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do i dare or do i dare? [userpic]

Star Trek Enterprise fic: Time Will Tell (3/4)

December 26th, 2014 (08:50 pm)
anxious

feeling: anxious

PART ONE
PART TWO
PART THREE
PART FOUR




“You know,” Trip says, leaning against the railing to overlook the warp core. “As nice as this is, we should try to meet someplace different. There’s a whole lot more to the galaxy than Enterprise.”

“After a decade, I will confess that the Enterprise did feel like home,” T’Pol explains.

“Sure, but don’t you ever want a vacation?” Trip asks.

“I don’t recall you having much luck on your vacations,” T’Pol points out.

Trip makes a face. “Well, maybe if we tried something a little less unknown,” he suggests. “Florida. I never have taken you to Florida.”

“I have been to Florida,” T’Pol tells him.

His mouth drops open. “You went without me?”

T’Pol is impassive. “You were dead,” she replies. “I had no choice.”

At that, he pouts. “You’ve always got an excuse for everything,” he mutters. “Vulcans don’t know how to be wrong.”

She reaches out, brushing her fingers through his hair. He turns, looking at her. “If this works, there will be no more excuses,” she says.

He hesitates. “You sure you know what you’re doing?”

“No,” she replies honestly. “I sometimes think I am losing my mind. At the very least, I am severely unbalanced and have lost all control of my emotions. I am acting against reason and my own Vulcan nature. If anyone was aware of the depth of my operation, I am quite certain they would try to stop me.”

He looks somewhat vexed. “I’m not sure that’s the answer I wanted to hear.”

She refuses to look away. “I cannot live without you,” she tells him. “There is no balance without you. If I do not bring you back to life, I will die for want of your presence.”

“Well, don’t do anything rash,” he says.

“That is...comedic,” she says. “Coming from you.”

He laughs. “Yeah, I suppose it is.”

“It is also beside the point,” she says. “If you want me to live, then you must live as well.”

“I’m afraid I can’t do much about that,” he comments.


“I am aware,” she says. “But I can.”

He holds her gaze, and neither of them look away. They are connected; they are bound. This may be a dream; this may be a hallucination; this may be something more. T’Pol does not know, but she knows her resolve.

She knows Trip.

She nods. “I will.”

-o-

The journey is uneventful.

She and Hoshi share meals together, and while Hoshi mingles with the other passengers during the afternoons, T’Pol organizes her work more thoroughly. In the evenings, they pass their time together.

Uneventful is the Vulcan way of describing it.

For humans, T’Pol imagines it is pleasant.

This is the tension she has felt for over a decade now. The pull between human impulses and Vulcan steadiness. Growing up, she never doubted her service to Vulcan ideology. Even when she came to Earth, she found the chaos to be solidifying in her choice to remain dedicated.

In everything, though, she understands why Vulcan shut out all emotion, why they purge it so completely.

Because once you let it in, you can never get rid of it.

You must live with it.

Or you must die with it.

-o-

It is not until their breakfast the last morning of the journey that Hoshi finally asks the inevitable question. “So this site we’re going to,” she says, eating one of the Suliban dishes. “I know the criteria we’re looking for, but it’s sort of without context.”

“I have picked the criteria quite carefully,” T’Pol assures her. “It should be sufficient.”

“The criteria are simple, but the interpretation of local data might not be,” Hoshi says. “This sort of thing isn’t an exact science. The more I know, the better the results might be.”

T’Pol takes a bite and chews it slowly.

“Look,” Hoshi says. “I know this is personal matter for you, and I respect that. I don’t expect you to tell me everything, but you should know, whatever it is, I’m not here to judge. I’m here to help. And the more I know, the more I can help you.”

There could be duplicity in the request, even if only on a subconscious level. Humans are inordinately curious, and the fact that Hoshi has refrained from asking for specific this long is a testament to her respect for T’Pol.

However, T’Pol can not disregard the idea that the request is genuine. That though there may be inherent curiosity, Hoshi’s motives are pure.

Logically, T’Pol could attempt to determine this.

However, when dealing with humans, she must remind herself that these are her friends. She must give them the so-called benefit of the doubt.

“Your request is entirely logical,” T’Pol says. “Indeed, I am impressed that you have gone along with my work this long without demanding more information.”

“It’s not a demand,” Hoshi says quickly.

“You misunderstand,” T’Pol says. “I believe you have a right to know more about our purpose.”

Hoshi relaxes somewhat at this. “The sites you’ve chosen,” she begins. “The criteria you’ve selected. It’s all very specific, and there’s only one commonality.”

“Time travel,” T’Pol supplies for her.

Hoshi looks a little surprised. “I wasn’t sure if it was so simple,” she admits.

“Well, to be fair, there is little that is simple about it,” T’Pol says. “However, I do have a keen interest in determining the manner in which the Suliban were first contacted to be part of the Temporal Cold War and how this connected was established.”

“And if it can be reestablished?” Hoshi assumes.

T’Pol raises her eyebrows. “That would be one possible assumption.”

Hoshi narrows her eyes a slightly, as if trying to discern the inscrutable expression on T’Pol’s face. “I haven’t researched time travel, but from our experiences, should it really be something to consider?”

“From our experience, exploring the galaxy is something we probably should not consider,” T’Pol points out. “But, as we both know, there are valid reasons to every dangerous and uncertain venture.”

“So you’re serious,” Hoshi says, leaning forward with her voice hushed. “You’re thinking about traveling through time? For what?”

T’Pol takes a sip of her tea. “I will gladly tell you the what and the how,” she says. “But I believe the why is still something I prefer to keep to myself.”

Hoshi sits back. “Oh,” she says. “Of course.”

“It is not for a lack of camaraderie,” T’Pol assures her. “Believe me when I say there are few people I would trust with this knowledge, and you are one of them.”

“So what’s the problem?”

“Me,” T’Pol says. “The things I am considering and my reasons for considering them are...complicated. There are many times I do not understand them myself.”

“Talking about it could help,” Hoshi suggests gently.

“I feel you do not have a full grasp of how precarious my mental state actually is,” T’Pol says. “This is something I must do.”

“Or?” Hoshi prods.

“Or I shall spend my whole life trying,” T’Pol concludes.

Hoshi takes a breath and lets it out. She nods. “Okay, then.”

T’Pol eyes her curiously.

Hoshi finishes the last bite of her food. “Looks like we’ve got some work to do.”

