Location: Boston, the Gateway to the Galaxy
"You go on ahead, Lili, she said, I'm not quite tired yet." She disappeared down a different hallway.
Lili walked along to their quarters, trying not to run, not to get too overly excited. The entire day, she'd been a bundle of excitement and nerves. She heard her name, and turned. "Oh, hi, Ensign Sato."
"Oh, c'mon, you know we're on a first-name basis, Hoshi said, Mind if I walk with you a little?"
"'Course not. Did you watch the movie?"
"Only the last half or so. I get the feeling I missed a lot. Actually, um, can I ask you something, seeing as I have you here?"
"Yeah, I suppose so, Lili said.
"Hayes, um, can you, will you, tell me what he's like?"
"Like, uh, how?"
"Well, just, I didn't know him. Nobody did. Most of us didn't even know his first name until his funeral. He was always kind of a swaggery guy, if that makes any sense."
"Yes, it does. I got that impression of Jay, too, Lili allowed.
"So, is, um, Doug, you said his name was?"
"Is he swaggery?"
"Even more so. Attentive. Letting his guard down."
"Is he, um, uh, how shall I put this? The doctor said he'd be like this, this super male, Hoshi said, Uh, is he?"
"Hoshi, are you asking me if he's good?"
"No one's telling you to ask me this, are they?"
"No, no. I'm just being nosy. Too nosy."
"Answer: he is excellent."
"That's all anyone can ask for, Hoshi said, And, um, I shouldn't have pried."
"No, um, it's okay. I guess it looks weird, getting that intimate and involved that quickly. I won't deny that my brain's probably rather sex-addled."
"This is not the worst thing in the world." Hoshi grinned. "These are your quarters, right?"
"Yep. Gotta go."
"Have fun, Hoshi said, grinning and shaking her head as she continued walking down the hallway.
It was a beach.
Doug was near the water line, standing, wearing orange board shorts. He was waving.
Lili willed herself out of cut off sweats and an old baseball shirt and into a white tankini with little shamrocks all over it, and matching boy shorts. She ran over.
"Been waiting long?"
"Nah. I don't know if we fall asleep at the same time maybe we don't but it never seems like a long time. During the day, though, that's another story. Hard to wait all day. And, um, I swear I will say it to you first tonight. I swear, he said, kissing her.
"Is it hard for you to say it?"
"Yes, it is. I've been conditioned one way for almost 55 years, Lili. But I am determined. I'm gonna say it to you first today. I promise."
There was a blanket, a cooler and a vase with blue flowers in it.
"What have we here?" she asked, sitting down on the blanket.
"I didn't know what kind of flowers you like. But I know you like blue. So I, um, I found these in the database and imagined them colored blue. I bet that's all wrong."
"Daisies aren't normally blue, Lili said, But it's the thought that counts."
"The other thing I know a lot better," he said, opening up the cooler. He took out a small bottle of Champagne. "May I pour you some?" he asked, popping the cork.
"Sure. Lemme see. Ah, Grande Siθcle. I am impressed."
"I had to look it up. I'm more of a beer man, usually. Is it, is it a good kind?"
"Yes, it's a very good kind." she raised her glass.
"To, to connections, he said.
"And to dreams." she replied. They drank.
"Y'know, it's strange, he said, I normally dream in color, and of course I can hear and feel. But I can smell and taste in my dreams with you."
"Well, they're more than dreams, she said, But I know what you mean. I sometimes smell and taste maybe that's related to being in Food Service but never anything more than something really simple. I once dreamt I made and ate a salad composed of shredded iceberg lettuce and little green scallions chopped finely. Kind of a mundane vision. I mean, I didn't even add dressing."
"I haven't had fresh vegetable in a long time, he said, We get some meat, sometimes, go to planets and hunt. Kind of the alien beef lottery. Never know how it's gonna taste, but it beats the usual junk. But vegetables are such a luxury. We get those vitamins and whatever from this paste stuff. It's mixed in with everything and it's bland."
