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No More Blackened Catfish...Pt 5
No More Blackened Catfish or Pecan Pie*
“Twenty hundred: the mess hall.”
“What did you say sir?” Nelson politely drew her superior’s attention to the fact that he was talking out loud.
“I’m sorry that I have to renege on my offer to sub for you, so that you can attend the big do tonight at twenty hundred...”
“In the mess hall,” she finished for him.
“You deserve the break after working so hard on the impulse engine repairs.” He delivered his compliment loud enough so that the on-duty crew would hear the praise.
“Well,” Nelson looked slightly sheepish, “I…”
Trip pushed his personal concerns to the back of his mind, “Well, what lieutenant?”
“I’ve taken the liberty of ordering a case of beer to be delivered to the skeleton crew, sir?”
Nelson waited, holding her breath. The Commander had every right to reprimand her and counter the order. When she placed the order she was certain that her decision was in keeping with the example set by Tucker. Now, with authority staring her in the face, she was doubtful.
“You had a case of apple juice ordered?” Trip clarified.
“Yes, sir, apple juice, the best Chef has in stock.” A grin began to play at the corner of her mouth.
“Did ya order some party hats too?”
How did he know? “Yes, sir. I did.”
Well, y’all have an uneventful evenin’ now. Ya know where to find me if ya need me.”
He waved to the crew then took his leave.
One crewman reported to Nelson that he had overheard the boss saying, “That woman’s goin’ to be ready for my job, long before I’m willin’ to give it up.”
“Good evening, Commander.”
Trip rapidly scanned for the name of the youngster who had issued the greeting. “Good evenin’, Jenkins. What have you there?”
The youngest member of the ship’s crew was holding a ladle, like it was a light saber.
“Early arrivals are being assigned tasks…sir.”
Trip tried to suppress a smile. Giving orders to superior officers was not a familiar skill to Jenkins.
“Has the ladle somethin’ to do with my assignment, Crewman?”
Jenkins swallowed hard, “Yes, sir.” He passed the ladle to the Chief Engineer.
“What exactly am I supposed to do with this, son?” He kept his voice warm and encouraging. He had never forgotten his first awkward years in Starfleet.
“You are dispensing punch, Sir.” Jenkins pointed in the direction of a decorated table over which hung a banner, which read “Punch Their Lights Out.”
“I get the picture…Tom, isn’t it?”
The youngster straightened with pride. “Yes sir, my name is Tom.” The Chief Engineer knew him by his first name. Nobody’s going to believe this.
He had lost count of the number of glasses of punched he had served since the party started.
“How many does this make, Travis?” he asked as he topped up the ensign’s glass.
“My third, Sir.” Travis held out an empty glass. “Before you say anything, Commander, this glass is for that pretty MACO sitting in the corner by the viewport.”
Trip looked in the direction of his nod. “Does she have a name?”
“Mrs. Mayweather sounds really good right now, Sir.”
“Here’s to interdepartmental relations, Ensign.” Trip put down his ladle and lifted his own glass of punch in saluted.
“Yes, Sir.” Travis swaggered off.
There was a lull in activity around his table, so Trip scanned the room looking for wallflowers and the ignored. There were none. Surrounding each booth of the “Delphic Dalliance” were smiling couples, giggling trios and boisterous bands.
Hoshi wore a flowing skirt and off the shoulder blouse, in her role as tea leaf reader. Her booth had a long queue of hopefuls. Who knew Hoshi Sato, PhD read tea leaves? There was a fishing pond.
“Where every catch wins a prize,” shouted the barker.
Trip had no idea who had rigged the strongman booth, where a great deal of testosterone was being worn off by muscled crewmen. The females watching urged their favourites on.
Hot dogs and hamburgers were being served under a shiny tent awning constructed from safety blankets found in the away team gear.
A quartet comprised of a fiddle, a bass, a washboard and a tin flute played tune in the corner. An ensign from the Science Department was calling squares to an eager set of couples.
Around the edges of the room, small tables were scattered, dressed with gingham table clothes and tealights in mason jars. A couple sat at the table farthest from the punch stand with heads close together, intently talking. Candlelight played on her hair. He had his arm around her back of her chair, his mouth close to her ear.
The colour drained from his face. T’Pol and Hayes were in a world of their own. At exactly that moment T’Pol turned her head in the direction of his booth. Their eyes locked across the room until she turned her attention, once again, to her companion. Trip could not look away.
She appeared to excuse herself, rising to step out of the shadow onto the well lit, but empty dance floor. She had changed her pastel hued suit for something the colour of glowing coals, rich red. The light played across it. What did women call that texture? Velvet? A shiver ran up his spine as he imagined running his hands through the pile and over her body.
He shook his head to erase the image, busying himself by tidying up the table. He put empty glasses in a bin, wiped up some spills, and refreshed the ice as he prayed that her destination was the ladies’ room, not his booth.
