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Nih- Part 2
Rating: PG-13 (mild swearing)
T’pol sat at a table in the messhall, slowly sipping her tea, and perusing the information on the PADD that she held in her other hand. As per usual, even though it was the busiest time of day and the messhall was packed, no one ventured to sit with her, opting instead to squeeze into the other tables.
Cher spotted her intended target and confidently approached T’pol, with tray in hand. “Good Evening Subcommander. May I sit here?” Without waiting for a reply, she promptly took the seat next to the Vulcan. “I don’t know how you do it, the choices are not that great for us vegetarians.”
T’pol looked up from her PADD, with almost an expression of surprise, mixed with respect. “Yes, Ensign. It can be quite trying; however, Chef is aware of my specific requirements. I could speak to him on your behalf to set up a similar arrangement.”
‘So far, so good.’ She contemplated the next course of action. “Yes, thank you. I have developed a penchant for Plomeek broth and herbal teas.”
They sat in silence throughout the remaining meal. T’pol’s opinion of the young subordinate was improving by the minute – she did not ramble on at mealtime as did the other Ensigns.
The dinner consumed, Cher made her excuses. “I must go to the gym while I have the chance. Thank you for your company, Subcommander.”
Just as Cher prepared to leave, T’pol made an uncharacteristic request. “Ensign, may I join you? I require a sparring partner. Have you any experience with the martial arts?”
“Why, yes I do.”
“If you do not mind waiting, I have a few errands to complete first. Shall we meet in about 90 minutes?”
Cher nodded her affirmation, and then mentally checked off another point on her expanding to-do list.
Standing in front of her bathroom mirror, Cher rubbed her hands furiously under the nearly scalding water coming from the taps. She was only satisfied when the dark grey water in the sink became clear. After drying her hands, she looked up and said, “So how do you think we are doing so far?”
No reply was heard, but she continued. “Yes, I know you want me to work faster, but this isn’t going to be easy. That woman has ice running in her veins. Although I have to give you credit, the whole ‘staying quiet during the meal’ was a stroke of genius. I’m sure she scares the hell out of most, so they likely brattle on when they are around her.”
Again, she paused. Her expression was of concentration. She then gave an exaggerated nod, and went to her closet to pick out an outfit for her work-out with T’pol.
They met just outside of the doors of the gym. ‘Punctual,’ T’pol noted with approval. Maybe she had finally found another female with whom she could relate on the ship. It was not that Hoshi was not her friend, but she did tend to spend an immense amount of time with unnecessary pursuits, such as gossiping.
When they stepped into the room, they found that it was empty. T’pol rather preferred to exert herself physically in a less disordered atmosphere, therefore was relieved. Her contentment was interrupted, however, by a series of expletives coming from behind one of the weight machines.
As the voice was unmistakable, Cher cheerfully called out, “Oh, good evening, Commander!”
Trip stood up from behind the equipment. He was diaphoretic, and his hair was disheveled. His uniform had been replaced by a pair of baggy grey sweatpants and a blue tank top, which was streaked with what appeared to be grease; a matching streak darkened his left cheek. With a crooked grin, he first acknowledged Cher, but then looked a bit startled at seeing T’pol standing next to her. Memories of his earlier conversation with the Ensign were making it difficult for him to think of something to say to either of them. He managed, “Oh, hi,” before ducking back down, to complete whatever he was doing.
Cher gave T’pol a quick smile. “So, should we start with some stretching? Then, you can show me some of your moves, Subcommander.”
T’pol hesitated for a moment, and craned her neck to see exactly what Trip was doing. As she could not see him, she stepped onto the centre mat and started to limber herself up. It was not long before they were both perspiring from the intensive work-out regimen that T’pol had initiated.
Throughout the workout, Cher kept an eye out for the Commander. Periodically, she would catch him peering from his hiding place. He was especially interested in checking out the supple Vulcan as she moved almost cat-like around the mat. Cher laughed to herself whenever T’pol would glance in his direction – Trip would quickly avert his eyes, and pretend to be hard at work, repairing what Cher knew was likely already fixed.
