Name: Della Street
Email: (none)
Title: SPEAKING THE LANGUAGE
Disclaimer: A loving F/F relationship, nothing too explicit
Fandom: Star Trek: Enterprise
Pairing: Hoshi/T�Pol
Rating: PG-13
Summary: T�Pol and Hoshi meet up years after leaving Enterprise
Spoilers: None

SPEAKING THE LANGUAGE

"Did you hear?"

Professor Sato looked up from today�s outline into the face of her excited student. "Hear what?"

"They�ve announced where the President�s speech is going to be," the girl exclaimed.

Hoshi waited patiently for her to continue.

"Here!" She pointed at the floor.

"Here? At USF?" Hoshi was stunned. The University of San Francisco was a pleasant, intimate campus, not one of the larger or, frankly, more prestigious schools. No United Federation of Planets president had ever visited the university, let alone given a speech there to be broadcast throughout earth and all other members of the United Federation of Planets.

For security reasons, the site of the speech had been kept under wraps until the day before the event, but most observers assumed that, if it were on earth, it would be in New York City or Geneva. At USF? For just an instant, Hoshi wondered: Could it be . . . She rolled her eyes. Don�t be silly.

"That�s amazing," she agreed. "Did you hear anything about who gets to attend?"

"I think there�s some kind of drawing or something," the girl bubbled. "It�s by department."

Hoshi smiled; funny how words like "drawing" continued to be part of the vocabulary long after they had outlasted their original meaning. But if Marisa was correct, she needed to move quickly to submit a request on behalf of her department. The odds weren�t good, of course; every other department had probably already applied, but she had to try. She couldn�t pass this up, not after all these years.

* * * * *

Hoshi gestured for her students to follow the security officers. Trailing behind them, she glanced up at the stage, but of course no one was there yet. Try a little maturity, she told herself; you are a grown woman. She slid into the aisle seat, pleasantly surprised; these were terrific seats. They had passed a number of diplomatic types who undoubtedly would like to have exchanged places with her young charges, but Hoshi had no intention of extending the courtesy. One of the perqs of working for the host, she figured.

Nearly an hour later, Bill Glover, president of the university, stepped out onto the stage, followed by two men and two women who Hoshi suspected were security officers, and then � her. As dignified and impressive as ever. Hoshi was mesmerized. If possible, the Vulcan was even more beautiful than when they had met fourteen years earlier.

There were sounds uttering from Bill�s mouth, Hoshi was vaguely aware, but all of her senses were focused on the magnificent woman seated to his left. Now, T�Pol was rising, and gliding, it seemed, to the podium.

"I thank President Glover for that favorable, if misleading, introduction," she began, and Hoshi joined in the laughter. Humor, T�Pol? Guess some of those human traits did rub off on you.

"I am gratified for the opportunity to discuss the peace accord reached last month in the Anterian sector," T�Pol continued. "That achievement, of course, was due to the good will and selflessness of each of the eleven world representatives . . . ."

As T�Pol acknowledged by name each of the presidents or consulates or premiers of those barbaric regions, actually managing to make them sound civilized, Hoshi concentrated on the other woman�s face. Everyone knew that those planets had been at war for hundreds of years; how T�Pol even got them into the same room without killing each other was the subject of much speculation.

"I began the negotiations by recounting an event which I had never disclosed before." T�Pol�s words regained Hoshi�s attention. "Some of you may know that, for several years, I served on the Federation starship Enterprise under Captain Jonathan Archer. My interaction with humans had been somewhat limited, and during one away mission, I was paired with a young ensign who, I soon learned, did not seem in the least intimidated by my superior rank."

T�Pol paused, and Hoshi waited. Would this be a story she�d heard before?

"We initially landed in a thriving metropolitan area, with rather pleasing landscape and weather. After completing trade discussions, however, our shuttle experienced a power failure during an electrical storm, and we crash landed a few hundred kilometers away. Due to the atmospheric conditions and damage to our equipment, we were unable to communicate with Enterprise to inform them that we had concluded our business and were now stranded."

Oh, my God . . .

Hoshi remembered it well.

"The weather in this area was . . . rather unique," T�Pol continued, with what Hoshi recognized as something close to a smile. "At times, it was so warm that the ensign and I were compelled to remove most of our attire. At other times, the temperature would drop without warning, and we struggled to generate sufficient heat to survive."

