship was at risk. Then I was exposed.”
She drew in an involuntary gasp.
“I did it deliberately, Kyle,” he said steadily, as he held her eyes. “I had a choice between protecting myself from the virus, and safeguarding my crew.”
It took her a long moment to absorb the wallop of stark reality he was giving her.
Jon looked away. “I watched Trip and Hoshi die...or so I thought. By some miracle that Phlox still can’t completely explain, they recovered, and so did I.”
Kyle exhaled with relief. “So you’re fine now? All of you?”
“Yes.” He paused. “It wasn’t until it was over that I had a chance to think... There’s a clarity that comes with looking death in the eye like that.”
She didn’t say anything now, just kept her focus wholly on him, letting the rest of the room fade away. Somehow, she knew this was the most important thing she would ever hear.
He regarded her gravely. “Kyle, as long as I command a ship, I will have a responsibility to the welfare of my crew. As long as I am an explorer, I will face unknown risks. I understand more than ever why tradition has ship captains pledging heart and soul to their careers.” He came to a stop, taking her hands. “But I also know how I felt when I thought I would never see you again. I knew how very much I loved you.”
She gripped his hands tightly as tears welled up in her eyes. Jon reached up and caressed her cheek, his expression warming with affection. “I’ve believed for so long that I was going to be alone all my life, but everything has changed because of you.” He paused again. “I know it won’t be easy...I’ll be gone a great deal. There will be a lot about my job that I won’t talk about, that I can never talk about. The press will be a pain...”
“Jon, my eyes are wide open,” Kyle said with calm certainty. “I understand the depth of your commitment to your work. It’s part of why I fell in love with you.” She smiled serenely. “I’ve waited my whole life for you. So I’ll put up with your job, and your secrets, and your celebrity. I’ll take all of it, as long as I have you.”
He broke into the most glorious smile she’d ever seen. “You wouldn’t believe how much I want to kiss you right now.”
“What’s stopping you?” she asked invitingly.
Jon nodded toward the knot of reporters at the other end of the dance floor, talking softly into their mics as they kept their cameras trained on the captain and his new lady friend. “The fourth estate.”
“And how thoughtful of you to bring them along.”
“I can’t wait to ditch them so we can greet each other properly.” He gave her a twirl, then pulled her close as they started dancing once more. Softly, for her alone, he began singing to the music, in a clear, pure tenor.
How could I ever close the door
As the song ended, Kyle felt an almost tangible connection between them, like an electric charge. Jon drew so close to her that she thought he was going to kiss her anyway, and to hell with the reporters. At the last moment though, he held back, his lips a hair’s-breadth from hers. “About that dinner I promised you...”
“I’m not hungry for food,” she whispered.
His eyes smoldered with desire. “Let’s get out of here.”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
When Trip and T’Pol were ushered into Soval’s office, they found the venerable ambassador at his desk, sifting through several padds. Beside him, making notations, was T’Shara, the archaeo-linguist and recent addition to the diplomatic staff.
The Enterprise officers raised their hands in the ta’al. “Sochya eh dif,” Trip said in greeting. Peace and long life.
Soval and T’Shara both rose, returning the ta’al. “It is agreeable to see you,” Soval replied. To Trip, he added, “Your accent is improving, Commander.”
“I have a good teacher,” Trip said, with a smile to T’Pol. He indicated the paddwork spread across the ambassador’s desk. “I hope we’re not intruding.”
“Not at all,” T’Shara replied, in that melodic alto that Trip remembered.
“We are preparing a collection of cultural information relevant to Earth and Starfleet,” Soval explained. “It will be distributed to the Vulcan members of the proposed officer exchange program.”
T’Pol nodded in acknowledgment. “Enterprise received word as we entered the system that the Earth/Vulcan Alliance has been formalized.”
“Finally,” Trip added under his breath.
“Diplomacy is not a thing to be rushed,” Soval remarked mildly. “The negotiations were a delicate matter, involving many dynamic personalities.” He indicated T’Shara. “I suspect the process would have taken far longer, if not for the Lady T’Shara’s facility for fostering communication between the Vulcan and human representatives. She is quite perceptive.”
“I observe,” T’Shara said modestly.
The appellation used by Soval did not escape T’Pol’s notice. “Lady T’Shara?” she said to the novice diplomat. “You have recently wed, then?”
“I have,” T’Shara confirmed.
“There must be something in the air,” Trip remarked. “Congratulations, ma’am. Who’s the lucky bondmate?”
T’Shara turned smoothly to Soval. “The ambassador.”
T’Pol was caught so completely off guard that she looked visibly surprised, while Trip’s jaw dropped. “Why didn’t you tell us you were getting married?” he exclaimed.
Soval looked faintly puzzled. “We saw no need for a public announcement.”
