sternel: (this is where it starts [ENT])
[personal profile] sternel
Title: Whither Thou
Author: [livejournal.com profile] sternel
Artists: [livejournal.com profile] solara1357, [livejournal.com profile] cruixe_chan
Series: ST: Enterprise
Characters/Pairings: Archer/T’Pol, Tucker, Phlox, OC
Rating: PG
Warnings: minor character death, AU, spoilers for ep. 3.08“Twilight”
Word Count: 26,200
Summary: Sometimes it was easier to imagine that Vulcan had been destroyed along with Earth. That her entire world was here: This house, this dog, this man.

It was easier than acknowledging that her entire world – house, dog, man – was hers by choice. Her choice: one that could not be undone, one that was driven by forces beyond herself. Sometimes she told herself it was not really a choice at all, but the only option available.

Sometimes she even believed it.


This is the story of everything that happened before breakfast.

Notes: I never used to think of myself as an Enterprise fan, but in the last year or so I have fallen hard for this little show, and I think it deserved far better than it got from Berman and Braga. There was a lot of potential that never got realized, but episodes like Twilight did some amazing things, and it was a hell of a lot of fun to play with it. I owe Mike Sussman huge props for a great writing job, and for sharing all the little tidbits from filming that then made their way to Memory Alpha for me to contemplate.

This is my first Big Bang and probably the longest single work I have actually gotten to a postable state, and there’s a few people who have a lot of my thanks for that, in no particular order: Vhary, Stephanie, [livejournal.com profile] seanchaidh and [livejournal.com profile] athena4lynn, who were cheerleaders and encouragers and let me bounce ideas off of them and were around for late-night chats when I felt like I’d never have another good idea, as well as being outstanding beta readers. Nemaio
to all of you, and <3!


Link to art: Fanmix by [livejournal.com profile] solara1357
Link to art: Artwork by [profile] cruixe_chan site="livejournal.com">
Link to CTBB : Master Post




INTRODUCTION

The bridge was silent save for the beeps of instrumentation and the occasional soft murmur as the crew conferred with one another. T’Pol sat quietly in the captain’s chair listening to the sound of peak efficiency, and did not think. There was plenty to occupy her attention but in that moment she was content to simply let the crew do their jobs in their usual excellent fashion. The convoy they were escorting was experiencing no problems – at least for the moment -- and that was an unusual enough state as to merit a moment of appreciation.

“Captain?” T’Pol turned to Hoshi, who was frowning at her board. “Sir, I’m receiving a message from Vulcan.”

“Put it on the –”

“Sir, it’s marked as private.” Hoshi half-turned in her chair to face T’Pol, eyes serious and – was that concern? For all that humanity let their every emotion show on their face, T’Pol still had a hard time distinguishing their many variations.

“Very well. In the office, please, Ensign. Mister Reed, you have the bridge.”

A chorus of “Aye, sirs,” floated behind her as she went to the captain’s office. Hoshi had already transferred the message and it blinked, awaiting her. No point in wasting time: T’Pol activated it. A saturnine Vulcan face that she did not recognize appeared on the screen.

“This message is for the former Sub-Commander T’Pol, currently in command of the Earth ship Enterprise. For your consistent failure to obey orders and due to your alignment with a non-Vulcan race and military, you are hereby declared vre’kasht. Your rank, positions, holdings, and family name are hereby forfeit. You will not be permitted on Vulcan or any of its associated planets. The path of Surak is now closed to you.” The officer stared into the imager for a moment, and then lifted his hand in the ta’al. “Live long, and prosper.” The message blinked off.

Speechless, T’Pol stared at the screen, which had returned to displaying the last report she had read, and tried to figure out how to react. The only appropriate response she could think of, in the end, was a uniquely Human one. T’Pol flicked a finger at the screen. “Go to hell,” she added, straightening her uniform as she stood. The room was empty, so if her use of profanity had a hint of Trip Tucker’s lilting accent – well, no one would be the wiser.

“Status report,” she said as she re-entered the bridge.

“No change, all systems are green, sir,” Reed said as he surrendered the captain’s chair back to her. “Everything all right with the Vulcans?”

T’Pol glanced over to Hoshi, who shook her head. She had not watched it. “Just a personal message, Mister Reed. Vulcan seems to be entirely as it always is. Steady as she goes.” She retook the captain’s chair – her chair – and returned her attention to her duties. If Vulcan was not for her – well. Her duty kept her busy. There were many options.

::

The decision to settle with Ceti Alpha was made for them, if T’Pol was honest with herself. The planet was close, it was safely within Minshara-class guidelines, and – most importantly – they could reach it before the Astral Queen’s strained hull gave out. T’Pol transmitted the announcement to the assembled ships of their convoy, and waited for reactions.

Universally, it was relief. It had been a long and difficult year since Earth’s destruction, and people were cramped into ships and holds not meant to hold so many for so long. T’Pol left them to sending their messages from ship to ship, already working on landing and settlement plans. There was someone else she had to inform.

Captain Archer was in his quarters, going over some engineering specs that Trip had left him – as distraction, mostly. He looked up as she came in. “T’Pol. I pulled up these specs on the computer and most of these changes already have been implemented.”

T’Pol raised an eyebrow. “Indeed.”

Archer just stared at her, disappointment on his face. “So there’s no point in even going over these, is there.”

This was a change from his usual anger, and she found herself unprepared. “Most of what we have implemented are from your suggestions. On occasion you think of a new modification that we have not yet tried. Your changes, collectively, have netted us an improved efficiency rating of 4.7 percent.”

“Right.” Archer shut the screen down. “I suppose that’s something. Did you come for a reason or are you just here to check up on me?”

“We have selected a planet,” T’Pol said, and held out the data solid she had brought with her. Archer stared at her for a moment before taking it from her and plugging it in. “Ceti Alpha V is a Minshara class planet orbiting a late-stage white star. Several possible settlement locations have been submitted to the collected survivors for feedback. Plans for landing and development are being worked on as we speak.”

Archer clicked through the data on his screen. “The star’s had some flares.”

“No worse than those experienced by 40 Eridani,” T’Pol pointed out quietly. “We have no choice, Captain. Many of these ships were not built for battle or high-warp, and they are nearing the end of their operational lives. It is imperative we get the people safely planetside before –”

“Another disaster,” Archer finished for her. “I got it.” He flipped through the data again. “I’m going.” Across the room, Porthos got up from his bed and slunk across the floor to the captain, standing on his hind legs and resting his paws on Archer’s thigh. Archer idly rubbed behind his ears. “How does going dirtside sound to you, boy? Lots of room to run around?” Porthos whined and nudged at his hand as his voice dropped, almost too quiet for T’Pol to hear. “We can be out of the way, not bothering anybody with all the things we can’t do and can’t remember. I think it’ll be much better for us, buddy. Maybe we can be useful down there, right?” Archer picked his chin up as he reached to turn the screen off.

“Will you make the arrangements, T’Pol?” he asked, after a moment, and T’Pol nodded slowly.

“I will,” she said, and went out. It wasn’t until she had gone halfway down the corridor that she remembered what the traditional use of that particular Standard phrase was, and she had to stop and breathe deeply for a long moment until she had her emotions under control.

::

T’Pol was nearly done packing when the entrance chime rang. She crossed the room, pajamas in her hand, to open the door. Trip was standing in the corridor, fidgeting anxiously, as he had before every neuropressure session. The familiarity did not make her feel reassured. She raised an eyebrow questioningly and he gave her a slightly sheepish smile. “Need any help?”

“No, thank you,” she answered, and returned to the bag on her bed, carefully folding the sleeping clothes and adding them to the contents. “I am nearly finished.” She gestured: her personal effects were already neatly boxed.

“Oh.” Trip shifted on his feet. “Didn’t take you long.”

“I came aboard with a minimum of personal effects,” T’Pol reminded him as she folded her last pair of pajamas to near-invisibility before adding them to the bag. “I must also ensure that Captain Archer’s belongings are ready for transport.”

Trip nodded. “Actually one of the reasons I came over – Hoshi volunteered to help; she’s over with the Cap now workin’ on that.” He pulled out her desk chair and helped himself to it, settling backwards and resting his arms on the chair back. “She’s gonna miss you, you know.”

T’Pol glanced at him, and began folding the next item on the pile. “I will simply be planet-side. As long as Enterprise is within the system, we will easily be within comm range.”

“Yeah.” Trip folded his arms along the chair. “I guess. But it ain’t the same, T’Pol, and even you know it.”

“No.” T’Pol put down the jumpsuit in her hands and stared at it. “It is not.”

They stood in silence for a long moment.

“You’re sure you want to do this?” Trip finally said in a voice that was almost a whisper. “’Cause I sure as hell don’t. I’m an engineer, T’Pol. I’m not a commander.”

T’Pol shook her hands once, shaking the wrinkles from the jumpsuit she was holding, and went back to her careful packing. “There is a Vulcan saying. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”

Trip frowned, eyes narrowing. “That makes no sense.”

“It makes perfect sense,” T’Pol said shortly, and looked away when Trip grinned at her. “You must consider it further.”

“I can consider it ‘til the cows come home and it still makes no sense. How does your leaving help the many?”

T’Pol couldn’t quite keep the sourness out of her voice as she explained. “Captain Archer clearly cannot remain on board the ship. It is a matter of safety – his, and the rest of the crew. Likewise, he cannot stay alone on the planet – he would not recognize any new person for more than a few hours. That would create unnecessary stress. Trip, you know all of these things. It is illogical to have me restate that which you are already aware of.” She fit the last of her clothing into the satchel and closed the fasteners. Everything was packed.

Trip shifted in the chair. “Well, you know humans. We’re illogical.”

“Indeed.” She shifted the pack to the floor and sat on the bed, facing Trip. They didn’t look at each other.

“Oh, to hell with it, T’Pol,” Trip finally said, and the words flowed out of him, unstoppable once he’d begun. “I’m gonna miss having Jon around – even if he can’t remember anything, he still – we’ve got so few people left, and losing anybody who knows you, who knows your stories and remembers the same things you do –” Trip cut himself off, voice cracking, and stared at his hands. “I know you both have to do this. But I’m gonna miss him.” He had to take a deep breath. “I’m gonna miss you, too.”

T’Pol lifted her head after a moment to look at him. “Mister Reed and Ensign Sato have modified a comm system to allow for regular text-based connection. It will not present an undue strain on either the colony’s or the Enterprise’s resources.”

“They did, did they?” Trip forced himself to smile.

“It was the first thing I packed.” T’Pol stood again and looked around her quarters. “I must do this. It was not an easy decision, but it’s what duty demands of me.” She crossed the room to stand at the viewport, looking out at the planet beneath them.

“You sure it’s just that?” Trip asked, standing slowly. “And not gratitude? Or guilt? No other reasons?”

T’Pol did not turn around, and after a moment Trip took a step back. “I’ll leave you to finish up. Last shuttles tomorrow, 0900.” She could hear him as he made his way back across her quarters.

“Trip,” she called, as he reached the door. He paused.

“Yeah?”

“Everything I know about being in command I learned from Captain Archer,” she said, not turning around. The planet turned silently beneath them; somewhere in the northern hemisphere the colony was slowly being forced into being. “You learned from him as I did. I’m certain you will acquit yourself admirably.”

Trip stood silent for a long time. “Thank you, Captain,” he finally said. “Have a good night.” The door opened, and then closed, and her quarters were quiet.

Alone on her ship, T’Pol leaned against the window and watched the planet below.

::

The sickbay was quiet when T’Pol entered. “Doctor.”

Phlox was bent over a cage, holding a large purple leaf. Something snatched it out of his hand and he quickly closed the door after it. Picking his head up, he nodded. “Captain T’Pol, how are you?”

T’Pol looked around the room. It was neatly organized, and the animal cages were carefully stacked. “Are you going somewhere, Doctor?”

“I am returning to Denobula,” Phlox said quietly, and he crossed the room to his work station, sitting heavily. “I just came from talking to Captain Archer earlier – I’m sure he’s already forgotten. But I can work on this dilemma far more efficiently when I have a full planet’s resources behind me.”

Considering that, T’Pol nodded. “That is logical. It will make communication difficult, however.”

Phlox turned and opened a file. “I asked Hoshi to assist me in preparing masks and scrambles – she has devised a whole sequence of them for me, a new one to use each time.”

“Efficient.” T’Pol leaned over to read through the list. “And ingenious.”

“That’s our Hoshi,” Phlox said fondly. “I shall miss her.” T’Pol straightened up and did not answer him. After a moment, Phlox turned. “You don’t have to go the planet, you know. You could stay here. Or go back to Vulcan.” Caught by surprise, T’Pol froze, and Phlox pounced. “I knew it. There was another reason for your decision. Well? Out with it.”

T’Pol took a step back and bumped into the bed. “I cannot go back to Vulcan,” she finally said. “I can stay on the ship, or I can go to the planet.”

“Why pick that option then?” Phlox asked, and his eyes were a little too knowing. “Trip would be relieved if you stayed. I think everyone would.” He looked sad for a moment. “I wish I could do what I needed to here. I would happily stay. I have a family here, now.”

For a moment, the only sound in sickbay was the Tiberian bat mewling in its sleep. “Vulcans don’t make decisions based on happiness, Doctor. They make them based on logic.”

“And what is the logic in this?” Phlox asked gently.

“It’s illogical to prolong one’s suffering when there is a means to ease it,” T’Pol said, and took a step towards the door. “I have a few other duties to attend to before tomorrow, so I will take my leave of you, Doctor.”

Phlox tilted his head, his usually smiling face sober. “You’ve become a good friend, T’Pol. I will miss our talks.” He looked almost diminished, surrounded by his crates of animals.

“I will miss you as well, Doctor,” she said quietly, and offered him the ta'al. Silently, Phlox returned it. T’Pol lowered her hand, turned and left.

::

From: Enterprise:T’Pol, Captain
To: Vulcan:VSA:Invertebrate Research:T’Les, Senior Research Manager

Mother:

As you are aware, following Captain Archer’s disability I was placed in command of Enterprise. Now that the convoy we have escorted has reached its destination, I have chosen to resign my commission and captaincy and I will be remaining with the surviving humans. My duty requires no less and therefore, logic makes this demand of me.

It is unlikely we will see one another again. Therefore I wish you peace and long life.

Your daughter,
T’Pol


There was nothing else she could say. Carefully, T’Pol built a long series of re-routes, blinds, and bouncebacks to ensure the message could not be traced.

There would be no reply. She already knew this. She sent it anyway, and shut down her terminal.

::

“Captain,” Trip said, leaning against the side of the bulkhead with his arms crossed. “Anytime you’re ready.”

“Thank you, Mr. Tucker,” T’Pol said calmly, picking up her small bag. Some belongings and goods had been sent down by transporter, but most people would not be parted from what little they had left. Archer, on the other hand. had simply gotten a leash for Porthos and declared himself ready, leaving all his other possessions for the transporter. T’Pol’s bag was a bit more varied: her clothes, books, her meditation aids, and trinkets acquired over the last few years filled it. Illogical items, but there was little logic to be found in these times.

“You will stay in touch?” Trip asked, his voice rough. T’Pol turned to look at him, and his eyes were reddened, and damp. She lowered her head for a moment, to give him privacy until he had gained control over his emotions.

“I am informed the new comm system was successfully tested earlier,” she offered after a moment. “There is already discussion of building a unit for each home.”

Trip nodded, clearing his throat as he pushed off the bulkhead to stand straight. “I know. Just – use it, OK? So we know you both are doin’ all right.”

T’Pol nodded, and took a look around the room – just to make sure she had not forgotten anything, she told herself. “I must go retrieve Captain Archer,” she said, because it was the least difficult thing to say.

“I’ll come with you,” Trip offered, and stepped into the corridor, waiting as she palmed off the lights and closed the door. The expression on his face was one she had no name for, so she simply started walking down the hall.

Archer was standing by the window when they arrived, looking down at the planet beneath them. “It’s time?” he asked, without looking up.

“It is time,” T’Pol agreed. Archer nodded, without turning around, and leaned into the window. Trip made a noise in the back of his throat and returned to the corridor.

