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"You know, you don't have to do this." Terry said as he led the way into the locker room.
"Yeah. I kinda do." Troy said uncomfortably as he walked to his locker.
"We really won't be bothered if you want to go first or wait until we're done." Val quietly assured.
"Guys, this is kind of like a phobia thing for me. I've been dodging it for a month, but I really need to face it and get over it. I know I just met you, but... for some reason I really trust you guys and I'd appreciate it if you'd help me get past this." Troy said shyly.
"Well then, let's shower." Terry said with a comforting smile directed at the younger boy.
"Yeah. Okay." Troy said nervously as he fumbled to open his crewman's jumpsuit.
"Relax, Troy. It's going to be fine." Terry said gently as he started to undress.
"As I recall, Terry was also nervous the first time we showered together." Valentine said as he opened his robe.
"I never showered with anyone before. I had no idea how I was supposed to act." Terry said with a chuckle at the memory as he took off his compensators.
"Yeah. I know how that is." Troy said timidly as he worked the sleeves of his jumpsuit off his shoulders.
"Valentine was here for me, just like he's here for you. He not only let me know that it's alright to be nervous, but that I wasn't alone in being uncertain about what to do." Terry said gently, then slid down his pants.
Troy forced himself to look away from Terry and was confronted by the sight of Valentine pulling down his underwear.
"Are you alright, Troy?" Terry asked with concern.
Troy blinked, then quickly said, "Sorry! I didn't mean to stare!"
"It's fine, Troy." Terry said gently, "In fact, look."
Troy turned his attention back to Terry to see him fully naked.
"See? Nothing scary here." Terry said, then slowly turned to show off his naked body.
"But what if I... um..." Troy stammered with his hands still holding his jumpsuit at his hips.
"Get a boner?" Terry asked cautiously.
A blush rose up Troy's face as he shyly nodded.
"It happens. Just try not to worry about it. We're not going to." Terry said gently, then started taking slow, careful steps toward the shower room.
"That's right Troy. Please just relax in the knowledge that we aren't going to be offended or make fun of you, no matter what happens." Valentine said reassuringly.
"You're among friends." Terry added with a smile as he stopped in the shower room doorway.
"Friends. Right." Troy said in a voice that was quite a bit calmer than before. "Here it goes."
Valentine and Terry watched as Troy pulled his jumpsuit and underwear down in one move.
After a moment, Troy chanced a look at Terry and Valentine's faces to see their reactions.
"Um, Troy. I don't know how to tell you this..." Terry said hesitantly.
Troy braced himself for whatever Terry was about to say.
"...there's nothing wrong with you."
Troy blinked with confusion, sure that he hadn't heard correctly.
"Terry is correct. You look perfectly normal." Valentine said gently.
"I'm not... too small?" Troy asked timidly.
"Troy, you're fifteen. You look just like I did when I was fifteen. I promise, there's nothing wrong with you." Terry said seriously.
"Really?" Troy asked in wonder.
"Really." Valentine said with a smile.
"If that's settled, are we ready to shower?" Terry asked seriously.
"Yeah, just a second." Troy said as he rushed to sit down and pull the jumpsuit and underwear off over his feet.
* * * * *
"So were you always shy, or is this a recent thing for you?" Terry asked when Val and Troy joined him in the shower room.
"I don't know. I think it's just because I go to school with people so much older than I am. If I was around other people my age, then maybe it wouldn't be so bad." Troy said speculatively.
"I guess I can understand that." Terry said as he started his shower.
"Would you guys rather I go over there or something?" Troy asked, pointing to the other bank of showers.
"You're welcome to join us, Troy. We're not going to be doing anything more than showering either way." Valentine said honestly.
"Oh. I just thought because you're boyfriends..." Troy trailed off with a shrug.
"We've been boyfriends less than a day. I don't know about Val, but I know I'm not ready for the naked stuff yet." Terry said frankly.
Troy walked over to the hooks and hung up his towel before saying, "But you're naked with him now. I don't get the difference."
"If we were at home, we might shower together and do things. But this isn't the time or place to do stuff like that. Not only is it something private that we shouldn't do in a public place, but depending on what we did, it might be a violation of the rules and could get us kicked out of here." Valentine said seriously, then smiled when he realized that Troy was so engrossed in their conversation that he was showering with them, completely unashamed.
"Besides that, I think with all the studying and things going on right now, we're going to need to take it slow. If we try to rush the relationship, we could end up getting really distracted by it." Terry said thoughtfully.
"I guess that makes sense. The last thing any of us needs right now is something else to distract us." Troy said with a chuckle.
"By the way, how are you doing over there, Troy?" Terry asked with a grin at Valentine.
After a moment to consider, Troy smiled and said, "I'm fine. Awesome!"
Terry chuckled, then said, "I'm glad to hear that."
"Thanks for helping me, guys." Troy said happily.
"We'll be here whenever you need us." Valentine said gently.
"Same here. You ever need me, I'm there." Troy said firmly.
