DISCLAIMER: Star Trek 'Enterprise' is the property of Paramount, no infringement is intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I quit watching Enterprise after the second season, so if there are any serious canon glitches here, please consider it AU. Also, thanks to ST:TNG for letting me steal er, adapt a certain concept for this plot.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Life As We Know It
By Della Street
"Yes, Captain." Hoshi pulled out the earpiece and leaned back in her seat. After a moment, she glanced over at her companion. "Don't you want to know what he said?"
"I assume that you will convey any information of importance," the Subcommander said. She appeared to be checking her scanners again.
"Don't you want to know how long we're going to be stuck out here?" Good grief; didn't this woman have any curiosity? That didn't qualify as a forbidden emotion, at least not in Hoshi's book. It was more of an intellectual quality.
"I have not considered us 'stuck,'" T'Pol replied truthfully. "Apart from the urgency of our mission, I have found the passage of time agreeable."
"Well, thanks," Hoshi said, a bit surprised. "Anyway, the Captain says they haven't had any luck. I think he means finding any dilithium; he didn't mention any negotiations breaking down. How much farther can we go?"
"There is one other planet within our range. Sensors do not indicate the presence of dilithium, but as we have discovered, they have not proved reliable."
"Note to Starfleet," Hoshi groused. "Sensors that could actually sense the ship's main power source might be helpful." She turned to T'Pol. "So, should we tr--" She paused, and T'Pol waited. "Do you hear that?"
T'Pol focused on her surroundings. She did not hear anything, but Hoshi's ability to hear went beyond actually hearing.
Suddenly, the shuttle lurched. "What's happening?" Hoshi asked.
"It's a tractor beam," T'Pol replied.
"A tractor beam? From where? There's no one here."
No answer followed, which Hoshi correctly interpreted as meaning that T'Pol didn't know either. There was no ship nearby, no planet, no anything. She watched the subcommander's fingers move quickly across screens, trying to free the shuttle from whatever had them.
An instant later, Hoshi felt herself begin to lose consciousness. "T'Pol . . ." She reached out to the other woman, and then her eyes closed.
Hoshi awoke to unfamiliar surroundings. To her immense relief, T'Pol was seated nearby looking at her, and they both seemed to be unharmed. She sat up slowly. "Where are we?"
"I don't know."
They were in a room with no windows or lights yet still illuminated, Hoshi noted and no furnishings except for the plain rug on which the two women sat.
"Have you seen anyone else?" she asked.
"Got any ideas?"
"Should we try to get out of here?" Hoshi asked.
Before T'Pol could answer, an area of one wall that Hoshi could now see was a door of sorts began to open. She tensed, not relaxing when two humanoid males stepped into the room. They were perhaps a foot shorter than a typical Terran male, and their skin seemed almost to shine with a distinct copper-colored hue.
One of the humanoids opened his mouth, and Hoshi could not resist a spark of intrigue with the sounds coming forth. At T'Pol's inquiring glance, she shook her head. This wasn't like anything the translator had ever heard before. She listened carefully. It almost sounded like a mix of human and animal. But there were recurring patterns . . .
T'Pol watched the linguist try to make sense of the patter that meant absolutely nothing to her.
"Wait." Hoshi held out a hand toward their hosts? Captors? "I'm not getting you," she said, although she knew they wouldn't understand her. "Do you understand me?" she tried in Alcitian. No response; just a blank stare. Hoshi tried again in Andorian. "Do you understand me?"
After a dozen different attempts, she turned to T'Pol. "I thought maybe we could find a common root language," she said. "I think we'll have to start from scratch." She placed a hand on her chest. "Hoshi." She repeated it, then placed a hand on the subcommander's shoulder. "T'Pol."
The man who spoke earlier placed a hand on his own chest and uttered a sound. A series of sounds, actually. From context, T'Pol assumed (guessed, rather) that it was a name, but from Hoshi's smile, the Vulcan surmised that the other woman had picked up on something.
Her companion convinced the two "men" T'Pol supposed it was accurate to call them that to sit across from them on the rug, and T'Pol lowered herself to the ground beside her. This looked like it might take a while, but an ability to communicate obviously was required before they could find out what happened, get back to the shuttle, and return to Enterprise.
She watched as Hoshi pointed to different parts of her clothing and was then imitated by the men. The translator easily committed their responses to memory. T'Pol was logical enough to know that the sounds were likely quite distinctive, but honest enough to admit that she couldn't tell what the differences were.
After a few minutes, Hoshi turned to her. "They have nine primary sounds," she explained, as though T'Pol could be of any use in this process. "The tones vary depending on how the sounds are pieced together, and so do the lengths of each sound." She returned her attention to the men, and the subcommander watched as the trio continued their "conversation," until Hoshi turned to her again. "I think I can get something, but there aren't enough things to point at in here."
That was somewhat surprising, since Hoshi had managed to point to most of the Vulcan's body parts, including her ears, which especially seemed to intrigue the humanoids.
"What do you think about going outside?" Hoshi asked.
T'Pol considered it. Logically, there was likely little difference between their safety inside and outside, as their fate hinged largely on the good faith of their hosts. Still, she had to maintain some semblance of control over their situation. "One moment," she said, getting to her feet. She walked to the door and looked back at the men as she reached for what appeared to be the handle, more of an indentation, really. They appeared to be curious at her actions, but did not intend to stop her, apparently. "Can you ask them to join us?" she suggested.
Hoshi shook her head. "I'm not there yet," she replied. "But there is the universal language, you know." She rose, and gestured toward the door with one hand. The men took the hint, and walked with her to where T'Pol stood. After peering out cautiously, T'Pol stepped outside, followed by the others.
They were greeted with busy and somewhat curious passersby in what appeared to be an outdoor market. "Plenty here to work with," Hoshi mused. She touched one of the men on the arm, and steered him toward an area with trees, plants, and other basics that would help her piece together their language.
T'Pol remained by her side as the process continued. As time wore on, Hoshi felt a little guilty; the Subcommander wouldn't likely be getting anything out of this. "If you want, you can go explore," she offered.
"I don't think that is advisable," T'Pol replied. "We still do not know their intentions."
Hoshi started to respond, then decided that her companion was probably right. Still, she didn't sense a threat. She proceeded with her language lesson.
Later that evening, T'Pol watched with something akin to admiration when Hoshi haltingly, but successfully, conversed with their hosts.
"The shuttle craft is about ten somethings south of here," Hoshi said. "I haven't figured out their measurement system yet, but one of their somethings is about ten times as long as the marketplace. It's wrecked."
"It is imperative that we examine the shuttle's communication system," T'Pol said. "We may also be able to effectuate repairs to the craft."
Hoshi nodded. "Yeah; they said they'll take us out there tomorrow when it's light."
Tonight would have been preferable, but logic dictated otherwise, T'Pol acknowledged.
