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ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Til Death Do Us Part
By Della Street
Standing atop the highest point on Dissatia, miles of really rather beautiful vista surrounding him in all directions, Ensign Allen Stewart was going to be sick.
Come on, Hoshi. He looked around again nothing. Shit. Shitshitshitshitshit.
Time was up. "Enterprise to shuttle craft." It was Subcommander T'Pol's voice.
"Shuttle craft here."
"Ensign Stewart, where is Ensign Sato?" T'Pol asked immediately. The Vulcan had obviously detected only one humanoid life sign at the rendezvous site.
Allen wished he knew the answer to her question. He had never wished for anything more in his life.
"Ensign Stewart, report." It was the Subcommander again. "Where is Ensign Sato?"
"I'm sorry, Ma'am," he admitted, feeling his insides roiling up again. "I don't know."
"When did you last see her?"
"Three days ago, Subcommander."
The answer was met with silence. He was dead.
Captain Archer, followed closely by Ambassador Hld of the Federation mediation team, stepped onto the bridge in time to hear the end of the exchange. "What?" he exclaimed. "What do you mean three days ago?"
"We split up to finish some of our projects," Stewart said, knowing that, as bad as that sounded, the truth would be worse. In reality, after a few days, Stewart tired of sitting through "getting to know you" meetings with Hoshi. Sure, she liked them, because she got to sit there chattering away with people like she'd always spoken their language instead of hearing it for the first time a week ago. Stewart, who, of course, didn't speak a lick of the lingo, sat there like a lump. He'd finally had enough.
"Come on, Hoshi, you take this last one," he begged. "That'll give me a chance to finish studying the crystals that we found. I only got about two-thirds of the way through."
It wasn't true, of course. His analysis was completed, but he wouldn't mind lying out for a while on the strangely appealing yellow beach with its lavenderish water and having himself a little vacation. Hoshi would be doing what she liked, and he'd be doing what he liked. But when Hoshi had failed to return this morning from the Ntrang region, he had realized the obvious: Having two of them at those meetings was for their safety. If something happened to Hoshi because of him . . .
"Have you scanned the surface?" Archer asked T'Pol unnecessarily. Of course she had.
"I have detected several dozen life forms that could be human, but electromagnetic current in the atmosphere renders it difficult to distinguish species in many areas of the planet." And inferior Federation technology, she was tempted to add.
"Lt. Reed, prepare an away team," Archer ordered.
"I'm afraid not, Captain," Hld said. "I must be at the negotiations by the opening ceremony. You have already delayed unnecessarily in returning to this planet after meeting my ship."
"Two members of my crew are on this planet," Archer said. Another few hours wouldn't matter, and to hell with Hld or anyone else if it did. He wasn't leaving someone behind. He noticed T'Pol watching him. "We have time for an away team," he said. "We'll get you there on time."
"No. Your orders are to proceed without delay to Cantarras 5," the Ambassador insisted. "The Cantarra are distrustful people. To be late would in itself cause the failure of the mediation."
"I am not leaving a member of my crew behind," Archer declared.
"The decision is not yours. If we do not leave immediately, I will have no choice but to contact Admiral Forrest."
"Go right ahead," the captain said. That ought to buy them some time.
He turned to Reed again, but before he could utter a command, he heard the Admiral's voice behind him. Turning toward the sound, he saw the Ambassador holding out to him some sort of handheld communication device. The two men carried it into the captain's ready room, and a moment later, Archer returned, subdued.
"Any sign of her?" he asked T'Pol. She shook her head, and Archer punched a button. "Ensign Stewart, return to the ship."
The bridge was silent, and Archer knew he had to say something. "Starfleet has ordered the Enterprise and its crew to leave orbit immediately. We will return immediately after delivering this . . . gentleman . . . to Cantarras 5."
T'Pol considered his words. "The Enterprise and its crew?" she repeated.
"Captain, I request permission to visit the planet surface," she said calmly.
Ah . . . Archer smiled. Thank you, T'Pol. "Permission granted," he said, and the Vulcan headed toward the lift. Archer raised a hand to still any protest from the ambassador. "Subcommander T'Pol is not a member of this crew," he said. "T'Pol," he stopped her as she stepped into the lift. "Let us know when you find her. Lt. Reed, perhaps you could assist the subcommander with her preparations." Load her up, Malcolm.
"Of course, Commander," Reed intoned, glad to be able to do something, wishing he was the one going after their missing colleague.
Whether a missing Federation ensign would ordinarily be difficult to locate on this planet was something that T'Pol would never know. Federation ensign Hoshi Sato had been quite easy to find unfortunately. One visit to the Vulcan Liaison (one level below Deputy Ambassador, a subtle indication of the planet's second-tier status among the High Council) had produced immediate results.
"I am honored by a visit from a representative of the High Council," Sunak said, bowing slightly.
T'Pol nodded her acknowledgment. "I am seeking a missing crew member from the Federation starship Enterprise," she said. "I require your assistance."
"The Terran Hoshi Sato?"
Even Vulcans could be surprised, but T'Pol hid hers well. "You know her?"
"Of her," he said. "I'm afraid all of Dissatia does. The results of her trial have been widely publicized."
"Ensign Sato . . ." He chose his words carefully, not knowing the exact nature of T'Pol's interest in the Terran. ". . . was responsible for the deaths of two Dissatian males two days ago in an outer region. The Dissats have a rather . . . expedited judicial system, comparable perhaps to the 'Old West' that you described in your account of Earth's legal history."
She was mildly surprised that the Liaison had read such an obscure report. Interest in Earth was not great among most Vulcans. Her estimation of him went up a notch.
"Sato was tried yesterday, and found guilty. She has been sentenced to death."
This entire situation was highly illogical. "Was she represented by counsel?" T'Pol asked.
"I don't know," he replied. "Dissatian trials are not public."
"Did you notify the Federation?"
He seemed almost insulted. "That would hardly be a requirement of my position here," he said.