* * * * *
"So would you guys like to swing by the cafeteria for a snack?" Troy asked as they walked down the hall, away from the showers.
"Sounds good." Terry said casually.
"Yes. Perhaps we could go to the barracks and invite the others, as well." Valentine said thoughtfully.
"Yeah. I think I'd like to get to know your classmates. They seem like they're alright." Troy said with a smile.
* * * * *
Valentine, Terry and Troy walked into the barracks to find Dr. White standing just inside the door.
"There you are! I was just about to have you paged." Dr. White said happily.
"How may we be of assistance to you?" Valentine asked cautiously.
"Come on in, I need to have a talk with all of you." Dr. White said as he made a sweeping gesture to usher them into the room.
Valentine, Terry and Troy walked past Dr. White and fell into line with the others at the foot of the bunks.
"For those of you who don't know me, I'm Dr. White. I am a counselor, a Lieutenant Commander and the adviser for your group." Dr. White said as he looked up and down the row of cadets. "I actually stopped by to introduce myself to the new people. I had planned on having this meeting during your classtime tomorrow, but since you're all here..."
"It's something of a tradition that following the final exams, the advisers visit to give you an evaluation of your performance during the previous term. Although some of the feedback may seem a bit harsh, keep in mind that these criticisms are being told to you for your benefit. Withholding or sugar coating the truth will not give you the tools you need to improve on your performance." Dr. White said frankly.
"Cadet Crewman Horton." Dr. White said as he looked up from his padd, then his eyes focused on the greasy, disheveled young man. Horton was short and slender, but the fact that he stood with a stooped posture made him look even smaller, like he might slink away at any moment and hide under something when no one was looking.
"Go back and reread the rules that you were given when you were accepted into the academy. They clearly outline the standards of personal hygiene that cadets are required to maintain. As you are, you are a disgrace to Starfleet, to the academy and to yourself. Get a haircut and report to class tomorrow morning, and every morning, showered, clean shaven and in a clean uniform. Failure to do so will result in your immediate expulsion. Do you understand?"
"Yes sir." Horton said in a shocked voice.
"It has also been noted that in the past month you have become increasingly withdrawn and antisocial. I won't order you into counseling, but I highly recommend that you schedule some time to meet with me, or another of the counseling staff."
"Yes sir. Thank you, sir." Horton said quietly.
"Cadet Crewman Evans." Dr. White said as he looked down the line of people and his gaze stopped on Troy.
"According to your file, you have incredible potential." Dr. White said, then glanced at the padd he was carrying. "You have a photographic memory and exceptional organizational skills."
"However, your performance in the final exam was a colossal disappointment and demonstrated your biggest failing." Dr. White said as he looked Troy in the eyes.
"Here's the bottom line. Acting spoiled and full of yourself isn't cute. It isn't professional and it won't be tolerated. Either get serious or withdraw and come back when you've grown up a little." Dr. White said seriously.
"Yes sir." Troy said quickly, then in a softer voice he added, "I'm sorry."
Dr. White's expression seemed to ease at the words and he said more gently, "You've come here to train to do an adult job among adults. You don't have to be 'on' all the time, but during class time, from nine to noon each day, make an effort to behave as a professional."
"Yes sir. I will." Troy said more solidly.
"Good." Dr. White said with a smile, then glanced at his padd again before saying, "Cadet Crewman Lopez and Cadet Crewman Rosinante?"
Juan and Phillipa looked at Dr. White with apprehension.
"According to your preliminary test scores, you are both capable of performing better than you've been doing. The bottom line is, you two squeaked by this time. But it gets harder from here on. You need to make a decision, either you need to buckle down and get serious or switch tracks and take the regular program where you'll be able to work at a more relaxed pace. Since a new regular term begins tomorrow, you would be able to withdraw from the accelerated course without penalty as long as you finalize the change before noon tomorrow." Dr. White said frankly.
"Are you saying that we should change?" Phillipa asked quietly.
"No. I'm saying that you have a choice. If you want to complete your classes at the accelerated pace, you'll need to commit to working harder than you have been. If you want to take it at a slower pace, that option is available to you until noon tomorrow. After that, you'll have to wait four months for the next term to begin." Dr. White said carefully.
"Thank you, sir. We'll think about it." Phillipa said respectfully.
After a glance at his padd, Dr. White said, "Cadet Crewman Harper?"
Terry fought to remain calm as he waited for Dr. White's next words.
"Well done." Dr. White said with a smile.
Terry's eyes went wide, that being the last thing he expected to hear.
"Though you appear to have started off badly, you've shown steady improvement and your performance in the final exam impressed the panel." Dr. White said proudly.
"It did?" Terry squeaked.
Dr. White chuckled, then said, "You were asked some particularly challenging questions and you demonstrated an impressive knowledge and complete understanding. Although it was mentioned that your public speaking skills could use some work."
Terry blushed at the comment, but the pride could be seen in his eyes.
"We'll be having a public speaking workshop in a week or so, would you like me to send you the information?" Dr. White asked curiously.
