The Thin Man Beams Aboard
Disclaimer: Paramount own Star Trek and the characters created therein.
Summary: Set between "Bound" and "Demons." Finally! Our favorite couple has some time to get reacquainted after Commander Tucker transfers back from the Columbia. Trip introduces T'Pol to the human concept of the "whodunit," but their academic reflections on the subject are tested when Enterprise is sent to investigate a real mystery populated by some very shady characters.
Chapter 1: All's Well that Starts Well
"Well? How do you like it so far?"
Trip looked at her expectantly over his coffee cup as he sidled up next to her. The rest of the officers were gradually filtering into the bridge for the morning staff meeting.
T'Pol wasn't quite sure what to say. The gift Trip had given her was illogical in both content and form, but she doubted those assessments would meet with favor. Normally she would have no problem with being blunt on the subject, but T'Pol had come to realize that humans required what was termed a "softer touch." Trip, especially, who put so much stock in her opinion and approval, would want to hear what she considered to be positive aspects of the item he had given her. These thoughts ran through her mind for a fraction of a second before she chose a course of action and pursued it.
"I have not had time to adequately evaluate it," she informed him, hands behind her back.
He put his mug down on the main console and turned to face her, hands on his hips. "You haven't read it yet, have you?"
T'Pol's eyes flicked over his mug for a moment—he knew well that she disapproved of food or beverages while on duty—then met his.
"As I said, I have not had time."
"Have you even looked at it?" he asked, his face stern.
The Vulcan relented slightly. "The main characters seem…intriguing, but I fail to see how they will be able to assess evidence of any crime without proper training or technical assistance."
"They're sleuths, T'Pol. They go with their gut feelings—their instincts," he amended hastily at her nonplussed expression, "to solve crimes. That's why I thought you would enjoy it—they have to use their minds to piece together information that no one else has been able to connect yet."
She remained silent. Trip took this to indicate skepticism as to the appeal of the plot. "I thought you might say that," he told her as Captain Archer emerged from the lift and stopped briefly to say something to Phlox, "so I scheduled it as this week's feature for Movie Night."
Had T'Pol been human she would have groaned. Since his return from Columbia—and, admittedly, since she had revealed both the bond and her feelings for him—he had been in very high spirits. He had insisted upon re-instating Movie Night in order to keep the crew social and give everyone an opportunity for a little fun now and then. Unfortunately he also insisted that T'Pol and all the other senior officers attend on a regular basis, "to set a good example for the crew." Personally, T'Pol suspected that this had something to do with her—movies seemed to play an important part in human courtship behavior.
They had in fact established something of a ritual regarding Movie Night. He would select a feature and tell her about it. She would express no interest. He would wheedle and cajole until she practically rolled her eyes and told him that she would try to attend. He would save her a seat and give her a sideways smile when she inevitably turned up, and they would spend the better part of an hour arguing about the film over a cup of coffee and slice of pie afterwards.
"I do not know if I will be able to make it," she told him, true to form.
"Oh come on—you, me, and The Thin Man. You'll love it." She raised an eyebrow at him as Archer finished speaking to Phlox and stepped forward to start the meeting. "Okay, okay," he said in a low voice, "you'll find it compelling."
She folded her arms and turned her attention to the captain, leaving her human to grin affectionately at the back of her head.
Later that evening, after her shift was over and she had visited the mess hall for a quick meal with Dr. Phlox and Hoshi, T'Pol found herself in her quarters quietly regarding Commander Tucker's illogical gift. She turned it over in her hands, feeling rough patches where the paper had pulled away from the cover as well and smooth ones where many hands had presumable held the object, carefully turning its pages. The copy of The Thin Man that Trip had unexpectedly and inexplicably given her was old—from the 1950s at least—and had a cardboard cover which garishly displayed the protagonists and their quarry in heavy line drawings. The binding was loose and the pages were yellowing and brittle, but he had been adamant that she take it, so she had obliged.
T'Pol had owned books before—her mother had given her a meditation book when she turned 14, she had a copy of a book of Vulcan fables that had belonged to her great-great grandmother—but never solely for the purpose of entertainment. There was no reason for that: one could simply access a PADD for the desired literature. This was quicker and much more efficient than finding and purchasing a book.
Her second point of contention, that the characters were unreasonable…well, it was a human book, after all. Nick and Nora Charles may seem perfectly rational to the average Homo sapiens but to a Vulcan they were flawed in their deductions. Trip had assured her that the author of the book was well known and respected as a mystery writer, but she would need more examples of Mr. Hammett's work before verifying this assessment.
He would keep asking about the book and "how she liked it," that much was certain. It was better to simply read it and talk to him about it, she thought as she opened it to the second chapter and began reading. Deep in the back of her mind was an awareness that no matter how she justified it and pretended that it upset her personal routine, she enjoyed the attention Trip paid to her and was flattered by the value he placed on her esteem. And, a tiny voice asked her, if a book was so ridiculous, why had she accepted it…and why was she reading it instead of accessing that PADD like a logical Vulcan?
She was soon too lost in the plot to pay these thoughts any mind.
Two hours later she yawned before she realized what she was doing. Had she spent that long reading? The chronometer would seem to indicate that, yes. She placed the book on a table beside her bed and gathered up her meditation candle for a session before bed.
Lighting it, T'Pol settled herself on the floor and quietly went through the process of relaxing her mind and allowing the emotional build-up of the day to release.
"You're up late," a familiar voice said.