Hoshi grinned. She remembered both with equal pleasure: Watching T�Pol stroll around with nothing on but thin undergarments, and huddling together with the Vulcan under shared blankets.

"As we walked to the nearest populated area, my talkative companion became preoccupied with speculating as to why the outlying colonists did not move to the more pleasant environs relatively near by."

Hoshi smiled at the gibe. As she recalled, T�Pol had eventually chimed in with a few guesses of her own.

"After a three-day trek, the ensign and I arrived at a colony, and were able to communicate with our ship. While awaiting a shuttle from Enterprise, the ensign could not resist asking the premier why they did not move to the main colony. His reply was rather enlightening." T�Pol paused. "�Why would we?�"

"Why would we?"

Hoshi said softly at the same time.

"That experience illustrated two principles essential to negotiation." T�Pol moved into the main topic of her presentation. "First, it is arrogant to assume that others share our same priorities and perceptions. The colonists might have been perfectly content with what we found rather distressing circumstances. Second, the status quo may at times reflect tradition more than a conscious decision. Perhaps the two colonies had been settled by unrelated factions who were unaware of each other at the time. Learning which principles might explain the colony�s location would have required exploration of cultural perspectives. Unfortunately, we did not have the time to do so during our visit, but that process of understanding formed the basis of our recent negotiations at Anteria."

Hoshi was mesmerized. Knowing that T�Pol remembered her, was talking about her, pleased her more than it should have. Oh, what the hell � attention from the subcommander had always been a thrill. Hoshi had no problem admitting it to herself. Why should it be different just because she was now a tenured professor? After all, T�Pol�s remarkable rise to power after her return from Enterprise had just made the woman even more alluring.

Too soon for Hoshi, the speech was over, a brief nod the only acknowledgment of the crowd�s applause. Suddenly, the urgency for Hoshi became finding a way to see T�Pol again before she left. Surely she knew that Hoshi was at USF now; even if the site had been a coincidence, wouldn�t her staff have told her? Would she have time to see her? Would she care enough?

Hoshi searched the stage for the university president. Glover could get word to T�Pol. It might be embarrassing if she declined, but Hoshi was past caring about that. Besides, T�Pol could be counted on to be polite, or at least she could nine years ago when they all parted ways. She would likely spare Hoshi a few words.

She felt a slight touch on her shoulder. "Professor Sato?" She turned slightly, looking into the expressionless face of an undercover security officer if ever she�d seen one.

"Yes?"

"President T�Pol requests that you join her party for dinner, if you can spare the time."

Yes!

"I�d love to! Where should I meet you?"

Hoshi listened carefully to the instructions, and calculated that she had plenty of time to go home and change into something a little less professorial.

* * * * *

Waiting in the expensively decked out lobby, Hoshi watched idly as the guests behind her went through the security checks. Most of them probably had no idea why they were undergoing such a thorough scan just to enter their exclusive hotel. She glanced around, wondering who else might be joining them. Glover for one, probably; it wasn�t like the university president to pass up a schmoozing opportunity of this magnitude.

"Hoshi."

At the familiar murmur of her name, Hoshi whirled around. "T�Pol!" She couldn�t help it; she took two quick steps and threw her arms around her former commander.

Two security officers immediately stepped forward � no one was allowed to touch the President (and, in fact, they had never seen anyone try) � but T�Pol held them off with a slight shake of her head. She placed her hands lightly on the other woman�s waist until the hug ended.

"I�m sorry," Hoshi said, backing away. "I�m just glad to see you after all these years. I wasn�t sure you�d remember me." She smiled shyly, realizing that she was babbling a bit.

"I am surprised to hear that," said T�Pol, and she was. She remembered the wry young ensign quite well, and the mature professor was even more impressive. "Surely you have not forgotten our experiences aboard Enterprise."

Hoshi laughed. "Hardly."

"Ah, Madame President!" Bill Glover thrust out a hand but, when T�Pol merely raised an eyebrow, quickly withdrew it. He had forgotten her staff�s instructions. He then noticed the woman standing next to her. "Hoshi? What are you doing here?"

"Professor Sato and I are old acquaintances," T�Pol replied for her. "I hope to renew our relationship over dinner."

