On the Enterprise
, Malcolm dictated:
“To: Doctor Pamela Hudson, in the care of the Charon Medical Center.
My dear Pamela,
I trust all is well with you and you are enjoying your new job. I have been well.
I wanted to ask you, I have been invited to a wedding on the thirty-first of August, 2159. The wedding will be held on Oberon. I can bring a date, and so I was hoping that you would, that is to say, I would be honored if you were to accompany me. I hope that thirty days' notice is enough time for you to clear all obligations.
The Enterprise is currently headed to Lafa II to pick up a former crew member who is going to cater the wedding. Her husband is teaching a hand to hand defense class in San Francisco and I will be assisting. If you'd like to come to Earth a few days before the thirty-first, you can see me in action if you'd like.
I do miss you.
He paused for a moment and fingered a bright piece of cloth, “Post script: You left your green scarf with me the last time we were together. It still is a bit redolent of Toxic. Let me know if you'd like it back. ”
He sniffed the scarf a little. It did still, faintly, smell of her perfume. He hit send
On Lafa II, Lili left their home and went to work to tie up some loose ends.
It was like a mantra, a magical talisman, every time she went to Reversal
, she'd reach up and touch the sign. This time was no exception. She smiled, “Our first baby,” she said to herself quietly.
Treve was there, talking to a workman, “Ah, how are things going? Is my younger nephew quieting down at all?”
“Not one bit,” she said, “I'm sorry we'll be leaving you for so long.”
“No, this is a good time to do the expansion,” he said, “And, um, there. Thanks,” he said to the workman, pointing, his bare arm a mass of silver.
“Did you get the new oven?”
“Yes. And there's the place on Lafa VI. It should be close in climate to, what did you call it?”
“Mediterranean. Kind of subtropical,” she said.
“Yes. Well, we can get some land for a good price. Growing human foods won't be easy, but it will be quite the coup if we can. My people really want to try, what did you call it?”
“Hummus,” she said, “Your people have been so kind to us, Treve.”
“Well, we are making friends with you humans, and I think people are seeing that you're, well, you're worthwhile people to be friends with,” he smiled at her.
“How is your mother doing?”
“Better. She speaks a little now. Amazing what doctors can do. I don't know if she has quite figured out that Father had something to do with her condition. I think the only reason they stay married is because, well, the First Minister can never leave the High Priestess. It's just not done,” he said.
“I get the feeling, when she's stronger, your mother may very well decide she wants out, regardless of protocol. I can't imagine living in such a state,” Lili said, and then changed the subject, “Please convey our thanks to her for sparing your sister for so long. She is the best babysitter I could have ever asked for.”
“Well, Yimar loves Joss. You'll be gone for over a month, though.”
“Do you think business will really suffer?”
“Can't say it won't fall off at all,” he admitted, “I'll see if I can use the time to build anticipation for the return of the great Lili and her Roast Elekai with Olowa.”
“My biggest critic,” she said, looking down, “You can't tell me too many wonderful things or I get kicked – reminded that I should be down to earth, I guess.”
“A wise child.”
Jonathan sat in his chair on the Bridge. Behind stood Security Crewman Deborah Haddon, making sure everything was okay.
“Now approaching Lafa II,” Travis said, looking up from his controls.
“Take us in closer,” Jonathan said, “Ensign Sato, Lieutenant Reed, you're with me. See you all later,” The three of them departed.
Chip Masterson and Aidan MacKenzie came in to relieve them. T'Pol got into the Captain's chair as the ship approached the planet.
In the shuttle bay, Tripp Tucker handed a box to Jennifer Crossman, “Be careful with that, it's the gift from our department.”
“Yes, I know,” she said.
“The guy on the Andorian home world said those are the best knives they make. I hope she's okay usin' 'em. Maybe she just wants to use her own stuff,” he said.
“I think these will be fine,” Jennifer said.
Crewman Melissa Madden came in, “I've got the gift from Navigation,” she said. It was a lot smaller, “We weren't sure what to get so we got them candlesticks. Kind of a fall-back present but most of us didn't really know them that well. We're getting you something different for your wedding, Jenny.”
“That's okay,” Jennifer said, taking the smaller box, “I still can't believe I'll be married in a month.”
Jonathan, Hoshi and Malcolm walked in, “Here, let me help you, Ensign,” said Malcolm. He had an envelope tucked under one arm already and a medium-sized box in both hands.
The presents were loaded into the shuttle, “Okay, have we got everyone, and everything?” Jonathan asked.