“I’m not talkin’ about the public—I mean us,” Trip said emphatically. “You didn’t say anything before Enterprise shipped out.”
“At that point, no plans had been made,” T’Shara explained. “The ambassador required time to consider the prospect.”
Trip was tickled. “She proposed to you?” he asked Soval.
The ambassador arched an eyebrow at his wife. “As I recall, it was a mutual agreement.”
Trip and T’Pol watched the back-and-forth with amusement. “How long did it take for him to decide?” T’Pol inquired.
“Thirty-four years,” T’Shara replied matter-of-factly.
“I wished to be certain that it was the most logical course,” Soval with dignity, and a touch of exasperation.
Trip cleared his throat to keep from laughing. He was loving this. It certainly looked as though Ambassador Cranky had finally met his match. “Uh...so anyway, did you have any luck locating a priest?”
Soval seemed grateful for the change of subject. “There was no luck involved, Commander,” he replied. “Two months ago, such a priest arrived here from Vulcan. V’Utan is well-versed in the ancient ways of Surak’s time, including marriage bonding and mindmelds. With the old rituals coming into favor again, I requested that he come here to fill a need for his knowledge and abilities.”
“You mean our wedding?” Trip beamed at him.
“No, our wedding,” Soval corrected him dryly. “But he is not averse to a marriage between a Vulcan and a human.”
“I have arranged for you to meet with V’Utan tomorrow morning,” T’Shara added.
Both officers nodded their thanks. “Your assistance is most welcome,” T’Pol said.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
As Jon ushered Kyle into his apartment, Porthos bounded up in enthusiastic greeting. Jon petted him affectionately while Kyle surveyed the spacious surroundings, decorated in warm golds and browns. “Sweet,” she said admiringly. “And the place comes complete with its own welcoming committee.”
Porthos turned to Kyle, eager to lavish the same attention on his master’s guest. As she gave the little beagle a good scratch, Jon smiled. “He sure remembers you.”
Kyle spoke to Porthos directly. “I hope you still like me after I introduce you to my cats.” She gave him a final pat and rose, crossing to the big picture window, which had a spectacular nighttime view of San Francisco Bay far below. “This is incredible.”
“I was hoping you would like it here.” Jon came up behind her, slipping his arms around her. “It’s your home too now. That is, if you think there’s enough room for both of us.”
“Are you serious? This place is huge.” She leaned back against him. “This is really happening, isn’t it?”
“Yes.” He kissed her hair. “Love you.”
“Love you, too.”
Suddenly Porthos was between them, scrabbling up Jon’s leg as far as he could reach. He barked eagerly, wagging his tail.
Kyle laughed. “Porthos wants a hug, too.”
“Let him get his own girl.” Jon turned her head to kiss her, long and deep.
Kyle reached up to caress his cheek, humming contentedly as she returned his kiss. “Why aren’t we in the bedroom?” she murmured against his mouth.
“I have no idea.” He swept her up in his arms and carried her there, kissing her the whole way.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Jon gathered Kyle into his arms as they caught their breath following another round of lovemaking. “Okay, you’ve convinced me. We’re compatible.”
She nestled closer. “I’m glad that’s settled.”
Idly, he caressed her. “Have you ever given any thought to going back and getting your doctorate? Starfleet’s warming to the idea of putting counselors on starships.”
She nodded. “I’ve thought about it, a lot. I’ve even done some research into it, and visited a couple of campuses.” She smiled. “But after you called two weeks ago, I realized I would be too busy for school, or counseling.”
“Busy doing what?”
She took his hand, lacing her fingers through his. “Raising our kids.”
He was surprised by how much joy her words gave him. “We haven’t even talked about children.”
“I’ve seen you with Karyn,” she said knowingly. “Do we really need to talk about it?”
“I love you.” He kissed her. “But you haven’t told me what you want.”
“I love kids.” She rested her chin on his chest. “I’m thinking two or three, at least. Then they’d always have someone to play with, someone to look out for. I missed having a sister or brother as I was growing up.”
Jon liked the idea of a houseful of children. “Okay, lots of kids.”
Kyle climbed on top of him, settling herself on his lap. “Let’s get to it, then.”
He stroked the smooth swell of her backside, enjoying the feel of her as she moved against him. “What’s the rush? Not that I need any urging to make love to you again.”
“When I make up my mind about something, I don’t mess around.” Kyle leaned down and kissed him hungrily.
He buried his fingers in her hair, returning her kiss with enthusiasm. “Well, I’m old-fashioned. How about we get married first?”
“Fine by me,” she said brightly. “Tomorrow?”
She pouted prettily. “Why not?”
He nuzzled her throat. “Because Trip and T’Pol are getting married in a day or two, as soon as his folks get here from Mississippi. I’d rather not take any attention away from that.”
