Does anyone else have the problem when they're writing these characters of going "er... this might be out of character, but I really have NO IDEA because I have nothing to go on"?
Category: Hoshi/Travis friendship/UST. Trip/T'Pol.
Spoilers: "Observer Effect." Vague spoilers for "Countdown." Inspired by part of "Dead Stop," but no direct reference.
Summary: They just do it because they like you.
Content Warning: One of those fanfics where two characters talk about the relationship of two other characters. Hey, I warned you. Also, unbeta'd.
"He's doing it again." Hoshi nods her head toward the other side of the mess hall.
Travis already knows what she's talking about -- what she has been talking about for the past fifteen minutes -- but looks anyway before he can stop himself. "They're talking."
"He's teasing her," Hoshi clarifies. She raises a knight to move it but then pauses, hand and chess piece in mid-air.
With an intentionally audible sigh, Travis turns again to look over at the table occupied by Commanders Tucker and T'Pol. "So? That's what he always does."
He looks back at the chess board. He's winning. Actually, he probably would have won twenty minutes ago if Hoshi would occasionally move a piece. On the rare occasion when they actually finish games of chess -- and it is rare, since, like the universe is teasing them, they're almost always called to the bridge before they can -- it always takes hours longer than necessary.
Travis was raised on a cargo ship -- a lifestyle that, by definition, offered next to nothing to do for months or years at a stretch. After that, he never thought anything or anyone could try his patience.
Hoshi gives it a good shot, though.
"I've never understood that," she comments, still toying with the knight instead of setting it down.
"Why guys like to bait girls?" Travis grins at her, thinking less about the widely-gossipped relationship between their superior officers and more about the last time he re-programmed Hoshi's communications earpiece to play selections from Greatest Polkas of the Twenty-First Century when in standby mode.
She actually left her post in the middle of Gamma shift to wake him up and yell at him.
Hoshi rolls her eyes. "Antagonize is the word I was thinking of," she corrects, and adds, "and putting misguided male notions of romance aside for the moment, I've never understood why women theoretically enjoy it."
"Commander T'Pol doesn't seem to mind," he points out. He reaches over the chess board to tap on the knight still in her hand. Hoshi shoots the piece a look that's almost surprised -- like she has forgotten altogether that they're playing chess.
Travis isn't sure why he bothers to even get out the board when it's just him and Hoshi. He should play with Reed. Malcolm Reed appreciates chess, and they're actually fairly evenly matched. Of course, playing chess with Malcolm conjures up some pretty unpleasant memories -- Hoshi, pale and feverish and dying and Travis helpless to do anything but watch. For a while after the Organians left, he wasn't able to remember anything at all that had happened during his possession. Now that he can, now that a few piecemeal memories have floated up to the surface, he still does his best not to.
Hoshi finally selects her target and wipes out one of his pawns. Travis plays his next move instantly -- he has had at least seven minutes to think about it -- and then settles back to wait.
His opponent's mind is, of course, far away from the game again. "Oh, she definitely minds."
"How can you tell?" Commander T'Pol looks as Vulcan as ever.
Hoshi leans over the table conspiratorily. "She just asked him -- rhetorically, I assume -- why he 'persists in pestering' her."
She's right -- for a Vulcan, that's positively irate. But- "Wait, how do you know that?" The mess hall isn't that big, but when enough people are packed in the room it'd be hard to hear anything below a tactical alert siren. "Can you read lips?"
"Only in certain languages," Hoshi replies, like it's nothing. Travis has long learned not to comment on her pockets of genius when he stumbles across them. She always ends up looking confused more than flattered, like she really can't comprehend how extraordinary she is.
"Actually," she continues off-handedly, still watching the other table, "Only a small percentage of English is lip-readable. It's largely a guessing game, based on context, facial expression... that makes it especially hard to read aliens, because their expressions are so different. Oh, now he's getting annoyed."
The noise in the mess hall lulls for a few seconds, just long enough for Travis to hear:
"Aw, you're just in a mood today."
"I do not have moods."
