Charles Tucker the Third hurried toward his mate's cabin. He had finished his packing and wanted to watch T'Pol finish hers.
Trip was still in the I just realized I'm in love for the rest of my life stage. The couple had finally come to believe that no matter the difficulties, they belonged together. Trip never tired of watching his love do the most mundane things. He could spend hours watching T'Pol sleep, eat, write reports, fold laundry…
"Enter," said T'Pol, responding to her chime.
She frowned slightly as Trip entered and plopped down on her bunk disturbing her neatly folded cloths. "Do you not have packing of your own to do, Commander?"
"Finished," Trip replied with a huge grin. "I wanted to come and keep you company while you over-pack."
"I will have you know, Mr. Tucker, that I calculate exactly what clothing will be required and take no more and no less. Unlike you, who have probably stuffed a wad of apparel in your bag, none of which will be appropriate for your needs."
"Hey! I packed what I'll need. I even have my dress uniform in a clothing bag all neat and pressed."
"In that case, I am indeed impressed Commander."
"What's with all this Commander and Mr. Tucker stuff? You're not mad about something are you?" Trip leaned back on his elbows. "I can't think of anything I've done." He frowned in deep thought. "Not recently, anyway."
"I am not angry; however we are still on duty for the next six minutes. I intend for us to maintain a formal relationship during our duty hours."
Trip reached over and grabbed T'Pol's hand, pulling her on top of him.
"Six more minutes, huh?"
T'Pol parted her lip as she gazed into Trip's eyes. He encircled her with his arms, and she gave a breathy sigh.
"Perhaps my chronometer is not completely accurate."
Trip laughed joyfully as he rolled their bodies more securely onto the bunk.
Suddenly, the stack of T'Pol's neatly folded clothes fell into a heap on the floor. At that moment, the normally fastidious Vulcan didn't seem to have the will to care.
Hoshi closed her bag with a click. Sealing the locking mechanism felt rather symbolic to her. She had thought long and hard about a decision she had just made. Hoshi had been miserable for months now. It had come to a head at Jonathan's birthday party. Much of what happened was still fuzzy, but she did remember telling T'Pol some things her Vulcan friend probably didn't want to know. After that party, Hoshi vowed never to get drunk again. From the looks she received from various party attendees, Hoshi was sure she let something slip about her feelings for the captain.
Sitting down at her desk, Hoshi placed a call to Starfleet headquarters. After speaking with two secretaries and one harried assistant, Admiral Samuel Gardner finally appeared on her monitor.
The age-lined face of the admiral lit up with a smile. "Lieutenant Sato, to what do I owe the pleasure of this call?"
Hoshi felt calmer than she had anticipated. "Admiral Gardner, I have just transmitted my resignation from Starfleet to your office."
Gardner's face showed both confusion and consternation. "Why, Hoshi?"
Having been roommates with Penelope Gardner all through school, Hoshi almost felt as if the admiral were a second father. Since her old friend had lapsed into informality, so did Hoshi.
"Sam, I have my reasons. Let's just say that life is too short to spend it pining for what you can't have. It's time to move on and make a change."
"It's that ass Archer, isn't it? How can he be so blind as to let a woman like you get away? I allowed Enterprise to R&R at Vulcan so all of you can attend the ceremony. The Vulcans want to give him a peacemaker medal. My question is, do they give medals for stupidity?"
Hoshi chuckled, "You sound like my dad, Sam. He never gives my boyfriends a break, either. How much respect would you have for a captain that was carrying on with a subordinate?"
Gardner frowned and replied with a growl, "Well, it's just that I love you like a daughter, Hoshi. Penelope is about to give me my first grandson and I'd like to see you that happy, with a family of your own."
Hoshi sighed and shook her head. "That just it Sam, if I don't leave now that's never going to happen."
"Do you think Archer will step up if you resign?"
"That's not what I want. Even if he did ask me to marry him, I will not accept a life as a Starfleet widow. I want a husband that will be around, a full-time husband and father. Besides, I find my work very fulfilling. No matter what happens, I will always have that. By the way, I have some major upgrades almost ready for the Universal Translator."
"Alright Hoshi, I'll accept your decision." Even across the light-years, she could see a crafty look on the old man's face. Hoshi could practically hear the wheels turning. He was plotting something.
