Title: Behind My Smile

Author: Joules Mer

Author's e-mail: julia_ocean_child@yahoo.co.uk

Author's URL: http://jmenterprise.popullus.net

Date: Posted to EntSTSlash 1/07/2004

Archive: Permission to archive granted to EntSTCommunity and BLTS.  All others ask me.

Fandom: Star Trek Enterprise

Category: Slash

Rating: PG

Pairing: Tucker/Reed

Summary:  We both hide behind something.

Beta: None

Spoilers: None

Disclaimer: Enterprise is the property of Paramount.  No profit was made, no copyright infringement is intended.

Behind My Smile

    I walk down the corridor, my stride measured and even.  I  smile and greet my crewmates as they pass, carefully calling each one by name, just as they expect me to.  I know none of them can tell that my nonchalance is forced, at least, I don't think they can.  My uniform is clean, if a bit rumpled from my shift, and my hair is neatly combed.  I must be sure to exude the aura of an officer.  After all, these people might need me to command them someday.

    I stop in front of the turbolift doors, making sure to stand just far enough off to one side so that I won't be in the way of people exiting the lift.  The light indicates that the lift has arrived so in the moment before the door opens I offer a quick prayer that it's empty.  Small talk is less stressful if avoided entirely.

    The lift is thankfully empty and I have a palatable sense of relief as I enter.  I contemplate going to my quarters for a bit to relax, but I know Travis and Hoshi are expecting me in the mess hall soon.  I said I'd meet them for lunch and it would be pretty impolite to renege now.  Alone in the lift I can't help but remember my awkward talk with the doctor this morning.  I'd managed to cut my hand quite badly while replacing a malfunctioning power cell.  I'd sort of made it into a bit of a joke, but it was still embarrassing.  Worse still, Novakovich was in there getting his teeth cleaned so all the scientists will probably know how clumsy I am.

      I physically slump as I stand in the lift.  I still can't believe I was so stupid, Phlox has had to treat me for enough injuries as it is.  Just wait until the captain gets the weekly injury report.  Friendly concern and general politeness will probably make him ask me if it's all right.  Probably in front of everyone, no less.  Oh, god, then he'll be there too.  At the risk of sounding like an adolescent with a crush, I'll admit that I can cite every instance where I've made a fool of myself in front of him.  And I don't just mean every prat fall.  I mean every joke that bombed, every time I've tripped or slipped, every time I've put my foot in my mouth, every time I've looked like crap, and especially every time I've implied I'm perfectly straight. By now he probably thinks I'm an incompetent fool.  In other words, the exact opposite of what he prizes.  The exact opposite of what he is.

    The lift doors open and I affect my normal, friendly demeanour as I step into the corridor.  It makes people laugh things off more easily, but that only helps right after my little faux pas has occurred.  I laugh along even though I'm wincing on the inside.  It's when I'm in my quarters that it really gets to me.  That time at night when I'm lying in bed, not quite asleep, is the worst.  I'm powerless to stop the parade of images from the day, or week, which highlight all my many screwups.  Sometimes it can make me physically cringe.

    I think of the man that I secretly care about and feel my insides flutter slightly, for, in a way, he's like me.  He has a hides as well, but behind something quite different.  Malcolm may hide behind a mask of propriety, but me, I hide behind my smile.  A voice calls from the stretch of corridor behind me, "Hey Trip!"

    I turn and smile.