Poker Face

POKER FACE (NC-17)

Summary: Tuvok and Ensign Mize teach each other a few new tricks…

— “Delta Story”, January 1998

Tuvok had heard about the card game that had been played in
Sandrine’s the night before. But, he could not understand how a
person could allow a simple… game to affect one’s life. He sat
in the mess hall, looking across four tables at the tall brunette
from astrometrics, as she scowled at her breakfast companion and
recounted her recent string of bad luck with the game.

*It is not logical to be angry about a mere game,* he thought,
studying her animated motions. Her arms were flailing and her
voice steadily rose in its timbre as she spoke.

“I tell you, Rita, it was as if he had stacked the deck. That’s
the last time I play cards with Mike. He’s obsessive about
everything… and then he threatens *me* with cheating! Why, he
was so… so… determined to destroy me that I think he would
have…”

Her friend reached across to her, realizing that her antics were
drawing attention to them. “Shhh… Cynthia…” the older woman
from stellar cartography whispered, trying to calm down the young
astrometricist. “Mike tends to go off the deep end at times;
just refuse to play with him,” she counseled the distressed
woman.

“Yeah, well that’s easy for you to say. He really is the best
poker player on the ship, and when he’s calm, we always have a
good time. It’s just that… he can get so damned…
controlling!”

Rita smiled. “Is this the game we’re talking about, or something
else?” she grinned, with a knowing reflection.

“Stubborn… manipulative… boorish…” Ens. Mize continued, lost
in her own tirade of epitaphs. She nervously brushed back her
slick hair, smoothing it behind her ears. “Yeah — maybe that’s
it. I need to find a new… poker partner.”

Lt. Rita Seyam rose from the table. “Promise me that you will at
least think about it; really — ignore him! Hey — I’m late for
a meeting in SC; catch you later!” She quickly picked up her
tray and winked at Cynthia as she rushed to deposit her utensils
in the recycling area before hurrying off to her meeting.

Ens. Cynthia Mize leaned back in her chair, thinking about what
her friend had said, but was angered by her own show of anger…
disturbed that she would allow herself to even respond in this
manner.

The tall Vulcan was still looking at her. He had seen her temper
get out of control before, and, although it did not reach the
caliber of Lt. Torres, she still needed to learn… discipline.
He usually did not let himself get involved in personnel issues,
but he could not help but think that perhaps he could help the
young woman. He rose and quietly walked over to her table.

“Ens. Mize, I could not help but notice that you seem to be…
distraught about something. Although I do not profess to be an
expert in human nature, I was thinking that perhaps you might be
able to use some… tutoring… in controlling your volatile…
emotions. Especially since you do enjoy that card game… what
is it called? Poker? It is my understanding that control over
one’s emotions is quite valuable in playing the game.”

Ens. Mize was startled out of her funk — first, Tuvok’s sudden
appearance by her side; and then by his casual and personal
comments regarding her outrage. Her subconscious Starfleet
training immediately brought her to her feet, assuming a
respectful stance in front of her superior officer.

“Commander… I… I… I am so sorry that I bothered you. I
apologize for the disturbance. It will not happen again,” she
stammered, nervously trying to decide how to stop her hands from
twitching and sweating.

His ebony eyes pierced hers, as if he were trying to hypnotize
her. “Ensign, would you like to learn how to better control your
emotions, both internally and externally? I have had a great
deal of experience in instructing others in similar areas.”

The woman was absolutely dumbstruck. This man was actually
offering to work with *her*? Tuvok rarely offered anything…to
anyone.

“Sir,” she finally managed to say,”that is an interesting offer.
However, I would not feel comfortable unless I could do something
in return. I mean…” she could feel anxious perspiration
forming rivulets down her back… “…um, I would not want this
to appear as… um… favoritism. After all…”

Tuvok nodded in understanding. “That is true. Perhaps we could
combine two objectives. I have often considered learning how to
play this game that you like. Why do you not teach me the game,
and I shall endeavor to teach you how to control your emotions
and expressions while you are playing.”

Mize looked at him, trying to comprehend this unusual offer from
the security director. She looked at him for a couple of seconds
before responding. Then, with a laugh, she held out her hand for
a shake on the agreement.

“Commander, you have a deal,” she smiled broadly at him.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

That evening, following the last meal of the day, the mess hall
was clearing out. Only a few stragglers remained over cups of
cold coffee, not wanting to return to the solitude of their
quarters.

The doors opened, and Cynthia Mize came in. She anxiously glanced
around, wondering if she really wanted to go through with this
agreement with the Vulcan. She had always admired his controlled
presence and calm conduct… but, trying to conform to his rigid
ideas of behavior… well, that just wasn’t her! Then she saw
him at a table in the most distant corner of the hall. He was
studying something on the PADD in front of him. She cautiously
approached him.