"I guess they want us to stay in here until then," Hoshi said. At T'Pol's look, Hoshi quickly added, "We're not prisoners. This is a guest room of sorts."
T'Pol raised an eyebrow, and Hoshi laughed. "I think we can scare up some cots, or a sleeping bag, or something. I'll give it a try. It can't be any harder than asking about bathrooms."
The Vulcan almost smiled. That had been rather amusing.
The next morning, Hoshi's wake-up stretch was slow but vigorous. This mattress or whatever it was that the Mrzilcians had come up with was actually pretty comfortable. She glanced over to see T'Pol wide awake, legs crossed, apparently meditating.
"I thought you meditated at night."
"And I did not last night," T'Pol responded without opening her eyes.
"Oh." Hoshi sat up. "That's true." She remained propped up on one elbow, somehow finding it fascinating to watch the Vulcan sit there motionless. T'Pol could probably sense her staring, but Hoshi didn't care. There really wasn't much else to do.
Later that morning, as they crawled through the wreckage, Hoshi decided that she could use some meditation of her own. How had they survived this crash? "This is unbelievable," she said, mostly to herself.
In the back of the craft, a soft 'clank' signaled T'Pol's whereabouts.
The lump of charred metal in Hoshi's hand mystified her. What the hell did this used to be? "How long will this take to repair?" she yelled back to the subcommander.
The lack of a response caught her attention. "T'Pol?" she said. "Can this be repaired?"
"I believe our time will be best spent on the communication system," T'Pol hedged.
Hoshi wasn't stupid; the scientist didn't think the shuttle could be made operable. Their only hope was to get a message to Enterprise, or some other ship.
"How long will that take?"
The question again met with silence. Oh, no.
Days, then weeks went by with what looked to Hoshi like very little progress on the project at hand. T'Pol was working hard, there was no question about that. With natural light available 24 hours a day yes, T'Pol, I know they don't have "hours" here and there wouldn't be 24 of them in a Mzrillian day anyway the woman sometimes worked several days straight without sleep. It usually took Hoshi climbing up into the wreckage and nagging T'Pol rather relentlessly thus convincing the subcommander that she would get no more work done even if she remained there to get T'Pol back to the shelter for some rest.
The lack of progress didn't seem to phase T'Pol. Damn that Vulcan patience, Hoshi cursed. Why should she be the only one driven insane by this interminable waiting?
Did the Enterprise ever find any dilithium crystal? Were they burning up more of their dwindling supply looking for them? Or the thought caught her up short had Captain Archer made the decision to abandon them rather than put the rest of the crew in danger?
She dropped into what was left of the pilot's seat.
Was the Enterprise still out there? Why hadn't the ship's scanners picked up their location? Were they all alone? Her stomach churned as her thoughts turned increasingly morbid.
She shook herself out of her thoughts, surprised to see T'Pol standing right in front of her.
"Sorry," she said. "Zoned out there for a minute." Are we alone, she wanted to ask, but T'Pol wouldn't have the answers either.
"As I see."
"So, how's it going?" She hadn't meant to ask it, but the words slipped out naturally.
T'Pol hated hearing that question constantly, Hoshi had deduced. Well, not 'hate,' since that would be one of those frivolous emotions with which only the Terran was inflicted, but the Vulcan deemed it illogical to ask so frequently, maybe more so because it was hard for her to answer. What could she say? "Great!" or "Lousy!" just weren't part of T'Pol's makeup. The typical response was always literal and impassive: "I am assessing possible substitutes for the alloys used in the communications array," or "I am attempting to calculate an adjustment in frequencies to account for atmospheric conditions." In other words, "Lousy."
One day, T'Pol surprised her. Just as Hoshi prepared to step into the enclosed area, a loose metal plate came flying toward her. Hoshi ducked, and it bounced harmlessly off the wall behind her. Where had that come from? T'Pol surely hadn't thrown it.
"T'Pol?" she called out.
From beneath a partially fused panel, the Vulcan's head appeared.
"So, how's it"
"I have nothing to report," T'Pol interrupted. Was that a scowl? "I will advise you promptly of any developments without the need for you to inquire."
"Get off my back," Hoshi translated. Whoa. Irritated, T'Pol? Good. She'd had enough of that green-blooded stoicism.
Try as she might, though, Hoshi just couldn't resist the occasional inquiry, and T'Pol didn't seem to take it personally.
"I am continuing to work," she informed the translator now.
And so she did. For more weeks, then months. It seemed as if the entire shuttle now lay in pieces in the area (it was hard to think of the dry, cracked orange surface as a "yard") behind their shelter.
Partly to keep herself out of T'Pol's hair and partly to feel useful, Hoshi occupied herself with learning the various dialects spoken in surrounding regions, and studying the planet's history. The Mzrillians themselves were quite generous, providing food, shelter, and accommodating their guests' other needs. Although they insisted that no payment was necessary, Hoshi assuaged her guilt by offering her translation service on the rather rare occasions when visiting trade delegations or diplomats arrived.
Mzrill was by far the largest and oldest colony on the planet. All other settlements had broken off from the original colony, and now it was one of more than a hundred regions. Although the various territories did not appear to have a united structure, Mzrill was probably as close to a capitol as this planet had. Mzrillians had surprisingly little interaction with very few of its sister states, though, even though they had the means. They simply didn't care to, she concluded. Nor did they devote any resources to a planet-wide communication system. Hoshi didn't criticize these decisions out loud, but that meant very little exchange of new ideas.
One afternoon, she stepped into the back area and encouraged the man with her to follow. "T'Pol," she said. "This is Otaro."
Rising from her work bench, T'Pol accepted the Mzrillian equivalent of a hand towel from Hoshi and nodded at their guest.
Hoshi's next words came in the dominant language. "Otaro, this is T'Pol."
The humanoid clicked a greeting, to which T'Pol replied with a few sounds that Hoshi had taught her, roughly translated as, "I am pleased to meet you."
"Otaro is from a village about 40 clicks from here," Hoshi said. "His people are experiencing crop failures this season." She repeated the comments in Mzrillian for Otaro's benefit. "They've never had this problem before," the translator continued. "I thought maybe . . . ."
"You wish me to assist with determining the cause of their difficulties?" the Vulcan said after a brief pause.
"That would require a significant expenditure of time," T'Pol pointed out. "It would be necessary to travel to their location."
"What of our efforts to restore communication?"
"It's just a one-time thing," Hoshi urged. "They're really in trouble. It might do you good to take a break from this, anyway. Your brain's probably fried."
If a Vulcan felt insulted, it would look like that, Hoshi decided.
"I do not concur that my brain has 'fried,'" T'Pol said. "However, if you wish me to examine this problem, I will do so."
Hoshi grinned. "You will?" She clicked the good news to their grateful visitor.
And thus began T'Pol's second career as a scientific consultant. She was a wonderful asset to the Mzrillian people, Council members told Hoshi more than once, having learned early on that such compliments were wasted on the Vulcan.
