Pamela crept out of An's quarters before anyone could see, and before she'd have to deal with him. It had been kind enough of him to offer her a place to sleep but she had bigger fish to fry. Coffee would be on the agenda that morning. But not until after a shower.
At least the coast was clear at her own quarters. Blair and Will were ... somewhere. Good.
Her PADD was flashing. She picked up a message from Hoshi: "This is from the same anonymous source
The message was just one word:
, she thought to herself. Tonight it is
had sent a shuttle.
Dr. Keating-Fong was ready. She smiled and shook hands with Dr. Phlox, who was seeing her off, “Oh, I almost forgot! I have a present for you!"
"A gift, for me?" he asked, “Why, that's hardly necessary."
"It's small,” she said, “A token of teaching."
He unwrapped the small package, “This is a box of chalk."
"Yes. Teachers on Earth used to write on blackboards and students would read and often copy down what they had written. Teachers always had chalk on them. You're a teacher, so you should have chalk."
"Thank you,” he smiled, “I wish I had more chances to instruct. These next three weeks should be fun."
"Yes, there's nothing like it,” she said, “Being listened to! People hanging on your every word! I do admit it's a bit of an ego trip. But it's also rather rewarding. If you come to Nereid, can I persuade you to give a guest lecture or two on Xenobiology?"
"Why, that would be a delight,” he said, “Safe journeys."
It was the evening, right before the party was to start.
"What do you think?" Blair asked Pamela, holding up two outfits, “Brown or grey?"
"Um, grey,” Pamela said, “With the drop earrings."
"Good idea. Will likes those."
"Ah, you are going to do everything because Will likes it, now?"
"Not necessarily,” Blair said, “I do like to see him happy, though."
"Well, don't lose yourself in the process,” Pamela picked a piece of lint off her skirt.
"How can you sit down in that thing?" Blair asked.
"Well, you usually don't. You just lean,” Pamela said, “And you wear interesting underwear because if you cross your legs one way, heh, it becomes public knowledge."
"I see you got new fishnets."
"Yeah, the old pair had a hole in them you could drive a shuttle through."
"Are you ready to go?" Blair asked.
"Yes, but let's let 'em wonder for a while. Never arrive to a party early or on time. No one should."
"Uh, there's a philosophical flaw in that plan. How, exactly, do parties get started if everyone is late?"
"It's like the old Steady State theory of the universe,” Pamela said, “No beginning and no end. Or maybe it's just turtles all the way down."
"Maybe. Do you know who your poet is?"
"Not telling you."
"Oh, then you don't know,” Blair said.
"No, wait. You have a good idea, just not 100% confirmed, right?"
"I'm still not telling you,” Pamela said, even though Blair was right.
"Cap'n, those neutron pulses are startin' to get annoying,” Tripp reported via intercom.
Jonathan leaned forward in the captain's chair, “How so?"
"Well, we've got ..."
The sentence wasn't finished because the ship lurched. It took almost a minute to get their equilibrium back. Everyone shook their heads, as if they'd been momentarily knocked out.
"What the devil was that?" Jonathan demanded of the Bridge crew.
"It appears we were scanned,” T'Pol replied.
"Check all systems. This is not just a comet trail. Hoshi, get me Starfleet."
"Aye, sir,” Hoshi tapped on her console, “Go ahead."
"We've got activity here,” Jonathan said to Admiral Gardner, “And this area isn't supposed to have any advanced civilizations. Any word on who might be out here?"
"Nothing,” said the admiral, “Keep an eye on it, so long as you can, without endangering the crew or your passengers of course. But don't do anything big unless you have to. Best for you to stay out of a fire fight. We'll make inquiries. Klingon home world is not so far away – it might be them. Gardner out."
"We should cancel the festivities,” T'Pol suggested.
"No,” Jonathan said, “Not unless this happens again. The crew deserves a break."
She raised an eyebrow.
"I promise, if you call, I will come back,” he said, smiling tightly. It had been a long week. Jonathan just didn't want this to overtake him and kill his mood. He felt a tiny bit funny, a little bit warm, perhaps, but it was nothing so he dismissed it.
"Sir," Malcolm said, "I can set up targeting on automatic. Have it track the source of the scanning."
"Well, the source is probably gone, or has moved,” Travis pointed out.
"Understood,” said Malcolm, “But I can pick it up and have it track the signal if it reappears. I can keep it quiet – it would not appear to be a hostile act."
"Tripp, work with Malcolm on that,” Jonathan said.
"All right, be right there,” Tripp said, “Tucker out."
Chip was pushing chairs against the wall of the Observation Lounge when Aidan walked in.
"I got it,” Aidan said.
"Oh,” Chip said knowingly, “Punch is over there."
"Good. I don't see how anyone thinks there can be a party without a little liquid sustenance,” He poured a fifth into the punch bowl.
"Think those gals will loosen up with the application of a little, uh, social lubricant?" Chip asked.
"I'm counting on it. I'm just dyin' to play doctor,” Aidan replied.
