It Takes Two to Tangle

By Eireann

Rating: PG

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Chapter 1

New Page 1

Title: It Takes Two to Tangle

Author: Eireann

Genre: Humour

Disclaimer: Star Trek (plus all its intellectual property) is owned by Paramount. No infringement intended.

Rating: PG

Summary: Christmas is coming, and Hoshi has a bright idea...

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Chapter 1

Ensign Hoshi Sato came to a halt outside Lieutenant Reed’s quarters – and paused with her finger just opposite the chime button.

The idea that had come to her last night had felt brilliant at the time. Right up till this moment it had still felt great, though as she’d entered the turbo-lift she’d felt the first twinge of misgiving. Now it felt less like a brilliant idea than an act of suicidal foolhardiness.

It would have helped if she’d been able to canvass another person’s opinion on the suggestion. She was too well aware, however, of the ruthless efficiency of the ship’s grapevine. If this was going to work at all – and right now it looked like it wasn’t even going to get off the design board – then secrecy had to be everything.

She swallowed. It had been a good day, she reminded herself. The atmosphere on the bridge had been cheerful after a rewarding visit to an uninhabited but geologically fascinating planet. Even Sub-Commander T'Pol was quite upbeat after her own restrained fashion; beaming might be more in Doctor Phlox’s character than hers, but she had expressed great satisfaction with the valuable additions to be made to the ship’s database, which was about as close to beaming as she was likely to get. Late in the afternoon, too, Commander Tucker had snatched a moment from his warp engines to visit and confer with Lieutenant Reed about a possible revision he’d thought of for the specifications for the phase cannons – and any possibility of improvement to the vessel’s weaponry was bound to put the tactical officer in a good mood. Captain Archer had been busy in his ready room for much of the day but when he’d put in an appearance he’d been his usual genial self, ready to be interested in whatever issues had arisen in his absence. All told, she was rarely likely to get a more propitious occasion to launch her scheme.

Before she could think better of it, she pressed the chime. He can’t eat me, she told herself.

Come in.” The voice from within sounded faintly wary. The lieutenant’s reserved nature did not encourage the sort of friendships that resulted in many social calls. Even in the mess hall he was more likely to sit alone unless Commander Tucker was present. Trip’s effervescent and determined friendliness had slowly drawn the British officer as far out of his shell as he could get. They made an unlikely pair; perhaps it was a case of opposites attracting, as it was hardly possible to envisage a greater contrast than between the slight, reserved, dark-haired tactical officer and the tall, fair, ebullient chief engineer.

The die now having been cast, she stepped inside. Lieutenant Reed had been lying on his bunk, reading a well-thumbed copy of a book on naval warfare. He had showered recently (his hair was still damp) but he was dressed in clean leisure clothes, no doubt with the intention of visiting the mess shortly. His top was not yet zipped up, affording her a view of his muscular torso that she wished she had more time to enjoy. Hearing the chime, he had risen to his still-bare feet to receive a visitor, probably expecting Tucker to come with further details of that revision for him to look over when he had a chance during his next duty period – though knowing the lieutenant, any such revision would be of far more pressing interest than his book, even though he was now off duty for the evening.

Seeing Hoshi instead, he looked unmistakably startled. “Ensign? What can I do for you?”

Knowing his punctilious regard for procedure, she stood stiffly upright, hands clasped behind her back as per regulations. “Permission to speak freely, sir?”

Of course. At ease.” He pointed her politely to the chair beside his desk and sat back down on the bunk. The grey eyes were puzzled, and he looked slightly uncomfortable. He’d never been fully at ease with her ever since he’d made the mortifying error of thinking she was making a pass at him when she was simply trying to find out what sort of food he preferred so that the chef could make it for him on his birthday. Another man would have laughed the mistake off, but Reed had a hard time forgiving himself for even the slightest misstep. Realising this, she became unhappily aware that what she’d come to suggest would probably make him rear up like a horse encountering a rattlesnake, on more than one count.

I’m sorry, sir – perhaps this isn’t a good idea after all. I think I’d better leave.” She stood up again nervously.

It must have seemed like a good idea at some point.” His voice was unexpectedly gentle. “Would you like me to be the judge of that?”

I don’t know – it’s kind of awkward. I think you might be embarrassed.” She pinkened a little on her own account. What had possessed her to think this might work?

Well, as long as we get it straight from the outset what you do and don’t want and it’s not counter to regulations, I’m all ears.” A faint, surprisingly shy smile. “In fact, I’m intrigued.”

She hesitated, then sat down again and plunged in. “Well – you know it’s Christmas in a couple of months?”

Ye-es, I had noticed.” The irony was merely playful; his nod was encouraging.

Her mouth was now perfectly dry. Prefacing her words with a stammered apology if he felt she was overstepping the bounds – and in all honesty, she wasn’t so much overstepping them as doing the Starfleet record long-jump over them, if he chose to look at it that way – she told him her idea.

For perhaps a minute, which seemed to her to comprise the longest sixty seconds in the history of recorded time, he sat and looked at her with absolute incredulity. Then, to her vast relief, he began to laugh. The expression of astonished hilarity sat incongruously on a face that so often wore a look of concentration to the point of severity.

Well, I suppose I’m flattered,” he said, shaking his head. “But what made you think of me for this mad idea?”

I don’t think it’s that mad,” she countered, and gave him a few reasons why she didn’t think so. He listened, still grinning, but she could tell that he still had reservations and his next words proved her right.

I’m not sure that that sort of thing would do much for my position of authority. I need my men to respect me.”

I don’t see why it should make anyone respect you less. Even an officer has to have a human side. They might respect you more for showing it.”