There was movement at her feet, and T’Pol looked down to see Porthos settle at the foot of the bed. He waited patiently until Jonathan had looked his fill, and then trotted over to his master’s feet. Jonathan bent down and scooped him up. “You ready, boy? They told me there’s lots of room down there to run around, fresh air and open space.” Porthos wriggled happily in his arms and panted at him, and Jonathan chuckled, but his face did not lighten from the heavy solemnity it wore. “Are we ready?”

“We are,” T’Pol said simply, and stepped to the door.

Jonathan did not look at the room, or back at the window. He simply tucked Porthos under his arm, lead safely in his hand, and left. Trip drew himself to attention when he stepped into the corridor. “Sir.”

“Trip!” For a brief moment, Jonathan brightened. “They tell me you’re in charge now.”

“I am, Cap. I’ll do my best to keep her flying safe, sir.” Trip’s eyes were red again as the two men faced each other. “Jon.” He held out a hand and Archer instead grabbed his arm, holding it firmly. They stood like that for a long moment.

T’Pol looked away. “We must head to the shuttlebay,” she said after a moment. “They are waiting on us.”

Nodding, Trip held out a hand to indicate they should go first, and Archer started walking without another word. Porthos whined in his arms, as if he wanted to get down, but Jonathan just stroked his head. “No, little buddy,” he whispered, too softly for Trip to hear. “Better not. What if this is like the Emerald City, and if I have to run after you I miss my ride? I’m pretty sure there’re no ruby slippers here.” He swallowed roughly and held Porthos closer, and put his head down as he walked, until he turned the corridor – and stopped. T’Pol stopped short behind him, and drew in a silent breath.

Lining the corridor into the shuttlebay, in their uniforms and standing at attention, were the officers and crew of the NX-01 Enterprise – all the officers and crew who had survived. Trip left them to walk down the end of the line and his place there, while Malcolm Reed’s voice sang out over the assembly. “Company, attention!”

Backs snapped even straighter and as one the crew lifted their arms in salute. Jonathan looked back and forth, taking in the sight, and he had to clear his throat before he could speak. “At ease, everyone.” But nobody moved until he stepped forward to the first ensign: Brombeer, from Engineering. He shook his hand, named him, thanked him, and moved down to the line to the next crewmember. T’Pol followed behind him, acknowledging each of these extraordinary humans who had served her – begrudgingly, and then with just as much ferocity as they had given Jonathan – with a nod. It was Jonathan’s moment, and they all understood that. Nevertheless, she was grateful for the opportunity to make her own farewell, in a small way.

The bridge crew was waiting by the shuttlebay entrance, at the end of the line. Jonathan stood for a moment and watched them, and T’Pol saw his eyes flicker, looking for Mayweather and finding Hutchison in his place. He didn’t speak, just shook his hand, and thanked him, and moved on to Reed, offering him a salute and a firm handshake. “Take care of them, Malcolm,” he said softly. Reed nodded, face serious.

“I will, sir. You take care too.”

Jonathan nodded, and turned to Hoshi, who was dry-eyed, but her lips were quivering. “Captain,” she said softly, and when he would have offered her a hand, she pulled him into a hug. “Take care of T’Pol down there,” she whispered, and T’Pol was quite certain she wasn’t supposed to have heard that. She turned to Reed, instead, and offered him the ta’al. . He gave her a small grin, and wished her good luck. She was nodding her thanks when Hoshi captured her in an unexpected hug as well. “Take care of the captain,” she whispered into T’Pol’s ear, and then added in Vulcan, “Dif-tor heh smusa.” Before T’Pol could answer her, she had rejoined the line, tugging her uniform into place as she straightened back to attention.

Doctor Phlox shook Jonathan’s hand with great solemnity. “I will see you on the surface,” he said, at his most dignified. “I am still working. I will not give up.” And then he ducked his head. “And I will see you too, little Porthos. Be good for your Captain.” Porthos wiggled and gave a happy yip that had everybody nearby hiding chuckles, so nobody noticed the sharp look that Phlox gave T’Pol. She ignored it, and gave him the same solemn farewell she had given everyone else.

That left just Trip, who was standing now at the entrance to the shuttlebay looking as serious as T’Pol had ever seen him. But his attention was not on Jonathan, it was on her. “Captain,” he said, and they both turned. But then T’Pol understood, and she passed Jonathan to stand in front of Trip.

“Captain Tucker.”

“Captain T’Pol, I relieve you.”

His voice was firm; there was no sign of his earlier misgivings. T’Pol approved, and lifted her voice so everyone would hear.

“I stand relieved.” For a moment she hesitated, and then she held out a hand. The look of surprise on Trip’s face was entirely worth the momentary discomfort of shaking hands; his emotions were only hidden on his face. He squeezed her hand tightly before he let go, and she felt a momentary rush of gratitude and sorrow that could only have been his.

Releasing his hand, she turned to look back on the crew she had kept safe for so long. “It has been an honor to serve with you all. Live long, and prosper.” And she stepped through the hatch to let Jonathan say his goodbye with some privacy. There was nothing further for her to say. The planet awaited them. It was time to leave.

::




PART ONE

The colony was a gradually-improving disaster. Most people were still living in tents while the big freighters were slowly disassembled and transformed into housing. The only stroke of luck was the contents of the cargo holds of the Carolus, which had been en route to a new colony and was stocked with seeds, livestock, and supplies. Even with that good fortune it was slow going, as refugees tried to adjust to becoming colonists, learning to sow crops and husband animals. Housing was a distant second behind establishing safe food supplies. T’Pol knew she should be grateful to get one of the first completed residences, but as she walked into the empty room, all she felt was fatigue. Living in a tent, struggling to keep her equilibrium while constantly surrounded by people who felt everything and felt it so strongly had worn her down to exhaustion.

“Not bad,” Captain Archer said behind her, as he followed her in. He put Porthos down, and the dog immediately began to investigate. “Plenty of space for just us, right?” He walked around the perimeter of the room, and then turned and looked at the two sleeping chambers. “Do you have a preference?”

T’Pol shook her head. “I do not. Go ahead.”

“Ladies first,” the captain responded, and gestured for her to proceed him. Dropping her bag onto the floor, T’Pol looked at him wearily and walked to the one on the far side of the dwelling. It was small but filled with natural light, with a bunk set into one corner. There was a small tree outside the windows.

“This is sufficient for my needs. Does the other one satisfy you?”

Shrugging, the captain went to look at it, calling Porthos to come with him. The dog gave her a wide berth as he ran to catch up. “This is fine. I think it might be bigger than my quarters on board ship. What about the common room? Are we on our own for furniture?”

“I believe they are refinishing pieces from the freighters’ living quarters,” T’Pol said, and looked around the empty space. No cooking implements, or dishes. Nowhere to sit. Just a vast, empty space. She closed her eyes for a moment. Breathe in and out. Focus on your breathing; in and out.

When she opened her eyes, the Captain was watching her. “You OK?”

“It has been a long few weeks,” T’Pol said simply. “I am fine; I must simply meditate and rest, Captain.”

A strange look came across his face when she said that. “You know what? Do me a favor.” And then he fell silent.

After a moment of silence, T’Pol raised an eyebrow. “What is the favor, Captain?”

Shaking his head, Archer pointed to her. “That. Don’t call me Captain, all right? Because – I’m not. Not anymore.”

T’Pol processed that for a moment. “I disagree. You earned the rank. It cannot be taken away.”

“Still.” Archer looked away. “I’m not the captain of anything here. It’s not appropriate.”

There was no argument she could make against that. “Very well. What should I call you, then?”

Archer picked up his head and looked at her head-on. “How about my name.”

“Jonathan,” T’Pol said, testing it out. It felt strange to say.

“Yeah,” he said, and something in the set of his jaw relaxed. “That’s a lot better. Thanks.”

T’Pol inclined her head. “As you wish.” She did not understand why he started when she said it, but he shrugged after a moment and called to Porthos with a chuckle, telling the canine he wanted company while he unpacked. T’Pol let them go, and looked at her empty room.

::

>Initiating Session
>Enterprise:Tucker, Capt. C/Landing:T’Pol

Tucker, Capt. C.> How’s the house

T’Pol> Unfinished. We at least have beds.

Tucker, Capt. C.> You’d been sleeping on the floor? See you shoulda stayed here

T’Pol> Or perhaps I should have brought my bed along. It would have made a fitting addition to our tent.

Tucker, Capt. C.>Funny

>You’re a regular comedian.

T’Pol> Unlikely, but I will consider it a compliment.

Tucker, Capt. C.>You do that

[timeout]

Tucker, Capt. C.> Can I ask you something

T’Pol> You may.

Tucker, Capt. C.> I’m worried about Hoshi

T’Pol> Is she unwell?

Tucker, Capt. C.> She doesn’t talk. And I know why, it’s cause she hasn’t got anybody to talk to anymore. She used to talk to the Cap all the time, and she and Phlox were real good buddies. Now it’s just me and Reed and a whole lotta MACOs.

T’Pol> You are insufficient?

Tucker, Capt. C.> Ouch.

T’Pol> You have not answered my question.

Tucker, Capt. C.> I guess I am

T’Pol> Have you spoken to her of your concerns?

Tucker, Capt. C.> What am I supposed to do, walk up to her and say Gee Hosh you never smile anymore and I know everybody’s gone kind of crazy but you seem like you’re in a bad way, what do I do?


T’Pol lifted her hands from the keyboard and laid them in her lap, staring at them. Washing dishes and cooking and cleaning and a thousand domestic chores had left the skin dried and calloused, cracked as if she’d spent weeks in the deep desert sands of home. Working on electronics and equipment had left them stained from fuel and lubricants. She had never seen a Vulcan with hands like hers.

Her hands were no longer Vulcan.

T’Pol> That would be a start.

Trip did not answer her, and she finally went to bed.

::

The neighborhood, as Jonathan referred to it, slowly became populated as dwellings were completed. T’Pol suspected it was not just Jonathan’s condition that got them into one of the first completed houses, but also a desire to keep the one alien allowed on the planet contained. Others had waited, living in tents and what could generously be referred to as shacks until houses were completed, and they moved in promptly.

Returning from collecting the week’s ration of groceries, T’Pol froze when a young child ran from the yard several down from their own. “Hello!”

After a moment, T’Pol nodded. “Hello, young one. Where should you be?”

“In the yard,” the girl said without hesitation. “But I wanted to say hello. Are you the Vulcan?”

“Yes.” T’Pol looked over; a younger boy sat on a blanket, finger in his mouth, staring at them both. “Is this your brother?”

“Yeah,” the girl said with a dismissive wave. “He’s Danny. I’m Dory. What’s your name?”

T’Pol looked at the yard again. There was a wash line already hung up, and it was half filled. A basket of laundry, also half-filled, was on the ground. “I am T’Pol. Is your mother doing laundry?”

Dory shrugged. “She was. But Casey fell and hurt himself – he’s my big brother. Mom took him inside to clean up. Are you really from Vulcan?” She suddenly grabbed T’Pol’s hand and began tugging her into the yard. T’Pol had a momentary sensation of overwhelming curiosity, and a deeply buried anxiety. “Can you tell me about it? I always wondered what it looked like, and Mom found me a book but it doesn’t have very many pictures and it’s kind of boring. Were you on the Enterprise? Did you see lots of stuff?”

The moment T’Pol stepped into the yard, Danny began crawling off the blanket and over to them. He held his arms up to T’Pol, eyes pleading.

Unnoticed, Dory prattled on, discussing her fascination with ships, planets, aliens, and how the grass on this planet was nothing like the grass back at home – “Oops. I meant on Earth,” she corrected herself, looking embarrassed. “Because this has to be home now, right? Since Earth is gone?”

The child was so matter-of-fact about it that it shook T’Pol out of her astonishment. “Home is where you make it,” she told the girl, as gently as she could. “I’m making my home here too.” Resting her bags of groceries against the wall, she bent over and picked the boy up. He curled up in her arms, fingers hanging out of his mouth as he rested his head against her shoulder. Automatically, T’Pol cradled him close. He immediately began broadcasting contentment, damp fingers curling into her shirt.

“Why are you here?” Dory blinked up at her. “Couldn’t you go to Vulcan?”

T’Pol considered her for a moment. “My friends are here,” she finally said.

“Dorothy Anne – oh!” T’Pol picked up her head. A long-haired, slender woman had emerged from the house. T’Pol could recall her from around the camp, frequently in the company of other mothers and their children. “Do you need something?”

Without really intending it, T’Pol could feel her features slipping into the stillness she now thought of as her Vulcan face. “No, thank you. Your daughter came into the street to introduce herself. I thought I would wait with her until you came back outside.”

“Oh!” Wiping her hands on the towel she held, the woman came down the step and crossed the yard. “Thank you. I’m sorry, I – jumped to conclusions.”

T’Pol inclined her head. “There is no offense when none is intended.”

“Surak, right?” The woman made an aborted movement, and T’Pol realized she’d been about to extend her hand. She made a snap decision – when in Rome, the saying went – and held out her own. It was an easier decision each time she made it.

“I am called T’Pol,” she said, to fill the surprised silence. “I was formerly the captain of Enterprise.”

“Yes,” the woman stuttered, and took her hand in a brief handshake. “I’m Lisa, Lisa Jacobs. My husband was the navigator on the Eclipse before she was decommissioned. I see you’ve already met Dory and Danny. My eldest is inside, plastering band-aids on himself.”

Danny twisted in T’Pol’s arms a bit at the sound of his mother’s voice, fingers back in his mouth. “I have,” she said, lifting a hand to protect his head, an instinct she hadn’t expected to possess. “Dory has many questions.”

“They’re good questions!” Dory interrupted.

“What have I said about leaving the yard, Dory?” Lisa asked, turning a stern glance on her daughter.

“Never do it without letting you know first,” Dory mumbled, looking away.

“And did you?”

“No.” Dory shuffled her feet for a minute. “Sorry, Mom.”

“Don’t do it again, Dorothy. I mean it.” Lisa rested a hand on her shoulder for a moment. “Why don’t you go pick your toys up? I think T’Pol has groceries she was bringing home, we should let her finish her chores.”

“I didn’t know Vulcans had chores!” Dory said, puffing up, and darted off. Lisa laughed and rolled her head back on her shoulder, looking at the sky for a moment.

“Thank you,” she said, laughing. “She might actually be amenable to doing her chores the first time I ask, now, in order to be more like the Vulcans.”

T’Pol simply inclined her head again, having no idea how to respond to that. “She is very inquisitive,” she said instead.

“Don’t I know it!” Lisa sighed, and looked away for a moment. “She’s very smart – so’s my eldest. I wonder sometimes what we’re going to do for schooling…” Shaking her head, she refocused her attention on T’Pol. “Can I ask which house is yours? I knew you were in the neighborhood, I just didn’t know which one. A whole bunch of us moved in at once this week.”

T’Pol pointed to the end of the street. “The end dwelling. I live with Jonathan Archer…” She hesitated for a moment.

“He still hasn’t gotten his memories back?” Lisa looked horrified for a moment. “It really is permanent?”

In her arms, Danny made a snuffling noise and buried his face against her shoulder again. T’Pol could feel him relax into sleep. “Our doctor is researching, but – it is not promising,” she finally said. It was the first time she’d said it out loud.

It hurt. She had not expected that.

Lisa was nodding. “That must be incredibly hard for you,” she finally said, sympathetically.

“I am not –” T’Pol stopped talking, and recognized the sympathy for what it was. “Yes,” she said, after a moment. “It’s hard for both of us.”

“My great-granddad lost a lot of memories before he died,” Lisa offered after a moment. “He was terribly old but it was still hard. I remember watching my mom cry after every visit. Oh, Danny – here, I’ll take him.”

T’Pol looked down to see that Danny was drooling in his sleep onto her shirt. Lisa gently peeled his fingers away from her clothes and slipped him from T’Pol’s arms to her shoulder without jostling him once. “I do not mind,” T’Pol said quietly.

“He’s very comforting, isn’t he?” She looked from her son to T’Pol. “Well, if it really doesn’t bother you, come over whenever you want. I’m always glad for a little adult conversation.”

T’Pol nodded and turned to pick up her groceries when Lisa’s voice stopped her. “T’Pol?” She picked up the bags and straightened.

“Yes.”

Lisa’s voice was hushed. “Did they – your people. Did they know?”

For a long moment, T’Pol stared at her. “Not enough,” she finally said. “And I live here, now.”

Lisa stared back for a long moment, and then a wide smile broke out across her face. “Good answer,” she said. T’Pol nodded at her, and took her groceries, and went home.

