Elaine Tucker stood in the middle of her living room staring at her youngest son. She stared at his face and saw the telltale sign of his tongue planted in his cheek to know that he was doing two things at the moment: holding his temper and thinking.
"I've got to check on the food. We don't want to ruin dinner," said Charlie, who then exited the house.
Again there was silence between mother and son. Trip's tongue remained planted in his cheek.
"Married? You are married to a Vulcan, Trip," Elaine said trying not to sound too upset.
"It's a long story, ma," said Trip.
"Really? A long story," said Elaine. "I can understand where you would think that your mother and father couldn't handle a long story about your marriage, which they weren't invited to, and have never met your wife before today. I hope you can do better than long story."
"Ma, because T'Pol is Vulcan and was part of the same command as me our relationship has been problematic. Right now the Vulcans know about our bonding and Admiral Black and that's all. The Vulcans support it and Admiral Black wants it kept quiet. If we don't keep it quiet, I could lose my commission," said Trip.
"But your sister knows?" asked Elaine. "You are able to tell her but not your mother."
"She met T'Pol when we were having dinner together and guessed that we were more than friends," said Trip. "You know Lizzy I can't lie to her."
"But you can lie to your mother?" she asked.
"Nay, I didn't lie to you. I just didn't tell you," Trip defended himself.
Elaine Tucker looked at her son as if he had just made one of the biggest mistakes of his life. Trip closed his eyes and sighed.
"Ma, I made a mistake. I was wrong. There are no excuses," he said.
Elaine Tucker shook her head then pointed her jaw towards her son. She was done with him yet.
"So, if your marriage, or bonding as you called it, gets out you could lose your position in Starfleet," said Elaine.
"And that's a reason to hide the fact you are married from your parents?" she asked.
Trip closed his eyes. There was no way of winning this argument only surviving it. He opened his eyes and looked at his mother for several long moments.
"I'm sorry," he said. "That's all I got for you now, ma. I'm sorry."
"Is that supposed to be enough, Charles Anthony Tucker III, to make me forget that you have hidden a marriage from me?" she asked him. "This isn't like you were hiding a promotion from me or a girlfriend, but this is a marriage, a new member to our family."
"No, ma, I'm sorry isn't good enough, but my wife is right outside waiting to get to know you. Do you want to waste what time she and I have on leave being angry, or do you want to get to know her?" he asked sincerely.
Elaine walked over to one of the windows and stared out at Elizabeth, T'Pol, and her husband. Charlie was showing T'Pol how to grill ears of corn. She looked as if she was fascinated by the process, which assumed him. Elaine turned and looked at Trip.
"A Vulcan, Trip?"
"I fell in love with her. She's isn't a Vulcan to me; she's just T'Pol," he said.
"But is she capable of loving you?" she asked.
"I'm going to tell you something about Vulcans, but you have to swear not to tell anyone else, except dad," Trip said.
She looked at him with annoyance then shook her head in the affirmative.
"Vulcans bond with their mates. It is a telepathic link of sorts, which allows them to feel each other's emotions. In some case the link is so strong that they can even communicate with each other mind to mind," he explained.
"Do you have this ability with T'Pol?" she asked.
He closed his eyes and smiled, "She is nervous, but she is also fascinated by how dad is trying to make her feel at home. I gotta admit that humor sometimes confuses her, even though she has a sense of humor."
"Can you talk mind to mind?" she asked.
"Not yet, but our bond is not fully matured yet," he said.
"So, does she love you?" he asked.
"Very much, ma," he said.
"A bond, huh? It makes lying to your mate difficult, doesn't it?" she asked.
"It really does," smiled Trip then he looked down at the floor. "It is also unbreakable. We are married until death do us part."
Elaine thought about this for a moment then asked the question she was most interested in, "Can you have children?"
"There has never been a Vulcan Human hybrid," he answered, "but I've talked to T'Pol and she wants to explore medical advice to see how one can happen."
"So, do you want children, huh?"
"Yes, we do."
"Well, from what I've heard Vulcans are geniuses, so I have no doubt that it will get figured out," she smiled. "Introduce me to your wife."
"I'd love to, ma," said Trip. "You are going to like her once you get to know her."
She walked up and gave him a loving hug. Trip finally felt his body start to relax.