"Yes sir, I'd like that." Terry said enthusiastically.
Dr. White nodded, as he made a note on his padd.
"Cadet Crewman Sharan." Dr. White said as he looked up.
Sharan looked at Dr. White with question.
"You're doing an outstanding job. You've taken on a challenging workload and handled it well. The only thing that I have of significance to note is from your final exam. It was your attitude that cost you points."
"I'm sorry sir. I don't understand." Sharan said carefully.
"I know. And it really isn't your fault. It's sort of a cultural thing. But the fact is, you were evaluated as a crewman, not as an 'Andorian' crewman." Dr. White said seriously.
"Sometime in the next week I'd like for you to contact my office and schedule a time to meet with me. I'm sure that it will only take a session or two to help you recognize the differences in cultural norms that are causing the difficulty."
"I will do that. Thank you sir." Sharan said respectfully.
"Cadet Crewman Mitchell and Cadet Crewman Valaan." Dr. White said with a smile.
Melanie and Valentine waited anxiously for his next words.
"Well done. Both of you." Dr. White said happily. "The stakes are a little bit higher in the accelerated course. Both of you failed a class, but rather than let that discourage you, you used it as inspiration to not only work harder, but to encourage your teammates."
Melanie and Valentine smiled proudly at the praise.
"Now don't let this go to your heads. You have a night off to relax, but tomorrow it's time to get back to work. Remember your dreams and keep your eyes on the prize." Dr. White said with a smile.
"Yes sir." Valentine said firmly.
Dr. White took a step back and addressed the entire group, "Regardless of what criticism I've just given you, the fact is that you have survived the first term. That's a milestone that you can be proud of."
After a moment for that to sink in, Dr. White continued, "One other thing, tomorrow you'll need to report to the gymnasium, room B for your calisthenics at 06:00. Everyone got that?"
When everyone indicated that they understood, Dr. White smiled and said, "I hope all of you have a good evening. And remember to contact me if there's anything I can do to help you."
* * * * *
"How are you doing, Troy?" Valentine asked with concern.
"Can you believe that guy? I mean, ouch! Harsh!" Troy said uncomfortably.
"I believe he was saying what needed to be said." Valentine said frankly.
"Do you think he's right about me?" Troy asked uncertainly.
"I think that he looks at all the talents and abilities that you possess and he recognizes what great things you can, one day, accomplish. When he sees you doing something that will close off pathways to your success, he does the only thing that he can, to try to make you acknowledge what you're doing." Valentine said carefully.
"But do you think I act like a spoiled kid?" Troy asked quietly.
"No Troy. I haven't thought that even once, since I met you." Valentine said gently, then added, "But I'm not a Starfleet officer and I was not in your final exam."
Troy looked down, then slowly nodded.
"If it would help, I would be willing to do the exercise that Dr. White suggested with you." Valentine offered quietly.
"Exercise?" Troy asked cautiously.
"Between nine and noon, you are to behave as a professional. If it would be of help to you, I would be willing to show my support by doing the same." Valentine said seriously.
Troy considered for a moment, then slowly nodded his agreement.
"So what's the plan, guys?" Terry asked as he put an arm around Val's waist.
"I decided to support Troy by also behaving professionally during class time tomorrow." Valentine said frankly.
"Hey, that sounds like a good idea. Count me in." Terry said with a smile.
"Thanks Terry." Troy said shyly.
"No problem. But if we're going to be acting professional tomorrow, I'm going to need a haircut. I'm starting to look shaggy." Terry said honestly.
Troy looked at Terry's hair for a moment, then slowly said, "I think that maybe a more adult haircut would be a good way for me to make a fresh start."
"Yeah. In fact, it's probably a good idea to show that you're really serious about changing your ways." Terry said thoughtfully. "I think the hair stylist is only going to be in for another hour, so we'd better go."
"Just a second." Valentine said, then walked across the room to the bunk where Horton was once again lying on his side, facing the wall.
"Cadet Horton, some of us are going down to the hair stylist if you would like to accompany us." Valentine said seriously.
Horton didn't make any indication if he heard Valentine's words.
"Is he coming with us?" Terry asked curiously as he approached.
Before Valentine could answer, Horton's voice sounded from the bed. "Yes."
"We will leave when you are ready." Valentine said simply.
"I'm ready." Horton said as he took off his head phones and stood from his bunk.
"I am Valentine. These are my friends Terry and Troy." Valentine said slowly and courteously.
"I heard." Horton said gruffly.
"And you are?" Valentine prompted.
"Mike." Horton said grudgingly.
"Come on Mike. We'd better get down there if we're all gonna get haircuts tonight." Terry said as he started walking toward the door.
Horton looked uncertain for a moment, then reluctantly followed.
* * * * *
As Valentine walked into the rec hall, he looked around curiously. He had only been in there once before, during the initial tour of the building with Dr. White on their first day.
"Oh good, they're not busy." Terry said happily as he walked directly to the small hair salon at one side of the room.
