In The Line Of Duty

by Cheryl Petterson


some material based on earlier drafts with S Sizemore

(Standard Year 2247)

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PART TWO

“Where’s Roy?” Ruth asked brightly as she walked into the mess for lunch. Her friend and roommate, Jilla Majiir, sat at a table by herself, unusual since the helmsman had made it his life’s work to develop a more-than-friendship with the petite Indiian.

Sulu has duty planetside,” Jilla returned, emphasizing the name. Ruth shrugged. Jilla’s dislike of nicknames didn’t faze her – but it didn’t stop her from using them either. “Would you care to join me?”

Ruth smiled, sitting down with her meal – a plate of meat and a cup of coffee. “Gathering more stupid trading reports, I imagine,” she said. She shook her head. “I can’t for the life of me figure out what these people think the Havens did wrong. I’ve been over every record for the past standard month and I can’t find any irregularities.”

“Perhaps that is the problem.” Jilla returned.

“What, people expect Havens to deal unfairly and are pissed when they don’t?”

“I am hardly an expert on Terran behavior,” Jilla demurred, “however, it often seems to me that such is precisely the kind of ‘problem’ which receives the most vocal complaints.”

Ruth grinned affectionately at Jilla’s verbiage. “You sound just like Spock,” she commented.

“Do I?” Jilla said disarmingly. “How flattering, particularly coming from you.”

The grin turned into a scowl. “Push. Push push.”

“I did not mention Commander Spock,” the Indiian replied, almost but not quite archly.

“And speaking of,” Ruth suddenly interrupted, then smiled again, “Hi, Boss.”

“Miss Valley, Mrs. Majiir,” Spock’s voice greeted them pleasantly as he stepped up to the table. “Lieutenant, may I have a word with you?”

“Sure.” Ruth gulped the last of her coffee and started to stand.

“I am due back in Engineering," Jilla replied, and stood herself, picking up her lunch tray. “Good afternoon, Ruth, Commander.”

“Good day, Ensign,” Spock returned.

“See you, Jilla,” Ruth said, then looked expectantly at the Vulcan as he took the chair Jilla had vacated.

“Miss Valley, I wish to make a rather unorthodox request,” Spock began. Ruth felt her heart rate increase and scowled at herself. Push push indeed, she thought. “I would like you to meet Mr. Sulu planetside in approximately one hour and forty-five minutes.”

“Oh?” the Antari questioned. “What for? More trading reports?”

“No, this is unrelated to duty,” Spock answered. “I simply wish to – he will be returning from a meeting with Admiral Gordon’s aide and it is my opinion that he may need – a friend.”

Ruth frowned. “Since when are you a social secretary, Boss?”

“Will you do it?” the Vulcan asked without answering her question.

Ruth lowered her voice, leaning in across the mess table. “Is there some problem?” she said. “Something with the Havens?”

“Will you do it?” Spock repeated.

There’s definitely something going on here, she told herself, then considered. The Vulcan’s dark eyes were veiled, hiding something important, but there was also a personal plea behind them, something that was making him decidedly uneasy. “Is Roy in trouble?” she whispered.

“Miss Valley…”

“Yes, I’ll do it,” she returned. “Is Sulu in trouble?”

Spock rose. “I am certain Mr. Sulu will tell you what he feels is appropriate,” he replied. “He will be in the Officer’s Lounge. You have my thanks, Miss Valley.”

Ruth watched the tall figure walk across the messhall, and tried to ignore the sudden shiver of dread that rose along her spine.

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Lieutenant Lo was standing at his desk with his back to the door as Sulu entered the small room. With a silent, internal deep breath, the helmsman softly crossed the space between them. “Hi, Lo,” he murmured in the older man’s ear.

The lieutenant didn’t startle. Instead, he turned, rather leisurely, and smiled. “I was hoping you’d come back,” he returned, just as softly.

Sulu grinned, deliberately making it teasing and roguish. “I thought you’d feel that way,” he said.

One of Lo’s eyebrows arched. “Did you?”

