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Author - Sue | C | Genre - General | Main Story | Rating - PG | T
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If Liana had wanted him to, he really would have stayed. At least long enough to have helped her people get solidly back on their feet again, space-worthily speaking. It wouldn't have been a problem. Archer would have held orbit for a little while longer until the bulk of the work had been completed.
She had the gentlest way about her; the gentlest eyes. What was normally the case with the average man did not hold true for Trip. A woman's eyes spoke volumes for him.
Her eyes... Eyes that still seemed to follow him wherever he went now. Down a corridor, on the bridge, while he was aloft at the warp drive's station. Even here in the mess hall he was missing her, wondering if she got as big a kick out of 'Rocky Road' as he did.
He should have worked harder so she would have more than just five measly ice cream flavors to choose from. He should have disregarded her refusal, and just stayed, anyway. Funny, how she had worked her way into his heart this quickly. Or was it only because he had gone without feminine companionship for so long?
Forlornly, Trip cast his eyes out the view portal, unable to prevent his thinking where Liana was right now. What she might be doing. How she and her father were faring with the updated holographic replacements of the crew. His reverie also prevented him from right away perceiving T'Pols' phantom-like entrance into the eating facility which was steadily getting filled to capacity. It sure was getting noisy in here.
He saw her only when her back was to him, making her usual long, drawn-out food selection. There was no mistaking the owner of that ramrod of a spinal column.
What had been with her this time around, Trip thought grouchily, thinking back to how rude and cranky she'd been as far as he'd been concerned, as soon as Liana had come on the scene.
There's little ol' Miss High an' Mighty who ain't afraid of anything, herself. Boy, don't she beat all. What's her jumbo problem? I hardly make eye contact with some female, and she's on my case faster than you can shake a stick at. Like I'll strip in one second flat and prove her point about my having no self-control whatsoever. That I'm some undisciplined idiot. Whatever the hell get's into her, she'd better nip it quick 'fore I tell her where she can get off in spades--she sure as hell don't own me!...
T'Pol spun her head around, and pegged him with stony eyes as though she had somehow been able to get a bead on what he'd been thinking. Though playing it off as being nonchalant, she knew his exact location from the moment she had entered. Masterfully she never let on, pretending she was unaware of his presence. With her small carrot salad, and tumbler of water with a twist of lime, she sauntered en route, deliberately choosing to walk past him rather than head down a more distant, aisle to avoid him. Nearly a yard off, she halted, looking off into the immediate distance.
Look at her. Makin' believe she don't see me, and here I am right under her snooty nose...
The plain-spoken man that he was nudged him to speak up. "Can't find a seat?"
Acting as if he wasn't talking to her, she didn't answer him. The only empty place to sit, however, was the one at his table.
Surveying about her haughtily, she took her time, but finally answered, "I don't wish to impose."
"Oh, you mean like all them other times?" Mischief crackled within his eyes, though he'd spoken with a straight face. "I was just leaving." He rose with his salver, and the small dish of partially- melted ice cream, his favorite, upon it.
In the process of sitting, she said, "There is no reason for you to leave on my account, Commander. It appears that you have not finished."
"Nah, I've finished, trust me." Was it his fault he didn't have much of an appetite this evening? A pretty young lady, still fresh in his mind, the cause.
The expressionless Vulcan's normally dull, flat eyes sparked with her hearing that. "What is that you were eating?"
So...he, realized, for once she had readily taken him at his word, without raising her standard fuss. "This?" He aimed his somewhat pointy nose downward at the spreading, melting mass. "Ice cream. Never had any?"
Primly, T'Pol replied, "Cream is a milk product..."
"I ingest no milk."
Acting unconsciously, he began lowering himself, sitting back down, across from her, waiting for some additional comment of disparagement. When none came, because it seemed as though she was waiting for him to say something, he figured he'd say what was on his mind then. With a voice that truly held some genuine concern, he asked, "Don't ya worry about your bones goin' brittle on account of lack of calcium?"
"Vulcan physiology, differing largely in many aspects from humans', does not require the regimental ingestation of huge doses of calcium for strong bones and teeth."
'She's doin' it again,' he thought disagreeably, 'usin' that superior tone of hers like Vulcans are God's gift to the universe.' Her face remained unaffected by the tonal quality the Commander had imagined he had heard. "Score two more points for your side," Trip quipped, and prepared to get up from the table again.
