Captain Archer sat in his chair on the bridge and pretended to listen as Trip went through the engineering report. There was a glitch in the plasma-intake manifolds so they were in orbit around a planet that luckily was very similar to Earth. At least they had that going for them. Hoshi had programmed the translators for the Hintaarian language, so the crew were taking leave in shifts during the repair work.
"...the generators should be online in a matter of hours, but the coolant valves, that's another story. Seems like one thing busts and the rest just fall like dominoes." At this point he was interrupted by a sigh from the captain. "Something wrong, Captain?" Trip asked his friend. When no response was forthcoming, Trip followed Archer's gaze to Hoshi. She was facing one of the consoles on at her station, but a look at her expression told him that she wasn't looking at some strange language. No, that dreamy, longing look was directed past the console to a certain Sub-Commander working intently at the station behind her.
Just then, T'pol looked up. Hoshi quickly brought her eyes back down to the console and pretended to be engrossed in whatever was on the screen.
"Do you require assistance?" T'Pol's query was directed at Hoshi.
"Wh-What?" Hoshi stuttered.
"Do you need assistance?" she repeated. "You have been studying the same console without changing it's display for the past 92 minutes and 39 seconds. The relevant conclusion is that you are having difficulty with whatever is on the screen. Do you need assistance?"
Hoshi paled. "Umm, no. I'm... fine. Don't help. Just taking while...working f-fine alone...not necessary...no," she babbled before a ferocious blush came over her and she ducked her head back to study the console intently.
"And she's supposed to be the ship's linguist," Trip joked to Archer sotto voce. He looked at the captain. He seemed to be thinking, still watching Hoshi, but his eyes had narrowed in the way Trip had come to associate with a plan in the works. They both knew Hoshi had it bad. The only question was what to do.
Archer suddenly stood up and beckoned Trip to follow. They went into his ready room and sat down. "I assume you've come to the same conclusion I have regarding our officers," Archer addressed Trip for the first time.
"A little formal, aren't'ya, considering what I know you're planning to do?" Trip knew the captain's record for this kind of thing. It hardly ever worked and it usually ended up with both of them in a shit-load of trouble. But it sure as hell was fun. However, Trip was reluctant to be involved in something as potentially painful as Archer's previous plan. Or rather the consequences of his last plan. That one was bad. Like broken nose, black eye, bruised testicle, 3 slaps and 2 facefulls of drink between them bad.
"What makes this different than last time?" asked Trip, skeptically. "The difference?" Archer began. "The difference is that this time, its gonna work."
"Swimming?" Hoshi asked incredulously.
"Yes." confirmed T'Pol, "Captain Archer has deemed it necisary for me to be instructed in human methods of self-propulsion in water, and that you should instruct me in these."
“You’re the only one qualified, Hoshi.”
“Is this an order, Captain?” Hoshi couldn’t decide whether she’d prefer it to be, or not. On the one hand, the last thing she wanted to do was make a fool of herself in front of T’Pol. But on the other was the vision that had been coursing through her mind ever since she heard that she had to teach the commander to swim: a vision of T’Pol in a sleek, black bikini, dripping as she stepped out of the water and shook her hair sensuously...
“Hoshi? You still there?” She snapped back to Captain Archer’s ready room where he was smiling, knowingly.
“She needs taught; what if we had to make a water landing?” Okay, it was a stretch, but he was the captain, it’s his ship.
“Yes, sir.” She resigned herself to the work. This could either turn out really well or really poorly. But, T’Pol in a bathing suit? She decided it was worth it.
Travis was shuttling them down to the planet where they were to camp out near the beach for the duration of their leave. In an effort to ease the silence between them that was growing uncomfortable, Hoshi asked “I trust you brought your swimsuit?”
T’Pol raised an eyebrow. ‘That little movement can mean so many things,’ Hoshi mused, ‘It is communication, so it’s my field. Maybe I should write a book.’
“I was unaware protective attire was required for this activity,” T’Pol responded. ‘Great,’ Hoshi thought, ‘that means she’s probably never even seen somebody swim. Hey! How’d she get out of the Captain’s water polo nights?’ Keeping her curiosity about T’Pol’s excuse for missing the captain’s videos inside, she said, “It’s not protective, but it is sleek, to reduce resistance, and doesn’t get heavy when wet.”