“Ensign… you came. Please, have a seat,” he said matter-of-
factly.

She took a seat opposite him. They had both chosen to approach
this meeting in casual, off-duty attire. She had seen him in his
Vulcan garb before, but the stark deep blue robe he wore made him
look taller… and more mystical to her. She had thrown on a
well-worn tunic and vest over some faded trousers. She blushed
at thinking how out-of-place she must look, compared to his
understated elegance.

“Good evening, Commander,” she finally said. “Oh, by the way…
I brought some cards.”

“Thank you. I do not have any… cards.” He paused, and looked
at her. Her short dark brown hair curled ever so slightly around
her ears. She had opted for a Bajoran earring as part of her
off-duty garb. “Ensign, I did not know that you have studied the
Bajoran ways…” he said, as a commentary on the jewelry.

She blushed. “Oh, no; I don’t. I… just saw this when we were
at Deep Space Nine, and liked it, so I bought it…”

“You just bought it… you did not need it. The purchase was
a… whim.”

“Yes, you might say that,” she responded, feeling a little
insulted by the way he spoke.

“This, too, is an uncontrolled emotional response… this non-
meditated purchasing…” he continued.

She could really feel her blood pressure rising. Why had she
even thought about allowing this… this… unresponsive carbon
unit humanoid able to communicate with her? Her nostrils were
flaring with a growing rage. She closed her eyes, her fists
clinched under the table. She finally felt calm enough to
respond.

“Commander, I thought that we were here for you to learn how to
play poker… not to criticize my monetary habits.”

“Of course; I am sorry. Please tell me about this game,” he
abruptly answered. She looked up at him, an expression of shock
overtaking her face; it was the first time she had *ever* heard
him apologize.

“All right, now,” she said more softly, as she shook her head in
disbelief at what she had just heard.

“Actually, Commander Tuvok, you may turn out to be very good at
this game, with your telepathic abilities and your poker face
expression,” she laughed at the simile she used.

He responded by raising his right eyebrow. “Indeed…”

“Well, yes… even though luck is involved [he issued a faint
snort at the mention of “luck”], there is quite a bit of logic
and skill involved with the game. As you have correctly noticed,
it is important to watch the “body language” of your fellow
players. And, to remember what cards you have seen played.”

With this, she dealt five cards to each of them, and explained
what the purpose of the game was, and reviewed the hierarchy of
winning hands. He nodded in understanding after each
explanation, mildly pleased at how well Ens. Mize expressed her
self. Communication definitely was *not* one of her weaknesses!

It also did not take long for them to attract an audience, and
soon, potential players for the game. Tuvok was a quick study,
and soon actually seemed to be enjoying the game… in a Vulcan
kind of way. But, he also realized that the mechanics of the
game had obscured their original purpose of using the game as a
tool to aid Ens. Mize in her control problems.

Over the din of the new members to their group, he whispered to
her, “Ensign, this is not beneficial to our primary
consideration. I would suggest that we retire to my quarters,
where the atmosphere is much more conducive to introspective
learning.”

She nodded at him. “Yes, you are probably right. Let’s go.”

So busy were their compatriots to setting up their own game, that
they did not notice, until *much* later, that the commander and
ensign were no longer in attendance.

they arrived at his quarters. Before opening his door, he looked
at her and asked, “Ensign, I hope that this will not make you
uncomfortable.”

“No… no; not at all,” she stuttered, in awe that he had made
the invitation.

She was awe-struck as the doors opened, and she saw, not a
spartan room, but one rich and sensuous in its intricate fabric
wall hangings, metal and stone sculptures, and jewel-toned colors
of deep green, burgundy and gold. Although sparse with
furniture, there were large cushions strewn all over the room.
The low lighting level was accentuated with massive tapers that
he was now lighting, adding not just light but additional warmth,
bringing the temperature of the room up towards the favored level
of the Vulcans.

He pulled out several of the cushions, and arranged them in the
center of the room.

“Please, be seated,” he motioned to her.

She crossed her legs, and lowered herself into the encompassing
billow of pillows. He did likewise, across from her.

“Now… shall we proceed?” he queried.

Again, the game seemed to take precedence over his tutoring her.
Actually, just being in his presence inspired her to become more
in command of her tone and body movements. Perhaps all she had
needed was his example!

After several rounds of the game, Tuvok said, “I believe that I
have noticed that part of this game is a form of… gambling.”

Cynthia turned red. How could she admit that the younger crew
*always* played for some form of reward?

“Well, yes, we do, sometimes. But just for fun!” she added
quickly.

“I do not play for fun; I play for the mental experience and
exercise,” he said indifferently. “But, I should probably learn
how to play it in this manner… just in case the skill is ever
needed.”

