Preview of Coming Attraction
Genre: General, episode addition, allusion to T/T romance
Archive: Please ask me first.
Disclaimer: Star Trek: Enterprise is the property of CBS/Paramount. All original material herein is the property of its author.
Spoilers: through "Similitude."
Summary: A late-night chat between Phlox and teenage Sim.
A/N: Thanks to boushh, who inspired this story and provided me with beta goodness.
This is one of the stories I submitted to Strange New Worlds 10.
Preview of Coming Attraction
Phlox was up late, entering data into patients' records, when he heard Sim moving around in the converted storage cubicle that had served as his bedroom for the last several days. The chronometer on the counter next to Phlox's medical terminal read 12:57 a.m. What was the boy doing awake at this hour?
The doctor had expected Sim to be worn out, considering he'd spent the entire day in Engineering. Captain Archer had assigned him there, after Phlox had reported that Sim's physical growth and continually emerging memories had progressed to the point where he was going stir-crazy with the need for something of substance to do. A job in Engineering had been the ideal solution. Sim had come home at the end of the day bursting with excitement, feeling as if he was truly making a difference, now that he was contributing to Enterprise. As he talked nonstop during dinner about warp injector diagnostics, EPS conduit connectors and the like, Phlox had wondered whether his young charge would ever wind down enough to sleep at all.
Sim entered the main Sickbay area— and immediately ducked as the Pyrithian bat fluttered by overhead, squeaking angrily as she passed. "Hey, the bat's loose! I'll get the net—"
"There's no need," Phlox said. "She's out on purpose. She always gets a bit grumpy when she's molting. I let her fly around for an hour or so at night to work off her frustration."
"Oh," Sim replied with a chuckle. "Okay. I'll just keep low, then." His lopsided smile was uncannily reminiscent of Commander Tucker's.
As the youth folded his tall, slender frame into a nearby chair, Phlox noticed that he already appeared a couple of years older than when he'd gone to bed a few hours ago— as well as a couple of inches taller. He had nearly achieved his adult height, though he retained the lankiness of a teenager. And he wasn't yet five days old. "Did I wake you?" the doctor asked.
"Naw, I can't sleep." Sim fiddled with the data disks on the counter. "Too excited, I guess."
"Because of your work in Engineering?"
Sim nodded, his face lighting up. "I can't wait to go back. I've been gettin' ideas about how to help with the repairs. Makes me feel... I dunno... useful." He shrugged, a little bashfully. "Sounds silly, I guess."
Phlox smiled warmly. "No, not at all."
Sim hesitated. "And... there's something else, too."
Sim toyed with the data disks in silence for a long moment. Finally he said, "Can I ask you something?"
Phlox set his notes aside and turned his full attention on his surrogate son. "Of course."
Sim looked both eager and apprehensive. "When you want to... um, what do you do if..." He stopped, then began again. "Well... there's this... girl."
No wonder he can't sleep. "Ah," Phlox said with a sage nod, and Sim smiled shyly. "And you like her?" the doctor prompted.
The boy's smile grew exponentially. "Yeah. I can't explain it. I've known her only a day, but I'm just crazy about her."
It was a joy, seeing him like this. Phlox couldn't help but smile along with him. "Tell me about her. What is she like?"
"She's brilliant," Sim declared admiringly. "You have to keep on your toes around her. She has a real sense of honor and responsibility— I respect that." He paused, choosing his words. "She's not like any of the other girls aboard ship." His smile reappeared. "And, well, she's just about the most beautiful girl I ever laid eyes on."
Sim was making a point not to name the young lady, but Phlox had little need to speculate about her identity. He had noticed, over the past several weeks, that Tucker and T'Pol's prickly work relationship had smoothed considerably. Tucker's insomnia had ceased long ago, and yet the two were spending more off-duty time together, in the mess hall, on Movie Night. And now young Sim was working in Engineering, where T'Pol was overseeing repairs to the warp engines. It all added up quite neatly.
