Lili's eyes sprang open, and she stared into space.
She didn't move, didn't twitch. She had no idea what to do.
The caressing continued. It was very light, not ticklish, and not hard. It was just the side of her belly. There were no movements, no advances, either to her front or her back. It seemed clear that Malcolm wasn't trying to wake her up. She was not leaning against his body.
Her throat was dry, and she finally, involuntarily, coughed a little bit.
“Oh, you're up,” he said. His hand immediately moved away.
He could have, she figured, plausible deniability. If she asked, he could claim he wasn't doing anything. She kept quiet about it, and instead said, “I, uh, I've got a toddler at home. I'm up early all the time.”
“I suppose you would be.”
She sat up and the thin blanket dropped down, exposing her a little. She didn't make a move to recover herself.
“Uh, you'd best ...,” he said.
“Considering what's happened the last few nights, well, you've already seen me in my thousand-kilo pregnant glory.”
“Still,” he moved to sit up but grimaced.
“Are you all right?”
“Yes, just a bit of a backache.”
“I shouldn't have, uh,” she said, “I'm not exactly light these days.”
“I don't know.”
“Here. Um, lie on your stomach.”
“I caused this. Let me at least try to cure it.”
“No. If today is at all like yesterday, we'll be walking around for hours. You might as well be comfortable, or as comfortable as you can be.”
“Uh, all right,” he did as requested.
She pulled the blanket down to expose his back, and then started pressing her thumbs in.
“No, a little higher. Yes, that's right,” he said.
“Not so hard. Oh, yes, much better. Thank you.”
“Good,” she said, “That's, um, hate to say it, but that's the same motion and the same force I used to use to burp Joss.”
Excitement gone, he felt safe in turning over and sitting up.
“Your beard's coming in grey,” Melissa said.
“I don't suppose they have much of a concept of shaving here,” Doug replied, “I'm almost fifty-seven. I'd be surprised if it wasn't grey.”
“I'm old enough to be your father. And, uh, don't tell me how old he is.”
“Why not? He's sixty-two,” she said.
“He was an old father.”
“So are you,” she said, “But I'm the fourth of six.”
“Huh. I want a bigger family but I get the feeling this will be it,” he said, and then swallowed. Maybe not, and not the way he'd hoped for or expected.
“Well, it was all right being in a big family, I guess,” Melissa said, not noticing his reaction, “All girls. I bet my father wanted to run screaming from us more than once.”
“Yep. And we're all 'M' names. Monica, Marilyn, Meghan, then, uh, I come in. Then Misty ....”
“Sounds like a stripper's name,” he said, “Er, sorry.”
“She's studying to be an ornithologist.”
“Oh. Uh, wherever you are Misty, I'm sorry. You missed one.”
“Oh. The baby – Miri.”
“Pancakes again?” Malcolm asked, taking a tube from Lili.
“Hmm, nope. Lox and eggs and onions. You?” She adjusted the sleeve of her dress, exposing a tattooed arm for a second.
“Sesame bagel. With, uh, blueberry jam. No cream cheese for me.”
“Right. Uh, let's talk about Jenny's wedding. Are you bringing anyone?”
“Yes, I am, actually,” he said.
“Pamela Hudson. Uh, Doctor
“Very nice. Your parents must be thrilled.”
“My parents haven't met her. And they shan't, ever.”
“Oh. Uh, why?”
“Because, well, it's not very polite,” Malcolm said.
“Pamela and I are, there's an old expression. Our relationship is what's referred to oh so charmingly as 'Friends with Benefits'
kinds of benefits. Don't you, um, want to fall in love?” Lili wasn't even sure why she'd said that. It had just slipped out.
“Yes, of course I do,” he said, looking away a little, then stuffed another ten cc's of paste into his mouth, and swallowed it, “I even told her I loved her. But it wasn't true; it was wishful thinking on my part.”
“Well, it's just; I tend to fall for women who are either thoroughly inappropriate for me or wholly unattainable,” he capped the tube and rewrapped his shirt, then offered her the tube, “Do you want the rest of this?”
“I cannot believe you did that again,” Jennifer accused.
“Hey, I'm not just doing it by myself,” Travis replied.
“Thanks. A lot
“No, I don't hate you, Travis. I just hate what's happening.”
Kick kick kick kick Kick Kick Kick.
“Ow! Pete! God, lay off every once in a while,” Lili complained.
“Oh, is that what you're going to name your baby?”
“Yes. Peter Matthew, for my parents. Every name has a meaning.”
“So you know you're having a boy, then?”
“Chances are too good not to. Doug” and she paused a little when she said his name, “and I won't have daughters. Pete will most likely be our last,” she didn't want to think of how the Witannen were, potentially, going to make a liar out of her.
Kick Kick Kick.
“Yes. No one to inherit your gentle grace,” he said, “What would you name a girl, if you were to have one?”
“Marie Patrice,” she answered quickly. She'd never said that name out loud; it sounded like a magical talisman and hung in the air for a split second.
She was about to say something when she was smacked with another long volley of kicking.
“I get the feeling I could be better at this.”
“It's all right.”
“Uh, well, thanks, but I think you're being overly kind. You're probably used to much younger men.”
“It's okay. I'm totally covered. Really.”
“You have pretty eyes,” he said, “Light brown,” he smiled a little, “Pecan pie.”
The tubes were thrown in. Deb got up and retrieved them.
