(Standard Year 2249)

Return to Valjiir Stories

Return to Valjiir Continum

Origination: U.S.S.Hood
                   NCC 1707
                   Security and Operations
                   Lt. J.M.Paget - P-4038751/SEC
Terminus: U.S.S Enterprise
                  NCC 1707
                  Bridge Command
                  Lt. Cmdr. T.Sulu - S-3419098/CMD


Hey, babe. It was great to see you and to meet your little lady. That's one good lookin' woman you got there, lucky son of a bitch - and you'll forgive me if I point out how lucky she is, too.

And speaking of sons of bitches, how's Cajun doing? I know his picture is next to the entry for 'anti-social' in the dictionary, but he IS gettin' out and meetin' people, right? Let me rephrase that. You ARE making sure he's gettin' out and meetin' people, right? No, let me rephrase THAT: You're not lettin' him stay holed up in his cabin or down in the bowels of Engineering drinkin' himself to death because Spike's married, are you? Because he'll do that if you let him.

So don't let him. Think of something that will force him to get involved with the crew. Challenge him - not to a duel because that would humiliate him and that wouldn't accomplish anything (see, I acknowledge your better skills with weaponry and martial arts - though N.C. throws a mean punch when he's of a mind to). Make it something he's good at and swallow your damned touchy samurai pride and let him win at whatever it is. Please. For me. I'll owe you.

Excuse me while I pause for a decadent fantasy.


Okay, back with you now (grin). Say hi to Jilla for me. Love ya, babe.

Till next time.


P.S. And remember what I said about the Chinese ensign from hell.


1/8~ 1/4 ~ 1/2 ~ 2/3 ~ 3/4 ~ 1 ~ 3/4 ~ 2/3 ~ 1/2 ~1/4 ~ 1/8

The fond grin on Sulu's face - inevitable whenever he heard from Jeremy - faded slowly as he considered what exactly he could challenge Noel DelMonde to, or with. He couldn't make it a slam-dunk for the Cajun; that wouldn't in any way 'socialize' him.

Which leaves out music, both vocal and instrumental, the helmsman thought. Beside the fact that if he were to even suggest such a contest, Del might break something laughing - it was well known that he couldn't carry a tune to save his life - anything involving music would likely include the very person Jer was trying to save Del from. Engineering was out; how would one make a contest out of engineering anyway? And again, Sulu didn't have the cred to make such a challenge believable.

Now botany, there's something I'm good at... but I don't think Del has ever evidenced any interest in plant matter that wasn't smokeable. Racing is right out, of course - though that would be more fun than anything other than screwing. Hmmm - screwing? Nah, that would hardly be fair to Jilla, and doesn't exactly fit the criteria of sociability. Artwork? Does Del draw or paint? No, and I don't write poetry - though if haiku counts.... And I can just hear him. 'Who gonna pay me fo' my work, son? I a damn literary award winner.' What the hell does that leave?

"What is puzzling you, my love?" Jilla's soft voice interrupted his thoughts as she entered their cabin.

Sulu rose from his seat at the desk, crossing the room to take the Indiian into his arms.

"Jer wants me to make sure Del doesn't hole up and become even more anti-social than he already is," he answered.

"Hole up," Jilla repeated, and before Sulu could work out an answer to explain the idiom, her face brightened - literally, as her mercury-based blood heated with her emotions. "As a small mammal might crawl into a burrow to avoid a predator?"

Sulu smiled. "Exactly, hon. Jer says I should challenge Del to a contest and then let him win."

Her delicate features creased into a frown. "How will that engage Mr. DelMonde's interest?" she asked.

"He's just a little competitive," was the wry response.

The Indiian's head tilted as she considered. "Then the more people he could compete against, the more likely he would be to emerge from his metaphorical hole?"

"I suppose that makes sense..."

"I have heard Ruth mention that he enjoys cooking."

Sulu's eyes widened with delight. "Hon, that's perfect!" he exclaimed. "And since I cook, too, he'll buy a challenge from me!" He gave her a passionate kiss. "Jilla, you're the best!"

Her skin shimmered pleasantly as he went back to the desk, apparently to compose a message to Jeremy Paget.

