If I Stay, There Will Be Trouble

by Mylochka

(Standard Year 2249)

original story published as "Opera"

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As Jeremy Paget expected, the first words out of DelMonde’s mouth when the com line opened were, “I not wanna talk.”

Knowing that the most acceptable form of sympathy to the Cajun had to start out as a complete lack of compassion, the Security man replied sarcastically, “That's what I said to myself before I put in this call -- if N.C. doesn't want to talk, he just won't answer.”

Even on the tiny screen, Paget could see that his friend’s eyes were red-rimmed – probably from drinking… or crying… or a liberal mixture of both.

“Did you know?” the Engineer demanded accusingly.

His heart aching that he was in a ship heading the opposite direction faster than the speed of light rather than being there to fold his hurting friend into his strong embrace, Paget nonetheless continued to play the game of face-saving and made a show of crossing his arms and considering. “Hmm...”

“What?” the Cajun growled crossly. “You gotta t'ink 'bout whether or or not you knowed?”

“No,” Paget replied. “I'm just tryin' to imagine what color space is in the universe where I'm cold-blooded enough to find out someone you got a transfer to be with had just gotten married and where I’m spiteful enough not tell you and I’m deceitful enough to keep you from findin' out I knew.”

“Maybe th' same color as th' universe where you deceitful 'nough to have a secret head-shrinker degree,” his friend sniped back, taking a sip from a nearly-drained bottle of whiskey.

“Which is a great example of how good I am at keepin' secrets from you,” Paget pointed out. “Speaking of which -- and I wish you wouldn't -- I'm hopin' your new roommate is either not there or doesn't have very good hearing.”

“They put me in wit' the same dumbfuck who was my roommate at th' Academy. Can you believe that?”

“Small universe,” Jer commented, consciously keeping himself from wincing in sympathy.

“Smaller'an that.” The Cajun supplemented his dwindling supply of liquor by pouring himself a glass of what was probably the new cabinmate’s vodka. “He also th' numbnuts who fuckin' Daffy Gollub now.”

“That's inconvenient to the point of being rude.”

“You tellin' me,” his friend replied miserably.

Figuring he’d kept up the act of not caring long enough for appearance’s sake, Paget tentatively nudged at the heart of the matter. “This thing with Ruth... seems pretty sudden.”

DelMonde fortified himself with a generous sip of vodka. “Yeah.”

“All since Naios?”

“ Mmmm...”

Sensing a less than definite reply, Paget probed, “Because you definitely didn't mention anything about...”

“You know th' t'ing that get me?” DelMonde interrupted. “He ugly. I know you always tryin' to make out like I too proud o' my own looks, but --honest to Jesus an' to put it in as conservative an' factual terms as possible-- I 'bout fifteen trillion times better lookin' than this motherfucker. He straight-up plainer'an homemade dirt. He so homely even other Vulcans come up to him on th' street an' say, "Motherfucker, they not no logic in you bein' so fuckin' ugly."

Paget shrugged. “Well, some people have a taste for Vulcans. I've always heard rumors that they have a lot of... charm.”

“You not understand, Jer,” the Cajun replied adamantly. “This motherfucker need to be swingin' charm down to his knees t' make up fo' that horse face o' his.”

“Ruth always did have this thing about Vulcans,” Jer recalled. “I remember she used to...”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah.” N.C. interrupted with a silencing wave of his hand.

Paget tilted his head to one side. “So you knew about...?”

“Yeah,” the Cajun replied in a curt manner intended to cut off this line of inquiry.

“But you didn't know anything about this guy...?”

“No,” the Engineer replied sharply, then immediately relented. “Yes. Yes. Yes! Yeah. Okay, yeah.” The admission demanded another fortifying shot of vodka. “It him. All right? It him. I known fo' a long time she always have some stupid-ass 12-year-old girl crush on this motherfucker 'cause he some kind o' expert in some field... Well -- give th' point-eared devil his due -- in all th' fields.... Yeah, he pretty much th' Grandmaster Smartypants o' all th' smartypants shit she into since she was knee-high to a stack o' data tapes. An' 'fore the time she growed out o' trainin' bras, she'd done dreamed up one o' her bone-headed Ruth-schemes that she not only gonna out-smartypants this green-blooded gnome, she gonna fuck the jack-rabbit-eared motherfucker. It would seem she has succeeded.”

Paget stayed sympathetically silent.