::


“Where am I?”

T’Pol had been kneeling in the kitchen, carefully reorganizing their small collection of cooking pots in the cabinet. She stood up too quickly and bashed her knee against the cabinet door. It stung; she ignored it. “Jonathan. Good morning.”

“Where the hell is this?” Jonathan came barrelling across the room, looking around in shock. Absently, T’Pol noted that his hair was growing long and reminded herself she would have to cut it for him again.

“We are on Ceti Alpha V, a colony planet in the Mutara Sector. You contracted a type of parasite that has proven particularly difficult to eradicate, and has left you with anterograde amnesia.” T’Pol turned and opened the stasis unit and took out some of the leftover fruit from yesterday. “Doctor Phlox felt remaining on the ship caused you undue distress and recommended you take up residency planetside while he continued researching your condition. I volunteered to join you.”

Narrowing his eyes, Jonathan shook his head. “That makes no sense. Why would you leave Enterprise?”

“I am not particularly welcome on Vulcan at the moment,” T’Pol said, and Jonathan drew his brows together and took a deep breath. She cut him off. “Politics.”

“Is this punishment?” Jonathan looked around, finally taking in the room. “Did Forrest ditch me here? Who did I piss off this time?”

T’Pol needed every second that his back was turned to find her control. “No one. You are ill. You need care. We agreed a new colony would be less stressful. Come have some fruit, you haven’t eaten yet.”

Jonathan gave her a disbelieving look and stared at the bowl on the counter. “What is that?”

“Melon. It’s a hybrid of some earth variety -- cantelope, I believe?” She shrugged one shoulder when he did not answer, found a fork, and took a bite herself. “Or you can skip breakfast, if you do not wish to eat.”

“I can’t just sit down and eat, T’Pol, this makes no sense!” Jonathan shook his head and just as suddenly pounded his fist into the table. “What are you not telling me?” He started pacing and looking around the room. T’Pol put the fork down. This, then, was going to be a difficult day.

Jonathan put two and two together just as he reached the door, and he spun to look accusingly at her. “The mission. What happened with the mission?”

“It failed,” she said bluntly, as she kept the counter between them. “There is no one left to punish you. You were infected with these parasites in the Expanse, saving me from an anomaly that was ripping through the ship. We were too late to save Earth.”

He slumped against the door jamb, jaw open, and stared at her, unseeing. “Gone?”

“Yes.” Now it was safe. She came out from around the counter. “The survivors are here.”

He shook his head, staring into space. “How many?”

“Less than six thousand,” she whispered, and waited for the rest of his grief: bowed head, silent scream, shaking shoulders. Porthos, with his unerring sense of when his master needed him, slipped into the room from outside and began trying to lick Jonathan’s face. Turning away, T’Pol returned to preparing breakfast. Porthos was better equipped to assist Jonathan than she ever would be.

::

Another day began with another awkward, uncomfortable discussion. T’Pol had just finished clearing breakfast when someone knocked on the door. Jonathan had taken the news well today, and was in the head showering. She checked for Porthos – there he was, racing out of Jonathan’s bedroom to stand trembling by the door, ready to leap all over the newcomers.

They turned out to be Tom, Eline, and Moishe, former ship’s engineers who had taken over maintenance for the many electronics and mechanics of the colony’s slowly-developing industries. “What can I do for you?” T’Pol asked as she held the door open.

Slowly, they filed in, looking around, and Eline cleared her throat. “We need your assistance.”

T’Pol couldn’t help it; her eyebrow arched. “Indeed. How may I be of service?”

Moishe held out a reader with a display, and she took it. “The converters?”

“I can’t nail down this fluctuation,” Moishe said with frustration. “Just when I think I’ve got it, it shows in another line.”

“We were hoping you might have some ideas,” Eline said, looking hopeful.

T’Pol frowned as she considered the schematic. “Have you flushed the Bodner lines?”

Moishe nodeed. “Twice, and I did a full reset of the boards at the same time. It keeps popping up.”

“Have you considered the programming?” T’Pol asked, looking to Tom. He looked startled, and nodded.

“What’s going on?”

Everyone turned as one, but T’Pol recovered first. “Jonathan. These are some of the colony’s engineers. Tom, Eline, and Moishe, you’ve met Jonathan Archer before.” There was a brief round of handshakes and awkwardness, and T’Pol offered him the schematic. “Apparently their team is having some trouble with fluctuations in the lines.”

Jonathan frowned at the diagram for a few minutes. “Didn’t we have trouble with this in the main bus for a while there?” he asked T’Pol. “Trip had to do some re-balancing of the power load.”

“We tried that,” Moishe said, but he was frowning as if he were thinking.

“You have batteries set up to compensate for the downspikes in the cycle?” Jonathan asked.

“One pack, but – ” Moishe started, nodded, and pulled an old-fashioned notebook out of his pocked and started taking notes. “One pack is nowhere near sufficient. We have to build more batteries.” Tom sighed and started to scratch notes on his own pad; Eline just looked exhausted as Moishe kept talking. “Do you know how long it’s been since I’ve had to build a battery? Undergrad, probably.” He didn’t look up from his notebook once, busily scribbling.

“Well, if you want a hand…” Jonathan stopped talking in mid-sentence, and looked away, as if he’d almost been able to forget for a moment what was wrong with him. T’Pol watched him out of the corner of her eye.

“I concur. I am also available to assist, should you require it,” she said.

“Great,” Eline said. “The more hands, the better.”

“You any good at coding?” Tom asked T’Pol. “It wasn’t my area of expertise, I just got stuck doing it a lot.”

“I have some skill,” T’Pol said, and she stepped around the group to look at the file Tom offered her.

“That’s not gonna work,” she heard a moment later, and she looked up to see Jonathan looking over Moishe’s shoulder. “See, the D4 connections here, and…here?” He pointed. “Use those for hookups, you’ll get a more even rate of transfer. The C1 hookups just can’t handle it. You’d blow the network in under an hour.”

Moishe looked from the spects to him and back. “How on earth did you know that off the top of your head?”

Jonathan shrugged. “I spent a lot of time working on those, and it wasn’t that long ago—to me, anyway,” he added hastily.

Moishe’s mouth opened in a silent “oh,” as he rethought whatever he was going to say. “Well, you’re like a walking manual,” he said instead, a moment later. “Please tell me you will show up tomorrow morning and help us with this.”

Jonathan glanced over at T’Pol. She nodded. “We’ll be there.”

::

Tucker, Capt. C.> How’s the planet?

T’Pol> It is a planet. It rotates and revolves, which I am sure you can detect from the ship.

Tucker, Capt. C.> Funny let me rephrase

Tucker, Capt. C.> how are you?

T’Pol > I am busier than I expected to be.

Tucker, Capt. C.>Oh yeah? Doin what?

T’Pol> We have both joined the engineering crew working on repairs and maintenance. It is a never-ending task. Jonathan has commented that all of your training has been very useful.

Tucker, Capt. C.> Well how about that

T’Pol> In addition Jonathan requires a great deal of monitoring. On occasion he must be reminded midway through the day why he does not recognize his environment. I can’t leave him alone.

Tucker, Capt. C.> Can I ask you a question?

T’Pol> You have already asked several.

Tucker, Capt. C.> Why don’t you call him Captain anymore? You always used to, and you just – stopped, all of a sudden.

[timeout]

T’Pol> It is at his request. Here, neither of us are captains. We are just Jonathan and T’Pol.

[timeout]

T’Pol> Trip? How is Hoshi?

[timeout]

Tucker, Capt. C.> She’s doing better I think

>I invited her to dinner the other night, and she told me about her grandmother’s cooking I think she just needed to talk

T’Pol> That’s good news.

Tucker, Capt. C.> It made me think a little

[timeout]

Tucker, Capt. C.> No joke about the rarity of that? I’m disappointed

T’Pol> It’s too obvious to state. What were you thinking about?

Tucker, Capt. C.> You. Who are you talking to, T’Pol? You got someone down there to be your sounding board?

[timeout]

[session dropped]


::


“Hey.”

T’Pol turned, a shirt in her hand. “Jonathan. I thought you were going to go for a run.” He had, she realized a moment later: his hair was still damp from showering.

“Yeah, I tried the ring road around the colony that you recommended. Quite a place they’ve got going on here,” Jonathan said, slumping into the sofa with a glass of water in his hand. “What’s that?”

“Laundry,” T’Pol said shortly, folding another one of his shirts. His undergarments were underneath. She folded them as quickly as she could.

Jonathan sat up and frowned at her. “Are you folding my laundry?”

Oh, not this again. “Yes.” Her own human-style undergarments, necessary with the change in wardrobe since she had adopted a more human style of dress, were beneath that. She folded those into their own pile. More shirts. Her spare trousers. Her exercise clothes. Socks. She sorted them efficiently, setting the extra aside. Its mate would turn up.

“Why are you folding my laundry?” Jonathan was still frowning.

“Because it is a task that needs to be done, and I do it.” She gathered her clothing and took it to her bedroom, quickly putting it away. When she came back to the main room, Jonathan was standing next to the empty basket and piles of his clothes, arms crossed over his chest.

“I don’t need a maid.”

Sometimes when Jonathan became difficult, T’Pol wondered what the crew’s reactions would be. Now look who’s got his panties in a knot, Trip’s voice sounded in her mind, and she fought to keep her lips still. “That’s good, as I’m most certainly not one.”

Jonathan set his jaw. “Then why,” he muttered through his teeth, “are you folding my laundry?”

“Because otherwise it would never get done.” T’Pol picked up the basket and brought it to the closet to put it away. “There are many tasks I do. Laundry is one of them. I prefer clean clothes.”

“You mean to tell me in all the time we’ve been here you’ve been doing my laundry?” Jonathan sputtered. “Folding my jockeys?”

“I assure you, it’s not a chore I find exceptionally stimulating,” T’Pol said dryly. “You would start a load of laundry and forget you had done so. A basket would sit waiting to be folded for three days, until I did it. You would forget that laundry needed doing at all, until you lacked any clean garments to wear.” She began piling Jonathan’s clothing into her arms to put away.

His bark of laughter stopped her. “You mean to tell me I really am a walking stereotype?” He was shaking her head, and when she quirked an eyebrow, he waved a hand. “Sorry. Just – my mother raised me better than that.”

“Your mother did not take subspace parasites into consideration,” T’Pol said archly.

“Wouldn’t have mattered,” Jonathan said, and he took the armload of clothing from her. “This I can do at least. You do everything else.” It wasn’t an accusation. It sounded almost like an apology. Standing back, she let Jonathan gather up the rest of his clothes and carry it off to his bedroom to put away.

::

Denobula Prime:Central Capital Medical Center:Phlox,Doctor/Landing:T’Pol
Progress Report:

Doctor:

Captain Archer has presented no changes in his condition. He continues to suffer from a complete lack of memory retention, especially upon waking, and is frequently disoriented and confused when arising. This often leads to anger and lashing out. Upon explanation he sometimes is accepting, but more often than not he challenges both the situation and myself.

While he generally, after much explanation, accepts what truth I am able to give him, Captain Archer seems to find much greater comfort in the presence of Porthos than myself. I am uncertain if I am truly helping him, but there is no other who can be here with him, so I shall continue.

The colony continues its development, and Captain Archer and myself have both found ourselves in high demand for our expertise with mechanics and electronics. As the Captain’s memory of such systems is unaffected he is able to contribute to the colony’s growth and development. The ability to be useful, as he puts it, has done a great deal for his day-to-day morale.

I look forward to any news your research might have.

T’Pol


::

The regular town meetings had settled into a fairly routine cycle. By this point, most people did not even bother attending; they simply read the minutes posted the next day on town hall’s notice board. But T’Pol, having joined the engineering & maintenance crew, was required to attend every session. It was a complicated arrangement. If the meeting was short she would bring Jonathan along, or leave him at home if he didn’t wish to deal with the stress of so many unfamiliar people. But longer meetings, such as tonight’s, made such plans much more difficult.

Normally Lisa, their neighbor, would have Jonathan join her and her children while her husband attended. The children readily accepted Jonathan’s need to be re-introduced to them every time, and delighted in having a fresh audience for their games. But Lisa had decided to come herself this time, as her husband had drawn the night shift at the water treatment plant, dropping her children off at the nursery set up for that purpose. So Jonathan sat between them in the audience, the children safely in the nursery.

“Look, Peter,” the current speaker said with some asperity. “I get you’re angry but this is a stupid plan. It’s not like we’ve got aliens flocking here anyway.”

“There’s Andorians flying in and out of this system all the time,” Peter said, jumping to his feet and ignoring the moderator’s gavel. “And all sorts of other species, right over our heads!”

“What about the aliens who’ve helped us?” the speaker asked, talking right over Peter’s objections. Jonathan leaned over to Lisa, whispering something, and Lisa leaned back and whispered loud enough for them both to hear.

“His name is Terry. His wife and kids were in Florida, before…”

T’Pol nodded at Lisa and watched Jonathan as he settled back into his chair, taking in the debate with a familiar set to his jaw.

“Aliens that help, there’s an idea,” Terry scoffed.

“T’Pol!” somebody called out from the audience. A bunch of other voices echoed it.

“The Enterprise doctor saved my baby during the Voyage,” another voice cried out. “He’s an alien and he took better care of me than my own mother ever did.”

“He’s a doctor,” Terry scoffed. “That’s his job, he wasn’t doing it to be nice. And the Vulcan – what did Vulcans ever do for us, but treat us like trained pets and then walk off at just the conveniently right time? They’re as guilty as the Xindi!”

In the hush that fell over the room, T’Pol slowly rose to her feet. Jonathan shook his head at her, a frown creasing his features. She pretended not to see. “I would disagree,” she said calmly, and lifted her chin. “The Vulcans are guilty of many things in regard to their treatment of humanity, but it is their own guilt due to their own decisions, and should stand on its own, separate from the actions of the Xindi. Judge them for their own failures.”

Them?” sneered Terry.

“Them,” T’Pol. “I am here, am I not?” She turned to face the council – a former freighter captain, two farmers, a doctor, a teacher, and a baker. Only the doctor still worked at his former profession. “I wish to clarify several points, with your permission.”

Janel was holding the gavel tonight. She taught the older children now. Once upon a time she had been a university professor, teaching quantum mathematics. “Go ahead, T’Pol,” she said, putting the gavel down on the table.

Inclining her head, T’Pol turned to take in the room. Next to her, Jonathan and Lisa were both watching raptly, practically buzzing in anticipation. “Most of you know me now,” she said. “Or you know of me. I have repaired ground cars and food resequencers and farm equipment for all of you. I have helped in your classrooms and with your children. You have been able to form your own opinion of my character. If you wish for humanity to continue without any contamination of alien life, I will, of course, abide by that decision and leave this colony at once. I will return to Enterprise until suitable transport for myself can be arranged. I trust this will reassure you, Mister Lowell.” She inclined her head at Terry, who was practically vibrating with anger. “Of course, as I am the colony’s main contact, via Enterprise, with Commander Schran, and this measure proposes there be no further contact with the Commander or any non-human beings, I must point out that you will need to acquire local sources for battery power, replacement parts, and protein and carbohydrate sources for resequencers, as well as fertilizer and farming supplies. As humans have proven themselves to be a most resilient and ingenious species, I have no doubt you will rise to the challenge.” She sat down, back perfectly straight.

Next to her, Jonathan stood up, and the whole room turned. “If she goes, I go with her,” he said simply, and sat back down again. “Nobody insults my best officer to my face like that,” he muttered under his breath. Next to him, Lisa grinned and leaned back in her chair, arms crossed over her chest as she watched the room explode with chatter. T’Pol sat silent and still as it swirled around them. Jonathan just smirked as Janel fought for control and finally called the matter to a vote.

It failed, 964-47. Jonathan leaned over to her. “That’s good, right? Because I’m really not sure where we’d go.” T’Pol shot him a sharp look, and he sat back and shut up, but the grin on his face didn’t disappear.

Terry and his small crowd of supporters spent the night in lockup after they picked a fight in the village pub afterwards. T’Pol did not know about that until the next morning; she had gone straight home with Jonathan and spent the evening meditating herself back to peacefulness. It took a long time.