"And since Ruth can't boil water, he won't have to worry about her..." he continued

"Sulu," Jilla interrupted.

He turned back to her.

"Ruth is perhaps the most competitive person on the ship," she pointed out. "The fact that she cannot cook will not be a deterrent."

Sulu scowled and he bit his lower lip - then grinned. "I'll make it a men-only contest."

"How will you..." Jilla began.

"You leave that to me, honey."

1/8~ 1/4 ~ 1/2 ~ 2/3 ~ 3/4 ~ 1 ~ 3/4 ~ 2/3 ~ 1/2 ~1/4 ~ 1/8

“Do not fuckin' talk to me,” Noel DelMonde warned as he entered his quarters without bothering to make eye contact with his cabinmate.

Chekov didn’t look up from his computer terminal. “I am not a part of your conflict, Noel.”

“My conflict?” Del stopped, turned, and frowned. “What the hell you mean 'my conflict'?”

The Russian, still intent on whatever task he was trying to complete, replied matter-of-factly, “The altercation you had with Lieutenant…”

The Cajun’s mouth dropped open in outraged surprise. “The fight I had wit' Ruth?!! That was three fuckin' minutes ago! How you know 'bout that? You the most clueless son of a bitch on this fuckin' ship. You not know what th' hell goin' on at the end o' your nose. How th' hell you be all up in my business like that?”

“Daphne told me. She wanted to warn me that you might be… agitated.” The navigator made a face at his viewscreen. “I do not know why she bothered. You are always agitated.”

“Bunch o' damned busybodies…” the engineer fumed furiously, putting his fists on his hips. “An' I tell you another t'ing, Miss Ruth Valley can keep her damn mouth shut 'bout me.”

The Russian said nothing, but tilted his head to one side and twisted his lips into a fleeting but highly dubious quirk.

DelMonde narrowed his eyes. “What?”

“I do not mean to defend her,” Chekov replied, holding up a finger to forestall such an accusation. “However, I was given to understand you initiated the…”

“Oh, hell, no!” the Cajun rebutted angrily. “She was bad-mouthin' me. I heard her.”

“Through the closed turbo lift doors?”

“Yes.” The tel-empath crossed his arms and sneered. “Yet another example o' my remarkable powers o' hearin' that you believe in so strongly.”

“Or perhaps you made an incorrect assumption and lost your temper,” the Russian countered calmly. “You do tend to have a low opinion of others, Noel.”

Del growled dangerously. “You not helpin' my opinion o' you right now… Ever'body up in this fuckin' tin can need to learn t' mind they own damn business.”

The navigator shrugged. “None of my business, certainly.”

“Thank you for realizin' that,” the engineer replied archly.

“It would be much easier to maintain your privacy if both of you would strive to keep such 'business' out of the corridors,” Chekov observed bluntly.

The force of the reply Del wished to give was blunted by the fact that he and Ruth had engaged in an embarrassing number of these painful and all-too-public shouting matches over the course of the past several days.

“Oh, I assure you I not seekin' Li'l Mrs. Pointy-Ears out by any means…” he muttered darkly instead.

“Perhaps that is wise.” Chekov nodded and turned back to his computer. “In Russia we have a saying – As many good fish are still in the sea as have ever left.”

“No, no, no!” The Cajun threw his hands up in exasperation. “The sayin' is 'There more fish in th' sea.' An' it not Russian. People jus' say that ever'where they got fish. An' fuck you. What you tryin' to say?”

Chekov gave him a reproving look, as if he was annoyed to be so abused for merely speaking the self-evident truth. “The two of you have never seemed to get along very well. Perhaps you are both well rid of one another.”

The cruel irrefutability of this statement suddenly drew all the anger-fueled wind from the engineer’s sails. He found himself perilously close to dissolving into bitter tears.

“You got a girlfriend?” he snapped instead.

The Russian paused a second to consult his mental break-up calendar before answering, “In fact I do.”

“Why don’t you go see if she wanna hear your ignorant ass babble on 'bout fishin', then?”

“Actually,” Chekov replied, closing down his terminal with a resigned sigh. “That is a very good idea. Spokoinai Nochi, Noel.”