Hoshi pursed her lips and scowled at her old friend. "What are you up to, Sam?"
"Not to worry Hoshi, I'm just making some plans." Gardner smiled, "I accept your resignation, Lieutenant."
It took several shuttle trips to deposit all of the crew and their luggage at the beautiful new Embassy. Many Humans agreed the building was reminiscent of the interlocking vaulted shells of the Earth Sydney Opera House. The exterior was the Vulcan equivalent of marble again, but not the flat stacked shape as before. While it was technically Earth soil, T'Pau had insisted that Vulcan would rebuild the Earth Embassy to be a tribute to the people that lost their lives in the bombing. Symbolically the design architects had been both Humans and Vulcans. It was a majestic building, containing lavish quarters for visiting Human dignitaries.
The award ceremony for Jonathan Archer was several days away, so the senior staff and crew would have time for shopping and sightseeing.
T'Pol had arranged for a ground car to take Trip and she to her home where they would be staying. Since her Mother's death, the house that T'Pol grew up in now belonged to her. Or more precisely, by Vulcan law the home of T'Pol and her bonded mate.
On the ride down to the Embassy, T'Pol had observed that Hoshi seemed distracted. The usually talkative comm officer did not join in the conversation and had an air of fatigue about her.
As the group milled about in the lobby, locating bags and talking, T'Pol walked over to the communications officer. "Hoshi, I feel the need for a cup of tea. Would you care to accompany me to the café?"
"That would be nice T'Pol, but what about Trip?" Hoshi gestured to the group of men.
"Our car will not arrive for half an hour and he is busy making plans to visit Mount Tar'hana with Malcolm and the captain."
The women proceeded to the small café on the grounds of the Embassy and ordered their tea.
T'Pol got right to the point, as was her way. "You seem preoccupied, Hoshi. May I be of any assistance?"
Hoshi took a sip of their recently arrived tea and then blurted out that she was leaving Starfleet for new projects.
"Does this have anything to do with your relationship with the captain?"
Hoshi's jaw dropped. "Does everybody know about us?"
Hoshi laughed ruefully, "Not that there's anything to know, really. Jon has too much respect for his position and I have too much respect for him. Going my own way seems to be the best solution for me at this time."
"My relationship with Commander Tucker was also fraught with difficulties. If we had not found a way to make our situation work, I might have been tempted to follow your course of action. It would be most difficult to work with a person you desire and can never have."
"I guess you'd understand my frustration better than anyone, T'Pol. Life is too short."
T'Pol sipped her tea in thoughtful silence. "Hoshi, would you like to come and stay at our home with Trip and me? It might be beneficial to have time away from the captain to contemplate the future."
Hoshi sat forward, pondering the invitation. "Are you sure I wouldn't be in the way?"
"Of course not, we would be honored."
"Oh man! Hoshi is staying with us?" Trip hung his head. "I love Hoshi like a sister but it'll be just like the Grelldoran conference last month."
"To what are you referring?"
Trip scowled. "I'm referring to the fact that you wouldn't have sex with me because Hoshi, with her Vulcan-like hearing, was in the next room."
"At the captain's last birthday party, after several alcoholic beverages, Hoshi began to speak to me of strangely intimate subjects."
Trip chuckled. "I remember that party. Hoshi got drunk as a skunk."
"Indeed. She told me of her dormitory experiences. Apparently she was able to hear the escapades, as she called it, of all her fellow students. Hoshi became so paranoid about being overheard herself, that now she can only have sexual relations comfortably with loud music playing."
Trip winced. "Whoa, too much information." Then with a slow smirk he leaned in close. "Maybe we should play loud music."
T'Pol raised an eyebrow and gave Trip a withering look. "Then she would surely know what we were doing."
Taking the rented ground car, the trio arrived at the Vulcan dwelling.
"T'Pol your home is lovely." Hoshi turned in a circle taking in the tranquil front garden. "My grandparents had a similar rock garden and water feature. I could be very happy in a place like this," she said with a smile.
They quickly unpacked and settled in, together preparing a light dinner of Vulcan delicacies – the kind best consumed on Vulcan itself.
Hoshi trusted Trip implicitly and, during their meal, filled him in on her plan. She told both her friends that Admiral Gardner had already accepted her resignation. As they sat around the table sipping cool beverages, Trip sighed loudly.
