Edge of Heaven – 8. Deeper

“I still can’t wrap my mind around the idea of having children on starships,” Archer said. He gathered a small pile of scrambled eggs onto his fork. He and Dani had met for breakfast. Kyle had not taken Dani up on her offer to join them, and Trip hadn’t arrived yet.

“Why not?” Dani asked. “It’s beneficial to have families on board. Think about it – you yourself said that you knew you wouldn’t be able to survive without Porthos. So what did you do? You brought him along with you. Now imagine if you had a wife or kids? Do you really think you would be able to leave them alone for years at a time? If you couldn’t survive without your dog, I think you and I already know the answer.”

“First of all, there’s a big difference between a dog and a person,” Archer said. “Porthos takes up a hell of a lot less space than a person. Second, while I would certainly miss him if something happened to him, I probably wouldn’t be devastated the way I would if I lost my wife or, God forbid, my child because of something that happened out here. It’s a dangerous galaxy out here – I wouldn’t feel comfortable putting my family in that kind of risk.”

“You make good points,” Dani admitted. “But for the record, many ships will be large enough to accommodate families in the future, so space isn’t an issue in all cases.”

“You know, the truth is that I never thought I’d have a family of my own,” Archer said.

“Never?” Dani asked.

“Well, I knew my place was in the stars, I knew I wanted to be on the bridge of a starship,” Archer explained. “But I also knew that unless you command freighters, space just isn’t the place for families. So I just figured that I wouldn’t have a family. Except for Porthos here.”

Dani looked down at the beagle, who sat beside Archer’s chair. She’d almost forgotten that he was there. Archer stroked the dog’s head a few times. Then his eyes met Dani’s again.

Trip walked towards the entrance to the hotel’s cafe. He stopped short of going in when saw that Archer and Dani were engaged in another “moment”. They were both gazing into each other’s eyes, as they’d done earlier that morning on the beach.

‘Damn,’ he thought. ‘How much bad timing can a guy possibly have?’ He walked into the cafe and hesitantly approached the table, clearing his throat as he got closer. Dani and Archer self consciously looked away from each other as Trip pulled up a chair and sat beside the captain.

“So,” he said, unfolding his napkin and spreading it across his lap, “how are everyone’s accommodations?”

“Fine. Great,” Archer answered quickly.

Trip thought Archer sounded just a tad bit anxious, like he’d been caught with his hand in the cookie jar.

Trip looked to Dani. “Dani,” he greeted. “How’s your room?”

“Cozy,” Dani said. “Thank you.”

“Any special plans for today?” Trip asked no one in particular.

“We’ll, I was planning to see some of the sights,” Dani said, “and then maybe head back to the beach later on.”

“It’s nice to be at a beach again,” Archer said. “I lived in San Francisco all my life, and I spent much of my childhood on California’s beaches.”

“Being cooped up on a ship for so long must be difficult for you,” Dani said.

“I imagine it’s difficult for everyone,” Archer said.

Trip looked at Janeway and Archer. This was quickly becoming a two-way conversation again, and he wasn’t a part of it.

“Do you mind if I join you at the beach later on?” Archer asked Dani.

“You can join me for the whole day, if you want,” Dani offered. “This morning, I was planning to explore some caverns I know.”

“Sounds like fun,” Archer asked. “You wouldn’t mind?”

“Of course not.”

Archer smiled, but it faded slightly when he suddenly remembered Trip. He turned to his chief engineer to ask if he minded changing their plans for the day.

Trip answered the unspoken question. “Fine by me, Cap’n,” Trip said.

“Great!” Archer said, smiling at Dani.

xxx

Dani, Archer, and Trip walked deeper into the caverns. Artificial light had been installed along the cave paths, eliminating the need for visitors to bring their own light sources, and the cave paths were easy to traverse. They’d obviously been adapted to make touring easier.

Stalactites and stalagmites hung from the ceilings and rose from the ground. Archer looked at the structures and remembered seeing something similar in caverns on Earth.

“There’s supposed to be some kind of natural fountain in here somewhere,” Dani said. She was leading the way.

“A natural fountain?” Trip asked.

“That’s what I was told,” Dani said, continuing to lead the way through the caves. She stopped to study a stalagmite. Archer stopped beside her to see what she was looking at, while Trip walked on up ahead.

“You don’t see many like this one,” Archer observed. The formation was an odd shape, none that Dani had ever seen before.

Dani turned to reply to Archer, and his proximity startled her. She hadn’t realized that he was standing behind her and looking over her shoulder.