“Peaceful night, my ass,” the engineer muttered after him. He was too grateful to be left alone to yell anything more vile.

Del miserably poured himself a glass of bourbon. As much as he hated to admit it, the Russian, with his 'fish in the sea' comment, did have a point. It wasn’t like Ruth Valley was the only girl in the universe. She certainly wasn’t the only girl he’d ever made love to… Even the most golden of golden times for them had been tarnished by the fact that every “I love you” tended to balanced by an equally vehement “fuck you!”

Their relationship had been special because they were both gifted… but what if that was all there was to it? Wouldn’t the sensible thing to do be to get up, dust himself off and find another telepath? Why mope around like he was dying over one purple eyed gal when they were making thousands more just like her on Beta Antares IV?

Thoughts of Beta Antares pulled him into a memory…

They had been lying in bed… of course. In addition to their vigorously healthy sex life, Del stayed so sleep-deprived his entire time at the Academy that he was loathe to stray too far from his bunk if he could help it. Ruth had often accused him of blurring the line between “dating” and “napping.”

“If Antares so God-awful great,” he had said after she’d gone off on one her wistfully bitter tirades about how wonderful everything Antari was, “then why not you an' me jus' pack up an' go there, darlin’?”

“No, I…” Ruth stopped and made the face she always made instead of actually talking about the problems she and her home planet had with each other. “I wouldn’t take you.”

“Why not?” He gave her arm a half-teasing pinch.

“Oh, you wouldn’t…”

“… fit in?” he finished for her incredulously. “On a planet o' fuckin' telepaths, I not gonna fit in?”

“It’s not that,” she hastened to assure him. “It’s just…”

“What?” he prompted when she let the reply trail off.

“You’re so…” Again she found herself at an uncharacteristic loss for words. She gave a little incredulous laugh. “I never thought I’d say this, but Antari males are more… reserved.”

Del blinked. “Huh?”

“I mean, when it comes to telepathic contact…” She searched for what was apparently a very elusive phrasing. “They’re just a lot more… careful than you are.”

The Cajun frowned. “What the fuck that s’pose to mean?”

“They’re just more… subtle about initiating contact.”

“Not like me?” Del puzzled.

“No, it’s obvious that you love it.” A slow smile spread across her face. “You can’t get enough of it.”

The Cajun snorted. “You makin' it sound like I some kinda… brain slut.”

“That’s an imperfect metaphor, but…” She gave a laugh that was part a giggle of girlish delight at the impudence of his phrasing and part the triumphant chuckle of the alien amazon huntress well-pleased with her “catch.” “Yeah, on Antares you would be kind of a … huge slut.”

The warmth of her pleasure began to glow in Del’s brain like honeyed sunshine.

“Really?” he asked, pulling her close.

“Who is just begging for it,” she said as he nuzzled her throat.

“Am I?”

“Every minute of the day,” she affirmed, unfastening his pants.

“…An' night…”

In the cold present, Del gave a sigh as deep and dark as the space between the stars. A lonely tab of sapphire glowed in the bottom of a shot glass on the shelf beside his bed. He gave it an icy, welcoming kiss before pushing it past his lips.

1/8~ 1/4 ~ 1/2 ~ 2/3 ~ 3/4 ~ 1 ~ 3/4 ~ 2/3 ~ 1/2 ~1/4 ~ 1/8

Jade Han had made it a point, in the few weeks she'd been aboard the Enterprise, to make time to renew her friendship with Jilla Majiir. It wasn't always easy: try as she might, Jade couldn't always keep her sorrow and indignation regarding Jilla's living arrangements to herself. She could not fathom how the young woman could cast aside her so-very-strict marriage vows. Selar was dead, yes, but Indiian marriage was for a literal forever, with no release from fidelity because of a little thing like the death of one of the parties. The fact that Jilla was living with the admittedly very attractive Lieutenant Commander Sulu was something Jade was having particular difficulty with. She wanted to believe it was due to her own acceptance of cultural differences rather than the fact that she had been in love with Selar before the Vulcan scientist had even met his much younger Indiian bride - but she wasn't that good at self-deception. She did have to admit that Jilla herself took all Jade's emotional conflicts in stride - which was typical of Indiians, as Jade had learned from her xenopsychological study of the race. Despite being a terribly emotional people, Indiians were tolerant in the extreme of other people's emotions. There was a common axiom; that it was what one DID that mattered, NOT what one felt. And it was certainly proving true about Selar's widow.

