Always A Woman

A Vignette
by Cheryl Petterson

(Standard Year 2249)

Return to Valjiir Stories

Return to Valjiir Continum

Two months after his transfer to the Enterprise, Lieutenant Noel DelMonde was settling into a regular if unspectacular routine. He'd arranged with Montgomery Scott to work mostly second shift - to avoid being off duty when a certain Antari Assistant Science Officer was - and mostly off the Bridge - to avoid a certain Vulcan First Officer altogether. The schedule had two unintended consequences; one bad, one good. The bad was the days were long and boring, as most of his friends from his days at the Clave who also served on the Enterprise were on duty. The good was that being away from the cabin he shared with Pavel Chekov in the evening meant he got to avoid most of the galaxy-class drama that was his roommate's love life.

Of course, there were times he'd arrive home after his shift to interrupt a screaming match - not that Chekov ever did any of the screaming - or, what to Del's mind was worse, a hot and heavy bout of make-up sex. At which point, in either case, he'd grab his guitar, a bottle of bourbon, a hit or two of sapphire, and head for the Rec Room. It was almost always quiet, and the few crewmembers who were up and about preferred, like him, to be left alone. So he could drink, play quietly, sing to himself, or if it had been a particularly bad day, write some poetry.

The last thing he expected - or, at least the last thing he had expected until about five minutes before it happened - was Daffy Gollub marching into the Rec Room, anger steaming off her like vapor off the bayou. She strode straight toward him, then pulled his guitar out of his arms and sat down on his lap, straddling his thighs.

"I swear, if I never see that Russian putz again it will be too soon!" she exclaimed.

"Sweet Mary an' Joseph," Del drawled with feigned surprise, "don' tell me y'all done had a fight."

The chemist made a face. "Don't get cute, Cajun."

"I not able t' help that much," was his easy reply.

Daffy scowled, then rearranged her features into an alluring smile. "Well, that's true enough," she conceded. "So, how much do you want to help me forget all about Mr. I Am A Perfect Gentleman And You Are a Slut?"

For a moment, her sultry emotions crowded into his brain, along with years of memories of the way their bodies fitted together. Their relationship had always been an easy one; there when they both wanted it, disappearing into some innocuous neverland when they didn't. And so far, there had never been a time when one of them wanted and the other didn't. Del had been well aware Daffy's desires tended to ebb and flow dependent on the state of her current real relationship. And Del hadn't much cared, since the vast majority of the time they'd spent together was at the Clave where her 'real' relationship had been with someone he judged to be a first-rate bastard, and therefore someone whose emotions were not a factor to be considered. Back then, he was quite content to be the lover that would most piss off her boyfriend. And piss Barak off it had - though if that reaction had any real effect on the racer's relationship with Daffy, Del hadn't seen it.

So, habit and natural inclination led him to give the chemist a sensual half-smile and lean forward to accept an eager kiss...

...until he caught the triumphant that'll show him! which was the only thought in Daffy's mind.

With Barak, that triumph had been there, but it was always covered with a sense of pleading hope: that'll show him and maybe he'll realize he does love me. This time, the only added emotional truth was that since Del was Pavel's roommate, and they had a history of hell-no-we're-not-friends, this liaison would hurt the navigator the most.

An' do I care 'bout that? the engineer asked himself.

He was surprised to find that he did. The best part about sleeping with Daffy -- other than the sex (which was reliably top drawer quality stuff that was not to be sneezed at) -- was the look in Barak's eyes when that smug, self-righteous prick realized that his girlfriend had slept with the Clavist he hated most yet again. There were always fleeting split-seconds of self-doubt -- "Does she like him better because he's better looking than me?" "Am I too old for her?" "Is he better in bed?" "Am I losing my edge?" Causing those momentary little cracks in Barak's formidable armor of smart-assery was incredibly sweet to Del. He knew he'd have no such satisfaction with the Russian -- despite the fact that Pavel Chekov was a cocky little bastard who the Cajun felt could benefit enormously from being taken down a peg or two on a regular basis.