Malcolm was in his quarters. They were a day now from the Delphic Expanse. Although this was a diplomatic mission, he had been drilling Tactical and the Armory getting their efficiency levels up. There was no doubting that this was going to be a mission that hand to end with them getting the subspace vortex one way or another.
He took off his uniform jacket and sat down at his desk. So far today, he had run drills, checked on upping the yield of the new Mark III torpedoes, and worked out. He was getting ready for battle just in case.
Suddenly, his computer beeped and on the screen appeared Harris from Section 31. Malcolm blanched. Harris had been his supervisor in Section 31. The man trained him and acted as his control officer. He was now the head of Section 31.
"Hello, Malcolm," Harris said.
"How the hell are you doing this?" asked Malcolm.
When he left Section 31, he wanted to put the spy organization behind him. He gave them several years of his life delaying promotions and getting his career off track for what he thought was a good reason. He finally soured on Section 31 after they had him assassinate the leader of an alien race. The Breen were a belligerent race that was starting to test Earth's defenses. By assassinating their leader, a deal Section 31 made with an opposing Breen leader, the new leader left Earth alone. Malcolm agreed with the mission, but doing it left a sour taste in his mouth.
"You know that I have my ways," said Harris.
"What do you want, Harris?"
"The task force, your mission, it must succeed. A SPECOM mission will depend on your success. I've contacted you to give you some information on the Xindi," said Harris.
"You mean that you have more information on the Xindi than the Vulcans," said Malcolm.
Harris smiled. Malcolm sighed. Of course, he had more information.
"The Xindi are five races comprising one race. There are the Xindi-Primate, Xindi-Arboreal, Xindi-Reptilian, Xindi-Insectoid, and Xindi-Aquatic. They try to make decision democratically with each group getting a say. The Reptilian and Insectoid are xenophobes. They will want to wage war against you," said Harris. "The Aquatics tend to like to remain neutral while the Arboreal and Primate will be open to trade. The subspace vortex is an invention of the primates."
"How do you know this?" he asked.
"We have made contact with the Xindi. The primary contact's name is Degra. He is a Xindi-Primate. If you can't contact him then you must seek out Janar, who is a Xindi- Arboreal. Mention Captain Nieves from the trader ship the North Star, and they will trust you enough to hear you out, or, at least, hear Archer out," said Harris.
"Are you sure about these contacts?" asked Malcolm.
"Both of these Xindi believe that their race would be well served to expand dealings with other races outside of the Delphi Expanse," said Harris.
"What else do I need to know?" he asked Harris.
"Avoid the Insectoid and Reptilian and deal with Degra and Janar only. If diplomacy fails then you have to take it by force," said Harris. "Without the subspace vortex SPECOM's plan will fail. That is all I can tell you, Malcolm. Good luck and I'll be seeing you."
The screen went blank. Malcolm sat back in his chair and sighed. He had a choice to either lie to Archer or tell him the truth. Letting the Captain know that he was once a member of Section 31 wasn't something Malcolm was looking forward to doing, but if it was best for the mission then he had to do it.
"Well, it was nice being and XO," he smiled bitterly.
The Tucker Family sat around the picnic table eating their dinner. T'Pol was dining on grilled zucchini, peppers, and Shitake Mushroom, as well as an ear of corn, which she was unsure of how to eat. Trip looked at his Adun'a and smiled.
"Darlin', do you want me to cut the kernels from the cob so you can eat them?" he asked.
T'Pol looked up from her plate and said, "Thank you."
She handed him her plate. Trip carefully wiped clean his knife knowing that T'Pol would eat the corn if the blood from his steak got on it then he cut the kernels of corn off the cob and handed the plate back to her. T'Pol sampled the corn and nodded her head in approval. He could feel that she enjoyed the taste of the grilled corn, but wonder why it was different.
"Grilling the corn makes it sweeter," he told her and she nodded her approval.
His father stared at Trip looking for an explanation, as to why she didn't touch ear of corn.
"Vulcans don't touch their food with their hands," he told him. "It's a cultural thing."
"Now that I know that I'll make sure everything she gets a fork will do," he said then he looked at T'Pol. "Have you ever had a veggie burger?"
"No, I have not," she answered.
