They were still speaking, but just barely, when Melissa arrived in the shuttlepod to pick up them and Yimar. Yimar chatted happily and asked about everything on the shuttle. Melissa explained how the thrusters worked, and they generally had a great time. Lili and Doug just sat in the back with the luggage. She stared out the window. He sighed, “I'm sorry,” he finally said again.
“We'll talk later,” she said, and they were silent for the remainder of the trip.
Jennifer and Joss were waiting at the shuttle bay, “'Ommy! 'Ommy!” he called out when the ramp came down.
“Don't hug too hard, Joss,” Doug reminded him.
“Go over and say hi to Daddy,” Lili said, straightening up, “Daddy missed you, too, yanno.”
“Big big ..,” Joss said to Doug.
“What's he trying to say?” Doug lifted Joss up and asked Jennifer.
“We saw the kitchen this morning. Lots of big pots and pans. At least I think that's what he's talking about. He also got to sit in the big Captain's chair. It might be about that,” she smiled.
“I hope he wasn't too much trouble,” Lili said.
“Not at all. He only cried a little. But what's 'Duck Duck'
“Oh, ha, it's O Pato
. It's an English-Portuguese song about a duck,” Lili pointed to Joss, “a goose,” she pointed to Doug, “and a swan,” she pointed to herself, “even though right now I think I want to change the lyrics to a duck, a goose and a whale.”
“Portuguese? I thought you were French.”
“I am. My grandmother taught me that song, and a bunch of others. She had a job running a day care center for the European Union delegation to Titan. So I know Spanish and German songs, too.”
“We did go through Frère Jacques
,” Jennifer said, “I figured that would calm him down, and I think it did. Or maybe he just wondered about my pronunciation.”
Brian Delacroix came in, “Sorry I'm late, it took me a while to get done with the breakfast dishes. Can I help with the bags?”
Lili hugged him, teary again, “I'm so glad to see you. Are you making good sauces?”
“Yes. Just the way you taught me,” he looked at Yimar, “Uh, hello,” he stammered out, unused to seeing bald, alien teenaged girls.
“Oh, bad manners,” Lili said, “Yimar, this is our friend, Brian. He has my old job.”
“Hiya,” she said, hanging back a bit. She took Joss from Doug. Joss started to fuss a little, “I think it's time for some quiet play.”
“Here, you'll be staying in, well, it's actually Crewman Cutler's old quarters,” Jennifer said, “And you'll have next door as well. So one room for you two”, she smiled at Lili, who looked away a little, “and another for Joss and Yimar.”
“Did you get a new roommate?” Lili asked as they made their way through the hallway.
Kick Kick Kick
“Yes, your pilot. She's a lot quieter than you were,” Jennifer said, “Here we are. The Bridal Suite
, I suppose.”
There was a large fruit basket on a desk, with small plastic baggies next to it, “Oh, look!” Lili called out, “It's from Chef! And you, too, Mr. Delacroix! And look, there are bags, we can save the seeds and bring them back to Lafa II!” she smiled, “I gotta,” her voice got emotional, “I gotta go hug and kiss Chef. Excuse me a sec,” she left.
“She's all over the place emotionally,” Doug explained, “C'mere, Joss. Let's go see your room. Yes, you can bring your dinosaur.”
Malcolm's PADD was flashing. A letter. He was on duty but the moment was quiet. The Calafans were friends, no one was about to start shooting at them. He could take a peek at Pamela's note.
I'm so glad you wrote. It just so happens that I will be totally free on the twenty-eighth and the thirty-first and all of the days in between. But not too much before – there was a mining accident on Io – perhaps you saw it in the news? They need any doctor they can get, so I'm off to get some serious overtime and help, but I'll be done by the twenty-eighth. I'll be doing regular surgery, not just plastic, so I'll be putting eyebrows back on and taking care of crushed ribs and all of that. Nothing too specific, I know you don't like hearing about that.
Tell me whether it's a day or evening wedding, and a day or evening reception as that'll define what I wear. And, uh, I have some special things for when it's just you and me. I can tell you're smiling, I can see you through the page. Plus of course I don't need the scarf back but I will spritz it with a lot more Toxic and you know I'll roll around a bit and get it in the sheets. I know you're smiling even more now and so am I. Might even be reddening, which is very hot. Anyway, I've teased you enough. See you soon and we'll scratch the itch.
He turned off the PADD and, despite himself, could tell he was reddening.
“Are you feeling all right, Malcolm?” Jonathan asked, “You look a little flushed.”
“Uh, yes, sir,” he squeaked out. Might have to scratch the itch a little earlier than expected, he thought to himself. It was going to be a long four weeks.
“Alone at last,” Doug said to Lili. Brian had taken Yimar and Joss to go look at the Botany lab's flowers.
“Yes. We should talk,” she said.
“I, uh, do you know why I'm angry?”
“Well, you want to do it that way, the dream way. And I just can't anymore,” he said.
“I can understand if it bothers you that way. What bugs me more is that it was such an unequivocal, unilateral decision on your part,” she said, “You just decided it, case closed, and there's no discussion. It's like I have no position at all.”
“Lili, it feels like cheating to me. I mean, the Calafans, the way they do things – there are husbands and wives and they, they go to sleep in bed together, maybe even having had lots of hot sex, and they dream about more sex, with other people. I'm like, what the hell? What could possibly be missing that they've gotta do it with someone else?”
“But you and I will be dreaming about each other,” she said, a little teary again, “And we are stuck otherwise. Unless you want to do math, well, we are stuck and there is nothing else when we're awake. I thought it would be good to have options,” her voice was breaking a bit more.
“Shh, shh. Look, it's a great number – divisible by three and twenty-three. You like to do math,” he said, using their word for the act, “And it'll have to be enough. We'll make it enough. And five months will fly by.”
“Doug, I was thinking, I dunno if it's a good thing but I had an idea.”
“I'm all ears.”
“Well, I'm fifty years old. I'll be almost fifty-one when Petey is born.”
“Number Two Son.”
“Yes,” she smiled a little, “Number Two Son. And I was thinking, I mean, I'm getting hot flashes throughout this pregnancy. I think I might want to be over and done with everything. I think I'd like for Miva to just tie my tubes, maybe the same time she does the O'Day Reversal
“No more kids? I thought we'd have our own team.”
“You honestly think, even if I don't get my tubes tied, that we'll have enough for a basketball team, let alone a baseball team?”
“I dunno. I guess not. But it's just, you're really amazing when you're pregnant.”
“Even when I'm barfing with morning sickness?”
“Yes, even then. It's kinda why we're in this mess to begin with. Beautiful white hot flame. I just want to be near it,” he said, kissing her.
“Then dream with me,” she said softly.
“I'm just afraid I'll like it too much. It's not real, it's not true. No dream is like this, like us.”
“Yeah, we'll do math. Every night and every morning if you like,” he said.
“I should really see Phlox at some point; ask him about all this kicking,” Lili said, patting her stomach.
“Later,” he said.