"Okay, looks like we're done,” Tripp said, “This was a good idea."
"And it's all set to let you know if there's any more activity?" Jonathan asked.
"Yes, it'll ping my personal communicator,” Malcolm said, demonstrating, “And then I'll come right back. No matter, uh, no matter what."
"Good. I guess you're going to the party tonight."
"I guess I am,” he smiled slightly to himself. Whew
The party was in full swing when Blair and Pamela arrived.
"See, I told ya. No early arrival and you're guaranteed a good time or at least a better time,” Pamela said, above the din of music and talking.
"Of course. When it comes to this sort of thing, I defer to you, my friend,” Blair replied.
Will came over to her, “The punch is spiked,” he said, by way of greeting, “Everyone's been keeping Phlox and the captain from having any. The dodges are getting interesting. Better have some before someone from the Temperance Union spoils the fun,” He gave her a cup.
"My God, that's strong,” she said, tasting it.
Pamela made a beeline for it. Chip was there, and poured her a glass, “Remember," he said, "If the captain or Phlox come over, give them this other stuff,” he indicated a smaller bowl, off to the side.
"Aye, aye,” she said, swigging, “Doesn't anyone dance?"
"Dance?" he asked, “We're all science types. Lucky we can dress ourselves when we're out of uniform."
She smiled, “C'mon, you remember the film! Someone should start."
"Y'know, you're right. But there's not a lotta women. Not counting you and Dr. Claymore, there are thirty-four women. And fifty-eight men, not including your classmates. Or, um, Phlox, T'Pol and Porthos,” he replied, yelling above the noise.
"He's the captain's beagle."
"We haven't met,” she called out, “First dance could be ladies' choice,” she suggested.
The song ended. Chip called out to the assembled throng, “I have received a request for some dancing!" People grumbled a bit, “But this one will be – because we have such a skewed ratio – it'll be a ladies' choice. Ladies! Get in the middle. Gentlemen! Into a circle around them."
"You think that's fair?" Tripp asked Travis.
"No more unfair than anything else. You want more women, you'll have to go to Risa,” They got into the second ring of the circle.
"C'mon, Malcolm!" Tripp called out.
"Too much competition,” he said, hanging back, “Too many moths around a golden flame."
"It's time to make your selections. Ladies, be fair! Give us guys a break,” Chip said, getting on his knees in front of Blair.
She smiled down at him, “Sorry,” She found Will.
Hoshi looked around and pointed to Mark Stone. He shook his head, “Hmmpf,” she said to herself, and pointed instead to An.
Haddon paired up with MacKenzie. The rest of the women found someone until it was just Pamela, looking around.
One last confirmation. But where would it come from?
She scanned the remaining men. Her eyes focused on one. His face reddened.
He looked down.
He looked surprised and a little puzzled.
T'Pol checked the logs again. So far, so good. No more scans, at least not for the moment. The festivities could go on.
The music started up again. A fast number.
She put her hand out.
He took it, tentatively.
"Are you sure?" he asked.
"Yes, I am, Malcolm,” she said, “Tonight
"Yes,” he said, reddening again, Tonight
She whipped him around to start the dance. He followed a bit, and then yelled over the din, "I don't know the steps!"
"Improvise!" she replied.
He remembered, a bit, of how the movie had gone, so he repeated some of that. Sometimes he led, sometimes she did. Around and around, dizzy with it.
The music changed. A slower number. He was ready to stop. She wasn't.
"I, I don't know this one,” he said, “I'm not very graceful."
"C'mere,” she said, taking his hand and putting it around her waist, “Just move slowly, in a circle."
"I fear I'll step on you."
"I can get out of the way quickly."
He could smell her perfume. He concentrated on not stepping on her feet. He looked up for a second and saw Tripp and Travis, watching.
Travis said to Tripp, "I do believe we have a winner."
"Yep,” said Tripp, “Lucky dog."
The song ended. Malcolm looked at Pamela, “Do you wish to continue dancing? I think I'm getting the hang of it a little."
"No,” she said.
"Oh,” he was about ready to give up.
She turned to him, “It's too loud in here."
"Yes, I don't normally go for parties."
"Can I ask you something?"
"Outside. I don't want other people to hear,” she said.
"All right,” They left the Observation Lounge and got into the hallway, ducking away from a couple who were kissing.
He led her down the hallway a bit, “It's easier to hear now."
"But not very private,” she said, “Let's go someplace private."
"Oh,” he said. He'd had some of the punch and was feeling it a bit, “There's the Botany Lab over there. I don't think the plants will be listening."
"No, some place more ... private,” she said, “But my quarters are occupied."
"Yes. Blair and Will? The bride and groom for gosh sakes,” she said.
"Then, um,” he swallowed, “My quarters?"
"You should clear your roommate out."
"I don't, I don't have one."
"Then your quarters it is,” she said.
"B deck,” he said, taking her there. When they arrived, he opened the door and asked, "What did you, uh, what did you want to ask?"
"How you knew how to write a Shakespearean sonnet,” she said, “It was a very creative touch."
