AUTHOR: Bridget Cochran
TITLE: Unknown Substance © 1999
SUMMARY: There are some things about being human Seven may never understand.
Spoilers for Killing Game.
I have to say 2 things fascinate me: the Killing Game episode and Tom/RDM chewing gum. Don‘t ask me why. I have no clue.
Thanks to Karen for the beta. She is my third eye.
Disclaimer: I own the ideas, Paramount owns the rest. Archive at will, including ASC/EML, BLTs and Particle 7even.
Tom followed Chakotay out of the holodeck, but turned around to see if everyone was following him. B‘Elanna‘s dress—or whatever—was considerably baggier now. She and Tuvok were stopped at the holodeck arch to make arrangements to transfer the Doctor back to Sick Bay. Seven paused but didn‘t linger, moving toward the door and Tom. He stepped back to let her pass. Her only acknowledgement was a glance. But he smiled and snapped his gum.
She stopped and looked up at him, her eyes hooded with assessment. "What is that substance in your mouth?"
Tom‘s smile broadened. "What? The gum?" And he snapped it again.
"Yeah. Chewing gum." Another snap.
"What is the purpose?"
By now Tom realized that Chakotay was watching this conversation in earnest.
Seven‘s look held plain incredulity. Chakotay just smirked. Tom looked back and forth between the two of them, kind of incredulous himself.
"It is," he exclaimed as he pulled his helmet off, swinging it accidentally, but painfully against his thigh. "Really, it relaxes you, keeps your saliva going, keeps you alert."
"Come on, Tom, it‘s kid stuff," Chakotay laughed.
"It is not, ‚Captain‘," he growled. "It‘s a morale thing. They even put it in ration packs. I bet you have some in your pocket."
Chakotay patted his pockets, in and out of a few, before he brought forth yellow, white and green packs of gum. He rolled his eyes as he held them out to Tom. The thin packs were scarfed up before the chance was gone. Shoving them into his own pocket, the younger man retrieved an open pack. "I love this stuff," he said as he slipped a flat, thin strip encased in paper from an open package. He unwrapped the stick and handed it to Seven.
Turning the gray brown strip around in her hand, she turned her eyes once again to Tom. "You expect me to place this in my mouth?"
Tom twisted his face into a grimace of disbelief. "Ye-es." Her look of incredulity made him smile. "Come on, it won‘t hurt."
It was easy to see the skepticism on her face as she glanced at the commander for his opinion. She got little more than a shrug, he was skeptical himself. Accepting the piece from Lt. Paris, she moved it toward her mouth.
"That‘s it," Tom encouraged, "Chew and push until it‘s all in."
Seven complied, and the stick disappeared between her lips.
"Now keep chewing." Tom gave her the action to mimic, increasing his level of mastication to a comic proportion. He couldn‘t help but smile at Seven‘s disbelief. She had no idea why she had let him talk her into this activity. "Keep chewing. That‘s it."
She did so. But no one was more astonished than she was when she swallowed it. She blinked and looked at Tom with irritation. "I do not find this source of nourishment to have much value."
"Seven," Tom complained, moving closer to her, she raised her head a fraction to look into his frustrated face, "gum has no nutritional value."
"Then it has no value."
Tom‘s shoulders sagged. "You just don‘t get it, do you?"
"I am curious," she said ignoring Tom‘s question.
"About what?" he took off his helmet and bounced it along his knee as he, Seven and Chakotay moved down the battered corridor.
"A short time ago you were nearly killed on the holodeck, and now you speak of a virtually useless substance as if it helped you win this simulation."
Tom swallowed and stopped. He looked at his companions, who stopped a few steps ahead of him. Moments ago he **had** faced death. God, this woman could hit his gut quicker and harder than any bastard Hirogen. And she just didn‘t understand. There was so much she didn‘t understand about humanity yet.
He shrugged, pretty sure his tired body, mind and tongue couldn‘t begin to form the words to make her understand what chewing gum did for him. "I‘m adapting."
Seven‘s chin came up and her eyes narrowed as she judged him for sincerity.
She nodded. "Admirable."
And Tom smiled with relief, but the smile also showed his fatigue. "Let‘s go see if we have any quarters left."
The Mess Hall, several days later.
The ship was no where near back to normal, but people had to eat and Tom sat with Harry munching on something Neelix was able to cobble from his meager stores. They were in such dire straights after the Hirogen left that nobody had the heart to complain about the food.
Seven marched into the Mess Hall to loom at Tom‘s shoulder until he stopped speaking with Harry and looked up at her. She stared down at him for long moments before speaking. "I have accessed the data banks for the study you have suggested."
"Ah," he nodded. He indicated the free seat beside him, but she refused.
"‘The Psycho-Dynamics of Chewing.‘ How was it?"
"It was—" Seven paused, tilting her head, to choose the right word, "hogwash."
Tom twisted around to see where the laughter was coming from. Chakotay stared at his plate, but continued to chuckle.
Seven continued. "I believe the literature a base example of popular psychology—conducted through the auspices of a capitalistic enterprise in an endeavor to support for the financial gain of the enterprise through quasi-scientific study."
"Well—" Tom tried to counter, but she had him. "Yes. It is."
"This chewing gum exists for no genuine enhancement of the individual using it."
"But, I‘m telling you, Seven, it relaxes me." How was he going to make her understand?
"I need an example."
Tom searched her eyes before looking at Harry for help. He found none, then shrugged back up into her eyes. "The other night. When you first noticed I was chewing gum."
"Was I frowning or smiling?"
"See." He crossed his arms over his chest. "You pointed out that a few minutes before I was nearly a goner."
"Ah," Seven clarified, "Road kill."
"Exactly." The smile brightened a notch. "The chewing gum helped me move my mind away from the trauma of the situation."
Seven frowned. "You have not convinced me."
Tom shrugged. What could he say? He frowned when she continued to stare at him. "Something else, Seven?"
"Although I am not convinced that this substance has all the attributes which you claim, I have found another substance that intrigues me."
"I would like you to teach me bubble gum."
Yes, there was a Psycho-Dynamics of Chewing study done at Columbia University in NYC in 1939. Yes, Wrigley‘s paid for it.
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