From his seat in a corner of the mess hall, Sulu watched with amusement as Chekov grinned and looked up through his lashes at the pretty lieutenant from Stellar Cartography standing next to him. If she only knew how many other women that particular look had worked on, Lieutenant Odale (Odana? Odaku?) might have declined Chekov’s offer to share a table with him. Instead, she smiled in return and the couple chose a cozy two-top that afforded them a little privacy in the midst of the lunchtime crowds.
Sulu returned his attention to his bulgogi, amazed that Chekov’s young-and-innocent act still worked even after four girlfriends in less than five months. After all, the Enterprise was really a village and information traveled faster than light among its 400 crewmembers. Gossip traveled even faster, especially among the female members of the crew. He may be an enlightened 23rd-century man, but he’s also a brother of two sisters, and Sulu knows that, while men talk, women *talk*.
Of course, so do some men, he thought, scowling as he caught sight of Tad making his way down the food line.
Tad. Sulu had to roll his eyes at the idea that he had actually slept with a guy named Tad. Who next? Biff? Chaz? Honestly, what had possessed him to go out with the asshole in the first place?
Well, he mused as he watched Tad and another officer filling their trays, he did have an ass you could serve drinks on. And no gag reflex.
He was so deep in thought as he watched his ex…whatever and his buddy look for an open table that he was startled by the sound of a tray being set down on the table next to him.
“Are you OK, ‘Karu?” Uhura asked as she slid into the seat on his right. She looked worried and kept glancing across the mess hall in the direction Sulu had been staring.
She must have seen his scowl as he watched Tad, so he made an effort to smile at his seatmate. Tad certainly wasn’t worth getting frown lines over, anyway. “Of course, just wasn’t paying attention.”
“Are you sure?” she replied, laying a hand on his forearm, her brown eyes full of concern and…pity? Oh, God, of course Uhura had to have heard the gossip about him and Tad “No Discretion” Zewlewitzki. Seriously, no more guys with yuppie names, even if they did have washboard abs.
“Of course, Nyota.” He patted her hand quickly so she could remove it and get started on her chili fries. How she ate like that and remained so slim was a mystery to him.
Her hand stayed in place, though, and she gripped his arm tightly as she leaned in. “You know you can talk to me about anything, right? If you ever just need somebody to talk to, please know you can come to me at any time.”
Keeping his smile in place, he patted her hand again. “Of course, Nyota. Thank you.”
Her expression fell and Sulu began to panic at the thought that she might start crying as she continued to stare at him, her nails biting into his arm through the fabric of his shirt.
“I can’t imagine how hard this is for you.” She glanced back across the mess hall where Tad and his companion were eating. “But you’re doing the right thing. You just need to give him time to work this out on his own.”
“Uh…” She was taking this far more seriously than he was, especially considering he and Tad had only hooked up a few times and never even went on a real date.
“He’s still young. It’s only natural that he doesn’t understand the way adult relationships work. Just keep being patient and he’ll figure it out.” Her smile was small and encouraging. And completely mystifying.
Before he could think of a response, she continued, “But still, having to work next to him all day can’t be easy on you. So, really, if you ever need to just get things off your chest, I’m here for you.” She finally released her grip and began to pat his arm gently.
He had no idea how to react to this heartfelt, if perplexing, offer. So, he was mortified when he heard himself mutter, “Tad works in Maintenance.”
Uhura pulled back slightly, her brows drawn down in confusion. “Tad who?”
OK, so maybe Tad had more discretion than Sulu gave him credit for. “Tad nobody,” he replied quickly. Damn straight.
He said, “Who were you talking about?” just as she asked, “Who were you looking at?”
“Nobody,” answered he; “Chekov,” replied she.
He felt his eyes go wide and his eyebrows reach for his hairline as he stared at her, his brain trying to process what she’d said.
She was blushing as she stammered, “I’m sorry, but you were staring at Chekov and Odake and you looked so angry… And we all know you and Chekov…”
“’You all know’ me and Chekov what? And I wasn’t staring at him, I was staring at Tad.” He felt himself losing control and in his effort to avoid shouting, he’d lowered his voice so much, that “And what’s this about me and Chekov?!” came out as little more than an angry hiss.
“But you were looking…” Uhura began scanning the other side of the mess hall and saw a tall, broad-shouldered man in a red shirt getting up from one of the tables. “Oh, is that him?” she asked, waving a hand in his direction.
Sulu gave her a short nod in response, feeling annoyed with himself for telling her about Tad in the first place. As he watched Tad go over to the drink station, he noticed that Chekov and Odake had been sitting just two tables away. Now at least he understood why Uhura thought he’d been staring at them.
“Nice ass…” she murmured as Tad returned to his table. Turning her attention back to Sulu, she began, “So, you and Chekov-“
“No,” he cut in. “And why would you and ‘everybody’ think we were in the first place?” His annoyance was fading, but he still wanted to know why people were talking about him and Chekov.
“Well, you two just have so much in common,” she replied, as if stating the obvious.