Nor would it be precluded, T'Pol thought. "Vulcan and the Federation are allies," she pointed out.
"As are many other planets. We have never been directed to interfere."
What T'Pol was feeling at this moment was irritation, she realized. An emotion, true, but perhaps excusable under the circumstances.
"I would like to see Ensign Sato," she said. "With whom should I discuss the matter?"
The artwork in the hall of justice where Magistrate Baaral's office was located was unique, T'Pol noted absently, but she did not take the time to examine it. Her task was more urgent.
"Out of the question!" the official exploded minutes later.
"I would consent to the presence of a third party," T'Pol said reasonably.
"Out of the question," Baaral repeated.
T'Pol paused, fighting a twinge of impatience. "I merely wish to see Ensign Sato," she said. "I am not requesting special dispensation for her."
"Nor shall she have any." The premier was both spiteful and arrogant, she concluded. "Hoshi Sato is a murderer."
Defending Hoshi against the absurd allegation would not advance her cause, T'Pol realized. Time for another approach. "If you do not allow me to see Ensign Sato, this planet's relationship with the Federation will be imperiled," she warned. "Are you aware that the Federation will not afford unconditional diplomatic status if you do not allow your prisoner contact with a representative of her planet?"
That didn't get her anywhere, either. The rule did not apply to convicted criminals, and the Federation had not thought to require or had decided for political reasons against any specific provisions for trial. Nor did it require public disclosure of charges lodged against one of its citizens. Thus, T'Pol knew only that there had been an incident in a public house, that the ensign had been involved, and that two men had been killed with the Terran's phaser. Self-defense, of that the Vulcan had no doubt. If Hoshi was involved at all. Maddeningly, she could not get any further information. Her attempts to reach Enterprise had been similarly unavailing.
"We will not allow our dispensation of justice to be dictated by Federation weakness," Baaral said.
Then neither shall I. With a slight nod, T'Pol excused herself.
The ensign's eyes fluttered open. Did she hear something?
The familiar whisper brought Hoshi quickly to her feet, but she instantly regretted her haste when she experienced a brief wave of dizziness. They had done quite a number on her, "subduing" her after that disaster in the café. She was still a little stiff and sore. After a moment, the spotted lights behind her eyes faded and she looked around for the source of the sound.
Seeing nothing, she decided to take a chance. There was no one here to make fun of her if she was hallucinating. "T'Pol?" Please let it be T'Pol.
Oh, thank you, God. "Where are you?"
"In the air duct," the voice said. "Come stand near the mirror."
Hoshi did as she was directed, and waited for her savior to say something else.
"I have disabled their primitive internal monitors," the Subcommander said. "They are likely to trace the error within an hour."
"I'm a prisoner, T'Pol," Hoshi said, forgetting that the Vulcan had probably figured that out already.
"I am aware of that," the Vulcan replied. "I have been here for two days."
"I didn't do it," Hoshi said quickly. "I mean, it wasn't"
"We'll discuss that later," T'Pol said. "We are leaving."
"Leaving? You mean . . .?"
"I have been unable to secure your release," T'Pol informed her. "You will come with me, and we will seek to resolve the matter through official channels when the Enterprise returns."
"Whatever!" Hoshi said. She was up for anything. "What's the plan?"
By way of answer, the air duct wiggled, then lowered on its hinge. An arm draped down, and Hoshi hesitated. "Can you pull me up?" she asked. At the silence, she almost giggled, imagining T'Pol's Vulcan pride being insulted. She felt a hand grasp her wrist, and suddenly she was lifted up and into the narrow duct.
Later, Hoshi wondered if the guard had been stationed there all along, or if it was just bad luck that he had wandered in their direction just as they cleared the grounds. Probably the latter, she decided; T'Pol had scouted the place before coming up with her plan, and she would not have overlooked anything.
The Dissat's weapons were at least a generation or two behind the Federation's, but no less lethal. Perhaps more so, since there was no stun feature. Not that most Dissatians in this area would bother to use it anyway, at least when pointing at Federation infidels.
The relatively new stun feature on Federation phasers, though, still needed some work. Such refinement would come too late for Hoshi. As she had learned the hard way, there was something about the atmosphere on this planet that rendered the stun setting about as useful as just throwing the phaser. None of her desperate adjustments had done anything to stop the two Anti-Federationists who waylaid her when she wandered into the seemingly harmless café on her first day here, forcing her to finally use the only setting that would. Why hadn't anyone warned her that this region hated despised with every fiber of their being the imperious Federation? Or maybe they had, and her understanding of the language was just too sketchy.
When the Dissatian's shot tore through T'Pol's chest, she screamed. T'Pol crumpled to the ground, and Hoshi stumbled over her. Silhoutted across an open area, the guard stalked toward them.
"We need a doctor," she called out in his language, but he continued steadily toward them.
"Not for Federation animals," he spat. Under other circumstances, Hoshi would have pondered a more precise term than 'animal' for his word 'pig' might be close but for now his meaning was clear enough. And his intent. He moved forward with his gun aimed directly at them.
"She's badly hurt," she yelled, slowly moving her hand toward the phaser clipped to T'Pol's uniform.
He laughed. "And I'm supposed to care?"
Laying her hand on the phaser, she shifted the setting to Kill. "Leave us alone," she warned.
He was only a dozen yards away now. "I'll put her out of her misery," she said. "And you, too. That will save the government inconvenience. You are a murderer of Dissatians."
"You know what?" she replied. "You're right." Drawing the phaser up, she fired.
"T'Pol. T'Pol, can you hear me?" Hoshi pressed a palm to the Vulcan's forehead. "God, you're burning up," she said. "That's it. I'm going for help."
"No." T'Pol's weak voice stopped her. "We must travel to the site and wait for the Enterprise."
Wherever the hell it is, Hoshi thought. "Forget it, T'Pol. You're too sick to move."
"If you're captured, you will be executed."
"And if we don't get medical help, you'll die."