The ensign reminded herself not to show her delight at this
comment. “Of course. All right, here’s how it’s done.” And she
proceeded in showing him how one initiated a round of bets; how
and when raises were made; how to call a hand. Again, Tuvok’s
alert mind assimilated the technique quickly. So well was he
playing that it seemed that he was winning as many hands as the
young woman.

The warmth of the room was starting to make her somewhat
uncomfortable, and she removed the loose vest that covered her
tunic.

“Are you too warm, Ensign?” he inquired.

“No, I’m fine. This is your home; I can accommodate, she
laughed.

He looked at her, realizing how pleasant her hearty laugh was…
how it was very much a part of this vibrant woman. Perhaps he
was wrong in thinking that… control would be desirable… in
her.

“May I offer you something cool to drink?” he asked, as he rose
and walked towards the replicator.

“Yes,” she answered. “That would be nice.”

“Two Risa nectars,” he requested, and quickly returned with the
tall glasses of chilled mint green liquid.

She sipped enthusiastically, not realizing how warm and thirsty
she really was. “Mmmmmmm… this is very good!” she commented.
Although the drink was not a mood enhancer, it made her very
comfortable with her surroundings… and with whom she was. A
very wicked idea formed in her mind… if she acted upon it and
it backfired, she knew that she would be court-martialed and put
off at the next M-class planet. Or, even worse, thrown out of an
airlock. Oh, well… she just *had* to create a little bit of
excitement in this drudge of an existence.

“Commander, would you like to learn another way to play this
game?” she ventured.

He looked at her, a quizzical look in his eyes. “There seems to
be an infinite number of variations to this game.”

She chuckled. “Yes, there are. And people are inventing their
own rules all the time. But, this is a very old version. The
bets for each hand require that the losers…um…” she rubbed
her sweaty hands against her pants before continuing… “the
losers must… um… remove… an article of clothing… for each
losing hand.”

“Do they get the clothing back?” he asked naively. “Credits and
replicator rations are one thing, but clothing cannot be replaced
as easily.”

The ensign once more laughed deeply. “Oh, of course! It’s just
a… friendly game!” She quickly put on the vest that had been
removed so recently.

“This sounds… interesting,” he said.

He dealt a hand, and the good ensign had a pair of aces to his
two pairs. She once more took off the vest. A second hand again
put her on the loosing side, and she slipped off one of her soft
boots.

The third round found Tuvok with absolutely nothing of value, and
Ens. May held a full house. He obediently removed one of his
sandals.

Three more hands found the young woman down to her tank top and
pants; The Vulcan had “lost” his other shoe.

Round six ended with Mize holding four kings; Tuvok had a pair of
eights. Without an expression on his face, he rose and removed
his heavy robe, revealing his remaining garment, a loose-fitting
pair of trunks. He sat back down, looking across at the ensign
with a deadpan face. She choked back a gasp at the beautiful
sculpted body of this… old man! Smooth, deep chestnut skin was
taunt and firm over the developed pectoral muscles, rippling down
from his broad shoulders. The angles of his chest dropped
quickly to a trim, narrow waist. There was no doubt that this
man knew how to care for his body!

Without saying a word, he dealt again… and she now had to take
something off. She opted for the trousers; she now sat across
from him with nothing left but the tank and the underpants.
Would he call a halt to the game?

Again, the cards came to her. And, again, he held the winning
hand. Off came her tanktop, revealing her firm, youthful
breasts. She wanted to look at him, but decided not to… yet.

He spoke next. “Ensign, this is a most interesting… situation.
But, as an educational process, I am willing to continue if you
are.”

She gulped. Which one of them would… loose it? “I’m willing
to, also,” she said.

He slowly dealt out the cards. She looked at a pair of sevens
and a pair of jacks. He asked if she wanted any cards, and she
asked for one. He, as dealer, laid down three and took three new
cards.

She controlled the delight running through her mind at seeing the
third jack appear; she looked at him, hoping for *some* hint as
to his outcome. They laid down their cards, and he issued a rare
sigh.

He had a pair of deuces, to her full house. Once more, he stood
and slowly… nonchalantly, removed his undergarment.

This time, she *did* utter a gasp; for, right before her, was the
evidence of what she had heard before: he *was* bifurcated!

“I trust, Ensign, that this satisfies your curiosity?” he asked
with confidence.

She hurriedly rose, but slowly picked up her clothing.

“Yes, Commander, it does… for now,” she smiled at him. “But
might I suggest… that we continue… practicing our game?”

“That might be arranged,” he answered. “Maybe we could invent…
some of our own rules… Cynthia.” And, the slightest glimmer of
a grin appeared on his stern face.

*********************** FINIS????? ***********************

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