Notes: For “Midnight Messhall Munchies Month”. The ship's informal “Insomniacs Club” decides to make baked goods for the crew. Can love flourish among the brownies, chocolate-chip cookies and kreyla sweetbread? And what will the Insomniacs Club do about it? Stay tuned.
Just a fluff piece, since I'm working on plenty of angsty-filled projects at the moment. Note: This story is set in Season Four after “Terra Prime”, but before Hoshi and Malcolm get together. Can you find some inside jokes and nods in this story? Virtual cookies for all who do.
Rating: T [for innuendo. Poor Malcolm.]
Pairings: TnT, R/S
Please review! Thanks!
Insomniacs Club #1:
Cookies, Caffeine and Other Sources of Comfort<>
Gamma shift was usually quiet. It was the “middle of the night” for most of the crew, and the others were on duty. At least, those who weren't part of Enterprise's resident Insomniac's Club. Its members varied from night to night, depending on circumstances at the time. The numbers went up when there was some sort of COW or FAINT (Crisis of the Week or Friendly Alien Incursion, Need Tactical! Two of Travis Mayweather's infamous acronyms), or some sort of breakdown in Engineering. Then there were the times when one simply couldn't sleep at all.
For Malcolm Reed, this was one of those rare times. He was used to working odd hours, making sure Enterprise was ready for any trouble. He hated to admit it to anyone, but he enjoyed the intricacies of his job for enjoyment's sake. The technical puzzle of establishing a working EM field kept him occupied for hours, much to his Armory crew's amusement and exasperation.
Ensign Bernhard Mueller had muttered, “Der Job gefaellt der Kommandant viel zu viel.” The Commandant enjoys his job a bit too much. Malcolm had secretly smiled, for Bernhard was extremely observant and insightful, as usual.
He headed for the Mess Hall and wondered who else was up tonight. At the moment, they were in-between missions, so it was relatively uneventful. Malcolm ran the roster in his head: Travis and T'Pol were on duty on the Bridge; the Captain was in his Ready Room, talking with Captain Hernandez ofColumbia Trip was in Engineering, tweaking the warp engines. He and Hess were currently in a friendly competition of who was the first to do Warp 5.5.
And Hoshi would be asleep. Hopefully. He'd literally dragged her off the Bridge to get some rest. The Ubraran language was complex, and utterly fascinating, but Malcolm told her that it would still be there in the morning.
“Stubborn,” he'd called her.
“That's the pot calling the kettle black, Malcolm,” she responded.
“I beg your pardon,” he replied in a humorous tone.
Hoshi laughed and put a hand on his cheek. “I'll get some rest if you will.”
“Ah---” He raised an eyebrow at her tone, one that conjured up all kinds of scenarios in his head, some not so becoming for a gentleman. She'd heard the meaning packed into that single syllable and only grinned in response. Then she'd left with a saucy wink and he wondered just how she was able to get past his normally solid defenses.
Maddening woman . He shook his head fondly. Yes, she was maddening as well as surprising.
Speaking of surprises...he frowned as an aromatic smell wafted from the kitchen. It took him a moment to identify it: cookies. Someone was baking cookies in the kitchen. His stomach growled; he'd grabbed something for dinner and taken it to his office in the Armory, so he was starving.
Malcolm pushed the door open to find the Mess Hall busier than usual. Half of the tables were occupied with people in various states of dress, ranging from uniforms to terrycloth robes and pajamas. He smirked at the sight of Crewman Cutler in a Boston Bruins shirt that reached past her knees. Lieutenant Markham and Ensign Stackhouse were playing a game of chess in the corner, and Crewman DeJulio sat near the drink machines with a thick book and a cup of coffee. Lieutenant Hess and Crewman Rostov were refilling the coffeepot, and the rich smell of Columbian filled the air.
The whole place smelled like the late-night coffee shops Malcolm remembered during his days in San Francisco, while he was in Starfleet training.
He found himself straightening up to attention as he saw the occupants of a nearby table. “Good evening, Captain, Commander.”
Captain Archer raised an eyebrow and shook his head. “At ease, Malcolm, we're not on duty. So, couldn't sleep, either?”
“I was working in the Armory, sir,” he answered. “The EM project.”
Commander T'Pol simply nodded as she pressed her hands around her tea cup. Malcolm caught a whiff of it: chamomile. “I am gratified to see that your latest results are positive, Lieutenant.”