After T’pol had again succeeded at pinning her to the mat after a failed hip throw, Cher looked up at the Vulcan, in awe. “Subcommander, where did you learn to do that?”
“I am considered a master of the Vulcan Martial Art of Suus Mahna. However, I have since incorporated moves I learned from a Sensei, who lived in Chinatown while I was stationed in San Francisco.”
“Well, I wish that I could learn to be a tenth as proficient as you are, Subcommander.” Cher cringed slightly, at her less-than-subtle ‘brown-nosing’.
“Thank you.” T’pol did not hesitate with her reply. “And, Miss Woodhouse, you may call me T’pol when we are not on duty.”
“WHAT?” Trip exclaimed, jumped up from behind the weight machine, and came stomping over to the 2 women. He stopped about ½ meter in front of T’pol, and stared at her, hands fixed on his hips. “WHAT?”
She merely raised an eyebrow, and then looked at Cher, whose expression also suggested that she was confused by the commander’s behavior. He seemed to be again angry with her, although she could not fathom what the trigger was, this time.
Trip waited for a reply to his ambiguous question. But as none were forthcoming, he shook his head in disgust, and stormed out of the gym.
Unsolicited, Cher presented her take on the situation. “I think he’s jealous.”
“Excuse me, Miss Woodhouse, but why would Mr. Tucker be jealous?”
“Well, you know how men are. . . .” Cher was having difficulty keeping a straight face, and yet she continued in a matter-of-fact tone. “I think he was surprised that you and I are becoming friends. Or. . . or maybe. . . it’s just that you said that I could call you T’pol when we are off duty.”
“Why would Mr. Tucker be disturbed by the use of such informalities? He has called me by my proper name since we first met.”
“Probably because YOU have never told HIM that he could call you T’pol. Or, have you?”
“None the less, he has done so despite my never giving him permission.” T’pol appeared to be satisfied with her response.
“That’s not the point, T’pol. His ego is bruised. I believe that he considers your relationship to be . . .a unique one. . . despite the passionate disagreements that seem to define it to others. Love and hate are not all that different, you know.” Cher walked over to the bench and picked up her sports bag, hoping that she had not gone too far with that last claim. She fought the urge to look back at T’pol, as she was dying to see if her facial expression would give away what she was thinking.
“I believe that you are mistaken in your assessment.”
Cher turned, and suppressed a smile. She noticed that, despite her rebuttal, T’pol was still contemplating the presented argument. “Well, thank you T’pol. I would enjoy sparring with you again sometime. I should really go now. Commander Tucker has a busy day planned for me.”
“Yes, that would be agreeable,” T’pol said almost absent-mindedly.
Cher strutted out of the gym, pleased with herself for another job well-done. It was only after hearing the swoosh of the doors, that she allowed herself to burst out into laughter.
Rubbing her temples, she tried to alleviate the tension headache that had been present since she arrived for her shift. Every muscle in the remainder of her body also ached, a reminder of her work-out with T’pol. Despite knowing that an analgesic would ameliorate the symptoms, Cher couldn’t risk going to Sickbay, as Dr. Phlox may insist on investigating the etiology of her illness. So, instead, she suffered in silence.
After finishing the engine calibrations, Cher returned to her office. As she passed the open door of the Chief Engineer’s office, she observed that Trip was sitting in his chair, staring at his computer console, with his mouth open. He looked like he had found something that was not intended for his eyes - an expression of self-deprecation swept across his face. He tousled his hair, and then turned in his chair to find Cher staring at him.
“Ensign! What are you doing?” he asked, defensively. But before she could respond, he continued, “You must have better things to do than to gawk at me!”
“Yes, sir,” she replied rather smugly, and then gave him an impish grin. If only he knew how much she had to do, and had already done. Despite his implied dismissal, she remained in the doorway, looking at him.
Trip gave her a puzzled look. “Well, Ensign, you should get to it then.”