Hmm.” He leaned back, drew one knee up to his chest, and sat hugging it thoughtfully. “I wonder if the captain would think it was appropriate behaviour, though.”

I think the captain would love it.” The muscles in her stomach were loosening out of the knot that had constricted them since she’d walked in. He’d been unexpectedly receptive initially, but like any good tactical officer he was carefully checking for the pitfalls, and if anyone could find one it would be Malcolm Reed.

There was a pause while he warily explored this unexpected avenue, metaphorical phase pistol at the ready. Presently the grey eyes snapped back to her. “You do realise, of course, that this would involve spending time locked away on our own? On a regular basis?”

Sure.” That was obvious.

And you know the first thing people would think when they noticed.” A tinge of colour had appeared across his cheekbones. He too understood the efficiency of the Enterprise grapevine.

I can live with that if you can.” There was no doubt that the tendrils would be abuzz with the scandal within days, but she lifted her chin with a determined twinkle.

He ruminated for a bit longer. Obviously it was going to bother him that their supposed intimate relationship was going to look like fraternisation with a junior officer, but one thing that the lieutenant respected was courage. He was under no illusions as to what it must have taken Hoshi to come here and propound this insane idea. And a part of him – the part that had been dazzled into life by Trip’s influence – suddenly wanted, with a force that took even himself by surprise, to step out of the mould for once. To do something that not even he would expect himself to do. And (he was honest enough to admit it) yes, it was flattering that an attractive woman like Hoshi would seek him out and suggest something like this. She evidently bore him no ill-feeling over that stupid mistake he’d made over his birthday, which was comforting; and their illicit meetings would certainly provide a break in routine, a change from the sometimes faintly wearisome alternating scenery of the bridge, the armoury and his quarters.

Hoshi said nothing, but sat still and let him take his own time. Her heart was beating rather fast. She was glad after all that she’d taken her life in her hands and come into the dragon’s cave – at least she’d get out without being scorched as she’d rather expected to be, even if he took the path of conventional wisdom and refused to have anything to do with her scheme. Certainly some of Lieutenant Reed’s crewmen thought him hard and humourless, a man to be feared rather than admired, but working daily with him on the bridge she’d begun to perceive a kinder side to him. It was to that aspect of him that a little light mischief might appeal – as well as an opportunity to learn a new skill and to start unfounded rumours running among the gossips.

Finally he shook his head. She caught her breath, surprisingly disappointed that he meant to refuse.

I must be stark, staring mad,” he said resignedly. “OK. I’ll do it. You’d better bring your duty rosters along so we can plan our ‘assignations’.”

Hoshi almost squeaked with joy before realising that such expressions weren’t particularly appropriate in front of a superior officer. “Oh – thank you, sir!”

I think, in view of what we’re going to be doing, that ‘Sir’ and ‘Ensign’ are going to be a bit formal,” he pointed out with a slight grin. “Permission granted to be on first-name terms during the appropriate moments. But for pity’s sake don’t forget and use my given name while we’re on the bridge. T'Pol would have a seizure.”

Just until Christmas, and never on duty,” agreed Hoshi, straight-faced. “Yes, sir... I mean, yes, Malcolm.” She watched him, trying his reaction to it. But he’d given his word now, and he wasn’t the sort to promise easily or to backslide out of an undertaking once he’d accepted it. A pleased but almost puzzled expression flitted across his face, as though he were wondering how he’d come to let himself in for this. Nevertheless, she had no intention of giving him time to start getting worried about it. “I’ll go and fetch my PADD now if you like,” she offered eagerly.

Oh, why not. Might as well get started giving the gossips something to talk about.” He picked up the book, placed a bookmark in it carefully, and replaced it on its shelf as he stood up. He was almost opposite her now, and he looked at her almost warily. “You do know I have virtually no experience with this sort of thing.”

I haven’t much myself,” she said candidly. “But I was looking through some vid-recordings the other day and this just caught my eye. It looks absolutely wonderful. And I’ve managed to get hold of some instructions.”

It probably looks wonderful when the person doing it knows what they’re doing,” Reed said with his usual pessimism. “I’ll probably go down in Starfleet history as the tactical officer who had to leave the service after making the universe’s greatest laughing-stock of himself at the Christmas party.”

Sir – Malcolm – if you’re not comfortable with it by the time Christmas comes we just won’t do it,” she assured him. “Nobody will ever have to know.” She hesitated. “By the way, I really appreciate your even trying this. I thought you’d throw me out on my ear.”

I may yet if I can’t get the hang of it. Or if we get carpeted for fraternisation.” It wasn’t absolutely obvious whether he was joking or not, so Hoshi flashed him her brightest smile and hurried away to pull up a disc with her duty roster on it. It might be a good idea to bring that vid-recording as well, she thought.

Just so he could get a good look at exactly what he’d let himself in for.


 


 


Comments:

Starwatcher

Oh I'm VERY excited about this! Can't wait to read it!

Moichino

Okay, now I'm really curious!  I like your Malcolm alot.  Very in character.  It feels like a moment during the first year out.  (I liked the first and second seasons alot).

Thank you!

Distracted

Yes, there's more. I got to read it first since I beta read it. You'll like it. It's funny.  : )

Cogito

You have got me intrigued now!

From the title I suppose it might have something to do with dancing, but I can't imagine what she is getting Malcolm into. And I wonder whether he really knows, either.

Anyway, it means they'll be spending some quality time together, and they do make quite a cute couple. And maybe this'll divert people from those persistent rumours about TnT?

I think you've the exuberent linguist and the reserved Brit perfectly. There's no mention of anything to follow, but I do hope we'll get to see what happens next. :D

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