It was early.
Phlox checked again. This was not good. The entire Immunology text was wiped. He called the Bridge.
T'Pol answered, “What is the trouble?"
"I have – it's probably nothing – but the entire Immunology unit has been erased."
"Perhaps you can get a replacement from Dr. Keating-Fong."
"Good idea. And, sorry to trouble you. Phlox out,” He muttered to himself a little. What was the cause of the erasure? He kept coming up with only one reason, and it was not a pleasant prospect.
Malcolm watched Pamela sleeping. He cleared his throat a little as he could tell she was waking up. Good. Before the alarm. He touched her head, entangling his fingers in golden waves. She woke and smiled at him, that same, slight smile that she gave everyone, “'Morning,” she said.
"How are you feeling, Darling?" he asked.
"Y'know, I've never been called pet names before. And here you go with Sweetheart
all the time,” she said.
"Is that, is that a bad thing?"
"No. Just unexpected. Wouldn't have thought you'd be the type. But I don't do it in return, Malcolm."
"I know. That's all right. I meant to ask you, are you – has it – have things improved since, since our first time together? I know it was, I know it was fast. And I apologize for that. It had been so, so very long."
"S'okay,” she yawned, then grabbed at him a bit.
"Pamela," he managed to squeak out, "can we talk just a little bit?"
"Sure,” she said, but didn't take her hand away.
He fought to concentrate, “I, uh, I have another sonnet for you."
"Oh? Should I check my PADD?"
"Uh, no. I wanted to, to deliver it in person."
"Oh, a live performance!"
"Y-yes. And, uh, it's difficult for me to, to concentrate while you're, you're doing that."
"Oh,” she said, moving her hand away. Then she whispered in his ear, "Be right back."
"All right,” he swallowed hard, and then recited:
"The Golden Lady chose the knave
and shared and lit his darkest night
A gen'rous soul, a heart to save
She filled his spirit with her light
A burning ember, burst to flame
as kindred souls entwine and merge
the knave, he could not be the same
falling, ever falling over precipice and verge
Her face was fair, her mind was keen
her body offered untold pleasure
And yet her heart remained unseen –
could the knave unlock this treasure?
The Queen, she came down from above
She changed the knave, who did it all for love"
She got up and immediately started rummaging around, on the bed and then on the floor next to it.
"What are, what are you doing?" he asked, getting up.
"I told you, Reed! I warned you. I told you not to get involved."
"What? Wait! Wait!"
"No,” she stopped what she was doing for a second and looked him in the eye, “I hate this part."
"What, what part is this?" he asked, and then began to shout, "Is this the part where you leave?"
She kept looking.
He repeated, louder, “Is this the part, Pamela, where you leave?
Because you're thirty-four years old! You're, you're beautiful, and you're brilliant and, and women like that don't just choose men like me so I know – I can see
– that the reason for all of the endings in your life, that reason isn't the rest of the human race. It's, it's you
. It's that you can't commit. It's that people who love you scare you,” He grabbed her left arm, harder than he intended to, and it reddened a bit.
She stared down at her arm until he dropped it, “No. It's not me leaving. It's, it's, this is the part where I explain. And then it's not me who leaves. It's you."
"Me?! I have no intentions of going anywhere."
"You will. They always do. I may as well be dressed so I can make a quick getaway when you kick me out,” She went back to looking.
"Stop, stop, stop! Pamela!" Reed shouted, “Stop! What is it? What is so, so horrible that you cannot tell me? I, is it, are you, are you married?"
"Then what is so awful that you cannot tell me. You can tell me,” he said softly, “You can, you can tell me. And I'm, I'm sorry for shouting and for, for saying what I said."
"No,” she said, finally spotting her clothes under a chair, “Nice guys like, like you, it's not what you want to hear."
"I want to hear,” he insisted, taking her hand.
She looked away, “I totally and completely hate this part."
"Tell me, Sweetheart. Tell me
"You asked for it,” she said, straightening up and sighing, “Sit, sit down."
"I'd rather stand."