She sighed contentedly as he kissed his way down between her breasts. “Okay. But don’t go changing your mind.”
“Never.” He rolled her underneath him and captured her mouth with his, giving her a slow, thorough kiss. “In fact, I’ll give you a preview.” He climbed out of bed to retrieve his slacks from the floor.
Kyle sat up, watching curiously as he fished out the small velvet pouch Karyn had delivered to him earlier in the day. He turned back to Kyle...stopping for a moment to admire the delectable sight of his fiancée in his bed, clad only in her long auburn hair. “God, you’re gorgeous.”
She smiled. “Thank you. You’re not so bad yourself. Now get back in here.”
He slid back into bed beside her, taking her hand. “This has been in my family for a long time.” He upended the pouch, letting Esilia’s wedding ring fall into Kyle’s open palm.
She gazed speechlessly at it for a long moment. He smiled, enjoying her reaction. When she finally looked up at him, there were tears in her eyes. “Jon, it’s beautiful.”
He closed her hand over the ring. “So it’s all right with you if we hold off until after Trip and T’Pol are married?”
“I suppose I can wait a little longer.” She eyed him coyly. “If you’ll tell me something.”
He rolled his eyes. “Uh-oh. The demands begin.”
She lay back against the pillows with a sultry smile. “Now that I’m here in bed with you, all naked and affianced, I figure I have some leeway.”
“Conniving wench. All right, ask.”
She propped herself up on one elbow. “Is Karyn your daughter?”
Jon had been expecting this question, but now that it was before him, he didn’t quite know how to go about answering it. Not without violating all sorts of security protocols, at any rate.
“She doesn’t much look like you,” Kyle went on. “But she’s such an Archer—her skill, the way she carries herself. Except you’ve only known each other for a few months, so...” She trailed off, eyeing him expectantly.
“She might as well be,” he said at last. “She is my flesh and blood...but no, not my daughter. I haven’t told you more because her background was classified by Starfleet.”
“Why in the world—” Kyle stopped herself, backing off with a rueful smile. “Sorry. We’re getting into forbidden territory, aren’t we?”
Jon could tell she was bursting with curiosity. He respected her for accepting his work without question...but it dawned on him that he could lower the barriers a little now. “Family is permitted to know some details. And as of seventeen days ago, you became family.”
“I knew there would be perks to marrying you.” Kyle snuggled against him. “Tell me a story, Jon.”
He settled back and began. “Do you believe in time travel?...”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
High Security Incarceration Facility
Arik Soong nodded approvingly as he read through the medical data on Phlox’s padd, with that uncanny speed of his. Finally he set it down beside him on the modest little desk inside his cell. “You’ve made remarkable progress these last few months, Doctor. At this rate, you should have your genetic hybridization technique perfected within a few months.”
“That’s quite a compliment, coming from you,” Phlox said graciously. Of course, Soong was essentially complimenting himself.
“I mean every word,” Soong said magnanimously. He tapped the padd. “This is the work of a genius.”
Really, the man was shameless. But Phlox was quite content to put up with Soong’s ego. The geneticist’s clandestine assistance had shaved years off Phlox’s research. “I assume your upbeat attitude is due to the return of your regular visitors.”
Soong smiled. “After more than two dreary months, with no one but Starfleet security guards for company, I now have Lieutenant Archer and her singular husband regaling me with more stories about their experiences in the Expanse. Quite harrowing at times, what they went through.”
Phlox noticed that Soong was finger-doodling on the padd, as he had done during their last visit—his way of conveying research information on the sly. “Yes,” Phlox said in agreement. “All of the crewmembers I met impressed me with their dedication and positive outlook. Quite a feat, considering the enormous pressures they faced.”
“Speaking of Columbia’s newlyweds...” Soong looked thoughtful. “You wouldn’t happen to have any medical records for Lieutenant Archer, would you? Specifically, DNA information?”
Phlox was curious. “And if I did?”
Soong shrugged casually. “She has talked quite fondly about children. It seems a given that she and Commander Lorian will want a family of their own someday. It occurred to me that after all the work you’ve done with human and Vulcan genomes, it would be a simple thing for you to develop a method by which the lieutenant and her husband could have children.”
Phlox rather liked the idea. There would be a DNA profile for Karyn Archer in the E²’s medical database. “It’s certainly worth looking into.”
His words seemed to energize Soong. “Since the subject interests me, I did a bit of preliminary research on my own. I would have jotted down my thoughts for you, but...” He raised his hands, indicating the metal restraints securely fastened to his wrists. “My jailers have an annoying habit of confiscating my work as soon as it’s down on paper. Nevertheless, if you have the inclination to pursue the matter, I would enjoy bouncing ideas back and forth with you.”
No doubt he wished he could take credit for it as well...but he seemed to understand that Phlox would have to appear to be spearheading such a project. “Thank you,” Phlox said. “Tell me, what has prompted this latest bout of generosity?”