Still smiling, she gave him a little bow and walked to the adjacent room. Once inside, she tried to imagine his initial thoughts when he happened upon a rather candid letter from a certain Armory officer to a certain Vulcan that had ‘accidentally’ been forwarded to him. Cher knew that the Commander was aware of Malcolm’s infatuation with T’pol, but had thought it to be unrequited. ‘Bet he’s really seeing her in a different light, now.’
Cher pushed the Comm. “Ensign Woodhouse to Lieutenant Reed.”
Promptly, Malcolm responded, uncertainty in his voice. “Yes, this is Lieutenant Reed.”
“Hello, Lieutenant. You don’t know me, as I have just joined the crew. But I was told to look you up when I got here. Your sister Madeline has told me all about you. I used to babysit your nieces while I was in school in Australia.”
“You know Maddie?” Malcolm did not hide his enthusiasm. Any news from his favorite sister was always welcomed.
“Yes, sir. Would you like to meet for dinner this evening?”
“How about 1900 hours?”
“See you in the messhall. Woodhouse out.”
Once again, T’pol sat at a table in the messhall, slowly sipping on some tea, and perusing the information on the PADD that she held in her other hand. Although less busy than the previous evening, she was still the only one sitting at a table alone.
The sound of polite laughter caught her attention. She looked up to see Ensign Woodhouse and Lieutenant Reed waiting for their meals. They appeared to be enjoying each others’ company. She wondered if they had known each other back on Earth.
Just as she was about to continue with her reading, she was interrupted.
“Excuse me, T’pol, but may we join you?” Cher motioned for Malcolm to take a seat, as she came around the other side of the table, such that they would be flanking her.
Malcolm stood slack-jawed for a few moments. He was surprised that the Ensign had ventured to call the Subcommander by her proper name. However, T’pol did not appear to be fazed by this.
“I hope that you are well, Miss Woodhouse. I must admit that our exertion yesterday has left me with some mild aches.”
“Yes, I was a little stiff myself, but am feeling better now.”
Malcolm remained silent. He watched as the 2 women conversed easily, and about various topics: astronomical phenomena, hostile alien encounters, and martial arts. He tried to recall a time that he had seen any Vulcan this. . . relaxed, yes that’s the word. His contemplation was suspended when T’pol asked him a question.
“Um, I’m sorry, but what was that again?” A warmth mounted his cheeks, as he hated being caught off guard.
“Miss Woodhouse has suggested that we begin to give classes in self-defense, to the general crew. Would you be willing to assist me with the lessons? I am familiar with your extensive hand-to-hand combat training, which, if I am not mistaken, included a variety of martial art maneuvers.”
Malcolm blinked several times, with an expression of disbelief. “Yes, Subcommander. I would be pleased to help you.” He now felt somewhat honored at being asked, especially by the fiercely independent science officer.
Within a few minutes, Malcolm and T’pol were having an animated discussion (at least on his part). They were deciding on the logistics of the proposed curriculum. They did not notice that Cher has quietly slipped away. They also did not notice that not long after, Trip stepped into the messhall for a late dinner.
He froze just inside the doorway and gawped at the couple huddled at a table. They appeared to be having a private conversation. Trip watched as Malcolm seemed to lean in a little too close to T’pol, and yet she did not flinch at his proximity. Various mental images popped into his head, fueled by the correspondence that he had inadvertently come upon. Why did he have to find another one of T’pol’s private messages? At least last time, he was able to find the courage to tell her about it. But this time. . . this time was different.
Finally, T’pol happened to look up to find Trip staring at her. The all-too-familiar raised eyebrow signaled her confusion at his odd behavior.
Malcolm turned around and was puzzled by the expression on Trip’s face. He was about to call him over, when the commander let out an exasperated sigh, shook his head and bolted out of the messhall. “What was that all about?” Malcolm asked T’pol.
“I am not certain, Lieutenant. Mr Tucker has been behaving in a peculiar manner, even for him.”
In the corner, unobserved, Cher had appraised the entire encounter to be satisfactory – she had succeeded in drawing out his jealousy. She was not so certain, though, that the next step would be as successful – having T’pol acknowledge her feelings for him.