Don't think of her like that, Jade admonished herself. It wasn't her fault that he died.

No, that was your fault.

Shut up.

Jade shook her personal demons away and set up the small luncheon she had prepared for her guest, even though her mind continued its evaluation, noting how fortunate it was that Jilla hadn't adopted her artificial, secondary genetic heritage's tendency to be somewhat judgmental. Her own understatement made her grin, and so it was she could greet Jilla with a genuine smile when the Indiian knocked on the bathroom door that separated their quarters.

To her surprise - and, she admitted, mild annoyance - the aforementioned Lieutenant Commander Sulu stood with his lover.

"I don't want to intrude on your lunch, Dr. Han," he began, "but I have a quick question for you, if you don't mind?"

"Of course not, Mr. Sulu," Jade answered, as she motioned them both into her quarters. "I'd invite you to stay, but I only prepared enough for..."

"Prepared, yeah," Sulu interrupted. "That's kind of what I wanted to ask you about. It's a long story, but the short version is that we're headed for a few long weeks of rather monotonous travel, Noel DelMonde has a tendency to isolate himself which isn't good for him, and I wondered if you thought a cooking contest would be a good morale booster while we're headed to the galactic center."

Jade carefully evaluated all Sulu didn't say. That he was worried about his friend but knew that any direct expression of that concern would likely be met with the most obstreperous stubbornness, that he wanted her stamp of approval for the psychological benefit of the contest he was proposing, and that he wanted her help in either organizing it or in securing approval for it based on her insights into such things as morale-boosting.

She was about to say something to that effect when Sulu went on, "It was really Jilla's idea," and smiled at the Indiian, which produced a very becoming silvery flush.

And you think that will persuade me, do you? the doctor thought wryly. Or are you aware that, despite your charm, I don't really like you all that much and will be more inclined to help if I believe Jilla's involved?

So now who are you blaming, Doctor? she chided herself. Is Jilla's infidelity her fault or his?

Again, she put her personal issues aside and addressed the question at hand.

"Any kind of group activity would be a boost to morale for those involved," she replied.

"Sulu also thought it would be preferable if the contest was restricted to males doing the actual cooking," Jilla put in.

Jade couldn't help her smile. "Make the lazy bums wait on their women for a change, hmm?"

Jilla blushed again, and Sulu chuckled. "Not exactly my thought, Doctor. More like keeping some ultra-competitive females from dominating it."

Again, Jade's mind supplied what Sulu had omitted - that if the goal was to help Lieutenant DelMonde, the further away Ruth Maxwell Valley could be kept, the better.

"I see no problem with the idea," she said at last. "In fact, I'll suggest it to the captain and make it official." She cocked her head at the helmsman. "Will that suffice, Mr. Sulu?"

He grinned broadly. "I love a smart woman, Dr. Han," he returned, then gave Jilla a quick kiss on the forehead, murmured a "see you later, hon," and left the cabin.

"So, you agree with this?" Jade asked Jilla as she motioned the Indiian to join her at the table.

Jilla looked slightly startled. "Sulu did tell you it was my idea," she reminded.

Jade let go of her inner suspicion, that Sulu had chosen to present this while Jilla was present as a way of securing Jade's cooperation. "Just checking," she said, and smiled.

1/8~ 1/4 ~ 1/2 ~ 2/3 ~ 3/4 ~ 1 ~ 3/4 ~ 2/3 ~ 1/2 ~1/4 ~ 1/8

“He started it!”

Although Spock did not speak when his beautiful young wife entered their shared cabin and made this abrupt announcement, his eyebrows did twist into an expression that clearly said, 'Oh?'

“I was just waiting for the lift… and… just…” Ruth sputtered angrily as she stalked to the mirror and removed the hairpins holding her stiff up-do in place. “Not saying anything… Not saying anything to him, anyway… and…. Arrrgh!”