"I wish I could cook for you. I mean really cook, not just conjure it up this way. What would, uh, what would you like if I cooked for you, Doug?"
"A steak. A real steak, made from an actual cow. Uh, you wouldn't have to Kosher kill it."
"Good. I think I've had enough of that for a while. How do you want it cooked?"
"Rare. Just a little crusty on the outside, inside really, uh, really moist."
"Not really. I just don't want it to be dry."
"I won't make you a dry steak, Doug. Sides?"
"French no, roasted potatoes. Skin on."
"Huh, hmm. Forget what it's called, he said.
"Are those like regular peas?"
"Yeah, but still in the shell."
"Zucchini?" he shook his head. "Broccoli?"
"Looks like little trees."
"Um, no, don't think so."
"I know what that is, but it's not what I have in mind."
"Yes!" he said, excitedly. "With a little, uh, softened onions and salt. And real cheddar cheese."
"Okay, so a pan-seared steak, a little garlic butter on that good for you?" she asked.
"If I have garlic, I might offend."
"I'll have garlic, too, and then it won't matter." she smiled.
He kissed her. "And, um, you don't have to serve me like an Emperor or anything. I can put together my own plate. You're not my servant."
"I know. I just want to do something for you."
"You already do a lot for me. Actually, I wonder most of the time what I can do for you. And I keep feeling like I'm lacking and I can't do anything for you."
"You do everything, she said, kissing him deeply.
"I'm not, uh, not necessarily talking about, you know. I just want this to be, you know, I want it to be equal."
"Me, too, she said, And I think it is. You may not realize it, but what you give me is confidence. You make me feel like I'm young and beautiful and desirable things I know I'm not."
"Don't be absurd. You're all those things."
"No. Really. You know I'm not really sitting here in a swimsuit with you. You know why I'm not wearing a bikini? It's because I don't like my belly."
"I think you have a perfectly good one, he said, It's not flat-flat, but it's fine. Don't worry about that."
"See? There you go, doing it again."
"Making me believe in myself."
They kissed again, and he stared at her for a few seconds. "Lili," he finally said, "this is what I want holding against my chest. I want to feel your belly on mine, your chest on my chest. No one else's."
They gazed at each other for a while, not speaking. He took her right hand and kissed it. "This is the best hand."
"Oh, and what of the other one?"
"This," he said, taking her left hand, "is the second-best hand. This is the best belly, he said, kissing it. "These are the best shoulders." he kissed each one. "These are the best eyes." she closed them and he carefully kissed the lids. "This is the best nose." she giggled as he kissed it. "This is the best mouth."
"No, that one is, she said, kissing him.
"Your, um, your hip bones jut out just a little, he said.
"I guess I bang them a lot."
"That's all right. Will you kiss and make them better?" she teased.
"Sure, he said, smiling. "I was hoping for the invitation. I may take a certain, um, detour."
"Of course I'll have to return the favor, she said, Or simultaneously."
"My favorite number, he said.
"Let's not be crude about this."
"I'm not!" he said, It's a great number, divisible by two primes: three and twenty-three."
"Well, now that you put it that way, Doug, let's do some math."
"Ready, First Minister."
"Then let us begin. They will not know what happened for at least a few hours."
Spent, she rolled onto her side. "You're like a slingshot."
"I am? Huh, I wonder how I, uh, compare."
"Not to worry, she said, And you're not being compared."
"Thanks. You, you treat me well. Let me ask you, would you stay on the Enterprise. If we were, uh, together?"
"Only if you were here."
"Well, they already have a Tactical Officer, right? I don't imagine Reed's going anywhere any time soon."
"Probably not. And the Columbia is already fully staffed, too. I know they're building more ships, but that takes a while."
"Oh. Hmm. We'd have to occupy our time somehow."
"Yes. And not just doing what we were just doing." she reached over and brought his face to hers, and kissed him.