“I’ve grown quite fond of Lieutenant Archer,” Soong replied airily. “Contributing in some small way to her future happiness would be my privilege.” He handed the padd back to Phlox. “Consider it my belated wedding gift to two of Starfleet’s finest.”
A quick glance at the padd’s settings told Phlox that Soong had deposited more hidden information during their conversation. “You’ve given me a lot to think about,” the Denobulan said.
Soong smiled slyly. “It’s amazing what you can accomplish with the right information at your fingertips.”
Phlox had to admit he was impressed by Soong’s brazenness. “Yes, it is. I appreciate your encouragement.” He motioned to the security guard outside the cell, indicating that he was ready to leave.
With a resigned sigh, Soong held his hands out, watching as the restraints locked together with a metallic clack. Then his air of blithe superiority returned. “Don’t be a stranger, Doctor. There are so few geniuses such as ourselves who are able to keep each other’s minds sufficiently engaged. It’s a moral imperative that you visit, you know.”
Despite his attempt at nonchalance, Phlox heard a subtle edge of pleading in Soong’s voice. The man must feel quite lonely, with his children dead and his dreams shattered. He was fully responsible for his imprisonment, but Phlox had hopes that Soong’s re-emerging humanity—his remorse, and his desire to make amends—would enable him to leave a positive legacy, once all was said and done.
He put a hand lightly on Soong’s shoulder. “Rest easy, Doctor. I’ll be back.”
Soong’s sans-souci façade fell away, and he gave Phlox a smile of genuine gratitude.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
It was even more beautiful than the picture Lorian had painted for Trip so many months ago.
The meditation garden was an elegant arrangement of flagstone-paved footpaths, stone sculptures, and whisper-soft fountains, a serene oasis far removed from the noisy bustle of the outside world. The morning fog had burned away, leaving the late-autumn sun shining brilliantly down on the wedding party, which had gathered at a meditation circle flanked by evergreen pines.
T’Pol, wearing her mother’s wedding robes, was a vision in flowing burgundy silk. Trip’s ceremonial robes, which T’Pol had selected from her father’s things, were a rich sable with gold trim. Lorian and Karyn, dressed in robes of the same rust color as Vulcan’s sands, stood to either side of the bride and groom, acting as best man and matron of honor.
In keeping with Vulcan tradition, Trip and T’Pol had gathered their closest family and friends to witness the ceremony: Chuck and Catherine, Captain Archer, Malcolm and Hoshi, Anna Hess. Ambassador Soval represented the Vulcan High Council, while Admiral Gardner was there on behalf of Starfleet Command.
Trip and T’Pol knelt before V’Utan, the silver-haired Vulcan priest, his thin frame clad in brocade robes of muted blue. As the couple touched fingers in a ritual ozh’esta, the priest began to speak in a strong voice that belied his appearance. “Ra tu ak gla-tor tev-tor s’wak t’Palikaya.”
Trip heard Hoshi’s quiet voice as she translated for the others. “What ye are about to witness comes down from the time of the Beginning.”
V’Utan paused. “Hi stariben rik’rubah nam-tor rik’ozhika.”
“To perform it without change, however, would be illogical,” Hoshi translated with mild surprise. The onlookers traded curious glances.
The priest smoothly switched to Terran Standard. “The man is human. The couple is bonded. Vulcan’s Awakening has brought the ancient laws back into favor, and the validity of the ritual marriage bond is recognized once more. It would seem that even our contemporary wedding rites are obsolete.”
Trip let his solemn demeanor slip, breaking into a little smile as he listened. He and T’Pol had worked out the particulars of the ceremony with V’Utan during their meeting yesterday, but the priest’s artful preamble was new to them. Though T’Pol’s expression remained placid, Trip could see her smile with his inner eye.
“Therefore,” V’Utan continued, “let this ceremony be a confirmation that T’Pol and Charles have forged a bond in defiance of tradition, culture...” —he arched a wry eyebrow— “...and all logic. In their union, may we find meaning and beauty, as we do in the diversity of all things.”
He turned to T’Pol. “T’Pol, ko-fu Sochya, ko-fu T’Les, afsak nash-veh nam-tor telsu kwon-sum na’t’sosu Charles, khaf-spol eh katra?” T’Pol, daughter of Sochya, daughter of T’Les, do thee declare that thee art bound irrevocably to the man Charles, heart and soul?
“Afsak nash-veh,” she said softly, holding Trip’s gaze. I do declare.
V’Utan addressed Trip. “Charles, sa-fu Charles, sa-fu Catherine, afsak nash-veh nam-tor telsu kwon-sum na’t’kosu T’Pol, khaf-spol eh katra?” Charles, son of Charles, son of Catherine, do thee declare that thee art bound irrevocably to the woman T’Pol, heart and soul?