::

>Initiating Session
>Enterprise:Tucker, Capt. C/Landing:T’Pol

Tucker, Capt. C.> I hear the politics down there are getting real interesting

T’Pol> If you are referring to the last town hall meeting, there were several developments.

Tucker, Capt. C.> You stayin anyway?

T’Pol> The vote failed.

Tucker, Capt. C.> That’s not much of an answer, you know

T’Pol> I am here. I will stay.

Tucker, Capt. C.> Did Cap really threaten to leave if they kicked you out?

T’Pol> He did.

T’Pol> He informed our neighbor that he does not like hearing people speak of his officers that way.

Tucker, Capt. C.> Once a captain always a captain, right?

T’Pol> Yes.

Tucker, Capt. C.> There’s always a place for you here, you know. Both of you

T’Pol> Thank you. I believe Jonathan would thank you too.

Tucker, Capt. C.> He’s already forgotten?

T’Pol> Yes.

Tucker, Capt. C.> Tell him anyway

> And tell him I’m takin good care of his ship

T’Pol> If it comes up.


She knew it wouldn’t.

::

T’Pol was putting away the last of her tools when Jonathan came in from weeding the vegetable garden, pushing his hair out of his eyes. “Listen. Is there a barber anywhere?”

Frowning, she considered his request. “I do not believe there is.”

Jonathan got a glass and poured himself juice, leaning against the counter as he drank. “So what do people do about their hair? Maybe we don’t all want to grow it out.” He waved his glass at her. “Wouldn’t look as good on me.”

T’Pol ignored his comment and put her toolkit back in its cabinet before washing the lubricants and grease off her hands. “Do you require a haircut?”

“Yeah.” Jonathan huffed at his bangs with his bottom lip. T’Pol watched him in curiosity as he attempted to elevate the hair with his breath, laughing in triumph when he managed the trick. “See? That was always my way of knowing when I was a kid. Way too long.” He finished his juice. “You know anybody that can handle giving me a trim?”

“Yes,” T’Pol said crisply, already looking in the drawer for scissors. “I can. Do you have a comb?”

Jonathan stopped short and stared at her. “Wait. Really?”

“It would not be the first time,” she said, and held up the scissors. “And it would be more efficient to do this outside. It will make clean-up easier.” She waited as Jonathan gave her a slightly distrustful look, before shrugging and putting his glass in the washing unit. He disappeared into his bedchamber and returned with a comb in his hand.

“All right. Let’s go.” He led the way outside, whistling for Porthos as he went. The dog came leaping around from the vegetable garden, racing around them in circles. T’Pol considered her options, and flipped a crate onto its side.

“Sit.”

Jonathan complied, laughing, and amused himself watching Porthos attempt to track and attack a stick while T’Pol combed his hair out neatly and began trimming. “Aren’t you supposed to ask if I have any styling preferences?” he asked at one point, and T’Pol picked up both hands and stepped back.

“Do you have any styling preferences?” she asked, letting one eyebrow rise. Jonathan turned, looked at her, and shook his head, starting to laugh again.

“No, you go ahead. I trust you.”

T’Pol paused, because he said it so easily that she almost thought it was a joke. But his shoulders were relaxed and he held his head so comfortably that she thought, perhaps, he meant it.

“Besides,” Jonathan added after a moment. “If I don’t like it, just don’t tell me tomorrow that you did it.”

Only because he was facing away from her did she allow her lips to curve.

::

The hill above the lake was popular with almost everyone in the colony. The view was a beautiful one, overlooking the settlement, the fields and pasture, and the lake stretching off towards the mountains and horizon beyond. T’Pol had heard, more than once, that it was a view that would not have been out of place on Earth.

Today was a good day for Jonathan, so she had brought him here to watch the younger children have a swimming lesson – which, as far as T’Pol could tell, was really just an opportunity for the young ones to continuously jump off the dock into the water in an attempt to make the biggest possible splash. Jonathan was watching the children play, a smile crossing his face whenever the wind blew their cheering up the hill to them.

“I’m glad they’re here,” he finally said, one hand reaching to rub behind Porthos’ ear as the dog curled up at his feet.

“There has been a marked population increase since the settlement was established,” T’Pol commented quietly. “We will need more teachers soon.”

“You’d be good at that,” Jonathan said, glancing at her. “Why don’t you?”

She inclined her head thoughtfully. “I have enough tasks at the moment.”

Jonathan’s lips thinned. “Taking care of me, you mean? I might as well just be another kid.”

“Partly,” T’Pol said, refusing to rise to his bait. “Along with my duties handling mechanical and electronic system repairs. I do sit in on occasion when my presence is requested, as those duties allow.” She glanced over at him. “As have you.”

Frowning, Jonathan met her gaze. “Really? I have?”

“You have. And have been a great success. You’re able to bond with the children in a way I cannot.”

He considered that. “Huh. Funny, when I never planned on having any of my own.” Jonathan stared off into space, no longer watching the swimming lesson. “Just didn’t seem possible, what with the lifestyle of a starship captain.”

T’Pol hesitated, unsure of the appropriate response. “Indeed,” she finally said.

“What about you?” Jonathan said abruptly. “You ever think about having kids?”

“No,” T’Pol said sharply. She reconsidered her tone when Jonathan’s shoulders stiffened and he leaned away, his face going smooth. “No,” she repeated. “I am of childbearing age, but there are many expectations on Vulcan for a future mother, and I -- I do not meet those expectations.”

“Because you’re here,” Jonathan finished for her. He pulled a blade of the bluegrass out of the ground and started twisting it between his fingers.

“Indeed,” T’Pol said again, watching the grass slowly shred as he rolled it.

Jonathan was silent for a long moment. “I’m sorry,” he finally said, dropping the grass blade and staring off into space again.

“You have nothing to apologize for,” she pointed out. “It’s not your fault.”

“But you’re here because of me,” Jonathan said, peevish. “If this hadn’t happened –”

“Perhaps I would have stayed on Enterprise, as science officer,” T’Pol interrupted. “Perhaps I’d have returned to Earth and the Vulcan Embassy. Perhaps – I could have taken any number of directions. But things happened as they did and so I am here.” She turned her head, waiting for Jonathan to turn to meet her gaze. “This was my choice. I don’t regret it.” She spoke slowly, because it was the truth.

“Thank you,” Jonathan said, after a long pause, and cleared his throat.

“You are welcome,” T’Pol said softly, and fell silent. Jonathan reddened and went back to pretending to watch the swimming lesson, but his posture was slowly disintegrating as he grew more and more lost in thought. T’Pol watched him not-watching the children, and finally scooted over a bit on the grass, so that her shoulder was touching Jonathan’s. Startled, he picked his head up and looked at her, question visible in his eyes.

“I mean it,” she said simply.

Jonathan leaned into the touch ever so slightly -- an acknowledgement, she realized. “I know.”

Out of words, T’Pol just leaned back. It worked: Jonathan smiled, and his shoulders were higher as he turned back to watch one of the children scamper down the pier and launch into the air, screaming at the top of her lungs as she landed in the water with an almighty splash.

::

“T’Pol!”

Looking up from where she was chopping apples, T’Pol frowned. “Jonathan?”

“Get down,” he hissed. “Where the hell are we?”

“Jonathan.” T’Pol put the knife down. “Come into the kitchen and I will explain. Are you hungry?”

“Where. Are. We?” Jonathan was crouched in the hallway, a hands-width away from the edge, looking around the room with a frown. “Where are our uniforms? Something strange is going on.”

Reaching for a towel, T’Pol carefully dried her hands. “Jonathan, please. I will explain, but please come and sit down first.” He shot her a vaguely betrayed look and swung his head around the corner to take in the living room before retreating behind the hall. “Captain Archer. There are extenuating circumstances that you are not yet aware of. Please let me make my report.”

Jonathan froze and turned to stare at her. “Where are we and why are we here?”

Sometimes the human expression of eye-rolling made perfect sense. “This planet is known as Ceti Alpha V. We are residing in a human colony that has been established here. We are not wearing our uniforms, as we are not on this planet in any official Starfleet capacity.”

Jonathan shook his head and looked around the room again. “So we’re here because…” He let his doubt shade every word.

“You suffered a severe injury while rescuing me from a fallen bulkhead during a flight through an area filled with subspace anomalies,” T’Pol explained, forcing patience into her voice. “It has prevented you from forming any long-term memories. We are residing on this planet while Dr. Phlox continues research on the cure.”

He continued to regard her suspiciously. “Where’s the ship?”

“Returned to active duty,” T’Pol said, switching her tone to reassurance and calm. “Trip is currently in command.”

“Really.” Jonathan straightened up entirely and took a cautious step, taking in the room again. “Trip’s off leading the Enterprise, you’re here with me, and we’re just randomly living in this house together on some colony world I’ve never heard of?”

When T’Pol nodded, he reached out and grabbed her hair, pulling tightly until her head was forced backwards. “Who are you,” he hissed. “What have you done with my first officer?”

It stung.

“I am T’Pol, formerly science officer aboard Enterprise under Captain Jonathan Archer,” she hissed, and when he didn’t let go, she swept out with a foot and knocked him off his feet. It only took seconds to secure him, her arms holding him firmly against the ground. “I will let you up once you promise not to attack me again.”

“What the hell is going on?” Jonathan tried to get up – useless, of course, with T’Pol’s strength.

“I already explained,” T’Pol said wearily. “You did not believe me. Do you remember walking through the corridor –”

“I was just there,” Jonathan interrupted. “I was in the command center looking at long range scans –”

“That was four years ago,” T’Pol said sharply, and Jonathan finally stopped struggling and stared at her. “The anomaly that hit the ship knocked a bulkhead support loose that trapped me beneath it. You managed to lift it enough for me to free myself, but in doing so you were struck by a second anomaly which left you with an infection of subspace parasites. Your memory has been damaged ever since.”

Letting his head fall back, Jonathan stared at the ceiling – looking for something familiar that he would not find. “So where are we?”

“We are currently residing in a human colony on the fifth planet in the Ceti Alpha system,” T’Pol said, releasing her hold on him and sitting back, settling on the floor. “We found you were more comfortable in a planet-side environment.”

Now that the fighting was over, Porthos came closer and began nosing at Jonathan’s hands. Sitting up, he pulled the dog into his lap and began stroking his ears. “I’ve been here for three years?”

“Just over three,” T’Pol said. “It’s a new colony. I believe you will be impressed.” She stood, and offered him a hand up. He took it, giving her a momentary sense of his disorientation. “Sit. I was making breakfast. Do you want any?”

Taken aback, Jonathan stared at her in surprise. “I am pretty hungry.”

T’Pol gestured at his chair. “Well, then.”

“Sorry about attacking you,” he said, a little sheepishly, as he sat.

“It was not the first time,’ T’Pol said as she began cracking eggs for him. “I’m sure it won’t be the last.”

::

It was a pleasant evening, with a cool breeze drifting through the windows. T’Pol was seated on the couch, reading with interest a book one of the farmers had lent her. It was an old paper book that he had brought from Earth onto his ship, and when Michael had given it to her he had done so with a reverent air. T’Pol was holding the book as gently as possible.

The story was absolutely fascinating, involving mistaken identities and family matters set against the background of a revolution on Earth’s European continent. T’Pol had to admit she found the language difficult to follow easily, but the story was intriguing, and she found herself becoming accustomed to the antiquated phrasing.

“T’Pol – hey, sorry. I didn’t realize you were reading. Good book?” T’Pol looked up; Jonathan was coming out of his room, a reader in his hands.

“Yes. Michael Doren lent this to me. He claimed this to be a classic work of human literature.” T’Pol held the cover up for him.

Jonathan squinted at it and nodded. “Oh yes. Dickens isn’t a favorite of mine but he’s definitely required reading, if you want the greatest hits. What do you think?”

T’Pol considered. “I find much of the political situation confusing; I am aware of the basics of Earth’s history but I find that it is insufficient to understand clearly what is happening in this story.”

Chuckling, Jonathan sat in the chair opposite the sofa. “Thus spake every high school student who ever had to muddle through that, myself included. What about the story?”

“It is – easy to see why such stories are so popular among humans,” T’Pol said, inclining her head. “I’m most intrigued to see how Dickens resolves this one.”

“You haven’t guessed?” Jonathan said, sounding surprised.

He was baiting her. T’Pol gave him a dour look. “I have not. There is no use in attempting to apply logic to human behavior, fictional or otherwise.”

“Well, even better,” Jonathan said. “You’ll be surprised.”

“Indeed.” T’Pol turned to the next page, ready to return to her reading.

“Oh – listen. I had a question.” Jonathan held up the reader in his hands. “Is this yours? Somebody left it in the head.”

T’Pol noted her page and closed the book. “No, Jonathan. That is yours, and you have left it in there purposely, to use when you are occupying the facilities.”

Jonathan stared at the reader in his hand, and then looked at her, and then back to the reader. “Oh. That’s – oh. Good to know.”

“I’m glad to have been of assistance,” T’Pol said, and reopened her book. Every time they had this discussion it was a bit more awkward.

“I’ll – just leave you to your reading then,” Jonathan said, and beat a hasty retreat. T’Pol deliberately did not watch him go, and simply resumed her reading. Very quickly she was too involved in the last moments of Sidney Carton to concern herself with Jonathan’s embarrassment.

She did, however, bring a marking pencil into the head that night before she retired, and neatly labeled the reader with Jonathan’s name. Hopefully, she mused, that would pre-empt any further such discussion.

She returned Michael’s book to him the next day. He was so pleased by her many questions he promptly handed over the rest of his Dickens collection.

::

The storm that blew in unexpectedly was not particularly fierce, but the rain was cold and harsh, and everyone who could retreat for a shelter did so. T’Pol returned to their house to find Jonathan standing in the doorway, watching the rain fall. “They gave up on shearing?” he asked.

“Shearing wet sheep is decidedly unpleasant,” she said. “I’m going to change into dry clothes.” She did so quickly, and came back into the main room to put the kettle on, wanting tea to warm herself. Jonathan was still standing in the doorway, watching the rain and huffing. After a moment she realized he was trying to blow his bangs away from his eyes.

“Jonathan.” She waited until he turned. “If you need a haircut, you should just ask.”

He gave her a surprised look. “How did you know?”

T’Pol inclined her head, and found the scissors in the kitchen drawer. “You do that when your hair is too long. Come sit on the tile and I can sweep it up afterwards; this rain will go on for days and if I have to listen to that the whole time I will cut it in your sleep.”

He raised an eyebrow at her in deliberate imitation as he crossed the room. “All right, Delilah, go ahead.”

“I do not recognize that reference,” T’Pol told him, waiting for him to take a seat.

“Old human story, about a man to whom God granted mighty strength in exchange for leaving his hair uncut. Delilah was the woman who weaseled the secret out of him, and then cut his hair in the night to steal his strength.” Jonathan settled himself in his chair and turned to eye the scissors.

“It’s good that your strength isn’t tied to the length of your hair, then,” T’Pol said.

Jonathan laughed, and sat straight. “Good point, good point. Go for it.”



PART TWO


It began, as she had always heard it would, with a sudden rush of light-headedness. She quickly put down the transistor she was working on repairing and lowered her head between her legs, waiting for the sensation to pass. It only grew worse, and she clutched at the chair beneath her with both hands and tried to breathe deeply. This planet has an extremely oxygen-rich atmosphere, she reminded herself. You do not need to breathe as rapidly as you would have on Vulcan. Slow deliberate breaths. Allow your hemocyanins to bind to the oxygen and carry it through the body. Breathe. Breathe.

The dizziness continued for a long moment and then stopped as soon as it came, but as she carefully sat up, she could feel the aftereffects of the hormone surge radiating throughout her body. All of her limbs were trembling and her perception was altered; she reached for her glass of water and missed completely. It took her two more tries before she was able to grasp it, and she could see the tremors of her hand reflected in the vibrations of the water.

“And thus it begins,” she whispered to herself in Vulcan, and finished the water in one gulp.

::

She awoke in the middle of the night, silvery-orange moonlight streaming through her window. She clenched her fists in the bedsheets and struggled to control her breathing.

In. Out. Do it, T’Pol.

In. Out. In.