Sounded good to Hoshi. T�Pol followed with a few introductions: Ma�acr, her long-time security manager; Trrai, his second in command; Wilson, her top civil aide; and Brith, her something or other. They had all been with T�Pol for her entire six years in federation government. No surprise there, Hoshi figured; who wouldn�t want to be at the side of such a charismatic leader? Their small group would be meeting the ambassador from Earth and some of his staffers at the restaurant, apparently.

Normally, Hoshi would have been delighted with such prestigious company, but tonight she cared only about one person. She hoped that T�Pol�s earlier words meant they would be seated together, but she doubted it with such high-profile guests wanting the president�s ear. Her suspicions were reinforced when the two women were separated in the crafts that guided them to the restaurant. Still, the security chief proved to be a pleasant conversationalist.

In the restaurant lobby, Hoshi milled with T�Pol and Ma�acr while security again swept the area and everyone in it. She desperately wanted to talk with T�Pol, but now didn�t seem the best time.

"Do you wish to be escorted now, or wait until the rest of your party arrives?" an officious maitre de breathed at T�Pol.

"We will wait here," Ma�acr replied, and the stranger bowed and departed.

Watching him stride away, Hoshi couldn�t resist asking, "Have you had problems with the Tarmalians?"

Ma�acr was surprised to hear the President answer without reservation. "Three years ago, the Federation imposed sanctions on Tarmali for aggressiveness toward a neighboring planet," T�Pol said. "How are you aware of that?" The negotiations, and the discipline itself, had been largely confidential.

Hoshi jerked her head toward the departed restaurant official. "He hates you."

T�Pol raised an eyebrow, which Hoshi recognized as a request for elaboration.

"His breathing," she explained. "Normally, Tarmalians breath in twice and out once, but when they�re angry, it�s reversed: Out out in. I wouldn�t worry too much about tipping him."

"President." The nervous speaker was from the earth representative�s staff, Hoshi recalled. "I apologize again for the ambassador�s delay. It was unavoidable."

T�Pol held up a hand to forestall whatever else he was going to say. She was in no hurry for the blustery ambassador to intrude upon their amiable group. Perhaps she and Hoshi could find some place to speak privately until everyone had gathered . . . .

"You know, your Dshic is really remarkable." Her attention returned to Hoshi, who was complimenting her security chief. "It�s the best I�ve ever heard."

Ma�acr looked at her. "I am a native of Dsh," he said. "It is not a second language."

"Really?"

T�Pol listened with mild interest. Ma�acr had been born and raised in Dsh; his background had of course had checked quite thoroughly before he joined her staff.

"Wow." Hoshi shook her head. "I would have sworn . . . ." She smiled, willing to admit when she was wrong, but wanting to satisfy her curiosity. "Can you do the rrrch?" She demonstrated the sound.

Dismayed, Ma�acr looked at the President, but she seemed amused by it all. He sighed, a bit dramatically. "Rrrch," he repeated. It was identical to Hoshi�s.

"See?" Hoshi said. "That�s what I mean. You can�t do it either." She turned to T�Pol. "You have to be born on Dsh to make the sound without the squeak. It�s an atmospheric adaptation to the throat that occurs at birth." She spoke again to the officer. "You must have been born while your parents were off world."

Ma�acr did not hide his irritation. "I�m afraid you are inexperienced with Dshic dialect," he replied. "It is not a surprising mistake for an earth-bound linguist to make."

T�Pol studied him. Ma�acr was a long-trusted aide who had been diligent in securing her safety over the years. He had proved beyond doubt that he was born in the province of Brnd on Dsh. But Hoshi Sato was the most gifted linguist T�Pol had ever encountered. She had trusted Hoshi with her life many times on Enterprise, and she was about to do so again.

"Ma�acr," T�Pol said quietly. "Give me your weapon."

Hoshi looked at her in surprise. She hadn�t meant to cause a stir.

The security officer stared at his superior, clearly stunned.

"Simply until we verify the information," T�Pol added.

Ma�acr suddenly drew his phaser, aiming first at the other three security officers, then at T�Pol. The blast hit her directly in the chest, and she crumpled.

Hoshi reacted instinctively. She reached down and grabbed a phaser from an unconscious security officer, then spun around and fired repeatedly in Ma�acr�s general direction. Whether by instinct or design, she hit her target, and the security director went flying onto his back. Scrambling over to T�Pol�s prone body, she grasped the phaser with one hand while checking for signs of life with the other. She heard a noise, someone running toward them, and lay her body across T�Pol�s.