Trip gazed happily at his bride. “Afsak nash-veh.” Out of the corner of his eye, he saw his mother brushing away a tear. Chuck fished out his handkerchief, and she took it with a smile.
The priest nodded to Lorian and Karyn, who presented him with matching gold wedding bands, each inscribed in ancient Vulcan script with the word kwon-sum. Always.
V’Utan placed the larger ring in T’Pol’s hand. “Tan-tor na’telsu nash sehtebuhk t’terau.” Bestow upon your bondmate this symbol of your joining.
T’Pol’s hands were gentle as she slipped the gold band on Trip’s finger. “Etek nam-tor veh, t’hai’la,” she said. We are one, beloved.
The priest gave the other ring to Trip. As he placed it on T’Pol’s finger, he felt himself choking up with emotion. He hadn’t thought this day could be as profoundly moving as the night he and T’Pol had performed their bonding meld, but this ceremony, in its own way, was equally powerful. As his eyes rose to meet T’Pol’s, he felt her loving embrace through the bond. “Etek nam-tor veh, t’hai’la,” he said.
V'Utan addressed the group. “Fupa t’sha’to-gavlar heh s’oyutlar t’Khasi eh Terra, aifa dahkuh i’nam-tor sa-telsu eh ko-telsu.” According to the laws and customs of Vulcan and Earth, these two are now husband and wife.
He nodded to Trip and T’Pol in benediction. “Sochya eh dif, T’Pol eh Charles.” Peace and long life, T’Pol and Charles.
Trip touched his fingers to T’Pol’s in another ozh’esta. This had been planned as the last gesture of the ritual, but Trip couldn’t resist—he took his wife in his arms and kissed her soundly. Their audience broke into spontaneous applause before surging forward for hugs and handshakes all around.
V'Utan observed the celebration with bemusement. “They are a most demonstrative species,” he remarked quietly to Soval.
“One acclimates to them, after a fashion,” the ambassador replied sagely.
Archer gave Trip a bearhug, and took T’Pol’s hand fondly in congratulations. “It’s about time,” he said happily.
“You took the words right outta my mouth,” Trip grinned.
“Mine as well,” T’Pol agreed, and Archer laughed.
Catherine was still dabbing at her eyes as she collected a hug from her son. “The four of you look like a picture together. Which reminds me—promise you won’t get out of those pretty clothes until we take your picture.”
“We promise, Mom,” Trip assured her.
“Any honeymoon plans, Chief?” Hess asked.
Trip shrugged. “I’m finishing up the diagnostics and testing of all the systems we’ve been changing out since we got home.”
“I have more modifications to make to the long-range sensors,” T’Pol offered.
Hoshi shook her head. “I don’t think you two are grasping the finer points of honeymooning.”
“On the contrary,” T’Pol said, “Commander Tucker explained the concept quite clearly to me some months ago.”
Malcolm turned to Archer. “D’you hear that, Captain? These two are in serious need of some time off.”
“Don’t worry, Mal,” Trip chuckled. “The captain’s been letting us spend quite a lot of time together these last couple of weeks. You might say we did the wedding-and-honeymoon thing in reverse.”
“Still,” Archer said, “I think Malcolm has a point.” He turned to Hess. “Lieutenant, you can handle the work in engineering, I trust.”
“No problem,” she confirmed promptly. “We won’t need the commander for days.”
“So much for your vaunted indispensability, old man,” Malcolm said to Trip with a wink.
“And Travis should be able to make some progress with those sensor specs,” Archer told T’Pol. “Piloting may be his forté, but growing up on the Horizon has made him quite an effective jack-of-all-trades.”
“As you wish, Captain,” T’Pol replied.
“So take a few days off and just enjoy being married, willya?” Archer concluded good-naturedly.
Trip gave his wife a light ozh’esta. “Far be it for us to refuse an order from the captain.”
“Hey, you can help us with our apartment-hunting,” Karyn said brightly.
“You’re moving?” Admiral Gardner asked. “But how could you ever grow weary of our cookie-cutter décor and bland cafeteria cuisine?”
“We have availed ourselves of Starfleet’s kind hospitality for long enough, Admiral,” Lorian replied diplomatically.
“We were hoping to find a place near the Vulcan compound, since Lorian will still be training with the ambassador,” Karyn said. “But trying to locate available housing in the city has been next to impossible.”
“You might have better luck across the bay,” Hess suggested.
“Starfleet has some private housing set aside near Starfleet for senior officers and their families,” Gardner said. “Let me work something out.”
“I appreciate your offer, Admiral,” Lorian said, “but I don’t think I deserve any special—”
“Believe me, Commander, you’ll want to stay in the city,” Gardner said firmly. “In a few months, you’ll be spending an inordinate amount of time at Starfleet. That is, when you’re not visiting the shipyards or Spacedock.”
