Archer looked up from his paperwork, taking several moments to conceive the meaning of her sentence. He'd assumed when she walked in that she was only showing up early for dinner. "What? I thought we'd settled -"
"This has nothing to do with my P'Nar Syndrome. It has to do with the integrity of my personal privacy."
"T'Pol, I haven't told anyone about your condition," Archer said, rising and walking around his desk as his temper flared. "I'm sure Phlox hasn't, when he wouldn't even tell me until he couldn't avoid it. Who else has found out?"
"I said this has nothing to do with my P'Nar Syndrome."
"Then what the hell is it about?" Archer was shouting. He realized he was panicked, like he always got when it looked like she was leaving.
"Did not Commander Tucker meet with you this afternoon after Ambassador Soval and Commander Shran departed?"
"He must have told you what happened."
"He debriefed about the confrontation between the Vulcan and Andorian fleets while we were on the planet."
T'Pol was quiet a moment. "That is all?"
"Yes. There wasn't anything about you in it. You were with me!" Archer had been taking T'Pol just about everywhere lately, and hoping that Tucker wasn't as suspicious of Archer's motives as Archer was.
If possible more subdued than usual, T'Pol said, "It appears I have wronged Mr. Tucker."
"Trip hasn't said anything to me that would be a violation of your privacy," Archer said, turning back toward his desk as a sudden wave of jealousy washed over him. First Phlox, now Trip. What was she telling Trip that she wasn't telling him? Did she share her secrets with everyone else on the ship but him?
To Archer's surprise, T'Pol shared. "As you know," she said, "Vulcans have touch-telepathic abilities. Mr. Tucker and I experienced a brief but intense accidental contact as we escorted Ambassador Soval to the shuttlepod. He became privy to some ... feelings of mine which I have kept hidden, and I saw his mind clearly enough to know what he had seen in mine."
"You don't have to tell me," Archer mumbled, detecting the scent of burning martyr.
"I do. It's only fair." T'Pol actually took a deep breath before continuing. "What Commander Tucker saw in my mind is that I am very much romantically and sexually attracted to you and to him. And that I have noted signs in each of you indicating the attraction is mutual in both cases. And that this pleases me in a manner which contradicts and confounds much of what I believe."
"It is mutual," said Archer. He had turned back around, facing her, facing his challenges the way he'd always believed, wanted, of himself. "In both cases. Commander Tucker and I have had one or two awkward moments over it."
T'Pol nodded in acknowledgement before returning to her subject. "I must apologize to Mr. Tucker. He was a gentleman in this matter, as much as in ... another matter between us last year."
Archer shook his head, and sat on the edge of his desk. "I don't think that's it. Yes, Trip's a gentleman - but he's also learned a lot about dealing with alien cultures. Especially when he and that pilot were stranded on that extreme-weather planetoid. I think he's pulled well ahead of me at it." Archer had dropped his gaze pensively, and now looked back up at T'Pol. "He did it out of respect for your Vulcan concepts of privacy. And I don't know that I'd've done the same."
"Why do you think you wouldn't have?"
"My psychology is different," Archer said, suppressing an urge to fidget under her gaze. "I have a need to know, and to share that knowledge, which drove me to be Earth's first starship captain. I think I would have decided that Trip had the right to know."
"Not necessarily," T'Pol said. "As a Starfleet captain, you are familiar with security protocols and when they are appropriate. You may have applied those principles to this situation."
"Maybe. I guess we'll never know now." Archer hesitated a moment before asking, "If I had told him, would you have got mad and resigned?" Before T'Pol could answer, there was another buzz at the hatch. "Come," Archer called.
Tucker entered talking. "Hey, Cap'n, got something to ask you before dinner -" Then he saw T'Pol was there. Curiosity and chagrin battled for his face. "Oh! 'M I interrupting?"
"Not at all," Archer smiled. "I'll bet it was your burning ears that brought you here just at the moment."
"Ah ha. That doesn't sound good," said Tucker. "'Bout that favor, Cap'n," he rushed on, "I wonder if I might speak to the subcommander alone a moment."
"Unnecessary," said T'Pol. "I have no secrets from the captain either."
Trip looked at her a moment before giving up on working that out. "Well, if that's the way you want it. I just want to say I'm sorry for what happened in the corridor before. And I'm not saying apologize, cuz it's not as if I did it on purpose, and you know I didn't - we both know neither of us did it on purpose. I'm saying I'm sorry cuz I'm sorry."
"Yes, Commander," said T'Pol. "And I am sorry, and I apologize. Captain Archer can tell you that I assumed the worst of you and was wrong."
"Have you told him -" Tucker looked sideways at Archer.
"I told the captain of our inadvertant mindtouch, and its content. No doubt one or both of you," she said, facing Archer to bring him into the conversation, "are wondering how it could have come about, when I have come into contact with each of you many times with no such result."
"Yeah," said Trip. The question would have occurred to Archer, too, if given time Trip had had to think about it.
"I was careless. I was ..." T'Pol couldn't meet their eyes. "... enjoying the comfort of having both of you at my sides." Archer resisted the urge to tell her it was nothing to be ashamed of; that was something she was still working out for herself, and apparently making a lot of headway. Tucker was smart enough to keep quiet too. When T'Pol was ready, she looked up again. "My shields were relaxed. It is symptomatic of the lack of discipline which emotion causes. I regret the lack but I don't regret the cause. I must resolve that dichotomy, or learn to live with it."
Tucker looked from her to Archer and back. "Subcommander, whatever else may happen from now on between any of us, I think I speak for both of us when I say, when you drop your shields you can count on us to be at your side."
"Couldn't have said it better myself," said Archer.
"Thank you, gentlemen," T'Pol said.
After another long silence Tucker asked, "Well - where do we go from here?"
Archer shrugged. "Dinner?"
"I'm with you, captain," Tucker grinned.
"Indeed," said T'Pol.
"And one other thing," Archer suggested, rising from the edge of his desk. "Under the circumstances, I think even Vulcan dignity can forgo formal rank address. At least when it's just the three of us."
T'Pol inclined her head to him as he moved to the hatch. "Jon." She made the same gesture to Tucker. "Trip."
Tucker grinned at her to hear her use his nickname, but when he looked up at Archer the grin faltered. "I just don't think of you as Jon. I think of you as Cap'n."
"I believe Jon spoke primarily for my benefit," T'Pol said. "Your customary mode of speech is already about as informal as Vulcan dignity can stand."
"I love you just the way you are, too," Trip said.
To Something So Right, the next installment in this romance.
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