Sensing his certain departure, she spoke up, but did not rush her words. "There is a matter I wish to discuss with you, Commander. May we take it up here?"
'Only *one* matter? I've got several things I'd like ta iron out with you, lady, startin' with your pricky attitude, twenty-four seven,' Trip thought in testy rumination.
"When we were investigating the supposed ghost ship." She sensed she had garnered his sharper attention because of the intense focusing of his eyes upon her. "Why did you resist the idea that I wasn't afraid? That as a Vulcan I should have been?"
"It wasn't that I resisted--your word--that you should be afraid. I just found it hard to believe that under the circumstances you weren't. Bein' Vulcan had nothin' ta do with it." The resolute look in his eyes stayed intact. Her being Vulcan had everything to do with anything he couldn't understand about her.
"So...as you began telling me...humans achieve psychological benefit from..." How should she phrase her conjecture logically?
"Bein' scared outta our ever-lovin' wits," Trip forded ahead, watching the left corner of her eye twitch slightly. A readable sign that he'd ticked her. "When there's no real danger, under controlled circumstances, and what I mean by controlled is you know you're really safe. Nothin' bad's really gonna happen. It's makebelieve. Gettin' scared like that's jake."
"Jake?" she parroted, "I do not un--"
Nodding, he replied, "It's all good. A lotta fun." Thought-provoked, he lolled the sticky spoon around in the ice cream plate. Its contents was close to a soupy consistency. "Guess you've never been to a scary movie, huh?"
"A scary movie..." Through the buzzy, variegated conversational din, her remark, basted in curiosity, echoed.
Nodding off-centeredly to her once again, Trip, with no intentions of beating a hasty retreat now, took his time about his next comments. She reeled him in hook, line and sinker every time when she ceased being the insufferable know-it-all, to become his one-on-one foreign exchange student.
"Yup...like Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman, Dracula, Curse of the Mummy, Psycho, Attack of the Fifty-foot Woman, The Birds--one of the masterpieces of suspense--Jaws, The Deep...They Live Among Us. The Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Oh, and how can I forget my scariest best? The Sylicall Directive? Talk about your classic horror." He whistled.
"This is not exhaustive."
"Not by a long shot. They're thousands of these ancient, scare ya ta death film classics." He paused long enough for her first impression of some of the titles he'd rattled off to sink in. He relished the look of skepticism in her widened eyes. That look was usually a precursor to more questioning. He hoped that still held true. She was easier, more enjoyable even, to manage this way when her curiosity got the better of her, and she wasn't as closed-off; she was way more fun too.
"What is the point of viewing situations that have no foundation in reality?" she queried, trying to suss out his motive for relating such nonsense.
Pursing his lips he patiently repeated, "'Cos, like I said. It's fun."
"'And fun is good,'" she said, waxing mimetic.
"Take it from an authority on the subject. Dr. Seuss."
Stiffly, "I am unfamiliar with his philosophical treaties."
"I suggest for starters: 'Green Eggs And Ham,' 'The Cat In The Hat,' 'The Cat In the Hat Comes Back,' 'One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.'"
T'Pol eyed him as though he'd lost his mind. "You are making no sense whatsoever."
"No, no. I'm on the level. Dr. Seuss is a brilliant educator."
"Whom does he educate?" T'Pol asked sharply.
"He's an educator for all ages. 'Specially for those young at heart," Trip hedged.
"What ages specifically?" she questioned, having a big suspicion at that precise second.
Clearing his throat, and shielding his mouth behind his fist, he said following a distracting cough, "Three through eight, I reckon."
"Human children's ages," T'Pol airily retorted. With his penchant for juvenility, it often amazed her he'd gotten as far as he had in such an exacting career as chief engineer. "Do you consider everything through the eyes of a child?"
Trip gauged himself, not too quick to take offense over her disdainful tone. "I'm not threatened when I do. Bein' out here for the first time makes me feel like I'm five years old. I never wanna lose that sense of wonder, and excitement for the new and exhileratin'. You?" As she sat thinking his, what she considered simplistic line of reasoning over, he predicated, "Lemme try this one on ya for size... You never feel threatened?" Her attention spiked, she found herself staring intently into his eyes, the challenge in hers.
"Feelings..." She shook her head as if to convey how many times did she have to remind him.
"Not even once?" Trip arched his eyebrow mimetically, tidily replicating her style. "*Never*?" he drove home, implausibly.