-o-

When they arrive, they waste no time. Hoshi’s Suliban is impeccable, and she gains easy access to the religious site T’Pol has identified. While T’Pol is still getting oriented, Hoshi is already deep in translation work, going over the relics and the inscriptions on the wall. No more than several hours have passed when Hoshi shakes her head.

“This isn’t it,” she says.

T’Pol steps closer, looking at the inscription. “How can you be sure?”

“These figures,” Hoshi says, pointing to them. “All the ones mentioning time travel are too new.”

“What do you mean?”

“Your criteria is looking at a specific point in time,” Hoshi says.

“Yes, through my research, I have managed to conclude the most likely point of contact for time travelers to the Suliban homeworld,” T’Pol explains.

“Exactly,” she says. “And all the sites you’ve identified show activity levels spiking at exactly that time.”

“Yes,” T’Pol agrees. “My theory is that the time travel was regarded as a spiritual experience by the early Suliban, and it directed the course of their belief system after that point.”

“Exactly, but with this text, all references come much too late,” Hoshi says. “It’s not the point of origin.”

T’Pol studies the markings more closely. “It is possible that the time travelers expanded their reach in the centuries after the fact,” she muses.

“But look at the cessation of activity,” Hoshi says. “We have ancient imprints and then there’s just nothing.”

“The site was vacant during the period when the contact first began,” T’Pol concluded.

“More than that,” Hoshi says, pointing to a new set of figures. “These drawings, they’re rudimentary.”

T’Pol lifts a critical eyebrow.

Hoshi rolls her eyes. “Comparatively speaking,” she says. “Whoever made these markings was an amateur.”

T’Pol considers this. “We have an abandoned ancient site with subpar inscriptions,” she says.

“Plus, wait a second,” Hoshi says, stepping back for a moment. She bends over, grabbing a datapad from their supplies. She taps it, illuminating the screen, and then presses a few buttons before holding it up to show T’Pol. “Look.”

T’Pol looks at the pad.

She looks at the wall.

“This is an inscription we studied in the main temple in the capital city,” Hoshi says. “Those markings were easily made three or four hundred years before these.”

“It’s a replica,” T’Pol realizes.

“And not a very good one,” Hoshi concludes.

T’Pol steps back for a moment, examining the site as a whole. “This site is a hoax.”

“Probably someone trying to take advantage of the cultural beliefs,” Hoshi says. “It’s not all together uncommon with any belief system. People see what the devout are willing and able to do and want part of it.”

“But instead of devotion, they offer a poor facsimile,” T’Pol concludes.

Hoshi sighs. “I’m sorry, T’Pol,” she says. “This isn’t the place.”

T’Pol presses her lips together. “There is no need to apologize,” she says. “Your linguistic skills saved me a substantial amount of time.”

Hoshi nods. “You know, if we go back now, we could be on a train by nightfall.”

T’Pol looks at Hoshi. “I believe when we are through, I will be quite indebted to you.”

“Hey,” Hoshi says with a smile. “What are friends for?”

-o-

Friends, apparently, are for many things.

They are for hard work and dedication. They are for long journeys and no questions asked. They are for company and conversation.

Hoshi has gladly given these things to T’Pol.

T’Pol does what she can to give back.

On the transport, T’Pol starts the conversation. “I was told you received a posting on Deep Space 1,” she says, hoping it is enough.

Fortunately, humans tend to be quite forthcoming with small talk. Hoshi’s face brightens. “I did, about six months ago,” she says. “It’s a little far from home, but I admit, it’s nice to be someplace static for awhile.”

“I am told the work there is very important to the cohesion of the Federation,” T’Pol says, managing to remember the scant details from news reports she’s listened to over the last year. “Your linguistic guidance could prove to be one of the unifying factors of interspecies understand.”

Hoshi blushes. “You make it sound bigger than it is.”

“To the contrary,” T’Pol says. “Language is the first pivotal role in all diplomacy. Your posting proves what I have known from the beginning: you are among the best in your field.”

“Well, thank you,” Hoshi says. “I probably wouldn’t have gotten it without my experience on Enterprise.”

“Enterprise was fertile training grounds for all of us,” T’Pol tells her. She hesitates, aware that the conversation is about to lag. Clearing her throat, she continues. “How are your personal experience on Deep Space 1?”

Hoshi looks genuinely surprised. “Are you asking about my personal life?”

T’Pol shrugs benignly. “There was a time when we were privy to a great deal of information about each other,” she says. “I recognize that in our time apart, there are no gaps in our understanding of each other. I am attempting to rectify that.”

Hoshi almost laughs. “Personally, things are good,” she says, making no comment on T’Pol awkward attempt to initiate personal dialogue.

“You are...making friends?” T’Pol asks.

“I was already pretty well acquainted with the first officer there from back at the Academy,” Hoshi says. “Jacques and I go way back.”

T’Pol tilts her head. “Jacques?”

Hoshi blushes again. “Commander Montclair,” she corrects. “He’s a great pilot.”

“I am confident that Commander Montclair’s skills are not in question,” T’Pol says. “However, I believe perhaps I would care to know more about Jacques.”

Smile widening, Hoshi wets her lips. “We’re friends,” she says. Then, she shrugs. “For now.”

“I am aware of how easily human friendship can turn into something more,” T’Pol says. “It is perhaps only a matter of time. Do you seek a permanent mate or some other type of commitment?”

“T’Pol!” Hoshi says, eyes going wide.

T’Pol is nonplussed. “If the relationship is entirely casual, I understand that is also perfectly acceptable,” she says. “Human women are no longer expected to settle down and bear children.”

Hoshi gapes for a moment. Then she closes her mouth. “I wouldn’t….mind settling down,” she says. “Or...having children.”

“But you do not know if Jacques is the right choice?” T’Pol presumes.

“It’s just early in the relationship,” Hoshi says.

T’Pol nods thoughtfully. “I am still not fully comfortable with this type of conversation, but is this a time when my advice would be considered appropriate?”

Hoshi looks both curious and concerned. “You want to give me relationship advice?”

“I mean no disrespect--”

“No, I’m curious,” Hoshi says. “Really.”

“I would only advise you on this: there is never a right time. There is never a right place. There is never a right context,” she says. “There is only the right person, and sometimes even that can prove to be difficult. However, while in most situations I recommend prudence, I am inclined to suggest something more radical when it comes to deep interpersonal bonds.”

“Oh?” Hoshi asks.

“Follow your heart,” T’Pol tells her. “It may sound cliche, but I have found it to be true over the years.”

“It worked for you?” Hoshi asks.

“No,” T’Pol says. “I ignored my heart to protect myself and have spent many years in regret. You are my friend, and I do not wish you to suffer a similar fate.”