Sulu sidled closer. “The signals were unmistakable,” he confided, and let his tongue wet his lips.

“I didn’t receive any in return,” Lo said.

Sulu reached out, firmly caressing Lo’s upper arm. “I was on duty then,” he murmured. He dropped his gaze from the lieutenant’s face to the unexpectedly muscled arm beneath his hand. “Mmm, nice,” he commented, then glanced up, another seductive smile making his features alluring and tempting. “Is the rest of you so well built?” he said, leaving no doubt as to the innuendo.

“Do you always work this fast, Lieutenant?” Lo asked, and Sulu was gratified to hear that his voice was not quite as smooth as he’d no doubt intended.

“When I meet someone like you and I’ve only got three days, yes,” the helmsman replied, and boldly slid his arms around the aide’s waist. “Are you going to make me wait, Lo?”

“And if I have duty?” Lo rejoined dryly, but Sulu could feel the excitement in the attaché’s rapid heartbeat.

“You don’t,” he whispered. “At least not for two hours.” Sulu softly nipped the ear he was whispering into. “Or so Admiral Gordon told me.”

“You saw the Admiral?” Lo said, suddenly pulling away. Sulu didn’t let the older Lieutenant slip away so easily. He stepped forward, reclaiming his embrace.

“He told me to be sure to have you back on duty on time,” he said, and pressed closer to the Lo’s chest. “I think he meant what he said.”

Lo abruptly relaxed and Sulu congratulated himself. Either Lo hadn’t known the Admiral knew about his homosexuality, or he was concerned about protocol and duty, but either way, with Gordon’s ‘permission,’ all his hesitancy – or calculated show of hesitancy, Sulu’s thoughts added automatically – disappeared. And if it is a show, I’d better be sure that in the next two hours, he believes me.

“So,” he taunted sensually, “my quarters or yours?”

“Can we go to yours?” Lo asked, his voice husky. “I’ve always wanted to see a heavy cruiser.”

“I’m not in the mood to give you a tour,” Sulu returned, carefully biting the lieutenant’s neck and throat, and felt the man’s chuckle beneath his lips.

“I’ll try not to be too disappointed,” Lo said sardonically.

“Baby,” Sulu promised, “disappointment is going to be the last of your worries.”

He kept his arms around Lo as the aide secured the office. Then he called the Enterprise for a discreet beam-up.

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Lo could smell a set-up a mile away, and this was definitely a set-up. To be sure, he’d been intrigued by the particular attractiveness of the young lieutenant when they’d met earlier, but he could tell right away the boy wasn’t interested in a tryst. To have the officer return with so blatant a seduction… unless he’s being honest and it simply was that he was on duty, Lo told himself. Starfleet officers do make those kind of distinctions.

And you wouldn’t be thinking that simply because you want the boy, would you?

As long as I keep my guard up, does it matter?

And besides, he finished the internal debate, just look at him!

He followed the Asian through the corridors of the great ship, noting that no one seemed to notice anything unusual about this particular lieutenant escorting an unfamiliar officer to his cabin. Lo had, of course, done his research on Lieutenant Sulu after their last meeting; Takeda Sulu, twenty five years old, promising career specializing in Helm and Security, a reputation as a good, hard-working officer – who played just as hard as he worked. A tom-cat to rival the great James Tomcat Kirk himself. More so, because Lieutenant Takeda Sulu was joyously omnisexual. Put bluntly, the boy would fuck anything that moved, or could be pinned down – and sometimes he liked it better when they were pinned down.

That had made Lo shiver. They were two of a kind, and while that often didn’t really work out in the long run, Lo wasn’t, at the time, expecting it to be a possibility, much less a problem. Now, of course… but he wasn’t exactly planning on a lengthy commitment anyway.