Lorian went very still. “Sir?”
Gardner smiled broadly. “It won’t be announced until the first of the year, but the decision’s been made. Intrepid is yours, Commander. She’ll launch next September.”
Lorian was too overcome to speak right away. He accepted Karyn’s ecstatic hug and the congratulations of the rest of his friends and family before finally finding his voice. “Thank you, Admiral, for your confidence.”
“You’ve earned it, Lorian.” Gardner’s smile grew wry. “In fact, I believe Captain Hernandez will be holding it against me for quite a while that I’m stealing you away from Columbia. But I’ll leave you there long enough to break in whomever she chooses as her next first officer—and her next chief engineer. In January you’ll be assigned planetside to oversee the final stages of Intrepid’s construction, and to put together your crew.”
“Yes, sir.” Lorian was outwardly calm, but Trip saw by how tightly he was holding Karyn’s hand that he must be thrilled about this turn of events. His own command again! It was a dream come true for him. Trip couldn’t be more proud of his son, and he sensed the same from T’Pol.
“The Officers Exchange Program will be up to speed by that time,” Gardner was saying, “so you’ll have several Vulcans available for your crew. I assume you’ll be considering your former shipmates from E² as well.”
“Yes,” Lorian nodded, his reserve giving way to quiet excitement and anticipation. “They’re all fine crewmen.”
“The brass envisions Intrepid as being our first true multi-species vessel—an Earth ship commanded by a Vulcan, manned by a crew that hails from many worlds.” The admiral’s gaze included Trip and T’Pol as well as Lorian and Karyn. “You’re all unofficial ambassadors now, the embodiment of the ideals of the Alliance—humans and Vulcans working together for the betterment of both worlds.”
“Together?” T’Pol repeated, with unmistakable hope in her voice.
“Oh...sorry, didn’t I tell you?” Gardner’s eyes twinkled merrily. “The Board of Inquiry has decided to keep you both on Enterprise.”
“Hot damn!” Trip swept T’Pol up in a hug, Vulcan propriety be damned. He smiled as he felt her return his embrace without a hint of self-consciousness. “It’s as last-minute as they can get, but we’ll take it.”
“Brace yourselves, Commanders,” Gardner warned good-naturedly. “As soon as the press and the xenophobes get wind of this, they’re going to have a field day.”
“How ironic that the ship’s grapevine will have far less to gossip about now that you’re married,” Malcolm observed.
“I wouldn’t say that,” Hoshi countered, glancing mischievously at Archer. “I have a feeling someone else is about to become a prime source of interest.”
Archer looked pained. “You’re joking.”
Trip laughed. “Welcome to a whole new kind of fishbowl, Cap’n.”
Malcolm perked up. “What’s all this then?”
“Captain’s got a girl,” Trip said.
Chuck broke into a grin. “I’ll be damned.”
“Well?” Catherine prompted eagerly. “Don’t just stand there like a stump, Jon. Tell us about her. What’s she like?”
“Her name is Kyle, and she’s...” Archer hesitated, clearly attempting to choose between too many compliments. Finally he gave up, his expression one of sublime joy. “She’s everything I ever hoped for.”
“There’s that goofy look again,” Karyn teased.
Soval studied the captain’s expression with interest. “Is there a particular significance to a ‘goofy’ countenance, Lieutenant?” he asked Karyn.
“For an Archer, it means true love,” she explained.
Soval nodded, filing it away as he would any bit of cultural minutiae. “Then, Captain, may we assume you plan on marrying as well?”
“You may indeed.” Archer gave the ambassador a beatific smile. “...Uncle.”
Karyn put a hand over her mouth in a fruitless effort to stifle a giggle, as Soval drew himself up indignantly. “I beg your pardon?”
Archer blinked innocently. “Why, I distinctly remember you saying that if I ever planned to marry, I could call you—”
“I said we would discuss it,” Soval said stiffly.
The ambassador arched an eyebrow. “The discussion is now at an end.”
Archer looked wounded. Trip stepped forward protectively. “Aw now, Soval, is that any way to talk to my Pappy?”
The captain winced. V’Utan appeared mystified by it all. And for probably the first time in its many decades of existence, the quiet little Vulcan meditation garden filled with the sound of human laughter.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Josiah entered John Frederick Paxton’s office to find him watching Admiral Gardner’s press conference on the big vidscreen. “...Earth and Vulcan have just agreed to a formal alliance,” Gardner was saying. “A pledge to work together as equals. Commanders T’Pol and Tucker embody the principles of this alliance in every way, professionally as well as personally. They demonstrate the unlimited potential of our two peoples...”