“Perhaps if you were to start at the beginning?” her husband suggested, putting aside the stack of quarterly reports he was reviewing.

“There was no beginning!” she fumed, pulling off her boots and tossing them aside with more force than was necessary. “Out of nowhere… Oh, the nerve of that arrogant son of a womprat! Screaming at me like he was out of his mind…”

Spock tilted his head to one side. “Am I wrong to assume that you’re trying to tell me that there has been another… unfortunate encounter with Mr. DelMonde?”

“Any encounter with him is unfortunate,” Ruth retorted heatedly.

“And there was a… disturbance?”

The Antari held up a belaying finger. “Not my fault.”

Spock’s silent reply of, 'Oh?' this time seemed somewhat dubious.

“I have told him a thousand times not to snoop on other people’s…” she raged, discarding her uniform in favor of a velvety robe. “Aaargh! Why can’t he just fall out of an airlock?”

Her husband steepled his fingers. “How serious was this… disturbance?”

“It was nothing,” Ruth insisted hotly before honesty made her amend, “…Just some yelling.”

“This is unacceptable.” The Vulcan frowned and shook his head. “And you say you did nothing to provoke…?”

“NOT MY FAULT!!” the Antari shouted to all the witnessing deities who should have done more to prevent this blight on her happiness.

Spock’s mouth tightened into a hard line. “I will speak with Mr. DelMonde.”

Ruth paused a moment to take a certain satisfaction in the mental image of Del, purple-faced with rage though he might be, forced to remain respectfully silent while the facts of their current situation were coldly spelled out for him in excruciatingly icy Vulcan logic-ese. Painful though it would certainly be, the engineer just had to come to grips with the reality that she was not his to treat any way he pleased anymore… as if she ever had been.

Memory came unbidden to her of Del’s unfortunate tendency in their Academy days towards “No woman of mine” proclamations. An annoying combination of misguided chivalry and pure knuckle-dragging territoriality would -- despite the most strident discouragement on her part --periodically inspire the Cajun to flatly declare things like, “Not no way no woman o' mine gonna step foot out that door in them damned fuck-me-fast pumps if I not wit' her.”

Ruth ground her teeth at the recollection. He just had to be made to face facts for once and for all…

…Of course, any image where Del remained respectfully silent in the face of a lecture delivered by almost anyone – the despised husband of his ex-lover in particular – eventually had to be recognized for the pure fantasy it was.

Ruth frowned. Although the Cajun’s behavior warranted a stern reproof, putting him in a situation that would almost certainly result in his spending time in the brig for a profanity-laden display of insubordination seemed like overkill.

“No,” she decided. “You can’t.”

“As First Officer it is my duty to see that proper decorum is observed by all officers on the Enterprise,” her husband replied.

“I know, but…” She stopped and sighed. “In this case, it would look like favoritism.”

“I assure you, I do not intend…”

“I know, I know, but…” To illustrate the point she was about to make, Ruth stepped over to where her husband was sitting and threw one long, golden leg over his lap. Watching the color rise in his face as she seated herself straddling his thighs, she smiled and stroked his cheek.

“You like me,” she explained, kissing his still-stern lips. “You like me a lot… a lot more than you like Del.”

“Be that as it may…” he replied stubbornly.

“No.” She put a silencing finger to his lips. “No matter what you say, no matter how fairly you try to do it, giving Del the reprimand he so richly deserves….” She paused and frowned. “So very, very, very richly deserves… is always going to look to everyone – including Del– like you are taking my side against him.”

“It is unacceptable for an officer on this ship to launch an unprovoked verbal attack against a fellow officer,” her husband replied unbendingly.

“Well,” she conceded slowly. “It might not have been entirely unprovoked.”

This 'Oh?' was a bit more unsurprised than she would have liked.

“Ninety percent unprovoked,” she corrected defensively.

“…Leaving a ten percent margin of provocation?” he replied.

She sniffed. “Maybe five.”

Her husband sighed. “Beloved…”

“What?” she replied, taking her hands from around his neck and putting them on her hips.