“Then it is unnecessary.” ‘Oh please,’ Hoshi prayed, ‘don’t tell me she plans on doing this naked! They’ll have to send Phlox down because I’ll have had a heart attack. That, or she’ll have ripped my head off because I kept drooling over her.’ She then let her thoughts go off on a tangent. A completely relevant and related tangent that occupied her mind for some time. Which could be summarized like this: ‘I wonder how Vulcans make love?’
“Ensign. Ensign.” Hoshi was jolted out of her reverie by the object of her thoughts, and subsequently blushed.
“We are on final descent. We will arrive in approximately 2 minutes, 27 seconds. You should prepare.”
“Thank you,” Hoshi smiled, and was rewarded with an acknowledging nod. So far, it wasn’t shaping up to be that bad.
Hoshi waved to Travis as he took off. They began setting up camp, but to Hoshi’s dismay, some of their equipment was malfunctioning. Her tent was ruined. She considered calling Travis and asking him to shuttle down a new one, but as if reading her mind, T’Pol said, "That would be an illogical waste of resources." However, she didn’t provide an alternative solution, so Hoshi had to devise her own.
"So, I guess I’ll just sleep under the stars. Shouldn’t be too bad." T’Pol raised an eyebrow. Hoshi should have checked her equipment before relying on it. ‘Damn, I am really gonna write something up on that eyebrow. I’m getting really good at translating it. For example, this time it said ‘Hoshi, you’re a moron’,’ she thought.
T’Pol wasn’t great at reading emotions, but Hoshi obviously felt like she had failed; her despondency was practically coming off in waves. She took a step toward the ensign in what she hoped was a comforting manner. "I am sure the flaw was undetectable," she said, attempting to reassure her. It worked. Hoshi smiled.
They finished unpacking quickly and silently decided that they should begin the lessons. Hoshi walked a while away to change, layering her black, one-piece suit with a t-shirt that nearly reached her knees. Walking back, she saw that T’Pol had simply stripped off her uniform, leaving her in her tank top and boy-shorts underwear. Hoshi’s heartbeat quickened and she let out a small gasp. Her face flushed, knowing that T’Pol had heard her all too well. She considered blaming it on something else, like saying she stepped on a rock, but Hoshi knew T’Pol would see right through it. She remained silent.
Normally, Hoshi wouldn’t dare to teach a beginner in the ocean, but the dual moons of the planet made the water smooth. Hoshi waded out, pulling up the shirt inch by inch before it became wet, yet leaving barely any of her body uncovered by either t-shirt or water. She continued until the water was just below her breasts, and then quickly stripped the rest of her shirt off, balled it up, and threw it towards the beach. The water had deepened quickly, so it wasn’t a far throw to where T’Pol was standing, watching her. T’Pol caught it effortlessly, but was confused as to why Hoshi concealed her body when getting in the water. She tucked the odd behaviour into the back of her mind until she had more information. T’Pol hoped she could discover why she did that, thinking it may be connected with her strange behaviour on the bridge the other day.
Hoshi beckoned T’Pol and the tall, shapely woman began walking into the water. To most, the Vulcan’s stoic visage wouldn’t have seemed to change, but to Hoshi, who had spent an inordinate amount of time watching T’Pol, her discomfort was evident. Her jaw was set, her eyes wide, and every time she took a step her muscles tensed. To say something would be to insult the Vulcan’s pride, so Hoshi kept her mouth shut.
When T’Pol arrived, she introduced the first exercise: the backfloat. T’Pol wasn’t enthused. "I don’t believe this exercise is prudent. If I fail to master it at any time, I could asphyxiate."
Hoshi smiled. Everyone was afraid of floating on their backs for the first time. It was comforting to see that their resident alien was no exception. They rarely expressed it so eloquently, though. "Do you trust me?" Hoshi asked.
"Do you trust me?"
"Yes." T’Pol knew that she trusted the ensign with her life on a daily basis, to not do so now was foolish.
“I’m going to put my hands on your back. I want you to extend your arms straight out from your body and when I say, gently kick your feet up to just below the water’s surface. My hands will be under you in case you start to sink. Okay?”