Trip shifted in his seat, waiting for the start of the movie. Sitting in the back, he held a large bowl of popcorn on his lap, and was eating this by the fistful – he was starving, since he had not had supper that evening. “When is this damn movie going to start?” His patience was wearing thin; he also needed new images to supplement the ones that were currently running through his head.
“Calm down, sir. I’m sure that the movie is going to start right on time, in a couple of minutes.” Cher took the seat next to Trip. She could tell that his fuse was quite short right now, and that all he needed to explode was a lighted match. In this case, the match was now taking a seat 2 rows in front of him.
Malcolm and T’pol were still sorting out the details for the classes. While in the messhall, he had mentioned that the movie was a classic Bruce Lee film. As it seemed a propos, he had found the courage to invite her; surprisingly, she had accepted.
“Everyone seems to be here.” Cher took the opportunity to point this out. “Oh. . . does the Subcommander come to the movies often?”
Trip glared at the 2 officers as they seemed engrossed in conversation, ignoring Cher’s query. His mind briefly brought up the image of his inviting her to movie night in the past. This angered him more. His face was now plethoric, and his eyes were unblinking. His right hand was buried in the popcorn bowl.
As if he could sense Trip’s eyes burning into the back of his head, Malcolm turned around slowly. He gave a crooked smile. “Good Evening, Commander.”
That did it. Trip could have sworn that the smarmy Brit was flaunting his conquest. How could he take advantage of T’pol like that? He knew that Malcolm was quite the lady’s man – that he would have his fun with the naïve Vulcan and then drop her as soon as he became bored.
Cher resisted the compulsion to yell ‘there she blows’; as she sensed Trip’s tirade just moments before he erupted.
“WHAT THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOIN’, MAL?”
All eyes in the packed room turned to look at him. Trip now stood, with his hands on his hips, fists clenched. He looked like he was about to pummel someone.
Malcolm looked around, his eyes showing his confusion. “Trip? What are you going on about?”
“WE ALL KNOW YOUR REP’. BUT DID YA HAVE TO GO AND GET MIXED UP WITH HER?”
“What are you—.’’ He was interrupted by Trip pushing over a couple of chairs, as he charged towards him. Malcolm now stood nose to nose with the fuming engineer.
“DID YA THINK I’D LET YA GET AWAY WITH THIS?” Trip then looked at T’pol and barked, “AND YOU! . . . YOU!” He was unable to finish his train of thought, as he suddenly realized that he was surrounded by fellow crewman. He looked around sheepishly. Then, in a dejected tone, he said, “Fuck it,” and ran out of the room.
T’pol sat on the floor cushion, cross-legged, staring at the flickering flame from one of her meditation candles. After over an hour of controlled breathing and mental exercises, she was still troubled by the commander’s odd behavior. She contemplated on the fact that the last time he had acting strangely, he had been under the influence of mind-altering radiation. Maybe, there was something sinister that could account for his current state of mind.
She was not convinced though by this conjecture. On the prior occasion, Mr. Tucker had treated everyone in relatively the same manner. Presently, he seemed to exhibit these peculiarities solely in her presence. His anger seemed targeted on her for the most part, although he had been quite aggressive towards the Lieutenant just a few hours ago.
‘I think he’s jealous’. That had been Ensign Woodhouse’s exact words when she had advanced an opinion on the situation. Was she correct? And, how could this be addressed without causing more embarrassment for the Commander? She did not want to inflict pain on Mr. Tucker, if indeed he did have affections for her.
T’pol decided that she would attempt to sleep, and perhaps the answers would present themselves in her dreams, which she was sure to have given that she had failed to meditate effectively that evening. As soon as she entered REM, her subconscious began to play out many scenarios, all involving a rather irrational Charles Tucker the Third.
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Two folks have made comments
Okay, so far so good. I will be interested to see where you go with this story. Ali D :~)
hehehhee, oh giggle! This is quite amusing ...where's the rest?!!! ;-)