It wasn't a perfect moment.
A perfect moment would have had, for one thing, a more comfortable bed. But it was a good moment – one of Malcolm's better ones. He lay back, after they'd broken apart, and held her and kissed her shoulder and thought that, well, this wasn't so bad after all. Life could be far, far worse. He spoke, “I, may I ask? The baby's been awfully quiet. I don't wish to hurt him. Is everything all right?”
“Yes, definitely. And, I don't think you can hurt him,” she said, stretching a little. She smiled at him, “I can feel him moving. He's just not kicking so much. He seems to have calmed down a little. Here, give me your hand,” he complied, “Put it right here,” he placed it on her navel, “Now, press in very, very slightly. Too hard, and you'll induce kicking. Just ... feel.”
He did as requested, and then felt it, moving, a bit of a small wave, a little rolling underneath her skin, “How extraordin'ry,” he smiled fully, feeling warm and a little reddened in the face, “How completely incredible that is. A lot nicer than the kicking, I imagine. You get assaulted an awful lot, Lili.”
“Well, he's calmer now. And I think you have a little to do with that,” she put her hand on his, feeling how warm he was against her belly.
“Yes. I think he likes you.”
“Well, I like him
She turned her face back to him and kissed him.
“Your bracelet - is it a very special gift? You never seem to take it off.”
“That's mainly because I don't want to lose it. It was given to me by Yimar's mother. She's, uh, the mother, she's not in very good physical shape, and doesn't speak much. But she took this off her own wrist and gave it to me about a year ago. We had gone there to tell her I was pregnant with Joss.”
“What's the metal? Is it tin?”
“Some sort of alloy the Calafans make. It has amplifying properties but I've never used it for that.”
“Huh. How very interesting. Are you comfortable?”
“Very,” she said, yawning a little, “But I'm also really tired. Would you mind very much if I went to sleep now?”
“Of course not. I shan't wake you.”
“Not even by tapping on the side of my belly?”
“Oh, you felt that?”
“Both mornings,” she said.
“Well, then I suppose I have no surprises to offer you.”
“I'm sure you have plenty,” she said, looking at him meaningfully. She kissed him, but yawned again.
“I hope that my surprises are to your liking. But right now I think you both need to rest. G’ night.”
Lili was dreaming.
She first saw the holding area and then, suddenly, she was on the Enterprise again.
The corridors were mostly empty. It was, after all, the middle of the night.
She saw T'Pol in the Captain's Ready Room, poring over reports and looking – despite her cool Vulcan demeanor – a bit worried.
She then went onto the Bridge and took a look at the night shift crew. Aidan MacKenzie was at Malcolm's station. She smiled a little, thinking of him.
She moved on.
She went to B deck, to where they had been staying. She saw Yimar and Brian outside the room, in the hallway. They didn't seem to be able to see or hear her. No one else had.
Yimar said, “Thank you for being so nice to us. I bet you like Joss a lot.”
“Well, sure,” Brian said.
“And I think you like Lili and Doug, too, to be doing this.”
“Yeah, but I know her better than I do him.”
“Is there, um, anyone else you like?” Yimar asked.
“Uhhh,” he looked around a little, “It's, um, late. I gotta get up early tomorrow. And I bet you do, too. G'night.”
Brian left quickly. Lili followed him down the hall, and called after him, “Brian! You dope! She threw you a softball. You so shoulda hit that one outta the park.”
He didn't hear her.
Lili turned back, and went into the room where Yimar and Joss were staying.
Joss was lying down, but sat up quickly when he saw her, “'Ommy! 'Ommy! 'Ommy! 'Ommy!” he yelled a total of maybe a dozen times, when he saw her. He squealed and laughed and ran over to hug her, nearly knocking her over.
“Whoa. You can see me?” she asked.
“'Ommy! 'Ommy! Duck Duck! Duck Duck!”
“Okay. I haven't seen you in days and you want to be entertained, eh? A mother's work is never done,” Lili said, “Okay, get into bed.”
He complied. She began to sing. Yimar even walked in, but didn't hear her. Only Joss seemed to. Lili even made it through to the end:
...” O pato vinha cantando alegremente, quém, quém
Quando um marreco sorridente pediu
Pra entrar também no samba, no samba, no samba
O ganso gostou da dupla e fez também quém, quém
Olhou pro cisne e disse assim “vem, vem”
Que o quarteto ficará bem, muito bom, muito bem
Na beira da lagoa foram ensaiar
Para começar o tico-tico no fubá
A voz do pato era mesmo um desacato
Jogo de cena com o ganso era mato
Mas eu gostei do final quando ca'ram n'água
E ensaiando o vocal
quém, quém, quém, quém
quém, quém, quém, quém
She stopped. There was never applause, of course. Joss just hugged her, “'Ommy, 'Ommy,” he said sleepily.
“Mommy loves you,” she said, “And Daddy loves you, too. And Yimar loves you. And Aunt Jenny loves you. And Uncle Treve loves you. And Uncle Jonathan loves you. And Aunt Hoshi loves you. And Uncle Malcolm ....” Sweat sprang from her palms and she stopped talking. She sniffed the air.
“Hmm,” Lili said, “You need a diaper change.”