“That is acceptable,” T’Pol nodded. Hoshi slowly moved her hands to the small of T’Pol’s back and when they touched, it was as if a jolt of electricity coursed through them, manifesting as a tremble in Hoshi and T’Pol’s regular breathing rhythm being interrupted by a tiny gasp. However, they were both too busy with their own responses to see them in the other. After a moment, T’Pol remembered what Hoshi had instructed her to do and stretched out her arms. This seemed to pull the ensign slightly back into reality, but it was with a dazed tone that she told T’Pol to kick up her legs. T’Pol was surprised that the trepidation she had been experiencing was all but gone, assuaged by the simple contact of Hoshi’s hands on her bare skin. And so, she floated.
They moved down the beach a little to find the shelf Hoshi had felt coming out. When standing on the shelf, the water was just grazing their collarbones, but one step further and it was a good 2 feet above their heads. The ensign decided this was the best place to teach T’Pol how to tread water. She stepped off the shelf and demonstrated after explaining to T’Pol how to do it. She came back next to her and said, “Remember, march and clap.” T’Pol stepped off the ledge. And promptly sank.
Hoshi panicked. ‘Oh my god, I killed a commander! They’re gonna shoot me back to earth in a torpedo tube!’ she thought. Though T’Pol would deny it, she panicked also. After the initial dunk, all thoughts of marching and clapping were driven from her normally structured mind. As such, she was flailing about, trying to push herself up for air. Even though her lung capacity could easily allow her to remain under for minutes, she hadn’t gotten a proper breath because she sucked in quite a bit of water when she went under.
Hoshi jumped out and grabbed T’Pol, pulling her up for air. T’Pol gasped for breath and clung to Hoshi as the linguist swam them both to where they could comfortably stand. Still, even with her feet firmly on the ground, T’Pol didn’t relinquish her hold on the ensign. Hoshi was becoming painfully aware of their closeness. And of the way T’Pol’s arms were around her neck. And of their breasts molding together... All in all, Hoshi was becoming rapidly too comfortable. ‘She nearly drowned,’ Hoshi chastised herself, ‘Calm yourself down!’ But still, all she could think about was moving her hands farther down T’Pol’s back, past her waist...
Hoshi stepped back and grabbed T’Pol’s bicep and led her to the shore. The dry land beneath her feet seemed to shock T’Pol back into some semblance of herself. She looked at Hoshi, horrified at her lapse in control. “I must meditate,” she said, and excused her into her tent. Hoshi grabbed her clothes and walked off to dry off and change.
When she came back some time later, T’Pol was still in her tent. Hoshi didn’t know how long she usually took, but as far as she knew, T’Pol only meditated before sleeping. The swimming must’ve really rattled her if T’Pol had to meditate in the middle of the day. Well, Hoshi was hungry. She got out the food that the chef had packed for them. The ensign was unsure as to when T’Pol would come out, and she was famished. So, she fixed a plate for herself and one for T’Pol which she left in the stasis basket. She sat down on a log near their campsite. Hoshi was nearly done when T’Pol emerged, looking much more composed in her normal bodysuit. “There’s a plate in the basket,” Hoshi said. “I wasn’t sure when you’d be hungry, so I made it up.” T’Pol nodded appreciatively.
“That was very... considerate of you. Thank you, Hoshi.” T’Pol retrieved the plate and sat next to Hoshi. The ensign unconsciously decided to eat slower so as to relish the time next to the older woman. It was a few seconds before Hoshi realized that the commander had called her by her given name. That was unusual. They ate in silence, watching the sun set. Until it started to rain.
Now, this wasn’t normal earth-type rain. This was torrential golfball sized rain drops pounding hard enough to leave welts wherever it hit your skin. So naturally, the women ran. Hoshi grabbed her sleeping bag off of its spot on the ground without breaking stride and turned to head for the grove of trees a few feet behind T’Pol’s tent. T’Pol stopped when she reached the entrance of the tent and noticed that Hoshi was still running. "Ensign," T’Pol shouted so she could be heard over the rain, "the trees will not provide sufficient cover from the storm."
"Neither will the tent!" Hoshi hollered back.
"I plan to reinforce it by attaching my survival bag to the outside."
"Use mine," Hoshi offered. "It’s wet already!" She tossed it to T’Pol who caught it deftly. When Hoshi refused to concede, T’Pol considered ordering her, but decided a different method of persuasion would be more effective.