Phlox wondered if anyone else had thought to employ Vulcan neuropressure as a matchmaking tool. Well, that hadn't been his intention either, not primarily. He was a healer, first and foremost; Tucker had been in distress, and T'Pol had possessed the means to help him. Still, Phlox had sensed a need in the two of them that went beyond Tucker's bottled-up grief over his sister's death, and T'Pol's selfless, self-imposed isolation from her Vulcan people. They were as opposite as two individuals could be, but Phlox suspected an infinite compatibility lay beneath the surface of that contrariness— if both parties proved willing.
Interestingly, Tucker's memories of T'Pol wouldn't come to Sim for another couple of days yet... but it did appear that he had somehow already tapped into Tucker's feelings for her. It was a compelling development to add to an already fascinating process... but also a rather bittersweet revelation, with Tucker clinging so precariously to life, and Sim's own existence measured in days, rather than years.
"Does she feel the same way?" Phlox asked.
Sim chewed on his lip for a bit. "It's kinda hard to tell," he said at last. "See, she doesn't really show people how she's feeling. She's more the aloof type."
"Have you told her how you feel about her?"
Sim's eyes widened. "Oh, no. I wouldn't want to do that until I knew how she felt. We're not exactly... well, I'm different." He rolled his eyes. "I know. I'm different from everybody. But I'm a lot different from her."
"I see." Phlox sat back and studied the self-conscious, smitten young man. What advice should he give? T'Pol would be T'Pol, no matter what Sim said or did. "Hmm... if the lady is as reticent as you say, she may not make it so easy for you. You might have to make the first move yourself."
Sim shifted uncomfortably in his chair. "You think?"
"It wouldn't require anything overtly demonstrative." Phlox brushed away Sim's concern with a wave of his hand. "Something casual and innocuous would suffice... a suggestion of dinner, perhaps. Everyone has to eat, after all. And Movie Night is tomorrow, if I'm not mistaken."
Sim brightened. "Hey, that's right. A Night at the Opera."
Phlox smiled. "There would seem to be little at risk. Knowing you, you'll be going to the movie and making a dinner of popcorn with or without the young lady."
Sim laughed. "You know me pretty well, don't you?"
Phlox spread his hands modestly. He saw that Sim looked far more relaxed now. "So I have nothin' to lose," the lad said with a grin. "That suits me right down to the ground."
"Good," the doctor replied with a nod. "I'll see you at the movie, then. I've developed quite a fondness for the Marx Brothers."
The bat chose that moment to land on Phlox's chest. She clung dejectedly to his shirt, looking rather moth-eaten. He stroked her, shaking stray strands of white fur from his fingers. "There now, you don't look so bad," he said soothingly. "Just a couple of days more, and you'll feel like a princess again."
The bat squeaked sourly and shook herself, sending a tiny cloud of fur floating free. Phlox walked her to her cage. "I think our disgruntled girl is ready for sleep now."
"So am I." Sim stood and stretched. "Thanks, Doc."
Phlox tucked the bat safely in her cage and locked the door. "For what?"
The boy shrugged. "For bein' a good dad."
Phlox was unexpectedly touched. It was remarkable, really, how much affection one could develop for a child in so short a time. "You're quite welcome."
Sim nodded and turned to go. Phlox hesitated only a moment. "Sim..."
He turned back. "Yeah, Doc?"
"Tomorrow, before you get dressed, come see me. I have a little surprise for you."
Sim perked up at once, intrigued. "Surprise? What?"
Phlox smiled enigmatically. "If I told you, it wouldn't be a surprise any longer. Go on to bed now, and get some sleep."
Sim cocked his head, his tongue lolling in his cheek in a decidedly Tuckeresque manner. "Like I'm gonna get any sleep now." Then, with another lopsided smile, he sauntered off to bed.
Phlox waited until he heard the door to Sim's room slide shut. Then he went to his office, unlocked his desk drawer, and pulled out the bundle he'd received from Chief Quartermaster Hendley earlier, while Sim was in Engineering. It was a custom-made crew jumpsuit, similar to the blue uniforms worn by the Enterprise crew, but fashioned of gray gabardine.
By morning, Sim would be "old" enough— and tall enough, Phlox thought with a smile— to fill it out. A new uniform might be just the thing to give a shy, lovestruck young man the confidence boost he needed to ask the lady of his dreams to dinner and a movie.