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Disclaimer: Don't own 'em, don't make money off 'em.

Notes: Romantic drabble alert! Yeah, I usually don't write romance, but a day spent at the Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens gave me the idea for this little piece, and like some plot bunnies, this one wouldn't let go, either.

This actually takes place after the NX-01 mission, during the Romulan/Earth conflict, and just thereafter. Hoshi returns to the University of Brazil and embarks on an accidental hobby, that grows into more than she expects.

Appearances by TnT, Travis, Erika Hernandez and the Reed family. And yeah, the years of the Romulan/Earth war have been shortened a bit for this story.

Rating: K+

Please R&R. This is a change of pace for me, and I'd like to know if this works. Thanks.





2161

Hoshi Sato enjoyed this part of her day. After a long morning of teaching and a full afternoon of meetings, she sought the coolness of the university gardens. She passed through its iron gates and stopped at the marble fountain. The water bubbled and swirled in random patterns; she stared at it, mesmerized by the movement, then she dipped her hands into the basin. The cold water felt good after her walk through the humid forest.

Things have changed so much, but some things stay the same. A decade. Ten years, since she'd first left this place to go among the stars. Yes, she had done so out of her own free will, as a "favor" to her friend, Jonathan Archer. After the first five years, she'd debated whether or not to join Archer's second five-year mission in space. Hoshi had come here, to her garden, to think and out of nowhere, a voice said:

"Star, you belong among the stars for now. It's not your time yet to set your roots. There will be time enough." And she went back to Jon and told him she was continuing her journey aboard Enterprise. So another two years of traveling among her namesakes, meeting new people, learning new languages, studying new cultures. She, who had wanted nothing to do with space, became a seasoned traveler.

But eventually, her yearning for home was stronger than her wanderlust. When Captain Archer became Admiral Archer, she decided it was time to go home.

And now, she walked through the garden, noting the new plots and mounds of dirt. T'Khera's vegetable plot included items from three different worlds: Vulcan, Terra and Epsilon Four. Paul's plot consisted of rows upon rows of medicinal herbs. Eduardo's exotic tomatoes and squash hung heavy on the vine. And at the very end, Hoshi's little piece of earth.

At first, she hadn't know what to do with it. She was a linguist, not a gardener. Then she'd received help from an unlikely source.

2158

Hoshi arrived to find a surprising visitor kneeling in the dirt, shovel and trowel propped up next to her. "Maddy?" she asked, stunned. "Maddy, what are you doing here?"

Madeline Reed, younger sister of Commander Malcolm Reed, looked up at her with a bright grin. Her blonde hair hung limp in the Brazilian humidity and a rosy flush painted her cheeks, but Maddy definitely looked in her element.

"Hullo, Hoshi," Maddy replied. "My brother said you might need some help with your garden."

"How did he—?"

She chuckled and raised her eyebrows. "Malcolm has his sources, y'see. He still keeps an eye on you."

Hoshi didn't know whether to feel insulted or flattered by Malcolm's "keeping an eye" on her. After all, he was now first officer of the Endeavor and far away from Earth. Then again, Malcolm was always full of surprises.

She laughed and knelt next to Maddy. "All right, then. You know about this kind of thing better than I do. How do I start?"

That day had started a chain reaction of events. Maddy came to visit her in Brazil twice a month, with seeds and slips and specially formulated mulch and nutrients for the garden. They both watched their charges grow: chrysanthemums and lilies, gardenias and violets. Occasionally, Maddy brought her mother, Mary Keating-Reed. Hoshi marveled at how Mary blossomed out of the shadow of her stern, controlled husband, Stuart. Hoshi nearly cried at the transformation of Mary's face: her soft smiles, the eager light her in eyes, the musical Irish accent that pattered in the air like rain.

"Mary, may I ask you a question?"

Mary Reed turned to Hoshi as they sat side by side on the stone bench. Maddy had gone back to get cooling drinks from the university. "Of course, dear," Mary replied.

"Have you heard from Malcolm lately?"

Mary nodded, her eyes dimming a little. "The Endeavor's had to extend their deployment for another three months. There have been some disturbing developments...even Stuart is worried. Of course, you'd never know it unless you know him well, Hoshi, but Stuart is concerned about his son's safety."

Hoshi sighed and looked down at her dirt-stained hands. "I've always thought Admiral Reed—Stuart—wasn't quite the ogre that people made him out to be."

The older woman chuckled; she sounded as if she'd dealt with this issue before. "Still waters run deep, Hoshi. Malcolm's just like him in some ways, but even Stuart's had to change and adapt." She leaned forward and took Hoshi's hand. "Some day, Maddy and I will convince him to come by here and you'll get to meet him."

"I'd like that, Mary."