He nodded back. “Yes, Commander. With a little more fine-tuning of the frequency band, we might---”
Archer interrupted him with a raised hand and cut in, “All right, Lieutenant. I understand that one rule of the Enterprise Insomniac's Club is no talking about work. Like I said, we aren't on duty, so relax, all right?”
Malcolm heard the gentle rebuke. “Yes, sir.” He fished about for another subject. “I smelled cookies baking---”
“The kitchen's been busy,” Archer said offhandedly.
“Commander Tucker said something about needing some comfort food, and was quite unnerved by the lack of baked goods at this hour of the night,” T'Pol clarified. She had a shadow of a smile on her lips, but Malcolm couldn't tell for sure. “He suggested that he and I 'wander down to the Mess Hall for some midnight munchies'. I had no objections to it, but he insisted that I wait here while he 'whips up something to eat' in the kitchen.”
Malcolm heard the quotation marks; it still sounded odd to hear Trip's colorful language delivered in such a deadpan manner. “I suppose he wouldn't take no for an answer.”
“I have learned to allow him to calm his mind in his own unique ways, for the sake of harmony.”
Malcolm tried not to laugh. If Trip was insisting on cooking, then the engineer was in serious need of comfort food, and if T'Pol was going along with it, then the Vulcan was in serious need of inner peace.
Archer smiled. “I was about to check on our Cookie Brigade in there. Mind if you do the honors, Malcolm?”
“Of course, sir.” He moved to the kitchen door and heard the rumble of laughter. Curious, he pushed it open and was greeted by a cloud of flour. He coughed slightly and waved a hand in front of his face.
“Sorry 'bout that,” came the honeyed drawl of Trip Tucker. “C'mon in, Malcolm. Wondered when you were goin' to show up.”
Malcolm surveyed the chaos that marked Chef's usual domain. Mixing bowls and measuring cups were piled high in the sink, a fine dusting of flour drifted in the air like snow, and used packages of baking chocolate and Hershey's chocolate chips lay crumpled on the counter. Trip leaned against one of those counters with an apron over his sweats and a shirt proclaiming, “Parrothead Tour Revival, April 2150, Key West, Florida!”
He smirked again and said, “I hope you clean all that up before Chef sees it.”
“Don't worry, we will.” Trip inclined his head toward a bowl full of cookie batter. “I was about to make some rum balls, you wanna do the honors, since projectiles are your specialty?”
Malcolm laughed as he accepted another apron from the engineer. “Though putting these into a modified phase slingshot seems like a waste of valuable ammunition. Already pressing me into service, Commander?”
“Hey, I got roped into it, too.” Trip inclined his head at Quartermaster Antoine Desgauld, who was squirting buttercream frosting onto wafers with a piping bag and Ensign Jerzy Nietsa, running an electric mixer with the same care as he did his engineering simulations. Travis Mayweather was trying, and failing, not to sample the cookie dough as he dropped them onto baking pans.
“Do I see pie crust on that counter, Commander?”
“It's Trip. We're not on duty. And yes, I'm doin' two pies, a pecan one and a peach cobbler.”
“Hey, Bernhard snatched the last piece of cobbler earlier tonight before T'Pol got to it, so I'm makin' sure she gets her share.”
“Yeah, all's fair in love and pie, Malcolm.”
“The Insomniacs Club has turned into pastry chefs,” Malcolm mused as he rolled the dough into spheres and placed them neatly onto waxed paper in the pans.
“Hey, at least we get a sweet reward for all our hard work,” Trip pointed out. “Wish I'd thought of it.”
“Who is the ringleader of this impromptu baking?” Malcolm turned to fetch another pan, then stopped short at a most unexpected sight: someone bent low at the oven as she checked the progress of a batch of brownies. He'd missed her because she'd been hidden, and between Jerzy's electric mixer and Trip's rendition of Jimmy Buffett's “Boat Drinks” (with off-key backup from Travis and Antoine Desgauld), she obviously hadn't hear him come in.
Malcolm swallowed and averted his eyes from the curves that weren't hidden by the apron or the sweatpants or the tank top. Her hair was tied into a tight knot on her head, but several locks had somehow come loose and draped her shoulders. She wore a look of sweet content on her face as she pulled the brownies out of the oven.
“Last batch of the brownies are out!” she announced. Hoshi Sato laid the pan out with a flourish on the cooling rack, then reached over and smacked Travis's outstretched hand. “Travis! Nice try, I saw that!”