"That is not a certainty," T'Pol said. "Your execution is. It should be only another day or two."
Another day or two? "You won't make it, T'Pol."
"I remain your commanding officer. Are you disobeying my command?"
Hoshi sighed. "No. But this is"
"Hoshi" It wasn't often that the Vulcan used her first name, and it froze the ensign's protest.
"please do not continue to argue. It is very draining."
Twenty-two hours later, Hoshi propped up a very ill T'Pol at the rendezvous point, then sat cross-legged beside her. Both women were sweating profusely, T'Pol from fever, and Hoshi from the strain of half-carrying, half dragging the other woman for miles across the Dissatian plateau to the coordinates where T'Pol said Enterprise's sensors would likely work best. Even Dissatian technology would likely detect any attempt to send a message from T'Pol's communicator, Hoshi figured (her own having been confiscated), so they would just have to rely on the ability of Enterprise's sensors to find them.
"Any minute now," Hoshi whispered, although she doubted that T'Pol could understand her.
Night came and went, and she looked down at the unconscious form of her colleague. Getting here had sapped whatever energy the Vulcan had left. If the Enterprise didn't show soon . . . .
It didn't. The following morning, Hoshi stroked a lock of stray hair from T'Pol's brow.
Her decision was easy. She wished she had something to write a note on, so that T'Pol wouldn't wake up and worry that Hoshi had abandoned her. That almost generated a smile. "Worry" probably wasn't the right word, or at least that's what T'Pol would say. Still, she might wonder. And if Vulcans felt fear, she would have to feel it, all alone, helpless.
A careful study of their surroundings provided some reassurance. There was no one out here. T'Pol would be safe for now. Hoshi leaned down for one last caress of the subcommander the friend who had tried to save her. "I'll be back, T'Pol," she said. "I promise."
It was nearly a full Dissatian day later when the Vulcan awakened, feeling somewhat disoriented.
"Subcommander." It was Sunak, the liaison who had been of little or no assistance in this matter.
She did not bother to respond. It would take a great deal of energy, and she needed to gather her thoughts, the most immediate of which was that there were only two individuals in this room. "Where is Hoshi?" she said.
"Ensign Sato was a fugitive," Sunak replied. "She has been re-incarcerated. Her execution will take place in 4.3 hours."
The ensign's actions had been foolish. Without immediate medical care beyond that available on this primitive sphere, T'Pol was unlikely to survive. By bringing her here in a futile gesture, Hoshi had given up her opportunity to save her own life.
"I wish to see her," she said quietly.
"That is unlikely," Sunak informed her. "She is under heavy guard in light of her earlier escape."
"I am confident that you will be able to arrange something," T'Pol challenged him. "I am too ill to pose a threat, and you are a respected member of the hierarchy, I presume."
Sunak could not help but nod. Yes, he was, and if Vulcans admitted to pride, that would have characterized his reaction to her statement. Which was why, although T'Pol did not flout her higher status through her association with the High Council, he was sensitive to the significant difference in their rank.
"Please make an effort, Liaison Sunak," T'Pol requested. With a nod, the officious Vulcan departed.
When T'Pol next awoke, it was to a palm laid gently upon her forehead, measuring her fever.
"God, T'Pol." She knew the voice well, and opened her eyes to look up into worried dark eyes. "You look awful."
It was a weak attempt at Terran humor, Hoshi recognized, but she couldn't bring herself to smile. She turned to Sunak. "Can't you do something for her?"
"We have attempted to treat her," Sunak said. "The Dissatians lack the medical advancements to which we are accustomed on Vulcan. She lost a great deal of blood."
"Can't you give her more?"
"There is no Vulcan blood supply on this planet," Sunak pointed out the obvious.
"I don't believe that," Hoshi said. "They wouldn't send you here without something."
"A limited supply was available," Sunak confirmed. "It was given to her yesterday. I have sent word to the High Council, but the nearest ship is a day away." He saw Hoshi's eyes narrow at him, and correctly anticipated her next question. "I have donated. Her loss was too great."
"What about mine? Would that work?"
"Hardly." Sunak practically sniffed. "Terran blood would be fatal."
"Are you sure?" OK, red blood, green blood, but still . . . .
"Yes," he replied simply.
She remembered. T'Pol at lunch one day, suddenly surrounded by a group of curious ensigns, Hoshi among them. "Can Vulcans and Terrans have children?" Ensign Cutler started right in.
She seemed slightly put out at having her soup interrupted. "Is there a particular context in which this question has arisen?"
"Nah," Johnson shrugged. "We just have a bet going."
Oops. Wrong approach, Hoshi suspected. "Intellectual curiosity," she said quickly.
"I see." After a brief pause (deciding whether to indulge the foolish Terrans or excuse herself and go do something boring, Hoshi guessed), T'Pol replied, "It has been determined that Terran blood and Vulcan blood are incompatible. However, it is unknown whether that would affect reproduction."
"It wouldn't necessarily have to," Hoshi said, thinking about it. "I mean, humans with incompatible blood types reproduce all the time."
"So, how . . . ?" Cutler left her question vague.
"Yes, Ensign?" T'Pol asked.
The crew members glanced at each other.
"You know. Do Vulcans . . . ?"
Hoshi quickly rose. "I'm late for my shift," she announced. No way did she want to be part of asking T'Pol about Vulcan physiology, no matter how curious she was. She could get the scoop from Cutler later if T'Pol answered. (She didn't.)
Agitated, Hoshi rose and walked away a few steps, watched closely by two Dissat guards.
T'Pol caught Sunak's attention. "I wish you to perform the shk garra," she said, her voice barely above a whisper.
Sunak's eyes widened. "I will not."
"You will do as you are instructed," T'Pol ordered. "Hoshi, come here."
The ensign was quickly at her side.
"I am unlikely to survive, Hoshi," T'Pol said. "There is a ceremony that I wish Sunak to perform. Will you participate?"