T'Pol opened her eyes and was unsurprised to see Trip sitting cross-legged opposite her. She had come to expect his presence in the white room of her meditations most evenings. It was strange how the least normal thing that had ever happened to her—bonding with a human—had become the most comforting. She looked forward to this time, free from distractions, to talk to the person who had come to mean the most to her. The bond allowed her to explore her emotional reaction to Trip and had improved both her mental control and her mood considerably.
"I was reading your book," she informed him. "I lost track of time."
His face lit up at this. "Really? So you like it?"
"I must admit, it is becoming quite interesting. A number of suspects have been introduced to the story, each of whom seem to have their own nefarious reasons for committing the crime."
"That's the point, T'Pol. It's a whodunit."
"I beg your pardon?"
"A whodunit…a who-done-it," he explained slowly. "You have a whole cast of characters who would each benefit from committing the crime—now Nick and Nora have to wade through all the evidence and figure out what really happened."
T'Pol digested this for a moment in silence. "I believe the lawyer did it," she finally said.
Trip's face fell, but he recovered quickly and turned his head away from her and holding up a hand. "I'm not saying a word. You'll have to read it to find out. But I'm glad you're enjoying it."
"I have not finished it, so I would prefer to refrain from making a final judgment until I have."
The engineer nodded, satisfied in the knowledge that she was taking the time to read it. He switched the subject to keep the conversation going.
"Did you finish those scans of the particle field we flew by today?" he asked, knowing she could talk about her work forever.
"No," she stretched her hands over her knees and tilted her head. Trip knew this was Vulcan for "I'm annoyed." "I had surveyed over 60 of the area when Lt. Reed ran an unscheduled drill of the emergency shutdown procedure for auxiliary science stations."
Trip stifled a laugh. Malcolm was notorious for his "unscheduled tests." He was pretty much banned from engineering for that very reason. Trip would not have the man messing unnecessarily with his engines in the name of so-called operational readiness. "Did you lose any of the data?"
"No, but it was an inconvenient distraction. I had just discovered that the field was made of particles consisting largely of titanium with a mix of magnetite…"
He stretched himself out and let her tell him all the fascinating details of her scans, content that of all the people she should share herself with, he seemed to be at the top of her list.
Trip hated admitting it, but he had to. There was really no way around it.
"Okay, so you were right. It was the lawyer."
T'Pol said nothing, simply inclined her head, acknowledging his defeat.
He smiled as he helped Crewman Barker rearrange the mess hall chairs. Movie Night had just ended and several crewmembers were still clustered in groups, socializing. "How did you figure it out so quick, anyway?"
"He was the character who had both the motive and the means to carry out the crime and subsequent deceptions," she informed him as she pulled a table back into place.
"I didn't know who it was until the end, I have to admit," a voice behind them said. Malcolm Reed appeared, carrying two chairs and setting them around T'Pol's table. "I've read some of Hammett's work before, The Maltese Falcon, but I've never seen any of them on screen before. Great stuff."
"I preferred the book," T'Pol told him. "It was more detailed and authentic to the time period."
Hoshi Sato approached them, joining their conversation as she headed for the beverage dispenser. "I agree, Commander. The book was much more vivid than the film."
"Really?" Malcolm asked. Hoshi nodded adamantly. "I may have to take a look at it, in that case."
"I have a copy you may borrow, should you care to," T'Pol offered.
"You have a copy of The Thin Man?" Hoshi asked. T'Pol simply nodded while Trip suddenly became very busy with the chairs he was moving. Hoshi, thankfully, let it go—but not before eyeing Trip suspiciously.
"Thank you, Commander. I might just do that," Malcolm told her. As friendly as Trip was to her—he always called her by her name when they were off-duty—neither Hoshi nor Malcolm seemed comfortable doing so. Nor Phlox, for that matter…nor anyone, now that she thought about it, except for Captain Archer. But that was only because he was above her in rank. She couldn't imagine calling him "Jonathan," on-duty or off. Perhaps she should make an effort to be more sociable?
"I believe Chef made a pineapple upside down cake for this evening's meal. There may be some left over, Lieutenant," she nodded to Malcolm, "and Ensign," a nod to Hoshi, "if you would care to discuss the film for a while before turning in."
Hoshi and Malcolm exchanged brief glances of surprise as Trip slid into a chair next to T'Pol. "Pineapple?" he made a face. "Anything decent, like pecan pie?" he asked.
"Decency is a matter of opinion," Malcolm told him acidly, getting up to locate the cake.
Trip knew pineapple was the Tactical Officer's favorite food. He smiled when his barb hit its intended target. It was a good thing Vulcans lived to be over 200, T'Pol reflected. It was going to take her at least that long to decipher such strange human male behavior as the frequent exchange of insults and barbs with one's friends.
"Did I hear Trip say you figured out who did it before the film was over?" Hoshi asked T'Pol, taking a bite of the cherry tart she had selected from the display case.
T'Pol paused as she chewed on her pecan pie.
"Before the movie was over?" Trip snorted before she could answer. "She had it worked out before chapter four of the book."
T'Pol opened her mouth to retaliate when a nearby comm. panel chirped. "This is the captain. Senior staff please report to the bridge for a briefing."
The collective good mood evaporated, replaced by instant alertness. They looked questioningly at one another, food and movies forgotten.
Trip stretched out an arm and slapped the comm. panel.
"We're all here in the mess, captain. Something wrong?"
"I'm not sure yet, Commander," Archer replied. "Starfleet has something of a mystery on its hands and they want us to check it out."