“That looks like it,” Tripp said, closing the door. He turned to Melissa as they watched the shuttle depart, “I bet they're havin' something really gourmet tonight.”
“It might just be chicken fingers with a little kid running around,” she said.
“Can you help Joss set the table, please?” Lili asked.
“Yes, just a sec,” Doug brought over a chair, “Seven, right?”
“Plus the high chair.”
“Got it. He'll sit next to Yimar. Okay, Joss, everybody gets a spoon. Not just Mommy.”
“Are we too early?” It was Jonathan.
“No, no, oh, Gawd, it's great to see you!” Lili wiped away a quick tear and hugged him. This was not something he was expecting, nor was he expecting her bulk.
She hugged everyone, hard, a little teary. Doug hung back more, and Joss held his leg.
“Sorry,” she said, wiping her face with the end of her apron, “I'm a big hormone cocktail these days.”
“Wow, look at you!” Jennifer said, “You sure you're not gonna just drop any second?”
“I am sure. I'm due in January, can you believe that?” She found Joss and bent over to talk to him, “Come meet Uncle Jonathan, Aunt Jenny, Aunt Hoshi and Uncle Malcolm.”
“No!” Joss said.
“Huh, we are still working on using that magical word. Okay, now, I know there are a lot of people here but we go over and we say hi when we meet people. Okay? You wanna try that again?”
This time, he came over with her.
“Your son is a year old?” Malcolm asked, “He looks like he's about three, I'd say.”
“We grow them big here. He'll be one in a little over a month,” Doug said proudly.
“September. When?” Malcolm asked.
“Second,” Doug replied.
“Ah, that's my birthday as well,” Reed said.
“Well, then I'll have to make a cake for the both of you,” Lili said, “We'll still be on the Enterprise. I hope you don't mind a big shuttle on it, done in frosting.”
“No, of course not.”
“Pineapple, right?” Lili asked.
“Yes,” Malcolm smiled, pleased she'd remembered.
Yimar came in, and Joss immediately went over to hug her, nearly knocking her over in the process, “Um, hello,” she said, a shy sixteen-year old with silver arms. She busied Joss with her bracelet and then went to help Lili in the kitchen.
“We brought you your wedding gifts, a year and a half late,” Hoshi said.
“And we’ve also got a little something for the little ones,” Jonathan said, presenting a largish box.
“Can he, uh, is it anything too delicate?” Doug asked.
“There's nothing breakable or with small parts.”
“Good. Here, Joss. Tear this one open,” Doug brought the box to his son.
Joss's bluish-greenish-greyish eyes widened in wonder as he revealed the box's contents, “Wha–?”
“It's a sled,” Doug said, “It doesn't snow on Lafa II, except on Point Abic.”
“It's not gonna start a war or anything if they sled, is it?” Hoshi asked.
“I don't think so,” Doug said, “Yimar, do your people mind if anyone walks on the snow on Point Abic?”
“What?” she asked, coming out, “I don't think that's ever been thought of. Oh, and, uh, dinner is served. Hope everyone's hungry.”
Lili came out and was about ready to serve when Doug caught her eye, “I'll, um, I've been struggling to not do too much these days,” she said, “So I'll sit with all of you.”
Jonathan pulled out a chair for her, and then sat across from her, “I hope you don't think you need to cook for the Enterprise
while you're with us.”
“Well, I'd like to do a little,” she said, “Long as it doesn't turn into a busman's holiday for me. Ah, Yimar, let’s have soup first, please.”
They sat down, “This is wild mushroom soup. It's made from some of the last of our supplies,” she admitted.
“Good thing we brought what we did. My department's present is some things we hope will remind you of home,” Malcolm said.
“Wonderful. And nobody had to get us anything. We're an old married couple. It's Jenny who's the bride now,” Lili said.
“Well, we weren't here when you tied the knot,” Jenny said.
“It was a shotgun wedding,” Lili said, “'Cause you,” she poked Joss in the ribs a little, “were already marinating.”
“It was such a chore,” Doug joked, “She really had to twist my arm.”
“I convinced you because I appealed to your sense of efficiency.”
“Efficiency?” Malcolm asked.
“They got married on Valentines' Day,” Hoshi said, “Two holidays in one day.”
“That's rather romantic, I suppose,” Malcolm said.
“It was practical. Now he only has to worry about forgetting one day,” Lili said, “Salads, please.”
Yimar and Doug served.
“What is this?” Jenny asked, looking at strips of different shades of purple on her plate.