"I don't think I'm breaking any confidences here, Hoshi. I know for a fact that Jon loves you. He told me over water polo and beer."
T'Pol almost interrupted her mate at this point. He was indeed breaking a confidence, but she knew Trip had the best of intentions. She settled for a raise eyebrow and let her mate continue.
"He is just as confused about how to remedy this situation as you are." Wrapping his hands around his iced tea, Trip stared at the glass. "As much as all of us will miss you, I can't say that I wouldn't do the same in your place. Hell. I did do the same in a manner of speaking. But, being of equal rank made it much easier for me and T'Pol to get our act together. I'm sorry that you and Jon don't have that option."
"Hoshi, what are your plans now that you will shortly be a civilian?" T'Pol asked.
Hoshi smiled at her friends. "Actually, I have several wonderful offers. The university told me that I am always welcome back at my old teaching position in Brazil. More intriguing, though, I have been working with a Vulcan priest named Meryt on and off for some time now. We met at Berkley when he guest lectured many years ago. We became friends and when the Kir'Shara was discovered, Meryt was one of the priests assigned to its translation. We have had many sub-space conferences over the meanings of words and phrases in ancient Vulcan."
Trip waved his hands. "Wait a minute. Are you telling me that you've been involved with translating the Kir'Shara?"
"Why is that so hard to believe, Trip?" Hoshi laughed. "I'm very good at what I do and Meryt says that with Vulcan not being my first language, I sometimes have a fresher perspective."
T'Pol inclined her head slightly. "We have never doubted your talents, Hoshi. Over our years of service together, you have amazed us many times with your uncanny abilities. So, does Meryt wish you to consult with him here on Vulcan?"
"Yes. I'm going to meet with him and travel to the P'ket Monastery. The caves near the monastery are full of these amazing ancient inscriptions. The walls of ancient script may give us clues to some of the more difficult passages in the Kir'Shara text. A sort of Rosetta Stone, if you will. I need a challenge to take my mind off leaving Jon and all of you." A look of deep sadness passed over Hoshi's face. She took a breath and squared her shoulders. "Enough of that. I believe that I will enjoy living here on Vulcan for the next year. The Science Directorate has offered me a fellowship that I do believe I have just decided to accept."
It was very late at night, Vulcan time. In the comfort of his suite at the embassy, Jonathan Archer sipped a glass of bourbon. He hated getting awards, it always embarrassed him. Accolades were not the reason he did his job. All he had ever wanted was to be an explorer, to see what was out there in the universe. Raising his glass and downing the last of the liquor, Jon wondered if that was enough anymore.
The comm beeped signaling an incoming message. Archer accepted the call and was surprised to see the face of Admiral Gardner.
"Admiral, what can I do for you?"
"Captain Archer, I'm sorry to disturb you so late. I wanted to let you know I'm on my way to Vulcan. I decided at the last minute to attend the medal ceremony. My aide and I are aboard the Tal'kir with Ambassador Soval. We should arrive in two days."
Archer was puzzled by the admiral's imminent arrival. "I'm glad you're coming, sir. Just surprised."
"I have a few things to discuss with you. Professor Whitley-Barrows asked me to speak to you about his needs."
"Cargo bay three is being reconfigured as we speak, Admiral."
"Good. I'm bringing you a list of candidates for replacement comm officers and I wanted to thank Lieutenant Sato in person for all she has done for Starfleet."
Archer felt the blood drain from his face.
"What are you talking about, sir?" Jonathan asked breaking out in a cold sweat.
"Sato resigned for some unknown reason. I hate it, because you'll have a hell of a time replacing her. But what can we do?"
Archer slammed his fist down on the desk.
"There has to be some mistake Admiral. The lieutenant hasn't said anything to me."
"No mistake about this Archer, I signed it myself. I'll be there in two days and we'll discuss replacements. Gardner out."
As the screen went blank on Archer's stunned face, light-years away on the Tal'kir, Gardner began to chuckle. That ought to shake things up!
Trip staggered, half asleep, to the communication station. On the way, he banged his shin on one of the short legged tables that Vulcans seemed so fond of.
As Trip's face appeared to Archer, his first words were, "Son of a bitch!"
"Sorry for waking you so late, Trip."
Trip gave a pained smile. "No problem Cap'n, except I think I just broke my leg."