If Del slept with Daffy now, he knew that his roommate would be wounded to the core. He'd have to look at those sad, reproachful teddy bear eyes for weeks, months, maybe years on end. Unlike Barak, the Russian would probably shoulder responsibility for the failure of his relationship. "I should have been more attentive," Del could image his roommate thinking pragmatically, as he categorized and itemized problem areas with Daffy and entered the data into his mental spreadsheet for failed romances. "Noel's looks and reckless personality do appeal to a certain type of woman under certain circumstances..." But then would come the worst part. "Why," the Russian would silently ponder every time he looked at the Cajun for God-alone-knew-how-long, "does Noel choose to entangle himself in such situations? Has he no sense of decency? Has he no honor? Has he no conscience?"

Del sighed, damning himself for having enough conscience to cheat himself out of what undoubtedly would have been some premium-grade revenge sex.

With a frown, he pulled back, meeting the surprise in Daffy's green eyes with stern resolve.

"Non, cher," he told her. "You not gonna use me like that this time."

Her annoyance was clear. "Use, schmuse," she countered. "Since when has this been about that?"

"You were a teenager wit' Barak," he explained. "You had a teenager's sense o' urgency an' drama." Not that that's changed much, he added silently to himself. "But you a grown woman now, an' we can't go playin' wit' people's...."

"At least you said 'we'," Daffy interrupted. "But do go on. We can't go playing with people's what? Hearts? Minds? Emotions? All of which, I remind you, you do on an almost daily basis."

Del's face hardened. "That not fair, Daf," he said. "Wit' the limited supply o' sapphire they got me on..."

"So I'm only good enough to fuck when you're grounded into dirt?" she snapped.

Her caustic emotions cut into him and he stood, only at the last minute grasping her shoulders so he wouldn't dump her onto the deck.

"You surely have got a way o' gettin' what you want, girl," he mocked. "Maybe that why ol' T-Paul always rushin' 'round tryin' to keep on your good side." He paused, his fingers just touching his lips as if deep in thought. "No... wait... I wrong 'bout that, non? You here 'cause he not givin' you what you want." He faux-mused a moment more. "Well, fancy that."

"You Cajun bastard!" Daffy hissed, and raised her hand to strike him. He caught her wrist, and at the touch - though his telepathy usually wasn't enhanced by physical contact - his brain was flooded with far more fear and loss and sorrow than he'd ever felt when she'd been with Barak. The torrent of emotion was an almost physical thing, and he drew back, dropping her arm.

"I sorry, Daffodil," he found himself whispering.

She stared at him, her eyes filling with tears, then she abruptly turned from him.

"What you want me t'do?" he called after her.

She stopped and didn't turn around, but the renewed hope flowed to him. He smiled wanly.

"'Sides that," he said.

Her thoughts leaked into his brain. You could talk to your prick of a roommate.

"Shee-it, can I reconsider th' sex?"

"Your call, Cajun," she threw over her shoulder, and left the Rec Room.

With a heavy sigh, Del retrieved his guitar and sat back down, cradling the instrument as old, sad tunes ran through his mind.

To hear the song, click here

She can kill with a smile, she can wound with her eyes
She can ruin your faith with her casual lies
And she only reveals what she wants you to see
She hides like a child, but she's always a woman to me


Del paused just outside his cabin, straining to sense whether or not his roommate was inside. It was a futile exercise, he knew that. Pavel Chekov's absolute zero on the psychic scale meant that there was no empathic or telepathic signature for Del to pick up on. The Russian was the only person Del had ever met who could sneak up on him when Del himself wasn't grounded into dirt. And as he had pointed out to Daffy Gollub about an hour earlier, Fleet didn't allow him enough sapphire to get him grounded to dirt.

'Course, you th' one tryin' to sneak up on him now, he reminded himself.

Non, I jus' tryin' to see if I might be able to get away wit' jus' goin' on in an' goin' to bed, he corrected himself.

