Author's Note: Written for settiai in the Enterprise Ficathon.
Malcolm sighed when Trip commed him. He had finished a long but satisfying day improving the overall strength of the hull polarization and was just settling down to a book he’d picked up last time they were on Earth. Halfway through page two Trip interrupted.
Hitting the comm, he replied, “Reed.”
“Say, Malcolm, can you come down to the launch bay?”
Unless there was an away mission, the launch bay wasn’t generally a place his expertise was required. “Whatever for?”
“Well, these two systems would work real well together if I could just get their defenses down.”
“That’s a very vague problem, Commander.”
“Um, it’s kinda hard ta explain without you seein’ it…”
He hoped things like this counted towards his next promotion. Lieutenant Commander Reed had a nice ring to it. “I’m on my way. Reed out.”
That was how he found himself in the launch bay without any idea of what he was supposed to be helping with. Malcolm was not a huge fan of the launch bay in the first place. He seemed more often than not to leave it being called paranoid and return to it injured. What he didn’t understand was how, with the exception of T’Pol, his normally intelligent crewmates failed to make the connection.
He didn’t see his friend in the launch bay. That in itself wasn’t unusual, because the engineer was often nearly buried in his work. More curious was the fact that Malcolm didn’t hear him. No humming, no metallic clinks as he put down one tool and picked up another, not even a mild curse to signify something went wrong.
“Trip?” he inquired.
Hoshi Sato, in uniform but with her lovely black hair falling freely, stepped out from behind Shuttlepod Two. “Hi.”
“Good evening,” he replied. Then, “You’re not Commander Tucker.”
It seemed to him that Hoshi’s eyes laughed, although her mouth did not. “No, but we have caramel cheesecake.”
Inexplicably, while trying to process the situation, it occurred to Malcolm that he hadn’t seen any cheesecake at dinner. Admittedly, though, he had been writing a report at the same time. Behind Hoshi, tucked in a corner, he saw a small table set with dessert for two – cheesecake and tea.
Still confused, he tried to make sense of Trip’s involvement. “He asked me to come help him with some defense systems.”
“He won’t be joining us. Is that such a bad thing?”
“No, but the defense systems…” the sentence trailed off as the pieces of the puzzle fell together. Hoshi looked at him expectantly. Malcolm wasn’t sure how to proceed. A thousand questions were winding through his head, not least of which involved what he should say.
“It would be a shame to let the cheesecake go to waste,” he said after a moment. Hoshi’s face fell, and Malcolm berated himself. That had come out all wrong. “Besides,” he added in an attempt to salvage the evening, “my company for the evening just got upgraded.”
Upgraded? He groaned inwardly. Phase cannons and hull strength were upgraded. Company was…well, he didn’t know exactly what, but there had to be a better verb.
Trip Tucker was going to pay for this! Malcolm would come up with something impossible to trace. Trip would know who did it, of course, but he wouldn’t be able to prove a thing. Motive was nothing without solid evidence. At that moment, Malcolm was thinking of rigging a slide show with all sorts of embarrassing pictures. He could set every console in engineering to play it over and over.
“Are you going to have cheesecake?” asked Hoshi.
Right. His revenge would have to wait. Malcolm sat in his seat, nodded and took a bite. “Chef did a fine job,” he declared.
“I prefer death by chocolate, myself. Not that this isn’t delicious.”
Malcolm wasn’t sure what to say to that. “Why did anyone think that was a good name for a dessert?” he asked finally. “‘Death by chocolate’ makes one want to keep their distance.”
“But what a way to go!” exclaimed Hoshi.
He poured Hoshi tea, and then filled his own cup. “I think I’ve eaten more cheesecake aboard Enterprise than the rest of my life combined.” Chef was very fond of making cheesecakes, and in fact half of his team had recently completed a wager on what flavor the next cheesecake would be. (Ensign Taiko won with chocolate-raspberry-strawberry.) Malcolm himself had pretended not to know about it.
“My mom used to make cheesecake, but not like this.” She indicated her half-eaten dessert with a fork, then added, “it’s a good thing Chef cuts small slices.”
She was intelligent, witty, kind, and patient, not to mention beautiful. Plus she was accomplished in martial arts. Women like Hoshi were out of his league. Or so he thought. Yet she was sitting across from him, setting her fork down after finishing her cheesecake. Trip had started this, and then Hoshi took it up. Now it was his turn.
There were limits to what kind of ‘date’ excursions could be done on a starship. He pondered the possibilities for a moment, discarding several, before hitting upon a good option. “We could – if you’d like to, that is – play billiards.”
Hoshi gave him a gorgeous smile. “I didn’t know you played.”
He shrugged. “Don’t confuse playing with playing well.” Billiards was a game that Malcolm thought he should be better at than he actually was. It involved angles, force, and aim – things he was familiar with. Despite this, his billiards game was decidedly average.
“I’m not great either,” she confessed, “but it’ll be fun.”
He could feel a smile begin to form. Maybe he’d forgo his slideshow of revenge.
Oh, great, he could see it now. Trip was going to brag about this for the next month. Looking over at Hoshi, though, Malcolm decided it would be worth it.
“I’m still trying to understand why you thought it would be a good idea to trust him with this.”
“I only found out five minutes before you did,” she confessed, “but I had a hunch.”
Malcolm made a mental not to give Hoshi’s hunches more consideration in the future, even in tactical situations where he disliked hunches. After all, he had been outmaneuvered into his current position, and if that wasn’t tactical, what was?
A/N: My assignment was: Reed/Sato, Trip plays matchmaker, “I’m still trying to understand why you thought it would be a good idea to trust him.”
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