As soon as the door to Sulu’s quarters was closed, the young man turned, pressing Lo against the bulkhead, giving him a forceful, unavoidable, passionate kiss. Lo opened his mouth without hesitation, accepting the dominance of the exploring tongue. He slid his fingers to the fastening at the collar of Sulu’s gold tunic and the lieutenant pulled away long enough to pull the uniform over his head, tossing it casually to the deck. The smile that touched the full, tempting lips had just a touch of darkness to it, and Lo again shivered. It was almost too perfect. Sulu’s body again slammed into his, the skilled pilot’s hands moving over Lo’s body with sensual knowledge and an almost leisurely urgency – as incongruous as Lo knew that seemed. The boy’s arousal was genuine enough; the organ that was pushing against his thigh was steel hard. He was just in duty mode, Lo decided, and in that instant, also decided to have the most amount of fun with the Admiral’s assignment.

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Sulu deliberately kept the sex between he and Lo as distant as such an intimate act could be – mutual masturbation after intense, lengthy foreplay, with no oral/genital contact and only the most fleeting of genital/genital contact… and definitely no penetration. He could tell that Lo was a dominant man, one who usually preferred precise, aloof control of his partner and he had played to the aide’s tastes perfectly. As his own tastes ran to passionate, hedonistic control, any real relationship between them would have been impossible. Not that there’s going to be one, he assured his twinging conscience.

He rolled over onto his side on the small bed in his cabin, noting that Lo had fastidiously pulled the bed sheet up to his waist

“What’s it like, working for a man like Gordon?” he asked casually.

Lo glanced over at him. “What is it like working for a man like Kirk?”

Sulu chuckled. “They are two of a kind, aren’t they?”

“Are they?”

The helmsman leaned up on his elbow, fighting the inclination to ask Lo if he always answered a question with a question. Instead, he sensually ran his fingertips over the aide’s torso. There was far more hair on the older lieutenant’s chest than was usual for Ter-Asians, and though its texture was as coarse as Jeremy’s, it wasn’t as tightly curled. Still, that could be the combination, Sulu mused, wondering why he’d noted it. He quickly brought his attention back to the matter at hand. “Well, sure,” he said, answering Lo’s statement. “Both ambitious, both intelligent, both a little – uncompromising in their methods…”

“And how do you know that about the Admiral?” Lo interrupted.

Sulu laughed. “Oh come on, Lo. Do you think I’m stupid? I met the man, remember?”

“And you could tell that about him...”

“Just by looking at him,” Sulu broke in. “Yes, I could.” He leaned down, kissing the dark brown nipple. “And by the fact that he has you for an aide.”

Lo’s fingers came to the back of his neck. “Then you know all about what it’s like to work for a man like the Admiral,” he murmured.

“Ah, but I’m not Kirk’s attaché,” Sulu returned in between salacious licks and nips, “and the responsibilities of a Starfleet Captain are much different than those of a Secretary of Resources.”

“Oh? In what way?”

“They’re a lot more varied, for one,” Sulu volunteered. “And a lot more – scrutinized.”

Abruptly Lo sat up. “And just what do you mean by that?”

Sulu blinked. “Hey, take it easy, lover. I’m just talking shop.”

“You’re asking a lot of questions, Sulu…”

“I’ve only got three days. How else am I supposed to get to know you?”

“Since we’ve only got three days, it would hardly seem a priority.”

Sulu shrugged. “Fine. Be secretive. It’s not as though you’re spilling classified information. I only meant a ship’s logs are gone over with a fine-tooth comb.”

“I assure you, my records are meticulously kept…”

“Of course they are,” Sulu soothed. “But I’ll bet no one really appreciates that but you and the Admiral.” He trailed knowing fingers down Lo’s spine. “My reports are dissected by Commander Spock, Kirk, Commodore Mendez, Admiral Komack and the Heads of both Sector and Starfleet Security. If I so much as misspell some hot-shot’s name…”

Lo chuckled, and Sulu sighed, relaxing. Almost blew it, there, he told himself. “So, tell me,” he murmured, moving closer to the aide, “what’s the worst part of your job? For us, it’s hurry up and wait, weeks of tedium and routine punctuated by a few hours of terror and insanity.”

“The worst part of my job,” Lo returned, “is dealing with the constant parade of incompetent and inefficient requests I have to process.”

