Smoke

a vignette by Cheryl Petterson

(Standard Year 2253)

Return to Valjiir Stories

Return to Valjiir Continum

Lieutenant Commander Noel DelMonde sat at a corner booth in Dazzle, a half-empty bottle of bourbon on the table in front of him. Dazzle was one of the many clubs that catered to Starfleet officers on leave on Sestus Delta III, known to its colonists as New Brazil. The Drake had put into orbit there for R&R about four hours before, and Del had a standing appointment with her captain every time they went on leave. He kept these appointments as repayment for Sulu accepting him as crew member after life on the Enterprise proved too much for the engineer to bear. Why Sulu kept them, Del didn't know, except he was fairly certain it involved a request from Jeremy Paget.

And there was the fact that the Drake's doctor, Lian Rendell, was insistent that time together would do them both good, since a) Sulu was trying to keep on the straight and faithful path, b) Del was trying to keep on a non-suicidal path, c) neither of them had to worry about the other losing any officerial respect, seeing as how neither of them had any to begin with, and d) it afforded her a great deal of amusement, which, as a Haven, she found sorely lacking on a Starfleet ship, even one being run by Kamikaze himself.

Del had been in the club for over an hour. He almost always got to whatever place he and Sulu had agreed to meet before the captain did. While Brass might have its privileges, Sulu was careful to make certain the leave schedule was settled before he left the ship. Del had tried to tell him to loosen up, that that was a job for the First Officer - or even the captain's yeoman. But Sulu would always shrug and say, "I like to know where my people are." Del figured it was due to having been First Officer to a cold-blooded, icy-hearted, green-skinned bastard who'd never told him anything.

As it was, the Cajun was pleasantly buzzed when Sulu finally walked into the club. His captain was wearing a short tank with an open-mesh insert and leather pants. Del gave a soft whistle, and was very glad that Sulu was staring at the dancers gyrating on a long, lighted platform in the center of the club rather than paying attention to the engineer's inappropriate reaction.

The first thing his captain said to him was, "Exotic dancers? Really?"

Del gave him a lop-sided grin. "Better'an lookin' at each other, non?"

"Maybe for you," Sulu replied, a hint of a smile playing around the corners of his mouth.

"Shee-it," the Cajun returned, his grin turning into a faint scowl. "You'd best not be startin' that again."

"Starting what again?" Sulu asked as he sat down, signaling the waitress.

"Leerin' an' droolin' all over me."

"And just when did I ever do that?" the captain said, then, to the pretty, petite member of Dazzle's waitstaff, "A flask of saké, hot."

"You mean besides every day an' night at th' Clave?" the engineer answered, taking another long sip of his bourbon.

Instead of answering the question, Sulu said, "Have I ever told you how much I appreciate the fact that when we're in public you use a glass rather than just swigging from the bottle?"

"Mais, I not wanna go embarrassin' you, mon capitain," Del grinned.

"Since when?"

"Oh, I be likin' t' mix it up every once in a while," was the cool response.

"Ah, wakarimasu." Sulu nodded knowingly "Keep me on my toes."

The waitress arrived with a large flask and a small cup and Sulu filled the cup, then raised it.

"Kanpei," he said, then threw the contents of the cup to the back of his throat, swallowing in one gulp.

"A votre sante," Del replied with a wry grin, and drained his own glass.

******************************************

Sulu finished the first flask fairly quickly, then ordered another, another bottle of bourbon for Del, and an ounce of Rigellian. His eyes kept straying to the center platform. Don't look, don't look, he kept telling himself, and wasn't at all surprised when his eyes didn't listen to his brain.

Why did I think it would be a good idea to wear this, he asked himself sourly. And why did Del have to wear that.

The 'that' in question was a skin-tight pair of black leather pants, topped with nothing but a gorgeous black leather jacket with silver clasps that the engineer had, of course, left undone. For all the Cajun's sarcastic allusions to 'slutwear' and 'whoreific' clothing, he certainly knew how to dress to fuck when he wanted to.

Which eliminates looking at him as an alternative to the fine display of pulchritude just daring me to spend WAY more credit than is good for me.

"You jus' keep them baby blacks over here, son," Del advised. "I may have th' same effect on certain tender body parts, but I not gonna let you get away wit' not'ing."

"Stop reading me," Sulu grumbled.

"Hell, you broadcastin' loud enough to deafen every 'path in the quadrant," the engineer grinned.

"So I can help it?" the captain replied in a credible imitation of Daffy Gollub.

"Nah, 'cause you jus' a li'l bitty bit gifted," Del returned.

"Stop it," Sulu suddenly growled. "I mean it, Del."

The Cajun shrugged, and reached for the bowl of Rigellian. He rolled a joint with the papers the club had thoughtfully provided, then lit it and took a deep drag before offering it to his captain.