Hoshi is quiet for a moment, and T’Pol begins to wonder if she has spoken out of turn. But then, Hoshi nods, quiet seriously. “Thanks.”

T’Pol nods back. “Any time.”

-o-

T’Pol falls asleep with a datapad in her hand. Trip smirks at her.

“Follow your heart?” he asks.

“Such advice is always easier said than done,” T’Pol tells him.

“Nah, it’s not so hard,” Trip says.

“There is no guarantee that our relationship would have worked either way,” T’Pol points out.

“You think that’s the logical answer.”

“It is rational--”

“It’s fear,” Trip cuts her off. “It’s fear because emotions are messy. They’re uncomfortable and strange and there’s no telling what they’ll make you do.”

“All the more reason to show restraint,” T’Pol argues.

Trip shakes his head. “If you avoid the bad, you miss all the good, too,” he says. “We missed so much good.”

T’Pol swallows hard. “It might not have worked,” she says again, voice strained this time.

“Yeah,” he says, starting to turn away. “Since it turned out so well the other way.”

Her heart lurches. “Trip, please--”

He stops, looking back at her. “I’m still waiting,” he says.

“I’m doing everything I can,” she pleads.

“And if it’s too little, too late?”

“It won’t be,” she insists.

He offers her a sad smile. “I’ll believe it when I see it.”

-o-

T’Pol does not sleep well. After a full night, she feels more tired than ever.

She finds this to be all the more reason to work harder. Time is slipping away from her; Trip is slipping away.

She must complete this.

Success is the only option.

This is the conclusion of her heart, and this time, she will not ignore it.

-o-

Where T’Pol is distracted, Hoshi is even more competent. Their arrival is timely, and Hoshi wastes no time talking through the directions with the locals. This second site is even more remote than the first, and Hoshi arranges for even more primitive transport. They use up the better part of a day completing this portion of the journey, and by the time they arrive in the remote village, the hour is late.

“There isn’t any electricity in the temple,” Hoshi says.

“We do have alternative lighting options,” T’Pol says.

“I get the impression it’d be considered rude,” Hoshi explains. “This site, it’s far more revered than the others we’ve been to. There’s something special about this one.”

“All the more reason not to delay,” T’Pol says.

“I know you’re anxious, but we need to wait,” Hoshi says.

T’Pol shakes her head. “We are so close--”

“And nothing’s going to change in one night,” Hoshi says reasonably. “If we want unrestricted access, we need to play it safe with local customs.”

It is the logical approach. And yet, T’Pol wants to fight. She wants to argue. For a decade, she told herself that many things could wait. She put off Trip nearly indefinitely, operating under the belief that there would be time.

There wasn’t.

Time is not infinite, nor is it particularly sentimental. It does not care who it leaves behind.

“I promise,” Hoshi says. “First thing tomorrow.”

T’Pol’s sanity is precarious, but she is at least aware of her own condition. She has some willpower, and though it is scant, she knows enough to trust her friend.

“You are correct,” T’Pol says, forcing herself to calm as best she can. “I...apologize for my restlessness.”

Hoshi smiles easily. “I admire your dedication.”

T’Pol nods stiffly and moves to unpack her bag.

She is not sure it is dedication that drives her.

She is also not sure it is altogether admirable.

Time, as it seems, will tell.

-o-

They sleep in straw huts with slab beds. They are cold and uncomfortable, but T’Pol falls into a heavy sleep.

She finds Trip working on the engine. She watches him for several minutes, before finally approaching. “Why do you continue to work on this?”

He glances at her. “I thought that was the job of the Chief Engineer.”

“This engine is not real,” she says. “You are dead.”

“Well, maybe this is Heaven,” Trip drawls, picking up a new tool.

“Or some kind of eternal punishment,” T’Pol theorizes.”

Trip raises an eyebrow at here. “This is your head, not mine,” he says.

She is duly chagrined. “I believe part of your consciousness has been left as an imprint upon my own,” she says. “These dreams are as much a part of me as they are of you.”

He looks mildly impressed as he loosens a bolt. “You could probably make me leave, if you wanted.”

She furrows her brows. “Why would I want that?”

He gives her a look. “Look at you,” he says. “All you’re doing. What you’re giving up. I never asked for this.”

“No, you merely asked for a relationship,” she says.

“A request you denied, by the way,” he points out.

She flinches. In this dreamscape, her emotions are fraught and she is worn thin by grief. “I am trying to fix my mistakes.”

The panel sparks, and he pulls away with a hiss. “It wasn’t your fault.”

“I was the one who ended the relationship--”

“The accident,” he tells her, trying a new tool. “It’s not my fault that I died.”

She inhales sharply. “If I had confessed my love--”

“Then what?” Trip asks. “You’d be a grieving widow? What difference would it have made?”

She steps closer, shaking her head. “You know the difference it would have made,” she says. “Even if you had died, even if the accident had still happened, you would have known. I would have known.”

The panel sparks again, and this time Trip curses. He signs, wiping his hand on his uniform before looking at T’Pol. “You’re missing my point,” he says.

“Your point?” she asks.

“There are some things you can’t fix,” he says. “I’ll probably work on this damn engine for as long as you’ll keep me here, and I’ll never get it right. Some things are too complicated to get right.”

She swallows hard, so hard that it hurts, and she steps forward. This time, she reaches out, taking him by the hand. “You would never give up on this engine,” she tells him hoarsely as her emotions choke her. “You love it too much.”

He stops, and stares at her. “Something tells me we’re not talking about the engine anymore.”

“This has never been about the engine,” she says. “I will bring you back. I just need more time.”

Trip picks up another tool with an easy grin as he pulls away. “Well, looks like all I got around here is time.”

-o-

The morning brings sunlight. Suliban has two suns, and even up toward the northern pole, they burn brightly in the sky. Hoshi looks fully refreshed, but T’Pol finds that the daylight does not bring clarity.

Indeed, all T’Pol can see is the potential of another lost day. One day further from Trip. It almost seems surreal now, how much time has passed. There are moments when she wonders which are the dreams and which is the reality. The mundane daily tasks seem unsettlingly slow and increasingly inane.

This cannot be life.

She is no longer sure of anything except her desire to see Trip again.

-o-

As far as they have come, the temple is farther still. It takes them an hour by foot, tracing an intricate trail through the foothills of snow dusted mountains. T’Pol is used to arid conditions, and Hoshi seems to fare little better. They are both winded by the time they arrive.