"Good evening gentlemen." A woman in her mid-thirties said pleasantly as they entered.
"Good evening." Terry said with a friendly smile.
"Will all of you be wanting standard hair styles today?" She asked professionally.
"Yeah. I guess so." Terry said uncertainly.
"Mike had better go first. He's the one under orders." Troy said from Terry's side.
"Right." Terry said decisively. "Mike, go ahead and we'll wait."
"My helper is in the back, if two of you want to take seats, we'll have this done in no time." The woman said pleasantly before retreating into the back room.
"Go on, Troy. Val and I will go next." Terry said with a smile.
"Yeah. Try to stay out of trouble." Troy said with a wink, then turned to Mike and said, "Come on. The sooner we start, the sooner we'll be finished."
* * * * *
"What would you think about this style for me?" Valentine asked as he showed Terry a picture in one of the hair style books that were sitting in the waiting area.
"Really?" Terry asked with surprise as he looked at the hair style that was longer than the Starfleet standard and definitely different from the typical Vulcan hair style.
"The length of the hair on the sides would... somewhat hide... the tops of my ears." Valentine said in a diminishing voice.
"It might." Terry said as he considered the picture, then turned to Valentine and started to fuss with his hair to see if it was long enough to be styled that way.
After a moment, Terry said, "I think it could work. But do you think that it will look professional enough?"
"It is still regulation." Valentine said as he pointed at the caption at the bottom of the picture.
"Well, if it's regulation and you like it, then you should go for it." Terry said frankly.
"But do you like it?" Valentine asked curiously.
Terry looked at the picture again, then up at his boyfriend before saying, "Yeah. I think it'll look great."
Valentine smiled, then put an arm around Terry to give him a casual hug.
* * * * *
"What do you think?" Troy asked as he approached the pair with his new 'Starfleet standard' style haircut.
"It looks good." Valentine said immediately.
"Very professional." Terry said with a grin.
"Yeah. Now if I can just get the attitude under control, I might be able to pull this off." Troy said thoughtfully.
"Come over here, Troy." Terry said as he stood.
Terry led him to a floor to ceiling mirror right beside the entry door.
"Troy, I'd like for you to meet Crewman Evans." Terry said in introduction.
Troy stared at his reflection for a moment, then straightened his posture and tried to put a serious expression on his face.
"You want to look professional, not constipated." Terry said with a chuckle.
"I don't know how." Terry said helplessly.
"Just remember that the guy you're looking at is Crewman Evans. He's intelligent, friendly and he really knows what he's doing. He's the kind of guy that you can respect and that you want to listen to." Terry said carefully.
Troy tried a few different expressions in the mirror, then finally asked, "How's this?"
Terry looked him over one time, then said, "I think that will work. When you get more comfortable acting professionally, you won't have to try so hard. It's still you, just when you're being Crewman Evans, you'll be the you that other people can look at and trust that he's mature and responsible enough to do his job."
"I'm ready for whoever is next." A younger woman said from beside them.
"Go on Val, yours will probably take longer since you're not going for the standard cut." Terry said with a smile.
"Yes. Thank you Terry." Valentine said gratefully, then picked up the book to show the woman the picture of the style he wanted.
"I want to thank you, too, Terry. I really appreciate all your help." Troy said timidly.
"It's just what friends do, Troy." Terry said happily.
After a long, silent moment, Troy quietly said, "I'll have to take your word for it."
"Why is that?" Terry asked curiously.
"I've never really had any friends, before." Troy said frankly.
"That's hard to believe. You're such a happy, friendly guy. It's hard to imagine anyone not wanting to be your friend." Terry said honestly.
"When I was little, I had friends, but as I grew up and people started saying that I was smart, other kids didn't want to be around me. They didn't know how to talk to someone who could read one of their class books in a day and remember everything. After that, I started getting moved farther and farther ahead in school and I didn't really get to know anyone along the way." Troy said distantly.
"Do you want to know a little secret?" Terry asked with a grin.
"Sure." Troy said as he turned away from his reflection to look Terry in the eyes.
"Val and I went through stuff a lot like you did. Even though it was for different reasons, we both grew up feeling very alone." Terry said quietly.
Troy looked deeply into Terry's eyes for a moment, desperately searching them for his truthfulness when the moment was broken by Mike saying, "The old lady is ready for the next one."
Terry and Troy watched as Mike continued past them and out the door of the salon.
"If you want to look really professional, maybe you should stick close to Mike. ANYONE would look professional next to him."
"Thanks Terry." Troy giggled, then turned to look at himself in the mirror again, trying to perfect his professional attitude as Terry left to get his hair cut.
* * * * *
"How are you doing, Troy?" Valentine asked as he approached.
Troy turned and was about to answer, but stopped with surprise at Valentine's new hair style. His hair was now combed back and feathered on the sides which hid the very tops of his ears. Although the new style revealed more of his forehead, accenting his eyebrows and other more Vulcan traits, the style itself gave him a softer, more Human, appearance.
"Does it look okay?" Valentine asked cautiously.