Over a millennium ago, after a bloody series of invasions that left their planet a wasteland and nearly two thirds of their population dead, the Mzrillians had made a decision that would govern the future advancement of their entire race. All of their available resources, all of the scientific and engineering and mathematical talent they had left would be put toward devising a defense mechanism ridiculously simple in concept but enormously complicated in practice: a massive, powerful cloaking device that enveloped the entire planet.
At first, the shield did nothing but cloak the surface. The occasional fiery explosion of a ship colliding with the undetected planetary surface was regretted, but could not be helped. Over time, though, a concern developed that too many such unexplained incidents in this area could prompt an investigation. Having removed themselves from the rest of the universe for so long, Mzrillians had no idea of the degree to which other species communicated such things to each other, but it seemed possible. That led to further refinement. Most ships now experienced temporary system failures when they got too close, eventually drifting (with a little help) out of harm's way. Still, the constant fear of detection meant a constant focus on maintaining and seeking ways to improve the shield. The "brain drain," as her fellow Terrans would have called it, left a brilliant science officer, even one from another planet, much in demand for the more mundane problems facing an agrarian populous.
In the seventh month since the accident that stranded them, T'Pol strolled in from the back yard and lowered herself to a chair opposite the translator, who had a couple of contracts spread out on the table. The subcommander picked up the homemade cup that had been set out for her some time ago and sipped the tea-like beverage.
"I have completed a device for modifying the signal," she said unexpectedly. "I believe we may now send a message through the protective barrier."
"What?" Hoshi was stunned. "Oh, my God!" she said. "I know Enterprise isn't out there any more, but someone might pick it up!"
"Oh, my God!" After a moment, an unsettling thought occurred to her. "Will it expose the planet?"
"I believe that to be likely," T'Pol answered.
Hoshi closed her eyes. "They've survived all this time because no one knows they're here," she said. "It's their whole way of life."
Hoshi dropped her forehead into her hands.
"We do not have to decide at this moment," T'Pol said. "The communicator will remain capable of use for the indefinite future."
"Oh, God, T'Pol," Hoshi said. "Are we going to spend the rest of our lives on this planet?"
T'Pol did not reply.
"You're a mess," Hoshi laughed at her roommate, who was covered with an orange layer of dust. "Why don't you just roll around in it before you go out to the fields next time; cut out the middle man."
Instead of answering, T'Pol reached out and drew a finger across Hoshi's cheek, smearing dirt across Hoshi's cheek.
"Hey! Watch it!" Hoshi's nose wrinkled. "And how about getting out of those clothes? You're icky."
"'Icky?' Once again, your linguistic training rises to the surface."
"So, did the new irrigation system work?" While she asked the question, Hoshi watched T'Pol strip out of her shirt and loose trousers, running her gaze down the Vulcan's trim, muscular form. It wasn't the first time; in fact, Hoshi had caught herself doing it more frequently lately. This time, T'Pol didn't let it slide.
"Are you looking for anything in particular?" she asked.
"No, you're just gorgeous," Hoshi said impulsively.
"I see." Wearing nothing but her thin undergarments, T'Pol walked over until she stood less than a meter in front of the other woman.
"What are you doing?" Hoshi asked nervously.
The Vulcan said nothing.
As the two women stared at each other, Hoshi's heart thudded against her chest. This had just become very serious, very fast.
"T'Pol, do you ever think about . . .?" She wasn't sure how to finish the sentence, and fervently wished she had never started it.
"Think about what?" The subcommander's soft question was like a command.
"About whether there's anyone on the planet that you think is attractive?"
"There are many individuals on the planet who are physically attractive," T'Pol replied.
"I mean that you find attractive. On a personal level."
"There is only one such person," T'Pol answered honestly.
Oh, my God. "Who?"
"I would say the same thing about you," Hoshi replied. "Do you think it's because we're the only non-Mrzilcians on the planet?"
"I deemed you attractive shortly after we began working together on Enterprise," T'Pol said.
Hoshi was thrilled. "Really? Thank you." Emboldened by a furiously pounding heart, she laid her hands on T'Pol's biceps and decided to say what had been in her heart for a long time. "T'Pol . . . If we're going to be on this planet for the rest of our lives, have you thought about taking a mate?"
"And . . . was it . . .?" She stepped closer, lightly glazing her hands up T'Pol's arms to her shoulders.
In response, T'Pol leaned in and kissed her. Hoshi's arms slid around the Vulcan's neck, and the contact quickly deepened. "Oh, God," Hoshi sighed when the women finally broke the kiss. "I love you so much."
T'Pol had lived with her Terran friend long enough to know not to point out that love was an emotion she was incapable of feeling. She felt a closeness, a physical pull to Hoshi. It was as strong as any Vulcan could hope to achieve. It was close enough.
"Oh, God . . . I love you. I love you. I love you." Hoshi clasped a strong back as T'Pol moved steadily between her thighs. The Vulcan was fiercer this time, her stilted breaths driving Hoshi's excitement. "God, T'Pol . . . yes . . . yes . . . ." Yesyesyes . . .!
She realized that T'Pol had joined in her ecstasy, and enjoyed the other woman's quiet, intense grunts. When her lover's movements slowed, Hoshi smiled up at her lazily. "God . . . ."
T'Pol slid off her onto the mat.
A few minutes later, Hoshi turned onto her side. T'Pol's body was calling to her again, and she crawled on top of the Vulcan. "We aren't leaving this house tonight," she growled, emphasizing her point with a nip at the other woman's shoulder, and T'Pol saw no reason to argue.
The next day at the midday break, Hoshi's breathing grew ragged as she rode T'Pol's hand. She liked this new T'Pol, who had stormed into the house and shoved Hoshi against the wall, facing away from her. Her robe was quickly removed, and neither said a word as T'Pol pressed into her. "Yes . . . fuck me, T'Pol," Hoshi panted, resorting to English vulgarity in her excitement. Too soon, she heard the telltale change in T'Pol's breathing pattern, reveling in the hard, final thrusts, enjoying the feeling of her lover's breasts pressed against her back as T'Pol groaned out her release. T'Pol turned Hoshi around and eased a hand between her legs, claiming her mouth as well until the Terran's arms tightened around her in a sharp climax.
Lunchtime, as she thought of it, became Hoshi's favorite part of the day. (Along with the nights, of course. And early mornings. T'Pol had a healthy appetite, which was fine with Hoshi.) Yesterday, she had made T'Pol come looking for her, finally locating her in their bed, bare shoulders signaling her nakedness beneath the cover. Tearing the blanket from her lover, T'Pol's tongue quickly found its mark, and tormented Hoshi for most of the hour.
Blood sprayed from her lip as another coughing fit overtook her. As much as her ribs complained with every spasm, she still dreaded the moment that it ended. That would just bring
She gasped at the pain from another hard kick to her side.