“Such as…?” he asked.
“Lots of things,” she said and he waved his hand at her as encouragement to elaborate. “Things like…” her voice trailed off.
“’Things like’ what, Nyota?” He watched as her brow furrowed in thought.
“Well, your work, for one,” she pointed out.
“We work together and both love our jobs,” he replied. “So do you and Hannity, but I don’t hear anybody talking about the two of you as a couple.”
She waved him off. “You spend a lot of time together, don’t you?” she asked.
“We do? We sit next to each other six shifts a week and eat the occasional meal together. Sometimes we play vid games. That’s about it, Nyota.” He thought for a moment. “Actually, I spend more time with you off-shift than I do Chekov.”
She nodded as she absorbed this information. “So, you’ve never thought of Chekov…?” she trailed off, sounding disappointed.
“No,” he replied with a smile. “He’s a genius at what he does, a nice guy, and I certainly consider him a friend. Maybe even a good friend. But a boyfriend?” He chuckled. “Nyota, have you ever looked at the kid?”
She glanced over to the table where Odake was apparently relating a story and Chekov listened attentively, his eyes wide and smile bright. Uhura couldn’t help grin in response. “He’s very cute,” she pointed out to Sulu.
“He is,” Sulu agreed, surprising his seatmate. “Nyota, I am capable of appreciating the fact someone is good looking without wanting to have sex with that someone,” he said with amusement.
“Yeah, I know,” she replied, “It’s just…” She gave a resigned sigh and now it was Sulu’s turn to give her a reassuring pat on the arm.
“You…and ‘everybody’ apparently… just wanted to match us up. I get it; and I am honestly touched by your concern. You’re a good friend and don’t ever think I take that for granted.” He gave her arm a squeeze and she smiled in response.
“But really… Pavel?” He shook his head as grin got even bigger. “Honey, if I wanted to date a girl, I’d date a girl.” Her answering laugh was music to his ears and he couldn’t help but join her for a few moments.
Catching her breath, she looked back over at the subject of their discussion and couldn’t stifle a snicker. “Yeah, he is a bit on the waify side, isn’t he?”
“Exactly!” he replied with a snort. “I like men. You know, big manly men in the full bloom of their manhood.” He’d barely gotten the statement out before the two of them were laughing again, any tension from the earlier miscommunication long gone.
“So,” she began, giggling, “what kind of ‘manly men’ are you on the lookout for?”
“Oh, no,” he told her sternly, “you are not going to play matchmaker for me, young lady. I’ve been catching my own since I was fifteen and I certainly don’t need your help now.”
“No matchmaking, I promise,” she replied, placing her hand over her heart. “But having another pair of eyes and ears doesn’t hurt, either, does it?” She batted her eyes at him, trying her best to keep a straight face while Sulu just shook his head.
“Just give me an idea of your preferred species, body type, personality, etcetera, and if I hear about someone, I’ll just let you know and you can take it from there.” She made a face at her now-cold chili fries, pushing the plate aside and reaching for the chocolate cake she’d gotten for dessert.
Knowing resistance was futile, he began scanning the room until his gaze quickly landed on a familiar dark head and broad shoulders, tightly clad in science blue. Leaning his elbow on the table, he propped his chin in his hand and gave an exaggerated sigh. “I would hit that so hard it would tear a hole in the space/time continuum,” he said as he watched the figure grab a tray and make his way to the food line.
Following his gaze, Uhura gasped and began coughing as she inhaled cake crumbs. Quickly downing a few swallows of water, she said, “Doctor McCoy?”
They both watched as the doctor picked his way through the food on offer, his uniform shirt straining across his back and riding up just enough to show a small patch of space-pale skin at his waist as he reached to grab something near the back of one of the cases.
Sulu turned to her, one eyebrow raised.
“OK, I see your point,” she said with a grin. “So, you like ‘em tall, dark and grumpy.”
“And taken,” he added with a resigned smile.
“Very,” she replied, nodding. “The captain would have you busted down in rank so fast you’d be scrubbing toilets before you knew what hit you.”
“If he didn’t just space me,” he agreed.
“It would be so much easier if you just went after Chekov,” she said with a mischievous grin.
He just stuck out his tongue at her and rolled his eyes for good measure. When he glanced over, Chekov and Odake were standing near the mess hall doors as if loath to end their lunch date.
As he watched Chekov and his latest conquest, Tad walked past the couple on his way out. Turning his head to look at Sulu, he gave him a wink and a leer as he left the mess.
Asshole. Sulu frowned at the empty doorway as someone put a tray down on the table next to him.
As he turned to look at the newcomer, he felt a hand grab his shoulder and give it a squeeze.
Looking into Mr. Scott’s concerned face, his stomach dropped as Scott eyes glanced back and forth between Sulu and doorway where Chekov and Odake were still standing.
“Are you OK, lad?” Scott asked earnestly.
With a groan, Sulu dropped into his hands as Uhura just threw her head back and laughed.