"Hoshi," she said, "I don’t want you to be hurt." The linguist was astonished. ‘A first name and something downright considerate in the same sentence? I knew she’d been more... emotional lately, but this is downright weird.’ Hoshi closed her mouth and quickly walked over to the tent where T’Pol was fastening Hoshi’s survival bag to act as an extra shield from the downpour. Hoshi helped her tie the last fastening to the tent structure and their fingers touched. T’Pol shivered, blaming the feeling coursing through her on the cold rain.
Hoshi held open the flap of the tent as T’Pol ducked in, and followed her, both still barefooted from their swim. T’Pol retrieved a towel from her duffel bag and offered it to Hoshi. She declined, politely. "It’s yours. Besides, humans stink, remember?" she grinned.
"You don’t ‘stink’, ensign." T’Pol resisted the desire to add that she found the ensign to smell quite pleasantly. She held out the towel and continued. "I have dry clothing. You do not." She pressed the towel into Hoshi’s hands and the smaller woman relented, wrapping it around herself and blotting her clothing to a state of semi-dryness. And promptly dropped the towel when T’Pol, turning sideways, reached behind her neck, unclasped her bodysuit, and pulled it off.
Apparently not noticing Hoshi’s sudden lack of dexterity, the commander folded her uniform and placed it in the corner on the side of her bag to dry. T’Pol felt around the remaining clothes on her body (causing Hoshi’s jaw to drop) and deeming her undergarments dry enough, she retrieved an emerald green silk-like pair of pajamas. She pulled them on, buttoning the shirt, and turned to face Hoshi, who by that time had regained some semblance of sanity.
Hoshi raised an eyebrow and tilted her head slightly to the side, silently questioning T’Pol’s attire choice. T’Pol found this behavior rather endearing and somewhat, though she’d never use the word, cute. It was reminiscent of her childhood friend’s pet sehlat when it wanted something. T’Pol, however, correctly interpreted Hoshi’s meaning and answered, "I find it inefficient to put on a uniform less than 1.7 hours before an acceptable... I believe the term is ‘bedtime’." Hoshi nodded understandingly and sat down on the opposite side of the tent. This movement still didn’t put much distance between them, and Hoshi couldn’t help but feel like she was cramping the older woman. It was, after all, her tent. T’Pol sat down smoothly where she stood, and as they sat in silence, both felt their thoughts turn to what could be happening on Enterprise.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch (er, ship)...
The ensign came into Captain Archer’s quarters and was startled by the scene. The Captain and Commander Tucker were both in civvies, on the couch, drinking beer. ‘Are you allowed to see your Captain in civilian clothing?’ she wondered. ‘Isn’t there some kind of rule against that?’ The captain stood up. "Ensign Karasek. Those modifications to the sensor array. Successful?"
"Yes, sir," she answered. A few days ago, the Captain had told her to reprogram the sensors to they didn’t pick up local weather transmissions. Quite an odd assignment, but Celeste assumed Archer had his reasons.
"Great." Archer said to her. Turning to Trip, he added, "They have no idea," Looking back to the ensign, he continued, "You can remove them now. Nice work." The captain dismissed her and Celeste left, even more puzzled than before, if that was possible. She had no idea who the ‘they’ the captain mentioned was referring to, but if she was included, it was definitely accurate.
What she didn’t know was that the ‘they’ Archer was referring to was T’’Pol and Hoshi. And that the captain, in initial meetings with the Hintarrians, had acquired the weather forecast, so to speak, for the coming months. Evidently the Hintarrian weather systems were cyclic, repeating every 3.67 Terran months. It was a simple matter then to determine the time of the next scheduled storm at the remote location they had picked and sign the pair up for leave on that rotation. He had also, temporarily, removed all references to swimming or watersports of any kind from the Federation database. That one’d been tricky, making it so T’Pol’d never notice that they’d been there, yet storing them for reintroduction later on. He hoped T’Pol hadn’t had the time to look too hard. And of course, what good is a rainstorm if they’re staying in different tents? Hoshi had checked her equipment right before her shift on the morning of their departure. However, Trip overrode the lock on her quarters and removed several key components in the opening mechanism of the automatically unfolding tent. That way, they had mused, they’ll have to share a tent. That deduction was followed by a typically enthusiastic round of self-congratulations and back slapping.
"Jon and Trip, Starfleet officers, strikingly handsome, Cupids of the Enterprise!" Archer crowed, shortly after the door had closed.
Trip agreed. "I bet they’re cuddling in that tent right now!"