When they step inside, however, T’Pol feels something strange. The markings are clearly ancient, and the structure has clearly been well preserved. There is something distinctive in the air, and somehow she can feel the charged electricity around what appears to be an ancient altar.

Hoshi moves forward first, studying the markings on the stone.

“T’Pol,” she calls. “I think you’re going to want to see this.”

T’Pol follows her, looking down. She is no linguistic expert, but the ancient drawings are plain enough. The figures are crude, but the altar is no place of sacrifice.

It is a place of transportation. People appear and disappear, strange and distant beings in an eerie green light.

“Is this what I think it is?” T’Pol asks.

Hoshi lets out a breathless last. “We’ll have to work our way through the translation, but I’d say this looks promising.”

“Meaning it appears to be an ancient depiction of time travel,” T’Pol says.

“As a working hypothesis,” Hoshi says. “I’d say that’s not a bad one.”

T’Pol nods, pulling out her tricorder. She knows what she feels now, and she knows why it feels so unusual. It is a strange and foreign thing, something that she once believed in through her time on Enterprise.

Hope.

T’Pol has begun to feel hope.

-o-

They work all day. Engrossed as she is, Hoshi must be reminded to eat and drink. T’Pol compiles the information and completes a full range of scans on everything she can think of. Though their analysis is still preliminary, Hoshi believes the timeframe is accurate, and the model of time travel is consistent with all known records.

Moreover, T’Pol has dedicated signs of atmospheric disturbances, many of which are similar to other sites where time incursion have been recorded. The fact that they are still prevalent even after such disuse is highly suggestive.

As twilight approaches, it is T’Pol who insists they leave.

“We have so much left to go through,” Hoshi protests.

“You are the one who reminded me to respect the local customs,” T’Pol says.

“There’s no one even out here,” Hoshi says.

“But if we do not return, I believe our hosts may become suspicious,” T’Pol reminds her.

Hoshi regards her oddly. “When did our roles reverse here?”

“I have been focused on finding the location. It has been a singular, driving force,” T’Pol says. “I believe this intensity has been akin to desperation.”

“And we’ve found it,” Hoshi says.

T’Pol does not smile, but she is confident that her satisfaction is plain. “I am feeling optimistic for the first time in over a year.”

-o-

The walk back is long. Their lodging is more uncomfortable the second night.

T’Pol hardly notices.

-o-

In her dreams, she goes to Trip and pulls him from the warp core. “Hey!” he protests. “I’m working!”

“Not tonight,” she says, pressing close to him. “Not tonight.”

-o-

The rest of the week passes quickly. T’Pol finds herself revitalized, and Hoshi is fully immersed in the translation work. When they are finished, they have exhausted their datapads and filled notebooks with scrawled notes. Hoshi has a veritable trove of cultural data for the Starfleet database.

T’Pol, however, has much more than that.

She has a way to get Trip back.

-o-

Hoshi wants to stay longer, but T’Pol is insistent. They have gathered the necessary information. T’Pol has spent enough as it is.

Too much time.

She lies on her back and does not sleep.

So much time.

-o-

Back in the main city, T’Pol arranges for a transport off the planet. It is small and cramped, but it gets them to the nearest Federation planet within two days. There, Hoshi acquires passage back to Deep Space 1. As she gathers her things, she hesitates.

“If there’s anything else,” she begins.

“I assure you,” T’Pol says. “You have done more than enough.”

Hoshi nods, her eyebrows knitted together. “You know that I don’t just mean translation,” she says.

T’Pol holds very still, keeping herself entirely composed.

Sighing, Hoshi seems to give into the inevitable. “I know that this is about Trip,” she says. “I know how much you miss him.”

The words are not unkind. In fact, T’Pol realizes they are intended as a comfort. The pain, therefore, is entirely irrational. “My attachment to Commander Tucker was not a secret.”

“You’ve been dreaming about him,” she says.

T’Pol almost flinches.

“You talk sometimes,” Hoshi says. “In your sleep. Just a little.”

Just enough, apparently. Her self control is so badly shattered that she is prone to emotional outbursts during periods of rest. Her sanity is so completely questionable that she is expressing her once-suppressed emotions unheeded. She knew these dreams were a bad idea, and yet she has given into them anyway. And to what end? To what purpose?

Hoshi’s face softens. “It’s okay,” she says.

T’Pol’s gaze hardens. Nothing is okay.

“It’s okay to grieve,” Hoshi continues. “I know it must be hard for you on a lot of levels, and you don’t have to say anything. But you don’t have to hide it, either. I don’t blame you for missing him. No one does.”

There is a part of T’Pol that wants to deny it. Another part of her wishes to protest. But such denials have never gotten her very far. Indeed, they have gotten her here.

Alone and spent, needy and broken.

Decided, she nods. “I appreciate your support,” she says. “I was unaware of the power of the dreams.”

Hoshi nods sympathetically.

“I am afraid the loss has come to define me this past year,” she continues, trying to find an inner steadiness that eludes her. “I sometimes fear it will consume me.”

At this, Hoshi steps forward and reaches out. She almost hesitates again, but her hands makes contact, fingers lightly squeezing T’Pol’s shoulder. “I know you lost Trip,” she says. “But you haven’t lost all of us. Just remember that, okay?”

T’Pol feels awkward, but she does not pull away. Instead, she nods back to Hoshi. “Very well,” she says. “I will try.”

Hoshi’s smile is kind. “That’s all any of us can do.”

-o-

Hosi leaves first. With nothing better to do, T’Pol joins her at the platform while they both wait. When her transport arrives, Hoshi turns back and comes closer.

At first, T’Pol is expecting a handshake. However, Hoshi holds both her arms out, and T’Pol understands that she wants to hug.

It is the same gesture of intimacy offered by Admiral Archer, and T’Pol knows it is meant affectionately. While Admiral Archer took the initiative, Hoshi seems more uncertain of herself. In short, she is waiting for T’Pol to reciprocal the affection as opposed to making any assumptions.

This is undoubtedly awkward for T’Pol, but it is plain to see that it is awkward for Hoshi as well. To deny a hug would not exactly be an insult, although given the bond they have shared over the last few weeks, T’Pol is aware of how it would seem.

Moreover, it is not as if T’Pol has the same boundaries as before.

Hoshi is, unequivocally, her friend.

Affection is warranted.

Indeed, affection is felt.

Decided, T’Pol steps forever into the embrace. Hoshi’s arms wrap lightly around her, and T’Pol brings her hands up in an approximation of the gesture. It is uncomfortable and short, but when Hoshi pulls away, she’s smiling.