Dani blushed a little and said, “No, you don’t.” She wandered away, and Archer followed. They continued on for several feet in silence until they stumbled upon the fountain they’d been searching for. It was actually more of a waterfall than a fountain and contained the same type of water that was in the ocean, being that when slivers of light hit it, a spectrum of colors was reflected.

“All the times I’ve been here in my own time, I’ve never seen this,” Dani said. “I’ve never been in the caves or anything.”

“It’s my first time seeing it, too,” Archer said. He looked down at her. When she looked up at him, he was drawn to those brown eyes of hers, those lips, that smooth skin that he just had to touch.

With Archer’s hand gently cupping the side of her face, it was plain as day to Dani where this was headed. She knew she should put the brakes on it before something happened, given their delicate temporal situation.

But she didn’t want to.

Instead, when Archer leaned forward to kiss her, she met him halfway, joining her lips with his.

xxx

Trip didn’t know how long he’d been walking before he realized he was alone. He’d left Archer and Janeway behind somewhere, but where? He turned and began to retrace his steps. After a few short minutes, he found himself back at the waterfall, which he’d passed earlier. Once again, his timing was atrocious because. Upon approaching the waterfall chamber’s entrance, he saw Archer and Dani in the middle of an intimate, lip-locked moment.

“Commander.”

Startled, Trip whirled around. T’Pol had appeared a few feet behind him from seemingly nowhere and spoken. He quickly walked over and led her a few paces away from the waterfall entrance so they wouldn’t have to whisper to avoid alerting the captain to their presence.

And so that she wouldn’t witness what he’d just seen. Trip could already imagine what T’Pol’s report to the High Command would look like if she’d been the one to find Janeway and the captain instead of him. He had a feeling they would not approve.

T’Pol’s response to his behavior was the equivalent of a puzzled look for Vulcans. “I did not expect to find you here in the caverns,” she said. “I was under the impression that you and the captain were going to spend the day at the beach.”

“We had a change of plans,” Trip said. “We’re going later today. What are you doin’ here?”

“Meditating,” T’Pol said. “Because of its remote qualities, this is one of the truly quiet locations in this area.”

“You come to a planet like this and all you want to do is meditate?” Trip asked.

T’Pol inhaled deeply, annoyed. “Not all individuals find the same activities relaxing, Commander,” she said.

“Good point,” Trip said. “It’s your vacation, spend it how you want.”

“I intend to,” T’Pol replied. She took a few seconds to look behind him. “Where is the captain?”

“Oh, we got separated somehow, and I was on my way back to see if I could find him,” Trip explained quickly.

“And did you find him?”

“Not yet,” Trip lied, shaking his head. “Nope. Probably went back to the entrance. I think that’s where I’m goin’ to check next.” He stepped past T’Pol, hoping she would follow.

“Have you checked that room?” T’Pol asked.

“What room?” Trip asked.

This room, Commander. The one you were staring at when I found you.”

“Oh, that room,” Trip said nodding. “Yeah, that’s just the waterfall.”

“I was unaware that this cave system contained a waterfall,” T’Pol said. “This is something I would like to witness.” She turned around and began to walk to the waterfall entrance.

Trip closed his eyes, mentally kicking himself for even mentioning the waterfall. “T’Pol – wait.” He walked over to her before she could make it to the entrance.

T’Pol stopped and looked over her shoulder at Trip. “Yes, Commander?”

Trip sighed. “The captain’s in there, okay? But he’s with Commander Janeway.”

T’Pol turned fully to Trip. “Why did you tell me that you were unsure of his location?”

Trip hesitated a moment before replying. “Because they’re kind of havin’ an intimate moment, right now, and I didn’t want anyone to disturb them.”

“An intimate moment?” T’Pol repeated coolly. She turned, intending to complete her trip to the waterfall chamber.

“T’Pol, they deserve some privacy,” Trip pleaded.

But the Vulcan ignored him as she took the last few steps to the room’s entrance. She stopped there and observed Archer and Janeway joined at the lips, with their arms wrapped around each other. T’Pol flashed a displeased look at Trip before stepping into the room.

“Captain,” she said loudly, announcing her arrival.

Dani and Archer separated. Dani couldn’t conceal the shocked expression on her face. Archer was more embarrassed and annoyed than anything.

“T’Pol,” Archer said, acknowledging the Vulcan.

“I came to the caves to meditate. I was told that the quiet setting would be a suitable environment,” T’Pol said. She turned to Dani. “Commander,” she greeted.

“Sub-Commander,” Dani managed. She looked at Archer once more before hurrying past T’Pol to the exit. She stopped in her tracks when she saw Trip in the doorway. Her embarrassment grew as she realized that he must have seen what had happened between her and Archer as well. She quickly slid past him on her way out.

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