This got Yimar up. She, too, sniffed the air, “Whew!” she said, “Joss, you stinky boy!” Yimar scooped him up and brought him into the bathroom.
“'Ommy,” he said sleepily.
“Just me,” Yimar said.
“Did you hear that?” Hoshi said, sitting up in bed.
“Hear wha–?” Tripp asked, yawning, “Remind me not to think up those pastes as a six pack again, okay?”
“Uh, sure. Y’know, I heard somebody singing.”
“You sure you didn't just dream that?”
“I dunno. I don't think so.”
“Maybe Quellata is serenading us now. A little mood music to get us goin'.”
“No. This was in Portuguese.”
?” Malcolm asked her as she woke up, and then kissed her cheek.
? Huh, and good morning to you, too,” Lili said, feeling him lying behind her.
“Yes. It was, uh, you were talking in your sleep again. Actually, it seemed more like you were singing. Very nice – you have a soft voice. And the words were not English – Spanish, perhaps.”
“Ohhh. The song is Portuguese. And quém
“How very odd. I wonder if Portuguese dogs bark differently as well.”
“Malcolm, do you remember that I can have very vivid dreams?”
“Of course. That happened the last time we were in the Lafa System. It's how you made contact – I know that.”
“Yeah. Well, the dreams aren't just vivid – you can also use all five senses in them.”
“So you can taste things?” he asked.
“Smell and taste. And I smelled a dirty diaper last night.”
“That's quite a diaper,” he joked.
“Well, yeah, they can be. But – Malcolm – it was Joss. I was there. I saw him, and I know he saw me. It was a Calafan-style dream. I was, in a way, really there. I was on the Enterprise
“Oh, that time was definitely better,” Melissa said.
“Yeah. You sure
there's no blood?” Doug asked.
“No. Quit asking me that.”
“Sorry. It's just – uh, don't say anything, okay? It's just, um, I've injured Lili. Twice. Maybe even a third time but it was milder.”
“What, uh, what happened?” she asked, sitting up.
“I come from – do you know about multiple universes?”
“Well, there are two. Or, maybe, there are more than that. Probably lots more. Probably billions, trillions, infinite ones are out there. And in a buncha them, the big bang doesn't go off, or doesn't go off properly. And in others, that happens, but the Solar System is never formed. In others, you get a Solar System but the dinosaurs never die out. In a subset of those, the dinos die out but the pyramids are never built. And on and on. And one of them is here.”
“Well, another one is where evolution turned left instead of right, and there was a kind of a Y chromosome skew
. And there was a spike of testosterone.”
“More male hormones than the average bear? And there are more boys than girls. Uh, okay, I guess,” she asked, “Uh, what are you saying?”
“I come from that one.”
“I do. It's, um, it's not public knowledge. It’s very classified, very weird, as you can imagine. I, Lili and I, we made contact through a kind of dream state. I know it sounds nutty as I say it, but that's the truth. And I got to come here, and leave all of that behind, and I jumped at the chance, because the other side, other side of the pond, it's a hard place. This place is a picnic compared to it.”
“Uh, okay. But what does this have to do with the price of tea in China, Doug?”
“The proportions are different there. So, I'm kinda typical in size and strength for there. But here, not so much. When I got here, nobody knew that. And, when Lili and I first made love, I really hurt her. She almost bled to death. If she had, we wouldn't be having this conversation – I'd be in jail for second degree homicide.”
“So yer sayin' the Witannen know Portuguese?” Tripp asked.
“No. It sounded like Lili's voice,” Hoshi said, “It was a song about a duck, a goose and a swan, dancing the samba. Kind of a silly song, but it was real Portuguese.”
“Isn't she French?”
“Doesn't mean she can't know a song in Portuguese. I mean, don't you know 'O Tannenbaum'
? That's in German.”
“I'm not much for caroling.”
“That doesn't matter, now, does it?”
“Well, hmm, no blood, Doug. Really, heh, check if you like,” Melissa said.
“That's okay. I'll take your word for it.”
“It was kinda powerful, though,” she admitted, “Kinda like a Paris tackle.”
“A Paris tackle? You saw the Forty-Niner-Packers game?” he asked.
“Well, sure. Doug, I am the son my father never had.”
“Huh. I bet you're a Packers fan.”
“Nope. 'Niners all the way,” she said, “But they gotta do something about those cheerleading costumes. They're just not skimpy enough.”
“Yeah, tell me about it.”
“Joss, what?” Yimar asked, putting him down from the changing table.
“'Ommy, Duck Duck
!” he exclaimed excitedly.
“Uh, not now.”
“No! 'Ommy Duck Duck
! 'Ommy Duck Duck
!” he patted the side of his ear.
“Wait. Did you dream of Mommy singing Duck Duck
“'Ommy Duck Duck
!” he began running around excitedly, just in a new diaper.
“Admiral Gardner,” T'Pol said, “we need more help with the searching.”
“We have the Kreetassans. And the Tellarites. Andorians, too, but with the Earth-Romulan War heating up again they just can't spare a lot of ships. And neither can we, I'm sorry to say.”
“Well, that is of some assistance,” she replied.
“We also learned – the Andorians said that there was an incident about a decade ago, where ten of their people were transported off a ship after a burst of EM radiation. Those Andorians were not heard from again. We're investigating.”