The data was rather suspect, and the price was absurdly high, but at this point in her long life, T'Pol had time to spare and frankly more credits than she would ever be able to spend. A younger version of herself would have been horrified at what she was doing. It was completely illogical, particularly with the risk these days, traveling outside Vulcan space. But the woman now descending in a private shuttle to the surface of Ceti Alpha V was beyond all that. She had a feeling... or even stronger, an instinct, that she was following the right path. A 75 year old mystery was just on the cusp of being solved. She could feel it with every fiber of her being.

The single humanoid bio sign in the wide valley wasn't the only one on the planet, but they were unlikely to have visitors. The planet wasn't the most hospitable, but certainly more mild than Vulcan. She touched down a short distance away from a small cabin and exited her craft. Even though she had a holdout phaser tucked in the small of her back, she clipped a larger one to her side. Sometimes the impression of violence was a greater deterrent, and as she was still uncertain of the inhabitant, it was only logical.

The precaution proved unnecessary. As she drew close to the cabin, a man walked out of the door and stood waiting on the porch. She stopped just in front of him. Time stood still as she looked him over. There was a bit more grey in his hair, and his face showed a hardness that hadn't even existed while they were deep in the Expanse. His eyes looked ancient, as though they could see through every layer of her existence, and yet still they held warmth. He was at the very least, pleased to see her. With the slightest hint of a Vulcan smile, he beckoned her into the cabin.

The interior was rather plain, and it seemed to be of new construction. A small table was set with two tea cups. A steaming kettle sat between them. It appeared she was expected. She knew just how to break him. She walked over and sat in the closest chair. She poured them both tea and waited for him to sit down. When he took the other seat, she allowed her emotional shields to fall, and with tears of joy in her eyes, she smiled.

Jonathan Archer practically fell out of his chair in shock. He'd been up-time for a long while, and was only able to return recently (relatively speaking). All time was relative, but as a veteran of the war at the end, it was particularly so. He'd been gone 15 years by his reckoning, but 75 had passed from when he'd left his local. Everyone was dead. Well, everyone but her. And he'd figured so much had happened, and he'd clung to dreams and wisps of memory for so long, he wasn't sure it was a good idea. Apparently she was still capable of surprising him.

The look on Jon's face was worth every credit she paid to the information dealer. She laughed. But strangely, her laughter produced the opposite effect in him. He stilled. She stopped laughing. She stopped smiling. In the blink of an eye, across from her now sat the most dangerous being she had a ever faced. His eyes were narrowed and his every muscle looked tensed as if ready to strike with deadly intent. She felt it again, the strange notion of being under a microscope, but this time there was no warmth. Maybe she would need that phaser after all.

"Who was the seventh?" He asked with a low gravelly voice.

It took her some time to understand what he was asking. "Jossen" she answered, understanding his need to be sure of who it was across from him. Perhaps surprising him had not been a good idea. "Or Menos depending on how you look at it".

He relaxed. The threat of violence dissipated as though it never existed. She had passed.

Minutes went by until she finally asked "How?" It was a reasonable question. Hoshi had been the last of the others, almost 4 years ago, after a fairly long human life. And yet here he sat before her, surely still in his early 50's by all appearances.

"I was recruited for a higher purpose". Shanghai'd was more like it. But given the alternative there was never really a chance he'd have said no, regardless of how they got him.

"It's been 75 years"

"I couldn't go back. By the time I could, there wasn't really much of me to go back. This was the closest I could get. I arrived 3 weeks ago."

"We needed you" she said with such strength of conviction that he had not dared to contradict her.

"I'm sorry"

"I needed you" she admitted with emotion. She was regretting having skipped her meditation the previous evening.

"The needs of the many" he replied, instantly hating himself for having fallen back on useless platitudes so quickly.

"Daniel's was right when he said you were crucial to the future." She thought of the promised 'Federation'. Now a distant pipe dream.

"Perhaps. But not in the way you're thinking"

"It all fell apart". T'Pol was still bitter about that. So many years later. She'd been all too aware of the power of his personality, and the strength of his character. An Enterprise without Jonathan Archer in command was a poor shade of itself... gathering scientific data and mapping stellar phenomena rather than forging friendships across local galactic space. She didn't have his gravitas. No one who sat in the chair after him did. The species in the quadrant were still scattered and squabbling like children three quarters of a century later.

"It was required" he said. They had to win the war at the end so there could be a beginning. So there could be a now. It was that simple, and always would be. He needed to redirect her. Some things were best left unsaid, though he knew it was only a matter of time. "Any kids?"

"No. Charles and I were not able to conceive."

"Trip" he said and nodded. Then becoming solemn he said "I'm sorry I missed the wedding"

"We set a place for you... There was always a place for you." she said as a tear trailed down her cheek.

"He was a good man. I hope he gave you a good life" Jon felt the weight of the years. Not just his, but hers as well.

"It has been a good life. I admit I had hoped for more time with him."


"I was never able to convince him to modify his diet. I believed that it would be the primary causal factor in his early demise. I teased him about it often. I was wrong. He was helping repair the starboard nacelle on the Sunray, an Earth Cargo Ship. They lost containment. 17 people were killed, including Charles. He was 48."

"I'm so sorry T'Pol"

"Thank you for the sentiment. Even to a Vulcan it was a long time ago. I have made peace with it." After a pause she asked "Jon, how old are you?"

He gave a small smile "That is an interesting question. I suppose in vague terms 15 years passed for me."

"You do not appear to have aged even that much"

"Appearances... can be deceiving"

"Will you tell me?"

"Some day perhaps. Will you stay for dinner?"

"I will stay as long as you allow me." She knew the moment she saw him that she would.