"Where are you going with this line of questioning?" she asked, clipping her words.
"Till I get at least one straight answer outta ya, all the way." He drummed the reinforced tabletop with his right thumbnail. "Why'd you get all squirrely on me when Liana turned up?" Like the schizoid bitch from hell in plainest English, he couldn't help thinking. "Squirrely--short-tempered, high-handed, a real pain in the ass. What was your problem?"
Immediately, he saw denial bubble to the surface of her numbing deadpan expression. "It was the same with the Xyrillian engineer, Ah'len." He beat her to the punch.
"Yeah, yeah, I know. You've hit me over the head enough times with it. The gal who knocked me up."
T'Pol effectively raised an eyebrow, and Trip let the spoon drop with a careless messy plop. Melted ice cream spray just missed splattering her nose.
"Why d'ya get madder than a wet hen whenever some gal or another happens along?"
Ignoring the tweeze underlying his homespun phraseology, and lightly shaking her head, T'Pol spoke, "I do not The imagination you humans hold in such high esteem in possessing is urging you to promote specious reasoning."
"The hell it is," Trip riposted, drinking in her 'uh, oh...the jig's up' flash of disclosure zip through her countenance which was in the process of flushing her unique tone. "I know what it's like bein' on the receivin' end of your cold-blooded rudeness. Imagination's got nothin' ta do with it, gal." He kept his voice level an low. No need for the bulk of the crew getting earfuls.
Vulnerability was oozing from every pore of her face. The room seemed to tilt before her eyes, but she held her tongue.
"If you've got somethin' to say ta me, for the love of honesty, say it, or I'm gonna call ya on it."
T'Pol, against her finely-tuned will squirmed, but it went undetected by the simmering on the
"'Cos I don't appreciate the guff along with the stinkin' attitude, *lady*."
She realized, much too late, how schematically he'd set her up, as that idea slammed into her mind. There was only a red-herring of a recourse to seize upon. "I prioritize for your professional and ethical welfare," T'Pol insisted above a faint whisper, holding onto that for dear dignity.
"I ain't buyin' that bull for a second."
Tenaciously, she defended, "I speak the truth." Saying so was hardly cathartic. At best, it was partial truth. The whole truth was profoundly unsettling. It made absolutely no sense whatsoever; went against all that she was, and was gravely unthinkable. "What would you have me say?" she targeted, sounding negligibly vexed.
(...What needs to be said, honey... Is it so hard for ya to say, 'I like you, Trip? I like you a lot. Maybe we could...') His train of thought got derailed then when he realized the discomposure of what he was thinking, and the crux of her dilemna. What *was* he thinking? The impossible, as far as she having any feelings for him was concerned. Wasn't it the impossible?
Logic vs. the roaring of his pulse in his ears.
"You can tell me. I'll understand," he hinted huge.
"You're imagining that which, as you would say, 'flies in the face of' cutting-edge logic and probity."
He liked it when she used his expressions. It proved he had made some sort of impression on her. Stubbornly, though, he leveraged, "Am I now?" Winking at her, he said, "My ears ain't the ones turnin' a nice, bright whatever shade of green that is." He enjoyed watching her hands instinctively cup her ears as though her touch would return them to their normal coloring.
Call him dense, he smiled inwardly as her hands flew away from her telltale ears, but she came off as a little too possessive for someone who acted as if having tenderer feelings for him was as alien as he having those same ones for her. But, did he really have such feelings? He thought about that what felt like a good long while as T'Pol continued to will her ears, her entire face for that matter, to cool off.
Maybe he was being the overly-sensitive one after all, reading far more into this situation. Vulcans did not fall for humans, and vice versa. Reacting to his gut feelings more than it warranted suddenly felt ludicrous. Yet...something which felt concrete, however, told him there was more to her catty behavior than mere concern for his professionality, overall.
"If there's somethin' you wanna tell me, I wish you would, 'stead of bein' so weird. It'll do ya good." 'Me too,' he thought with a wan smile.
T'Pol was glaring on the inside, but looking her patented impassive self on the outside. He was jarringly perceptive for a human, his artlessness which he sported like a coat of mail, notwithstanding, she haltingly deliberated. He wasn't easily put off when he got a firm hold of something. Maybe she did want him. She blinked, startling herself, more like shocking herself, and she sighed. Maybe she did...It was safe to say her cloak of 'everything Vulcan,' in league with a snug coupling of conditioned starship protocols would never consciously let her admit that to herself, let alone to him.
