Title: The Way, The Truth, The Life
Rated: PG for possible "subtext".
Summary: "It feels like so long ago. Sometimes I even wonder if it ever really happened."
Disclaim: Anyone who tries to convince us that only two-sevenths of the population is female really deserves anything they get.
Etc: I wanted to start a fic with the words "You don't remember me, do you?" This happened instead. Ah well, maybe some day. Taryn Eve did beta-duty.
**Had to stand in for italics**
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The rain throws itself against the glass with suicidal fervour, smearing across the glass to blur the outside world. But Hoshi has long-since learned to block the ever-present rainfall from her thoughts, and she concentrates on the words before her. She sits silent in the glass-walled cafeteria, students and staff coping with the hassles of sandwiches and overdue library books. She writes her book as life goes on around her.
It is a short book, a primer, because no one has much time for anything else these days. These days there are machines to translate mysteries, and a linguist on a starship is an observer, tracking dialects and vocabulary drift to make sure the software is up-to-date. Hoshi says that this is a flawed approach, that **bonjour** is not really the same word as **konichiwa**, but no one seems to care about these things anymore. She worries about the misunderstandings that will happen, and writes eloquent books on the subject. She is a tolerated eccentric.
Her eyes still protest the dry aftermath of corrective surgery, and she blinks them slowy as she has been instructed to. Her younger daughter had suggested lenses - placed on the eye, or held in a thin wire frame. But the sudden craze for the chic of the past has not touched Hoshi, and she would have felt absurd, standing before her students wearing spectacles as if she was as young as they.
But she was, once, and travelled by the scenic route. Now she moves among scientists who made her adventures obsolete and historians who know more about her life than she does. Nowadays she is "Mom", "Grandma", "Professor Sato". She has been "Ensign", "honey", many others. In her head she has always been "Hoshi".
Hoshi looks up, eyes stinging slightly as they adjust to the light. She frowns, brushes a short grey hair from its tangle with an eyelash. Recognition dawns, and she hastily clears academia from the scratched plastic table, "Please, sit down." She grins, a girl again, "You don't look a day over a hundred and twenty!" There is joy in her voice, and her eyes sparkle as her vision resolves itself.
T'Pol considers this for a moment. "Thank you," she says finally, as she slips into the chair across from Hoshi.
Hoshi brushes imagined crumbs from her T-shirt, tries to appear presentable. Her fingers travel over an old, dead language - **Via, Veritas, Vita** - and a coat of arms. A T-shirt of the archaic. "I haven't seen you in..."
Thirty-six years. Three children, two husbands, one wife. Many languages, more books. A few footnotes in other people's autobiographies. Thirty-six winters and thirty-six springs. Four universities, three continents.
"What are you doing here?" She worries that it sounds too abrupt, and she adds, "Not that I'm not happy to see you again."
"I was...in the area."
"Last I heard you were on Vulcan." Hoshi read this in a book once, or it may have been an article. She claims that she isn't keeping track, but names keep catching her eye, and she adds to the story she remembers. Births, marriages and deaths, little traces written in the margin.
"I was there for a while. Now I am here."
Hoshi suppresses a grin. "The **Endeavour** made warp seven last week. It was on the news."
"Yes. Your species has made rapid progress." Hoshi, who spent so many years with this demure, solemn woman, recognises the T'Pol equivalent of satisfaction, possibly even pride. "I am impressed."
Hoshi smiles and nods, **I accept this honour on behalf of the people of Earth...** "The Universal Translators are amazing these days. Don't you just wish the Enterprise had had anything half as reliable?"
"We did." Hoshi frowns and T'Pol raises an eyebrow as she has done in so many dreams and memories. "We had you."
Hoshi blushes, but she keeps her eyes steady with T'Pol's. "Thanks." The slight breeze from the air conditioning cools her skin and reminds her where she is sitting.
"I guess if we'd had the UT I wouldn't have been there anyway." **And everything would have been so different and we wouldn't be having this conversation and I would have loved and lived so differently. **
"Perhaps that is why humans believe in 'Fate'. To make sense of the complex relationships between events."
"Didn't you write a book on that?" Something halfway between science and philosophy, according to a review Hoshi had read as she sat on an underground train hurtling under a river swollen by the inevitable rain.
"Yes." **Did you read it? Did you like it? Did you remember me?**
"I didn't read it." Hoshi feels a stab of guilt, and rubs dust from the corner of her eye.
"Chaos theory is not your field of study, Professor Sato."
"I know, but..." She pauses, frowns. "Call me Hoshi. Hardly anyone does these days."
The eyebrow again. Hoshi decides that someone should write a paper on the nuances of eyebrows in Vulcan communications. She swears that there's meaning in the angles and the heights. She was always too afraid to ask. "Hoshi."
"It feels like so long ago. Sometimes I even wonder if it ever really happened."
"It happened." T'Pol hesitates, as if judging the situation. She takes a slight breath, leans forward a little, "I read a book that said so."
Hoshi stares at the woman for a moment. Then puts a hand over her mouth to stop the giggles. Vulcan comic timing - when they're actually willing to use it - is impeccable.
There are lots of books that say it happened, and Hoshi has read a great many of them. Some of them even sit on her bookshelves at home, resting among the history that happened to other people. They have dust jackets and bookmarks.
She took her eldest daughter to see the ship once, when she was still married to Travis. A great metal relic hanging in geostationary orbit, a tour-guide with a white enamal name-tag explaining the dangers of space travel "back then". She'd passed her own room, and disobeyed the stern 'Don't Touch' stickers to run her fingers over the bronze marker added when the vessel became a museum - **Ensign Hoshi Sato**. She had felt something like homesickness.
Hoshi looks across at the flashback before her. Longer hair, looser, lighter clothes, but unmistakably still the woman she knew through all those years in space. Never close friends, but an unspoken trust had existed between them. They'd worked well together.
They talk now, of things that were and things that are. Of children and houses and favourite memories. Hoshi learns some things she didn't know, and confirms a few things she suspected. Hoshi feels comfortable, a total, unshakeable comfort that hasn't embraced her in such a very long time.
As the clock on the wall - **they call them chronometers these days** - slides ever closer to the hour, the bustle of students begins to diminish. They have places to be, lectures to sit through while they press their initials into the desks. T'Pol looks around, and seems to make a decision.
"I should leave you to your work. Hoshi." She stands, the legs of the chair scraping and squeaking against the plastic tiles of the floor.
"No, please, I can do this anytime." Hoshi finds that she is standing too, and her hand is reaching out to stop T'Pol leaving. She feels thin cotton beneath her fingers, someone else's heat. "I haven't seen you in so long. We've got so much to talk about. Please." She thinks, looks down at her pile of books. "How about coffee? There's a place not far from here, just across the road. They have twenty-eight different kinds."
T'Pol nods, she seems - to Hoshi - almost relieved. "I have not tasted coffee in a number of years. It would be... pleasant to have the experience again." Hoshi smiles, eyes glinting as she starts to pack the books into her bag.
And over the aroma of the coffee and the patter of the rain, she might just ask about the eyebrow.