Paxton switched off the display. “So Romeo and Juliet end their play with marriage instead of death, and turn their Shakespearean tragedy into a comedy,” he mused.
“An unfortunate development,” Josiah agreed.
Paxton shrugged faintly. “There is still good use to be made of them. The publicity that results from this will aid us in the long run.” He turned his attention to his right-hand man. “The good doctor?”
“Waiting outside, sir.”
“Show him in.”
A moment later, the perpetually nervous Dr. Mercer entered. He carried a padd, turning it over and over in his hands.
“Good morning, Doctor,” Paxton said pleasantly. “How goes our little project?”
Mercer consulted his padd with slightly trembling hands. “I have the results of the analysis. Unfortunately, the latest round of genetic manipulation hasn’t altered the creature’s blood factors sufficiently to meet the minimum criteria we’ve set.”
With the Rigellian gene therapy steadily losing its efficacy in managing Paxton’s Taggart’s Syndrome, this was unwelcome news. “I’m disappointed to hear that, Doctor,” he said. “You’re planning to begin another series, of course.”
Mercer hesitated. That annoying twitching of his was an indication that he had something to say that Paxton wasn’t going to like. At last the doctor ventured, “Nurse Khouri is concerned about risking another infection.” He braced himself, looking as if he believed he would be struck down for making such a statement.
Not a bad thing, really, being feared. Paxton found fear as useful as idolatry; both kept his followers in line.
“She is the expert when it comes to day-to-day maintenance of the monster,” he acknowledged. He rose and crossed to the viewport, where he gazed out at the shaded grays of the lunar surface. “However, I can’t help wondering if there will come a time when her loyalties are tested.”
“She has as much reason to hate aliens as anyone!” Mercer protested. “They derailed her career—”
“We are Terra Prime, but we are also cursed with the milk of human kindness,” Paxton said, with a hint of lament to his voice. “It is a quality we need to guard against. Even a kidnap victim can grow to defend the kidnapper, if sufficiently brainwashed.” He turned back to Mercer. “We must keep a careful watch on her.”
“Yes, sir,” the nervous man nodded.
“As for the monster, I’m invested in its continued good health, of course,” Paxton went on. “Not only for its blood, but for the vital role it will play in Terra Prime’s cause, when the time is right.” Judging from the reports he had been receiving from Mars, it was becoming more apparent that, in order to bring Terra Prime’s most ambitious project to fruition, Paxton would need an engineer on hand of the caliber and creativity of Charles Tucker III of Enterprise. The monster would serve quite nicely as an irresistible lure.
He walked Mercer to the door. “I want to see forward progress with the genetic program, Doctor. Time is of the essence.”
“I understand, sir,” Mercer said obediently.
As the doctor departed, Josiah ducked his head in. “Ensign Shaughnessy to see you, sir.”
Paxton nodded, and Josiah brought in Patrick Shaughnessy, relief helmsman of Columbia and Terra Prime operative. The young man looked even more disgruntled than usual...but then again, having to answer to an alien half-breed would be reason enough to keep anyone in a foul mood.
Paxton settled himself behind his desk. “It’s good to see you again, Patrick. What news of Columbia? ”
Shaughnessy slapped a padd on the desk. “This Eyes-Only bulletin was sent by Admiral Gardner to Captain Hernandez yesterday. Lorian is to be given command of the new NX under construction, Intrepid.”
Paxton scanned the bulletin with a sigh of disgust. “No doubt he’ll gather his ragtag group of alien riff-raff to populate his ship of fools.”
“There’ll be Vulcans aboard, too,” Shaughnessy added bitterly. “Starfleet is planning an officer exchange program. They want this ship to be a shining example of the Alliance in action—a beacon lighting the way for the future of inter-species relations.”
Paxton looked to Josiah, standing quietly at the door. “How many of those mutants did Gardner admit into Starfleet? Fifteen?”
Paxton shook his head in simmering frustration. “Today, nineteen. How many next month? Next year? It sends the wrong message. Earth is a melting pot of tainted metals. Starfleet should be sending purest gold to represent our planet.”
Josiah chuckled dryly. “I would suggest you tell them...except that you and Starfleet don’t exactly see eye to eye.”
Paxton smiled faintly. “Perhaps we can open their eyes. It might be a good thing, in the short term, to have all these monsters in one place. The better to observe them—and weed out the impurities.”
“Why wait?” Shaughnessy said hotly. “Having Lorian on Columbia, being forced to take orders from him—it’s insulting! He needs to be dealt with, not given his own command!”
“Patience, Patrick,” Paxton said calmly. “All in good time.”
-- -- --
The child was cranky today. Susan Khouri was having no luck getting her to take her bottle. But she was still weak and underweight, and Susan didn’t want to resort to another round of IV feeding. It was time to take drastic measures again.