"Tell us!" the voice demanded again. The dialect was very close to standard Mzrillian. That meant he was from a fairly recent offshoot of the original settlement, probably no more than two or three hundred years. One of the outer colonies.
Weakly, Hoshi shook her head. "I don't know," she muttered.
Yes, she did. And she would keep on lying until they finally killed her. "Ohhh," she groaned when another blow landed against her chest.
"You both lie."
Both? Did that mean T'Pol was still alive? Please, God, let her make it out of here. Hoshi did not expect to survive this experience, and in fact, had begun praying for death. But T'Pol . . . . Oh, T'Pol. I love you.
"She claimed you are merely a translator and would have no knowledge of the shield."
Claimed? Her muddled brain tried to decide the significance of the past tense.
"She's right," Hoshi said. "I don't know." A common phrase from her great-grandfather's journal flashed into her head, which for some reason she found quite funny at the moment. "I don't know shit."
"Speak our language!" he commanded. "What does 'idonoshit?' mean?"
She couldn't help it; she let out a pained laugh. "Just what it sounds like."
Someone grabbed her by the hair, which hurt. She heard the door opening, and from the cell they dragged her down a hallway. Hoshi tried to lessen some of the pain in her skull by scrambling backward with her legs when she could, but they were moving too quickly.
Eventually, another door opened and she landed, hard, on the floor of a large room. Mmm . . . the stones were cold. Hoshi pressed her face against them.
"That was not necessary."
The words, uttered by an unknown male in the center of the room, might have been interesting, but she did not have the energy to look up.
"None of this is necessary," the stranger continued. "We are not enemies of Mzrill, or of this planet."
Hoshi did not bother to reply. Whatever, she thought. Just kill me.
"It is Mzrill's obsession with the barrier that threatens this planet," he droned on. "What does it do? It keeps us from learning and exchanging with other cultures. While other races advance, we remain stagnant. Eventually, someone will penetrate the shield and we will have nothing but primitive weapons to raise against them."
"That decision is for the Mzrill government."
T'Pol! Hoshi's head jerked around. Her lover was there, looking even worse than Hoshi felt. So she had not escaped the same treatment. Damn. Hoshi had hoped that, while they were occupied with her, they would leave T'Pol alone.
"You are part of the government."
"I am merely a scientific adviser," the Vulcan replied.
"Which means you work on the shield. All scientists work on the shield," the man said, shaking his head in disgust. "Such a waste."
T'Pol ignored him. Instead, she held her companion's gaze as Hoshi tried to convey everything that she was feeling. "Remain strong," T'Pol said calmly.
"She cares so little for you that the sounds of your pain do not trouble her," the man said to Hoshi.
That was funny, too, Hoshi decided, and she laughed. "Right," she said.
Her reaction seemed to surprise him try living with a Vulcan, Hoshi thought but before she could enjoy his confusion, he reached out and pressed something against T'Pol's back. The Vulcan fell to the floor, convulsing.
"T'Pol!" she screamed.
He activated the device again, and T'Pol cried out.
"T'Pol," Hoshi cried. With the strength she had left, she began crawling toward her lover.
When she drew within a few feet, she started to reach out but, straining with the effort, T'Pol gasped out a warning, "No!" Finally, the spasms stopped, and she lay on the ground, panting.
Without thinking whether their host would allow it, Hoshi reached out to her.
"Remain strong," T'Pol said again.
"I can't," Hoshi whispered. "I can't stand this, T'Pol."
"I can't." She leaned in closer. "T'Pol, you have to help me."
The Vulcan looked up at her.
"Help me, T'Pol," Hoshi repeated meaningfully.
The silence that followed told her that her lover understood. It would be over in less than a second. T'Pol's fingers would slide up to her neck, seemingly nothing more than a caress, and then she would not have to endure T'Pol's pain any more.
It was selfish to think of easing her own mental suffering while leaving T'Pol to her physical agony, but Hoshi was Terran to her core, and the Vulcan had accepted years ago all that came with it. "I love you," she said.
"Separate them." The man's voice shattered their brief moment of peace.
"Now, T'Pol," Hoshi urged.
The Vulcan raised her right hand to Hoshi's throat. "Hoshi, I"
Suddenly, the doors burst open and shots erupted all around them. T'Pol pressed Hoshi to the floor and covered her with her body. When it was over, Hoshi nearly sobbed at the familiar voice of Mzrill's defense minister. "Councilor," he said to T'Pol. "Are you all right?"
"Attend to her," T'Pol ordered.
"Of course." Uzer waved medical attendants toward Hoshi. "My apologies, Councilor," he said. "We did not learn until yesterday that your caravan had been hijacked."
"It was not you who failed her," T'Pol said.
Hoshi recognized the self-loathing, and she sighed. She knew T'Pol would blame herself, but she had agreed with the decision to forego a security detail. This seemed like a routine diplomatic visit to a quiet region, one of several exchanges of information and ideas that T'Pol had successfully implemented since assuming her role on the Council. Hoshi had decided to think of it as a vacation, a second honeymoon of sorts (although they'd never had a first). Neither of them had reason to anticipate what would happen. Not that it would stop T'Pol from feeling guilty.
"Guilt is an emotion," Hoshi had once pointed out to the Vulcan. It was after Hoshi's fall from the roof while sealing a hole in it, a job that T'Pol had been too busy to get around to.
"It is not guilt," T'Pol replied stiffly. "It is merely a recognition that your injury was caused by my negligence."
Oh, no, she didn't. "But what's the point of recognizing it?" Hoshi persisted.
"Determining the cause of an injury provides useful information," T'Pol said.
"Well, why don't you factor this information in?" Hoshi wrapped her hand behind T'Pol's neck and drew her down for a kiss. With her other hand, she reached for the front of her homemade shirt. Her fingers wrapped around an oval-shaped button, fashioned from some stones that T'Pol had brought back with her from her first trip. She drew the button through its loop, then lowered her hand to the next one . . . .
Even Vulcans could be distracted with enough effort, Hoshi knew. This, too, would pass.
Someone was pounding. Hoshi set aside the pamphlet she was translating and hurried to the door.
"You must come!" Zett was panicked about something.
"What's happened?" she asked.
"It's T'Shi," he said, and Hoshi's stomach fell.
"What's happened?" she repeated. She ran to the crib and drew Polho to her, then hurried outside after their neighbor.
They came to the park at the base of the mountain where T'Shi frequently played with her friend Aara, and Hoshi was horrified to see T'Pol with others atop a pile of rock that hadn't been there yesterday, tearing away rocks and boulders to get to . . . "No." Hoshi shook her head. "No!" She handed Polho to a neighbor and joined the others in their frantic efforts to clear the rocks away. "T'Shi!"
T'Pol heard her, and uttered a quick order. "Hoshi, get the phaser."