“I hope you find what you’re looking for,” she says.

“Indeed,” T’Pol agrees. “That is all any of us can hope for.”

“Yeah,” Hoshi says with a shrug as she adjusts her bag over her shoulder. “But you deserve it more than most this time.”

-o-

T’Pol’s transport ship leaves no more than five hours later. It is small and cramped, but it is the first available option. She has plans to rendezvous with a Starfleet freighter at the next space dock, which should increase her traveling speed quickly.

In summation, she should be back on Earth within a week.

It is perhaps a superfluous trip This has always been her venture, and though she has received assistance along the way, she is accountable to no one. Perhaps it is her time with Starfleet or even the Vulcan High Command that makes her feel obligation to get some type of approval.

Or, she considers realistically, maybe she simply wants a second opinion. Her own decision making skills are questionable right now, she does not want to make any mistakes this far in the process. A second opinion, and a trusted one at that, is a logical thing to seek.

It is also possible that she inherently recognizes the importance of what she is about to do. Her next actions could change everything significantly. It is as if she is standing on the brink, and she simply wants to know if jumping will be the best or worst thing that could happen to her.

Vulcans are not indecisive.

Then again, Vulcans do not believe in time travel.

T’Pol has waited a long time. She can spare several more weeks, just to be sure.

-o-

On her journey, she sleeps frequently. She often goes to be right after dinner and does not wake until the mid morning.

She is neither tired nor well rested. In fact, she is not certain what she feels at all.

All she knows is that she craves sleep.

She craves dreams.

She craves Trip.

-o-

“You’re so close to me now,” Trip says, almost moaning the words as they’re pressed together on her bed. “What’s changed?”

She runs her hands up his body, consuming him with another kiss. “Nothing,” she murmur as he kisses her back along her jaw and neck. “Perhaps I just felt I had waited long enough.”

“Hell,” Trip says, grunting a little. “If this is the reward for waiting…”

“No more,” she tells him as their bodies entwine. “No more.”

-o-

When she arrives in San Francisco, she does not bother to visit Starfleet Headquarters. She does not even secure a room for herself at the Vulcan Consulate. Instead, she sends a standard transmission from the dock through Starfleet’s main channel.

Admiral Archer:

I intend to be in San Francisco for several days. I have been craving Wassalian Garrag salad. Perhaps you would care to join me tonight.

She does not wait for a response.

Indeed, she knows she does not have to.

-o-

She arrives early. She drives a light ale at the bar for several hours before requesting a table in the middle of the room. When she asks what the musical selection will be, she is told that it will be something called Sweedinal Hip Hop.

“Is it loud?” T’Pol asks.

“Loud enough to make you want to dance,” she is told. “If you need a quieter table, I can get you one in the back--”

“No,” T’Pol says. “This will be perfect.”

-o-

Admiral Archer comes when the dinner crowd is at its height. The opening act is on stage, and T’Pol is currently eating a Denobulan appetizer.

As he approached the table, Admiral Archer looks concerned. He seats himself and orders an alcoholic beverage. When the waitress leaves, he looks at her. “I didn’t expect you quite this soon,” he says. “I was planning a trip to Vulcan in about three months.”

“Hoshi’s assistance was quite useful,” T’Pol informs him.

“So you made progress,” Admiral Archer assumes.

“Significant progress,” T’Pol tells him.

Admiral Archer raises his brow in curiosity.

T’Pol nods at the menu. “You will want to order your food,” she says. “I have a feeling we will also be staying for dessert and drinks until the band is finished playing.”

“That sounds like very significant progress,” Admiral Archer muses.

“I believe you would enjoy the baked Risan crustacean,” she suggests. “Everyone in our vicinity seems to enjoy it greatly.”

Admiral Archer picks up his menu. “I may have to take your word on that.”

“Indeed,” she says. “You may have to take my word on many things tonight.”

-o-

She explains the failure at the first site over salad.

Over dinner, she delineates how Hoshi determined the age and use of the facility.

By the time they order dessert, T’Pol has presented her plan to reenact the ancient rituals and initiate a time field to facilitate travel.

When dessert is cleared away, Admiral Archer orders a strong drink and looks over the datapad. Putting it down, he looks up at T’Pol gravely.

“What makes you think the procedure would even work,” he says.

“I have studied the procedure,” T’Pol says. “It appears to be more than a simple communication technique. In order to reach someone stationed in the future, the procedure itself would have to have time travel capabilities.”

“Did you see any technology in the site to make you think it could be supported?” he asks.

“No,” T’Pol concedes. “But the air within the chamber showed unusual atmospheric levels. I believe that time travel may be less a question of technology and more a question of creating the right variations within the atmosphere. If certain elements are overloaded, rifts could be created.”

“Then why doesn’t it happen more often?” Admiral Archer asks.

“For all we know, it does,” T’Pol says. “However, the atmospheric conditions are unique. Technology could be used to replicate this, but the readings on the Suliban homeworld indicate that the planet is simply more naturally inclined to such incursions than most. I believe that this may be the reason these travelers selected the planet as its point of entry.”

Sighing, Admiral Archer chews his lip. “Even if you can initiate a field, how would you control it?” he asks. “I assume all contact from the planet was directed at a single place and time, presumably in the future.”

“I concur,” she says. “However, I have studied the conditions created by the ritual and determined which elements may be altered. I believe I have devised a formula that can accurately alter the ritual to produce different conditions, which should give me some control over my destination.”

“Some,” Admiral Archer says. “But what you’re trying to do--”

“I agree it is going to be difficult,” she says. “But you have the calculations. I have run several simulations on my datapad and the conjecture does prove sound. The data is all there--”

“I can see the data,” he says. “But none of it’s been proven. If you try this and it goes wrong, you could end up anywhere and we have no way of knowing if you’d come back.”

“I am aware of the risks,” T’Pol replies.

He sighs again, seeming more frustrated. “I don’t know if you are,” he says. “Because these are risks I’ve never known you to take.”

T’Pol pauses, studying him. His posture is tense; his face is strained. “I am afraid I do not understand your surprise,” she says. “You always knew my intentions.”

“Sure,” he says. “But what you’re suggesting isn’t just time travel. You’re talking about throwing yourself into the unknown with nothing more than a wayward hope and a few calculations. This sort of thing takes years to pursue, and I get the feeling that you intend to run off and do this as soon as we’re done with drinks.”

The beat of the music is loud. The lighting is dim. Yet, T’Pol can see Admiral Archer clearly. “I have spent most of my life living within entirely reasonable odds,” she says. “I took only the most calculated risks, and used reason and logic to make the best decisions possible.”

