Gently, he held her.
“Oh?” she said.
“Yes. I'd like to do for you what you did for me this morning. It was devastatingly satisfying
“What? I'm terrible at that.”
“No! Absolutely not, Lili-Flower. What's, what's making you feel so inadequate about it? I mean, if anyone were to have cause to feel inadequate, it would be me.”
“You forget I've been made to shower with your husband and the others. He is quite, eh, remarkable. Truly. I mean, we're not supposed to look, but of course everyone does, I suppose. I wonder what the others think. And I wonder, even more, is that, is it a necessity for you? Am I able to, to satisfy what you need?”
“Of course, Malcolm,” she kissed him, “I mean, can't you hear me?”
“Well, now that you mention it,” he pantomimed cleaning out one of his ears, “I fear I may be starting to suffer a little upper register hearing loss.”
She laughed at him and hit his shoulder lightly with her hand, then turned serious, “It's too much, actually. He's too much. I'll tell you the details some other time.”
He remembered, “When he first came to the Enterprise
. You were in Sick Bay. We thought you were going to die. And I didn't, I didn't put it together. I was just in a rage. But there was, there was blood on his, his shorts. I didn't realize then, but I realize it now. It was your
blood, wasn't it?”
She nodded, “Phlox had to do some seriously fancy work to get it all to work at all.”
“I do hope Melissa Madden is all right.”
He kissed her. He didn't do that, much, but she was okay with that.
“C'mere,” she said.
He touched body parts that were smaller than he was used to, hips that were wider, and hair and skin that were darker, “Melissa,” he said softly, “let's do this.”
“It gets better every time.”
“Good. Let me show you something else.”
She laid there, stock still, not moving. All she could think of was, please, please, please, let's just get this over with
Then the gas took effect, finally, and she was able to embrace Travis, after a fashion.
She wore him out. Again
“Man, oh man,” he said, “Deb, you shoulda seen me in my prime.”
“It's okay,” she whispered in his ear and then kissed it, “You've got skills. Experience. Technique.”
“Ha, well, I guess it comes with the territory. You're very agile,” Jonathan said.
“Security,” she said, “I'm wily like a cat.”
“Yeah. That was, uh, wow.”
“Feels like we got a double dose, Hoshi.”
“Probably. Can't say they don't know their stuff.”
“Can't say you don't know yours,” Tripp said, “Might wanna bottle that technique so's we can repeat it later.”
“How 'bout now?”
“Hmm. Yeah,” he kissed her and ran his fingers through her glossy black hair, “Gimme a sec.”
They lay back, panting, side by side, “I can kinda see what the fuss is all about,” she said.
“You're a quick study,” Doug gasped.
“Got any of the tube food left?”
“I think so. Here.”
“Thanks. I'm craving oatmeal cookies,” Melissa said, squeezing the tube.
“Lili makes those,” he said suddenly, sitting up.
“Oh. She seems really domestic. Is she a stay at home Mom?”
“No. Well, only for the first six months after Joss was born. Then she went back to work.”
“We own a restaurant. She's a chef,” Doug said.
“Oh. That would explain the cookies, I guess. What do you do there? You're retired from Starfleet, right?”
“Yep. I, uh, she does the cooking and the shopping. She's the talent. And our friend, Treve, he does the books and the buying. And right now he's supervising the expansion.”
“And you?” she prompted.
“I was supposed to do that – the books, the buying. But we found out that I'm not good at that. So first I worked on construction, and I also did that at home – helped the workmen build the house. And when she went back to work, I ended up caring for Joss a lot when the sitter was at school.”
“Did you like doing that?”
“Well, I love my son. So I changed diapers, fed him milk from a bottle, that kind of thing. He's more independent now.”
“And you'll take care of the one that's coming?”
“Assuming I get a chance to, yes.”
“Is that enough for you?” she asked.
“Not really. I go hunting – made friends with some of the Calafan workmen. We go every few months or so. I can't take Joss yet. I also fish. That I can take him to, although he doesn't have a lot of patience for it.”
“Well, he's still little.”
“Do you hunt?”
“Sure I do. I bagged a buck the last time I was in the Pacific Northwest.”
“We should go some time.”
“Heh, I don't think your wife would like that.”
“Yeah, you're right. Or at least, she shouldn't
“True,” she said.
“I kinda jumped at the chance to teach this class and get out of the house for a while.”
“You kinda don't know what to do with yourself, do you, Doug?”
“Yeah. I got here and I thought I'd be happy. And it's good here. I'm not un
“But ...? Doug, if you were still on the other side, what would you be doing right now?”
“Probably the same thing I – uh, we – just did. Then sleeping. I'm sorry that I snore.”
“I don't mean this. I mean, you know, work and stuff.”
“Ha. Less fun. I'd run Tactical, be put in command sometimes, blow stuff up. I'd also be watching my back, though. It's a tough place. There’s always someone gunning for you.”
“You don't want to go back there, right?”
. But I – this seems ungrateful. But I do kinda miss the excitement sometimes, Melissa.”
“Ohhh. I need some water.”
“Huh. That was intense.”
“Yes,” he kissed her after they had both downed some water, “So good.”
“You should see me when I'm not pregnant. I can move better.”
“Oh? You'll put me in a coma,” he smiled, and then thought of something, “I should tell you. If you wish to hear. About Pamela.”
“Well, if you're all right with it. I just feel I can tell you anything.”
“Very well,” she said, grabbing the blanket.
He put an arm around her, and the other one on her belly.
“It was definitely intense. She and her class came to the Enterprise
for some instruction from Phlox. It was some sort of special program. And she was beautiful and captivating and I just did everything, anything I could to win her.”
“I sent her poetry. Anonymously,” he looked down.