The phaser! Hoshi ran back to the house and tore out a floorboard in their bedroom. Within the recess was a metal box, and she fumbled with the code. At last she had it, and she hurried back to the scene. "T'Pol!" Her wife scrambled down from the pile, and ordered the others off the landslide. Briefly checking the settings it had been twelve years since the phaser was used except for testing she fired, again and again, carefully dissolving rocks to clear a path.
At last, T'Pol knelt beside the still form of their six-year-old daughter. She checked for a pulse, and turned to Hoshi.
"No!" Hoshi screamed. "No, no, no, no, no . . . "
T'Pol rose and walked over to her, wrapping her arms around her from behind and gently pressing the side of her face against her wife's. Hoshi gripped her arms, drawing them tighter around her, and cried.
Two days later, T'Pol sensed the other woman had something to say as they walked somberly home from their daughter's burial.
"I want off this planet," Hoshi demanded the instant they closed the door.
T'Pol was not surprised. "What are you suggesting?" she asked.
"You know damn well what I'm suggesting. Does it still work?"
"I believe so," T'Pol said, shading the truth a little. She checked the device faithfully every month.
"I want out of here. We're not losing another child to this place."
It would irritate her, she knew, but T'Pol felt obligated to note the flaws in Hoshi's reasoning. "Accidents can happen on any planet," she said.
"You think an accident like that would have happened on Vulcan?" Hoshi asked angrily. "And if it did, the medical care is totally different."
"Hoshi, medical care could not have assisted T'Shi."
"How do we know that? It might have if we were somewhere else." She held up a hand, anticipating the literal response that she would probably receive. "I don't know where, OK? But this place is primitive and you know it. Their medical practices are a joke. We're lucky nothing else has happened."
"It was sufficiently advanced to provide us with children," T'Pol pointed out.
"Anyone can do that! How are you going to feel if something happens to Polho? Oh, I forgot you won't. That'll be left to me." It was cruel, and Hoshi knew it. She sighed. "I'm sorry, T'Pol. I didn't mean that. I just . . ."
"I understand," T'Pol said, and she did. "Do you wish to activate the device?"
Hoshi turned to the window. "I want T'Shi back," she said sadly.
"I know." T'Pol wrapped her arms around her, and Hoshi leaned her head back to rest on T'Pol's shoulder.
"This is so hard. I can't think, I can't sleep . . ."
"I know," T'Pol repeated soothingly. "Let's lie down together." Hoshi started to shake her head, and T'Pol added, "For a moment."
Soon she held a sound-asleep Hoshi in her arms. Hoshi would not suggest the device again, she knew. Although she had lashed out in her pain, this was their home now.
Hoshi rested snugly in T'Pol's arms. These were her last few moments, and she was content.
She felt T'Pol's lips brush her temple, and she smiled. She was in no pain. "I love you, T'Pol," she said.
The gentle squeeze that followed was all she expected or wanted. T'Pol didn't feel love, but whatever it was, Hoshi knew how T'Pol felt about her. T'Pol had expressed it often enough in other ways. "Marrying you is the most logical thing that I have ever done," she said once after an energetic lovemaking session early in Hoshi's first pregnancy. An already emotional Hoshi had burst into tears.
Hoshi felt her breathing come with a little more difficulty. "T'Pol. . . ," she said.
"I know. I will be with you."
They had sent Polho away a few minutes ago, ordering him to attend the first Council meeting in a generation with representatives from Camabel, with whom relations had long been strained. "You have responsibilities, Polho," Hoshi had told him fondly. "I will be thinking of you, and I'd rather not be thinking that you're here instead of where you should be."
"It can wait."
"T'Pol worked on this for ten years," Hoshi said. "Don't blow it, or they'll take down that statue she likes so much."
T'Pol said nothing. She disliked the statue, of course, a fairly good likeness of her that graced the hallway leading into the Mrzillian Council Hall where she had served as Premier for two decades.
"Polho," T'Pol interrupted, and he straightened instinctively. "It would comfort your mother to know that you are attending your duties."
"Come here, Son," Hoshi said, and she kissed him on the forehead. "I'll be fine. Go make peace with Camabel. T'Pol will send word. I love you."
Now, as it grew darker thanks to the dimmers that T'Pol had designed to give Hoshi the impression of night when they slept she smiled at the thought of their son, a Council Delegate, his physical appearance a handsome combination of Vulcan and Terran, his ability to reason Vulcan, his emotions definitely human. At times, Hoshi had secretly thanked whatever deity might be out there for the latter; she had never said anything, but to live with two Vulcans would have been difficult. She loved T'Pol with everything she was, but it was fun to have a son who laughed, and played, and loved.
She reached back and fingered T'Pol's shoulder length hair. "You need a haircut."
For a moment, T'Pol struggled. No one but Hoshi had trimmed her hair for nearly fifty years. It was more than grooming, it was a loving ritual, both of them enjoying the sensuality of Hoshi's hands gently caressing her wife's scalp. She always signaled the completion of her task with a kiss to T'Pol's neck, or a bite, either inevitably leading to something more. Hoshi usually made it a point to find a babysitter for haircut night.
"I believe I will let it grow," T'Pol finally said.
"You'll probably live another forty years," Hoshi said quietly, playing with T'Pol's hand. "I don't want you to be alone."
Her companion said nothing.
"Zett likes you."
"He would be a good partner."
T'Pol tightened her hold. "I have had all I want of married life," she said.
Hoshi smirked. "I could take that as an insult."
"You could," T'Pol agreed. She kissed Hoshi's temple. "But you won't."
Hoshi's eyes closed. "I love you, T'Pol," she said again, just because she liked saying it. This time, her eyes remained closed.
"Captain! There it is." Ensign Mayweather magnified the tiny image on the viewscreen.
Reed scanned the shuttle. "Two life signs."
"Bring it in! Dr. Phlox, report to the shuttle bay." Before the clamps had even reached the target, Archer was heading for the lift. Finally, after four days of silence, they had found their missing crew members. At least it had taken their mind off the growing concerns about depleted dilithium.
Climbing inside the shuttle, Archer paused at the sight: T'Pol stretched out on the floor, holding Hoshi tightly to her, both unconscious. Phlox ran a scanner across them. "They're alive. The readings are unusual, but I don't detect any signs of injury."
"Why are they unconscious?"
"I don't know." Phlox stuck his head out of the shuttle. "Crewmen, take Subcommander T'Pol and Ensign Sato to Sickbay."
Noises. The noises were different. Hoshi's eyes slowly opened, and then closed against the glare of artificial light. She opened them again artificial light? She took in her surroundings. This looked familiar . . .
"Ah! You're awake," a chipper Denobulan said. She knew him from somewhere, Hoshi was sure.
"Yes," she replied uncertainly. "T'Pol?"
"Not awake yet," Phlox replied. "Shouldn't be long," he opined, although he really had no idea, since he had no idea why the two were asleep to begin with.