"Step away from her." The voice was Trrai�s, and Hoshi looked up at a phaser pointed directly at her.

"He shot her!" Hoshi said frantically. "Get a doctor!"

Trrai didn�t move, and it took Hoshi a moment to realize what he was thinking. Oh, shit. Surrounded by dead or stunned security officers, and T�Pol � who knew how badly she was hurt. Hoshi carefully laid the phaser on the ground and then, hoping they wouldn�t shoot her, turned her attention back to the President. She was still alive, thank God. Ma�acr had been forced to shoot quickly, and apparently kept his phaser on stun.

Someone joined Hoshi at T�Pol�s side, and she was relieved to see that it was a doctor. Trrai took her arm and forcefully pulled her away. Hoshi shook off his hand, and watched the physician work on the fallen president.

Security arrived in droves, and curious onlookers were herded away while Trrai began his interrogation of Hoshi, who glanced over at the several doctors now blocking her view of T�Pol.

"I keep telling you, I don�t know why he did it," she repeated with some irritation. "All I said was that he must not have been born on Dsh, and the next thing I know, he starts shooting. How is she?"

Trrai had no intention of answering. The President had spoken favorably of Sato, and had chosen to speak at the University of San Francisco because the linguist taught there, but their acquaintance had been nearly a decade ago, a lifetime by espionage standards.

"Is she awake?"

Again, Trrai did not respond, but T�Pol did. Rousing to consciousness, she looked up at the worried Terrans looming over her. The professor was not among them. "Hoshi?" she asked. She cleared her voice. "Where is Hoshi Sato?" she said, her voice a bit stronger.

The senior physician turned to Trrai. "She is asking about a Hoshi Sato?"

Hoshi started for her, but Trrai grabbed her arm. T�Pol could be asking for Sato, or naming her as the assassin. With the professor�s arm in hand, he walked her over to where his President lay.

"Are you all right?" T�Pol asked her.

Hoshi glared pointedly at Trrai, and he withdrew his grip, allowing the woman to drop to her knees. "Hey," she said softly. "I suppose you�re going to use this as an excuse to get out of buying me dinner."

"There might be a slight delay," T�Pol acknowledged wryly. "But do not underestimate federation resourcefulness."

* * * * *

"To Enterprise." Hoshi held up her glass of wine. T�Pol had been around Terrans enough to know what was expected, and met Hoshi�s toast with her own glass of water.

The two were alone in T�Pol�s hotel suite, and, Hoshi had to admit, the evening had worked out much better than a stuffy dinner surrounded by politicians and a pompous university president would have. Once she had overcome her guilt at sparking the attack with her innocent comments, Hoshi was delighted. The dinner had been delicious, and the company . . . exquisite.

Over the past few hours, they had reminisced about their five years together on Enterprise, caught up on most of their colleagues� whereabouts, and shared stories of their lives and achievements since then. T�Pol had, of course, volunteered less information about her own remarkable accomplishments, but the professor could read between the lines. There was only one thing they hadn�t talked about, and Hoshi decided she couldn�t live with that.

"With a schedule like that, it sounds kind of lonely," she ventured.

"Loneliness is an emotion," T�Pol replied, as if that were the end of the discussion. To her, it probably was.

Hoshi wanted to groan. She should have seen that one coming. Looks like it�s twenty questions, she thought. Or maybe just one. Just be a woman and come out with it, Hoshi.

"Have you ever married, T�Pol?" she asked bluntly.

T�Pol looked at her. "No," she replied. "And you?"

For some reason, Hoshi was surprised at the question. "No."

Now T�Pol was the inquisitor. "And are you lonely?"

"Um . . ." Why would T�Pol ask something like that? "Not really. I like my job, and it keeps me busy."

"Do you have a steady companion?"

"No," she answered truthfully. "Not steady."

"I was surprised to learn that you did not end up with one of the crew from Enterprise," T�Pol continued.

"From Enterprise? Why would you think that?"

"A significant number of the crew found you attractive," she said.

"What?" Hoshi was shocked, not so much at the words but who was saying them. "How do you know that?"

"I have superior hearing," the Vulcan replied calmly. "I overheard many such remarks."

"And how many did you hear about yourself?" Silence followed, and Hoshi laughed. "I thought so. Everyone thought you were unbelievably sexy."