It took more than a year, but eventually, Hoshi found Stuart Reed there, surveying her garden with an air of complete pleasure. She saw the relaxed shoulders, the expression of pure blissful content, and the small smile, so much like Malcolm's. Stuart glanced over his shoulder and saw her there. He gave her a small nod of approval. That said more than any words he could have said.

2158-61

Then came the news of the first Romulan attack on several Earth colonies. Everyone was stunned at the swift brutality of it, but Starfleet's response was immediate: Enterprise, under the command of Captain Charles Tucker. Columbia, under Captain Erika Hernandez. Challenger, under Captain Travis Mayweather. And Endeavor, under Captain Malcolm Reed. Hoshi, like every other citizen of Earth, followed the reports with baited breath.

Her students knew about her connections with the various Starfleet captains. They met Madeline, sister of Captain Reed, and Stuart and Mary, his parents. Then Rianna Mayweather, mother of Captain Mayweather, stopped by, with seeds from Draylax's soil. Ana Hernandez, mother of Captain Hernandez, with chile seeds. Hoshi included them all in her garden plot. As long as the plants thrived, there was hope.

The Earth-Romulan War (as it became known) dragged on. Hoshi accepted a part-time job with Starfleet, decoding Romulan transmissions. Her students promised to maintain the garden plot; there was an air of superstition there, for as long as the plants grew, the safety of their loved ones was ensured.

2161

And today, the day after the signing of the Treaty of Algeron, Hoshi Sato returned to her garden at the University of Brazil. She stared at the water for a long time, lost within the patterns and swirls. So many changes, so many losses. So much gained.

"Hey...watch that vine! Y'don't want to break it, or Hoshi'll have your head."

"I was quite aware of its location, Captain Tucker. Its safety was never in question."

"Yeah, well, I just wanted to make sure, T'Pol."

"Madre de Dios! I've never seen anyone eat a whole jalepeno pepper like that without gastric distress! How do you do it, Travis?"

"I've got an iron stomach. You try a lot of strange things on a cargo ship. Right, Mom?"

"Travis will eat anything, Erika, including things that shouldn't be eaten. His dad was the same way."

Hoshi blinked at the voices. Wait a minute...weren't they supposed to be at the treaty signing? What were they doing here, at a garden in Brazil?

"Ladies and gentlemen, I believe Hoshi should be on her way from her last class now. If you want this to be a surprise, I suggest we finish up here before she shows up."

Stuart. Hoshi giggled and ducked behind a hedge as the voices grew louder. Then she peeked out as a line of people went past her. Erika Hernandez. Travis Mayweather, arm in arm with his mother Rianna. Trip Tucker, followed closely by his first officer, Commander T'Pol. Stuart and Mary Reed, looking happier than she'd ever seen them, followed by Maddy.

Wait a minute. Where's Malcolm? She frowned. None of the Reeds seemed concerned at his absence...perhaps he'd been delayed for some reason. Hoshi waited until they'd all passed by her, then she stepped out from her hiding place. It took all her self-control to not run towards her garden, to see what "surprises" her friends had planned.

And what a surprise! She stopped at the edge of the plot and saw the beautiful blooms of color, flora from different worlds, all intermingled and intertwined in a neat rainbow. Vines of honeysuckle climbed the nearby wall, with ivy and bamboo as its neighbors. Not only her particular garden, but those of her students as well. The delicious smells gave her a heady feeling and a surge of joy and gratefulness.

"See what thou hast planted," a soft voice said behind her, "and abundance is thine, nurtured with loving and kind hands."

She whirled around and broke out into a wide smile. "Malcolm!"

He looked different: older, wiser, sadder, as he stood there in his captain's uniform. Her heart nearly broke at the pain she saw there. Wordlessly, she opened her arms to him and he stepped into her embrace. After a long moment, he whispered, "I've brought you a gift."

She looked up at him with a questioning look as she felt him press something into her hand. It was a hairpin, adorned with a single flower. Hoshi stared at the creamy petals that seemed to glow in the sunlight and change color, depending from which angle it was viewed. A crystal teardrop on a chain completed the ensemble.

"It's a rainbow lily, from Marcana Three," he explained. She nodded in understanding: Marcana had been bombed by the Romulans into a radioactive ball of dust during the war. "I had it made into a hairpin by the artisans of Risa."

"It's beautiful, Malcolm," she whispered. "You made this...for me?"

He nodded. "I've kept it in my uniform pocket for years. I wanted to give it you in person because...it's special. Maddy told me how kind you were to my parents; she even said that you've got Father to unbend a little bit. That takes someone special. Thank you for taking care of my family while I was gone."

She chuckled and replied, "You started it. You were the one who first sent Maddy here. I suppose I have to thank you too, for taking care of me, in your own way."

Together, they stood in each other's arms and surveyed the garden, the result of many worlds and of loving hands.

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May 2012

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