Jon cut to the chase. "Trip, let me speak to Hoshi."
"I can't wake her now. She's been asleep for hours," Trip replied while rubbing his injured leg.
"Did you know that Hoshi was resigning from Starfleet?" Archer demanded.
"Not until we were having supper tonight. I was as surprised as you." Trip felt sorry for his friend, who seemed lost and hurt. "Jon, Hoshi is doing what she thinks is best for the both of you. In fact, I agree with her."
Jon's chin jerked up in surprise. "And how can leaving Enterprise possibly be good for either of us?"
Trip had seen his friend in various forms of distress, ranging from drunk, injured, to just plain mad as hell. But he had never seen him heartbroken before.
"Cap'n, be reasonable. If nothing changes about your circumstances, what kind of life will the two of you have?" Trip certainly had experience with difficult relationships and wanted to make his friend understand. "Separating will be hell…but seeing someone every day and knowing you can't be together is a special kind of hell."
It took all of Trip's powers of persuasion to keep Archer from grabbing transport and coming to the house right away. He finally managed to convince Jon that waking the household in the middle of the night was not an optimal strategy.
Against his better judgment, Archer agreed to wait until morning to confront Hoshi.
Trip stifled a yawn as he signed off. More than ready to crawl back in bed with T'Pol, he limped across the room wondering why this stuff always happened in the middle of the night.
"What do you mean she's gone?" Trip paced in front of his mate. "The captain will kill me when he gets here."
"Rising early is a Vulcan custom. Meryt came by to escort Hoshi to P'ket at 0600. She wanted to tour the monastery and caves."
Trip looked at the chronometer. "That means they've been gone for about an hour. Jon is going to blow his top. It took everything I had to keep him from busting in here last night." Trip reached toward the comm. "Maybe I can catch him before he leaves the Embassy."
The front gate chime sounded.
T'Pol raised an eyebrow. "Or, maybe not."
The trio was in a shuttle heading deep into the desert. Trip was piloting, having determined that Jon was in no state to be behind the controls of a fast moving vehicle. Actually, Trip thought he took the explanation of Hoshi' absence rather well.
Jon had turned red in the face and snarled, "Take me there, now!"
P'ket was situated on the fringe of the Forge. As such the Enterprise officers had to park the shuttle and hike the remaining distance.
T'Pol led the way of course, with Trip and Jon trudging behind. Trip heaved a sigh of relief when his mate pointed to an imposing building on the horizon. It was in the familiar style of most Vulcan temples.
They rang a bell at the gate. Upon entering the shaded foyer, the group was given a traditional greeting by the priest. They soon learned that Meryt had escorted Hoshi to the caves several hours prior to their arrival. T'Pol asked for and was given directions to the sacred site.
Jon grabbed the pack of supplies. Water and protein bars had been provided by the monks. He nodded to T'Pol. "Let's go."
As they headed out the gate, Trip started to mumble. "There'll be mummies I bet." The engineer gave a slight shudder. "Oh yeah, there'll be mummies for sure."
Hoshi was deep in thought. She had already deciphered one set of glyphs that had baffled her Vulcan colleague for months now. These symbols in the inner most caves were however, proving very difficult indeed.
Hoshi heard a noise behind her. "Meryt, these carvings seem more mathematical than the ones in chamber six. Is it possible…"
"I'm not Meryt."
Wheeling around at the sound of the familiar baritone, Hoshi saw Jon standing before her.
"I thought you were going to climb Mount Tar'hana today with Malcolm and Trip?" Hoshi said, curbing her surprise.
Jon entered her personal space, towering over the Asian woman. "That was before I found out that you made the decision to leave Starfleet without so much as a word. What are you thinking, Hoshi? You should have come to me. We could have talked it out."
"Jon, we both know there isn't anything to talk about. You are the captain of a starship and I am a subordinate, end of discussion."
Archer growled, "I won't have it Hoshi. You are not leaving Enterprise!"
The tiny little woman's eyes narrowed and she placed her hands on her hips. "Who the hell do you think you're talking to? You are no longer my Captain, you're not my father, and you're sure as hell not my husband. That sort of limits your say in the matter to, I don't know…none!"