Since you not hear his li'l brain workin', maybe if we open th' door jus' a teeny tiny li'l bit an' see if he snorin'...

The engineer carefully worked the manual mechanism and let the door slide the barest fraction of an inch open. He didn't hear the hoped-for sounds of deep sleep. Instead, the navigator was muttering to himself in Russian.

Taking a deep breath, Del let the door hiss all the way open, and strode in with a, "Shee-it, I was hopin' you'd be asleep by now."

"And I was hoping you would have found somewhere else entirely to live, but there is no such thing as a fairy who grants wishes," his roommate returned dourly.

"Fuck you too, T-Paul," the Cajun snarled.

Chekov sighed. "I am sorry, Noel, but I have had something of a trying day."

Del made a show of glancing around the cabin. "No Daffy, huh? It Tuesday again?"

Another sigh escaped the Russian's lips. "Apparently, yes." Huge brown eyes turned to meet Del's. "Am I really so clumsy with my words?" the navigator asked plaintively. "I have never had the kinds of miscommunications that I have with Daphne with other women."

Half a grin pulled at the corners of Del's mouth. That was certainly true enough. After all, hadn't he relied on the Russian's sweet, little-boy-lost manner when they'd gone out to get laid back at the Academy? He'd never had any trouble 'communicating' then. And Del didn't recall many instances where Chekov had any difficulty with women constantly breaking up with him. He was usually the one to end relationships.

"Well, now, son," the Cajun began slowly, "I not sure it any o' my business..."

"I simply do not understand what I do to make her so angry," Pavel continued as if Del hadn't spoken. "She asks me these things, she says she wishes honesty, then when I tell her what I think, she reacts as if I have deliberately tried to insult her."

Del couldn't help himself. "What 'these t'ings' she askin' 'bout?" he said.

Chekov made a frustrated face. "What are my morals? What do I think about sexual activity before a committed relationship has been established? How much sexual activity is acceptable when one is young and experimenting?" He turned and paced away from DelMonde, then faced the taller man again. "How do I answer such questions?"

"How did you?" Del wanted to know.

"I told her that I believe in commitment and in marriage - but only after two people have established a sexually compatible friendship of many years' standing. I told her that for me, marriage is not something to be lightly entered into, that I do not believe in divorce. I told her sexual experimentation is perfectly acceptable as long as both parties know what future there may or may not be, and..."

"Shee-it, T-Paul, you lyin' through your goddamned teeth!" Del burst in. "An' she know it. That why she so pissed at ya!"

The Russian glared at him, then abruptly squirmed uncomfortably. "I do not know what you mean..." he began.

"Yes, you do," the engineer returned. "You know you as big a hound as they is."

"I do not know what that means either," Chekov muttered.

"It mean you good t' go wit' anyt'ing that so much as wink at ya as long as it female."

The navigator flushed. "Well, as I said, sexual experimentation is acceptable..."

"An' you fall head over heels jus' 'bout ever' other day too," Del countered, "so don' give me that 'experimentation' line."

Chekov pursed his lips, frowning, but basically too honest to continue to argue the points. "Well," he mused, "I think I can see how she might have gotten the impression that I was denigrating her choices..."

"'Cause you spreadin' the parsimony on wit' a back-hoe."

"But I didn't mean... I was trying to give an honest assessment..."

"O' the way you wanna be, not the way you are," Del interrupted again. "How she gonna believe you when you give her fantasy, not the man she sleep wit' ever' damn Wednesday, though God only knows why?"

Chekov flushed. "I'd better apologize, hadn't I?" he asked ruefully.

"Wait till tomorrow," Del advised. "I gotta get me some sleep."

She can lead you to love, she can take you or leave you
She can ask for the truth, but she'll never believe you
And she'll take what you give her as long it's free
Yeah, she steals like a thief, but she's always a woman to me


Del woke just after noon to the insistent signal on his comm terminal. He groped at the side of his bunk for a boot, then threw it violently at the small screen.