Sulu kissed Lo’s shoulder. “Tell me a whopper,” he whispered.

“I’d love to,” Lo rejoined, “but I’m due back at my desk in fifteen minutes.”

“Shit!” Sulu muttered, then kissed the lieutenant fully on the mouth. “Tell me you’ll have time after duty tonight.”

“Sulu,” Lo stated with a wide grin, “I can almost guarantee it.”

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Gordon wasn’t in his office when Sulu escorted Lo back to the Admiral’s headquarters, so the helmsman gave the attaché a deep, lingering kiss before they parted, adding a request that Lo contact him after his work for the day was completed. Lo had asked about Sulu’s duty schedule, and the Asian had grinned, replying that there wasn’t much for a pilot to do while the ship was in orbit. Lo had chuckled appreciatively, quoting Sulu’s own words about hurrying and waiting. Sulu smiled again, kissed him again, then jauntily left the small office.

His mood changed abruptly as soon as he was out of sight of the lieutenant. He stopped walking, taking a deep breath, running a hand over his face and up through his hair.

Well, that accomplished a whole hell of a lot of nothing, he thought grimly. I hope the Captain didn’t expect instant results.

He wanted an in, and you got that, he reminded. Get a little closer and you’ll be able to get Lo to talk.

Don’t be so sure. The man is a little on the paranoid, suspicious side.

Well, sure, he’s potentially got a lot to lose.

And you can get anyone to do anything, paranoid and suspicious or not, can’t you?

The thought was smug and darkly arrogant and Sulu pushed it away. Not that it wasn’t true, he just didn’t want to think about it.

He shook himself and resumed walking, deciding to make another visit to the Officer’s Lounge with its ostentatious atmosphere and conscience-deadening alcohol.

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Ruth waited a little nervously in the elaborate surroundings of Delta Station’s Officer’s Lounge. She’d never seen a military establishment so well-appointed – or so god-awful pretentious, she thought. Why in god’s name does Spock think Sulu will come here?

Because they serve alcohol here.

But Roy’s got saké in his cabin.

But does Spock know that?

Sulu does, so why would he…

Her train of thought stopped as Sulu appeared in the door of the Lounge. Scowling at the annoying accuracy of the First Officer’s prediction, she stood, waving, catching Sulu’s eye. The helmsman was obviously surprised to see her, but headed toward her nonetheless.

“What are you doing here, Spike?” he asked.

Ruth shrugged as they both took seats, then waited as the server came over to take Sulu’s order. She herself had a glass of ycasan wine before her. When the waiter had gone, she said, “Beats me, Roy. Mr. Spock suggested it. He said you might need a friend to talk to.”

The expression on the Asian’s face became immediately sour. “Jesus, talk about pushing…” he muttered.

Ruth blinked. “He’s pushing – you and me? Doesn’t he know about…”

“Not that,” Sulu interrupted. He glanced swiftly around the lavish room, then leaned forward, lowering his voice. “The Captain gave me a special assignment…”

“And Boss thinks you’re going to have a problem with it,” Ruth guessed.

Sulu sat back, sighing. “Yeah.”

Ruth considered him. “Are you?”

“I can handle it.”

Ruth nodded, then took a sip of her wine as the waiter returned with a flask of warm saké and a small cup. “So, do you want to talk about it?” she asked.

Sulu scowled. “I can’t. The Captain said no one else can know.”

“Spock obviously does.”

“Sure, he’s the First Officer.”

“And he sent me to see if you needed to talk,” Ruth pointed out. “I think that means he thinks you can talk about it.” She paused. "At least, to me."

Another scowl crossed Sulu’s features, and he poured the saké into the cup, quickly throwing the warm rice wine to the back of his throat. “It’ll make you twitchy,” he told her.

“Try me.”