After ten futile minutes of failed attempts to bring her racing heart under control, she rose, straightening the covers neatly, and repaired to the kitchen to make tea. After all this time, she knew the layout by heart and did not require the lights; she simply filled the kettle and placed it on the burner, and turned it on. Leaning over the sink, she looked out the window at the small sideyard, cast in strange colors by the moonlight. Two yards over, the Jacobs children were out with their father stargazing. They’d grown tall – even little Danny, six years old and finally starting school. She watched them pointing at the sky, and memory rose up like a beacon, the memory of watching T’Khut rise above the Forge at her father’s side.

“He is dead,” she muttered to herself, hearing the anger in her voice, and turned back to the kettle. Hoshi had once explained the human saying “A watched pot never boils” to her. While she understood the idea, it had always been merely a theory: water always boiled in exactly the same amount of time. She was not subject to a Human’s variable and subjective perceptions.

The water was taking an unusually long time to boil.

“T’Pol?”

She whipped her head about – there was a shape on the sofa. Why on earth was he there and not in his room?

“Jonathan?”

“Yeah.” He sat up, squinting in the dimness. “What the hell, did I overdo my shore leave? Where is this?”

“Ceti Alpha V,” T’Pol said. “We have rented several houses here. You did not seem to react well to the local brew. It is well past their midnight. You might as well sleep while you can.”

Jonathan frowned at her, and she wondered if he could hear the lie on her lips as she spoke it. “Making tea?”

“I was going to take it to bed and read. I have been meditating.” Another lie, but it was not like he would remember. It practically didn’t count.

“Sounds like your idea of the best leave ever,” Jonathan said, the last word split in half by a massive yawn. “I’m going back to sleep.” He flopped back to the couch, blankets thrown about as he curled back up. “Night.”

T’Pol caught the kettle just before it whistled and turned the heat off. After she had made her tea, she paused to watch Jonathan sleep, moonlight falling on his head as he snored lightly. “Pleasant dreams, Jonathan,” she finally whispered, and stole back to the comforting simplicity of her room.

::

Jonathan did not catch on for two more days, and in that time she experienced three more hormone surges, each one progressively worse. The last left her bent double in the kitchen, hanging on to the counter so that she would not collapse onto the floor, and that was when he found her.

“T’Pol!” He rushed into the kitchen, hands out to help her. She lifted her own hand to warn him away, but it was not fast enough. He closed his hands around her arms – surprisingly warm, she thought – and carefully led her into the living area, and the sofa. Once he had her seated he hurried back into the kitchen and brought her a large glass of water and frowned when she would not take it, unable to hold it steady with her trembling hands. He plunked the glass onto the table and regarded her with worry.

“How long has this been going on?”

Wearily, T’Pol shook her head. “It is a Vulcan condition that occurs at certain times during our lives. Do not trouble yourself over it.”

Crossing his arms over his chest, Jonathan regarded her with exasperation. “That’s nice, but you’re on a planet with no other Vulcans, and the medics here won’t have the first clue about your people. What if you need help?”

“It passes,” T’Pol said, and took another deep breath. “I must simply wait for it to do so.” He was standing far too close and she found herself distracted by his hands, how the fingers curved around his arms as he continued to hold them crossed before him. “But I appreciate your assistance.”

Waving one hand dismissively, he shook his head. “I’m just worried about you. How long will this take to pass, then?”

Staring at her hands, T’Pol willed them to stop trembling enough to manage taking up the glass and drinking. They obeyed, but only just. “Likely several more days. I believe I must devote more time to meditation. I have been lax of late.” There. Let him believe that was the cause. “Will you be all right preparing your own evening meal?”

“I can make some for you too,” Jonathan said, tilting his head as he watched her. “Are you sure I can’t do anything else to help?”

“No, thank you.” T’Pol drained the glass, as was polite on Vulcan when one wished to show appreciation for hospitality, and rose slowly, intending to bring the glass to the sink. She wobbled as she stood, and before she even realized, Jonathan had stepped forward, his hand sturdy and warm beneath her elbow. He squeezed gently, helping her stand the rest of the way.

“T’Pol. I know when you’re bullshitting me. If you won’t tell me the truth, fine, but at least let me help you to your room. You should lie down until you feel better.” He held out a hand for the glass, but waited until she nodded before he started to walk, half-guiding and half-supporting her as she slowly crossed the living area to her bedchamber.

She realized, as Jonathan paused in the doorway, that the dizziness had not passed. “Will you be all right? Should I get the neighbors, maybe?”

“No!” T’Pol said, a little too sharply, and Jonathan looked at her, suspicious. “This is – a very private thing,” she added, softly. “Not something we usually discuss with –“outsiders”—anybody.”

Jonathan pressed his lips together, but he nodded as he stepped back. “If you need anything, tell me,” he said, quietly. “I hope meditating will help.” And he turned to return to the kitchen. T’Pol waited until he had turned the corner of the corridor, and stepped inside her chamber, closing the door behind her with a silent click.

::

Porthos joined her the next day as she knelt, staring into a candle and attempting to sink into meditation. Whining, he nosed at her hands until she opened her eyes and stroked his soft ears. “I must meditate and be silent and still,” she told him softly, and he whined again. “I must quiet the turmoil of my mind. You may stay but you must let me do what I must.” Porthos nosed at her hands and tried to climb up to lick her face. T’Pol picked him up and carefully put him down, all four feet on the ground. “Listen carefully. You must sit and be quiet. Can you do that?”

With a protesting groan, Porthos began to turn in circles. After the third time he curled up in front of her, tail covering his nose and his back pressed firmly against her knees. T’Pol rested her hands on his soft fur and stroked gently, and Porthos let out a little sigh before closing his eyes. Leaving her hands where they were, T’Pol tried again to reach the first stage of meditation. Matching her breathing to Porthos’ slow snuffling helped, and she finally felt herself slipping into a trance, the tension leaching away as her mind re-ordered itself. She was unable to reach the third stage, but when she emerged from the trance she felt refreshed, and when she found Porthos waiting quietly for her she found herself welcoming him with opened arms. The dog happily climbed up and licked her cheeks, and she held him close for a long moment.

This aspect of humanity, she mused, she at last understood.

::

She began to seek out Porthos when she needed to meditate. The beagle, happy for the attention, was always willing to sit with her and began to anticipate her requests, bounding across their small yard when she called for him.

“”You had him in there for a while,” Jonathan said while they ate their dinner after another difficult attempt. T’Pol had again only managed to reach the first level of meditation, and she was still somewhat unsettled.

“I find his presence while I meditate soothing,” T’Pol said, carefully cutting a spear of asparagus into bite-sized pieces. “He is a very content creature.”

“Not so worried about the smell anymore?” he asked, teasingly, as he spread some of the soft cheese from the goat farm on his flatbread.

T’Pol took the knife when he offered it and prepared her own bread. “No. There are many worse smells here. I did not realize goats could be so – pungent.”

“They’re pretty powerful,” Jonathan agreed with a laugh, but it faded quickly. “Porthos is content? Really?”

“When I touch him, he presents a sense of contentment, an awareness that he is “home,” and pleasure that he is here with – with you,” T’Pol said, putting the knife down.

Jonathan nodded, chewing thoughtfully. “I’m glad,” he finally said. “I thought maybe he’d – he’d know. About me. That something’s wrong. I’m glad he’s happy.”

T’Pol regarded the canine for a moment. “He is happy when you are happy,” she said finally. “He loves you.”

Jonathan gave her a small smile, and finished his meal in silence.

::

The next morning, she was awakened by her own breathing. It rasped, loud and harsh to her ears, and at a much faster tempo than usual. Sitting up carefully, T’Pol found the blankets she usually required thrown to the floor, and she felt fevered to her own touch. It was no longer possibly to deny the truth she had been aware of all along. But there was also no solution. For a moment she thought about Trip, and before she was aware of it she had risen from her bed and crossed the room to the comm unit, but stopped herself before she could activate it. What would I say? What would he say? This is no solution.

It was still early; so early that there was not yet anyone stirring from their homes. T’Pol slipped quietly from her room and lifted a towel from the laundry bin. A noise caught her attention and she looked up to see Porthos, trotting down the corridor from Jonathan’s room. He stopped in front of her and sat back, looking up at her expectantly.

“Go back to Jonathan’s room,” T’Pol murmured. “If he awakens while I am out he will need you.” Porthos let out a low growl and leaned forward to nudge her feet, as if to force her back to her room. She shook her head, annoyed. “I am going to swim. You must stay with Jonathan.”

Porthos let out another low growl, and T’Pol’s temper snapped. “Go!” she commanded, pointing to Jonathan’s door. With a whine, Porthos stood and tossed his head disdainfully, and trotted back into Jonathan’s room. His tail arched at her – accusingly, she thought for a moment, and then shook her head to clear it of such fanciful notions.

The lake was empty and quiet. The fish-like creatures that lived in the deeper sections were feeding, sending out ripples as they broke the surface in search of insects. T’Pol ignored them, quickly slipping out of her tunic and leggings and walking out onto the small pier. There was a ladder at the end and she climbed down into the water, gasping at the chill. Sinking lower, she let her feet sink into the silt at the bottom. It felt almost like the soft sands on the very edge of the Forge after a storm, and she dug her toes in, ignoring the burning of her lungs until blackness began to encroach on her vision. Kicking free, she launched herself back up to the surface and emerged into the air, gasping and grasping for the ladder.

Jonathan was standing on the edge of the pier, arms crossed over his chest in a familiar gesture. Porthos was circling around his feet, sniffing at the edge of the pier, but when he saw T’Pol he sat on his haunches with a satisfied air.

“I’m not even going to ask why I’m on a planet I don’t recognize,” Jonathan snapped, as he watched T’Pol treading water. “Or why Porthos is waking me up at dawn in a house I don’t recognize but I’ve clearly been living in for a while. Or why he felt the need to drag me out here to watch you skinny-dipping. But I’m pretty sure the last time I checked you couldn’t swim, so if you could clear that up for me I’d appreciate it.”

T’Pol ducked her head under to brush her hair back off of her face, and climbed up the ladder onto the dock. Jonathan looked at her, and turned away, face bright red. He started to say something, shut his mouth, and handed her her towel instead. T’Pol dried off her body quickly and wrapped the towel around her hair before slipping back into her clothing. “I learned to swim not long after we came here.”

Jonathan turned back, and now he looked angry. “Where the hell is here?”

“It is rather early in the day for our talk,” T’Pol said, fighting to keep her face calm. “This planet is called Ceti Alpha V. This is a colony of survivors of a deadly Xindi attack. We have joined them instead of remaining on the Enterprise because you are suffering from an infection of neural parasites that have left you with anterograde amnesia. I am suffering from a Vulcan condition known as pon farr, and swimming in the cold water provides me with some temporary relief.” Jonathan attempted to speak, but she talked right over him. “There is no cure. For either of us. If you will excuse me, I should start the first meal. If you cannot remember the way back, Porthos can show you.” She pulled the towel off her hair and draped it over her shoulders, a shield against Jonathan’s eyes as she left him staring after her. She realized as she walked away that she felt no relief. Her hands trembled again and her skin felt like it was burning.

There is no cure, she reminded herself, and made her legs keep walking.

::

“You’re not well,” Jonathan said the next morning as he helped her in their small vegetable garden. “You’re not usually so flushed.”

“My condition is as controlled as it can be,” T’Pol told him, and carefully pulled out the next weed.

Jonathan was digging up tubers. “That doesn’t sound promising.” He carefully pulled off the bitter leaf-tops of another bunch and started brushing off the worst of the dirt before laying them in the basket. T’Pol found she was having a very difficult time focusing on her own task; her eyes kept straying to his hands. “Have you asked Phlox?”

Some of the weeds had interwoven themselves in with the carrots. T’Pol began to untangle them, speaking idly as she concentrated on not damaging the carrots. “Doctor Phlox has returned to Denobula and is rarely reachable by comm. By the time I contacted him, it would be too late to do any good.”

Next to her, Jonathan froze and put his trowel down. “Wait. Explain that.”

Blinking, T’Pol looked up, trying to remember what she had just said. “Explain what?”

“You just said Phlox would get back to you ‘too late to do any good.’ What is that supposed to mean?” He leaned forward. “How sick are you?”

T’Pol shook her head. “I am not “sick”. This is a condition that affects all adult Vulcans with some regularity. It generally resolves itself with time.”

Jonathan wasn’t satisfied, and it showed. He sat back on his haunches and gave her a once-over. “Resolves how?”

“It resolves,” T’Pol said impatiently. “I cannot speak of it any further. It is a sensitive subject for Vulcans.”

“There’re no other Vulcans here,” Jonathan pointed out, waving his hands to indicate the quiet neighborhood. “In fact, I don’t see any other humans either. For all I know we’re the only two people on this planet right now.”

Perhaps that would be easier. T’Pol clamped her lips shut before anything slipped out of her mouth, and pulled the stubborn weed out of the ground. “Some Vulcans successfully meditate through it. Others seek the aid of a spouse. These are our main options.”

Jonathan turned his head away and his lips moved as if he was talking, but T’Pol heard no sounds. He spun back to face her after a moment. “A spouse. That implies –” He took one look at her face, and shut up. “You’re meditating, then?”

“As best as I am able.” T’Pol stood, brushing dirt from her hands. “I should return to that. The weeds are gone. Do you think you can manage the rest of the tubers?”

“Yeah, no problem.” Jonathan stood too, watching her. “What happens if those options don’t work?” He waited for her to meet his eyes and held her gaze. “What if the meditation doesn’t work? What then?”

Frozen, T’Pol could only stare back at him. He was too close; she could feel the heat radiating off of him, and smell the dirt clinging to his hands. He took a step closer, holding out one hand. “T’Pol. I mean it. What then?”

“I – I – there is a human saying.” T’Pol took a step backwards. “That you cross bridges as you come to them.” She turned then, and fled – there was no other word for it – retreating to her bedchamber and the lock on the door. Meditation was utterly elusive. All she could think of was Jonathan’s eyes, and his hands.

::

“T’Pol! Thank god, a familiar face – what the hell is wrong with you?” Jonathan had just woken up, judging by his nightclothes and the flattened hair on one side of his head. “Where are we? What’s going on?”

T’Pol was leaning over the stove, waiting for the kettle to boil. She craved tea, Vulcan spice tea, but there was none here, only the rooibos-like bark that would have to suffice. She imagined she was tasting Vulcan spice tea, could almost feel it on her tongue…

“T’Pol!” Jonathan came around the counter and reached out, hesitating at the last moment. “Talk to me.”

“I am – we are on Ceti Alpha V,” T’Pol said, trying to remember what was safe to tell him. Her mind was fogged, filled with haze and heat. He was too close. “You have to back up.”

Confused, Jonathan took a step back and then stopped. “What? Why?”

“You’re too close. I can’t think.” T’Pol held out her hands and he obeyed and took another step away. She wished he would take her hands, pull her closer, take her right here on the kitchen floor –

“Stay with me, T’Pol!” Jonathan snapped. “Why are we on Ceti Alpha V?”

“Colony,” T’Pol rasped, trying to control herself. “You’re sick too. Parasites. Your memory.” She took another step away. “You can’t remember anything new. I can’t stop thinking. Wanting. This isn’t illness. We’re not ill, either of us, we’re just not right. This isn’t right. You’re not right.” Another step back.

This time Jonathan followed. “T’Pol. You’re scaring me. What’s going on?”

She shook her head. “No. Stop. You have to stop.” He didn’t, gently – so gently! – taking her arms and holding her upright. “Stop. Jonathan. Captain. Do not touch me right now.”

“I can hardly leave you here to collapse,” Jonathan whispered, and held her tighter as she sagged. “Tell me what’s wrong. I know something’s wrong.”

He was too close, too close, and her concentration fled. “There is nothing wrong. This is exactly what is supposed to happen. It comes upon you and demands you satisfy it, it makes it impossible to focus or use logic or concentrate or breathe and you are too close. You have to stop touching me or I won’t be able to –” She wretched his hands off her arms and darted back, against the wall, pressing herself against it. The metal was cool through her tunic, soothing. She rested her head against the wall, closing her eyes and taking a deep breath. His scent was following her.

“T’Pol?” She opened her eyes. Jonathan was right in front of her. “Talk to me. Tell me what causes this – this.”