“Congratulations, Commander.” The unmistakable throaty voice of the First Officer drifted into his consciousness.
He lifted his head, “Thank you, XO.” He winced at his childishness. “What exactly are you congratulatin’ me about?”
“It was your idea to make event planners of the two most junior crewpersons on Enterprise.”
“But it was your idea to push the planning down to the crew level.” Trip remembered his duties. “Would you like some punch?”
“Yes, please,” she hesitated a moment, “And one for Hayes, if you will?”
“Sure thing,” as he filled the glasses he asked, “How did you and Hayes avoid getting assigned to a booth?”
T’Pol took a full glass from his hand. Their fingers brushed for the briefest of seconds. Tucker pulled his had away as if he had been scalded.
“We were not prompt,” she answered, as she took the second glass.
“Have a nice evenin’, T’Pol.” The goodwill that the evening had fostered in him evaporated, leaving an empty space he could not name.
“Gee sir, we didn’t expect you to clean up?” Jenkins was blushing furiously as he watched the Chief Engineer wiped down the table that served as the punch booth.
“Good bartenders and engineers clean up after themselves, Tom.” Trip heard his father in the remark he had made. He sighed. I am getting old.
“Yes, sir, but you were pouring punch all night.”
“I am feelin’ a little tired.” He passed the rag to the co-chair of the event. “You and Bordeaux did a fine job of chairing this event, Tom.”
The crewman beamed, “Thank you, sir.”
“My compliments to Crewman Bordeaux and you, Jenkins,” Archer had materialized from nowhere.
“Thank you, Captain,” stammered the youngster.
“Trip, do you have a minute?” The request could not be denied. The engines were running smoothly. The thousand and one small things that always needed attention could wait a moment longer.
“Of course, Cap’n.”
Archer put his arm across the weary engineer’s shoulder and led him off.
After his meeting with the Captain, Trip dropped into engineering. Party hats were suspended from the catwalk and were perched on computer stations. The empty beer bottles were stowed discreetly in the case, which was pushed into a shadowed corner.
The skeleton crew murmured among themselves. Trip had often observed the phenomenon; voices were often lowered when the artificial night fell.
Nelson turned when she felt the air pressure change. “You still up, Commander?”
There were dark circles under his eyes. His normal radiant glow of vitality was dimmed. She felt a pull at her heart strings. He looked like a lost boy.
“Just headin’ to my quarters. Thought I would stop by to see if you needed anything?”
“No sir. Thanks for sending down the picnic basket.”
“Next time we have one of these things, you and the impulse team are going. And that’s an order.”
“Yes, sir,” she saluted playfully as he turned and walked away.
The empty corridor was dim, simulating night. The MACO’s must have turned in for the night. When they bivouacked on D deck, the traffic in this corridor had increased, even at night.
He paused. That sounded an awful lot like the hiss of a door sliding open he thought. He slipped into a shadow, pressing his body against the bulkhead.
T’Pol was standing in the MACO major’s open doorway. She backed out a step, followed by Hayes, who took her left hand, raising the back of it to his lips.
“To all, to each!/ a fair good-night,/ And pleasing dreams, and slumbers light.” He released her hand. “You will not reconsider my invitation?”
“Our mission will be a long one.” T’Pol raised her hand to his cheek, placing her palm against it. “Walter Scott was too much of the romantic for my taste. Gosse, however? Canst thou not wait for Love one flying hour/ O heart of little faith?”
“From Dejection and Delay,” countered the Major. “Are you trying to tell me something, T’Pol?”
“Only that I will look forward to our next conversation.”
Trip noted that Hayes smiled as if he had been awarded the Cochrane Prize.
T’Pol had pressed the button for the lift, when Trip made himself known to her.
“Good evening, Commander.” The indirect lighting caused the velvet of her suit to glow. The curves of her figure were accentuated by the shadows it cast.
“Would you do me the honour of callin’ me Trip?” He had meant to deliver a stinging rebuff, but the question popped out instead.
“Thank you, Trip. That would be satisfactory.”
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Four of you have made comments
I am feeling so sorry for Trip, and wondering if T'pol is playing him like a fiddle or really falling for Hayes, and I'm so sure that Trip is going to say something really stupid to T'pol or do something stupid with Nelson, and then he comes out that beautiful line at the end. What was that scene with Hayes and T'pol though? Gotta read on. This is a terrific story.
Poor Trip. One of the women on the base has been playing the same game with me for weeks now.
I hope it turns out better for Trip than it appears to be turning out for me. Oh well.
Oh dear...I keep hoping that T'Pol is just trying to make Trip jealous but then that's so un-Vulcan...which would mean that she really does like Hayes...but I don't want that! *whimpers* Don't keep us in suspense too long!
can we just space hayes now...