T�Pol�s next question again surprised Hoshi. "Everyone?"

Hoshi wasn�t sure exactly what she was asking. "Well, everyone I knew, anyway. They all had it for you."

"And did you �have it� for anyone?"

Hoshi was conscious of the growing silence. "Maybe," she said finally. "But I don�t think you want to hear about that."

"On the contrary. I would very much like to hear about it."

"It doesn�t matter; it was in the past. You know, I was young, I still got crushes."

"Please tell me."

Hoshi had never heard such an entreaty from T�Pol�s lips, and she couldn�t refuse it. So what if she was humiliated? T�Pol wasn�t the kind to rub it in. Still, she wanted a little more distance between them than three feet of couch. She rose and walked over to the kitchen counter, pouring herself some more wine. "Well, if you must know, I had a crush on you." She took a sip, delaying her return to the couch and the look that was probably on T�Pol�s face.

"I found you appealing as well."

Hoshi froze. "You did? You�re kidding."

"I do not �kid,� as you know," the Vulcan replied. "I did not consider the attraction logical considering our positions, but I did find you . . . intriguing."

"I wish I�d known that then." Hoshi left the rest unsaid: because I would have . . .

"That would not have been advisable," T�Pol said.

"I suppose." She thought about it, and made a decision. "What about now?"

"Now?"

"Do you ever . . . have companionship?"

"I assume you are referring to sexual companionship."

"Yes." Hoshi�s back was still turned toward the couch.

After a moment, she heard T�Pol�s voice close behind her. "Your appeal has only been enhanced by the passage of time."

That wasn�t exactly answering her question, but it sent Hoshi�s heart fluttering. She turned slowly, and her arms eased around T�Pol�s neck. What the hell. "Let�s go to bed."

* * * * *

With a soft groan, T�Pol slid off Hoshi onto the bed beside her.

"Wow," Hoshi muttered. "That was . . . God . . . T�Pol . . . I don�t know what to say."

"Professor Sato�s noted linguistic skills have deteriorated over the years, I see."

Hoshi smiled, and rolled on top of her. "Oh, I don�t know. You know what they say about linguists . . ." Growling her intentions in Vulcan, she began working her lips down T�Pol�s body.

* * * * *

Hoshi woke after only a few hours� sleep, and wasn�t surprised to find the space beside her empty. After a luxurious stretch, she slipped into the robe that T�Pol had thoughtfully laid out on a chair.

The suite had several rooms, but she headed for the noise she heard in the kitchen. There, she spied T�Pol holding a container of something in each hand. Hoshi edged up behind her, and slid her arms around the other woman�s waist. "Mmm," she said into T�Pol�s neck. "I don�t have to leave for a while. Why don�t you come back to bed, and I�ll give you another linguistics lesson?"

A noise to her left alerted Hoshi to the fact that they weren�t alone. Great. Could it be any more embarrassing? She acknowledged the two men she now standing in the dining area. "Trrai." She didn�t know the other.

Trrai hid his surprise well. In his six years with the President, she had not entertained a guest in this manner. His intelligence on the Sato woman had been inadequate; he had no idea the two women were intimate acquaintances.

T�Pol didn�t seem to be bothered by what the men had witnessed, Hoshi noticed, but then she rarely seemed bothered by anything. Now, hot and bothered, maybe; Hoshi�d had the pleasure � several times � of experiencing that last night.

For the next hour, Hoshi nursed a hot tea while T�Pol discussed upcoming plans with Trrai and, she had learned, the Trackan who was her diplomatic liaison to the planet they were to visit next.

"Can you join us today?" T�Pol asked when the planning session ended.

Hoshi shook her head regretfully. "I have class this morning. Will you be around this afternoon?"

"Possibly," T�Pol replied, to Trrai�s surprise. They were scheduled to leave Earth before midday.

Hoshi rose. "Well, I�ve got to get around." T�Pol followed her to the master bedroom and watched Hoshi slip into her clothes from the day before. If the professor hurried, she would have just enough time to stop at her apartment for a quick shower and clothing change before class.

But first . . . She stepped close to her former commander. "Do you have a girl in every port, T�Pol?" she asked.

"I�m sorry?"

"Nothing; an old earth expression. It doesn�t matter." She leaned over and kissed T�Pol. "Thank you. Last night was wonderful."

"Quite."