“Smarter to get 'tween a brace of boreworms an' they dinner than it is to get 'tween that girl an' somet'ing she decided she want,” the Cajun grumbled bitterly.

“It seems she's not just sleeping with him,” Jer reminded his friend gently. “She married him.”

“That might be th' only way she could get him into the sack,” the Engineer postulated. “I t'ink Vulcans be like virgins. You gotta make 'em t'ink you in it fo' the long haul 'fore you see some skin... “

“N.C.,” Paget warned. “Don't try to convince yourself that once she's gotten what she wants, she'll get bored and that Ruth's marriage is just going to blow over in a few months...”

The Cajun nodded with a crooked smile. “Yeah, you sure taught me not to underestimate the stayin' power of a twelve-year-old's crush. ...”

“So,” Jer replied, navigating quickly away from this freshly opened wound. “Want me to see what I can do to turn this tub around? Jacobs has been pretty down in the mouth since your transfer came through. I'm sure he could come up with something wrong with the Hood’s engines that only you could fix.”

The engineer gave a short, cynical laugh. “If he was sad t' see me go, then I sure he fairly alone in that opinion. You know how you tol' me not t' burn bridges 'fore I left? Well, we both know I never follow that advice.”

“There's that,” Paget affirmed ruefully.

“Surprised you can hear me over th' big party Serena Kane an' th' First Officer throwin' to celebrate me bein' gone.”

“It's gonna take a little while, but I can help get you another transfer,” Paget said, moving diplomatically away from any hint of a confirmation. “We have connections. There are some ex-Clavists who'd give their eye teeth to have Kamikaze's Maker on their Engineering staff. If you want to try the shipyards at San Fran, there's some strong interest in you there...”

“Nah... I not gonna be chased off.” DelMonde crossed his arms belligerently. “This is a good assignment. I got th' position I want wit' the folks I wanna work wit'... Wit' a few notable exceptions now, but...”

“Have you met the Chief Engineer?”

“Oh, yeah. He come down t' welcome me aboard. The captain too.”

“Really?” Paget asked, encouraged by this turn of mood.

“Hell, yeah,” the Cajun affirmed. “Captain of th' ship himself come up an' shake my hand the firs' t'ing. Not as tall as I thought he gonna be, but then again, after you hear ol' Kamikaze talk 'bout him, anyt'ing under fifteen feet gonna be a disappointment.”

Paget grinned. “True.”

“Let me tell you, though -- That Kirk, he a badass.”

“That's what they say.”

“They right. Like I said, he come straight up to me first t'ing, even though I got a beautiful woman standin' on either side o' me. Kirk make a beeline fo' me an' I t'ink, 'Oh, hell, here it come.' I t'ink he got to have heard who knows what all shit 'bout me from the Hood and he gotta come up an' say, 'Yeah, I know 'bout all the hell you done raised, but that shit not gonna fly here, mister.' An' then I gonna have no choice but to be all humble an' kiss his brass an' promise t' mind my manners right there in front o' God an' ever'body first t'ing 'fore I done set foot out the transporter. But no, a badass like ol' Jimmy T. Kirk not need to stick his braid up anybody's nose like that. Nope, he come right up, put out his hand an' say, 'Yeah, I done heard 'bout you, son. I like your poetry, man.'" The Cajun raised a glass of vodka to his new commander. “That badass.”

“Well, you were certainly never gonna hear that from Captain Aronson.”

“Jack Aronson may be an officer an' gentleman of repute, but ain't a badass like my man, Jimmy K.”

“What else did he say to you?”

“Oh that was it. I did mention that I was standin' 'tween two beautiful women, non?”

“Oh....” Paget frowned at the thought of another person he knew would be reporting the Enterprise at the same time. “So Miss Liling was stealin' the spotlight?”

“She did her level best.” The Cajun grinned. “She sort o' shouldered me out the way, an' shimmies up to Kirk, puttin' on her best Princess of the Whore-ient act-- which we seen so many times...”

Jer crossed his arms. “So our little seductress has decided to start at the top instead of sleeping her way there...”

“That might have been what was on her mind, but it sure won't the way old JTK was t'inking.”

Paget’s estimation of Kirk went up a notch. It took real resolve to withstand a full-force Liling seduction onslaught. “Really?”

“Yeah, he was all like, 'Welcome to the ship an' all, bitch, but you gonna need to move your cheap backside 'cause you in between me an' that fine piece o' class behind you.'”

Jer’s mouth dropped open. “He went for the psychiatrist? Dr. Han?”


