Trip arrived at the captain’s mess and found T’Pol intently studying her Padd, as usual. “Where’s the Ambassador?”
“She requested some time to meditate before our meal. A steward will bring her along shortly.”
He went around the table to sit opposite T’Pol. He was a little early; the captain hadn’t even arrived yet. Trip had never looked forward to a meal with a Vulcan guest of honor this much before. So far Ambassador V’Lar had been full of interesting surprises. “You know, I really like her,” he said. “She seems like a very gracious lady. She even shook my hand. You wouldn’t shake my hand.”
“Vulcans don’t shake hands. Apparently the Ambassador has learned to overcome her natural reluctance to engage in physical contact with people she doesn’t know.”
“You know me now.”
Her mouth tightened. “Yes. Your point?”
“You could shake my hand now.” He held his hand out and gave her a polite, expectant smile.
She regarded his outstretched hand. “Unless I am much mistaken, handshakes are generally reserved for greetings and farewells, or for other official occasions such as the completion of an agreement or a contract.”
“Yeah, I know. But it’s always bugged me that you wouldn’t shake my hand. I don’t like being snubbed. So why don’t you just shake my hand now, and it won’t be an issue anymore.”
“It was hardly a snub. I simply did not wish to shake your hand.”
“Come on, T’Pol! Just shake it.” He jabbed his outstretched fingers at her insistently.
She stared at him, clearly nonplussed. Then, frowning slightly, she raised her hand and shook his.
Her hand was warm and dry and her grip was firmer than he’d expected from someone so reluctant. If in some unacknowledged corner of his mind he’d been hoping for a spark of sizzling sexual chemistry or something alien or otherwise exciting, it wasn’t there – it was just too obvious that she found his insistence bewildering. But it felt very nice that she had indulged him anyway. Trip grinned. “That’s better. Thank you.”
“I fail to see how a brief handshake can make the slightest difference to you at this point.”
“It just does, that’s all.”
“I also don’t know why Humans call it shaking hands,” she said. “Gripping hands would be more accurate.”
“You know, I never thought of that, but you’re right. If I really shook your hand, that would be kind of weird.”
She raised her eyebrow at him, then stared down at her hand.
“I bet you want to go wash your hand now, don’t you?” He sighed. “You probably think I just gave you some smelly Human cooties or something.”
“If by ‘cooties’ you are referring to microbes, they are also found all over the surfaces of this ship, not just on you, Commander. Since I do not touch my food with my hands anyway, I am not particularly concerned.”
“Glad to hear it. And I do appreciate your … flexibility.”
“I am pleased to have been able to resolve this ‘issue’ with you, Commander, although I must confess that I had not realized that it existed.”
“Oh, it wasn’t a very big issue. But I’m glad it’s resolved, too. You know, my friends call me Trip.”
Her tone turned as dry as a Vulcan desert. “I am aware of that.”
He chuckled. “It was worth a try. But we are friends, aren’t we?”
She tilted her head and examined him thoughtfully. “Yes, I believe that we are, at least in the extremely inclusive sense in which Humans appear to define the term.”
He squinted back at her. She’d just managed to diss their relationship at the very same moment she’d acknowledged it, hadn’t she? At best, it had been a legalistic answer.
But she hadn’t said no. Trip resisted the temptation to start arguing about the meaning of friendship with her and smiled. By his count, he’d won two major concessions today. It would suffice.
Besides, who knew what other further surprises the Ambassador might have in store? If he was lucky, maybe he could even get V’Lar to give him a clue just how old their science officer really was.
Next installment: Desert Crossing.
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