Troy blinked, then shook his head and started walking around Valentine to see the hair style from different angles.
"The stylist said that it would still be possible to cut my hair to the standard Vulcan style if I wanted." Valentine said hesitantly.
"No. Don't do that. I was just trying to get used to it." Troy said quickly. "It really does look good. It's just so different that it's kind of a surprise."
Valentine looked at himself in the mirror, then back at Troy uncertainly.
"I say live with it for a few days, and if you don't like it, you can come back and get the standard cut." Troy said frankly.
"Yes. That sounds like a good idea." Valentine said seriously, then added, "You look very professional with your new style."
"Thanks. I didn't think I'd like it, but now I'm getting used to seeing me like this and I feel like I look more professional." Troy said happily.
Valentine looked around, then asked, "Where is Mike?"
"He left right after his haircut. I'm guessing he went back to the barracks." Troy said frankly.
"Are you guys ready to go?" Terry asked as he joined the group in the waiting area.
Valentine turned and smiled at Terry. "You look very nice."
"Thanks. You both look good too." Terry said happily, then asked again, "Are we ready?"
Valentine glanced at Troy and found him looking at himself in the mirror again. "Yeah. Let's go."
* * * * *
As the trio walked into the barracks they were greeted by Melanie saying, "You guys look great!"
"Thanks." Troy said shyly as he broke away from the group and walked to his bunk.
"Where's Horton? Didn't he go with you?" Juan asked from the bunk above Terry's where he and Phillipa were laying, spooned together.
"He went with us, but he left after his haircut." Terry said frankly, then added, "Maybe he went to take a shower."
"Do you think someone should go and check on him?" Troy asked cautiously.
"No." Terry said immediately. "I get the feeling that Mike took a big step by coming with us at all. If we start hovering over him and checking up on him... well, I'm guessing that his reaction would be bad."
Everyone seemed to be willing to accept Terry's assessment and were just as happy to let the subject drop at that.
"We were talking about going to the cafeteria, is anyone in the mood for a snack?" Troy asked casually.
"Actually, I think I'm ready for some sleep." Melanie said simply, then looked at Sharan with question.
"Yes." Sharan said firmly, then guided Melanie to stand from Terry's bunk where they had been sitting side by side.
"I'm not really hungry." Terry said apologetically to Troy. "I think I'd enjoy sleep a lot more than food, right now."
Troy considered for a moment, then said, "Yeah. I think I could handle a little bit of extra sleep."
Melanie pulled Sharan into a quick hug, then gave him a quick, firm kiss.
"I'll be back in a minute." She said, then broke out of the hug and walked to her cabinet to gather some things.
"Do you mind if I come with you?" Phillipa asked as she sat up from behind Juan on the bunk.
"No problem." Melanie said with an inviting smile.
The boys watched as Phillipa climbed down from the top bunk and rushed to also gather her things.
* * * * *
When the girls had left the room, Terry turned back to the group and asked, "So Sharan, how are things going with you and Mel?"
"Very well." Sharan said happily, then added, "Better than I could have imagined."
"Good. I was hoping that you two would figure it out." Terry said with a smile.
"You were?" Sharan asked cautiously.
"Sure. You're my friends. I think you two will make each other happy." Terry said honestly.
"I too considered the possibility and concluded that such a relationship would be beneficial for both of you." Valentine said in a somewhat formal tone.
"Thank you." Sharan said sincerely.
"Well, if you guys don't have any more plans for tonight, I'm going to get ready for bed." Juan said frankly.
"No. I think our only plan is a long night of sleep." Terry said honestly as he opened his cabinet and took out his sleep pants.
Juan looked around the room, uncertain if it was acceptable to change in the open until he saw that everyone else was starting to change out of their uniforms.
After removing his shoes, Terry stood to skin out of his uniform.
"What are those?" Juan asked curiously when he saw the compensators on Terry's forearms.
"Weights." Terry said simply.
"Terry comes from a high gravity world." Valentine explained as he stepped out of his uniform.
Juan's eyes went wide when he saw Valentine standing only in his underwear.
"Val is bigger than the average Vulcan." Terry said simply, then turned to Valentine and gave him a quick smile.
"At least." Juan muttered, then realized that he was staring and went back to changing his own clothes.
"Oh wow." Troy said as he stared at Sharan's completely naked body.
"Is there a problem?" Sharan asked bluntly.
Troy blinked, then stammered, "No... I just, wow."
Valentine chuckled at the response, then turned to Sharan and said, "Take it as a compliment, Sharan."
"I will." Sharan said to Val, then turned to Troy and said, "Thank you."
"Yeah. Sure." Troy said with an embarrassed blush rising up his cheeks.
"Aren't you going to put something on?" Juan asked when he noticed that Sharan was climbing up to his bunk completely nude.
"No." Sharan said simply.
"Sharan likes to sleep nude." Valentine said casually as he folded his uniform and put it into his locker.
"Oh, um... and that's okay with the rest of you?" Juan asked uncertainly.