"Sit,” she commanded, “People who get shocking news should be sitting down when they hear it."
"All right,” he complied.
"I, you remember when, when I told you that it was all right. And what was all right?"
"Yes. It was about your scar."
"Well, it's not just all right that I have a scar. It's also all right as to how, how I got it."
"How so?" he asked.
"He – his name was Henry – Henry wasn't the only one doing the biting that night."
"So you, you bit him back? And you defended yourself?"
"No. I bit first."
Shelby Pike looked around the Botany Lab, turned on a few lights and adjusted herself to its warmth. It felt warm, but the plants were getting a little droopy. She checked a thermometer. 18.3 C. It was supposed to be 26.7 C. It certainly felt like the latter. She shrugged. Maybe the thermometer was broken. She added more growth solution to perk up the plants and wondered why it was always so damned hot in the lab.
?" Malcolm was suddenly glad that he was sitting.
"You heard me."
"Yes, I suppose I did. I'm, I'm trying to comprehend it. It's like it's all moving at Warp Factor Five and I'm only plodding along at five KPH."
"I will spell it out for you. I instigated it, because that was the way Henry and I related to each other. And it's the only way I can really feel anything."
"Do you, I, am I to understand that I have never, ever
She sat down next to him and put her clothes on the bed, “No. My body does respond. But if you want to get to me here," she thumped her right temple once, "and here," she thumped her sternum once, "it's through, it's through pain."
"Yes. Feeling it, inflicting it. Dominating or submitting. I do both. Ready to kick me out now?"
"I, I, huh. I want to understand this, I do! Do you, do you know why, why you feel this way?"
"And I can't tell you, because I know you'll only try to fix it. And I just don't want to be fixed. This is me. This is who I am. And it's ugly and it's messed up and it's wrong but it's still who I am."
"You're not, you're not ugly. Nothing about you is."
"No. You don't know me very well at all,” she said, “If you did, you'd never call me generous. I’m not a kind person. I'm not thoughtful; I'm not helpful."
"You're a doctor, Pamela."
"And I don't exactly have much of a career ahead of me of healing as I do of perfecting and altering people, which is a whole other ball of wax."
"You were generous when you, when you forgave me for the, the first time,” he said, “And you've been generous to stay with me."
"Pamela, I am not even close to being the most, well, attractive man on this ship. Yet you are here, with me, and not with the others. Don't tell me you didn't have offers. I have eyes. I know they still look while I squire you around. But you are here with me every night and in the daytime, too! I don't know if this means that you have feelings for me but you cannot argue against at least, well, kindness or, or at least a kindredness of spirit. Like I told you in the first sonnet, it is all moving quickly, and if I have frightened you by mentioning my, my feelings, then I apologize but they are well and truly my feelings. I am, I am falling in love with you, whether you like it or, or not."
She smiled a little to herself, “So we are at a stalemate."
"No,” he said, “I, I have a question. For you, in your first, uh, encounter, was it all biting and, and infliction?"
"No, I was fifteen and trying to make sure that my parents didn't find out. That was the overriding theme."
"And, and when did you, did you realize that you had these, I don't what to call them."
"All right,” he said, “Proclivities."
"I was twenty-three."
"Was that with, with, you said his name was Henry."
"No, Henry came later. That all happened almost two years ago. He hit the femoral artery and I ended up in Emergency. He thought he'd be taken into custody and so we kind of, it was mutual how we ended it."
"Oh. So you weren't at Warp Factor Five immediately, then?"
"No, definitely not."
"Then here's a thought. And tell me if you think this could work. I, I cannot simply rocket straight to Warp Five. But if you, if you could see your way clear to being, well, patient, perhaps I could start at, at five KPH. And progress and see where it all goes. I am, I am willing to try if you are, Darling."
"There you go with Darling
again,” she said, “Are you sure? Because I've been down this road as well. There are some who've tried. But it all goes kerflooey at some point, where it gets too intense and they can't handle it."
"How long has anything lasted?"
