by Sandy Adams
"Computer, pause recording." Archer's shoulders slumped and he stopped pacing the cramped space in front of his desk. Turning, he met the watchful eyes of the room's only other occupant. "Don't look at me like that, I'm not crazy." I don't think. "I'm just blowing off steam."
From his comfy position on the bed, Porthos cocked his head and gazed up at Archer with big beagle eyes filled with warm adoration. It was his patented 'look-at-me-I'm-adorable-feed-me-cheese' look. Archer groaned softly. "Porthos..."
Of course, he relented. Snagging a tidbit from the plate on the desk, he offered it to the beagle who snapped it up happily. Archer sank onto the mattress beside the dog and absently patted him. "I'll bet I know what you want in your Christmas stocking, Porthos."
The dog peered up at him curiously.
"A big hunk of Wisconsin cheddar and a new chew bone. Right?"
He scratched behind Porthos' ears, earning a grateful look from the dog. He didn't argue with Archer's supposition. All the cheese he could eat, a chew toy...and Daddy's undivided attention? What more could a puppy want?
Archer sighed. If only it were that easy with rest of his crew...
Somehow, though, he doubted T'Pol would appreciate having her ears scratched.
The image that thought conjured made him laugh and he rolled to his feet, chuckling, and wandered back over to the desk. "Computer, resume recording."
He hesitated, gathering his thoughts, then continued:
"Please bring Hoshi some of the faith in herself and her abilities that the rest of us already have. We know she won't let us down; it would be nice if she did, too.
Archer smiled, feeling a sense of contentment that surprised him. "Computer, end recording...and erase document." Wouldn't do for his letter to fall into the wrong hands. Some of his superiors were distinctly lacking in the 'sense of fun' department, themselves. One could almost mistake them for Vulcans, that way.
A wicked grin tugged at his mouth as he pictured the Vulcan 'observers' who had continually thrown obstacles in his path. He mentally dressed them all in red velvet tunics and green tights and plonked jingle-bell-bedecked caps atop their oh-so-proper heads so that they resembled oversized Christmas elves.
A snort of laughter escaped him. Santa's Little Helpers...
The door chime sounded and he fought to regain his composure. "Come in!" he managed, manfully restraining his chuckles.
The door hissed open, revealing T'Pol, who eyed his red face and sparkling eyes with a hint of unease in her stoic expression. "Captain? Are you all right? Should I summon help--?"
Unbidden, his mind flashed again on the image of Vulcan-as-elf. He fought the urge to snicker and won...for all of two seconds. Then he dropped his chin to his chest and shook with helpless laughter. After a moment, he managed to raise his head long enough to wave off the offer of help. The look on T'Pol's face was enough to send him into fresh spasms of mirth. He knew it wasn't really that funny, but the release of tension felt so good...
T'Pol's eyebrows had climbed into her bangs and apparently lodged there. Her lips compressed into a thin line. "I will come back later," she said flatly, turned smartly on her heel, and stalked toward the door.
Unable to resist, Archer called after her, "See you at the North Pole!"
She hesitated, flung an unfathomable look his way, then escaped into the corridor. Archer collapsed on the bed beside Porthos, ribs aching, and grinned at the beagle, who promptly licked his face. "Merry Christmas, Porthos," he said, still smiling. "And God bless us every one."
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