"You might never leave then." He said with a smirk.

"That would not be a cause for concern. I am still middle aged."

Jon gave her a look.

"Perhaps the latter part of middle aged ... but statistically speaking I will still outlive you by many years."

Jon's silence was deafening. He simply raised an eyebrow and drank from his tea in such a manner that a younger T'Pol might have been impressed. Clearly she was missing a great deal of information about the man sitting in front of her."

"Is it safe to assume you are still vegetarian?" He asked.

"Yes, I have a supply of food in the shuttle if necessary."

"Not to worry. How about I rustle up that dinner?" he said standing up.

"Perhaps we could work on it together?"

"As you wish"

After a simple meal, they sat together on a bench on the porch, and watched as the evening began to creep toward night. She held his hand close and basked in the warm emotions he projected.

"Why didn't you contact me?" T'Pol asked, almost fearful of the answer.

"I have a confession to make. I paid a data broker to offer those vague hints of my location..." he said with a shrug.

"That is not logical Jonathan"

He laughed, seeing and hearing so much of the T'Pol he had known. "It was entirely logical. I wanted you to have the choice, and to allow myself the dignity of uncertainty if you never came."

"I concede to your logic. It is becoming cold. May we go inside?"

"Of course"

Back in the relatively warm cottage T'Pol noticed something amiss "Jonathan, where do you sleep?"

Jonathan replied looking sheepish "I usually don't anymore... but there's a bed in the hold" he added pointing to a small hatch in on corner of the room.

"That was not present earlier." T'Pol said trying to hide her surprise.

"Think cloaking..." Jon said as he pulled open the hatch to expose a ladder. "Follow me"

Down they went and dropped into a small alcove, attached to a hallway with doors along each side. It appeared not unlike the interior of a starship. It was a sharp contrast to the rustic cabin above.

After a brief tour T'Pol commented "I was concerned I would need to wash in a barrel behind the cabin. These are nice dwellings. Why do you have the cabin?"

"Mostly for ambiance... and to keep interest low. No ones bothers a hermit in a lonely cabin" he replied. He handed her a small device. "That triggers the cloak. There's a spare and some other things buried five steps from the tree behind the cabin, moving directly away from the cabin."

T'Pol nodded and they proceeded to get ready to sleep. With an unspoken agreement, they climbed under the covers together and slept. Each feeling more comfortable than they had been in a long time.

The next few days of domestic bliss were perfect. They worked or played, or went hiking in the surrounding area. Always they talked. Each found within the other the peace they had been lacking.

"Damn" Jon could feel the warning rolling through N-space. He stretched out in ways he had not done in months to identify the message. A recall. They were going to have to do it again. He knew that for whoever it was, the need must have been great. The entropy reports were still collecting, but it looked like it wasn't a full cascade. A few minor skirmishes, the big push, and they would be done.

"T'Pol, I've got to go. I'm being recalled"

"I would like to go with you."

"You don't know what you're asking. You barely know who or even what I am."

"Show me. Please."

"There are some things best left unknown."

"And there are things worth fighting for. Could I be with you?"

"As you are? No. If you were recruited, you would be pulled from this time stream at the prime if your life. The you who is here, now, she might agree to this crazy adventure. But what about a younger T'Pol? To have her choices taken from her. To have her future taken from her."

"The price is so high?" She was crestfallen. To risk her remaining time, to be with one of the greatest companions of her life, was in fact no sacrifice at all. It would have been welcome. But to take her experiences away, to take away what made her... her, was untenable.

"Yes." He knew. Most would not. Most could not. And even beyond that, how could he explain the their entire timeline changing from the point of her departure? As surely as the timeline had changed upon his. Only the greatest need would permit such actions.

"Can you show me anyway? I want to know who I wait for."

"I can. As we're going back anyway. I can."

Jon reached out a hand and drew her into his arms. He held her close, as things began to grow fuzzy. Her sense of self began to collapse as they connected. It wasn't a Vulcan mind meld. It was something more. The part that was still T'Pol recognized him, the Jonathan Archer of her past. But he was so much more. He was connected to other versions of himself across multiple realities. He had access to technology and energies she would spend years pondering the nature of.

The truth of his mission was staggering. A war against the forces of chaos to decide the fate of time itself. His role as a fleet commander was critical to their success. And by his side... was her?! And yet... not her. It was an amalgamation of her as she might have been, in myriad ways. Just as he would merge to become the best of his other selves. She knew that he admired and respected the other T'Pol, but it was only her that he loved. It was her, the T'Pol of his past, that he dreamed of. It was her he was fighting for, and it was to her he would return.

Jonathan gently separated from T'Pol and gazed at her with sadness. "I shouldn't be long this time. If you can't wait, leave a marker so I know where to find you, ok?"

A shimmering disk of light grew on the far wall of the cabin and formed a portal. "Sir" her own voice rang out. And there she was, just on the other side looking in. A younger version of herself radiating power and confidence like a Vulcan warrior goddess of old. She looked at Jon, to her older counterpart, and then back to Jon... "Sir the fleet is awaiting your orders."

With a hug and a gentle kiss he was gone, dashing through the portal. The old and younger versions of T'Pol stared at each other for a moment.

"You are a fortunate woman" the younger said.

"Please, take care of him" the elder asked with the smallest of smiles.

"With all that I am. I will help ensure his return." She tipped her head slightly, turned, and was gone as well, the portal closing immediately after.

And so it was that T'Pol of Vulcan settled on Ceti Alpha V. She spent her days improving the dwelling, and her nights meditating and dreaming of a future. Like the maidens of old, she waited for her champion to return from war, comforted that destiny had a role for Jonathan Archer. He would return to her. It was only a matter of time.