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Jim arrived for his afternoon meeting with Gordon nearly half an hour late. He had hoped to have some sort of report from Lieutenant Sulu, but checked the impulse to wait longer, knowing it was only his own impatience. He wanted to simply charge into Gordon’s office and hold him and that attaché of his against the nearest wall at phaser point while Spock dismantled their computer system until he found the proof Komack was after. Bluffing was fine in poker, but this – this was frustrating as hell. He considered the sentiment wryly. Yes, for him, hell would be frustration.

The maitre’d at the Officer’s Lounge pointed him to the bar. Gordon was leaning against it, a tall drink in his hand, his gaze fixed at a table across the room. Jim glanced in the same direction, surprised to see both Lieutenant Sulu and Ruth Valley. Even from this distance, Jim could recognize the gleam of interest in Gordon’s eyes.

Another line of attack, his strategic mind pointed out. Gordon’s file said he was a connoisseur of beauty, and there’s certainly not much in the galaxy more beautiful than an Antari.

And just how many members of your crew are you going to use? he asked himself caustically.

This is important!

So are ethics, or why do you care so much about Gordon’s side-dealing?

It’s in the line of duty, and they have the option to object and decline.

Unless you make it an order.

Which I won’t.

And stay in hell?

Better than putting another of my officers in it.

With an internal shake, Jim rejected the uneasy suggestion and strolled amiably to greet Admiral Gordon.

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“Your Lieutenant Sulu has made quite an impression on my attaché, Captain,” was the first thing Gordon said.

Jim smiled broadly. “He’s quite an impressive officer,” he returned, leaving the Admiral to draw whatever innuendo he cared to. See? he told his nagging conscience, I can besmirch my reputation for a strategic advantage, too.

Gordon’s eyes gleamed. “You did have a hand in that, then,” he said.

“I understand the importance of keeping influential subordinates favorably inclined, yes,” Jim agreed, then added, with a sly grin, “as, I’m sure, do you.”

Gordon chuckled. “We see eye to eye on many things, Captain.”

Jim nodded deferentially. “We do, sir.”

“And I can safely assume,” Gordon went on, “that the lovely young lieutenant Mr. Sulu is currently impressing is another of your fine officers?”

Jim glanced apparently casually at the table across from the bar. “Yes,” he replied, but decided not to give any more of an opening. “Admiral, I’m only here for another two days,” he rejoined. “and while I don’t have any specific assignment from Starfleet, my general mission is to seek new discoveries – which I’m more than anxious to achieve.” He hoped his subtle emphasis would be enough to finally draw the reticent Admiral away from vague hints.

“Who is she?” Gordon asked as if Jim hadn’t spoken.

Jim hid a scowl. “Uh, Ruth Valley.”

“Her position?”

“She’s a generalist in Sciences,” Jim returned. “Admiral, if I may…”

“Is she as – impressive – as your Chief Helmsman?”

Jim swallowed. While he wasn’t privy to the conversations between Sulu and Lo, he knew that there hadn’t been a lot of time for Lo to have given a lengthy report to his superior. Still, it was clear that Gordon already knew the answers to the questions he was asking. His obvious interest was making Jim more than a little nervous.

Time to reconsider that strategy, is it?

“She’s my Science Officer’s assistant,” he replied, letting that fact speak for itself. No need to push it.

“And she’s Antari, so she must be keheil,” Gordon went on, “or of the Rhiannol Clan.”

He knows way too much about internal Antari politics for a casual observer, Jim thought. Which means he already knows what he wants. Connoisseur of beauty…

It is the perfect Plan C. Miss Valley is as sexually promiscuous as Sulu, and she’s proven herself a competent officer, capable of dealing with emergencies and unexpected situations. Plus, she is a keheil. She can certainly take care of herself.

“They look very – friendly,” Gordon was continuing. The Admiral finally turned to fully face Jim. “Are they?”

Jim swallowed. “They are friends, yes…” Jim replied.

“And more than friends, Captain?”

Now it comes to it. Jim’s mind moved quickly. Gordon’s not going to give an inch, not without more incentive than I’ve given him. He’s testing me, seeing if I’m really as unscrupulous as I’ve made myself out to be. Will I be as callous, as manipulative as he is? And if I fail…

Fleet will have to take its second shot and another captain and more officers will have to play this ugly charade. Right now it’s three – assuming Miss Valley will agree – and I can end it here. Plus, Gordon will definitely be suspicious if another starship captain comes on to him.