"True. We'd have to earn a living. Dig ditches, or something."
She smiled. "I would just open up another restaurant, I guess. But it wasn't easy the last time."
"I like the creative part: the cooking, the menu planning, even shopping and figuring out what's in season or fits in budget. But the haggling with suppliers, getting the construction done, doing the books? That part was awful. I was doing it all on my own. By the time the Enterprise came calling, I was glad to be done with that."
"Sounds like you need a business partner."
"Are you sure you want to be that kind of a partner to me?"
"I like the current way very much, he said, kissing her. "But I can't just sit idly by. Plus I bet I could do all that. Strong arm the contractors, get the suppliers in line, make sure you got your broccoli the way you wanted it."
She smiled. "You wouldn't be able to go around breaking arms or anything, you know."
"I know. Lili, I'll sweep the floors if I have to. Let's just be together."
They kissed. She broke away suddenly. "We need a name! And it can't be Voracious II. Sequels are always pale imitations of originals."
"I don't mind pale, he said, holding her face in his hands. "Your eyes, they're like this crystal blue, almost transparent."
"Not transparent. If they were, they'd be pink, you'd see blood vessels. I guess they're just a really light blue. But yours! Yours are like stones."
"Stones? I don't think that's the most romantic thing you've ever said to me, Lili."
"No, it's good. Really. They're kind of bluish-greenish-greyish. Sort of like pebbles you find at the bottom of a clear stream. The best eyes."
"Hmm. I disagree. Not the best. You have those. But I think I know the name."
"Oh? Lay it on me." she smiled.
"Yes. This is you've turned me around. And I guess we turned each other around. I, I dunno. It just makes sense to me, but you've got veto power over it."
"No, no, wait." she counted on her fingers. "Eight letters. First four, R-E-V-E, can be in black on white background, then a forward slash separator, last four letters, R-S-A-L in white on a black background."
"Yeah, you should definitely do the signage. I don't have an artistic bone in my body, he said.
"Wait, wait, wait, she said, getting a little more excited.
"Oh, it's ideal. Do you know what rκve means in French?"
"It means dream."
"Ready, First Minister?"
"Yes." Chawev said, Start now."
"Let's go to the kitchen. Er, dressed, Lili said, I want to cook something with you."
"I thought we were cooking just fine here."
"Yes, but, indulge me for a sec. And then, hah, we'll need a shower."
"Oh." He raised an eyebrow and smiled at her slyly. "I see your plan, Miss O'Day."
They were instantly transformed to the kitchen and into clothes: Lili in chef's whites and Doug in a pair of tan pants and a green shirt.
"Here, she said, handing him a baseball cap.
"New England Red Sox." he read off, before putting it on.
"My favorite team, she said, donning a West Coast Mariners hat. "We'll make chocolate chunk cookies. Very easy and very fast."
"Here." she gave him her PADD. "Can you write down the recipe while we go? I mean, I know how to make these, but maybe we'll improvise a little."
"Sure. You talk, I'll type."
"Preheat oven to, um, 177 degrees. Combine dry ingredients. Which are, uh, 260 grams of flour ...."
Jennifer walked in late. Lili was dreaming, she could tell. Something about flowers. "Hope you're happy, Jenny said, as she eased herself into her own bed.
"Oh my God, these are wonderful, Doug said, eating a cookie. "You were right. This is a fast recipe. And now for a shower."
"Yes!" Lili smiled at him, and vanished.
Doug put his hand out to where she'd been standing. "Wait, wait, wait! I didn't get a chance to say it!"
He looked around, scared. The kitchen was still there. It still smelled of vanilla and sugar and chocolate. The PADD was still in his hands. "Maybe you can see this. I'm, I'm not ready for this, but maybe you can see this." He started to type, and typed for hours until the alarm went off, and he awoke in a pool of cold sweat.
Jennifer woke to an empty room. But in Lili's bed, there was something flashing. She picked it up. It was a PADD.