"This mellow you out, mon ami," he said. "Drunk jus' gonna lead to some windstorm or other."

Sulu shook his head, unrelenting. "What makes you think that?"

"I hear all 'bout th' unfortunate forced leave on Lorelei from T-Paul an' Daf," was the off-handed response.

"Oh. That. That wasn't alcohol."

"Non, that were all manner o' chems, bad juju, a brand spankin' new root put on ya AN' alcohol," Del clarified.

"A fair bit of Rigellian, too," Sulu reminded. "So don't get your hopes up about a little smoke stopping windstorms."

"Who say anyt'ing 'bout a li'l smoke?"

"We don't have time to test the warp drive." Sulu grinned, and at Del's frown added, "Don't think I don't know all your bad habits, Cajun."

"Damn if Jeremy Maurice don't got th' galaxy's biggest mouth."

"You'd know," the captain teased with a suggestive rise of one eyebrow.

"No better'an you," Del shot back.

"But more recently than me," Sulu returned.

"An' how you know...."

"Jeremy's big mouth."

"Shee-it."

"Let's just be glad we don't have any blue loonie juice," Sulu joked. At the suddenly stricken look on the Cajun's face, he realized what he'd just said.

"Jesus, Del, I'm sorry," he murmured.

The engineer filled his glass, then drained the bourbon in one, long pull. Finally he managed, "Never mind."

"I never do," Sulu rejoined softly.

"Yeah, 'cause you bombardin' me wit' all that 'lust lust lust,' 'love love love,' 'Jilla Jilla Jilla' all day, every day," the Cajun said cynically.

Sulu couldn't stop his annoyance. "That's what happens when I'm away from her."

"Fo' more'an five minutes," Del retorted. It was said as a joke, but Sulu heard the ugly bitterness behind it, the cutting reminder that Del's silver one was never coming back.

A particularly vicious retort rose in his mind, and he bit it back.

"Come on, out wit' it!" Del snapped.

Sulu took a deep breath. "Nope," he said as casually as he could. "No windstorms tonight."

******************************************

No windstorms tonight, Del mocked in his head. I bet I get a good, stiff breeze up if I had a mind to.

An' why you want somet'ing stupid like that?

I not, I jus' sayin'...

You spoilin' fo' a fight, man. Whyfo'?

It all that 'lust lust lust,' 'love love love,' 'Jilla Jilla Jilla' shit.

Hmmph! That all day, every day, remember? So why's today different?

Del sipped his bourbon and tried to answer that question. Part of it, he knew, was the undeniable fact that his captain's hunger was, at the best of times, a fine tingle just under the skin. He kept it dampened by lots of coffee, lots of exercise, not a lot of rest, and some pretty bad jokes, but it was ever-present nonetheless.

An' if you not live on coffee, bourbon, sapphire an' not a lot o' rest, it might not affect you so bad, Del reminded himself - then told himself to shut the fuck up.

Another part was the Divine Wind, also just under the skin, rattling the thin shoji walls Sulu kept him locked up in. Del knew contact with Jilla strengthened them, creating an almost impenetrable cage out of nearly nothing...

'Cept his li'l bitty bit o' giftedness, he added.

You surely are a trouble-maker today, Mr. DelMonde, he chided when Sulu glanced at him, a touch of 'stop it, I mean it' in the dark eyes.

But the Divine Wind, like the hunger, was also ever-present. As was Sulu's inexplicable - at least to Del - intransigence when it came to acknowledging his 'li'l bitty bit o' giftedness.'

So none o' that likely to make today much different than any other day, he concluded. So what is?

Why you not jus' ask him?

That be admittin' I notice, he argued.

An' why that a bad t'ing?

'Cause he goin' to all this trouble to hide it.

You th' one spoiling fo' a fight.

'Cause I can feel it from him.

You sure it not th' other way 'round?

Very slowly, Del let his shields slip, waiting to see if his irritation increased when he let himself be more exposed to Sulu's emotions.

******************************************

As hard as he tried not to let them, Sulu's eyes kept sneaking peeks at the dancers on the stage. One in particular drew his attention over the others. It might have been the color of her skin - too much of which was showing (not really, considering her current activity, his mind corrected). It was a dull pewter color - the same color Jilla's skin turned after a few days in the sun. Or it could have been her pointed ears - though, unlike Jilla's, they were very elongated. It could have been the fact that she was dancing with a pair of fans - though with its panels being of irregular lengths, they didn't really look all that Japanese. And, of course, there was her outfit - what there was of it - which looked to Sulu as if someone had strategically poured liquid gold over her to keep nearly invisible bits of cloth affixed to the important bits, then allowed her to drape herself with gold chains. Her hair was very long and black, held back by a series of gold bands; a very Havenesque style. She could only have more tailor-made for his senses if she'd actually been Indiian - or a geisha - or a Haven..