"T'Pol!" Hoshi spied the other woman on a bed across the sickbay, and scrambled off the biobed. Phlox and Archer glanced at each other.
Hoshi hurried over to her wife. "T'Pol--" She stopped short. T'Pol was . . . beautiful, as always, but at least forty years younger than she should be. And her hair . . .
What's going on here? Hoshi wondered. She looked down at her hands, and peered into a small mirror on the table. She, too, appeared much younger.
"Are you feeling alright?"
Hoshi whirled around at the new voice. "Captain?" she asked in confusion. Captain Archer? She remembered him. "Am I dreaming?"
Archer laughed. "What have you and the Subcommander been up to?" he asked. "We were worried about you."
"Worried about us?" she repeated. She had no idea what he was talking about. She hadn't seen him in over forty years. "Why would I be dreaming about the Enterprise?" she said aloud.
"Well, that would be logical since you are assigned here," Phlox said. "But you're not dreaming, Ensign."
She turned to the biobed. She supposed she was dreaming this, too, but seeing T'Pol even in her dreams was worth it.
"T'Pol," she murmured, stroking the Vulcan's hair.
The sickbay days opened, and Hoshi was startled to see two more vaguely familiar faces.
"Well, there you are, little lady," one of the two men drawled. "You and T'Pol been off gallivantin' around?"
"Where have you been, Hoshi?" The other man had a refined British accent. He turned to Phlox. "Is the subcommander all right?"
"As far as I can tell," Phlox replied. "Her life signs are similar to Hoshi's prior to awakening."
T'Pol was, in fact, quite awake, but had not alerted the others to that fact. Although her instinct, as always, was to reach out to Hoshi, she was trying to ascertain what had happened. From all appearances, they were presently in the company of the crew with whom they had served on the Enterprise nearly fifty years ago.
"I don't get this," she heard Hoshi say. "Yesterday we--"
"Hoshi," T'Pol interrupted, and Hoshi immediately turned her attention to her.
"T'Pol! Are you all right?"
"I appear to be."
"What's going on? We're--"
"Back on Enterprise. Yes." She looked at Archer. "Where is the shuttle craft?"
"In shuttle bay 2," Tucker answered for him.
"What is its condition?"
Tucker shrugged. "Looks fine. Engine started right back up. Diagnostics don't show anything. What happened to you two?"
Hoshi waited. T'Pol apparently wanted to discuss the situation privately. She smiled to herself. Situation? This was obviously an hallucination, but T'Pol was T'Pol, real or not.
"I'm not certain," T'Pol said. "Perhaps when we have had an opportunity to recover . . . ."
Archer took the hint. "Absolutely. Come on, Trip; let's give 'em some room. Dinner this evening, ladies? If the doc gives you the OK."
"I see no reason to keep them here," Phlox announced. "Their readings appear perfectly normal."
"Perhaps," T'Pol said. "If we are feeling ourselves again."
Whatever that is, Hoshi thought.
The men left, and Phlox retreated to feed his animals, leaving the two women alone.
"I'm having an hallucination," Hoshi laughed quietly, but T'Pol didn't smile.
"I do not believe so," she said. She climbed down off the table.
"What do you think is going on?" T'Pol didn't answer, but Hoshi knew her wife far too well to let her get away with that. Grasping the Vulcan's arms, she repeated her question. "What do you think's going on?"
"I believe that the Enterprise is not an hallucination."
"How can that be? If it isn't . . . ." The look on T'Pol's face, impassive to anyone but someone who had lived with her for nearly five decades, brought Hoshi up short. "You're not saying that . . . ."
T'Pol held her gaze.
Hoshi whirled away from her, striding over to the other bed. "No way." She looked down at the table, felt the cloth covering it. "I don't believe it." She turned back to T'Pol. "What makes you think--" She waved a hand. "Forget it. It's not possible."
"At this time I can discern no other explanation."
"No Mrzill? No children? You and I never--" Shaking her head in disbelief, she headed for the door, not caring where they went, as long as it was out of there.
Neither spoke for a while, and Hoshi was surprised when T'Pol stopped outside a door and pressed a button. She followed the other woman into the subcommander's quarters. "I barely remember this," she said dully. "Any of it." She sat on T'Pol's bed, and buried her head in her hands. "I'm having a hard time with this whole thing."
"It is disconcerting," T'Pol admitted.
"I have no idea where my quarters are."
"I will assist you."
"And how come you're not having a problem with this?" Hoshi said, almost angrily.
"I am. But you must recall that 49 years represents a shorter period in the Vulcan life span than Terran."
"Great. You'll be back to normal, and I'll be wandering around trying to figure out which buttons not to push." She paused in alarm. "Oh, God. They're going to expect us to go back to work."
"We can reorient ourselves with the computer in our quarters," T'Pol said.
Hoshi looked at her. "This is too weird. How am I supposed to look at you and not--" She struggled for the words. "I mean, did we have the same hallucination?"
"If that's what it was," T'Pol said. "We crash landed on Mzrill. We had two children, and were married for 47 years."
"This is too weird," Hoshi repeated. "I've had dreams before where it took a few minutes to come back to reality, but I look at you and I feel as though I've made love with you a thousand times."
"Seven thousand, four hundred and ninety two."
Hoshi looked at her, startled. "How do you know that?"
"I remember each one," T'Pol replied.
"Well," Hoshi said, "I do, too, but I didn't know how many." She wondered briefly how much time they had spent in each others' arms. It had certainly been an exciting aspect of their relationship. There had been a few times when weeks passed without physical comfort after T'Shi's death and the time that T'Pol was accidentally poisoned while on a trade trip, and then when Hoshi's health had begun to decline but for most of their lives, they had enjoyed each other frequently.
She grinned. "Seven thousand, four hundred and ninety two, huh? Are you counting the ear job behind stage at your first council conference?"
"Of course," T'Pol said, also smiling slightly. "I remember it quite well."
Both formed an image of Hoshi's tongue laving T'Pol's ear, the Vulcan's eyes closed in heated pleasure as Hoshi's lips slid up and down the tip.
The women stared at each other, until Hoshi realized uncomfortably what she was feeling.
She quickly turned and walked out of T'Pol's quarters. "This is too weird," she muttered.
For long minutes, Hoshi wandered the halls, nodding at the greetings of crew members she barely remembered. Eventually, she thought she recognized an area, and, after checking to see that no one was watching, she cautiously stepped up to the door. It opened to her touch, and she went inside. Her quarters. Yes, she remembered this. She plopped down on the bed. Now what?
Hours later, she stood in front of another door. When T'Pol appeared, Hoshi shrugged. "I'm sorry," she said. "I . . . ."
T'Pol moved aside to let her in.
"For almost fifty years, we slept next to each other," Hoshi said apologetically. "I tried, but I can't sleep."