"With nice guys, like you," she smiled at him slightly, "no more than about a month, five weeks or so. It's not a question of if
. It's a question of when
"And what about Henry?"
"Seven months. Longest relationship I've ever had. But I didn't have to have this conversation with him."
"No. He was just a lummox I picked up in a bar. He already knew the score. No need to have this discussion at all."
"You said you hated this part, this discussion. I suppose I can see why Henry would be, would be attractive to you."
"It's, I hate this kind of a discussion so much that I will do almost anything to not have it. I have a lot of one-nighters. And when they go beyond one night, I say 'I love you' far too fast. I stay in relationships that aren't working way too long. And I do it because I despise the talk so very, very much,” she said, looking away.
"One day, someday," he said gently, "it will be the very last time you ever have to have this discussion. And I cannot promise you that this was just that last, that last time. But pretend that it was, all right? And maybe that will comfort you a little."
"You are too kind for this,” she said, getting up again.
"I think you – we, us – I think we are worth it,” he said, “So tell me. Where's five KPH? How do I, how do I start?"
She thought for a moment, “Kiss me as hard as you can. And I mean hard. Harder than you think I can take. Start with that."
"Uh, all right. How do I –?"
"No warnings,” she said, “Just do it
He thought for a moment and realized he was standing on the edge of a cliff.
Hoshi stretched as she got up. Ow. Things did not feel too good.
She'd been working out a lot. That had to be the reason for the muscle aches. Her PADD was flashing. A message from An. Would she like breakfast? Sure, just nothing hot. It was already too warm on the NX-01
Malcolm's alarm went off while he was thinking. He shut it off and saw that she was looking away.
He seized the opportunity and grabbed her hair, planting a kiss on her mouth that was as hard as he could make it.
She looked up when they broke apart, “How was, how was five KPH?" he asked, eager for any sort of a positive response.
"That was, uh, seven KPH."
"Yes. The hair pulling. Nice touch. You've, um, got potential,” she smiled and it was just a tiny bit broader than he'd ever seen her smile.
"Oh, uh, good,” he said, relieved, “I, uh, I can't do it, do it that way every time, you know."
"And, and I have to draw a line. I can't simply beat you. That's not; it's not in my makeup."
"That's, that's acceptable,” she said, “Keep in mind, I go both ways, both inflicting and taking it, dominating and submitting. It's, it's easier if we both do both."
"And how, how do we decide who's going to, uh, to be, uh, Alpha? Do we draw straws? Keep a schedule or something?"
"No,” she smiled, even more broadly, “I mean, do we decide in advance anything else? We just do whatever feels good, right? This is similar. We just start up and see where it goes. Sometimes I'm Alpha. Sometimes you are."
"Oh. This is all very new to me. I will have many questions."
"We'll need a Stop Word, too."
"What the devil is a Stop Word?"
"It's when it's going too far. You say it when it's all too much. Particularly if you think the injury's going to be a permanent one. See, Henry thought it would be funny to ignore our Stop Word. It’s why I ended up in Emergency in the first place."
"Oh. What sort of a word are we talking about? I mean, isn't 'stop
' a perfectly acceptable word?" he asked.
"No, it needs to be something we wouldn't normally say while in the throes. And it's very possible that one of us would say 'don't stop
!' so as you can see, 'stop
' is out. It has to be something really odd and unexpected. Like, like 'avocado
"Avocado?" he laughed.
"Yes. I am being totally serious."
"I know, Darling, but it's just so, so ridiculous."
"That's kind of the idea. Actually, the whole thing is. When you think of how we look when we do it, it's all rather comical if you really, really think of it, look at it closely."
"Avocado. Avocado,” he said, trying it out, “And you'll stop if I say it? Immediately?"
"Immediately. And you must, as well."
"Of, of course. Avocado. I suppose if we really want to discuss bumpy green vegetables we'll refer to them as 'alligator pears'
or some such."
"Yes. It will be our secret word. Just like the rest of this is secret,” she said, kissing him, much more gently than he had just kissed her. She grabbed at him again.
"I think I'm, I'm ready to try ten KPH.”