Hoshi pushed her tray aside, looking at the two other women at her table, a gleam in her eye. "Let's play a game," she said, smiling innocently.
Liz froze, her spoon halfway to her mouth. "What kind of game, Hoshi?" she asked hesitantly. "Some of your games tend to be a bit…" She put her spoon down in her bowl. "Um, well, not nasty, exactly, but..."
"Discourteous," T'Pol interjected.
"This one is nothing like that," Hoshi said calmly, a twinkle in her eye. "This one is completely harmless." Faced with Liz's obvious doubt, and T'Pol's frank gaze, she smiled disarmingly. "It's just for fun, there's nothing meant by it." When Liz rolled her eyes, Hoshi knew she had her hooked.
"Okay," said Liz in a resigned tone, although her eyes were merry. "What's the game?"
Hoshi leaned forward, crossing her arms on the table in front of her. "Okay. If there were only four men left in the universe: Trip, Travis, Malcolm, or Captain Archer, which one would you pick?"
"Pick for what?" T'Pol said calmly, just as Liz said, "We can't pick all four?"
Hoshi groaned. "No, Liz, you can only have one." Dropping her voice to a conspiratorial whisper, she turned to T'Pol. "For sex."
"This…game," T'Pol said with what Hoshi could have sworn was a hint of amused disdain, "Is not logical."
Hoshi sat back in her chair. "It's not supposed to be logical. It's supposed to be fun."
Liz laughed. "Think of it as a sort of, um…survival preparation planning exercise," she said, smiling broadly.
T'Pol merely raised one eyebrow.
"I'll go first," Liz continued, dipping her spoon back into her dish of chocolate pudding, swirling it, then bringing it up to her mouth and sucking away the pudding as she thought. "Travis, Trip, Malcolm or Jon…hmm…delicious," she said, her voice low and sultry. Then she laughed, placing her spoon on her tray. "Well, there's the Captain, of course. But he's too, um…captainy," she said, straightening her shoulders and sitting at attention for a moment. The she relaxed again. "Kind of old for me, as well. I prefer men closer to my own age." She smiled and glanced down at her now-empty bowl. She ran one finger along the edge of the bowl, and then put that finger in her mouth, licking away the last of the chocolate. Wiping her hands on her napkin, she continued. "There's Trip. He's funny, and very, very smart." She snickered. "Maybe too smart. And I think of him sort of as a big brother, you know?"
Hoshi nodded encouragingly.
"Malcolm," Liz said. "Yummy." She shook her head. "But he's too sarcastic, too snarky, and such the perfectionist. I'd be afraid he'd always be judging me, and I wouldn't be able to live up to his expectations."
Hoshi smiled. "That leaves Travis."
Liz nodded, smiling slightly. "That does leave Travis." She dropped her voice to a near whisper. "Have you seen that body? Veeery well built." She sighed. "I've always loved well muscled men – broad shoulders, narrow waist, very sexy. Not too hairy, either. Smooth." She wiggled her eyebrows and turned to Hoshi expectantly. "Hoshi?"
Hoshi smiled. "Well, Travis - I can see the appeal. He's kind of dishy, but, well, brotherly dishy, not boyfriendly dishy." She shifted in her chair, then sat back, thinking. "Trip's always fun, certainly the life of the party; playful, charming." She hesitated. "I like spending time with him, but he's such a flirt. I prefer my men devoted to me, not off hitting on half the aliens we meet." She paused. "Um, who else?"
"Malcolm, and the Captain."
Hoshi nodded. "Captain Archer," she said, and winced. "No way. I've known him since I was, like, 12. It would be like kissing my dad."
"So that leaves Malcolm," Liz said, smiling.
"Yes, it does at that," replied Hoshi. She leaned forward, taking both women in with her gaze. "Now, there you go. Eyes, stormy grey, like the sea, like when you're waiting for a cyclone, with the ocean water all tossed up and wild. And nice colouring – pale skin, dark hair, and light eyes," She sighed. "That's killer." She hissed a breath in through her teeth. "That has always gotten to me," she said softly, looking down at her hands on the table in front of her. "That Irish look. Although I don't think Malcolm is Irish. Maybe in his ancestry…" She hesitated, and then looked up again, smiling. "I digress, sorry." She shrugged. "You know, he probably wouldn't be half as hot if not for that intensity. When he gets all passionate about something, he's really great to watch." She smiled, and turned to T'Pol.
T'Pol shook her head. "They are all too young, too emotional."
"Come on, T'Pol," Hoshi said. "If you had to, no choice." She thought that she caught the edge of a smile in the other woman's eyes, but it was gone before she could be sure.
T'Pol paused, and then nodded. "Malcolm is logical, and like you, Hoshi, I find his colouring appealing. But I prefer a mate who is less like me, who could offer more of a balance."
Hoshi nodded, encouraging her. "Travis?"
"Travis is simply too young," T'Pol replied. "And Captain Archer is too enthusiastic."
"Like a puppy," Liz murmured. T'Pol flashed her a look while Hoshi stifled a giggle.
"I do appreciate his unusual eye colour, and find his strength pleasing," said T'Pol. "Still, he would not be an appropriate match."
"So that leaves Trip," said Hoshi.
"Yes," replied T'Pol. "He is intelligent, and I find my interactions with him to be…" she paused, and raised her eyebrows. "Challenging."
"To say the least," Liz cut in, smiling.
T'Pol nodded. "He can be quite deep underneath all the…" she waved her hand dismissively, "Jokes." She nodded again. "Perhaps Trip." She moved her eyes to an area over Hoshi's head, and said, "Good evening, Commander, Lieutenant."
Hoshi twisted in her seat, looking up to see Malcolm and Trip grabbing drinks at a nearby dispenser. She could feel the heat in her cheeks, unable to stop her blush.
Trip turned to them, smiling broadly. "Evening, ladies," he said, raising his coffee mug in a sort of a toast, while Malcolm nodded and gave the group a slight smile.
As Malcolm and Trip refocused on getting their drinks, Hoshi turned back to T'Pol, whispering, "How long had they been…"
T'Pol interrupted. "They were not close enough to overhear our conversation."
Hoshi nodded, relieved. Glancing at her chronometer, she gathered her tray, saying, "I have to get back to the bridge anyway."
T'Pol nodded, and Liz smiled, saying, "See ya, Hosh."
Hoshi waved vaguely, distracted by her near miss with Trip and Malcolm. She walked away from the table, disposing of her dishes on her way to the mess hall doors.
Just as she approached the exit, she felt someone beside her, and she turned to see Malcolm, padd in hand. He nodded at her and she smiled at him, blushing slightly. They walked the few steps to the lift in silence.
As the doors to the lift opened, Malcolm stepped back, waving Hoshi forward to enter first. She stepped in and triggered the signal for the lift to leave her on the bridge, stepping aside as Malcolm reached in front of her to trigger the signal for a lower deck. He leaned back against the wall and pulled his padd up, focused on his reading while the lift travelled to his destination.
The doors swept open at his deck, and he lowered the padd and stepped out of the lift. Just outside the doors, he turned back to her. Raising one eyebrow, he said, "My grandmother was Irish, on my mother's side."
Hoshi's eyes went wide. Her stomach dropped.
Malcolm smiled at her disarmingly, just as the lift doors closed.