"Sure. If I didn't always feel cold here, I'd probably sleep that way too." Terry said frankly.
"You also feel cold?" Valentine asked with surprise, "I thought Tellar had a cold climate."
"Well, Tellar is cold, but my colony world wasn't. Since I never lived on Earth, I guess I never realized how much I adapted to the heat." Terry said dismissively as he climbed into his bunk.
"Andoria is quite cold, so I likewise adapted to that temperature as being the norm. This climate is uncomfortably warm for me." Sharan said from his bunk, covered only by a thin sheet.
"So you guys wouldn't mind if I..." Juan started to ask, but faltered.
"I know that Mel won't mind, so the only person that might object would be Phillipa." Valentine said seriously.
"Or Mike." Troy added with a grin.
"I sincerely doubt that Mike would have any opinion on the subject." Valentine said with a smile at Troy.
Juan seemed to consider for a moment, then took the final step and pulled off his underwear.
He quickly put away his clothes, then scurried up to his bunk above Terry's.
Terry and Val shared an amused glance at Juan's timid actions.
* * * * *
"I didn't expect you all to be in bed." Melanie said as she and Phillipa walked into the barracks, dressed in sleepwear.
"It seemed like the thing to do." Valentine said as he relaxed back in his bunk, just enjoying the free feeling of not having any outstanding tasks demanding his attention.
"Lean down here for a second, Sharan." Melanie said as she walked beside the bunks occupied by Troy and Sharan.
Sharan looked at her curiously, then moved to the edge of the bunk and leaned down a little to be drawn into a tender kiss.
After a long moment, she broke the kiss and whispered, "Good night."
"A very good night." Sharan said gently as he looked deeply into her eyes.
"Juan." Phillipa said as she walked to the edge of the bunks that were occupied by Terry and Juan.
"Yeah." Juan said with a grin as he leaned down to mimic the performance that Melanie and Sharan had just given.
Terry and Val exchanged a look, but both were comfortable where they were, so they were content with staring into each other's eyes for a long, peaceful moment.
The door opening disrupted the tranquil mood as Mike Horton walked in looking freshly showered, clean shaven and in an absolutely foul mood.
"I guess that's all of us. Goodnight guys." Troy said, dutifully ignoring Mike stuffing some things into his cabinet.
Goodnights were exchanged as Phillipa walked across the room, then paused by the light switch.
"Does anyone need the light on?" She asked as she looked around.
There were several negative responses. Phillipa paused to look at Horton, who was in his bunk wearing headphones and lying on his side facing the wall.
She switched off the lights, then made her way up to her bunk as the lights slowly dimmed.
* * * * *
The sound of Terry's alarm caused Valentine to wake with a smile.
"Is it already time to get up?" Troy asked in a sleep muffled voice.
"No Troy. Terry and I prefer to wake early. You can sleep for another hour." Valentine whispered to Troy in the next bunk.
Valentine noticed Troy slowly open one eye. A moment later, the other one reluctantly opened.
"You may sleep longer if you wish, or you are welcome to join us." Valentine offered sincerely.
Troy blinked a few times, then a smile ghosted into his expression as he said, "I'll join you."
Valentine nodded, then got out of his bunk so he could prepare for his day.
* * * * *
As soon as they were out in the hall and the barracks door was closed, Terry happily said, "Good morning, Troy!"
A chuckle was Troy's first reaction, before he responded, "Good morning. Why are you in such a good mood?"
"Terry always wakes up in a good mood." Valentine said with a smile.
"Which drives Mel and Sharan crazy, for some reason." Terry said with a grin.
"Well, it's better than waking up all pissy and mean." Troy said frankly.
"Speaking of Mike..." Terry said slowly.
"Which we weren't." Valentine interjected.
"But we should." Terry countered.
Troy and Valentine both stopped with matching looks of question.
"He needs an attitude adjustment." Terry said frankly. "Left like he is, it's just a matter of time before he pushes someone's buttons and causes them to go off."
Valentine slowly nodded his agreement to the assessment.
"I don't want for any of us to get in trouble. And we don't need the distraction." Terry continued thoughtfully.
"So what should we do?" Troy asked quietly.
"That, I don't know." Terry said frankly. "But I just thought it was important that we all understood that it's not going to work the way it is."
Valentine nodded his agreement.
"Can we talk about this later?" Troy asked hopefully. "I gotta pee."
"Yeah." Terry chuckled, then started walking toward the locker room again.
* * * * *
Terry and Valentine were both at the sinks shaving when Troy joined them again.
"What now? Breakfast?" Troy asked cautiously.
"Sort of. More like a light snack. We'll have our actual breakfast with the others after calisthenics." Valentine said casually.
"But before any of that, we'll have a quick rinse in the shower." Terry added.
"Do you have a razor, Troy?" Valentine asked curiously.
Troy chuckled as he said, "No. I don't need one."
"You may use mine... right there." Valentine said as he pointed to a single golden whisker on Troy's chin.
"Really?" Troy asked as he looked in the mirror with excitement.