"Of course, but please don't talk like that. You'll be all right once Enterprise gets here."
"Raise your fingers like this," T'Pol said, demonstrating. Meeting the Terran's fingers with her own, she shifted her gaze to her subordinate. "Proceed," she said.
A short time later, Dissatian council members were summoned to the pale Vulcan's bedside.
"Thank you for agreeing to come," T'Pol said, propped up slightly against a pillow at her insistence. "I have important information for you."
She waited while one of the members translated for the others.
"You cannot execute Ensign Sato," T'Pol continued. "She is a representative of the Vulcan High Council."
"She is not Vulcan," Baaral countered.
"No," T'Pol agreed. "But she is my wife."
Everyone present including Hoshi turned to her. What?
"The joining ceremony was performed by acting ambassador Sunak, who has transmitted a record to the Vulcan home world." She gestured toward the liaison, who grudgingly stepped forward.
"It is true," he said, somewhat stiffly. "I performed the ceremony. Hoshi Sato is the wife of Subcommander T'Pol, and is thereby a representative of the Vulcan High Council in the same standing as T'Pol. I have relayed a message to Vulcan regarding this proceeding, and would advise awaiting a response."
"We will not!" Baaral insisted. "This is a ruse, an abuse of our law. Sato killed three of our citizens and fled our system of justice. The execution must proceed. Do you not agree, Colleagues?" He surveyed the others in the room.
"Sensors detect a ship approaching us starboard," the ensign reported. "Coming up fast, Captain!"
"Tactical alert," Archer ordered. "Do you know who it is?"
"It's Vulcan, Sir."
"Hail them," he said. "See if there's anything they need."
A moment passed, and Ensign Davis raised an eyebrow. "They say no, and don't bother them." At the captain's look, she grinned sheepishly. "Or something like that."
Archer was curious, but knew there was no point trying to raise them again. He would have liked some contact, something other than this restlessness at being four days later than they expected.
"Ensign, are any transmissions coming through?" The last week had been frustrating, forced to spend an extra two days at Stetor with that windbag ambassador, then running head on into a plasma storm that wreaked havoc with their communication system.
"They're starting to," the ensign replied. "Whoa!" She recoiled for a moment.
When no further elaboration was forthcoming, Archer prompted her, "'Whoa' what?"
"Sorry, sir. There's just an unbelievable amount of traffic. I'm trying to sift through it. They're" The expression on her face changed from surprise to concern. "Captain, I think" She listened a while longer. "The Vulcan ship transmitted several messages to the planet surface." She forwarded them to her earpiece. Her translation wouldn't be as smooth as Hoshi's, but it would do. Vulcan was a fairly common language. "They were warnings. 'If they proceed with the execution, it will be considered an act of war.'"
Archer straightened. "What execution?"
"I'm" She pressed a hand against her ear. "They sent several messages to T'Pol, the last two urgent, but I can't tell if any of them were answered. Wait here's one from Hoshi! She's " Davis paled. "Oh, my God." Without waiting for a command, she activated the replay, and Hoshi appeared on the screen.
"This is Ensign Hoshi Sato of the Federation Starship Enterprise," she began.
She looks exhausted, Archer observed.
"Five hours from now, I will be executed for the deaths of three Dissatian men. I am not allowed to discuss the trial in this message, so I will say only that I have done nothing to disgrace my family, the Federation, or Enterprise. My time on Enterprise has been an honor and an adventure beyond my wildest dreams, and I do not regret my decision to serve. I ask that you not do anything to put yourselves at risk due to this incident. T'Pol . . ." She smiled tiredly. "I'm not sure what to say to you, and you probably wouldn't want to hear it, anyway. Thank you for everything." The transmission ended.
Archer stood. "When was that message transmitted?"
"Seventeen hours ago, Captain."
"Warp 5, Ensign!" he barked at Mayweather. "Get us back to that planet. And try to raise that damn Vulcan ship!"
They had no luck in reaching the Vulcans (the ship was receiving their messages, but just ignoring them, Davis concluded), but suddenly, while Enterprise was still several hours from reaching orbit, the ship appeared on the horizon heading toward them. This time, however, rather than ignore the Enterprise, the Vulcans opened a hailing frequency.
"Subcommander T'Pol is on board our ship," announced the Vulcan commander, who had introduced himself as Tarlak. "Along with her . . . companion," he added almost with a hint of distaste.
"Hoshi?" Archer said. "She's all right?"
Tarlak nodded, and for the first time in hours, Archer relaxed in his captain's chair.
"As is T'Pol," the Vulcan continued.
Why was that news? "Did something happen to T'Pol?" Archer asked.
"It is an internal Vulcan matter," Tarlak said. "She is receiving medical attention."
"What the hell happened?
"It is an internal Vulcan matter," Tarlak said. "She will be transported to your vessel when she has recovered. We will then escort you back to Federation territory pending the arrival of High Council representatives."
"High Council representatives?" Archer said. "Coming here? Is something up?"
"an internal Vulcan matter," Archer snapped. "Fine. You deal with your little internal matters however you want. I just want my crew back."
"We will notify you when T'Pol is ready for transport," Tarlak said.
"What about Hoshi?"
"She may return to Enterprise immediately. However, she has elected to remain with T'Pol," Tarlak said, and again Archer sensed some vague displeasure.
Don't like having a Terran on your ship, huh? Serves you right.
Those two Vulcan healers were good, Hoshi conceded. That and three infusions of the green stuff on their ship had revived T'Pol from literally the brink of death. Except for a slight hesitation in her step, the subcommaner seemed almost fully recovered. At the moment, she was resting on her bed, leaning back against the wall.
"How much trouble are you in?" Hoshi asked.
"'Trouble' is not the correct word."
"T'Pol . . . ."
After a moment, the Subcommander spoke. "Surak has informed the High Council of the circumstances under which the ceremony took place," she said. "A marriage for purposes of invoking ambassadorial immunity is considered a serious infraction."
