Part of USS Challenger: Anything But Paradise

“Bad News Invariably Comes In The Middle Of The Night”

U.S.S. Challenger NCC-71099
Stardate 76824.9
2 likes 1243 views

Tom reached out and pressed the door chime. Because of the late hour, he wasn’t expecting the door to be answered quickly so he was surprised when the door opened revealing a shirtless Matt Bentley. The sight took Tom’s breath away and he itched to reach out and run his fingers through Matt’s tousled blond hair. “I…uh…I’m…”

“If this is a booty call,” Matt began wearily as he leaned against the doorframe , “you can go f-”

The captain quickly cut across him as he finally regained his composure. “Prime Minister Larell is dead.” Tom watched as shock and grief played out across his features. Matt took a step back, a silent invitation to enter.

Tom immediately moved over to the replicator and ordered a cup of chamomile tea. When he turned back, Matt was sitting on his couch with his head in his hands. Tom walked over and reached out, placing a hand on Matt’s shoulder. “Here.” Tom said when Matt looked up, tears shining in his eyes.

“How?” Matt croaked as he accepted the cup.

Taking a seat on the chair opposite, Tom leaned forward. “Transporter malfunction.” Tom replied softly. “He was returning to the capital after an event on the eastern continent.”

“I had dinner with him just before he was leaving for that event.” A mixture of sadness, confusion and disbelief were etched across Matt’s face. “Do we have any idea how it happened?”

The captain met Matt’s questioning eyes and nodded gravely. “The Daroxi authorities are only just beginning their investigations.” He replied, keeping his tone soft. “They think it may be linked to the sabotage attempt on the city’s fusion reactor.”

“Do you think they’re linked?” Matt asked him.

Tom didn’t tear his gaze away from those beautiful blue eyes that were filled with so much sadness; he couldn’t. “I’m not sure. It’s certainly possible. Romulan assassination attempts are usually more precise, more guided. Even when the military wiped out their own leaders, it was done with precision. Destroying the city by overloading one of the fusion reactors is a little heavy handed for the Romulans but we can’t rule out their involvement. They certainly stand to benefit from getting rid of Larell, no matter how it’s achieved. With him out of the way, there’s little chance of Darox becoming a Federation protectorate.”

“Darox wasn’t going to become a protectorate anyway.” Matt announced, setting the still full cup of tea on the coffee table. “I told Gret during dinner that my recommendation is going to be that Darox isn’t ready to be a Federation protectorate.”

That left Tom stunned for a few seconds. “You’re talking about conceding Darox to the Romulans.”

“They’ll be getting a poisoned chalice.” At the confused look on Tom’s face, Matt continued, “It’s become clear to me in the few days that we’ve been here that Daroxi society is a powder keg. Most people don’t want to see the government allying with either the Romulans or the Federation, they want to stand on their own two feet.”

The captain nodded slowly in understanding. “Can’t say I blame them after centuries of Dominion occupation.”

“Darox’s political leaders have, for the most part, stopped listening to the public and the people are furious. There’s a disturbing undercurrent within wider society and it feels like the politicians are either ignoring it or simply don’t want to see it.” Matt pushed himself off the couch and began pacing back and forth. “I’m worried that we could see widespread protests and massive civil unrest if the government agrees to an alliance with either of us. At most we should shoot for full diplomatic and trade relations. I think that would be more acceptable to the Daroxi people.”

Tom sighed. “I doubt that’ll happen now. Acting Prime Minster Renos will probably accept the Romulans offer.” The two fell into a brief, but uncomfortable, silence as Matt moved back to the couch and sat down.

“I’m gonna go pay my respects to Gret’s wife and family in the morning.” Matt announced. “You should take the time and do the same.” The look of confusion on Tom’s face prompted Matt to ask, “What?”

Those piercing blue eyes once again met Tom’s, silently waiting for an answer. “I didn’t realise Larell was married.”

“Yeah.” Matt confirmed. “They’ve been married for about fifteen years. They have a son and three daughters.”

Tom’s mouth went dry and his stomach began to churn as his body flooded with guilt. He’d pushed Matt away after their meeting with Commodore Vega, keeping him at arm’s length since leaving Earth. Why? Because he thought that Matt and Larell had been lovers during the former’s time here four years ago. Now it looked like he’d gotten it wrong. Even if he’d been right, would that have made the way he’d treated Matt any better? “I thought that you two were,” he paused as he struggled to find the right word or phrase, “lovers.”

“What?” Matt was clearly taken aback. “What the hell gave you that idea?”

The churn in Tom’s stomach became more intense. “In our meeting with Vega, you said that you and Larell had developed a relationship when you were here before.” The question of why is mind went straight for the assumption their relationship had been romantic popped into his mind and was quickly answered. ‘Because you’re a jealous asshole.’

“Oh my god.” Matt rolled his eyes. “A working relationship, Tom. We developed a working relationship.” Tom could see it on Matt’s face as the pieces of the puzzle finally slid into place. “You’ve gotta be kidding me. Is this why you’ve been such an asshole to me since we left Earth? Because you thought Gret was my ex?”

Tom opened his mouth to respond but his mind was frozen. “I…I thought…”

“Well you thought wrong.” Matt told him firmly. “And of course you didn’t bother coming to talk to me about this, like an adult. You just shut me out and push me away.” He made a sound of disgust. “Even if he was my ex, which he wasn’t, do you really think I’d toss you to one side when I came face to face with an ex? But hey, you said it yourself; we were just having casual sex, right?”

Of course he’d messed this up. How could it have been otherwise? It’s not like his other relationships had gone well. Tom had always been so laser focused on the captain’s chair that he’d never learned how to make a relationship work. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that. I didn’t mean-”

“I need to get some sleep before I speak to Gret’s family tomorrow.” Matt announced as he stood up suddenly. “So I’m gonna go to bed and you can go to hell.”

The anger Matt felt wasn’t a surprise. Tom stood and moved towards the door. Stopping at the threshold, he turned to find those blue eyes, now ice cold, watching him. “I really am sorry, Matt.” His eyes met with that icy glare once more. Getting no reply, Tom turned and carried on through the door.