After her friend�s departure, T�Pol found her attention wandering. "I wish to meditate," she told Trrai, and the two men bowed and took their leave.

T�Pol turned her thoughts inward for a while, then uttered a command. "Computer, explain the Terran phrase, �girl in every port.�" She listened as the computer complied. "Computer, show last night�s assassination attempt." She watched as the action unfolded, then spoke again. "Freeze replay." There it was again: Hoshi leaning over her, shielding her body when she thought another assassin was approaching.

* * * * *

Hurrying into her classroom � this was the first time she�d ever been late, but at least it was only three minutes � the teacher was greeted with thunderous applause and whistles.

"Nice save, Professor," Marisa yelled from the third row.

"What are you talking about?"

"It�s all over the news: �Prof saves life of UFP President,�" replied a young man seated near the podium.

"Oh, great," Hoshi groaned. "I�m sure they�re blowing it out of proportion."

"No way � check it out." The student passed her a handheld, and she watched the events unfold from the restaurant�s security monitors. God, it was so close. If T�Pol hadn�t insisted that her security officers keep their phasers on stun . . . .

She quickly handed it back. "OK, enough of that. �Right place, right time,� and all that. Let�s talk about Klingon grammar."

* * *

"President, please reconsider." Trrai asked for the third time. "We should ask Professor Sato to join us in a more secure area."

"I wish to do this," T�Pol said. She nearly added, Do not question me again, but did not want to sound petulant.

The source of his dismay was the blatantly exposed hallway of the University of San Francisco, protected by only a dozen guards who, though ordered to dress informally, stood out quite plainly for what they were. Trrai hated to see the president exposed to risk again so soon after last night�s close call. He hadn�t seen that one coming, and that was something he planned to make up for.

The group slowed, and he assumed they had arrived at Classroom 47. A lead guard opened the door, and security officers swept in, followed by T�Pol.

The interruption startled Hoshi, who watched as several strangers fanned out inside the doorway, and then--

As one, the class turned to see what their professor was staring at, and a rumble began immediately. The President . . .

Behind two of her guard, T�Pol made her way down to Hoshi. "I apologize for interrupting your lecture, Professor Sato," she said.

"No problem. Looking for a linguistics lesson?" It was a little bold considering that two hundred students were gaping at them, but it was impossible to ignore last night�s passion when its object was standing only a few feet from her.

"There is no one else from whom I would seek such a lesson," T�Pol replied, then addressed the class. "Professor Sato�s linguistic skills came in quite useful last night."

Looks like I�m not the only one who likes to do a little teasing,

Hoshi decided.

"But perhaps your students would prefer to hear tales of our exploits on Enterprise," the Vulcan continued.

A general murmur from the students indicated that, hell yes, they�d like to hear about Enterprise. Hoshi had told a few stories, but usually just to illustrate some first-contact principle. Nothing really juicy.

"Um, I don�t think that�s a good idea," Hoshi said nervously. She didn�t entirely trust T�Pol, who seemed to be in a frisky mood.

* * * * *

A head appeared in Professor Thuitt�s classroom. "Troy? Where is everyone?"

"Hell if I know." Thuitt waved a hand, indicating row upon row of empty seats. "I�ll be back," he announced, hoping not to lose the six students who had actually shown up for his class.

It wasn�t a hard trail to follow. He watched the last of a group of students undergo a security scan, then squeeze into Hoshi Sato�s classroom. Thuitt�s curiosity overcame him, and he approached the security guards, raising his arms as the scanning process began. A moment later, he stepped into a classroom that was now literally standing room only, students and staff from throughout the university lined up along the walls.

"Unfortunately, as we explored the vessel, Ensign Sato and I entered a room which contained a dozen mutilated corpses."

Holy shit!

Thuitt quickly realized who was speaking. That�s . . .

"The bodies were hanging upside down on large hooks." She looked at Hoshi. "Ensign Sato was rather . . . distressed . . . at the sight."

The translator reddened. She remembered screaming her head off, all right � and also remembered T�Pol calming her with a touch from her sensual hands. "It was pretty horrible," Hoshi admitted. "I might have said a few things."

"Most of which were not found in official Federation databases," T�Pol quipped. "Nonetheless, the ensign recovered her poise -- eventually -- and made first contact with an alien species who lent assistance." T�Pol looked fondly at Hoshi. "Not long afterward, we were trapped aboard a Klingon ship that was badly damaged, and had begun entering the planetary atmosphere. Under such extraordinary circumstances, Professor Sato was able to achieve a translation of the written Klingon language, allowing us to use the ship�s weaponry to escape."