"Does it make it worse that I'm Terran?"
"Vulcan law is the same." T'Pol looked over at her. "However, the interest in examining the circumstances of our marriage might be enhanced by your Terran status," she admitted.
"What'll happen if they find out that . . . ." She didn't need to say it.
"My commission will be revoked, and I will be called back to Vulcan."
"Is that all?"
T'Pol's face remained expressionless. "I will be rendered ineligible for future representation of Vulcan. I will not be permitted to leave the planet."
"Oh, no!" What a waste, Hoshi thought. "How detailed is this investigation going to be?"
"I don't know," T'Pol said truthfully. "There is no precedent for a Vulcan-Terran marriage."
"What are they going to do?" Hoshi thought about it. "I mean, how do they know if we're faking it? For all they know, we might have been talking about getting married for ages, and you thought it was your last chance to make an honest woman out of me."
"An honest woman?"
Hoshi smiled. "Old Terran saying. You know, when you've been . . . ." She stumbled for the words. ". . . been . . . ." She waved a hand. "If you had . . . you know, when we're not married." At the Vulcan's confused look, she gave up and went back to the pertinent issue. "How will they know whether it's real or not?"
T'Pol weighed the question. "We will be questioned. Other members of the crew will likely be questioned regarding their knowledge of our relationship. They may request access to our personal logs."
"Starfleet won't allow that," Hoshi said confidently, and when T'Pol looked at her, she explained, "When I was at the Academy, the Alterians tried to get a ship captain's personal log. Starfleet issued a blanket order: No personal ship logs to anyone but Starfleet. No exceptions, at least for now."
"Then the principal means of investigation will likely be interviews."
"Really." Hoshi said it more to herself than to her companion. T'Pol could see that an idea was brewing, and decided to wait it out. "Let's think about this," Hoshi said again. "If they ask you flat out why you married me, what are you going to say?"
There could be only one response: To save the ensign's life. Perhaps it would best to refuse to answer . . . .
"Vulcans don't lie, right?" Hoshi continued, and T'Pol nodded. "But you know how to word things so that they're technically true but not really true, don't you?"
T'Pol wasn't sure she wanted to acknowledge that, but it didn't matter anyway; Hoshi was on a roll.
"So you could blab on about wanting to be married when you died or something, which technically is true, since you wanted me not to be executed if you died, which meant you'd have to marry me, which meant you wanted to be married before you died. Right?"
No answer followed, or was expected, apparently.
"Or you could say that we've spent a lot of time together and you're hot for my body, however Vulcans would say that."
Vulcans would not say it in any way, T'Pol thought.
"Or that you'd been thinking about asking me to marry you for a while before you actually did it. I mean, what's a 'while'? And since it's none of their business anyway, I'm not worried about my interview," Hoshi went on.
"Are you suggesting that we continue to proclaim ourselves married?" T'Pol finally spoke.
"That's exactly what I'm suggesting," Hoshi confirmed.
"What about the crew? They will know that we have not had a prior relationship."
"Not necessarily," Hoshi disagreed. "It's not like we would have broadcast it, since you're sort of my superior officer."
T'Pol raised an eyebrow at the 'sort of.'
"And we've got a few days before they get here." The ensign shifted quickly to the planning stage. "We can get the crew talking plenty by then. My parents!" She grabbed T'Pol's hand and began to drag her toward the communication terminal. Suddenly she stopped. "I'm sorry. I should have asked whether you even want to do this."
After a moment of consideration, T'Pol made her decision. "I do not wish to be confined to Vulcan for the rest of my life," she admitted. "If we terminate the marriage, that is the likely result. However, I do not believe that you have thought through the consequences of what you are suggesting."
Hoshi sat on the edge of the bed and looked up at her, which T'Pol interpreted as an invitation to elaborate.
"As the first Vulcan-Terran mating, our conduct will be subject to great scrutiny. Significant segments of both our home worlds do not approve of the concept."
The Terran did not respond, and T'Pol continued, "You should also be aware that it would likely be many years before you could be freed from this commitment. You will be unable to marry another during this time."
"I'd be dead if you hadn't saved me," Hoshi said. "And I plan to keep exploring for a while anyway. I'm not worried about being off the market." This wasn't a close call in her mind. "I owe you my life, and you have so much to offer the Federation. I can't stand the thought of you imprisoned on Vulcan."
T'Pol smiled slightly. "Hardly imprisoned," she objected.
"You know what I mean," Hoshi said. "I'm prepared to go through with this. If you don't want to, that's OK, but don't throw away your future just because you think it's not fair to me. I'm a big girl, and I'm OK with this."
After what seemed like forever, T'Pol nodded. "I would consent to contesting the allegations," she said.
"Good. Come on." This time, Hoshi tugged on T'Pol's hand, and the subcommander followed her to the com panel. She held out a hand to T'Pol, and sat down to press some buttons. After a few minutes, her face lit up. "Mom?"
"Hoshi?" T'Pol heard a happy female voice. "What a surprise!" The woman called out to someone, and Hoshi smiled again.
"Hi, Dad," she said. "What are you guys doing?"
T'Pol listened as the family discussed minor matters such as the parents' travel plans that day, a veterinarian's visit for her sister's feline, and other inconsequential matters.
"Um . . . ." T'Pol gathered from Hoshi's hesitation that the reason for the call had arrived. "Listen . . . ." The linguist took a deep breath. "I'm calling because I have some big news." She glanced up at T'Pol, then back at the screen. "I got married."
"What!" It sounded like both of them. "Married?" Hoshi's mother exclaimed.
"Yeah." Hoshi gave a genuine smile. "We work together on Enterprise. She's gorgeous, and brilliant, and she's actually here with me now. I want to introduce you." A moment passed. "I guess I should tell you this: She's Vulcan."
"Her name's T'Pol," Hoshi continued. She gestured for the other woman to join her in front of the screen. "Mom, Dad, this is T'Pol. My wife."
"Mr. Sato. Ms. Ragata."
