Title: Communication

Rating: PG (K+)

Spoilers for Double or Nothing.

Mac doesn't tell her anything. Not that she expected him to, but it would have been nice to get more than a reply of "enjoying the view" when she asked him what he was doing in the middle of a debris field, aboard a drifting, oxygen-depleted shuttlecraft.

Shelby had tried to inquire further, but he had shut down the discussion almost immediately. "Classified information," he said. "Top-secret, confidential, Nechayev will probably have me killed if I tell you anything." He had grinned at her, but changed the subject quickly, obviously wanting to steer the conversation away from the topic of his mission.

She shouldn't be surprised, really. Of course it's confidential. Of course it's classified. Of course she can't know. Why should she have expected anything different?

She's being petty, and insane, and she knows she needs to get over herself and move on. But she hates being out of the loop, especially on matters like this. And it's bothering her, not knowing.

She's aware that she has no right to be upset; after all, Picard didn't tell Riker anything. She knows this because Riker asked her what she knew about the two captains' mission; curious because he'd put two and two together as well. He'd thought there was something a little suspicious about finding Calhoun and Picard, bloodied and battered, so close to the spot where the apparent mastermind of the plan to infect the Federation computer system had died.

Shelby had been forced to shrug, confess her ignorance, and speculate with Riker. They didn't come up with many ideas, but she knows this much: there are very few coincidences when Calhoun is involved.

She watches him on the bridge, in the ready room, and wonders. She wonders what else he's not telling her. It's not like he's staying silent about the mission just to drive her crazy. For once in his life, he's following orders and keeping quiet. It's a good thing, really. Maybe it shows that he's finally learning the value of regs.

But that, she admits, is probably just wishful thinking. He's had no qualms about breaking, bending, or twisting regs in the past, why should he be reluctant now?

No, more likely is that he knows what would happen if he did tell her about his mission.

They would fight. She can say this with certainty, because after three years, one thing about their relationship has become painfully clear: they have fights, frequently and noisily.

No doubt he just wanted to prevent yet another disagreement. Another hour wasted arguing, another hour of Shelby telling him what he should have done and Calhoun not paying attention.

She doesn't like that aspect of their relationship, or how damn predictable their disagreements have become. How they fight about protocol, about the right way to do things. It's always been that way, ever since she became his first officer, and sometimes Shelby wonders if they'll ever break out of that pattern. If there's more to their relationship than fighting... and their often-futile attempts to prevent those fights.

Sometimes, though, it just seems inevitable. And increasingly, she find herself helpless to do anything about the way things are between them.

She's not proud. But she'd rather have the fights than this silence between them, this non-communication.

When they fight, at least they're talking to each other. At least there's the smallest chance that she and Mac might reach an understanding. But now? There's nothing. And in some ways, that's worse.