"You'd better go ahead and shave, Troy. You wouldn't want to look scruffy and unprofessional." Terry said with a smile.
"Yeah. I guess I need to." Troy said happily, then accepted the razor from Valentine and turned it on.
Both Terry and Valentine watched fondly as Troy carefully shaved off the single whisker.
* * * * *
"You guys sure do shower a lot." Troy said as Terry and Valentine started getting undressed.
"Yeah. But that's better than not showering enough." Terry said frankly, then paused before saying, "I didn't say his name."
Valentine and Troy both smiled at the comment.
"Besides, being under the shower is the only time I feel really warm all day." Terry said as he took off his compensators.
"It also helps us to be more awake and aware before calisthenics." Valentine said as he tied a towel around his waist.
"I thought you two just liked being naked together." Troy said with a devilish grin.
"That too." Valentine admitted with a slight green blush rising up his cheeks.
Troy and Valentine walked past Terry who was taking small, slow steps into the shower room.
* * * * *
"Are you okay?" Troy asked with concern, when Terry finally joined them.
"Yeah." Terry said as he hung up his towel.
Troy watched with concern as Terry slowly and carefully walked toward the showers.
"Would you like to try something?" Terry asked Troy cautiously.
"Um, when a naked guy asks me that question, I'm pretty sure the answer should always be 'no'." Troy said frankly.
Terry smiled, then said, "It's nothing like that, I promise. I just want to show you something."
Troy's expression was priceless and Terry couldn't help but giggle.
"Do this." Terry said as he crossed his arms and gripped his forearms.
Reluctantly, Troy did as Terry had asked.
Terry put one hand under Troy's joined arms, then slowly started to lift.
Troy leaned forward to balance himself as he felt his feet leave the floor.
"That's why I have to wear the weights." Terry said as he lifted Troy two feet off the floor using only one hand.
"That's awesome!" Troy said in amazement.
Terry smiled as he carefully lowered Troy back to the floor.
"It's a double edged sword. I may be stronger than other people, but without the compensators, I can barely walk without jumping into the air or ramming myself into the walls." Terry said as he started his shower.
"Still, it must be nice to be special like that." Troy said frankly.
"You mean 'special' like having a photographic memory or being able to take twelve accelerated classes at once?" Terry asked in a challenging tone.
"That kind of special isn't as much fun as it sounds." Troy said quietly.
"Double edged sword." Terry said casually. "Accept the good. Deal with the bad."
"We all have our advantages and challenges." Valentine said carefully. "What distinguishes us is how we choose to deal with them."
Troy looked at Valentine for a moment, then slowly nodded his acceptance of the words.
"We'd better get going if we're going to have our snack before calisthenics." Terry said as he turned off his shower.
"Yeah. And remember that we're meeting in the gymnasium." Troy said thoughtfully.
"Maybe we're finally going to do something other than running." Terry said speculatively.
"I like the running. It warms me." Valentine said frankly as he walked slowly, matching Terry's pace.
"Yeah. Come to think of it, it does me too." Terry said with a smile.
"Well, if we are done with running, we could still go for a run in the mornings, maybe between calisthenics and class." Troy said speculatively.
"Yeah. Depending on how exhausting the calisthenics are, we could do that." Terry said happily.
* * * * *
Troy, Valentine and Terry arrived at the gymnasium early and found a young man waiting for them in room B.
"Are we in the right place?" Terry asked cautiously.
"Yes. If you are second term cadets from D7T, you are." The young officer said pleasantly.
All three were captivated by his pale skin and dark, nearly black eyes.
The officer was slender, completely bald and seemed to exude an aura of exotic sensuality.
"I am Lieutenant Aieyu (pronounced I'-A-U). I will be your instructor. If you have no objection, I would like to dispense with formality and address you by your first names." He said with an alluring smile.
"My name is Valaan, but you are welcome to call me Valentine or Val if you wish." Valentine said in an entranced whisper.
"For this was on seynt Volantynys day. Whan euery bryd cometh there to chese his make." Aieyu said distantly, then smiled warmly at Valentine.
At Valentine's look of confusion, Aieyu said, "Chaucer, from 'Parlement of Foules'. It's nice to meet you Valentine."
"Yes. It's a pleasure to meet you as well." Valentine said in an overwhelmed whisper.
Aieyu smiled gently at the response, then looked at the others inquiringly.
"I'm Terry and this is Troy." Terry said breathlessly.
"It's a pleasure to meet you, Terry. I've been looking forward to working with you." Aieyu said with a beaming smile.
"You know me?" Terry asked timidly.
"I have reviewed all the information available on the incoming class so I could develop an instructional plan tailored to your individual needs." Aieyu said in a warm, inviting tone that wrapped Terry in warmth.
"And Troy, I have something special planned for you." Aieyu said with a twinkle of delight flashing in his eyes.
"You do?" Troy squeaked.
Aieyu broke into an ebullient smile as he said, "Yes. I believe that I have much to offer in your instruction."