No. I have to see this through. If Gordon suggests any kind of assignation, I’ll stall until I have a chance to brief Lieutenant Valley and ask for her cooperation.

“Why, yes, Admiral,” he answered Gordon’s question with a charming smirk, “I believe they are.”

The Admiral’s smile turned hungry. “Can I wrangle an introduction, Jim?”

Jim gestured toward the table, noting the use of his first name rather than his rank. It’s getting closer, he told himself. I can make this work. I have to.

Silently, he preemptively asked Ruth Valley to forgive him.

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“Ewww,” Ruth commented.

“I told you,” Sulu replied.

“It’s bad enough that it’s so sleazy,” the Antari went on, “but Lo’s a man. Gross!”

Sulu chuckled, knowing by the order of her stated concerns that she was trying to make light of the situation. “Yeah, well, you knew I had a touch of the pervert about me.”

“And I’m encouraging you to ravish my roommate?”

“Salvation through the love of a good woman and all that.”

“I’m Jewish. We don’t buy all that salvation shit.”

“I’m Buddhist,” Sulu reminded.

“In name.”

The helmsman shrugged. “There is that.”

“So I suppose it could work for you.”

“Worth a shot, anyway,” Sulu grinned.

Ruth leaned forward. “Seriously, Roy, how bad is it?”

“Like I said. I can handle it.”

“Bwana can be a real piece of work.”

“And would you do any less, given the situation?”

Ruth blinked. “Who, me? I’m not an incurable romantic.”

“What’s romance got to do with it?” Sulu wanted to know.

“Sacrifice for God and country and the good of the many,” Ruth said. “That’s about as romanticized as one can get.” She took a breath and softly sang, “He went to fight wars for his country and his king, of his honor and his glory the people would sing.”

Sulu winced. “That’s not why…”

“A bullet had found him, his blood ran as he cried,” she continued, then said, “the point of the song is that there’s no honor and glory in dying for one’s ideals.”

“I don’t think it’s quite that drastic,” Sulu drawled.

“But the point remains.”

“And you, of course, have no ideals.”

Ruth shrugged, but her eyes were smiling. “I didn’t say that. I was just explaining how fucking in the line of duty is romantic.”

“And Spock thought I could talk to you.”

Ruth laughed and Sulu grinned at her.

“Good afternoon, Lieutenants.”

They both looked up Captain’s Kirk’s voice, then stood as they realized he was accompanied by Admiral Gordon.

“Mr. Sulu, you’ve already met the Admiral,” Kirk continued.

Sulu nodded. “Hello again, sir,” he said.

“Admiral, this is Lieutenant Ruth Valley,” Kirk concluded. “Miss Valley, Admiral Ivan Gordon.”

“Pleased to meet you, sir,” Ruth replied, her eyes flashing quickly to Sulu, who gave a discreet shrug.

Gordon’s eyes swept not-so-discreetly over her. “The pleasure is mine, I assure you,” he said, then smiled. “You’re Antari.”

Sulu became suddenly alert, noting the wariness that came into Ruth’s large, purple eyes.

“Yes, sir,” she replied. “Half Antari, sir.”

“I envy your father,” Gordon murmured.

Sulu glanced at Kirk. Plan C, Captain? he wondered, and saw the grim determination in Kirk’s expression. He sighed bitterly. So much for romanticism.

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Jim and Gordon took seats at Valley and Sulu’s table, and as Jim chatted casually, he noted with growing resignation the frequency and brazenness of the glances the Admiral gave Ruth. Then he realized Gordon was giving the same kind of attention to Sulu. Suddenly he recalled the information from his research into the Admiral’s background. The man had a reputation for the expansive enjoyment of the pleasures of all sexes. And he had asked if Valley and Sulu were lovers. Did that mean he’d been intrigued by the possibility of a tryst with both of them?