“’He started it’ is not recognized in Starfleet regulations as sufficient justification for conduct unbecoming an officer.”

She gave him a reproving frown. “That is a very First Officer thing to say.”

“With good reason,” he replied firmly.

Ruth sighed heavily and rolled a 'Do I need this aggravation?' look to the cabin’s ceiling.

Her husband stroked her cheek. “Beloved, because there is, as you rightly pointed out, the danger of an appearance of favoritism or even the unwarranted persecution of a former… acquaintance of yours on my part, dealing with conflicts between you and Mr. DelMonde forces me into a most… delicate position.” After giving a moment for the potential seriousness of the situation to sink in, he straightened. “From now on, there must be no more incidents.”

“Agreed,” she replied readily.

“…With not so much as even a one percent provocation on your part.”


He raised an eyebrow. “As simply as that?”

“Just like that.” She put her arms back around his neck and sealed her promise with a kiss. “Put it completely from your mind. Over. Done. The End. Roll Credits.”

“You are certain?”

“Positive,” Ruth assured him, then smiled and undulated her hips wickedly against his lap. “Now let me ride you off into the sunset…”

1/8~ 1/4 ~ 1/2 ~ 2/3 ~ 3/4 ~ 1 ~ 3/4 ~ 2/3 ~ 1/2 ~1/4 ~ 1/8

"Doctor?" The captain of the Enterprise could not help smiling as he walked into the office of his new Chief of Psychology. "You wanted to see me?"

Dr. Jade Han smiled as she rose from her seat behind the desk. "Yes, Captain ..." She gazed at him thoughtfully for a moment, her head tilting engagingly to one side. "Although..."

Jim tried not to flush as he erased the word 'engagingly' from his mental description. "Although?" he repeated

"In my office, I have a rule," she replied. "No ranks. No titles. They can get in the way of clear and open communication."

He nodded. "Understood," he said, and cleared his throat. "So in the interests of clarity -- Jade?"

Her smile returned. "James."

"What's on your mind?" the captain asked.

She perched on the edge of the desk, half-leaning, half-sitting.

"Morale," she stated succinctly.

His eyes strayed momentarily to her slender legs, then he glanced back at her face with a grin. "Mine? Yours?"

"The crew's," she answered, again concise, though the smile played at the corners of her lips.

His grin widened. "Oh, them," he said, and was distracted as the doctor uncrossed then re-crossed her legs. He cleared his throat again, giving himself a mental shake. "Yes, the crew..."

"We've almost reached the point in our trip to the galactic core where conditions are no longer amenable to humanoid life," she clarified.

"Yes," he agreed, catching her drift . "No possibility of shore leave ports for at least a month or so."


Feeling a little self-conscious, Jim sat down in the chair in front of the desk, then realized that from that vantage, it was impossible not to gaze at her legs. But, of course, standing up again will only prompt her to ask me why and... "So what do you have in mind?" he asked instead. "Square dancing? Amateur theatricals?"

"Interesting suggestions," Jade responded, her voice cool and slightly amused. "Actually I was considering a variation of something I understand has already been implemented on an ad hoc basis -- 'I Hate Replicators' dinners."

Jim's grin returned. "Oh, yes," he enthused. "A lovely tradition. I believe Lieutenant Miller, our unofficial Rabbi, has organized a few of those."

Jade nodded. "I'm proposing a twist to add some interest -- turning the event into a competition."

"Eating?" Jim asked, a little dubiously.

She shook her head, her hair, which was loosely gathered behind her ears, shifting over her shoulder. "Cooking," she corrected.

"Probably better for the digestion," Jim agreed with a laugh. He resisted the urge to reach out and flip the long, dark strands of her hair back behind her ear. "Hmmm... sounds harmless enough," he said at last. "It would add a little spice -- if you'll forgive the expression -- to the trip." He smiled conspiratorially at her. "And give you a chance to observe the crew interacting...

"James," she interrupted, "I am always watching the crew interact."

He caught and held her gaze - just to prove her point, he told himself. "I don't doubt that for a minute, Jade."