Paget whistled appreciatively. “That is badass.”

“I tol' you.”

“What about the chief engineer? What did he say to you?”

“Oh, at first he was all like th' daddy of a 16 year old virgin sittin' on the front porch wit' a shotgun. He screws up his face at me an' ask, 'What your intentions on this ship?' An' I say, 'I intendin' not to go to bed 'til them engines are cooin' like doves, so I can sleep wit' the assurance they gonna be purrin' like kittens when I wake up.'"

Although he knew the Cajun was not giving a literal report of the conversation, Paget had to smile at the image.

“He say, 'No, I askin' 'bout your expectations.' An' I say that I 'spect this is the finest ship in the Fleet. Leastwise that what ever'body say. He say, 'No, no, what your 'spectations of the job?' And I say, I 'spect it my job now to work my ass off makin' sure that nobody never t'ink to say not'ing to th' contrary.”

“Is that really what you said?” Paget teased.

“Well, somet'ing to that effect,” the Cajun replied. “So then he say, 'I bring you up here to be my personal assistant.' An' I say, 'Yes, sir, thank you, sir.' He say, 'You gonna be my fireman. I gonna put you up on th' Bridge. If some problem flames up, I expect you to have that situation doused an' under control wit'out me havin' to do so much as screw th' cap back on my flask an' go see what the problem was.' An' I say, 'Yes, sir, happy to do it.'”

The Security man nodded. “That sounds good.”

“He say, 'Even though you gonna be my right hand man, you still comin' in as low man on the totem pole, so you gonna have to be in charge of filin' DPR reports.'”

“Oh...” Paget winced, knowing well his former cabinmate’s loathing of paperwork.

“I say, 'No problem. I make short work of that.' He say, 'Really? You some kind o' paperwork whiz?' An' I say, 'No, sir. Not at all. It jus' that my crew is always quick t' learn that they a lot less pain in them spendin' an extra half hour double-checkin' they maintenance schedules than it is for me t' spend so much as three seconds fillin' out a single fuckin' DPR report.'"

Paget laughed. “And what did he say to that?”

“He say, 'You black-eyed bastard! It been a long time since I met such a man after my own heart. Show me a picture o' your mama. I t'ink I done took one shore leave too many in New Orleans twenty some years ago an' now I 'bout to have t' claim you as one o' my own.'”

Jer shook his head, smiling. “Other than the fiasco with Ruth, it actually sounds like things are workin' out as well as you hoped for.”

DelMonde sighed heavily. “Yeah.”

“Too bad...”

“Too bad, my ass,” the Cajun retorted, raising to the bait as Paget had hoped he would. “I not 'bout to let some flighty-assed, purple-eyed, Once-in-a-Blue-Moon Priestess ruin a postin' I worked for jus' 'cause she decided t' hook up wit' some horse-faced, beady-eyed walkin' computer that she probably gonna get bored wit' 10 minutes after she satisfied that she been able t' give him a post-graduate degree in th' fine art o' doin' the horizontal tango.”

“I wouldn't count on her gettin' bored...” Paget cautioned.

“I not give a damn what she do,” N.C. replied defiantly. “I gonna be busy. I gonna be sittin' up there on the bridge o' the finest ship in the Fleet 'longside James T. Motherfuckin' Kirk's bad ass stayin' ready fo' the times we come up on some planet an' he say, 'Oh, hell, there some heinous shit goin' down here. Mr. Vulcan... oh, 'scuse me. I see you busy havin' your long-ass, donkey ears chewed off by your lovin' wife 'bout whatever the hell it is she t'ink she know more 'bout than you this week... Hey, DelMonde! Grab a phaser an' a laser wrench, son. We gonna go sort some shit out!'"

“So,” Paget asked. “You think you can cope?”

“Cope?” the Cajun scoffed. “Hell, I feelin' lucky. I done dodged a bullet. Foot-loose an' fancy free. Not got to put up wit' no purple-eyed tele-smartypants-path bitchin' me out fo' no reason ever' time she take a mind to. You're lookin' at a fortunate man, my friend.”

Jer nodded. He knew that despite the Cajun’s vodka-fueled bluster that there would be many more painful nights like this one – more whiskey, more vodka, probably a good amount of sapphire, and definitely more tears. He smiled and sent all his love for his friend out like a protective cloak into the widening gap of stars that separated them more with each passing fraction of a second. “That's what I've always thought.”

The End

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