Hoshi was impressed; she had forgotten to tell T'Pol her parents' names, but the Subcommander must have remembered them from her personnel file.
The silence stretched out, and Hoshi pointed out, "Look, guys, it's kind of rude not to say anything."
"Oh. Of course." Hoshi's mother spoke. "I'm sorry, T'Pol, was it?" She still looked rather dazed. "It's just . . . ."
"Yes," T'Pol replied. "I am aware that this must be a surprise to you. I hope that we may spend time together in the future and become better acquainted."
Well done, T'Pol. Hoshi smiled at her.
"Yes, of course," Mr. Sato said. "May I ask why you decided to get married now?"
"Well . . . ." Hoshi drew T'Pol's hand into hers, making sure her parents could see it. "Vulcans are old fashioned in a lot of ways. It seemed like the right thing to do." She let them draw their own conclusions. "It hasn't been that long, so we don't have our married quarters yet. And we'll probably stop by Vulcan at some point . . . ." She chattered on with her parents, who seemed to have overcome their initial shock, which was likely the same response that all Terrans would have, T'Pol surmised.
After several more minutes, the transmission ended, and Hoshi turned to T'Pol. "One down. Should we call your parents?"
"My parents are aware of the situation," T'Pol replied.
Hoshi was surprised. "They are? How do you know?"
"They will have been informed by the High Council, and likely questioned as to my prior communications regarding you."
"Oh." That didn't sound good. "So they'll know that you've never mentioned me to your parents. Well, it's not that big a deal."
"Actually, I have mentioned you favorably in prior communications," T'Pol said. She didn't elaborate.
"Really?" Hoshi said, unaccountably pleased with the disclosure. "Good. So now we need to get word out to the crew. We want them to think of us as married for as long as possible before the snoops get here. We should make an announcement."
Had she been less disciplined, T'Pol would have cringed. A public announcement of something as personal as a marriage? "Must it be one of your typical Terran spectacles?" she asked, and Hoshi laughed.
"No, I don't think that'll be necessary. If we get the word out to a couple of people, it'll get around fast enough." She chuckled at T'Pol's dubious expression. "It'll get around. Trust me."
"All right. I will make arrangements for such an announcement."
"Well, IOK." Hoshi was dying to know what T'Pol had in mind, but she didn't want the Subcommander to think that she doubted her.
"You ready?" Hoshi was at T'Pol's door.
T'Pol nodded, and the two strolled down the hall toward the mess hall.
"This shouldn't be too bad," Hoshi offered, although she had no idea how it would go.
"I am optimistic," T'Pol said. "I do not anticipate a significant number of crew to be present."
"Oh? How do you figure?"
"I stated in the message that I had an announcement of a personal nature."
Hoshi looked at her. "And you thought that would keep people away?"
"Of course. I was quite clear that the announcement is not work-related."
Right . . . "Well, we'll see," Hoshi said diplomatically. A moment later, the doors slid open to exactly what she expected to see: practically every member of the Enterprise crew crammed into the room.
T'Pol seemed slightly taken aback.
"Do you want to do this?" Hoshi whispered.
She did, and the two moved to the front of the hall. "Good evening," T'Pol said without preamble.
"As stated in my message, I have an announcement to make." She paused, saw that she had their complete attention, and continued in Vulcan. "On this solemn occasion . . ."
At her side, Hoshi began translating the words into English.
". . . and thus it is that I have been fortunate to encounter a suitable mate. Accordingly, I wish to announce to all present that I have recently married." She paused, then nodded at Hoshi. "Ensign Hoshi Sato."
Archer's jaw dropped. T'Pol married? He found his voice. "Wow," he said slowly, shaking his head. "Anyone we know?"
"Captain?" T'Pol replied.
"Who's the lucky guy?"
T'Pol was confused. She held out a hand toward Hoshi. "Ensign Hoshi Sato," she repeated.
"What?" This time the exclamation was from Trip Tucker. "You and Hoshi?"
Archer was equally shocked. He had assumed T'Pol was just acknowledging her translator earlier. T'Pol and Hoshi?
In case anyone was still out of the loop, Hoshi stepped closer and curled an arm around T'Pol's waist. The room was unnaturally quiet, but what did they expect? A Vulcan-Terran pairing was unheard of, let alone two key members of the crew who had never hinted at a romantic involvement.
"We wanted to wait until T'Pol could formally tell her parents, but who knows when that might be?" she explained. "There really wasn't any other reason to keep it under wraps." Still nothing from their audience. "And we plan to move into married quarters, so we figured that might clue some people in."
Married quarters . . . That raised an entirely new image that Archer would rather not have in his head.
"Anyway," Hoshi's voice flowed again. "Everyone, please have a drink on us, to celebrate."
Archer interrupted. "I think Enterprise can spare one round of drinks for big news like this," he said. "Actually," he decided. "Make that a full-blown wedding party, 1900 tonight."
Hoshi squeezed T'Pol's arm. "Sorry," she whispered.
"So, where are you and Hoshi going for the honeymoon?" crew member Gibson asked.
T'Pol had no idea what she was talking about. "'Honeymoon'?" she repeated.
"You know: sun, sand, and sex." The woman seemed a little intoxicated, T'Pol noticed; otherwise, she was unlikely to be talking to her in such a manner.
"I am unfamiliar with that concept."
"Well, did you do anything special after the wedding?"
"We returned to duty," T'Pol replied.
As the evening wore on, it was not difficult for T'Pol to overhear the woman talking with other friends.
"Poor Hoshi. No honeymoon, no nothing," she said. "T'Pol didn't even know what it was. Hoshi's so fun-loving; what in the world would she see in someone like that?"
The other two shrugged. "Who knows?" one of them said in a conspiratorial whisper. "Maybe she has other things to offer."
"You think? Maybe those ears do tricks."
Across the room, Hoshi was feeling a little tipsy herself when she wandered into a conversation between two arrogant asses who had drunkenly stumbled upon a common theme: A Vulcan-Terran marriage was a bad idea.