Or maybe a combination of all three, with Vulcan ears thrown in to boot, he summed up dryly. And stop looking.

Looking isn't being....

The shoji inside him rattled.

Lust, lust, lust, Jilla, Jilla, Jilla, Del's voiced seemed to mock in his head.

But it wasn't Del and Sulu knew it.

He shook himself, then took a nice, slow breath and forced his gaze away from the dancers -

- only to catch the Cajun leaning forward across the table, staring at him. There was a wariness to the black eyes, but a vulnerability too, one that Sulu hadn't seen very often. It had, in the past, meant that the engineer was being receptive, that he'd deliberately lowered his erratic shielding.

Which he seems to be able to control so much more easily when he wants to, came whispered derision.

Yeah, Sulu countered, that's why his shielding is erratic. Sort of the definition of.

Is it? Is it really? Or is that only what he wants everyone to think that so he can get away with more than anyone would otherwise let him?

Shut up.

Why don't you read him and find out?

Because I don't...

"Bullshit, you mean you won't," Del interrupted his inner dialogue.

Sulu frowned. "I thought I told you..."

"Yeah, you tell me a lotta t'ings," the Cajun snorted, sitting back in his seat. "Some of 'em even true."

Sulu bristled. His own honesty had become a VERY prickly subject: since LiLing, he had made it a point to be as honest with everyone as Jilla was with him.

He grit his teeth. "And just what is THAT supposed to mean?"

Del leaned forward again. "Why you denyin' it all th' damn time?" he asked, his voice a vicious whisper. "It not the galaxy's easiest t'ing to be dealin' wit, but shit, man, it done GOT to be dealt wit'."

Sulu found his gaze had again turned toward the stage and the Indiian/Haven geisha dancing there.

"An' stop that, too!" Del snapped.

"Stop what?" Sulu demanded.

"This your idea o' lettin' a li'l breeze pick on up in there?"

"What are you....?"

"You t'ink I not feel that ol' hurricane knockin' at th' door?" the engineer snarled. "You t'ink I somehow lost my giftedness? Or that I gonna be too polite to mention the fact that Kam been sniffin' 'round th' gates ever since you stepped into this place?"

"'This place' was your idea," Sulu reminded.

"Man, I thought you had more control than this," Del muttered in return.

Sulu's eyes hardened. "So this is some kind of fucking test?"

Del's own eyes narrowed dangerously. "You tryin' t' test me?" he asked.

"What the fuck are you...?"

"I already told you I not lettin' you get away wit' not'ing," the Cajun reminded. "But you jus' can't keep them damn eyes away from temptation, can ya?"

"No, I can't!" the captain nearly exploded. "What, you think I'm made of neutronium?"

Del glanced down. "Part o' you is," he commented sardonically.

Sulu stood abruptly. "Fuck this," he growled, and started to move away from the booth.

Del was up in a flash and grabbed Sulu's arm. "Sit your ass down, you stupid son of a..." he began harshly.

Before he could finish, Sulu had jerked his arm forward, pulling him off-balance and right up against his chest.

"Now this is more like it," Kam breathed, his voice dark, brazen silk.

******************************************

Shee-it, what the fuck did you do now? Del's brain shouted in real panic as the rest of him began responding to the powerful waves of emotion emanating from his captain. The 'lust, lust, lust' hunger was raging, making his own lower self as neutronium-hard as was Sulu's. He was about three seconds away from abandoning his 'not letting Sulu get away with anything' declarative when he caught a flash of detached interest from - somewhere that wasn't either his mind, or Sulu's or Kam's.

Like I'd ever be detached about anything, came annoyed, suspicious confirmation from the Divine Wind.

So what the fuck's goin' on? Del managed.

Someone's finding us very amusing. The statement was followed by a fierce shudder, one of terror from Sulu, but of fury from Kam.

Del mentally scanned the club, searching for that detached interest. It flitted before him, almost as if it was teasing him, daring him to catch it. And when he got close, it would swirl up and away, like the smoke from his still-lit joint of Rigellian.

Damn it, Kam, use your hell-spawned gifts fo' somet'ing 'sides pushin' people 'round fo' a change! he demanded.

My, you are slow, the Divine Wind drawled back. Del's head suddenly felt as thought it were being turned as Kam's mental finger pointed. There. The thought felt grim and determined - and amused as Kam always felt when he was about to do something unpleasant.

Del followed the track of Kam's suggestion, directly to the dancer who had been capturing so much of Sulu's attention. To his everlasting surprise, she winked at him, then sprinted lightly from the stage.

He tried to follow her, but found himself held firmly by Sulu's hand on his arm.

"Let it go, mon ami," Kam whispered. "You can't catch smoke."

THE END

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

Return to Valjiir Stories

Return to Valjiir Continum