Once again, Jim’s mind began moving rapidly. Perhaps he had misread Gordon’s initial reference to Sulu. Perhaps the mention was intended as a prelude to Gordon’s own involvement with the lieutenant. And in that case, perhaps his continued hesitancy is due to his opinion that I’m not quite perceptive enough.

So fix it.

How?

The thoughts came swiftly. Sulu’s already deeply involved in the effort to ensnare Gordon. Perhaps, if he and Valley ‘distract’ the Admiral, then I let it slip to Lo that Sulu’s moving up in the world, that perhaps he only used Lo to get Gordon to notice him… Lo might become careless and give Spock an opportunity to get at his computer. Depending on how charming Sulu’s been, he might even want to turn over something on the Admiral.

This is really pushing officer’s loyalty, Kirk.

It’s only an option. I’ll discuss it with them and make certain they know they can decline it.

They won’t.

Jim grimaced inwardly.

I know. That’s why it will work.

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After nearly half an hour of awkward and increasingly blatant conversation, the Admiral rose. “As appealing as continuing this encounter is,” he said, “your Captain and I have business to discuss.” He took Ruth’s hand, kissing it lingeringly. “Truly a pleasure, dear,” he said, then laid an almost possessive hand on Sulu’s shoulder. “And it was certainly good getting to know you a little better, my boy.” Sulu smiled, and Jim noted the well-played suggestiveness behind it, as well as Valley’s boldly appraising stare. You aren’t going to have to explain much, he thought to himself.

But you are still going to have to get their agreement.

Any way you can, is that it?

I didn’t mean it like that. I meant I still have to discuss it with them. And I will, unless the business Gordon is going to discuss makes it unnecessary.

God, please make it unnecessary.

With a smile and a nod of his own, Jim stood, wished his officers a pleasant day, and followed Gordon out of the Officer’s Lounge.

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“Ewww,” Ruth said, quickly wiping the back of her hand as Kirk and Gordon left the table.

Sulu shuddered. “Still think it’s romantic?”

“I need something a lot stronger than ycasan,” the Antari said, and signaled to the waiter.

“Do you suppose they have Rigellian here?” Sulu asked.

“That’s not stronger, Roy.”

“No, but after a few bowlfuls, we won’t care.”

Ruth smiled, but there was still a touch of distaste about it. “I like the way you think.”

“I’m an expert in the ways of forgetting disgusting realities,” he muttered.

“What?”

“Never mind.

“That’s my line.”

“You could’ve said you never do and reminded us both of more pleasant things,” Sulu pointed out.

“You think thoughts of you and Jilla are more pleasant, do you?”

Sulu grinned crookedly. “Well, for me.”

“You’re a womprat, Roy.”

“You’re a twitch, Spike. Or maybe I should say ‘indeed’ and remind you of more pleasant…”

“Push. Push push.”

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Just before his duty shift ended, Lieutenant Lo contacted the Enterprise, only to be told that Sulu was still station-side. Eager for it, are you? he mused, then informed Admiral Gordon that he was finished with his work for the day. Gordon had been meeting with Captain Kirk until an hour before, and the Admiral was now closing a small packet with a classified seal.

“Have the boy get this to Kirk,” Gordon said.

“Are we doing business, sir?” Lo asked.

“Potentially, Lieutenant. There are still a few questions that need productive answers.” The older man’s blue eyes bored into Lieutenant’s. “Be discreet, Lo.”

Lo nodded as he took the package. “As always, Admiral.”

Lo left the office, stopping at his computer to key in one of his personal programs before going to the private bathroom off of the anteroom. Once inside with the door locked, he carefully opened the envelope, artfully preserving the integrity of the seal. He studied the contents, making certain there was nothing incriminating contained within, then just as carefully reaffixed the seal. He’d been prepared to make minor modification to the Admiral’s data, as he always had. This time there was no need. There hadn’t been for some time, but Lo never took anything for granted.

He smiled to himself as he actually used the facilities, then left the room, again going to his computer to disable his security scrambler before shutting all apparent functions down and leaving his office.