She took a quick look around the nursery—the rest of the Primers called it the Dungeon, this being the place where the Frankenstein monster was kept—to make sure she was alone. Then she gathered the child up in her arms and rocked her, stroking her wispy blond hair and softly telling her how beautiful she was. Within moments, Susan had coaxed the girl into drinking her formula.
As she was burping the baby, she heard a scandalized voice behind her. “What are you doing?”
Susan turned to see Dr. Mercer in the doorway, staring at her in alarm. “You’re not supposed to be handling the creature,” he said sharply.
With care, Susan returned the child to her crib. “She hasn’t been doing well in isolation. She’s having trouble bouncing back from that last infection.” As she tucked the baby’s blanket securely around her, Susan eyed the doctor. “You know as well as I do that human patients respond well to physical contact. It comforts her, makes her feel better. It’s as important a part of her healing process as the antibiotics.”
Mercer still looked queasy. “Relax,” Susan said lightly as she recorded the baby’s feeding on her chart. “If she were a rhesus or a lab rat, I’d be doing the same thing.”
The doctor calmed down, but only a little. “If Mr. Paxton thought you’d become emotionally attached to your lab rat, it wouldn’t go well for you.”
She gave him an unconcerned smile. “You worry about your blood workups, Doctor. I’ll worry about the lab rat.”
“He wants me to begin another round of gene therapy,” Mercer said.
Susan didn’t look up from her chart. “No.”
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Mercer’s face clouding up angrily. “Excuse me?” he said testily.
Susan turned to the monitoring equipment to record the baby’s vitals. “She’s still too weak—that last infection took a lot out of her. But this shouldn’t be a surprise to you, Doctor. Her immune system has never been in great shape to begin with because of her accelerated gestation, and it’s taken quite a beating over the last three months, considering what you’ve put her though.”
Mercer fidgeted self-consciously. “Mr. Paxton is not a patient man. He wants results.”
She looked over her shoulder at him. “He’s not going to get any if he kills the lab rat, is he?”
The doctor’s face screwed up in annoyance. “You don’t seem to understand who’s in charge here, Miss Khouri,” he said tightly.
She faced him squarely. “You brought me here to make sure she stays alive and well. I’m doing my job. If you have a problem with that, you’re free to take it up with Mr. Paxton.”
That shut him up. Susan knew Mercer was scared to death of Paxton; he wouldn’t dare cross the Fearless Leader. If the child were to die, Mercer would be the one held responsible.
Still, it wouldn’t be wise to push the man too far. Adopting a more conciliatory tone, Susan said, “Give her another week. She should be strong enough to tolerate the therapy by then.”
“Very well. A week.” Mercer started to leave...then stopped, turning back. “Remember, Miss Khouri, that our collective goal is to serve Terra Prime, not our own selfish ends. You’re not here to nurture the creature, but to make sure it lives to serve the cause as well.”
She nodded. “Of course, Doctor.”
Looking more sure of himself, Mercer swept out, leaving her alone in the Dungeon with her monster.
Susan picked up the girl and cuddled her again, cooing to her until she smiled. The child had a beautiful smile. With her pointed ears and cherubic face, she could be an elf from a mythical fairyland. She was a quiet child, but those bright blue eyes were already remarkably observant, even at three months. Susan admired the grace with which the child endured the rigors and pain of the tests Mercer was subjecting her to. She had a serenity about her that seemed to transcend earthly travails.
Susan had prevailed over Mercer, but only for the moment. She would need to choose her battles carefully. As long as Fearless Leader needed the child, Susan had tremendous power. She intended to use it for all she was worth.
Closing Author’s Notes
It’s been a long road getting from “Home” to here.
I love this series. I’ve put my heart and soul into it, and the characters have all become like family. Working on it has only deepened my affection for Enterprise and its cast and crew.
Some of you may know that I have had plans to take this series all the way through “Terra Prime.” But Real Life has gotten busier, and spare time to write fanfiction has grown scarce. And now, with Trip and T’Pol married, the purpose that compelled me to begin writing fanfiction in the first place—T’Pol’s marriage to that Koss fellow—has been laid to rest. Because of these reasons, and others, this felt like a good time to call it a day. “Redivivus” is the final story in the Reconnecting Series.
I offer heartfelt thanks to all of you who have taken the time to read and give comments over the years; to my invaluable beta readers, who helped to make the stories so much better; and to the folks at Trip/T’Polers and Triaxian Silk for archiving my work. An extra shout-out to the stalwarts who sent me comments, e-mails, music, and other encouragements during the past year. You were a big part of why I was able to make it to the end.
And Bucky, dear Bucky, words cannot express the gratitude and respect I have for you. I can’t thank you enough.
This has been a wonderful adventure, and I’ll treasure it for all my days. As for a sequel series to Reconnecting...perhaps someday.
Take care, and happy reading.
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