"Sure you do. They're just-"
The din in the room raises back up to a normal level, and Travis starts to feel a bit guilty for being an accessory to eavesdropping. "Are you going to play, or what?"
"Oh. Sorry." She glances at the board, then back up at him. "Are you sure you wanted to move that rook there?"
She chews on her lip for a moment and slides a bishop over a few squares. On the other side of the room, Commander T'Pol gets up and walks out in what Travis supposes is the Vulcan version of a huff.
"Show's over," he nudges Hoshi's calf under the table with his foot to get her attention.
Commander Tucker is leaning back in his chair, looking every bit as pleased with himself as the cat with the canary.
"That just makes no sense to me." Hoshi sighs. "It's almost like he was trying to get her to storm out on him."
Travis shrugs. "Maybe he was."
"I just don't understand it. Any of it."
He can't pass up an opportunity like that. "Don't get... why she's attracted to him?"
Hoshi ducks her head a centimeter or two in embarrassment, and Travis congratulates himself. Of course, it has been almost two years since she admitted -- under duress of bright green alien whiskey -- to having "a little crush" on the chief engineer, but there's no statute of limitations on teasing, and Travis exploits that wherever he can.
"No," she replies pointedly.
"I think we can all guess why he's attracted to her."
It's not exactly polite, but it gets him the reaction he wants: Hoshi glares. Travis is developing an immunity to it -- repeated exposure -- but he still thinks that look could fry an ant on contact. He'd like to test that theory sometime.
"I just don't see how they put up with it," she says. "What's the attraction of a relationship where all you do is... annoy each other?"
Probably not all they do, Travis thinks, but, even if it has been shipwide gossip for months, if not years, he doesn't say it aloud. "Come on. It keeps it interesting."
"I could do with a little less interesting, I think." She has returned half her attention to the game, moving pieces in turn while she speaks.
He pokes her in the calf with his toe a few more times. "I know you better than that."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"That time you put that weird glue on my com panel and then paged me?"
She smirks. "You deserved it! And it came off with water." She draws her legs away from his feet. "Stop that."
"I still spent twenty minutes stuck to the wall waiting for you to show up with the water," he points out. He can't even pretend to be mad at her for that one, though. It had been barely a month since another time she'd almost died -- that time at the hands of the Xindi -- and it was good to see her smile.
That, and he did deserve it.
"That was an aberration," she continues in her most proper voice. "Most of the time it's your fault."
"True," he agrees. "But you enjoy it. You pretend you like everything to be routine... but you enjoy the unexpected."
"I do not."
"Don't start that." She takes a moment to survey the board and nudges her last remaining bishop over.
Travis could take her out in three moves, but decides to prolong it. "So you're saying you'd prefer it if I ignored you?"
"Those are my only options?"
Despite what she says, he can tell she's enjoying the argument at least a little by the devious sparkle in her eyes. "All right, Ensign, what would you suggest?"
"What's wrong with intelligent discussion?"
"Wouldn't that get boring?"
"All right, there can be occasional games of chess. Or movie nights. Just to keep it interesting."
She nods seriously. "There could be flowers."
"Visits to exotic planets?"
"Definitely those. But no telling me that the rocks are actually sentient beings in a state of hibernation -- I'm not falling for that one again."
Travis suppresses a grin. She hadn't really fallen for it the first time, either, but he'd caught her casting wary looks at the bright pink rocks throughout their shore leave. She'd been wearing a bathing suit, too. They were due for another visit to an exotic planet soon, weren't they? "No sentient rocks. Got it. Anything else?"
"I'll let you know," Hoshi practically chirps, and taps her rook over a few spaces. "Checkmate."
"Hey!" Travis stares at the board. "You cheated!"
Not that he has any actual proof of that, but the only way she's ever been able to beat him is by taking excessive liberties with how pieces are technically supposed to move across the board. Of course, it hasn't stopped him from playing with her yet.
She grins. "Maybe. You should have paid more attention."
"You're right, Travis," Hoshi takes more than a few seconds for drama as she reaches out one finger to topple his king. "I do like the unexpected. But only when I win."