"Well, while the rest of us are having hamburgers and hot digs tomorrow, I'll make sure you get a nice veggie burger. I think you'll like it," he said.
Trip could see that his father was enamored by T'Pol. Of course, his father always appreciated a beautiful woman.
"Thank you, Mr. Tucker," she said.
"What did I tell you my name was?" he said.
"Charlie," she said.
"That's better," he smiled.
"You'll call him Charlie but you won't call me Trip?" asked Trip.
"Charlie differentiates your father from you Charles. It is logical that I call him Charlie," she said then she looked down at her food and started eating again.
Elaine looked at her son staring at his wife. She could see that he was deeply in love with her. T'Pol seemed to be studying the food on her plate when she glanced up at Trip. Elaine was shocked to see that her eyes conveyed an equal affection and even more. They kept the eye contact for several seconds then went back to eating.
"I can't wait for T'Pol to meet Dave and Alice and the kids and Rebecca," said Elizabeth.
Elaine cleared her throat, "Rebecca is bring a fellow professor, so I don't want it mentioned to Dave or Alice or Rebecca that Trip and T'Pol are married. According to Trip it has to remain a secret from now or Starfleet might drum him out of the fleet. Their marriage will remain a secret for those sitting here."
Charlie looked at Trip, who could see that his father was angry.
"Does Starfleet have a problem with you marrying a beautiful and intelligent woman?" he asked.
"Dad, it's complicated," answered Trip.
"Well, they better accept it. I hate bigotry," he said.
"The problem, Charlie, is that if it becomes known throughout all of Starfleet that they will expect Charles and me to serve on separate ships. We cannot let that happen since we are bonded mates," T'Pol explained.
"Bonded mates? What does that mean?" asked Charlie.
"I'll explain later," said Elaine.
Charlie looked at his wife in confusion. He didn't like the idea of being left out on something so important.
"Mrs. Tucker…" T'Pol started.
"Elaine. Call me Elaine, darling," she said.
"Elaine, I will be glad to explain. You are now part of my family. Vulcans honor family above all else," she said.
Elaine smiled, "Tell him."
"Charles and I are telepathically linked, or bonded. It is the way of mated Vulcans. I can feel his deepest emotions and he can feel mine," she said.
"At all times?" he asked.
"Not necessarily. I have the ability to raise a mental barrier blocking my emotions from out bond, as does he," she explained. "We need to serve together for the first year of our marriage as our bond fully forms. To separate us is to interfere with our bond and our bond is sacred."
"I see," he said, as he thought about the implications of feeling everything his wife felt. "So, you just share emotions?"
"There is more. When I meditate and Charles enters a relax state, he can join me in my mind. This indicates that when our bond matures we will be able to communicate mind to mind without speaking aloud," said T'Pol.
"Damn, now that is special," said Elizabeth.
"When will your bond be matured?" he asked.
"I estimate it will be another nine weeks," said T'Pol, "and another three months afterwards to make sure that it is permanent."
T'Pol went about eating her meal, as Charlie and Elaine Tucker stared at their son. He shrugged his shoulders then he went back to eating his dinner. For her part, Elizabeth appeared to enjoy her brother's discomfort. It wasn't in a mean way, but it gave her material to tease him later like he always used to tease her with her first few boyfriends.
"So, Trip, you've been grounded now for a while, are you going back into space soon?" asked Charlie.
"In time, dad, I'll be captain of my own ship this time," answered Trip.
"With this war starting I'd rather you behind a desk than in space," said his mother.
"Sorry, I won't be grounded for long. I'll be back in space soon," said Trip.
"You don't mind if I pray that it doesn't happen and they decide that you are more important as an engineer then a captain of a warship," said his mother.
"I would never stop you from praying, ma," smiled Trip.
T'Pol looked up from her food with a cocked right eyebrow. Through their bond he could feel a mix of confusion, which he assumed came from his mother's praying for him, and affection for his family. Trip looked at his wife and smiled. She was now engrossed in eating her grilled vegetables.
"I wish you had more time to spend here, son," said Charlie. "A few days is hardly enough time to get to know my new daughter-in-law."
"Next time we are on leave we will spend it here," Trip told him.
"I agree," said T'Pol.
This made Elaine Tucker smile.
