Tis Charity to Show
Rand was not too tired to be livid. The landing party had just returned from a search conducted on the outskirts of the camp along the desert waste; a search that proved to be so futile it made Spock’s growing lack of professional judgment stunningly apparent, and all too embarrassing.
At least it was over for now, until the next time Spock would be seized by, and induced in, the throes of psychotic hubris.
The shower room resembled the Battery Park Tunnel, only a lot smaller, and without the curvature. Embedded in the tile, on either side, were rows of copper stump showerheads evenly positioned over small, rectangular dashboards. The tile was a mood mellowing soft ecru, an appropriate color for winding down under glorious jets of warm water and steam, especially after the shit day she had.
Her flip flops made small hollow echoes as she walked over from the connecting locker room, and found a showerhead that was as far from the locker room door as possible for that much-needed sense of privacy. She manipulated the eye-level controls on the dashboard until the showerhead moved upward to accommodate her height. Pressing a few more controls made warm water shoot against her skin, enveloping her with its undulating vapors.
“Oh, God. I seriously needed this,” she thought.
Rand could feel her anger ebb away in the water, vapors and lilac body shampoo she massaged over her body. She sighed heavily and smiled, raising her face to the shower stream. Here she could forget about Spock’s mad night search, and her feelings about being stranded on Tijus and abandoned by the Enterprise.
And from Khobran.
Rand turned briefly from her shower to see a somewhat discombobulated Nurse Rose stumble to the shower next to her.
Barely able to mumble a greeting, she hastily worked the dashboard until water came down and surrounded her.
Rand grunted, and was about to turn away when something when something struck her. She pushed her wet, clinging hair away from her face and did a sweeping double take on Rose.
“Did you lose weight?”
Rose turned half-heartedly and cocked her ear towards Rand.
“Did I what?” she asked, listless and with slight irritation.
“You look like you’ve lost weight, around 20 pounds or better. I’m not kidding! I can’t imagine what your secret could be with all the food you’ve been wolfing down!”
Rose looked down at herself briefly. “Hey, I’m not complaining. At least I’m not as waiflike as you these days.”
Now, Rand looked down at her own body and rand her hand along her hip and ribcage. She looked malnourished, wasted away. The fullness of her hips were carved away, leaving indentations of slack, dry flesh. Her ribs were pronounced, like a canopy, over a stomach so caved in as to looked almost pitted.
Rand fought the urge to cry at how hollowed out she was, but the one thing that horrified her more was that she had never taken notice of her deteriorating appearance. How the hell could she have missed all of this?! She had showered daily, unclothed daily, lotioned herself up.
What in the hell was going on?
Perhaps in response to Rand’s reaction, Rose shrugged and said simply: “Hey, you don’t look that bad. No worse than anyone else here.”
There was an awkward silence between the two women. Rand swallowed hard, thankful that the water from the shower camouflaged the tears that threatened to fall.
“Thanks,” said Rand, flatly.
“Don’t mention it,” Rose returned with equal deadpan delivery.
More silence stretched between them, the echoes of the shower sprays hitting the tile floor becoming louder against the quiet of the room.
Finally, Rose spoke again. She hesitated, weighing her words very carefully.
“You know, in the beginning, Riley was being a bit of a jerk, complaining about the mission in those first meetings when there was nothing to complain about. But, well, it seems to me kinda weird, but it was like his complaining was, I don’t know, foretelling how badly the mission would go.
“Foretelling? I don’t understand.”
“Well, yeah. In the beginning, he said that the mission was taking too long and that we needed to wrap things up, which wasn’t true then. Don’t you remember? But now, it’s coming to pass. It’s like he knew to complain before it happened! Isn’t it weird?”
Rand snorted. “Everything about this mission is weird. It’s all creeping me out! I even feel like I’m possessed at times, like I say and do things I’m not in control of. Hell, sometimes I can’t even stay focused on things I can normally do with my eyes closed.”
“Same here! One minute, I’m so all over the place sometimes in that medical lab that I end up wasting a lot of time, but then the next minute I can be just as focused as I would normally be. Mathias is the same way-totally focused on his job and then minutes later he’s either crying like a baby or kneeling over, screaming about his guts!”
“I know what you’re talking about. When I was working in the kitchen with Riley he was so efficient and helpful, so unlike the nutcase obsessed with obstacle courses and that Russo guy. You were with us in the kitchen. You’ve seen him. Night and Day.”
Rose looked at Rand quizzically, her eyebrows slightly raised.