He smiled to himself, “I just, I thought it would be appropriate. Did you, did you like it, Golden Lady?"
"Yes, I did,” she said, “Did you mean it?"
"Yes,” he squeaked out.
"Then show me."
He put his hands on her waist and leaned forward. He kissed her very lightly.
"I'm not a piece of china, Reed."
"No, no, of course not,” This time he kissed her deeply. When they broke apart, he sighed a little.
"Reed, I'll give you a warning right now,” she said, “I'm only going to be here another three weeks. So don't get too deeply involved."
"I, I see,” he said, “Are you, is this, is it all right?"
"'Course it is,” she said, initiating the kiss this time. She grabbed at his uniform a bit.
This surprised him, “I'm not, I'm not used to women being so aggressive."
"Does that bother you?"
"No, it's, it's rather intoxicating. Are you, are you certain you wish to do what I think you wish to?"
She smiled at him, “Yes,” She kissed his neck, “I,” She kissed his cheek, “Am,” She kissed him on the mouth.
"It has been, uh, a while,” he said.
"It's like riding a bike. You don't forget,” she said, fiddling with his uniform zipper.
"No, I don't suppose you do. May I help you?" he put his hands on her skirt.
"That just pulls down, yeah, there,” she said, then took off her top.
He stood and stared at her for a second. She was wearing a black lingerie and fishnet stockings that were held up by some sort of grippers on her legs and, perhaps, some defiance of gravity. Plus those same little black boots she'd worn when he'd first seen her, “My God, you're stunning."
She smiled at him, “I see you're more or less ready,” She smiled at him and lay back on the bed.
He rolled down her right stocking and took it and the boot off together in one fluid motion. Then he moved to the left one.
And that's when he saw it.
Something he was not expecting.
He touched it, tentatively, an alien thing. He swallowed hard, “P-Pamela?"
"Darling, have you been, have you, that is to say, have you been bitten by a, a wild animal?"
"Not exactly,” she said.
"Oh,” he touched it again. The thread of desire was fading. This was not good.
She looked at him and down at the alien thing, an irregular mark on the inside of her left leg, “Ex-boyfriend
Travis and Tripp finished up the last of the punch, “And here's to Ruby,” Tripp said, “And her sweet favors."
"Yeah,” Travis said, grinning.
"You, too? I thought it was just me and Reed."
"Reed, ha, it's the quiet ones," Travis said, "who can sometimes be the luckiest."
"I'll drink to that."
The thread of desire was gone, gone, gone. Malcolm sat down abruptly on the edge of the bed.
"My God,” he finally said, “What, what happened?"
"He got me in the femoral artery,” she said, sitting up.
"Did he, did he beat you, Pamela?"
"It's all right."
"No, it's not."
"Yes, it is,” she insisted, “It was a long time ago."
"Look, Reed. If you're not interested because I've got an imperfection, I can leave right now,” she got up.
"Don't go,” he said, touching her hand, “Please. Don't leave."
"All right,” she said, sitting down next to him.
"Still. I, Pamela, I will never, ever do that to you. I can, I can pledge that to you."
"Reed, I'm warning you. Don't get too deeply involved."
"Please,” he said, “Let me at least tell you that you're, you're safe here. With, with me."
"And I appreciate that. Actually, it was a bit of a favor."
"A what?" Malcolm was incredulous.
"Yes. I, uh, it's more sensitive there. Almost like I've got two, yanno.”
The thread of desire was returning. With a vengeance.
"Do you, uh, mind, Pamela, if I, uh, test that theory out for myself? For, for science, as it were?"
"How?" she asked, watching him.
"I suppose I'll just improvise a bit."
Dr. Keating-Fong was tired. It would be good to be away from the kids for a little while.
"Can you, can you turn the heat down a little bit in the shuttle?" she asked the Vulcan pilot.
"Compensating,” he said.
Kissing her, no matter where on her body he did so, was a complete sensual experience. It wasn't just feeling and taste, but smell and texture and sound. The softness of her body, the hardness of her hip bones, the smoothness of her skin, the irregularity of the scar, the smell of her hair, the pressure of her fingertips, the heat and huh huh huh of her breath – they all conspired to lock him in.
When they broke apart, she was back in a flash, kissing him all over, working to get him worked up again.
Finally he lay down on the bed, “Ah,” he said, “I'm spent. You?"
"Not completely,” she said, “Help a girl out,” she said.
He laughed a little, “I'm not in shape for this much ... activity."
"Practice makes perfect,” she whispered in his ear, then kissed it.
"Allow me to, um,” he said, voice trailing off.
"You've just had your hands all over and you can't ask me if it's okay for you to do something?" she teased.
"I suppose I'm too refined. Too much conditioning. Always told to be oh so proper."
"Well, what do you want to do?" she asked.
He whispered in her ear. She laughed, “It's just you and me here."
"I know. It's still not an easy string of words for me to say out loud, and hear myself say. Foolish hangup, I think. Seems very foolish right now."
"Well, don't ask. Just do,” she said.
He didn't have to be told twice.