Troy felt himself trembling with excitement at the words, but before he could think clearly enough to respond, the sound of movement drew everyone's attention to the door.
"Ah, the rest of you are here. Please come in." Aieyu said warmly.
Phillipa and Melanie froze just inside the door of the gymnasium as they stared at Aieyu with wonder.
Sharan and Juan stopped and exchanged looks of uncertainty as they assessed the instructor that stood before them.
Horton strode past them and fell into line at Troy's side with a look that was between impatience and disgust.
"I am Lieutenant Aieyu. Please gather around so we may begin."
The four that were stopped just inside the door walked haltingly to join the group by the instructor.
"I should tell you before anyone becomes concerned that my 'Oath of Celibacy' is on record." Aieyu said frankly.
After a moment to see if anyone needed clarification of the statement, he continued, "I prefer to conduct class on a first name basis. If you object to this, or prefer that I call you by another name, I will, of course, respect your wishes."
No one made a sound as Aieyu waited for another moment.
"Before we begin, I need to announce that your 09:00 class will be in room 304." Aieyu said, then waited to see that everyone had heard before continuing.
"For the next month, I will be training you in hand-to-hand combat." Aieyu said simply.
Looks of surprise went around the group at the announcement.
Aieyu smiled at the reaction, but didn't comment on it.
"Valentine and Terry, in deference to your exceptional strength and lack of any formal training, I believe that you would work well as partners." Aieyu said seriously.
Neither Terry nor Val could do more than stare and slightly nod.
"Sharan and Melanie, due to the level of fighting skills that you've already attained, I believe that you would be evenly matched." Aieyu said with a smile at the pair.
"You can fight?" Sharan asked Melanie with surprise.
"Second degree black belt in Karate." Melanie said with a timid smile.
Sharan stared at Melanie with surprise for a moment, then broke into a wide grin.
"The next team will consist of Juan and Mike." Aieyu said as he glanced at them to see that they were paying attention.
"I would prefer that you call me Horton." Mike said flatly.
"As you like, Horton." Aieyu said warmly, then continued, "Which leaves our final pairing to be Troy and Phillipa."
Troy glanced at Phillipa uncertainly, then at Juan with apprehension.
A slight nod from Juan served to put Troy at ease.
"I'm going to meet with each team to outline the training program that I've developed for you, and when I'm done you will be dismissed. Sometime today you will need to stop by the quartermaster's office to requisition suitable attire for our workouts. That will be sweat suits for some and shorts and tank tops for others, choose what will make you most comfortable."
* * * * *
"We have a Deltan hand-to-hand combat instructor." Troy said with amazement as he walked to join Terry and Valentine outside the gymnasium.
"On the surface, it does seem to be an unlikely choice. But after meeting with him about his plans for our instruction, I believe that he will be an excellent instructor. I am excited about taking this class." Valentine said seriously.
"Excited... yeah. That's the part I'm worried about." Troy said frankly.
"Try thinking about it this way. You need to be able to block out distractions while you're in a combat situation. Maybe going through this will help you with that." Terry said helpfully.
Troy seemed to be lost in thought, so Valentine and Terry silently waited for him to work through whatever was on his mind.
When Troy noticed, he quietly said, "When we walked in there, I felt stuff that... I'm not sure what it means."
"It means that you were attracted to him." Terry said frankly.
"Attracted?" Troy said in an almost hysterical squeak. "I think my boner got a boner!"
"You weren't the only one who felt that way." Valentine said with a sympathetic smile at his younger friend.
Troy looked down as he muttered, "But what does that mean about me?"
"That you're Human." Terry said simply.
At Troy's look of surprise, Terry continued, "Aieyu is Deltan. His pheromones and empathy make him sexually attractive to Humans."
"And Vulcans." Valentine added quietly.
Terry smiled at Val, as Troy said, "Horton didn't seem to be too attracted."
"I think he was. His reaction to it was just aggressive." Terry said frankly.
"I believe Sharan and Juan had similar aggressive reactions, though less obviously." Valentine said speculatively.
"Yeah. I guess their instincts would tell them that Aieyu was a competitor for their mates." Terry said thoughtfully.
"You make it sound so animalistic." Troy said cautiously.
"Mating is a primal urge." Terry said simply.
Troy nodded, then broke into a smile as he said, "It's going to be an interesting month."
"I think that's a safe bet." Terry said with a chuckle as he moved to Valentine's side and gave him a gentle squeeze of a hug.
Mike walked out of the gymnasium with a sour look on his face.
"Hey, Mike." Terry said casually.
"Or would you prefer that we call you Horton?" Valentine asked seriously.
"No. You guys can call me Mike, just not him." Mike said with a disturbed look back at the gymnasium.
"That guy gives me the creeps." Mike said gruffly, then walked past the group, back toward the main building.
Terry, Valentine and Troy exchanged amused glances, then noticed Juan, Phillipa, Melanie and Sharan coming out of the gymnasium.
A tide of friendship and camaraderie carried the increasing group of friends toward the main building to begin their next adventure.