The walk to the Officer’s Lounge was taken briskly. If there was any surveillance on him, he wanted to appear just as eager as the Enterprise’s helmsman. He stopped with a start, however, when he saw that Lieutenant Sulu wasn’t alone. The young man sat with a beautiful Antari, the fragrant smoke of a shared pipe of Rigellian wafting around them. Briefly, Lo considered returning the packet to his office and waiting to deliver it until he and Sulu were alone, but his awareness of the time-sensitive material it contained warred with his caution. If he seemed too secretive about it, it might make the handsome lieutenant suspicious, and if Kirk didn’t receive it in time, it would spell disaster for his plans.

Make it casual, then, he said to himself. If you don’t consider it all that important, there will be nothing for Sulu to be suspicious about. But not too casual. He already has you pegged as a paranoid.

Knowing how to proceed, Lo approached his mark and the helmsman’s lovely companion.

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“Good afternoon, Lieutenant.”

Sulu looked up at Lo’s voice, then mentally kicked himself into gear and stood, an eager smile on his lips. “Finally!” he breathed, then noticed the packet Lo was carrying. “Shit, don’t tell me you’re still on duty.”

The lieutenant chuckled. “No, but I do have an errand to run for Admiral Gordon. Fortunately, it involves you. Unfortunately, it involves you.”

Sulu grinned at the wry look on Lo’s face. “Does that mean I have to be on duty just when you’re free?” he teased.

“It may,” was the answer. “Depending on whether or not whatever is contained in this package needs a timely response from your Captain.” Lo’s gaze went to Ruth. “And you are…?”

“Forgive me,” Sulu broke in hurriedly. “Lieutenant Wong Lo, this is Lieutenant Ruth Valley. Ruth, this is Lo.”

“Pleased, I’m certain,” Lo returned, but he was frowning.

Sulu glanced at Ruth, caught her questioning look and gave her a slight nod, and she smiled her best, most sensual greeting.

“Well, well, Lieutenant Lo,” she murmured. “Sulu’s told me so much about you.”

A swift but unmistakable flash of alarm crossed Lo’s features. “Has he?”

“All of it filthy,” Ruth confided with a wink and a leer.

Sulu chuckled. “So she knows I don’t want to waste time on running errands,” he added.

Lo actually flushed. “Be that as it may, Sulu, this packet does need to be delivered to Captain Kirk immediately.” He paused, expectantly.

“Is it classified?” Sulu asked.

“No – but the Admiral did seem to think it was of the utmost importance.” Lo again glanced at Ruth. “Perhaps the lovely Lieutenant Valley would be willing…?”

“Well, as long as it isn’t classified…” Ruth rejoined, and Sulu heard the touch of sarcasm in her voice.

“Would you, Ruth?” Sulu put in, and before she could reply, he bent down to kiss her. “There’s my girl.” He took the package from Lo’s hands, putting it down on the table. “She’ll take it right up,” he told Lo, then moved closer to the older lieutenant. “This time, let’s go to your quarters.”

Lo hesitated. “If there is a response, Sulu…”

“Ruth can deliver it,” Sulu interjected, one arm sliding unobtrusively around Lo’s waist. “Or if you’re needed, I’ve got my communicator and she can signal.” He turned his head, grinning at the Antari. “You’ll be discreet, won’t you, honey?” he said, hoping she’d get the urgent hint he was silently screaming at her.

“My middle name, Sulu,” Ruth returned wryly.

“Good enough?” Sulu asked, smiling eagerly at Lo.

Lo’s eyes closed briefly, then a slight smile touched his lips. “Good enough, Sulu.” He nodded to Ruth. “A pleasure meeting you, Miss Valley.”

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Ruth scowled, watching Sulu actually take Lieutenant Lo’s hand as they hurried from the Officer’s Lounge. You’re way too good at that, Roy, she thought, both disgusted and concerned. She tamped out the bowl of Rigellian, finished the last swallow of her ycasan, then picked up the packet on the table and headed to Delta Station’s transporter.

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