“Speaking of the kitchen, what happened to you? Weren’t you on meal duty with Riley? Why did you leave like that? And why did you take that black thing with you?”
Rand wasn’t even going to dignify that one. She turned away from Rose to the shower dashboard, and altered the setting slightly for a warmer temperature.
“Let’s just say I wasn’t focused on my duties like Riley was,” she said smugly.
Rand and Rose turned to each other, startled by the sound of a third showerhead being activated.
Rand knew for a fact she’d alerted everyone that she would be taking a shower, which meant the shower room was off limits to the men until she was finished. Hyacinth was here taking a shower right next to her, accounted for.
So, who in the hell was in here that wasn’t supposed to be?
Rand and Rose turned in the direction of where the sound was coming from and started to protest while they contorted their bodies, using their arms and legs in a vain attempt to cover their nakedness. They started to back up to a safe corner, out of sight from the view of this inconsiderate blockhead, but then they froze, their bodies straightening up slowly, unaware, like they were on autopilot. The two women went silent.
He was standing at the far end of the shower room, his tall powerful body naked as water shot down from the showerhead he stood under, plastering ringlets of blue-black hair to his forehead, which he pushed back and away with both hands, the movement emphasizing the bulge and cut of his biceps.
Rand couldn’t speak; she just stood there dumbly, watching him come closer, his eyes locked in on her like she was his target. His steps were slow, deliberate, while he made his way to each along his path. As he closed in, each showerhead would rise and settle to accommodate his height, the dashboards lighting up and fluttering just by him standing in their space; it was like something emanating from his body that acted like some kind of activating force. Each showerhead dutifully sent out streams of water that cascaded down his hair, his neck and shoulders, his inner thighs, making his emerald skin slick and gleaming. This went on for a while, until Khobran finally reached Rand and loomed over her, his long-lashed eyes narrowed and heavy-lidded, his lips parted slightly.
Rand knew that this thing standing in front of her wasn’t her lover, wasn’t Khobran, and yet he was physically like every inch of him, the violet glint in his eyes, his broad shoulders, even the hint of musk from his skin. She couldn’t help herself. She wanted him just the same, to surround him with her walls and legs.
She reached up to touch him, caress him, her movement slow and thick like she was under water. Khobran inched closer and took her hand, placed it on his taunt belly and guided it down with a gentle urgency. Rand was drawn, lulled into the unreality of it all until another woman’s hand brushed clumsily along Khobran’s chest.
It was like Rand had been punched in the temple. Livid, she jerked her head back and turned to see Nurse Rose bring her hand to her mouth and run her tongue over her palm.
“What the…fuck are you doing?!...Are you out of…your ever-loving mind?!”
Rand could feel her body shake with rage. She knew that if she pushed Rose, gave her a good shove, that she might end up breaking her skull on the slippery wet tile, so she checked herself as best she could.
It wasn’t easy.
Rose cocked her head and let out a small, sharp breath. “Excuse me! What’s your problem?”
“What’s my problem?! I’ll break your freakin’ arm in two! You actually have the audacity to touch Khobran like that, and then lick your goddamn palm afterwards?! You must either be psychotic or an imbecile!”
Rose’s eyes widened, her face an expression of utter disbelief and patent dismissal.
“You’re crazy! Touching Khobran?! Last time I checked he didn’t look like a chocolate fountain—certainly not his color, God knows!”
“Seriously?! You’re trying to wriggle your way out of this…”
“Wiggle nothing! There was a chocolate fountain at this restaurant that my family used to go to all the time, Jesus!”
A chocolate fountain that she used to go to. Rand snorted and shook her head in disgust. Of course. What’s the one thing Rose obsessed over the whole time she’s been on this mission?
Always the fucking food.
The two women looked over to where Khobran, or the chocolate fountain, had been.
They were alone now, the two of them.
Alone, standoffish, and seething.
Rand walked over to Rose and got in her face. “I guess we were both wrong, huh?”
She walked away from the nurse, went to the dashboard to tap on a mechanism that turned off the water, quietly collected her toiletries, and walked back over to Rose.
“For the record, I didn’t much care for that racist crack about Khobran’s skin color. Say something like that again, and you’ll be chewing on that fat tongue of yours.”
As a final warning, Rand bumped her shoulder violently against Rose’s, nearly toppling the poor woman over. When she reached the door, she looked over her shoulder to a quiet, humbled Rose standing under the shower with her mouth tightly drawn, and her shoulders hunched.
“No more chocolate to lick from the bowl, am I right,” she quipped.
Rand smiled slightly, nodded her head, and then walked out of the shower room.