She closed her eyes again and tried to count her breaths. In. Out. In. “It is evolution. We evolved with a mating cycle, of seven years. This is my Time. I have tried to resist, I have tried to meditate. I cannot make it stop, not here, not like this, and you – you must back up, Jonathan. You are too close, I can’t make it stop, and it’s going to be too late –”

“You have to mate? You do, don’t you. You have to mate. Oh. God.” Jonathan must have stepped back, because it got easier to breathe. She opened her eyes, and was greeted by the sight of Jonathan – laughing.

“This is not funny!”

“Oh god, T’Pol, it is, it’s like every bad science-fiction book of my childhood coming to life. I used to – well, never mind. Look. What do you need?” He shook his head, trying to find a serious expression, but T’Pol could see he was fighting a smile. She scowled at him.

“I need you to go away, and leave me be, before I – I will not, Jonathan. You can’t consent!” She turned away, thinking only to flee, to escape, to find a door to lock to keep herself away, but she had barely taken two steps before his arm closed around her elbow again. She froze.

He let his hand fall, but she didn’t try to move that time, just waited. “What do you mean, I can’t consent?” he finally asked, and his voice was low and rough.

“You cannot remember anything for more than a day. What happens if we – if you were to wake up tomorrow in a strange bed?”

Jonathan laughed again, and it was harsh. “T’Pol. I woke up just now in a strange bed.”

“With me,” she snapped. “What happens when you wake up tomorrow with me and you don’t remember why?”

“You’ll tell me, like you told me now.” He stepped closer, but didn’t touch her. He just waited.

T’Pol finally turned. “You’d do this?”

Jonathan nodded, watching her, face serious. “This much I can do. And – I’m pretty sure it’s been a while.” He looked embarrassed, suddenly, and stepped back, almost shy. “Unless you don’t want me to –”

All of her objections and arguments suddenly seemed pointless. T’Pol held out her hand and waited, and after a moment, Jonathan took it. His hand was dry and warm and he closed it around her fingers and squeezed them as he pulled her close. “Do Vulcans kiss?”

“Not like humans,” T’Pol managed to say before Jonathan kissed her. They were both panting when he broke away. “But that will do nicely.”

“Good.” He kissed her again, deeply, and didn’t pull away.

::

T’Pol woke up with a start, instantly alert. The bed felt strangely warm and dipped oddly. Turning, she let out a breath at the sight of Jonathan, lying on his side, head propped up on his arm.

“Good morning,” he murmured. “You slept all right? How do you feel?”

Settling back into the bed, she watched him carefully for any sign of confusion or panic. “I did. Did you sleep?”

“No.” Jonathan carefully pulled the blanket up, preserving her modesty as if she were a human female. “I didn’t want to forget. I haven’t slept.”

“All night?” His hair was crushed on one side of his head. She reached out and brushed it back into place. It was soft. She let her hand linger for a moment, and he reached up to grasp it.

“All night,” he finally echoed, bringing their clasped hands to his chest. “I watched you sleeping. Sorry, in daylight I realize that’s a little creepy.”

She stared at the ceiling for a long moment. “Possibly.”

Jonathan chuckled and lay back down, still holding her hand. “Not quite how I expected things to happen.”

“I did not wish for this,” T’Pol agreed. “But – I had no other option, unless –”

“That wasn’t an option,” Jonathan said fiercely, and in hindsight T’Pol should have seen it coming, but she was still recovering from the plak tow and she was not expecting Jonathan to kiss her. Why not let yourself enjoy one thing, just once? some part of her asked. Choose it, instead of having it just happen. When he pulled back, eyes bright, she smiled ever so faintly, and kissed him back.

When it was over he pulled her close. “What are you doing?” she asked, and he laughed.

“Vulcans don’t snuggle?” Jonathan nuzzled against her neck and nipped the tip of her ear, making her jump.

“Snuggling serves no logical purpose,” T’Pol said, arching an eyebrow in a dare.

Rolling his eyes, Jonathan chuckled into her shoulder. “I disagree. Snuggling provides an opportunity for a couple to develop increased familiarity, to demonstrate physical affection, and to meet the need for touch. Don’t Vulcans have that?”

“Not in the same way,” T’Pol murmured. Jonathan had begun stroking his hand along her back and it was strangely soothing. “Touch is more complicated. Our telepathy is triggered by it, and we therefore have a strong cultural imperative to avoid all unnecessary contact.”

Jonathan leaned back to meet her eyes. “Wait. Can you read my mind right now?”

“In a sense,” T’Pol said, tugging on his shoulder to bring him closer again. “I am aware of your mood and your surface thoughts. I am not – pushing.”

“You could,” Jonathan offered quietly.

“No,” T’Pol said, shaking her head. “You deserve what privacy I can give you.”

Jonathan nodded, falling back against the pillow and pulling her with him. “I appreciate that.” He began stroking her back again, and she settled herself against his chest, listening to his heart beat slowly beneath her ear.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Jonathan finally murmured. “You didn’t say anything. You weren’t going to say anything at all, were you.” T’Pol murmured when his hand stopped moving, and he chuckled as he resumed the touch. “I just – I wish you’d told me.”

T’Pol finally picked her head up enough to speak. “I couldn’t ask that.” She sat up the rest of the way, taking her own turn to meet his eyes. “It felt cruel. You won’t remember.”

“I’m remembering now,” he said softly, and his hand shifted to run through her hair. “And – I might not remember everything you’ve done, but we’ve been in this house a long time. It’s lived in. It’s a home. I don’t have to remember it to know that, I can see it. All the work you’ve put into this house – this home – it’s obvious. I owe you a lot more than just this.”

“You do not owe me anything,” T’Pol countered. “You saved my life.”

“Is that why you stayed?” Jonathan asked, and T’Pol froze, unable to look away. Jonathan waited, and she finally laid her head back against his chest.

“No.” She picked her head up after a moment. “Is that why you’re here?”

He wrapped his hand around the back of her neck, tugging until she moved forward so he could kiss her.

“No,” he said, in a whisper so silent she only felt it.

::

They remained in bed for the rest of the day, talking and touching. He finally slept, and she stayed with him. Porthos padded into the room as the setting sun slanted through the windows, and hopped onto the bed. T’Pol eyed him warily, but he just turned in a circle at the foot of the bed and then repeated himself twice more before curling up at their feet. Even though he was a small dog, he radiated a warmth that spread through the blankets and left her feeling lethargic and sleepy.

Jonathan hadn’t moved his arms from around her, even as he shifted in his sleep. T’Pol carefully turned over within their circle so that her back was against his chest, and clasped his hands in her own. Jonathan mumbled behind her but did not wake, and T’Pol closed her eyes and drifted into sleep, feeling comfortably warm for the first time since arriving on Ceti Alpha.

::

The morning was not as awkward as she’d feared. Porthos awoke first, and leapt off the bed to trot out of the room. In leaping he managed to kick both T’Pol and Jonathan, so they woke at the same moment, just in time to see the canine’s tail, arched disdainfully, as he disappeared from the room.

“Dogs,” Jonathan muttered fondly, and then looked at her, and froze. “Uh. Good morning.”

“Good morning,” T’Pol said quietly, waiting to see how he would react. Jonathan looked at her, mostly hidden beneath the blankets, and at himself, and colored bright red.

“Uh. I think I have a bit of a gap in my memory here. I didn’t drink too much last night, did I?”

It was all T’Pol could do not to let out a burst of rather un-Vulcan relieved laughter. The smile was impossible to completely repress. “No. Neither of us have had anything to drink for some time. You have what Dr. Phlox has diagnosed as anterograde amnesia, and cannot form new memories. As a consequence we have been living on this planet for some time.”

Jonathan looked at her bare arm again and gave her a doubtful look. “So the reason we’re naked in bed together? This should be good.”

T’Pol frowned at him. “In fact, it was.”

That set Jonathan off; he threw his head back and laughed, laughter like T’Pol had not heard out of him in a very long time. She rested a hand on his chest as he caught his breath. “Vulcans, every seven years, enter into a mating fever somewhat like an estrous cycle. You helped me with my Time.”

Jonathan covered her hand with his own, and looked at her for a long moment. “Was that all it was? Help?”

T’Pol leaned forward and kissed his cheek gently. “Yes. I have been helping you for a long time. Now you have helped me. I am going to go wash and begin our breakfast. Your clothes are in your room, across the hall.” She carefully untangled herself from the blankets and rose from bed, and somehow, somehow, managed to swallow the lie.

Jonathan sat up and admired her openly. “Can I ask – was that the first time we did that?”

T’Pol took up her pajamas from the chair next to her bed, where they had sat untouched, and slipped them on. “Yes. It was.”

“Why the hell did I wait so long?” Jonathan sat up, a rueful expression on his face. “I hope I thought to tell you this last night, T’Pol, but you’re beautiful.” He ducked his face and rubbed at his forehead. “Trip made it sound like you had somebody back home. I hope I haven’t caused a problem for you.”

Crossing the room again, T’Pol sat on the edge of the bed. “There was, once. I have not been home in many years. I am no longer welcome on Vulcan.”

Jonathan nodded. “Politics?”

“Partially.” T’Pol hesitated, and then went ahead and told him the whole story – all of it. How he saved her, how they gave her his ship, how he’d grown angrier every day because he had lost his purpose along with his memories. How they lost Earth, and all the other human worlds – he looked away at that, tears brimming his eyes. How the survivors had banded together and fled here. How Soval had tried to bribe her into returning, and then abandoned her for refusing. How every day she had to tell him the story again, in one version or another. How sometimes she lied, just to make it easier for both of them. He listened to it all, taking her hand at one point and holding it tightly as she talked.

“How long have we been here?” he asked, once she had stopped talking.

“Five years,” T’Pol murmured, and Jonathan drew back a little, eyes growing wider.

“Five years? Really?” He subsided a bit, looking disturbed. “You weren’t joking when you said my memory was a mess. I had no idea.”

T’Pol squeezed his hand and released it as she stood. “We have established a routine, even if you wouldn’t recognize it. Go get dressed, and we will have breakfast.”

::

She sent Jonathan running after they had eaten firstmeal and cleaned up. He left with Porthos to take the ring road route – hard to get lost on a circle, after all – and she washed herself and went to change the sheets on her bed. She stripped them off quickly and took them to the small washing machine to launder them. It was a quick cycle; while it completed she began working on the chipset from one of the harvesting machines. It had been repurposed from one of the freighters they had dissembled for housing, and occasionally the programming failed. When the washer beeped she set the chipset aside and remade her bed.

The room looked entirely unaltered when she was done, as if nothing had ever happened, as if this were any ordinary day. This is the rest of your life, she realized, and the realization sent her to her knees.

When Jonathan came back she was kneeling in the common room before a candle, trying to find a meditative state that was entirely too elusive. He left her alone.

::

“I think Porthos wants to sleep with you tonight.” Jonathan stood in the hallway in his pajamas, hands hovering in front of him. “He’s antsy; keeps trying to come back in here.”

“Antsy?” T’Pol frowned. “That is not a word I am familiar with.”

“Fidgety. Unsettled. Don’t change the subject. Why does my dog want to sleep with you?”

T’Pol was packing up her tool kit at the table, and she frowned at it. “Jonathan, we share a house, the three of us. Porthos and I have spent a great deal of time together over the last several years, and we have grown accustomed to one another’s company.”

Jonathan came into the room and leaned against the table, watching her with a frown. “I thought you said he smells.”

“He does smell.” T’Pol closed her kit and set it aside. “I have grown used to it.” That made Jonathan laugh, and she raised an eyebrow at him. “I was not being funny.”

“Probably not, but it was anyway. Uh. If you don’t want the company, I’ll keep him with me.” Jonathan blushed then, color blooming over his cheeks. T’Pol made her decision; reaching out, she brushed her fingers over his.

“Come to bed,” she said simply. When she left the room, he followed her, Porthos trotting after them both.

::

Morning was just beginning to illuminate the windows in grey light. Neither of them had slept, staying up and murmuring softly to each other as thoughts occurred to them. Jonathan was stretched on his back, one arm wrapped around T’Pol. “Why didn’t you go back to Vulcan? You didn’t have to stay here with us.”

T’Pol rested her head on his chest in a gesture that was rapidly growing both familiar and comfortable. “There is nothing there for me.”

Jonathan ran his fingers through her hair. “Why are you growing it long?”

“Shorter styles require more upkeep. They are more efficient in space, in the event artificial gravity cuts out, but that is not a problem planet-side.” T’Pol tilted her head as he continued combing her hair with his fingers. “Longer hair is an older tradition for Vulcan women. I find I prefer it.”

“It suits you,” Jonathan said. “Do you miss it? Vulcan?”

Rolling onto her back, T’Pol stared up at the ceiling, which was growing more visible as the light grew. “I miss the planet,” she finally said, quietly. “But that is illogical, as is any emotional attachment to a place.”

“It’s OK to miss it,” Jonathan said softly. He touched her hand with his for a moment. “I miss Earth.”

He didn’t say anything further, and after a moment she realized his shaking breaths were hiding tears. Rolling back over, she pulled him close and let him bury his head against her shoulder. They didn’t speak after that; they just held each other tightly as the sun rose.

::

“You don’t ever go running?”

“Sometimes.” T’Pol gestured at the pile of circuitry in the corner. “But I have a great deal of repairs to get through today.”

“You do that yourself?” Jonathan stood up from the table and stretched a bit. T’Pol realized abruptly her eyes were following the flexing of muscle, and looked away.

“You often work with me, but we have found without daily exercise you are less able to focus.” T’Pol filled Porthos’ dish with leftovers from their breakfast and put it on the floor for him. He nosed her hand in gratitude before he began wolfing his food down. “And you seem to enjoy running most.”

“Well, doesn’t seem like there’s any water polo here,” Jonathan said, and T’Pol felt a smile try to cross her lips.

“You’ve tried. The lake is too shallow. You did attempt to get support to build a pool, but it was prioritized so low that you gave up.”

Jonathan shrugged, trying not to look disappointed. “At least I tried. You sure you don’t want to come?”

T’Pol raised an eyebrow at him. “You don’t usually ask me to go with you.”

Jonathan picked up his coffee mug and put it down again. “I just feel more comfortable around you. I don’t know why.”

T’Pol thought about that for a moment, and nodded. “Put your mug in the sanitizer, please, and let me change into more appropriate clothing.”

It was worth it for the smile that lit up Jonathan’s face.

::

Several nights later, lying alone in bed, T’Pol found she could not sleep. As loathe as she was to admit it, the absence of Porthos’s warmth at her feet was what finally drove her from bed and to the kitchen to put the kettle on. A cup of tea was not a snuggling dog, but it would do.

“T’Pol?” Jonathan was sitting on the sofa, in the dark. “Don’t turn on the lights.”

She abandoned the untouched kettle and crossed the room. “Jonathan? Are you all right?”

“Yeah. Just couldn’t sleep, and things were starting to get fuzzy – I didn’t realize I’d feel myself forgetting, you know? So I started thinking of all the things I didn’t want to forget, but – it’s too many.” The only light in the room was the dim glow from the moons, and his face was too hard to see. She sat next to him, instead, and reached for his hand.

“I can remember so many things just fine, but – those aren’t the things I need to hold on to.” Jonathan sounded lost, and he squeezed her hand tighter. “Why do I feel better when you’re here?”

She dropped her head. “You helped me when I was ill. Sometimes – sometimes Vulcans form bonds, when they grow very close to another. I didn’t think that could happen with a human, but – maybe –”

“As soon as you came out I felt better,” he said softly, and his voice was wondering, now. “How does it work?”

“I do not know,” she said honestly. “I did not think it would ever happen for me.”

He turned his head to look at her, a motion she heard and felt more than saw. “Really? I thought you had someone at home. It – Trip said once that there was someone, but he didn’t say much else.”

T’Pol let out a slow breath.

“I’m sorry,” Jonathan said quickly. “I didn’t mean to upset you.”

“I am not upset at you,” she said. “It is just a difficult memory. I was to be bonded to another. We were betrothed in childhood. But once I had grown, I found – to marry, to return to Vulcan – that was not what I wanted. And I did not want Koss.”

“Koss,” Jonathan said thoughtfully. “Why not?”

“He knew nothing about me,” T’Pol said quietly. “He was – he is, as far as I know, an architect, a rather successful and popular one, but he was concerned with his buildings and his home, and he wanted someone who would share those ambitions. He didn’t understand the point of exploration.”

“And you can’t just go be a wife,” Jonathan finished for her.