"You are the most stubborn woman I have ever met. If you will just listen to reason…"
"Reason! Do you think it's reasonable for the two of us to torture ourselves for another ten years until you're able to step back from Enterprise? Is it reasonable for us to forgo the idea of having a family?"
Archer took a step back from the petite woman who suddenly seemed ten feet tall. "I'm sorry; this is not how I wanted our conversation to go. I don't want to fight; it's just that…I'm so afraid of losing you." His voice softened. "Hoshi, you must know how much I love you."
The trembling linguist relaxed her stance. "I do know, Jon. Why do you think I'm doing this? This was not a snap decision on my part." She reached up to touch the captain's cheek. "It's because I love you that I'm leaving. We both need to move forward and carry on with our careers. Maybe we will find love elsewhere, maybe not, but pining for each other does no good."
Covering her hand with his much larger one, Archer spoke, "If you leave Starfleet we could get married." Jon could see Hoshi was about to argue the point. "But, I couldn't leave you behind to travel the stars." He had made his decision. "I'm going to give up command of Enterprise."
Hoshi smiled, "No, Jon, you can't do that. You have the soul of an explorer. Being the captain of that ship is your best destiny. I won't let you give that up for me."
Chuckling, he said, "To paraphrase a very smart woman, you're not my captain, my mother, or my wife, so, you have no say in it." Jonathan laughed. "You know, now that I've said it out loud, I feel like a weight has been lifted off my heart."
"Jon, I'm afraid that a time would come when you would resent giving up your command for me. I couldn't bear that."
"Oh Hoshi, waking up every morning with you by my side and watching our children grow would be a dream come true. It's more than a man like me deserves. I want that dream."
Moving in close, Jon put his arms around the beautiful woman. He leaned down and covered her lips with his. What began as a tentative kiss quickly flared with long pent up passion. Eventually the couple had to break for a breath.
Throwing his head back the captain laughed.
"What?" Hoshi asked with a smile.
"It's just that, now that I've made the decision it all seems so clear. Living my life without you isn't even an option." He pulled her close, burying his face in her silky hair.
A short while later, Jon and Hoshi, hand in hand threaded their way toward the entrance to the caves. The couple entered one of the forward chambers to find T'Pol, Trip and Meryt sitting on mats. Trip and T'Pol were in soft conversation while sharing water and a protein bar. The Vulcan priest appeared to be deep in meditation.
Trip smiled at his friends, noticing their clasped hands. "Well Cap'n, I don't see any visible signs of blood, so I guess Hoshi took it easy on you."
Archer heaved a sigh. "Not hardly, she practically took my head off."
The ceremony was being held in the spacious auditorium of the Earth Embassy. Captain Archer was pacing in a small anti-chamber waiting for the many distinguished guests to arrive. Trip, T'Pol, and Hoshi were keeping him company until it was time to take their seats.
Jon and Trip were both fiddling with the collars of their dress uniforms. The clothing fit the men perfectly so Hoshi and T'Pol decided it must just be a man thing.
"Stop sweatin', Cap'n, it's not a court-martial," Trip said slapping his friend on the arm.
"I know, Trip, but I just hate being the center of attention at these things."
Jon looked out into the main chamber and saw Admiral Gardner chatting with Soval. When this was over, he and the Admiral would be having a talk that Jon was not looking forward to. He wondered if Starfleet would take kindly to losing an experienced captain because he was in love.
Archer turned his back to the door. "I'm not sure how Gardner will take the news that I'm stepping down to marry my comm officer."
Hoshi sidled up to Jon, brushing lint from his uniform. "There's still time for you to back out and remain captain of Enterprise. You may not even like being married to me."
The captain grabbed Hoshi and lifted her off her feet. "Are you kidding me? I wouldn't let go of you now for all the starships in the fleet."
Before he could kiss her, they heard a voice from the doorway. "I'm glad to hear that."
Seeing Admiral Gardner propped casually in the doorway did indeed cause Archer to let go of Hoshi. He did have the presence of mind to grab her arm before she landed on her butt.
"Hoshi!" Gardner said, holding his arms wide.
The lovely young woman surprised the Enterprise officers by running into his embrace. She hugged the admiral tightly. "Sam, it's been too long. How is Penelope?"
"According to her, big as a house and ready to burst, but she's doing great." Gardner turned to Archer. "So, did I just hear that you're leaving Enterprise to marry my other daughter?"