"Shut th' fuck up!" he snarled at it.

"Good morning!" came Daffy's cheery voice. "Or should I say lunch time. Because it is. Get your ass out of bed and meet me in the Mess. If you're not here in ten minutes, I'm gonna come get you." There was a pause, then the chemist added with vicious glee, "With Ruth!"

"Motherfucker...." Del groaned, but knowing Gollub was a woman of her word, he dragged himself out of bed and into a quick shower and a clean uniform. On his way out the door, he almost grabbed a quick hit of sapphire, then realized he was on duty in less than four hours. Swearing again, he headed for the Mess.

Gollub sat at a table with Pavel Chekov, Takeda Sulu and Jilla Majiir, and a pile of gold hair and skin in a blue Sciences uniform that Del refused to look at. He muttered under his breath, but before he could muster enough inner resolve to approach the chemist and her entourage, she was out of her seat and rushing forward into his arms.

"I don't know what you said to him, bubee," Daffy whispered into his ear as she gave him a ridiculously tight bear hug. "But whatever it was, thank you, thank you, thank you!"

Making a face, Del pushed her away. "That mean it gonna be crazed weasel night?" he asked.

Gollub winked at him. "Might be crazed weasel week," she informed him. "Come on, lunch is on me."

"Lunch on Starfleet," the engineer corrected. "An' I not have no appetite wit' th' company you keepin'."

"I've taught Pavel to chew with his mouth closed," Daffy promised.

"Ha ha," was Del's sour response.

"And if you don't aim your dubious brand of charm at Jilla, she won't go nova and Sulu won't challenge you to a duel," she continued.

"She used t' my charm," Del said. "So is Kam."

"Well, I don't know who else you could possibly object to," the chemist returned, then interrupted herself with a faux-wounded blink. "It - it isn't me!" she gasped.

"Gal, you as funny as sundown in th' bayou."

"Sundown in the..."

Del showed his teeth. "That when th' gators come out."

"Ha ha," she imitated, and stuck out her tongue.

Ohhh... she takes care of herself
She can wait if she wants, she's ahead of her time
Ohhh... and she never gives out
And she never gives in,
She just changes her mind


Ruth Valley choked on her cup of coffee. "Shit!" she managed. "I thought she was just being Daffy!"

"She was," Sulu commented. "Anything to stir up trouble in paradise."

"Can't she see how much it's hurting him?" the Antari asked plaintively.

"Daphne believes that people must confront their discomforts," Jilla Majiir put in. "As long as 'people' does not include her."

Pavel Chekov scowled as Sulu snorted and Ruth swallowed her own laughter.

"It is not like you to be unkind, Mrs. Majiir," the Russian admonished.

The Indiian blinked. "Unkind?"

"She's only telling the truth, Pav," Sulu defended his lover.

"You have to admit, Pavel," Ruth continued, "Daffy would NEVER want anyone doing to her what she's doing to Del."

"She is not doing anything to Noel except attempting to include him in a friendly lunch," Chekov insisted stubbornly.

Ruth rolled her eyes as Jilla frowned. "See," Sulu explained, "not even Jilla's buyin' that one."

"Say good afternoon, everybody!" Daffy said brightly as she returned to the table, dragging a reluctant Noel DelMonde with her.

"Good afternoon, Noel," Chekov said dutifully. Jilla nodded. Sulu shrugged, murmuring "Sorry, Del." Ruth didn't even look up.

Del's deep breath was palpable to everyone at the table with the possible exception of Chekov.

"Yeah, fuck you all too," he muttered.

The Antari's gaze flashed up sharply. "What's your problem?" she snarled.

There was a flicker of pain in the engineer's coal-black eyes. "Well," he drawled, "lemme see. It a pretty long list, but I tell you this much." He paused, licking his lips. "It start an' end wit' you."

"No one asked you to..." Ruth began heatedly.