He was more than gratified when he detected a slight coloring of her cheeks as she let herself slip off the desk to stand in front of him. "We're scheduled to stop at the Federation outpost in the J12 system in around 48 hours, are we not?" she asked. He nodded. "If we could extend our stay long enough to allow everyone the opportunity to do a little grocery shopping...?"

"The J12 outpost is nobody's idea of a farmer's market," Jim confided, "but it will have to do." He stood. "I'll contact the station manager and alert him to expect the visit of a shipload of would-be chefs and gourmands."

Her smile made another appearance. "That would be excellent, James."

"Glad to oblige, Jade," he answered. "So... I leave our collective happiness in your hands."

He turned, then had a thought and turned back to her. "About that 'no ranks, no titles' rule," he said. "You just made that up on the spot, didn't you?"

Her only answer was the final emergence of her not-quite-teasing smile.

1/8~ 1/4 ~ 1/2 ~ 2/3 ~ 3/4 ~ 1 ~ 3/4 ~ 2/3 ~ 1/2 ~1/4 ~ 1/8

"So how many hours of leave did you put in for on the J12 outpost?"

Del blinked in surprise as Sulu slid into the vacant seat opposite him in Rec Room five. It wasn't like his old friend had been snubbing him, but between Kam's full time jobs of being the Divine Helmsman and keeping up with one and a half girlfriends, he wasn't left with a lot of time for chit-chat.

"Why the hell I put in fo' even a minute's leave on a God-forsaken monitorin' station wit'out so much as one good bar?" the engineer growled in welcome. Other than a smattering of job-related conversations and a couple brief, but ill-starred interactions with a certain half-Antari science officer that were best forgotten, Del didn’t think anyone had gone out of their way to speak to him in a week. Of course, he was working a sort of a cock-eyed schedule at present. Since his transfer, the Chief Engineer had taken an immediate liking to him and had entrusted him with a satisfying amount of responsibility and latitude in decision-making. This combined with his lack of seniority had resulted, however, in Del working while Scotty -- and it seemed like everyone else on the ship -- was asleep. Since this schedule also minimized the contact he had with certain purple-eyed married ladies, it seemed like a good thing. However, it was starting to get a little lonely… not that he cared, of course.

"Oh, no reason." Sulu gave him one of his Buddha-Knows-a-Secret smiles. "Never mind."

It was obvious from the bright, sparkly twinges of energy twinkling all around Sulu that helmsman was up to something. “You goin' down to th' J12?” DelMonde probed.

“Yeah.” As Kam drank his coffee, all the bright twinklies formed into a big 'Go on and ask me' sign.

“What fo'?” the Cajun complied cautiously. “Grocery? You kiddin' me? The planet barely habitable. What th' hell they got there?”

“Organic matter that hasn't been processed down to a tasteless block,” Sulu replied. “It's for the 'I Hate Replicators' dinner.”

“Oh.” Del’s mouth watered a little at the thought of an entire banquet of un-reconstituted dishes. As much as he loved machines, he really hated machine-made food. “So you gotta buy somet'ing if you gonna eat somet'ing?”

“No. You can, but you don’t have to. You just have to buy if you're going to enter the chef contest.” The helmsman gave him an appraising look. “... Which I assume you're not gonna do.”

“Hell, no,” Del replied automatically.


The engineer frowned at this enthusiasm for his non-participation. “An' you are plannin' on bein' in this contest?”

Winning the contest,” Sulu corrected.

“So you not want no competition from me,” the Cajun concluded.

Sulu shrugged. “I'm just trying to get a feel for what the field of competitors is gonna be like.”

“It not gonna include me,” Del assured him.

“Good. I didn't think you'd be interested.” The helmsman poured himself another cup of coffee from the carafe on the table. “Plus you really only do one specific type of regional cuisine anyway, right?”

DelMonde’s eyebrows lifted at this minimalization of his native culture’s well-deserved reputation for gastronomic excellence. “What the fuck you tryin' to say?”

Sulu shrugged apologetically. “Not everybody likes Cajun food, so...”

What?!!” Del’s incredulous rejoinder reverberated through the not-quite-as-empty-as-he-had-assumed-it-was rec room.

“Not everybody likes spicy food,” the helmsman replied as if his slander were reasonable.