“Pecan pie?” she asked, handing him one.
“Maybe not for breakfast.”
“I meant to tell you, you talk in your sleep a bit.”
“Yes. I've talked in my sleep ever since I was able to talk,” Lili said.
“Well, you seemed a bit distressed. You kept asking, 'Is anyone there?'
I wasn't sure if I should wake you,” Malcolm said, “I do hope you don't mind. I didn't mean to eavesdrop.”
“It's okay. You're a, heh, a captive audience. I was going through all these rooms and checking doors. I couldn't find anyone. I think I was trying to tell them about here, about how to find us.”
“That's what we'll be trying to do, I'll wager, although it would not be in the exact same way. But we will be looking for ways to get a message to the Enterprise
, if I know the Captain.”
“Hoshi, did you find where you flung 'em?”
“Sure, right there, under the mattress,” she said, scooping up the two tubes.
“Ah, thanks,” he retrieved his shorts and put them on.
They barely got a chance to eat before the door opened. The drill was as before. The guards separated them, and the women left first.
Quietly, before they were forced into line, Deb said, “Captain wants us to gather intel. Anything is helpful.”
Dayah found Lili again, “Walk in front of me this time,” Dayah said, “I'll give you an examination.”
“Well, this isn't exactly a state of the art Xindi Medical Facility, but it's the best I can do.”
“Quiet!” yelled a guard, and they started shuffling around again.
Dayah put her hands on Lili's abdomen, and then pressed in a little. This elicited some kicking.
“Ah, you have good quickening,” she said.
“It’s signs of life within,” Dayah said, “Not much else I can check, but your baby is obviously strong, unless you’re going to have twins. Are you?”
“No. That much I know for certain.”
“And you have months to go yet. Quellata must be pleased, or she will be. A very fit baby is the ideal.”
“Do, uh, does everyone turn the baby over to her?”
“We all must. And they can make you sleep, as you know, and take the baby then. That's usually how it's done.”
“I see. I just, I want to keep him,” Lili said, patting her own belly.
“We all do.”
Deb was walking behind a Klingon woman, “Do you know anything about our course and speed?”
“Not much. Do you have a pilot? Last known position would be of help,” answered the Klingon.
“Over there. She’s the short woman, with brown hair,” Deb pointed.
“Tomorrow, I will speak with her. As for speed, we estimate at least Warp Eight.”
Jennifer and an Andorian woman were talking. Jennifer said, “What do you know about escaping?”
“Keep your voice down.”
“We don't try, not much, not anymore. The guards are strong and the sticks are always charged, or at least they always seem to be.”
On the men's side, Jonathan asked a Vulcan, “Does anyone have a map of the interior?”
“Nothing other than what we have been able to piece together. Cells line both sides of each corridor. Then these exercise areas, as you know, are on the ends. Between are the cleansing stations.”
“What about where we were first brought in?” asked Jonathan.
“I'm not sure where that is. You forget it has been a few years since my people and I were captured. And they may have changed it.”
“What's going on, in the other units?” Travis asked Emmiz.
“I don't know. No one ever transfers in. They only transfer out, and only if production falls off.”
“Production. It makes this sound like a factory,” Travis said.
Malcolm asked an Andorian, “Do they listen in on our conversations or, uh, observe us at, at night?”
“Are you certain? I mean, it strikes me that it's possible that the Witannen are filming pornography of some sort.”
“No,” The Andorian said.
“How can you know that?”
“Denebian slime devils, or whatever they are calling you, insulting you, what is it?”
“Slime molds,” Malcolm spat out the phrase.
“Yes, well, do you become aroused watching such low creatures mate?”
“Of course not.”
“Same with them. They think you're too primitive to be titillating,” said the Andorian.
Melissa was behind Leveqa, the tall Andorian, “What do you know about the ventilation system?”
“Nothing helpful. Gas comes in,” she shrugged, “It's all you need to know.”
“Can the panels come off?”
“Who knows? Look, I almost blew it for everyone a year ago. Don't blow it for us.”
“How can you, you told me, sometimes they, uh, they want to, uh, do it without the gas. How do you know that?”
“Well, it should be obvious. But I sense you are unsure.”
“And you are unsure of yourself, am I right?”
“I don't know what to think,” Lili admitted.
“It's a good thing. Jannar and I – see him, just in front of your husband? – He and I never got along. The only good thing out of that was that I had twins, so we received extra rations.”
“It's one thing to be friends. But more? I kind of, hmmm, I know that, well, that there was interest. But it was a few years ago. I had thought it was done – he even had, at least, one girlfriend since then. I mean, look at me. I'm not exactly glamorous these days. And I am not young anymore.”
“So? I am old enough to be a grandmother to Emmiz. You are concerned. It is, perhaps, exposing cracks that you didn't think were in your marriage, eh?”
“I also wonder how my husband is getting on with, with Melissa. She’s the short girl. There.”
“She is young. Not to be insulting, that is merely an observation. You do not know what to think.”
“No, I don't,” Lili said.
“Might I suggest something?”
“You're the expert.”
“Hardly,” Dayah said, “Just, consider how today is going to be, and tomorrow, here. And think of the future later, when it has come and it matters. Be happy today. Tomorrow you could be in another unit, and things would not be so nice.”
“Gather ye rosebuds while ye may
, ” Lili said.
“Quiet over there!”