“Ouch!” Travis gave her a mock-hurt expression. “You're gonna need someone to taste test that, Hosh.”
“Later,” she said with a wink. “Don't touch unless you want me to break your arm.”
This time, his shudder wasn't feigned. “Okay, okay. No stealing brownies and no playing poker with you. Got it.”
“I need to get those kreyla pastries into the oven for T'Pol. I think she'd appreciate some baked goods from home that aren't too sugary for her.” She turned and saw Malcolm, and her eyes sparkled with delight. “Malcolm! Glad to see you. I see Trip's put you to work.”
He smiled and shook his head to clear it of the sudden image of Hoshi and chocolate sauce. Focus, man, focus. All the sugar's already affecting your brain. Never mind you haven't consumed any yet. “That's quite all right. I don't mind. I heard something about kreyla?”
“Vulcan sweetbread. T'Pau's family recipe. I thought that it'd be nice for T'Pol to have a little something from home.” Hoshi blew a stubborn lock of hair away from her face. “I wanted it to be a surprise.”
“She'll appreciate the gesture.” That was one of the things he loved about Hoshi, her generosity toward others, the little touches that no one else thought of. He kept his hands moving, forming the rum balls and placing them on the pan, as she came over to stand next to him. It was odd that he could smell lemon and vanilla on her skin, despite the myriad of other smells in the kitchen.
“I knew you were a good cook, but I had no idea you were a baker as well.”
She chuckled and shrugged. “My family made homemade udon noodles, which could be time-consuming. Plus, I helped with my cousins' birthday parties and bake sales.” Hoshi nodded at Trip, who'd segued into “Cheeseburger in Paradise” with relative ease. “We decided to commandeer the kitchen tonight, since there were a lot of sleepless people tonight, and make something.”
“I noticed there are a lot of new members of the Insomniacs Club present,” he replied dryly. “How much of that is due to the smell of baked goods in the corridors?”
“And how much of it is starship gossip, even at nearly midnight?” Hoshi smiled at him. “Almost all of it, I'm sure. You do know that the only thing that travels faster than warp ten is gossip, especially of the delicious kind.”
Malcolm nearly bit his tongue, but managed to keep a straight face. “Indeed. On a ship this size, it's impossible to avoid it.”
“I'm glad you joined us, Malcolm. I feel safe when you're near.” Her tone was sincere, with a touch of wistfulness. He couldn't help but notice it, and automatically, he reached out and brushed a lock of hair away from her face, despite the bits of dough that clung to his fingers. A slight flush bloomed upon her face.
“The pan of kreyla's over there on your far side, Malcolm. Can you hand it over to me?”
“Of course.” He did so, their hands briefly touching as they made the transfer. He could still feel the softness of her hands through the oven mitts and as he looked at her, he thought he saw the spark of something there, an emotion that he had hoped to see for some time now.
“Thanks,” she murmured. She turned to slide it into the oven, and he turned to avoid more inappropriate---and more unavoidable---thoughts of her. What was he doing? Malcolm gave himself a mental kick as he washed his hands clean and wrenched himself back to the task at hand.
Of course, both he and Hoshi missed the significant look that Trip and Travis shared, and the nod that Antoine Desgauld gave both of them. Desgauld quietly washed and dried his hands, then went out into the Mess Hall proper.
An hour later, at exactly twelve-oh-one in the morning, the Insomniacs Club gathered around a table of cookies, brownies, pastries and kreyla. T'Pol pronounced the Vulcan sweetbread “quite palatable”, and Trip made sure she got the first piece of cobbler. Travis eagerly snatched some of the previously-denied brownies. It was odd to have a gathering here in the Mess Hall just for the sake of gathering, not for some holiday or someone's birthday, but just because. Spontaneity wasn't usually encouraged on a Starfleet vessel, but it still came out in different ways. Even at twelve-oh-one in the morning.
Hoshi and Malcolm stood next to the pastries table, long after the others drifted away. Travis and Trip paused at the Mess Hall doors and Trip inclined his head at the two, who didn't seem to realize they were in a world of their own.
“Think they'll figure it out before long?” Travis asked.
“I think most of the Insomniacs Club noticed it before they did,” Trip answered honestly, “but they're still dancin' around each other.”
“Probably.” Trip grinned with mischief. “We need another late-night brainstorming session.”
“I'll let 'em know. Tomorrow night?”
“See ya then.”
TBC in “Insomniacs Club: Late Night Liaisons”