“That’s how Vulcans are,” Admiral Archer tells her.

“It was only in my vulnerability that I opened myself up to Trip,” she continues. “When I regained control, I shut him out again. It was entirely practical and rational. Indeed, I was praised by my kinsmen for making the logical decision.”

He is watching her now, steady and calm.

“I made no miscalculations in my relationship with Trip,” she says. “Except the gravest one of all. I failed to listen to my heart.”

He wets his lips. “That doesn’t sound very Vulcan at all.”

“No,” she agrees. “I cannot say if it is the length of time I spent with humans, or if my choices compromised my commitment to true Vulcan philosophy. Perhaps my mother’s eccentricity was genetic, and I have always been predisposed to such things. But lately I have been confronted with the reality that it does no matter. I can do all the right things, but if I do not commit to the things that matter most to me, then it is truly all for nothing. The needs of the one do not outweigh the needs of the many, and I would make many sacrifices in the name of reason and logic. But this decision -- this choice -- is something I need.”

He lets out another breath, picking up his drink and finishing it off. He puts it back on the table, looking at it for a long moment. “When I talk about risks, I’m not talking about logic,” he says. He looks up. “I already lost one best friend. I just...don’t know if I can stand to lose another.”

The realization is sudden, and it is almost overwhelming. She gathers a breath. “If you do not let me do this,” she says. “I fear you already have.”

“I know,” he says, nodding readily. “I know. Which is why we’re going to do this the right way.”

-o-

They leave the restaurant before the encore. T’Pol had used public transportation to arrive, but Admiral Archer summons a private driver. He holds the door open for her and ushers her inside, close behind her. He exchanges a brief word with the driver and then settles back with a surreptitious look around.

T’Pol watches him curiously.

He looks back. “I know a place up the coast,” he says, a little too loudly. He glances around the vehicle with intention. “The perfect place for old friends to catch up.”

His mannerisms are stiff and overdone. T’Pol recognizes them as poor acting. Undoubtedly, his deception is meant to be obvious to her with the intention that she join him in this ruse. “That sounds ideal,” she says with unaltered inflection. “I am quite weary after my journey. I could use some time to compose myself while we discuss our time since Enterprise.”

Admiral Archer offers her a small, half smile. “I have a feeling we have a lot to talk about.”

-o-

The ride takes them over an hour, and by the time they arrive, the hour is quite late. Admiral Archer has his driver secure them a room at a remote lodging along the coast in northern California. When the driver returns, Admiral Archer tips him well and tells him he will be contact in several days. Then, Admiral Archer leads her across the grounds and up a softly lit trail into the hillside.

They arrive at what appears to be a cabin. It is rustically designed, though it has clearly been updated with all the necessary modern conveniences. Admiral Archer walks through it once, and then takes a deep breath.

“I think this will do,” he says. “You can pick whichever room you want. I think you’ll find that it’s quite comfortable. And the view really is spectacular. You’ll see it when the sun comes up.”

T’Pol walks cautiously around the living room. “I did not come to Earth for a vacation,” she reminds him.

“No,” he says tiredly. “You came to explain to me how you intend to travel through time to bring back Trip.”

“I told you my plan,” she says.

“And I think there’s room for improvement,” he says.

She presses her lips together, posturing for an argument. “My mind is made up.”

“I didn’t say I was going to talk you out of it,” he says. “I want to talk you through it. Make sure we’re not missing anything. And we can’t do that back in San Francisco. My office, my quarters, even my car -- I can’t trust any of it. But this -- I’ve only been here once. If they’ve managed to surveil me here, then they know something I don’t.”

“Won’t your absence be noted at Starfleet?” she inquires.

“I’ve already left word that I’m away on a personal matter,” he says. “After thirty years of service, they can spare me for a few days.”

She shifts uncomfortably on her feet. “It is not my intention--”

“Oh, save it,” Admiral Archer says. “If you make this work, the time will be well worth it, not that I’ll even be aware of it.”

“If you are certain…”

“I’m not certain about a lot of things, but I am definitely certain about this,” he says. “We’re both staying here until we’ve worked this out. Until there’s no doubt left.”

T’Pol puts down her bag. “Then we should probably get started.”

Admiral Archer smiles, a glint in his eye. “I’ll put on the coffee.”

-o-

They work relentlessly.

T’Pol has always known the Admiral to be a man of utmost dedication, but she sees a drive in him that she had not fully realized. She thinks this must have been what it was like for him in the early days of warp trials, when he had been so committed to pushing the boundaries of human technology and achieve deep space flight. She had always understood this logically, but she respects it on a different level now.

For it is a drive she now shares. Vulcans are capable of supreme dedication, but they lack the emotional capacity for obsession. Now, T’Pol counts that as a weakness.

It takes Admiral Archer several days to go over her copious research. He read and rereads, making his own notes while he asks her questions. They sometimes spend long stretches of time engrossed in calculations, and when they compare their results it is several more hours of cross referencing to determine who is correct.

They spend another day or so running simulations. Admiral Archer accounts for more variables that T’Pol had previously considered. This is the power of teamwork, and T’Pol knows this is why the Enterprise had been so successful during its service. Because the crew had always been greater than the sum of its parts, and though there was no logical explanation, T’Pol had counted on that to lead them to the impossible and beyond.

By the end of the week, they have thoroughly exhausted the topic between them until there is nothing left to debate. Until they have a solid, evidence based plan that is aware of countless variables and accounts for numerous possible nuances.

Until they have a plan to travel through time and get Trip back.

-o-

The last night, Admiral Archer prepares her dinner. It is an elaborate meal, and T’Pol thinks it is excessive until she sits down and realizes just how hungry it is. For the courses, they do not discuss her research. They do not discuss their plan. Instead, they talk of how things used to be.

They remember what once was.

“I never met anyone who loved an engine like Trip,” Admiral Archer says, shaking his head fondly. “That damn thing was my father’s life work. It was my legacy. But no one loved it like Trip.”

“He told me that he could never sleep when it was not working,” T’Pol reflects. “Dr. Phlox nearly had to sedate him.”

Admiral Archer chuckles. “I’m not surprised,” he says. “He knew every part. He knew every component. He knew how it all worked, and no one could get an engine to do things like Trip did. On paper, the engine is a powerful tool. In Trip’s engine room, though--”

“It was the heart,” T’Pol supplies for him. “The very heart of the ship.”