"Nor can I," T'Pol said, and now Hoshi could see that the Vulcan had been meditating.
"Can I sleep here?" Hoshi held out her hands. "I mean just to sleep. Just for tonight."
T'Pol nodded. "The bed here is considerably smaller than we had on"
She caught herself, and Hoshi snorted. "Don't worry. I keep doing it, too."
The next day, Hoshi was more than a little envious of the ease with which T'Pol resumed her duties, as if nothing had happened. She frowned. I guess nothing did happen, she reminded herself, yet they had gravitated to each other in their sleep as if it was a familiar instinct.
Fortunately, there were no first contacts today, and Hoshi devoted her time to reacquainting herself with her work station.
"Hoshi, any response to our inquiries?" Archer asked, mostly to give himself the feeling of doing something.
"Our inquiries, Sir?"
"Dilithium," he replied, as if it should have been obvious (and it should, she realized).
"Of course. Nothing yet, Sir," she said. "I'll keep checking."
There wasn't much room on the bed, but it didn't seem to bother either of them to lie close together. "Isn't this boring you to death?" Hoshi asked.
"Far from it," T'Pol replied. "I find the expression of your thoughts quite . . . fascinating."
Hoshi's eyes narrowed. 'Illogical,' that meant. "I was a lot younger, you know," she said defensively.
The Vulcan smiled slightly.
"You know what I mean." Hoshi lay back against the pillow. "Computer, resume."
Her voice filled the quarters. "I made a mistake today with the Mshtar. Their words for 'gift' and 'weapon' are almost identical. I tried to tell them that T'Pol was bringing a gift with her, and things went downhill from there. Captain Archer finally got her released, but now she thinks I'm a complete moron."
"Computer, halt transmission," T'Pol interjected. "I did not think you were 'a complete moron.'"
"Really?" Hoshi laid her head against T'Pol's shoulder. "They stuck you in that pit, you know."
"I do know."
"I figured you hated me."
"It was an understandable mistake."
"Would you have said that before you accidentally introduced me as your 'concubine' to the Geisaric Council?"
"You presume that was an accident."
Archer wound his fingers together. He hoped he was wrong. He really wanted to be wrong. But there it was again. Hoshi was laughing at something T'Pol said except that she hadn't said anything. In the week since their return, it had become apparent to him that Hoshi was able to read T'Pol's mind. A mere glance could send his ensign into a peal of laughter, or righteous indignation, or a mild disagreement.
Had this been there all along? He didn't think so.
The women were spending almost all of their time together, both on and off the bridge. Even now, T'Pol was standing at the communications station again.
This was not normal. They didn't dislike each other, as far as Archer could tell, but no one thought of the lively Earth woman and priggish Vulcan as attached at the hip. It might be understandable if two people had undergone a trauma together, but both claimed otherwise. "Spacial anomaly," T'Pol had declared vaguely in explaining their loss of consciousness for four days, the catchall explanation for all inexplicable events, impossible to prove or disprove.
Both women showed no physical abnormalities, Phlox confirmed, unhappy about being ordered to divulge private medical information. Other than a sleeping aid for Hoshi, she seemed fine. She had been in yesterday to request a physical
"She requested it?" Archer interrupted.
Phlox nodded. "I found nothing amiss," he said. "There were no measurable differences from her examination six weeks ago."
"Did she seem surprised?"
"Surprised?" Phlox considered the question. "No, I wouldn't say that. They seemed . . . well, I'm not sure what, but I wouldn't say surprised."
"The subcommander was with her," Phlox explained.
T'Pol? "During the exam?"
Last night, after a brief wrestling match with his conscious, the captain had overriden both women's privacy codes. He hadn't gone so far as to activate the monitors, but he had checked their computer activity over the past few days. They had both called up standard ops manuals for their work stations and ship schematics, technically nothing out of the ordinary, he supposed, other than the timing. Each night, though, Hoshi had also been accessing her personal log archive from T'Pol's quarters, Archer noted gradually extending back some two and a half years.
Should he just let it go? His instincts told him otherwise, and a captain who did not follow his instincts was a poor captain. Tonight he might monitor OK, spy on them. And some day, years from now, he would tell T'Pol about his ridiculous suspicions and what he had done to dispel them. At which point she would disembowel him. Or worse.
Archer cringed at the images his mind was supplying. Maybe he was making too much of this after all . . . .
All heads on the bridge turned toward the view screen, where an image suddenly appeared.
"Polho!" Hoshi gasped.
"It is good to see you, Hoshi," the figure said in Mzrillian. "And you, T'Pol."
Archer frowned. It sounded as though the alien were speaking, but the words were all garbled. It didn't sound like any language he had ever heard, but then he was no linguist. He looked to Hoshi for a translation, but she was frozen, an expression of shock and disbelief on her face.
"Hoshi?" he asked.
"What is the meaning of this?" To Archer's surprise, the response, whatever it was, came from T'Pol.
"We thought it better to assume the visage of a familiar face," the image said.
"You are not our son," T'Pol said.
"Excuse me?" Archer directed the comment at his Subcommander. "Mind sharing?" T'Pol seemed agitated.
"Who are you?" she demanded of the image.
"I am Mdes," he replied, "Premier of Mzrill." He realized that Hoshi was still gaping. "I apologize. I believe this may have been an error." The image of Polho transformed into another Mzrillan, with the familiar orange tint.
"Do you know each other?" Archer tried again. He'd been ignored by T'Pol before, but not to this extreme. Now the alien was changing color. Was that good or bad?
T'Pol took a step torward Hoshi, and laid a hand on the ensign's arm.
"Please explain yourself," T'Pol said with a little less force.
"We wished to make contact with you again," Mdes said. "We thought you would prefer a familiar visage. We did not mean to cause confusion."
T'Pol remained silent, waiting for him to continue.
"The Council has determined that we should provide assistance to you," he continued. "We are prepared to transfer some of our excess dilithium crystal to your ship."
"Why did you appear to us as Polho? What do you know of him?"
Mdes spread out his hands. Seven fingers on each hand, T'Pol noticed. Orange skin. Mzrillian dialect. It had not been a dream.
"Please let me explain." Mdes continued. "As you know, we have survived for thousands of dechas by concealing our existence from outsiders. In recent years, however, some have become uncomfortable with our complete isolation. We wished to share our skills with others, and perhaps to learn from them. But a betrayal of our trust could mean the end of our species."
Archer was frustrated he couldn't understand a damn bit of those clicking noises but judging by both women's intense focus, the stranger was in the middle of something important.
"We were monitoring your communications when we realized that, without our assistance, neither you nor your ship would survive. There is no dilithium crystal for millions of segments." Seeing that he held their attention, Mdes continued. "After considerable debate, it was decided to ensure our safety by examining two of you in detail. We had to be certain that you would not betray us."
T'Pol's sense of unease grew. She suspected she knew what he was about to say. "You implanted our experiences," she said. "To test us."