Despite his old friend’s studied nonchalance, Del could tell that Kam was enjoying this. It was like the ex-racer was trying to pick a fight for fun.

“If it spiced right, anybody can eat it,” the engineer asserted from between his teeth trying not to rise to the bait. “An' I never hear you complain.”

“Well, I like spicy food,” Sulu replied as if he didn’t know the repetition of that hateful 'spicy food' label was going to make his friend see red.

“If it cooked right, it jus' good food,” Del corrected firmly. Despite his efforts to keep his temper under control, he couldn’t resist adding, “You t'ink people gonna like that chopped up raw shit you make any better?”

The helmsman crossed his arms. “If you're talking the sashimi and edamame I made for you and Jer, I don't think you're in any position to offer an opinion since -- as I recall -- you were too chickenshit to eat any of it.”

“Raw fish an' raw Japanese greenbeans soaked in salt water?” the engineer scoffed. “ Yeah, I not t'ink it worth th' food poisonin'.”

“See this is why you'd be at a real disadvantage in this contest,” Sulu said, switching over to his most nauseating 'big brother only trying to help' mode. “You don't have a broad or adventurous palate. You just haven't tried a lot of different tastes.”

“Oh, I tried plenty,” the Cajun assured him.

Kam grinned wickedly. “Not as much as I have.”

“Yeah, nobody in they right mind tries all th' shit you have,” the engineer shot back.

“There's that,” his fellow ex-Clavist let the blow bounce off his armor with a charmingly salacious wink. “You must admit though, I do know what people like. And trust me, a glob of blackened bullshit with a side order of heart attack isn't gonna win anything on this ship.”

“You stuck-up, conceited motherfucker,” Del growled a little more loudly than he intended. Crewmembers who were apparently not accustomed to hearing their perfectly perfect helmsman addressed in such a manner were beginning to take notice of their conversation. “I got half a mind t' enter this stupid contest jus' to wipe that smug grin off your face.”

Sulu smiled maddeningly. “You're not gonna do that, though. “

“You better pray I don't.”

“Or what?” Kam laughed and took another sip of coffee. “You might boil some beans and rice and dump a ton of cayenne pepper on it? Oh I'm shaking.”

“Motherfucker,” the Cajun replied indignantly. “What you do -- It not even cookin'. It jus' cuttin'.”

“Traditional Japanese is only one of the many types of cooking I do,” Sulu reminded him. “Unlike you, I don't have just one style.”

“You right,” the engineer agreed hotly. “I do have jus' one style o' cookin'-- Good cookin'. That it.”

“Since you're not willing to actually cook anything to prove it, I guess you can keep on making that claim as long as you want to.”

“It not no claim.” Although he could tell that Kam was goading him on purpose, it was hard to keep calm. It was like all those little sparklies of enthusiasm from inside the helmsman’s head had swarmed over and were now crawling all over him like fire ants. “It the damned truth an' you know it.”

“No point in arguing about cooking no one here is ever gonna taste.” Sulu took another infuriatingly self-satisfied sip of coffee. “So, just come to the party, have some good food, then vote for me.”

“Oh, you so positive you gonna win,” Del could not stop himself from sneering. “Still t'inking you Monsieur le Roi, non?”

“Hey, when you've got it, flaunt it.” Kam grinned. “And when you don't... Well, nobody is going to blame you for not wantin' to put some New Orleans bar food up against a real meal.”

“Motherfucker, I gonna tear your arrogant ass to pieces,” the Cajun promised with enough vehemence to make people around the room do a double take.

The helmsman batted his eyelashes mockingly. “Is that a come on, or are you thinking about entering the contest?”

Winnin' the contest, more like,” the engineer corrected.

“Bring it on.” Sulu grinned delightedly and held out a hand for him to shake. “And may the best man win.”

Honor, pride, and Kamikaze’s infernal ability to play his emotions like a fiddle left Del no choice but to take it and reply, “I sure that I will.”

1/8~ 1/4 ~ 1/2 ~ 2/3 ~ 3/4 ~ 1 ~ 3/4 ~ 2/3 ~ 1/2 ~1/4 ~ 1/8

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