"But I sure done tol' you..." Del snapped back, on top of her words.

"Hey, she couldn't've known..." Sulu temporized.

"She never wants to know what others are feeling..." Jilla put in.

"Unless she wants to be a buttinsky," Daffy corrected with a brilliant show of teeth.

"Look who's talking!" Ruth and Del snarled together.

"Noel, Daphne merely wished..." Chekov tried to explain.

Del cut him off. "Daphne merely wished to get even wit' me."

"For what?" the Russian demanded.

Daffy's eyes went wide and Del caught the words just before they exited his mouth. Exiting his brain and emotions was another matter. Ruth glared. Sulu groaned softly, shaking his head. Jilla, predictably, went nova.

Daffy smacked Del on the arm.

"Now see what you did?" she insisted.

Don't do it, don't do it, echoed in Del's mind, and he sighed.

"You not mind me," he grumbled. "I jus' woke up."

"That is little justification for rudeness," Chekov sniffed with a lift of a superior eyebrow.

"Don't you start either," Daffy told the navigator with a grateful look in Del's direction. "We don't need a Vulcan imitation."

"And let's just avoid that subject altogether," Sulu suggested, to general murmurs of agreement.

And she'll promise you more than the garden of Eden
Then she'll carelessly cut you and laugh while you're bleeding
But she'll bring out the best and the worst you can be
Blame it all on yourself 'cause she's always a woman to me


Ruth and Jilla had gone back to their duty. Daffy was hanging onto Chekov's arm as they, too, made their way from the Mess, after Chekov had unnecessarily reminded Sulu that they were both due back on the Bridge in five minutes.

"Be right there, Pav," Sulu had said, and when everyone else was out of earshot, he turned to Del, who was sitting back in his chair, his eyes closed.

"So what was Daffy allegedly thanking you for with this fun fest?" the helmsman wanted to know.

"What make you t'ink she thankin' me?" the engineer replied without opening his eyes.

"Well, the fact that she threw herself into your arms saying 'thank you, thank you, thank you' might have given me an inkling," Sulu responded dryly.

"Mais, I mighta helped her through a li'l bitty problem wit' th' moron," Del answered as he stretched and sat forward, preparing to rise from his seat.

"If it's the kind of help you usually give, it's no wonder Daf didn't want to cop to it."

Del glared at him. "What that mean?"

Sulu grinned at him. "You think Pavel wants to know any more about your sexual escapades than he already does?"

"I never fucked anyone who was committed to..." the Cajun began.

"And Daf is about as on-again/off-again with Pavel as she ever was with Barak," Sulu countered.

Del's eyes darkened for a moment, then he sighed. "An' if that were true, I'da done what she wanted but you an' me both know she 'bout ten times more in love wit' that Russian dumb fuck than she ever was or ever could be wit' th' putz."

"True," the helmsman agreed. "So, if you didn't provide her with your usual methods of releasing tension, what was she thanking you for?"

Del shrugged. "Maybe fo' not doin' what she wanted." He rose, turning away from Sulu with a yawn. "See you later, Kam."

With a shrug of his own, Sulu headed the other way, walking toward the lift that would take him to the Bridge. Just before he reached the door, something made him turn around. Daffy was returning to the Mess, without Chekov, stalking toward DelMonde. Sulu couldn't hear what she said to him, but she did smack the back of his head. To his surprise, Del's features didn't arrange themselves into a snarl of anger; rather, he gazed at the chemist with an almost fond tolerance. When he actually leaned down to kiss her cheek, Sulu blinked in confusion, but he had no time to go back and ask what was going on.

Besides, it was a safe bet neither one of them would've told him.

She's frequently kind and she's suddenly cruel
She can do as she pleases, she's nobody's fool
And she can't be convicted, she's earned her degree
And the most she will do is throw shadows at you,
But she's always a woman to me

The End

She's Always A Woman by Billy Joel

To go to the next story in chronological sequence, click here

Return to Valjiir Stories

Return to Valjiir Continum