“No.” She was silent for a moment. The only sound in the room was the soft snuffling of Porthos. After a moment she realized he was asleep at Jonathan’s feet. “No. Not to him. Neither of us could be what the other wanted. I didn’t realize that, until – Trip, actually. He told me I was free to choose.”

Jonathan didn’t speak for a long time. “Are you happy with your choice?” he finally asked.

T’Pol stood up. “I am. Bring Porthos, please. He is very good at keeping my feet warm at night.”

Jonathan laughed as he followed her, a sleeping Porthos in his arms. It was, T’Pol admitted, a sound she had come to rely on.

::

T’Pol > I received your message. I am well; I was feeling under the weather – is that the correct phrase? But I have recovered now.

[timeout]

Tucker,Capt. C > Hey! I was starting to worry

T’Pol > Appreciated, but unnecessary.

Tucker,Capt. C > Well, it’s not like you got a Vulcan healer down there I’m allowed to worry

T’Pol > Indeed. But I have recovered.

Tucker,Capt. C > Cap’s OK?

T’Pol > He is well. He has taken Porthos to the farm for a run.

Tucker,Capt. C > Nice Next time I take leave I’m gonna have to check these farms out

[timeout]

Tucker,Capt. C > Anyway, I’m going on duty in a minute but I’m glad you’re OK You don’t usually go so long without checking in

T’Pol > I will be certain not to go so long between messages then.

Tucker,Capt. C > Good Thanks


::

It was several days later that Jonathan came out to the vegetable garden, where T’Pol was carefully weeding around the potatoes. “We had a really serious discussion the other day, didn’t we.” It wasn’t a question.

“We frequently have serious discussions,” T’Pol said, arching an eyebrow at him as he overturned a bucket and sat on it. “If you are going to sit there, the corn I picked needs to be shucked.”

He made a face at her, but began peeling leaves off the small pile of corn. “I just hate not remembering anything. It’s so strange, seeing a room and knowing you decorated it, because everything is exactly where you would put it, but having absolutely no memory of having done it.” He ripped a husk roughly and almost lost his grasp on the ear.

“It isn’t the corn’s fault,” T’Pol pointed out, and Jonathan stopped and chuckled.

“No. You’re right.” He kept shucking, but more slowly. “What did we talk about, then? You’re being so serious and I can’t remember why.”

“Which time? We’ve had a great many conversations.” T’Pol carefully patted the soil around a plant back into place.

“You were talking about yourself. About why you’re here. I can’t remember talking about it but I know we did.” Jonathan was carefully stripping bits of silk off the ear of corn and not looking at her.

“About my former fiancé – that is the correct human term, yes?” T’Pol didn’t look up either.

“I suppose.” The ear was pristine; Jonathan put it down and took up the next one. “I came to understand the life he was offering was not what I wanted. So I did not marry him. I stayed on Enterprise.”

Jonathan nodded. “I almost got married once,” he said quietly. “Or I wanted to, anyway.”

T’Pol almost dropped her trowel. “You did.”

“Yeah.” Another ear was added to the pile. “Margaret Mullins. I met her in flight school. I was 24. She was tall and she was the best damn goalie I’d ever seen play the sport of water polo, and she used to bench-press her kid sister to make her laugh. It took me weeks to talk her into going out on a date with me. We went to this winery in Napa and ended up getting kicked out at 2 am so the staff could close up – we just kept finding new things to talk about.” He was staring at the ear of corn in his hands. “I decided I wanted to marry her that night, but I waited. The night before graduation, I took her out to dinner and I walked her home afterwards and I got down on one knee outside her apartment – I haven’t been back there since, you know? Westgate Avenue, which is pretty much as far as you can get from the Presidio and still be in city limits.” He was still for a long moment. “Or was, anyway.”

“She said no?” T’Pol finally asked.

“She said no,” Jonathan said, tossing the ear of corn to the pile and taking up another. “Didn’t want to be another ‘Starfleet widow,’ or so she said.” He turned the unshucked ear over in his hands. “How come I can remember that, but the things I want to keep fly out of my head as soon as they happen?”

T’Pol had no answer for him. She got up to put her gardening tools away, dropping a hand to his shoulder as she went by. He reached up to touch her hand, and sat staring at the last ear of corn for a long time.




PART THREE


T’Pol declined the invitation to journey for the day to the outer farm settlement to work on the combine repairs, but Jonathan was happy to go along. T’Pol watched him leave on the truck with the others from the doorway, and then tripped over Porthos on her way back into the house.

“Porthos, we have discussed being directly underfoot.”

The dog looked up at her and whined, and T’Pol leaned over and rubbed behind his ears until he was wriggling in pleasure – and shedding all over her pants. Brushing herself clean, T’Pol gave a little shove to his rump until he moved out of the way of the door, settling himself on his bed and watching her as she went about her day, cleaning and then settling in to recode the programming for the backup comm systems. Every time there was an interruption in the power supply – which still happened, on occasion – the boards wiped and erased the coding. T’Pol had yet to manage to figure out a way around this, but she was determined.

“Hey, T’Pol! You home?” It was Lisa’s voice, and when T’Pol went to the door, she was outside with a bag full of bread. “I stopped at the bakery, and they’d just done a fresh batch so I grabbed your ration for you. I figured I should drop it off before my starving children saw it. You’d think they were never fed.”

“I understand all children are like that,” T’Pol said, opening the door all of the way. “Come in.”

“Thanks.” Lisa brought her basket to the counter and started putting loaves and rolls in the breadbox. “Apparently Mazil has almost perfected bagels. I know that isn’t too exciting to you but I bet Jonathan will be pleased.”

T’Pol nodded, putting the tea kettle on. “I tried them once, in San Francisco. I was told they were not as good as those from New York, but I still found them…pleasing. I will be interested to taste Mazil’s variation.”

Lisa laughed, and pulled out a small bag of cookies. “Mazil also has been working on finding a chocolate substitute. This isn’t very close, but it’s good in its own right. Want to try?”

“Yes.” T’Pol busied herself finding cups and a plate as Lisa chattered.

“So where’s Jonathan anyway?” Lisa asked her when she brought their mugs of tea around.

“He went out to West Farm on the repair crew.” Sipping slowly on her tea, T’Pol relaxed a little. Conversations with Lisa were always more interesting when she felt free to gossip.

“So what’s going on with you two?”

Blinking, T’Pol lowered her mug. “Excuse me?” That is, except for when she was the subject of the gossip.

Lisa laughed, waving a piece of cookie at her. “You know exactly what I mean. You’ve both been cooped up in here way more than usual for the last few weeks, and when Kenny asked Jonathan if you were doing OK, he said you’d had a Vulcan cold.” Lisa fixed her with a stern gaze. “But I’ve known you for, what – I don’t even know how many years, now, and I’ve never known you to have so much as a sniffle. And you and Jonathan are both happy. I’ve never seen either of you look so relaxed, or satisfied. So what gives?” Lisa took a large bite out of her cookie.

T’Pol sipped her tea and considered. “Every so many years, Vulcans experience an interruption in our metabolism that can lead us to feel rather unwell. I’m recovering from that. Jonathan was very helpful.”

Lisa gave her a disbelieving look. “Try again, T’Pol.”

“I will not,” T’Pol said. “I have told you what happened.” She broke off a piece of cookie. Lisa was correct: it tasted nothing like chocolate, but it was not an unpleasant taste.

“You might have,” Lisa countered, “but you haven’t told me everything.” She tilted her head, watching T’Pol for a long moment. “If everything’s OK, I won’t pry. I just – you two have been in this house for so long, dancing around each other. It’s obvious how you feel, both of you. I just don’t understand why it took you so long.”

T’Pol’s head whipped up. “Obvious?”

“Well, yeah.” Lisa swirled a chunk of cookie into her tea and nibbled on it. “T’Pol, why would you ever have come here, if not for him?”

She could not help it; T’Pol looked away.

Lisa finished her tea. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable. But – if you’re happy, both of you – then that’s good. There’s little enough happiness for anyone these days.”

“He can’t remember it, Lisa,” T’Pol burst out. “He comes to bed and then he wakes up in the morning next to me and he doesn’t know why he’s there.” She clamped her mouth shut and grit her teeth.

“Does he get up and run away?” Lisa asked softly. “Screaming down the street? ‘Cause if he has, I’ve missed it.”

“You are being deliberately obtuse,” T’Pol accused.

“So are you,” Lisa shot back. “Just because he doesn’t remember getting there doesn’t mean he’s not glad that he is. Have you considered that?” She slid from the stool and brought her mug around to the sink. “I should get back; the kids will be home from school soon.”

“Thank you for bringing the bread,” T’Pol said, not moving from her chair.

“Look. T’Pol. Look at me.” Lisa waited until she had turned her head. “You care about him. He cares about you. At the end of the day, that’s all that counts.” She nodded when T’Pol looked back at her tea. “If you need to talk, you know where to find me.” She stopped and scratched Porthos’ head on her way out. After she was gone, Porthos got up and crossed the room to nudge at T’Pol’s legs until she picked him up onto her lap and cuddled him close.

::

“Porthos! Porthos, come back here!”

The morning was still and peaceful; T’Pol was taking advantage of it by opening all of the windows she could, to air out the house. Jonathan was still asleep, or so she had thought. Porthos streaked past her to the open doorway and disappeared out into the yard. Jonathan rushed past him into the common room and froze. “Did you see Porthos?”

“He’s in the yard, most likely trying to stalk the wildlife,” T’Pol said, turning back from the window over the kitchen sink. It was oddly placed, thanks to its former existence as a porthole view, and was awkward to reach. “I believe you will find him underneath the tree in the far corner; he seems to prefer that quarter.”

“How can he have a favorite? I don’t even know where we are!” Jonathan looked down at the table, which was already set for breakfast. “Hold on. Why are there two plates?”

“We usually eat breakfast together, while I explain why you cannot remember,” T’Pol said, and turned off the kettle. “Are you hungry?”

“Yes and no.” Jonathan went to the door and looked out. “Are you sure he’ll be all right?”

“He will likely come back with a small rodent soon,” T’Pol said, unable to hide a small shudder at the idea.

Jonathan chuckled at that, and relaxed. “Can I help?”

T’Pol handed him a bowl, and nodded at the table. Jonathan brought it over, and found a spoon to stir the fruit salad left over from yesterday. “So what are you supposed to be explaining?”

“This planet is known as Ceti Alpha V,” T’Pol said, as she slid Jonathan’s egg onto a plate. “You are suffering from the effects of a parasitic subspace infection, which has manifested as anterograde amnesia. It was no longer safe for you to remain on Enterprise, so when this colony was founded, you and I joined them in order to bring you to a safer environment.” She brought the plates over and settled into her chair, watching as Jonathan looked at it, and then her, with a small smile.

“This isn’t the first time you’ve done this, is it.” He picked up his fork and took a bite of his egg. “See, I know it isn’t, because you did this perfectly. Thank you.”

T’Pol sipped her tea, and let her eyes smile. “You are welcome.”

::

She came into his bedroom with egg sandwiches and apples and juice on a tray just as he was waking up. He stretched and then stopped and winced, eyes still half-closed.

“You will be more comfortable if you stop moving,” T’Pol said as she put the tray down. “There was an accident on the farm the other day and you slipped in a furrow and were struck in the side by a plow as you fell.” She helped him to sit up. “Your hip is healing nicely but you’re supposed to stay in bed as much as possible until the doctor says otherwise.”

Jonathan looked around the room, and at her, with confusion. “Where am I?”

“At home,” T’Pol said calmly, “in the colony on Alpha Ceti, where we live. What’s the last thing you remember?” Jonathan frowned, one hand resting on his hip. T’Pol reached into her pocket for the vial of aspirin that they’d given her for him. It was time-consuming to make but the willow-like trees that yielded it were plentiful, so the old-fashioned drug had become popular again. “Are you in pain?”

“Hip’s a little sore,” Jonathan said, and frowned. “I was on the ship. We both were; we were leaving the command center. How did we end up here?”

T’Pol explained as she handed over a cup and pills, and waited until Jonathan had taken the medicine before handed him his breakfast and brought the chair from the corner closer to join him.

“So I am stuck in this bed all day?” Jonathan grumbled as he finished his meal. “What am I supposed to do then?”

“I suppose you can come out to the living room if you promise to remain on the sofa,” T’Pol said. “Would you like to learn how to play kal-toh?”

Jonathan considered that. “A game?”

“I have heard it described as Vulcan chess, but it is both simpler and more difficult than chess. You have played it before, sometimes quite successfully.” T’Pol stood and moved the chair back, and offered Jonathan her hand as he slowly climbed out of his bed.

“You’re sure this was just from a plow?” he muttered as he slowly straightened.

“Quite sure,” T’Pol said. “Apparently the youngest member of the maintenance crew learned a few new words.”

Jonathan laughed and leaned on her as they slowly gimped to the living room.


::

Some days were better than others. The day Porthos passed was a very bad day.

“Hey, old boy, come on, let’s take you for a walk!” Jonathan had checked the cooler and found cheese and helped himself. He had accepted T’Pol’s short version easily that day, helped her clean up from breakfast, and gone to make use of the exercise equipment in the community center. It was after lunch, now, and Porthos was still curled up on his bed. He had barely stirred.

“Porthos!” Jonathan stood with the cheese in his hand, and frowned. “What’s going on, boy?”

T’Pol looked up from across the room, where she was attempting to repair one of her hyperspanners. She only had four, and there would be no more where they came from. “Jonathan, perhaps you should let him rest. He grows weary very easily these days.”

“He’ll perk up with a good walk, won’t you, boy?” But Jonathan put the cheese on the counter and crossed the room to kneel next to Porthos’ bed. “Hey. Porthos. Come on, boy.”

With a whine, Porthos picked up his head a few inches to look at Jonathan, and put it back down again. Jonathan froze for an instant, and turned to T’Pol. “Can you call Phlox?”

“Doctor Phlox is on Denobula,” T’Pol said, but she had to take a deep breath to steady herself before she continued. “I have a medkit. I will fetch it.”

“Yeah,” Jonathan said, but he had already returned his full attention to Porthos, stroking the beagle’s ears and whispering to him, reassurances that T’Pol knew he could not back up. She did not say that, simply scanned the poor creature and tried not to let her dismay show in her eyes.

“I believe that Porthos is – knows what’s happening,” was all she said, and Jonathan shot her a betrayed look and crowded her out, gathering the pup into his arms, bed and all, and taking him outside without a word. T’Pol let him, returning to her repairs, but she left the door open. For the rest of the afternoon Jonathan talked to Porthos, reminding him of their adventures, promising him all the cheese he could eat, thanking him for being such a loyal friend. T’Pol found herself unable to concentrate.

When Jonathan let out a quickly-muffled sob, she rose and went outside and put a hand on his shoulder. He clung to it, but he did not cry again. Porthos opened his eyes once more and looked at them both. When T’Pol leaned down to stroke his soft ears, she could feel exhaustion, but also his deep contentment at having them there. She left her hand on his head. He closed his eyes and did not open them again.

T’Pol dug the tiny grave herself.

When Jonathan awoke in the morning, he had no memory of it.

::

>Initiating Session
>Landing:T’Pol/Enterprise:Tucker,Capt. C

T’Pol >Are you available?

[timeout]

Tucker,Capt. C > Hey, sorry I’m around

T'Pol >I just

>I just needed to talk to someone.

Tucker,Capt. C > Rough day?

T’Pol> Yes.

[timeout]

T’Pol> I believe I am afraid.

> It was easier when I wasn't.

Tucker,Capt. C > I thought Vulcans didn't feel fear

T'Pol> I stopped being a Vulcan when I left.

>I no longer know what I am. I only know that I feel fear now.

Tucker,Capt. C > I've been afraid every day since this started.

T'Pol> Does it ever go away?

Tucker,Capt. C > No.

T'Pol> I was afraid that would be your answer.

Tucker,Capt. C > ...did you just make a joke?

T'Pol> I do not know what you are talking about.

Tucker,Capt. C > Of course not. Look, we'll be in live comm range in a little while if you want to talk.

[timeout]

T'Pol> I don't want to upset Jonathan. Today has not been a good day.

Tucker,Capt. C > For him?

[timeout]

T'Pol For either of us.

Tucker,Capt. C > I'm sorry.

T'Pol> So am I.

>Kaadith.

Tucker,Capt. C > New one for me.