Admiral Archer looks at her. He sighs, putting down his fork. “Sometimes I think he died because he knew it was already over,” he says. “Enterprise was something special to him. He was connected to it. I don’t know if there was ever going to be a place for him except that.”

The words are surprisingly painful to hear. For all that she has missed Trip, she has not dwelled on the events of his death in much detail. It seems too surreal to her, often. That such a simple turn of events would lead to his demise. It is not surprisingly, of course. For Trip to sacrifice himself for his Captain, his crew and his ship, but T’Pol hardly knows how to make sense of it.

“That’s a human response, though,” Admiral Archer continues. “It’s how we make sense of our grief. We put it in context. We create reasons. We tell ourselves it was worth it, that things are better off this way.”

T’Pol puts down her fork. “I apologize of my own grief has complicated your ability to cope with your own,” she begins.

He shakes his head. “I’m just saying, sometimes I wonder what we’re actually going to fix,” he says. “Bringing Trip back, keeping him alive -- it’s going to have consequences.”

“Undoubtedly,” T’Pol agrees.

“Then you’ll understand my ethical hesitations,” he says.

“Time travel is a largely unknown process,” she says. “We have no way of knowing what repercussions will be incurred, if any.”

“We know that interference in the timeline nearly destroyed our future on more than one occasion,” Admiral Archer says. “We know that Daniels and his friends had to fight an entire war to keep history in check.”

“We have known this from the beginning,” T’Pol says, a little defensive. “I believe we are rather far along in the process to begin questioning its worth.”

“Now is exactly the time we should ask these questions,” Admiral Archer says. “We have a formula that can take you to the past. We have a plan to undo one of the worst moments of our lives. We would be foolish not to consider the implications.”

She bristles. “If you have doubts--”

“I’m asking you if you have doubts,” he says, a little terse. “Whatever we do here, we’re going to be violating the Temporal Accord. We could be breaking the lines in the Temporal Cold War that could lead to events throughout history we can’t even fathom.”

“Again, we have known all of this since the beginning,” T’Pol says, her voice raising just slightly in its intensity.

“It’s ironic, don’t you think?” Admiral Archer says. “After all this time, I’m the one lecturing you about rules.”

T’Pol inclines her head. “And I am the one reminding you that breaking them is sometimes the only option.”

He holds her gaze. “I could lose my job for this.”

“Indeed,” she says. “And I could destroy the universe.”

“And you’re still going to do it?” he asks.

She takes a breath. She squares her shoulders. “Logic would dictate that this is a foolish course of action. Reason would suggest that my coping mechanisms are wildly out of control. The rational course of action would be to stop now, to accept Trip’s death and recognize the validity of his sacrifice.”

Admiral Archer nods. “But?”

“But logic has failed me. Reason has left me alone and desolate. The rational course of action led Trip to kill himself before we had the chance to realize our potential together,” she says.

“So?” Admiral Archer asks quietly.

“So I refuse to accept logic,” she says. “This time, for the first time, I will follow my heart. To whatever end that may lead me.”

He nods, wetting his lips. “You told me many times that you didn’t believe in time travel.”

“And you told me once that the future is not fixed,” she says. “That we still have a choice.”

“And you choose this? To risk everything?”

“I choose to save Trip,” she says.

He nods. He is older still, as if his mortality is stalking him more with every passing day. She has neglected to notice this, just as she has neglected many things. She desires to save Trip, but she highly suspects she is trying to save them all.

“Good,” he says with an air of finality. “Then I think you’re finally ready.”

“To the contrary,” she says. “I believe I have been ready since the day Trip died.”

The corners of his mouth pull up, and the lines around his eyes wrinkle. “Then I’d say it’s about time.”

“Indeed,” she says. “It is definitely time.”

-o-

She sleeps.

The dreams grow longer now and infinitely more complex. The dreamscape is continuous, with each dream continuing, one from the next. She is living years and decades, side by side with him. They marry; they conceive a child. She carries the child, feeling it grow in her womb, and Trip is there to hold the squawling infant when it comes forth from her womb.

The child grows, and she and Trip hold hands in the park. He whistles under his breath as they keep house together. His fingers still know the lines of her back, and when he finds the pressure point on her foot, she sinks back into oblivion.

But it doesn’t end. No, this dream endures. She watches him accept a promotion and take a job in San Francisco. She, too, becomes an instructor at the Academy, while Trip oversees the development of the next warp engine. It is a quieter life, but it is stable.

It is happy.

She watches him grow old, tracing the lines on his face as he sleeps by her side. Their child leaves home, and Trip cuts back on his hours. When he retires, he cooks and cleans, tending the yard and fixing up the house while she is at work. He whistles upbeat tunes under his breath, and he smiles when she comes home. “I’ll be damned if I’m not the luckiest man in the world,” he muses.

“Luck has nothing to do with it,” she tells him. “My enduring patience, however, is paramount to our success.”

“All these years,” he says. “You’ve been here, to what? Watch me grow old.”

She looks at him seriously, reaching out and drawing him closer. “That,” she says, “has been the pleasure of my life.”

-o-

They part without much fanfare. Admiral Archer calls for his driver, and they travel in relative quiet back to San Francisco. When he has her dropped off at a transport station, he gets out of the car and looks her in the eyes.

“Be careful,” he says.

“There is only so much care that can go into a risky operation,” she reminds him.

“Yeah,” he says. “Be careful anyway.”

There’s a silence, but she nods her head. Then, she takes a breath, reaching out in an awkward attempt to initiate a hug. It is not in her nature, but she knows it is appropriate.

Moreover, she is aware this may be her last opportunity. Jonathan Archer has been more than her captain. He has been her friend through all things. She owes him more than her life.

The least she can do, therefore, is offer him a hug.

He looks almost surprised, but he reaches back. She wraps her arms up, telling herself to relax as he holds her. They stand this way for several long moments, before Admiral Archer pulls away. He straightens his uniform, nodding toward her. “T’Pol,” he says as a form of farewell.

She inclines her head. “Jon.”

He smiles, and then turns back toward the car. He looks back one more time before he shuts the door and the car pulls away. She stands, watching the car pull into traffic. She watches until it has disappeared and she is standing alone.

There are crowds around her, no doubt, but she is on her own now. Her friends have helped her significantly along the way, but this part is one she must do by herself.

Holding her head high, she moves inside and begins the last leg of her journey.

-o-

The transport back moves quickly. T’Pol intends to study her research, but the information is redundant and she is unable to focus.

She eats; she considers meditation.

In the end, she sleeps.

