Author's note: A drabble times nine. Exactly nine hundred words. Takes place around "A Night in Sickbay," though not entirely sure *this* is what the TPTB had in mind or even what *I* in mind. Thanks to Djinn for the handholding <g>.
In darkness, it doesn't matter as much. The trappings of rank fall away, the insecurities, the attitudes. In darkness, there is only skin against skin, heat against heat and this is all that matters.
"Do you want to talk about it?" Trip looks earnest. He leans over to give Porthos a scratch on the head; my beagle arches his neck towards Trip's large hands.
"About what?" I ask casually. I'm careful to keep my hands behind my back. It wouldn't do for a subordinate to see his captain's hands shaking, even if that subordinate were his best friend.
"Do I gotta spell it out?" Trip runs a hand through his hair carelessly.
"That would be nice."
"You know, about you and-" Trip lowers his voice - "T'Pol."
"There's nothing to tell," I say sharply. I flick on my vid display; there are at least two or three water polo games I haven't seen yet. Trip doesn't take the hint. He's ignoring Porthos now. "If I'd known *this* is what you wanted to see me about-"
"Aw, come on," he says, that southern accent of his growing stronger by the syllable. "I saw you lookin' at her the other day, Captain. That kinda look isn't the sort you give in polite company."
"You and T'Pol." He shakes his head. "In a million years, I'd never have guessed it, Captain." The way he says my title - with the 't' and 'n' silent, a gentle roll of syllables, lilting off his tongue. "When did it start?"
"There's nothing between T'Pol and me," I say. I hope my voice is forceful enough; in matters of the heart, even a captain can fall short. That's the one thing that bothers me, the one question I'm not sure I can answer. Lines must be drawn, the ones between commander and subordinate, between friend and lover. "Trust me on this."
Trip's eyes narrow slightly, an expression of uncertainty crossing his face. "You sure?"
I clap my friend on the back. "She's *Vulcan*, Trip."
"So? What's that gotta do with anything?"
"Well, *everything*," I lay stress on the last word. I consider making a list for Trip, because I'm not sure that he sees the same things I do - a tiny woman, delicate, her bones jutting out at inconvenient angles. She's not soft - at least, I don't think she'd be soft to the touch. She's a hard woman, T'Pol is, and in every way, she's different from those I've loved in the past.
The last one, Chris - I don't remember the last name - was blond, my height, heavy-boned, with full and sensual lips. But I felt comfortable when I curled against Chris, my hand resting comfortable in the curve of hip. What Chris lacked for in conversational ability was skillfully made up for in other ways.
"You sure 'bout that?" Trip asks. "You know, it could get kinda messy."
"I'm aware of that," I say sharply. So very aware. Nothing good ever came of crossing boundaries.
"Ya know, they warned us about this kind of thing, about what happens to people when they're stuck on a starship for a long time." Trip's grinning now mischievously, his teeth showing slightly between parted lips.
"There is nothing between T'Pol and me," I repeat. I wonder how an engineer like Trip - someone who deals daily with quantum physics and warp particle mechanics - has such a problem grasping a simple issue. "Don't worry. T'Pol is just-" I pause, trying to come up with a perfect adjective to describe my science officer - "she's-"
"She's what?" Trip leans forward. Porthos is whining, rubbing his head against my shin. "Come on, Captain." Cajoling now, a hint of humor in his voice, and I can feel my resolve cracking under the weight of Trip's mild teasing. I inhale sharply. Hell with friendship, I think. If there was ever a time to pull rank...
"You know, you really ought to mind your own business. Consider that a command," I tell Trip.
Trip shrugs. "Whatever you say, Captain." He leans down to pet Porthos on the head. "I'll see you on the Bridge."
The tone of his voice leaves me in doubt as to whether he's speaking to the beagle or to me. The doors close behind Trip and I sit on my bed. I still have another hour before I'm due on the Bridge and water polo beckons.
"What do you think, Porthos?" I ask. I rummage through my desk drawer, looking for the cheese I'm sure I've got hidden away. "Me and T'Pol. Can you think of anything more ridiculous?"
Porthos whines, scrapping his paw against the floor, as he nibbles at my outstretched hand. The cheese is gone within seconds. I shake my head.
"Me and T'Pol." A little laugh, unconvincing maybe, but there's no one to hear except for the dog. Still in disbelief, I turn my attention to water polo.
In the darkness, it's just the two of us. Muscle against muscle, my hands weaving through silky hair, silky *blond* hair. There are no inconvenient bones here, nothing but pure strength, nothing but familiarity and gentle southern comfort. The whispered words are rolling and lilting, not coolly clipped articulation. There's no reason here for anything but softness and in this darkness, he's nothing like I've ever known before. In the darkness, this is possible.
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