“That is an olowa. Or, rather, it's bits of a bunch of them. It's a vegetable that grows on Lafa IV. Now, the interesting thing about olowa is, as it matures, it petrifies and turns to stone. It also lightens from deep purple to, eventually, kind of an ash grey. You can't eat it then; you'll break a tooth. So what you've got here is a salad made from olowa at different stages of maturity. If anything feels too hard, all I can say is, don't eat it. I won't be offended,” Lili said.
“It tastes a little like, hmm, like peanuts,” Malcolm said.
“No, I've got some that's spicy,” Jennifer said.
“Mine's like pears,” Hoshi said.
“All of that's true. It depends on how old it is,” Doug said, “It starts off kind of sweet, and then gets spicy, then it gets a bit fattier and then it's suddenly inedible one day.”
“Is there any dressing on this?” Jonathan asked.
“None,” Lili said.
“What's dressing?” Yimar asked.
“It's a kind of sauce for raw greens,” Lili said.
“Hmmpf,” Yimar replied, “Here, Joss, one more bite,” she coaxed.
Jenny leaned over and whispered to Lili, “You lucked out. She's good with him.”
“Yes. She's terrific. And she’s not as moody as a human teenager,” she raised her voice back up to normal volume again, “Main course, please.”
It was a huge roast.
“Oh my God,” Jonathan said, “How many people did you think you were feeding?”
“We have a big freezer,” Doug said, “Uh, Lili, this really is too much.”
“You'd think I'd have the proportions right by now. I'm past the 'all I want to do is eat everything in sight' phase of my pregnancy. Anyway, uh, like Doug said, don't worry about leftovers. This is,” Lili took some for Joss's plate and starting cutting it into smaller pieces, “an elekai. Or, rather, it's most of the upper half.”
“It's a big flightless bird,” Doug explained.
“What he's not telling you is he hunted it himself,” Lili said.
“Not by myself. I went with the guys. There were nine of us who brought it down.”
“It must be really big,” Hoshi said, tasting her food, “It tastes like chicken.”
Lili smiled, “The upper half, yes. The legs taste like duck.”
“That was something you said once you made a lot of. Duck, that is,” Malcolm said.
!” Joss called out.
“Not now,” Doug said to his son.
“You, uh, huh, that was a small thing to remember for a few years,” Lili said, smiling.
!” called Joss again.
“He might have had enough dinner. Can you, please, Yimar?” Lili asked.
“Sure. C'mon, let's look at the sled,” Yimar said, lifting Joss out of the high chair.
Clearing the plates, Hoshi and Jenny got a chance to talk to Lili, “You seem really happy,” Jenny said.
“I am. I’m just a little frustrated.”
“Oh?” Hoshi asked.
“Well, the super-male makes super babies, as you can see,” Lili patted her belly, “But with, um, our little duck running around, there are not a lot of occasions to, uh ....”
“Say no more. We'll babysit. Won't we, Hoshi?”
“I dunno. Doesn't the girl, uh, Yimar? Doesn't she do that?”
“Not at night,” Lili said, “And, you do not have to.”
“It's okay. Practice for me,” Jenny said, “Maybe we can take Joss up to the big Enterprise
tonight and show him all the neat things and he'll feel like a really big boy. And you'll come up tomorrow like you planned. Travis can come and get you, right?”
“Or Melissa Madden,” Hoshi suggested.
“I don't know her,” Lili said, “Did she come on board after I left?”
“Yes, I think so,” Hoshi said, “Will Joss be scared, away from you for a night?”
“He already has been a few times,” Lili said, “Really, are you sure you want to do this?”
“Yes. A baby gift, okay?” Jenny said.
In the other room, the men talked about hunting and the class that Doug and Malcolm were going to teach, “The combination, we need to work on that,” Doug said, “Ah, coffee.”
“And we’ve got tea. And milk for somebody,” Lili said waddling in slowly as Hoshi carried the tray.
Jenny said, “Doug, do you mind if we borrow Joss tonight? Actually, I guess I should be asking you this as well, Captain.”
“All right with me if it's all right with you,” Jonathan said.
“Uh, hmm,” Doug thought, and then looked at Lili, who nodded very, very slightly in the direction of their bedroom, “That'll be great. He's all packed anyway. I'll just, remind me to make sure you have his dinosaur.”
“We do not sleep without the dinosaur,” Lili explained.
“Well, I suppose if I had a dinosaur, I'd sleep better, too,” Hoshi said.
In one man's mind, a switch was flipped, and something turned.
And though it was wrong, and hopeless, he couldn't help it. That old feeling. It came roaring back, and he was powerless to stop it.