“From a book? Elizabeth Barrett Browning or something like that?”
“No. Shakespearean sonnets. I wrote them myself,” he admitted.
“Oh, wow,” she touched both sides of his face with her hands and smiled at him broadly, “That's extremely creative of you.”
“I don't normally get a chance to be creative. You do, I know. I've seen things you've made – different colors, textures, shapes – putting things together in all sorts of unexpected combinations. I remember your cooking very, very fondly,” he kissed her.
“Well I like trying to make something that no one's ever thought of before. But I know that you're creative. You're inventive – you've had to improvise all sorts of weapons stuff. I don't know the particulars but I do know that you saved our bacon many, many times. And you did it without much of an instruction manual.”
“It's a puzzle. I like puzzles. Putting them together, taking them apart and, and reconfiguring them,” he said, “Seeing the combinations in my head and acting on them.”
“Do you do crossword puzzles?”
“I love them.”
“Me, too. I remember my mother used to do them. I'd sit next to her on the couch and would try to help her fill them in. I do that with Joss now. He doesn't know the answers, of course. It's more like, 'This is an A, this is a B.' that sort of thing. Do you play Scrabble
“Yes, but I imagine I spell things a bit differently from how you do.”
“Yes. You probably put in a lot of extra U's.”
“They're not extra! They're needed. Do you play chess?”
“Very, very badly. I can't seem to see all the moves or even any moves. I probably telegraph a lot. There are people who can see, like, eighty-seven moves ahead. They probably have me figured out before I even set up the board, let alone make a move.”
“Oh. Well I'm the big champion on the ship.”
“Really? How excellent. How about sports? Anything physical?”
“Ahem,” he said, and then kissed her, “Football.”
“You toss a spheroid down a field?”
“No, no, no, you're talking about American
football. Me, I kick a black and white ball. And Pete in there would probably be rather good at that, with all of his kicking,” he patted her abdomen.
“I played baseball when I was in High School. Shortstop.”
“Really. I don't know baseball very much.”
“Oh, it's great. And to go to a game! It's a complete sensory experience,” she said.
“I beg your pardon?”
“It is. The crack of the bat – it's physics. There's a certain sweet spot on every wooden bat. When you strike horsehide with it, it makes a distinctive sound. It's unmistakable. And the sights! It's colorful uniforms and blue skies and green grass. You can feel the people around you, and the changes in the weather if they happen. And you can smell peanuts roasting.”
“And hot dogs, right?”
“Oh, yeah. They're made with about a thousand different horrible things. Which means Joss will probably want six whenever he's taken for his first game.”
“And taste – you forget taste.”
“Beer. You have to have a beer whenever you go. Unless you're a child or pregnant, of course.”
“Of course. I suppose a footy game's a bit like that. There’s the same green grass and blue skies. Colorful uniforms and people wearing team colors. Loud crowds, announcers with all sorts of accents. Red cards. Some woman running down the field, dribbling the ball forward, then some fellow comes in, arcing on the side,” he demonstrated by tracing it all on her forearm, “and if she sees him, she kicks it over here, to her teammate. And if not, he intercepts it, and it goes 'round this way,” he turned to face her and kissed her, then smiled at her.
“You looking to score again?” she asked.
“What would be exciting for you, Doug?”
“More, I dunno. More something
. I want to expand my world. I'm just not so sure how to do that.”
“You'll think of something.”
“First, I never actually told you much about Pamela.”
“Oh, yeah. Sorry, I guess I interrupted you there.”
“That's quite all right. A lovely diversion, that.”
“Tell me what you need to,” she said.
“I, well, she's an abuse victim.”
“How awful,” Lili involuntarily held her stomach.
“Very bad. There's no sugar-coating it. But what it did to her was, it sort of held her, held her sexuality hostage. She would get pleasure out of, from intense feelings.”
“I get the feeling you're not talking about the intense feelings you and I just had,” Lili said.
“That's correct. It was intense bad feelings. Pain. Dominance. I'm sorry. It's unpleasant.”
“Did you, did you go along with it?”
“A bit. Mostly on the receiving end of it. I stopped while it was still rather mild. The word avocado
– we used it to signal when we should stop, you see. It doesn't – I don't like it. I didn't get a charge out of it like she really did. Let her do things but, for the most part, didn't do anything back. At the time, I had thought I was too hung up and unable to relax but no amount of relaxation would have truly made me enjoy most of it.”
“Was any of it, uh, fun?”
“Tell no one.”
“My lips are sealed. Except, uh, right now,” she kissed him, and they lingered for a while.
“See, no need for any extras,” he said, “When it's, when it's ...,” His voice trailed off.
She just smiled at him, “No need.”
“Oh, but getting to what was a spot of fun – it was silk restraints. That part's kind of fun,” he admitted, whispering conspiratorially, “Being restricted – it means you have to get creative.”
“Back to creativity again,” she smiled, “Will you still see her for Jenny's wedding?”
“I suppose I can't uninvite her,” he said, “I don't know how I'm going to handle myself afterwards. Assuming we escape from here.”
“Me neither,” she admitted.
“It's getting late,” he said, “We should sleep. I don't want to. But it would be better for you, and for Peter. Yes?”
“Yeah. We should sleep. Malcolm?”
“Thank you for feeling you can trust me.”
He just nodded. They lay together, intertwined, and fell asleep.
It was the Enterprise, again.
She made her way to where Joss was. He saw her again, and she hugged and kissed him as before.
Yimar was there, too. She sat up, “I can see you, Lili,” she said.
“Good. I have information that we think can help T'Pol. Do you have a PADD?”
“Tomorrow night, then, make sure to have one. In the meantime, remember whatever you can from what I'm about to tell you.”