Spying several of her colleagues now standing inside the doorway, Hoshi realized that her class had run over. "Well." She made a point of checking her chronometer. "We have gone way too long. You�re all outta here." She held up her hands apologetically to Troy Thuitt, mouthing "Sorry" to him. He gave her a thumbs up, impressed as hell; he just wished he�d gotten here earlier.

T�Pol turned to Hoshi. "May I speak with you privately?"

"Of course." They drew away from the others.

"I would like you to come with me," T�Pol said without preamble.

"What?" Hoshi was caught by surprise. "You want me to come with you?"

She nodded.

"Come with you as your . . .?"

"My translator. My companion."

"You already have translators."

"True," the Vulcan conceded. "But none as skilled."

"Well, I don�t believe that, but thanks for the sentiment."

"Sentiment is an emotion."

Hoshi rolled her eyes. "Whatever." Her gaze swept across the classroom. "What about my teaching?"

"I recognize that I am asking you to postpone your career. After my term ends, you will undoubtedly be asked back, or to another university if you like."

That was probably true. The foremost expert on language and translation in the United States received job offers on a regular basis, and, although she had never been tempted to leave San Francisco, it was nice to know that she had options.

"What exactly do you see me doing?" she asked.

"Accompanying me on my travels, translating as needed, advising me."

"Advising you? And how would that go over with your cabinet?"

"No official is without influence from her closest companion. Your judgment is sound. Your loyalties are unquestioned."

Hoshi laughed. "Not that I�m disagreeing, but how do you even know that? We haven�t seen each other in ten years."

"I have followed your career." That was a surprise. "We were close associates on Enterprise," T�Pol continued. "I am quite confident in my assessments."

"Like you were with Ma�acr?" Hoshi regretted the words instantly. "I�m sorry."

"There is no need to apologize. I acknowledge the error with Ma�acr. But I would also point out that the mistake was revealed due to your talent. Had it not been for you, Ma�acr would likely have continued spying for the Lakarens for many years."

Hoshi remained silent for a moment, then frowned. "When would I have to decide?"

T�Pol glanced at Trrai, whose body language plainly conveyed impatience. They were already late, she knew. "We are scheduled to leave immediately."

"You�re kidding!"

"I�m sorry."

She met T�Pol�s gaze. "What if we don�t like each other? I mean, it has been ten years."

"We �liked� each other a great deal last night," T�Pol remarked.

The response, a bit frivolous for T�Pol, was met with a smirk. "I mean, apart from that." But Hoshi had to admit, the thought of going to bed with the gorgeous Vulcan every night had undeniable appeal. Gripping those biceps . . .

"If you are unhappy at any time, I will arrange for your immediate return home."

"Or if you�re unhappy," Hoshi insisted.

"Happiness is�"

"An emotion," Hoshi finished. "I hope I�m not going to hear that all the time."

T�Pol wasn�t sure what to say. She did not want to risk offending Hoshi, who relented with a smile.

"OK, I�ll rephrase it. If you don�t think it�s working out, you�ll tell me, right?"

"Of course." T�Pol didn�t mind offering that assurance. She was certain it would work out.

Hoshi could feel a sense of excitement setting in. "I would need to talk to Bill Glover," she muttered, still trying to run through all the reasons this was a bad idea.

"I will send a communiqu� from the ship," T�Pol offered.

"Well, thanks, but I think that�s something I should do."

"As you wish."

Hoshi shook her head, not fully believing what she was about to do. "OK," she said simply.

T�Pol nodded. "I�m pleased."

"Can we stop by my house and get my things?"

"Of course."

The pair joined Trrai at the doorway and began walking down the hall, ignoring the students and faculty still milling outside the classroom. Another thought occurred to Hoshi. "So, are we going to be � will anyone know about our personal relationship?" It was understandable if the Vulcan wanted to maintain her privacy.

By way of answer, T�Pol leaned over and kissed her. "I am proud to have you by my side in all things."

Hoshi smiled. "Pride is an emotion," she teased.

"Indeed." They began walking again. "With you, I shall no doubt become an emotional wreck." T�Pol�s enjoyed her companion�s laugh, and together they resumed their journey.

###

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