"It just ain't right, marrying a Vulcan," Tucker slurred. "No sense of humor, no feelings, none of that stuff. Not to mention . . . .you know." He waggled a hand. "Hoshi's just plum crazy."
OK, that was it. She'd heard one too many of those comments tonight. Hoshi marched up to the two men. "You want to know what I see in T'Pol?" she said. "We have similar interests. We enjoy each other's company. I'd rather be with her than anyone else." So far, it was all true, at least from Hoshi's point of view. "And as for Vulcans in bed: Don't knock it until you've tried it," she said loudly.
She sensed that T'Pol had come up behind her, and she turned and planted a wet kiss on her uncomfortable spouse. When it broke off, T'Pol spoke softly. "Hoshi, shall we go?"
"You bet!" Taking T'Pol by the hand, Hoshi strode off.
The next day, she set her tray down at a table where T'Pol sat alone. Hoshi wouldn't have minded joining the loud table nearby, where it looked as though they were playing some kind of game, but appearances were important. So they would pass another meal saying very little to each other in this awkward way they had developed. It wasn't that bad.
Today, though, quickly proved to be different.
"I have located a number of nearby planets that have both visible suns and granular substances similar to sand," T'Pol announced without preamble.
"Um . . . well, that's good, I guess," Hoshi said, not certain of the point.
"I plan to ask Captain Archer to offer shore leave for the crew at one of these planets." She showed her padd to Hoshi. "Do you have a preference?"
"Me?" She looked down at the data. "No, they all look about the same."
"All right, then, I will leave the choice to the Captain." She activated another screen. "I have outlined a tentative schedule that will permit us to engage in various outdoor activities, along with sexual intercourse throughout the day."
Hoshi choked on her coffee. "Excuse me?" She lowered her voice. "Did you say 'sexual intercourse'?"
"Yes," T'Pol confirmed. "I assumed that you would wish to engage in sexual intercourse two to three times per day during this interval." She triggered yet another screen. "After our return to the ship, I have composed an initial sexual intercourse schedule so as to average 3.4 times per week, if that is consistent with your wishes. I believe that to be"
In the same instant that she slammed her tray down on the table, Hoshi shot to her feet. T'Pol was perplexed; Hoshi did not appear to be as pleased by her efforts as the Vulcan had expected.
"You know what?" Hoshi growled quietly. "I don't need your charity." Louder, she exclaimed, "I don't believe you!" and stormed out of the mess hall.
Conscious that all eyes were on her but far more concerned about how she had misjudged the situation, T'Pol rose. It didn't seem likely that Hoshi would wish to speak to her if she sought her out. She headed for the bridge.
"Looks like trouble in paradise already," Trip Tucker said with some glee.
In her quarters, Hoshi reached the opposite wall and spun around again. How humiliating. T'Pol had obviously heard about her comments at the party, and thought that Hoshi wanted to have sex. But that had just been the alcohol talking more specifically, Gbett alcohol, saved for a special occasion from an earlier trade mission, and which turned out to be 100 proof when consumed by humans.
So, T'Pol thought Hoshi wanted to have sex, and was trying to give her what she thought Hoshi wanted. God, that was really kind of sweet. Hoshi felt terrible for yelling at her.
On the bridge later, she waited for the first chance that the two of them were relatively alone in their area. They turned to each other at the same moment.
"I'm sorry," Hoshi said quietly. "I think I know what you were doing, and it was really sweet. I'm sorry that I yelled at you. I won't do it again."
T'Pol raised an eyebrow, and Hoshi laughed.
"OK, I'll try not to do it again," she said. "I am human, you know."
Two women in athletic workout shirts and thigh-length shorts walked together toward the handball court. Against her will, Hoshi found herself sneaking a peak at T'Pol's body again.
She wasn't the only one: Half a dozen crew members had practically given themselves whiplash craning their necks to watch the Vulcan stride by, T'Pol oblivious as usual to their attention, her stride as dignified and measured as if she were at a diplomatic function.
Still Hoshi glanced over at T'Pol's thighs again she was glad she had talked the Vulcan into wearing something more appropriate than a bodysuit for this little competition, which Hoshi scheduled mostly to take her mind off what would be happening the following day.
OK, Hoshi, don't chicken out now. "T'Pol?" she began.
"When the investigators get here tomorrow . . . ."
"Are they going to ask anything about . . . ."
"About . . . the physical aspects of our marriage?"
"The physical aspects?" T'Pol queried.
"Don't married Vulcans have sex?"
"'Yes' they're going to ask about it?"
"Well, do you think they'll come right out and ask us if we've had sex?"
"Perhaps." T'Pol glanced over at the other woman. Apparently, the ensign was going to remain silent until further explanation was forthcoming. "Many Vulcans assume that Humans are incompatible with Vulcans physically. The absence of a sexual relationship could support the conclusion that we are not truly married. Or it could simply evidence the incompatibility."
Hoshi thought about it. "Meaning they might agree that we're married, but just figure that we can't have sex for some reason?"
"I think I'll just tell them it's private, and they can go to hell," Hoshi declared.
That would not work for a Vulcan, T'Pol knew. She would have to consider the best possible response under the circumstances.
"Have you ever had sex with a human?" Hoshi suddenly asked.
T'Pol was surprised by the question. "I have not," she replied.
"How about a woman?"
"No." Uncharacteristically, T'Pol couldn't resist. "Have you?"
Hoshi smiled. "My parents weren't surprised when I said 'she', were they?" she pointed out.
They reached the rec room. "Last chance for you to beg off," Hoshi declared. At the arch of T'Pol's eyebrow, she laughed. "Just because you're faster and stronger doesn't necessarily mean that you're going to kick my butt," she said.
The Vulcan remained silent.
"OK, so you're going to kick my butt," Hoshi conceded. "But I'm not going down without a fight."