Mdes nodded. "We were very pleased with what we learned," he said. "We would welcome an opportunity to visit with you on the planet surface."
Archer nearly jumped. They were the first words (or whatever) that Hoshi had spoken since the alien's appearance and, even though he didn't know what she was saying, he could tell she was furious.
"You killed our daughter as a test?"
"T'Shi did not exist," Mdes reminded her. "We were very concerned about our security."
"What the hell does that have to do with T'Shi?"
T'Pol turned gently to Hoshi. "We were placed in situations creating significant stress, rendering it more likely that we would reveal the planet's location." She left off mentioning that it had very nearly occurred.
"You--" Not for the first time, Hoshi flailed for a word in Mzrillian that could adequately convey her emotions. As in the past when under stress, she resorted to an English phrase. "son of a bitch!"
"Whoa!" Archer rose, and the others on the bridge tensed. "What's going on, Hoshi?"
"Just people playing with our lives," she spat.
"Not playing," Mdes protested sincerely. "We have the greatest respect for you and T'Pol."
"It was cruel."
Mdes seemed genuinely surprised. "Cruel? But we have returned you unharmed."
"With 50 years of false memories that we're supposed to shake off."
"Not false," he disagreed. "You chose a mate and lived a full life with T'Pol."
"Hardly a choice," T'Pol countered. "We were the only two foreigners on the planet. Our pairing was inevitable under such circumstances. There was no true choice."
Hoshi felt sick to her stomach. Her brain acknowledged that T'Pol didn't really love her, that it had all been a dream or whatever the hell it was. She had been reminding herself of that over and over for the past few days, but to hear it from the Vulcan's own lips was still a blow.
"What do you want?" she asked Mdes bluntly. She had to get out of here.
The Mzrillian was truly distressed now. "We wish to invite you and T'Pol to the planet surface," he said. "You may retrieve the dilithium, and we may meet more formally."
"Forget it," Hoshi declared.
T'Pol's logical mind realized the implications of their situation. Without help from the Mzrillians, the Enterprise and its crew were doomed. "Mdes," she said. "Protocol requires an invitation to our captain."
He frowned. "We do not know him," he said, which earned him a snort from Hoshi.
"You don't know us, either," she said. "No matter what kind of games you've been playing with us."
T'Pol ignored the interruption. "You have satisfied yourselves as to our intentions," she said. "We would be subjected to suspicion if we did not include the captain. I assume from your cloaked appearance that you have the technology to transport us without revealing your location."
Mdes nodded. "Our technologies are not quite as undeveloped as we led you to believe."
Of course. If something had gone wrong with the experiment, the potential enemies would believe the planet to be relatively harmless, unworthy of taking.
"We do not wish to place conditions on your gift," T'Pol said, "but it would avoid unnecessary scrutiny to include our captain or head of security."
"And you can count me out," Hoshi said.
T'Pol turned to her. "Hoshi," she said. "Hoshi." She waited until the ensign finally turned to her. She presumed that their hosts had learned Vulcan in their mind probe, but sensed that speaking something other than Mzrillian might help calm her Terran friend. "They did not mean any harm," she said in her native language.
"You know, I don't care," Hoshi replied. "You do what you want. But I'm out of this."
"Out of what?" Archer asked. This was really getting annoying.
T'Pol turned back to the screen. "Mdes, may we have some time to plan for your generous offer?"
He seemed slightly relieved at the suggestion. "Yes, of course. I will return in one of your days." His image disappeared from the screen.
T'Pol turned to Archer. "The aliens have a supply of dilithium crystal which they are willing to share," she announced.
"What? That's fantastic!" he exclaimed, but he was curious. "How did they know we needed it?"
"Apparently they have monitored our communications."
"And how do you and Hoshi know their language?" he said.
"We previously encountered this species," she answered vaguely.
Archer wasn't entirely convinced. Something was going on here. T'Pol was being evasive, and Hoshi the ensign was leaning heavily against her work station. But they would all die without the dilithium. He would not interfere with whatever it took to make it happen.
T'Pol's body reacted instinctively as Hoshi slumped against her monitor, gently draping her arms around her waist and pressing her face against Hoshi's. "Please be calm," she said in Vulcan. She felt the small body relax a little.
"I'm going to my quarters," Hoshi replied.
"Captain," T'Pol said, "Ensign Sato is ill. I shall accompany her to her quarters."
"Oh. OK." Like he had any choice.
"We will be contacted tomorrow to finalize delivery," she added.
"So, what's it gonna be, arm or leg?" Archer asked.
"What's the dilithium gonna cost us?" he explained.
"There will be no cost," T'Pol replied.
Hoshi laughed bitterly.
"You don't have to babysit me," Hoshi said.
"If you truly do not wish to see Mzrill, I shall arrange the delivery in your absence," T'Pol said. "I believe they are afraid of you now, anyway."
The teasing made Hoshi smile. "As they should be," she said.
This all seemed so real, Hoshi realized. The banter, the physical sensations she tried desperately to ignore when she was close to T'Pol. When would they stop? "I'll get over this," she went on. "You can get on with your life."
The Vulcan was confused. "'Get on my with life' in what way?"
"In whatever way you want," Hoshi snapped. "Find someone to marry that you actually love." She raised a hand. "Or whatever the hell it is that you do."
T'Pol was a bit taken aback. "Have I angered you in some way?" After all these years, she usually had some inkling when she had pushed one of the 'hot buttons,' as the Terran called them.
Laughing at herself, Hoshi shook her head. "No," she replied. "It's not your fault."
T'Pol waited, hoping for elaboration.
"I just" Hoshi paced back and forth across the room. "I just don't want to forget the last fifty years, OK? It's pathetic, OK? A life I didn't even have, and I still want it."
"So do I," T'Pol said quietly.
"I just what?"
"I have given this a great deal of thought since our return," T'Pol said. "I was uncertain as to the appropriate course of action."
That was unusual, coming from her.
"Initially, I considered 'courting' you, pursuant to available literature on Earth rituals."
Courting her? Hoshi could just see the Vulcan at her door, tendering a longstemmed rose.
"However, I do not wish to begin again with you."
Hoshi's smiled began to fade.
"I do not wish fifty years with you," T'Pol explained. "I wish another fifty years with you."
A lump rose in Hoshi's throat. Even after all these years, T'Pol never ceased to amaze her. "For a Vulcan, you're disgustingly romantic, you know," she said.
"I have been exposed to a 'bad influence,'" T'Pol said, recalling words spoken once by Hoshi after a particularly satisfying indiscretion in the Premier's office.
"Yes, you have," Hoshi replied with a smirk. "Seven thousand, four hundred and ninety two times."
T'Pol gently stroked Hoshi's face. "Seven thousand, four hundred and ninety three," she corrected. She drew Hoshi to her for a kiss.
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