Title: In Theory
Author: Vesper (Regina)
Category: Romance, Humor
Codes: R/S, Tu
Spoilers: Shockwave II, teeny one for Silent Enemy
Summary: The forgotten shirt. Hoshi pov.
Disclaimer: Star Trek belongs to Paramount. I make no profit from this.
Archival: If you wish to archive, please link to my website. Please keep all my headers intact.
"Okay, Hoshi. You can do this. It won't be that bad. Think of it this way, if you do it quickly, no one will ever know and you can just go on pretending it never happened."
Sounded easy in theory. In practice, it was an entirely different matter. I wasn't convinced, even if I looked confident in the mirror.
I'm a Starfleet officer. My reflection lifted her chin and squared her shoulders.
I shouldn't be intimidated by the thought of retrieving a small scrap of clothing. There are worst things.
Like remembering. My reflection blushed. No, not wise. Not wise at all. I was so close to just being able to walk out of here, not intimidated in the slightest, and I had to remember.
Starfleet officer. A year in space. Forty languages. Extremely good cook.
Oh, that didn't help either. I want to hide. I want to scream. Unfortunately, that's not going to do any good, because the object of my unease has no clue that he's
"Okay, Hoshi. Forget about it, just," I took a deep breath, "go out there, get a stepladder and deal with it!"
The wonderful thing about acting what you don't really feel is that sooner or later, you might just convince yourself it's real. As I left my quarters I thought, it's really a simple mission. Not grand as, say, seeking out new life and new civilizations and boldly going where no one has gone before, but I was facing a demon here.
My own humiliation.
In the form of a shirt.
How's that for boldly, etc?
Thankfully only one person knows about the, don't even want to think it, shirt and I swore him to secrecy, so as long as I meet no one in the corridor, this should be fairly trouble-free.
I stopped by sickbay.
Phlox, dear man, smiled at me and asked, "What brings you here, Ensign?"
I didn't bother to dither. "Can I borrow your stepladder, Doctor?"
He shrugged and said, "Be my guest."
I folded it up into its neat stainless steel square and tucked it underneath my arm.
I left, tossing over my shoulder, "I'll bring it back as soon as I'm finished with it."
"No problem, Ensign."
Step one, accomplished.
Minimum of fuss.
Shortly, I was beneath that EPS conduit, looking up at the last place I ever wanted to visit again. There was no way to avoid this. That shirt needed to be retrieved; no matter if I was going to send it through the recycler once it was back in my hands.
I didn't need someone finding it and asking questions. Especially Trip.
I'd never live that down. And Malcolm? I'd never be able to look him in the eye again. It's hard enough as it was, right now.
I unfolded the stepladder, climbing up carefully, trying to keep my balance. Prying the vent off was ridiculously easy.
Wait a minute.
Who put this back on?
A quick glance inside the conduit assured me that my shirt was, indeed, gone.
The skin on the back of my neck prickled. There was only one reason that it would and as I snapped my head down, to meet the blue eyes of a certain armory officer, I realized I was really in for it.
He was smiling, and I'm sure it was not meant to be smug, but, looking through the haze of irritation, it certainly seemed that way.
He said, "Looking for something, Hoshi?" in that incredibly dry, uniquely British accent of amusement. No matter what he says, it always sounds discreetly proper. I've heard him swear with words that could strip the stripes off a zebra, all the while sounding like he's offering me tea.
I happen to know he hates tea.
I also happened to know that it was not coincidence he was standing beneath me right then. To buy time, I reattached the vent, trying to think frantically of a polite way to say what was really going through my head.
A few choice words.
A few very rude questions.
I settled for, "Malcolm, I hope you realize I'm not above playing dirty pool."
I was very proud of the understated tone I adopted. I barely heard any hint of anger.
"Come down, Hoshi. I'm not blackmailing you, just having a little fun." He held up his hand, the perfect gentleman.
"Your idea of fun, Lieutenant, is sick." My understated tone abruptly decided to be vehement.
He dropped his hand and the smile forsook his face. Oh no, I made him angry. Angry Malcolm, angry, disappointed Lieutenant Reed, my superior officer.
Now I was swearing at myself.
He said, his voice low, "That was uncalled for, Hoshi." He reached into his uniform, pulled out my shirt and handed it up to me. I took it, barely feeling the material. He started to walk away.
I bit my lip, before calling out, "Malcolm, I'm sorry."
He turned around, no expression on his face.
I continued, "I was completely out of line, sir. You're right; it was uncalled for. I can only offer my sincerest apologies."
He smiled, but it lacked the humor of earlier, and was still tinged with disappointment.
For my peace of mind, he said, "Apology accepted."
I started to step down from the ladder. I say started, because I never actually completed it.
I have a quibble with God, fate, whatever. It's really tiny, but, oh, so huge comparatively speaking. It's just this--Hoshi and Malcolm do not mix. Think back. All those embarrassing moments, every time I've clashed with him over some issue, they have to mean something, right?