A short code entered into a keypad gained them entrance to the handball court. As predicted, T'Pol defeated her Terran opponent handily, but found herself enjoying Hoshi's running commentary.
"It's the gravity," Hoshi panted, resting one hand against the wall, having just missed game point.
"Gravity?" That was a new theory.
"Not here." Hoshi waved her hand. "On Vulcan. You're lighter on your feet because you're used to heavier gravity."
It was the fourth theory proffered as to the Vulcan's superiority at this event. "No doubt," T'Pol said diplomatically.
Hoshi laughed, and then spent a moment examining the Vulcan. Her skin was glowing, her figure . . . perfect. "You really have a fantastic body," she said without thinking.
She's your wife. You could touch her if you wanted to. The thought entered Hoshi's head before she could stop it. No, you can't. You do not want to touch her. You are not going to Without realizing it, Hoshi had taken three steps until she stood directly facing the subcommander. She reached out a hand, and laid it on T'Pol's upper arm, then trailed it down to the Vulcan's hand.
A silence followed, and then Hoshi spoke again. "T'Pol, why don't we" "Try it out?" she almost finished, but she lost her nerve. Plus she respected the woman too much to make it sound like some experiment.
"Why don't we what, Ensign?" T'Pol seemed to realize that her use of the title was inappropriate, and she added, "Hoshi."
"I would prefer that you finish your question."
"Look, it was just it was stupid, OK?"
"I might not agree."
Hoshi tossed the small ball against a side of the room and watched it bounce off the back wall. "I was going to suggest that we . . . maybe . . . try a kiss or something before they get here. It was just an idea. I'm still light headed from getting my ass kicked so many times."
Did she mean . . . ? "'All right' what?" Hoshi asked, wanting to be certain.
"I am referring to your suggestion of a kiss."
"Do you really want to?"
"If you wish."
Not exactly the passionate entreaty she had hoped for. "Never mind," Hoshi sighed. Shaking her head, she began to turn away.
A hand suddenly gripped her arm, and T'Pol gently turned Hoshi back around. It was then that Hoshi realized that T'Pol wanted to, or was at least interested, but wouldn't show it.
Hoshi took another step closer, and now their bodies were nearly touching. She placed her hands on the Vulcan's shoulders, and leaned in for a kiss. After a moment, her arms extended around T'Pol's neck, and she deepened it.
After a while, her left hand slid down to T'Pol's breast. Her mind registered happily that T'Pol's breathing had quickened.
Outside the rec room, Trip Tucker reached up to type in his override code. "Nah, I checked when shift ended, there wasn't anyone signed up then," he said. The door slid open quietly, and he and Reed stepped into the handball court.
"Oh, dear!" Reed exclaimed.
Lying on the floor were the ship's communication officer and its second in command, locked in a heated embrace. Hoshi's hand caressed the other woman's breast. T'Pol's hand gripped the back of Hoshi's neck. They were kissing deeply as they pressed against each other. Moving on top of T'Pol, Hoshi slid her hand down the Vulcan's waist and inside her shorts, groaning at the sensation.
Tucker sputtered a quick, "Sorry, ladies!"
The other lieutenant just gawked.
Jerking her head around at the intrusion, Hoshi drew her hand up back to T'Pol's stomach.
"Commander," T'Pol chided, a little out of breath. "We have reserved the court for another twenty minutes."
"Well, if that's all you're going to use it for, whyn't you go back to your quarters?" he complained.
The two women looked at each other.
It would be more romantic, Hoshi decided. Her hand practically tingled in desperation to finish what it had started. "Your quarters or mine?" T'Pol's heated expression sent a surge of heat through her as an image of that beautiful face between her thighs flashed into Hoshi's brain.
"Mine are closer," T'Pol pointed out.
"Deal!" Hoshi exclaimed. "Thanks for the suggestion, Lieutenant." They picked themselves up off the floor, straightened their clothing, and, with a surprisingly dignified nod from T'Pol, headed down the hall. Tucker and Reed watched as Hoshi hooked an arm through T'Pol's and leaned against her.
"Great. Now I've gotta have *that* image stuck in my head," Tucker groused, unzipping the bag to draw out his paddles.
"Oh, good grief!"
Changing from her uniform into a comfortable robe, T'Pol glanced over at her companion's exclamation. The communications officer had just accessed her personal messages from their shared computer table.
"Forty-seven more," Hoshi counted. "Just since we went to dinner."
"We are fortunate that interest has 'died down,'" T'Pol said, sitting on the bed.
Hoshi narrowed her eyes at her. Two months ago, the ensign had optimistically insisted that, after the initial torrent of publicity, people would lose interest in the first Terran-Vulcan marriage and everything would die down. At least once a week, usually following a fresh barrage of media requests, T'Pol would helpfully remind her of her earlier prediction.
"I wonder how much interest there would be in the first Terran-Vulcan divorce," she said, and T'Pol couldn't help the slight smile.
Scrolling through the messages, it looked like another day of pressing the macro keys for "Thank you for your interest. At this time, we are not in a position to grant interviews," but suddenly a familiar name caught her eye. "Oh, my goshit's Trena Wallace! We went to high school together." She skimmed the text. "She works for the local broadcast station now."
When nothing further was said, T'Pol looked over at her. Hoshi's expression was half apologetic, half hopeful.
T'Pol arched an eyebrow, and Hoshi grinned at her.
"Very well," T'Pol said, a bit dramatically by Vulcan standards. "I will look to you for guidance on appropriate comments."
"It'll be easy," Hoshi said lightly. "You just talk about how wonderful I am, and I'll talk about what it's like being married to a Vulcan."
"I have the more difficult task," T'Pol said.
Hoshi smirked. Rising from her seat, she walked over to the bed. "Don't worry," she said, taking T'Pol's face gently in her hands. "I'll tell them it's worth it." She pressed her lips to her wife's. "But I'll need a reminder." She reached for the belt on T'Pol's robe. "Computer, dim lights . . . ."
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