Malcolm stood in Archer's Ready Room telling everything that Harris told him. He kept his eye son his captain's face. The expression on Archer's face was one of anger when he mentioned Section 31. It slowly changed to concern and interest when he told him about the Xindi and Degra and Janar. Finally, he finished and waited for Archer's reaction.
"How long did you work for Section 31, Malcolm?" Archer asked coldly.
"Five years, sir," said Malcolm.
"That's longer than I anticipated. What did you do for them?" he asked.
"I can't answer that, sir. It's classified at AAA level."
Archer glared at him for a few moments. He could understand that Malcolm couldn't tell him, but he was still pissed.
"Why did you leave them?"
"I started to get nightmares over some of the things I've done. I was a field operative. It was pleasant work," said Malcolm in his understated way.
Archer looked at his XO. He had come to trust Malcolm with his life, but this news about working for Section 31 made him look at Malcolm differently. Could he still trust him?
"Where does you loyalty lie, Lieutenant Commander Reed?" asked Archer.
"With you, sir," said Malcolm.
"How can I trust you, Malcolm? Section 31. All that I know about them is that only Fleet Admiral and Prime Minister have any control over them and then only a marginal control. They are a rogue intelligence agency," said Archer.
"Sir, I joined Section 31 because I believed that we needed an edge to deal with alien races that had better technology than us, especially since the Vulcans were holding us back so much," said Malcolm. "After five years of doing Section 31's dirty work, though, I realized that all I wanted to be was an officer in Starfleet performing my duties for a captain I could trust. You are that captain, sir."
Archer stood up and came out from behind his desk. He stood in front of Malcolm and stared into his eyes. Archer held that stare for an uncomfortable period of time.
"Can we trust this Harris' information, Malcolm?" asked Archer.
"Yes, sir," said Malcolm. "I don't agree with his methods, but his intel is always the best."
"Are you my man, Malcolm?" asked Archer.
"Yes, sir, I am," answered Malcolm.
Trip was standing in the surf watching T'Pol being harassed by his niece and nephew. T'Pol was wearing a one piece bathing suit, which accentuated her feminine qualities. His sister-in-law Alice tried to pry the kids away from T'Pol, but they were fascinated with her. Dave came walking up to him.
"She is beautiful, Trip. With you as a captain and her commander will you get in trouble dating?" he asked.
"We are okay right now," said Trip.
Dave noticed that Rebecca and her beau, Professor George Matters, Xeno-Culturals. They came walking over to where Trip and Dave were standing.
"You are dating a Vulcan, Trip," said Rebecca.
"Actually, in some ways this is rather insulting to the Vulcan race. They prefer to keep their race pure, undiluted. Of course, with their strict need for no emotions and emphasis on intelligence, it makes perfect sense," said Matters. "We are too emotional and not intelligent enough."
Dave laughed, while Rebecca kept quiet. He knew that Trip didn't act it, but he was a genius.
"Why are you laughing?" asked Matters.
"Trip is smart enough for her," he said.
Matters looked at Trip and tried to re-evaluate him. T'Pol came walking over to Trip. She appeared to treat the water as an impediment instead of something to enjoy. When she got close enough, she offered Trip the ozh'esta. Their fingers touched and Trip felt their bond sparking with passion and affection.
"T'Pol," Matters started, "it is unusual for a Vulcan to date a Human."
"Actual, it is unusual for a Vulcan to date," said T'Pol. "As far as being intimate with a Human, Charles is an unusual Human."
"Really, how so?" he asked her.
She cocked her right eyebrow at him and said, "He is mine."
Trip couldn't help but laugh. Dave joined him.
"That is a," Matters paused looking for the right word, "unique response."
T'Pol looked at him, as if she was looking at a simple problem to be solved.
"If you understood Vulcan culture then you'd know that Vulcan's keep their personal lives personal. It is not open for discussion," said T'Pol.
"Um, I am sorry if I've insulted you," said Matters.
"Now if you don't mind. I would like to entice Charles to come back to our room and fornicate before lunch. I seek intimacy with my K'diwa," stated T'Pol.
Trip knew that T'Pol was doing this because the professor annoyed her, but also she felt a certain amount of freedom with his family. Trip came up beside her and they started off to the room they were started off towards the house leaving Dave with Rebecca and her boyfriend.
"That's my bro," smiled Dave.