Jon stood dumbfounded for a moment and then collected himself. "If you're referring to Hoshi, Admiral, then yes, that is my plan."
"Because I hold her so dear, I knew that only a jackass would let this girl get away from him. And you, Archer have just gone up in my esteem immeasurably. You appear to be sharper than I gave you credit for." Gardner gave Hoshi a quick wink.
"Thank you Admiral, I think," replied a still flustered Archer.
The Admiral's demeanor grew serious. "We don't have much time before the ceremony so we need to make this quick. Starfleet doesn't want to lose a captain with your talent and experience Jonathan. Provided this meets with the approval of you two, there is a way for you to marry and both remain on Enterprise. You know that Professor James Whitley-Barrows is coming aboard your ship next week."
Archer nodded. "Yes, cargo bay three has been refit as a special agricultural laboratory. The professor is the preeminent expert on adapting Earth plant-life to grow in alien soils, particularly hybrid wheat. He will be traveling with us indefinitely."
"Starfleet has now approved the appointment of civilian consultants aboard starships. If they have fields of expertise that require interaction with alien worlds, it only makes sense for them to be in the field, as it were." Gardner informed the group.
T'Pol nodded. "Vulcans have allowed civilian researchers aboard our vessels for centuries."
Trip rolled his eyes. "Yes T'Pol, we know that we're always two steps behind."
T'Pol, aware that no one could see the maneuver, brushed her hand briefly against Trip's. "Not always," she replied softly.
Jon smiled. "So if a person, such as a singularly talented individual who studies languages and translations, became a civilian consultant...?"
"Then she could travel aboard Enterprise with her husband and have Starfleet's blessing." Hoshi smiled putting her arms around Jon's waist. Suddenly she scowled and turned to Admiral Gardner. "Sam, if you knew this all along, why didn't you tell me when I sent you my resignation?"
"Because my dear, I wanted to see if Archer had the bal…pardon me ladies, fortitude to make such a sacrifice for you. I wanted to see if he was worthy of you, Hoshi."
Soval stepped to the door. "We are ready to begin if you would take your seats."
Sitting around the living room, Trip, T'Pol, Jonathan, and Hoshi were in a comfortable exhaustion. After the presentation and speeches, the reception had taken on a very festive tone, becoming an impromptu engagement party. The happy couple couldn't seem to keep the good news from their fellow officers.
Trip and T'Pol invited them back to their house just to get away from all the well wishers. The two couples talked late into the night. At one point, Hoshi asked Trip and T'Pol if they were satisfied with their situation.
T'Pol spoke first. "It is different for us. By Vulcan standards, Trip and I are a mated couple. On this world we are already married."
"Yeah, someday I suppose we'll have a conventional ceremony. As long as Starfleet doesn't bother us, we've decided to keep a low profile for now."
Jon looked at Hoshi with adoration in his eyes. "I think Starfleet is beginning to realize that five and ten year missions are going to put a new face on fraternization rules. As long as people do their jobs and remain professional on duty, that's all you can ask."
Eventually the couples bid each other good night. T'Pol indicated where the guest rooms were and left it at that.
As she and Trip walked to their room, Trip whispered, "Do you think they'll sleep together tonight?"
"I do not believe that is any of our business, Mr. Tucker."
Trip swept T'Pol up into his arms and carried her the last few feet to their bedroom. "Okay none of that Mr. Tucker crap tonight, Miss T'Pol. I know for a fact we're not on duty now."
After finishing their preparations, Trip and T'Pol crawled into bed. Trip turned to kiss T'Pol goodnight. He let his hands wander over her luscious body, deepening the kiss.
T'Pol broke their kiss and moved away slightly. "Trip."
"I know, I know, no sex with Hoshi down the hall. I just needed a little something to hold me over until we can be alone. You can't blame a guy for wanting to touch that body," he said with an appreciative grin.
"Believe me, I desire to touch you as well but…"
T'Pol's words were interrupted by the sound of loud romantic music coming from the direction of the guest room. It echoed through the house.
Trip bit his top lip to keep from laughing.
T'Pol leaned in and rubbed her body against Trip, bringing his head down for a deep kiss.
The Vulcan then encircled her mate with her arms and pulled Trip comfortably atop her. "I believe we no longer need to concern ourselves with Hoshi overhearing us."