She with him? The remotest thing this side of absurd!
Something unsure in her eyes begged that a change in conversational subject matter is what she sought. She considered getting up from the table. Leave, but she didn't want to give him the satisfaction of knowing that she was fleeing. Shrinking from him. Unable to withstand the relentless probing of his candor.
"I have already told you. Your professionalism needs fine-tuning, Commander."
"Yeah...right. Like your comin' clean with me does too."
"Coming clean?" Her heart began to pound harder, remembering their awkward Decon interlude.
"Tell me what you *really* feel about me. You heard right--feel. It's not like you can't. You do a pro job of suffocatin' the life outta every feeling you do have." He inched the thumb that had been drumming closer to the nail of hers. "Ya think you and me could promote a breakthrough in Vulcan-human relations of our own?"
The tiny hairs on the back of her neck stood at full attention. Why did it feel as though the walls of the mess hall were collapsing in on her? His silky voice was an implement of destruction, undermining her firm resolve to remain dispassionate at times such as this when she was the only person he saw.
His eyes, vibrant with the unknown, were anotherstory. A story whose ending was a long way off.
Roiling in agitation, T'Pol played the diversion card. "What are those white lumps in your milk soup?" she asked, hoping his hearing wasn't keen enough to pick up on how purgative she'd sounded.
He saw clear through her ruse, but decided he'd let her refusal to deal with her true feelings ride for the time being. There'd be another time. He'd make sure of that. For now it was enough he had her on the ropes. "They're mini marshmallows. Ever have any?"
"No. What are they...exactly?"
Here we go again, Trip thought, recalling his feeble attempt at explanation with Liana. "They're nothin' but junk. Pure and simple. Sweet as all get out, but so much sweetness just makes 'em go down that much easier." He fished a soggy specimen out with his spoon and proffered, "Here." See what ya think."
"I really do not think I--"
"Aw, go ahead. Live a little. You might wind up likin' it," he bandied, his face vividly animated. "Here, I'll wipe off the ice cream so you won't get any of that." He started in with the napkin lying off to his right.
"No, Commander." T'Pol's honed eyes arrowed into his, and he saw something he'd never seen before. A willingness to be willing. "As it is will be all right." She took the marshmallow off the spoon--with her fingers--and cautiously placed the fluff into her mouth. Trip's eyes widened then...man, she'd actually used her dainty little
"Well?" He squeezed the color out of his lips, unaware that he was holding his breath too.
She hadn't finished chewing, which was proving to be quite a chore. Swallowing finally, she admitted, "Fascinating. Very sweet."
"Feels real nice goin' down, am I right?"
"Yes. You are."
"So? Are ya game to have another?"
She nodded, and to his complete surprise, removed his bowl to set it before herself. As she picked
"Sure, don't be shy. Just help yourself," Trip jostled, and while she sat making the most of his generosity, he spoke with a decidedly reserved resonance in his voice, something closely-related to apologetic figured in too. "I'll work on my professionalism." T'Pol stopped eating, and eyed him, detecting by his manner that he expected her to make a concession.
Pinching another marshmallow, marveling over its springiness she said, sounding almost thoughtful, "I will reevaluate my judgemental opinions."
An explosion close to the auxilliary dial relay yesterday had been the pop of a popgun compared with what she'd just said.
He could hear his mama's folkloric voice tinkle in his ears, 'darlin' boy, you can catch more flies with honey...' and he smiled that winning smile of his. "Mama knows best," he mumbled into his lips, and in that vein he continued, raising his voice, "that Liana's..." T'Pol stopped chewing and frowned. Chuckling softly he went on, "A sweet kid. Kinda young though. I need me a woman with maturity." He could see T'Pol was having trouble getting down that last marshmallow, and she was typically, all ears.
"Yeah. I need me a woman with some livin' under her belt, but who'll still look *nice* in Triaxian silk..." That devilish wink of his about covered it.
T'Pol rolled her eyes, but they smiled at him. "I prefer Vulcan silk..."
Trip laughed, popped a marshmallow into his mouth, and imagined her giving him his own private fashion show, one of these days...
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Two folks have made comments
Marshmallows will never be the same again! Loved it. This story made me smile and chuckle all the way through it. Well done and thank you so much. A sequel would top it off just perfectly. Ali D :~)
i really liked this. trip is so sly!