-o-

Trip grows old and frail, and T’Pol takes leave to spend her time with him. She tells them about their grandchildren, and helps him take apart small appliances just to see the circuitry. His own fingers shake too badly to do much, but he smiles as he watches her piece things back together, one wire at a time.

His breathing grows weaker, and his eyes are dimmer. His appetite has grown sparse, and he needs help moving from one room to the next. The doctors say there is nothing particularly wrong with him, which is another way of saying there is nothing they can do. Trip has lived over a century, and his mortality refuses to be held at bay any longer.

On days when he cannot get out of bed, she curls up next to him and watches him breath. He looks at her, lifting a tired hand to smooth her hair, which has grown long. She is older, too, but it will be another century or two before it is her time. She has known this from the start, but watching the life drain from him is one of the hardest things she has ever had to do.

“We could go to Vulcan,” she suggests. “Their medical practices are significantly better. They might have methods--”

Trip laughs, hollow and weak. “It’s like an old engine,” he says. “No matter how good it is, it’s not going to run forever.”

“But we might be able to prolong--”

“I was always going to go first,” he says. “I just can’t believe you stuck with me this long.”

She sits up, wrapping her arm around him in the bed. “We have chosen to share this life,” she says. “I have no regrets.”

“You’re too young to be carting around an old man,” he says.

“Age is irrelevant,” she says. “I never chose you for your appearance.”

He wets his lips, taking in a strained breath. “You sure know how to flatter a guy.”

“We have options,” she says, more insistent now. “I’m not ready.”

He looks at her. Despite his age, despite all the time that has passed, the way he looks at her is still the same. The affection; the respect; the love.

“Would you ever be ready?” he asks.

The emotion wells deep within her, threatening to choke her. She has learned balance over the years, but she finds anxiety at the thought of this. Her attachment is too great. Her mind understands the inevitability of his death, but her heart…

She shakes her head, holding him firmly. “I need you.”

He falters, looking sad. “You would have been better off without me.”

“More logical, maybe,” she says. “But not better.”

He smiles faintly, working for another breath. “I love you. You know that, right?”

She presses a kiss to his lips. “It has never been in doubt.”

“Then saying goodbye’s not so bad,” he muses.

The words almost hurt, and she does her best not to flinch.

His breath catches, and he shudders lightly. “I think it’s time,” he says. “I think it’s time.”

-o-



Hazily, she takes a connecting transport from Vulcan to one of the outposts. From there, she secures passage to the Suliban homeworld. When asked if she needs a return fare, she shakes her head.

“I am uncertain,” she admits. For all the months she has spent on her quest, the realization that she is close to her goal is still foreign to her. She has spent over a year without Trip, and the days and weeks have become both meaningless and laden with his absence. She does not know how much longer she can maintain this level of commitment. Then, if all goes according to plan, she will not have to. “Time will tell.”

-o-

She wastes no time in obtaining passage to the remote site. In her spare time, she goes over her work one last time, memorizing the formulas, before penning a few short notes to her friends. It is, perhaps, an overly sentimental indulgence, but Hoshi and Admiral Archer have been important parts of her journey. Even Captain Reed deserves some token of her gratitude.

After all, she has learned what it is to lose someone. She wishes this fate on no one else.

No matter what happens, closure is paramount.

No matter what happens, T’Pol is ready to say goodbye.

-o-

Upon arrival, it is late. Although she is anxious, she also feels a weariness that she cannot shake. Despite her best efforts, she has no way of knowing what will happen tomorrow. If she is successful; if she is not.

This could be her last night.

This could be her last chance.

She never got to say goodbye to Trip in real life.

She feels it would be foolish to pass up that chance now.

Decided, she pays for board and settles down and stares up into the dark, ready for sleep.

-o-

She wakes to sunlight.

Across the expanse of her unconsciousness, the air is fresh and warm. She knows the land, somehow. Mosquitos buzz and the breeze smells of salt.

Florida.

She is in Florida.

The dream is painfully realistic, full of details she did not realize she even possessed. The accuracy is stunning, a complete world of sensory experiences that she wonders again if this is indeed possibly the reality.

She turns, expecting to see Trip.

Instead, she sees a gravestone.

Charles Tucker III
Beloved Husband and Father

Her breath catches, and the weight of loss is heavy in her chest. She has lost him again. A long life, well lived and loved, or a life cut short of its potential -- the pain is the same. The loss is equal.

These dreams, she is more certain than ever, are part of the bond they shared. Their psychic connection had been unexpected and inexplicably powerful, even when they had not been pursuing a relationship. Even death, she believes, could not undo the connection, and these dreams are testament to the latent mental link that will always bind them.

This bond is what keeps Trip with her. This bond is what keeps her from letting him go.

Vulcans seeks balance. They desire control. Her own balance had faltered during her years on Enterprise, but Trip had helped her regain it. Although the emotional connection might be considered a weakness by her people, she has come to see it as her strength.

Her balance.

He has always been her counterpoint. Without him, her world is askew, and it cannot regain its equilibrium while he is absent. Humans call it love. Vulcans, if pressed, would call it a practicality. T’Pol only knows it as completion, the eternal harmony of two souls across a distance that neither can breach alone.

But together -- together they can accomplish anything.

A decade or a lifetime, T’Pol sees plainly that the loss will not be lessened. Yet, as she stands there, she understands the critical difference between her dreamscape and the world behind her. It is not merely a question of T’Pol, in the end. There is a child; there are grandchildren. There are friends and family and students at the Academy. There are future generations of starship engines, pushing the barriers to warp 6, warp 7 and beyond.

Trip’s life is not merely a reflection of T’Pol, it is integrated into a much larger community. One that T’Pol would have missed if not for him.

And, in the end, there is Trip himself. Vulcans see relationships as a mutual give and take. Humans value the sentiment of putting another person before yourself. That kind of attention, after all, can change a person.

T’Pol knows this because it changed her. By excluding an intimate relationship with Trip, she did not merely hinder herself.

She hurt Trip as well.

That is the unforgivable thing.

That is the regret she cannot let go.

She chose the practical, the logical, the selfish. And it cost Trip the happiness and fullness he deserved, and he died wanting. Because T’Pol knows there will never be someone else for her but Trip, and it is clear that Trip would love no one but her. Even if she could find contentment alone, she did not have a right to ask the same of Trip.

He is her balance.

And she is his.

Going to her knees, she reaches out to the stone. Her fingers ghost over the inscription, and she presses her palm over his name. “We will be together,” she promises. “One way or another.”

Somewhere, birds chirp. The insects sing in harmony.

T’Pol breaths deeply, holding her hand steady. “It’s time.”