“Oh, good, you brought a PADD this time.”
“Of course, Lili. Now, what have you got?” Yimar asked.
“I know about a few more species that’ve been here before us. There were Tellarites, Xyrillians and Takret.”
“Ah, oh, good, that's one of the questions T'Pol wanted me to ask you. And when they came in, and from where. Do you know any of that?”
“We saw a leech in Sick Bay today,” Yimar explained.
“Ugh,” Lili shuddered, “I'm a little glad I didn't get to be a part of that.”
“Doug, are you holding my hand?”
“Oh, uh, sorry,” he dropped it quickly.
“It's funny,” he said, “My hands have been pretty much everywhere but your hands, and my mouth's been almost everywhere but your mouth, and then ....”
“Yeah. Holding hands seems too personal. As does kissing,” Melissa said.
“You gotta understand my position,” Doug said, “I'm committed. Really, committed. In love, happy, the whole nine yards. And then, suddenly, I've been unfaithful. And then again, and again. And it makes me wonder – because I couldn't resist it – what's really going on. And I figured, yanno, I should totally hate myself, and hate the person I'd been unfaithful with. To my mind, that's what all made sense. And then, heh, suddenly I realized that that person isn't awful at all. And I don't hate myself. And I don't hate that person.”
“Of course I understand your position. I know it because it's the position I'm in, too,” Melissa said.
“And I just kinda wonder, what's gonna happen?” he said, “I haven't trusted a lotta women. Can I trust you? Can I trust Lili anymore? I don't know, I don't get it. I feel like I shouldn't – like that's just gone. And I should hate myself. Even if I don't hate you. I should hate me, for succumbing to this. I shoulda been stronger. I'm supposed to be strong, dammit. I'm supposed to be able to get past such things.”
“Are we allowed to be friends, Doug? What's the new reality?”
“Maybe not,” he admitted, “Maybe that's too difficult.”
“I wish it wasn't,” she said, “I don't hate you, either. The opposite. Not the polar opposite,” she quickly added.
“'Course not,” he said, “But, yeah, can we be friendly? Or does that just hurt everybody? I haven't had female friends. Just Lili, really. But I can't see us, you know, sitting down and breaking bread together. And I would like to break bread together. I wish that didn't have to be impossible,” he leaned over and kissed her, voluntarily.
“What was that for?”
“For listening. And for not freaking out. You don't seem to freak out too easily.”
“Oh, I freak out about plenty of things. But I can tell you're doing your best to make it easier. I just don't feel like I need to freak about, uh, about this.”
“Oh and another thing – there's probably more that you're forgetting. So I was thinking, can you bring along a passenger next time?” Yimar asked.
“Hmm. I guess so.”
“You need to maintain physical contact, remember?”
“Yes,” Lili said cautiously. She knew she was maintaining contact with Malcolm at all times. He was holding her, or had his hand on her stomach, every single night, “I wonder if this connection is a little more fragile.”
“Might just be some interference or something. I dunno the physics of it. But you know, you put together all of the amplifying metal, go to sleep and anyone you're contacting directly should be able to come along. Although maybe, now that I think about it, touching the amplifier might help. I think Joss is just really in tune with you – that's why he was able to make contact without any amplifier.”
“Puppy!” Joss interjected.
“He loves Porthos. I think he wants one,” Yimar explained.
“Ah, hmm,” Lili said. Morning was coming, “I think we're gonna break soon.”
“Agreed. Good info here, I think. See ya.”
“Good morning,” Malcolm said, kissing her cheek. Lili noticed he didn't have a hand on her left arm at all. He wasn't touching the bracelet.
“Do you think you've moved much through the night?”
“Not too much, I don't think,” he said, “Any issues with that?”
“I was just wondering if you'd touched the bracelet at all. I wonder if you'd even know that.”
“I suppose I would never really know. How was the dream?”
“It was good. Actually, what do you think about joining me tomorrow night?”
“I recall you did that once.”
“With Tripp Tucker,” Lili said.
“Yes,” he said, “When I figured he'd be sharing your bed it did give me pause. Even platonically, I did have a pang. I trust him, of course. With my very life. But maybe the word isn't jealousy – envy. Not jealous of sexual contact as I knew there would be none. Just envy that he'd be there and I wouldn't.”
“Well, you're here now. And you'll be there tonight, if you like. But, uh, maybe not in front of Joss. I don't want to confuse him.”
“Understood,” he said, “I'm sure that there have been plenty of causes of confusion for him recently. I don't want to be another one. I do want to ask one thing, though.”
“Hmm? We'll be on a time constraint.”
“Could I kiss you in this dream?”
“If we weren't on a time constraint, we could do far more than that. But, uh, yes. I do wanna see my little duck, though,” she said.
He smiled, “Absolutely. Only a minute or so of the time, all right? A little, uh, a surprise I guess. And a tiny bit of indulgence, if you would.”
“Okay,” she said, “I do enjoy indulging you, Malcolm.”
“I enjoy indulging you as well. I'm so very glad that you're, that you're letting me.”