I think I've just discovered that something.
I tripped. My toe got caught and I tripped. Fell right off the ladder, right into the waiting arms of Lieutenant Reed, armory officer, bombs expert extraordinaire.
We don't mix.
So why was it, right at that very instant, his arms holding me tightly, my face inches from his, my hands clinging to his shoulders, that I could only think of staying there?
Why was it that I was afraid to look him in the eyes?
I could feel my heart pounding from adrenaline rush and I thought, channeling him, probably, "In for a penny, in for a pound."
I looked up and my breath caught, sticky and warm, in my throat. I remembered when I appeared in front of him before. This time, however, I remembered what lay beneath the shock.
It was in his eyes now and without the forgiving fog of mortification, I recognized it.
This was definitely not as easy as I thought it would be.
How long is a moment? I heard once that a moment is a space of time thirty seconds long, but maybe that's too rigid a definition.
I'm not really qualified to define such an ineffable concept. It was only a moment, long as a day, short as a millisecond.
I know what I saw and I know what I wanted.
Who knew a simple fall would let me see that far down, let me know so much that I'd never known before?
I was aware of so many things. The fabric of his uniform under my fingers. The gentle yet firm grasp of his hands on my waist. Pressed so tightly against him, I could smell a clean, musky scent, natural and uniquely male.
I watched the slow bob of his larynx and heard him gulp. I saw the swift widening of his pupils and heard the quick intake of his breath.
We stood frozen, a still-life of possibilities. I felt giddy, light-headed, but maybe that was because I wasn't breathing.
That was easier to concentrate on than the fact that kissing him was out of the question.
His mouth was right there. Just a few inches to close the gap.
Oh, I wanted to. Really, really wanted to. Why didn't I? Because he's my friend. Because of fraternization rules.
Just a few...
It was good he let go of me otherwise g-force would have toppled us both. As it was, I was surprised he even had the forethought to let go before he swung around, completely shielding me from the incoming interruption.
So there I was, behind Malcolm, touching my lips, feeling a kiss that never was, trying to re-discover what breathing meant, thinking I'm going to kill Trip. Yes, I think I will. Sometime very soon.
Trip was saying something about a circuit board malfunctioning in Malcolm's console and had he noticed any problems?
"No," answered Malcolm.
There was a reason I was.... There was a reason that had to do with...with...a shirt. That's it, a shirt!
Where was it? Where was that-- A brief panicked moment and then I spotted it, right in front of me, a dark brown, shapeless, accusing mass.
Out of sight, out of mind. I swooped down and balled it up as small as I could and stuffed it into my uniform.
I heard Trip say, "Oh, hey, Hoshi, didn't see you there."
"Trip," I said and avoided looking at either man.
Have to say this about Trip, nothing much gets past his attention. Just an instant of assessment of my non-acknowledgment and in a flash he asked, "What's going on?"
Two voices, within a second's delay, "Nothing."
I chanced a glance at Trip and saw that remarkably pointed look of curiousity, the one that invariably leads him into trouble, or, regrettably, Malcolm along with him.
"You both look mighty guilty for nothing."
Malcolm said, voice steady, "Do we?"
I said, "I, I, I--"
Where were all my words? Looked like Trip was wondering that too.
Malcolm said, "Hoshi, are you all right?"
I'm sure I looked confused, crinkled forehead mumbling, "Huh?"
He prompted, "You didn't hurt yourself falling, did you?"
"No, I didn't, Malcolm. Thank you for catching me."
Malcolm moved, just a little bit, and Trip caught sight of the stepladder behind us.
I said, hoping I could lie convincingly enough for him to just leave us alone, "I thought I heard something in the ceiling, so I grabbed a stepladder and was examining and when I didn't find anything, I started to come down but my toe got caught and I would have fallen, except Malcolm was there and I didn't."
I would have added, "so there," but that would have been too childish, don't you think? I fought the urge to nod frantically and just clamped down tight on my tongue, looking at Malcolm to assure he wouldn't say anything more. He had a pinched look about his mouth that meant he was either trying desperately not to laugh, or not add anything to the story, that while almost entirely true, didn't quite sound that way.
Trip pursed his lips and narrowed his eyes. We criminals stood silent. I started counting. I reached ten hippopotami before Trip said, "Okay."
I didn't sigh in relief. Would have helped my nerves, but I didn't.
Trip gave us another contemplative stare, less sharp this time, before he said, "Malcolm, tell me if your console gives you any trouble. See you later." He walked away and round a corner.
Malcolm said, "Hoshi--"
"I could kiss you for what you just did."
He blushed, actually, truly, wonderfully blushed.
I smiled, leaned in close and whispered, "I would have."
He started to stutter and I walked away, still smiling.
I heard him mutter, "She's driving me in-bloody-sane!"
I called back, "Do something about it, Malcolm!"