T'Pol> It is a Vulcan saying. What is, is.

Tucker,Capt. C > Oh. Like Que sera, sera?

[timeout]

T'Pol> Having looked that up, it is an almost Vulcan sentiment.

Tucker,Capt. C > Hey, no need to get insulting!


::

Jonathan was sitting on the sofa with her, at the end of a cold dreary day. They were both reading -- Jonathan a novel he had borrowed from the colony library; T’Pol a fascinating fantasy series loaned to her by Dory, about a young boy who discovered secret magical powers and found himself at a far-away school learning to master them. She was uncomfortably aware that the story’s bullies reminded her a great deal of certain Vulcans of her acquaintance.

“I haven’t seen Porthos all day,” he said idly at one point, looking up, and T’Pol blanched. She did not hide it quickly enough, and Jonathan stared at her for a moment and closed his eyes. “How long?”

“Just a few months,” she said after a moment, her voice quiet. “He had become old, and tired. You were with him until the end. We buried him in the backyard, beneath the tree he liked.”

Jonathan turned his face away, and after a moment he pushed off the sofa, book dropped forgotten where he had been sitting. He crossed the room and stopped short just before the door. Without looking, T’Pol knew he was crying.

Rising and putting her book down more carefully, she crossed the room to stand behind him, and put a hand on his shoulder. “You were with him until the end,” she repeated softly. “We both were.”

Reaching up to cover her hand with his own, he turned a moment later. “Was he happy?”

“I am certain of it,” T’Pol said, and put her other hand on his other shoulder, holding him steady. “He loved you up to his last breath, and he knew you were there with him. He was at peace.”

Jonathan shook his head, but he let T’Pol hold his shoulders while he fought and lost his battle with his tears.

::

Since the afternoon was pleasant, when Dory came by to request a game of kal-toh, seemingly taller than even just the day before, T’Pol brought the t’an outside to play on the steps. Dory had grown quite skilled, and even though she had yet to win a game she was making it harder and harder for T’Pol to maintain her undefeated status.

“Can I ask you something, T’Pol?” the girl said as she contemplated the board. This was no surprise. She frequently asked T’Pol questions she was not comfortable asking her parents, and T’Pol, once she got over her surprise at the concept – hiding things from Vulcan parents was an exercise in futility – she was, secretly, flattered by the girl’s trust.

“You may,” T’Pol said, and watched as Dory considered and rejected a piece.

“They’re talking in school about getting ready for Remembrance Day, and everybody’s supposed to write about something they remember and they’re going to pick they best one and let the author read it at the ceremony.” Dory picked up a piece and positioned it carefully, and moved the next. “But I don’t think I can do it.”

The second piece fell, and Dory made a face, her turn over. T’Pol considered her available moves. “Why do you think that?”

Dory looked around and then leaned forward, lowering her voice. “I don’t remember anything.”

T’Pol nodded and contemplated the human expression of eye-rolling, which felt extremely appropriate about now. The Universe was terribly consistent in the dilemmas it presented her, she mused, and made her move. “What do you remember?”

Dory bit her lip. “I remember coming here. I remember meeting you.” She thought about it. “I think I remember our house on Earth and the yard, and a river. I remember the journey, being crammed in on the ship and everybody being so scared.” She leaned her head back and looked up at the trees. “Can I – what do you remember?”

Her eyes were wide and trusting, and T’Pol didn’t know what to say to her. “I remember that I failed,” she finally said, and it was the wrong thing, because Dory’s face fell.

“No, you didn’t,” came a voice, and they both spun on the steps to see Jonathan come into the yard, a bag of produce hanging from one hand. “Sometimes in command there’s situations you just can’t win, and when that happens the important part is: what do you do after you’ve lost?” He looked at them both, eyes lingering on Dory.

“Oh, sorry, Jonathan,” she said easily, well accustomed to the routine. “I’m Dory, Lisa and Mike’s daughter. I live a few houses down.”

“Hi, Dory,” he said, glancing to follow when she pointed, before considering T’Pol. “You should know, Dory, that this woman is a hell of a commander and a hell of an officer, and she doesn’t take no for an answer. Ask her about the arguments we had over our orders, if you really want some stories.”

“And you should also know,” T’Pol said, arching an eyebrow at Jonathan, “That he was only right approximately half of the time.”

“You admit I was right,” Jonathan crowed, and held his head up, looking down his nose at her. T’Pol lifted her eyes skyward and turned back to the kal-toh game, carefully moving a t’an. It stayed, but the next one clattered to the ground, and Dory giggled.

“So 50% odds, that’s better than I do at kal-toh,” she said, and Jonathan shook his head, smiling.

“Probably more than that,” he said. “Ask her about the time I almost botched a first contact because my dog peed on the wrong tree. If it wasn’t for her, there’d be a lot fewer of us left.” He held T’Pol’s eyes for a long moment. “She’s the best. Ask her what she remembers, and you’ll learn a lot. Sometimes you need to let other people do the remembering for you; you’d be surprised what you can learn from them.” He nodded at Dory, and took the groceries inside to put away.

Surprised, T’Pol did not realize Dory had solved half of the game until she mis-placed a t’an and it fell with a gentle noise.

::

Lisa came over a few days later, a smile lighting up her face. “T’Pol! Jonathan! You wouldn’t believe this.”

Jonathan was on the floor, headfirst beneath the sink, attempting to remove a clog in the drainpipe. He jumped when Lisa announced herself, but relaxed when T’Pol put a hand on his shoulder. “One moment, Lisa. We have been trying to fix the sink all morning.”

“Never mind that!” Lisa was practically bouncing with excitement, a sheaf of papers clutched in her hands. “Dory said she talked to you for her essay.” T’Pol nodded as Jonathan levered himself to his feet, swiveling his sore hip a few times as he reached for a towel, but Lisa barely even stopped to take a breath. “They picked it!”

“For Remembrance Day?” T’Pol had not expected that. “I thought she was having a hard time deciding on a subject.”

“Whatever you talked to her about – here. I brought you over a copy.” Lisa put it on the table. “I’ll leave you to finish – Jonathan, you’ve got a smudge right down your shirt, did you know? Anyway, she’s going to be reading it out loud and everything, I’m so proud of her! Thank you both for helping her.” She started for the door and stopped. “You’ll come, right? To hear her read it?”

“We wouldn’t miss it,” T’Pol assured her, and without turning she knew Jonathan was nodding behind her.

“Who was that again?” he asked after Lisa had left.

“Our neighbor, Lisa,” T’Pol said, moving around the table to pick up the essay. “Her daughter comes over frequently. She was asking for advice on this school assignment the other day.”

Jonathan nodded as he kneeled down to start working on the plumbing again. “What’s it about?”

“Remembering,” T’Pol said, and Jonathan looked up and met her eyes and started to laugh.

“I helped her write a paper on remembering?” He let his head fall back. “That’s a good one.”

“She doesn’t remember Earth,” T’Pol said quietly. “She was too young. I think she needed someone to tell her that that is not a bad thing.”

Jonathan picked his head up and looked at her for a long moment. “Yeah. I guess that’s something I’m in a position to talk about.” He contemplated the plumbing. “Can you pass the bend here? I think I’m ready to start reassembling.”

T’Pol let her fingers brush against his as she did, and he stopped and squeezed them before he leaned into the cabinet.

::

Returning home from a town hall meeting, T'Pol paused at the turnoff to their house, head tilted back to look at the stars. 40 Eridani was faintly visible, far enough away to be overshadowed by the brighter light of closer, stronger stars. She traced the new constellations that colonists had developed, wondering again at such a fanciful idea. Vulcan no longer utilized constellations; it was a concept belonging to an earlier time.

Jonathan stopped and tilted his head back, too. "What are you looking at?"

Feeling silly, T'Pol shook her head. "I was just appreciating the lack of cloud cover," she said, and started walking again. When she realized he was still standing there, she stopped and turned. "Jonathan?"

"I used to sit and stare at the stars for hours when I was a kid," Jonathan said quietly. "My dad and I, we'd go stargazing together. He got me this old telescope and helped me restore it, and we used to look at Jupiter and Saturn, hunt for Vulcan's and Andoria's primaries, look at nebulae and galaxies..." His voice was wistful.

"My father did the same," T'Pol said quietly, stepping back to stand next to Jonathan. "He would show me the stars, tell me their names and about the races that lived on the planets surrounding them."

Jonathan lowered his head to look at her. "I've never heard you talk about him."

T'Pol hid a sigh -- if she had, he would hardly remember. "He died when I was still a schoolgirl."

"I'm sorry," Jonathan said, his voice serious and soft. He leaned back again after a moment to look at the sky, but T'Pol could feel his hand reaching for hers. When he found it he squeezed tightly. "Look. Is that Mizar?"

"Vulcans call that star Os-Kokai," T'Pol said quietly. "And its companion is Nu’ri-Kokai, the little sister. There is Arcturus as well," she added, pointing it out. "And Spica."

"Feels a little easier somehow, knowing the stars are the same," Jonathan said quietly. "That we have that one constant."

T'Pol squeezed his hand tightly, and he squeezed back. "I agree," she whispered.

They walked home in the dark quiet night, still holding hands.

::

They were finishing breakfast one morning when Jonathan looked around suddenly. “Where’s Porthos?”

T’Pol pressed her lips together. “He has been dead for several years,” she said gently, leaning forward. “He had many good years with you and you were with him. It was a peaceful and quiet passing.”

Jonathan’s jaw dropped and he fell back into his seat. “What?”

“We buried him under a tree in the yard,” T’Pol went on, softly. “I will show you after we finish, if you’d like.”

“Now,” Jonathan said, standing up and heading for the door. T’Pol sighed and followed him, taking his arm when he stood confused in the bright sunlight and leading him around the house to the small tree in the corner and the large fieldstone underneath it.

“We buried him here,” she said quietly. “He used to sit with me when I meditated, and he was a great comfort to me. Sometimes when I cannot concentrate, I come and sit here. It helps.”

“How many years?” Jonathan asked, dropping to his knees and carefully tracing the neatly carved letters in the stone.

“You told me he was eleven,” T’Pol murmured. “That was three years ago.”

Pressing his hand flat against the stone, Jonathan bowed his head. “I don’t remember any of it. He was happy? He liked it here?”

T’Pol sank to the ground next to Jonathan. “You brought him with you when you traveled to the farms so he could run loose in the fields. Sometimes he stayed here with me and kept me company while I worked. We brought him to the hills and sometimes he would go swimming in the lake. He was very fond of the goat’s milk cheese we have developed here and he would try to sneak into the stasis unit to steal it when we weren’t looking. He loved playing with the children.” She stared at her hands, folded in her lap. “He simply grew old, and went to sleep. You held his paw.”

Jonathan nodded, jaw set very firmly, and he was silent for a long time. “It’s not fair,” he finally rasped. “I can’t remember it. It might as well not have happened.”

“It did happen,” T’Pol said gently. “I was there. Porthos was there. You might not remember any of it, but he was glad for every moment he spent with you. Those moments happened. They were real.”

Jonathan ran a hand over his hair and stood slowly, one hand on his hip. “How do I do this every day? How do I manage not remembering?”

“One day at a time,” T’Pol said softly. “And you let me help.” She touched his hand. “I’m going to clean up inside. Take your time.”

Jonathan nodded, and carefully sat back down. He started talking to the grave, telling Porthos he was a good dog, and a good friend. T’Pol left him to mourn in peace.

::

The message, when it arrived, was nearly indecipherable, muddled by multiple loopbacks and interstellar static, but the triumph in Phlox’s voice was clear.

We found it, T’Pol! It only took a decade, but we’ve found it! He let out a little whoop echoed by whoever else was present when he had recorded his message. We’re testing now but this is promising, very promising. I have attached details and I will be coming on the first available transportation.

It went on, with more personal greetings, but T’Pol switched the message silent, and sat and stared into space.

Jonathan could be cured. He would remember.

He could go back to Enterprise. Trip would be happy to hand over his captaincy. He had never wanted it in the first place.

But – what of her?

“Anything new?” Jonathan asked when she went back outside.

“No,” she said. “Nothing to report.”

::

It was late; the neighborhood was quiet and there was nothing left to do in the day but go to bed. T’Pol couldn’t put it off any longer. “Jonathan?”

Jonathan was puttering – there was no other word for it, really – with an old broken chipset from the old West Farm power assembly. T’Pol really had no idea what he was trying to do with it, but he seemed to have an idea in mind, and if it amused him to dis- and re-assemble the chipset in every possible configuration he could think of? Far be it for her to say otherwise.

He looked up now from where he was bent over the table. “Yeah.”

“Are you finished for the night? I – I need to talk to you.” T’Pol came around to the table and took her chair. Jonathan looked at her, and nodded.

“One minute,” he said, and he carefully stacked the loose components together and put everything in the container he’d appropriated. “There. Go ahead. What’s up?”

T’Pol stared at the table for a moment. She had rehearsed this conversation in her head many times. But beginning it…

“How much do you remember from our discussion earlier?” she asked, finally.

Jonathan frowned. “Short version? I’m living with the rag-tag survivors of humanity, my memory is permanently destroyed, and you’re my babysitter.”

“I am hardly your babysitter,” T’Pol said, stung despite herself. “You take as much care of me as I do of you.”

“Do I really?” Jonathan asked, and there was disbelief in his voice. “How could I possibly?”

T’Pol reached out and grabbed his hand, held it tightly, and willed him to understand. “Tomorrow Doctor Phlox is going to come,” she said, voice strained and tight in her ears. “He has a – possibility. A new device, that requires us to go to Enterprise, and if it works, your memory will be restored. You will not get back all of the time you have lost, but you will be able to keep your memories. If it works.”

Jonathan met her eyes, and she could feel him resist the urge to pull his hand away. “Why are you telling me this now? Won’t you have to just tell me again tomorrow?”

“If it doesn’t work, you won’t remember to be disappointed,” T’Pol said, instead of answering his question. “But if it does – you don’t have to stay here. You can go back to Enterprise.”

Jonathan did pull his hand back then. “I thought you said Trip was in command.”

“He is.” T’Pol watched him turn away, jaw tight. “But he has never wanted it. He still calls it your ship.”

“And what about you?” Jonathan turned back, and gestured at her hair, her clothes. “You’ve gone native.”

“So have you,” T’Pol shot back. She reached out and took his hand again. “Jonathan. Just let me speak, please. If this works – everything changes.”

“For me,” he said, and she shook her head.

“No. For both of us. I’ve been with you for twelve years, Jonathan.”

He looked away for a long moment. “I know. I understand that. But I don’t know it. I can’t remember any of it.”

She nodded slowly. “You have said this many times.”

“You should never have stayed here,” he finally said, looking down at their hands.

“You shouldn’t have tried to rescue me, in the corridor,” she countered, and he chuckled, darkly.

“That much I remember, at least. And I succeeded,” he pointed out.

She considered that. “So did I,” she finally said.

Jonathan regarded her, tilting his head to one side. “At what?”

“I know what it means to have a friend,” T’Pol said, hating that her voice cracked and yet unable to stop it. “I hope no matter what happens tomorrow I still do.” She took a deep breath and plowed on. “I know what it means to love, now. You don’t remember teaching me, but you did. You still are. And I will remember.”

Jonathan lifted his eyes from their hands to her face, confusion and wonder in his eyes. “Did you just say –”

“No matter what happens tomorrow,” T’Pol repeated. “I made a choice, and I’m glad.” She didn’t know what to expect, but when he slipped off of his stool and came around the table and wrapped his arms around her, it felt exactly right. She let her cheek rest on his shoulder and wrapped her own arms around his torso, focusing as intently as she could, so she wouldn’t forget a moment of it.

“Thank you for staying,” Jonathan finally whispered.

“Thank you for not leaving me,” T’Pol whispered back.

::

When Jonathan went to his own room to sleep, T’Pol let him. She could have asked him to stay with her, or offered to join him. But perhaps it was easier this way.

She did not sleep. She did not want to go to an empty bed. She repaired a converter. When the moons rose, she went outside and sat outside for a time, next to Porthos’ grave, as if sitting vigil.

When the sun rose, she got up and went inside and started preparing breakfast. Jonathan came in just as she was making her tea. “Jonathan. You’re up early. I know this all seems unfamiliar. I promise I’ll explain everything. Why don’t you sit down; breakfast is almost ready.”








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