“So you think this will work, Deb?”
“Yep. Hoshi showed me. The motion is, uh, you don't wanna know what it reminds me of.”
“I'm sure I don't. Now, you've got the flattened tube and its cap?” he said, enlacing his fingers.
“Yes. Now, don't let me fall.”
“'Course not,” Jonathan said, “Don't wanna see those pretty pecan brown eyes cry.”
She smiled to herself. That was still a rush. She pushed down and twisted, and then pulled, just as Hoshi had demonstrated. Sure enough, there was a pinging sound as a fastener hit the floor.
“Great!” he said, “Can you get a second one?”
“Sure,” she said, but she was starting to hear a hissing sound. She worked quickly and there was another ping, “Okay, now let me down.”
“'Cause we're about to be interrupted.”
“Oh,” he let her down easily, “You know, once we've gotten back to the Enterprise
, we can't ....”
“I know,” she said, looking down, “Just let me believe a little longer. It gives me hope, Jonathan.”
“All right,” he said, kissing her before the fuchsia gas arrived, “You've made this easier for me, too.”
“Doug, a little to the right. Slowly
“Yep, I'm on it,” he held her ankles as he took a small step over, “Better?”
“Yeah,” Melissa worked, “Whaddaya think you'll do when we get outta here?”
“I dunno. Go back to, uh, hmm, maybe going back isn't in the cards.”
“Well, there's the war. Weren't you an army guy?”
“Melissa, I was a mercenary in my twenties.”
“Well, so, you're still ... skilled,” she said.
“Huh. Combat? Lili would never let –”
“Let you what?”
“I got a little kid at home. There's gonna be another,” he said, “I can't go running off to a war and get something blown off or die.”
“Probably not. Just, yanno, it seems a shame to waste your skills.”
“I love my children,” he said, “I'm proud to take care of them,” he let her down as they could both hear the hissing.
“I know,” she said, “But you're not satisfied.”
Malcolm and Lili sat down on the mattress. Dinner finished, they got to talking.
“So I was wondering if I could ask you an intimate question.”
“Of course. Like you had said, we are already intimate,” he kissed her.
“Only if you want to tell me. About your first time? I'll tell you my story, of course.”
“Of course,” he smiled, “There's not much to tell. I was sixteen.”
“Sixteen? I waited until I was eighteen.”
“Well, the opportunity kind of, uh, presented itself. See, my family lives in Malaysia.”
“I would never have guessed that.”
“It's true. But I was sent back to the Mother Country for my education. I went to the Lancaster Boys' School in Leicester.”
“Sounds very high class.”
“I got a classical education. You know, proper books like Plato and James Joyce and all,” he said, “But, as you can tell from the name, it was all-male. So girls were a subject of great mystery and fascination. Much like you are, now,” They kissed again.
“I'm an open book. Very little mystery here,” Lili said.
“Oh, there are definitely mysteries,” he smiled at her, “So, there was this mixer with the Leicester High School for Girls. And I met this girl, Robin McKenzie.”
“McKenzie? Any relation to Aidan?”
“No, he's M-A-C, she's M-C. But she is related to someone you have met. Julie McKenzie, the head of the MACOs. She was, when Jay Hayes passed, he told me she should be promoted to carry on what he'd been doing.”
“You were there, that's right.”
“Yes, I was. Jay was quite the hero,” Malcolm said, “Shall I go on?”
“Of course. I wanna hear about your sixteen-year-old moves.”
He laughed a little, “I had none. We went to a music room in my school. I was terrified that anyone would find out. So it was all rather quick and jolting.”
“Oh, well, I, uh, I did notice that things were not so wonderful for her. Helped her out a bit.”
She kissed him, “Can I ask, how it ended with Robin?”
“She, uh, I wrote to her a few times afterwards. Gushy teenaged mash notes, they were. She never wrote back, and then that was it.”
“Did that bother you?”
“A bit, for a while. But not too much. I recovered pretty quickly. It wasn't like, well, like this is going to be like.”
They were both quiet.
Kick Kick Kick Kick
“It's going to end. One way or, or another. And if we never leave here, the way it'll happen is, they'll make us sleep. They'll take our, our child,” he quickly put his hand on her belly and, for just a second, could believe that Pete was his, “And put us into, into different cells. And you'll be with Travis, perhaps. Or with Tripp, my, my best friend. Or you'll be the Captain's woman.”
“And you'll be with Hoshi, maybe. Or Deb. Or poor Jennifer. Or, or Melissa.”
“And the only time I'll see you will be when we're all walking 'round. And the only way I'll be able to communicate with you at all will be to, to wave slightly, and hope to catch your eye. And to hope that Doug doesn't see that, because he'll be trying to do that as well. Perhaps he and I will bond over that – we'll have it in common suddenly.”
“But we'll escape, right?” Lili asked.
“And, and if we do, it'll end, but in a different way, Lili,” he said slowly. It was getting harder and harder to speak, “You will, you'll go back to Doug.”
“I don't know.”
“You will. You will not make your children go through a divorce. You will try to reassemble your lives. You'll put your, your puzzle back.”
“Lili-Flower, Phlox once said our, our human mating rituals, he said they're like these complicated minuets. Well, that's a dance that's only meant for, for two. I can't. I can't just, just cut in.”
“But – “
“It's not a complicated group dance like his species has. It's for two. You're in a marriage.”
“I know. But, this is a puzzle, you like puzzles, there's a way to fit these pieces together and reconfigure them, isn't there? Isn't there?” she asked, voice going up a few notes.
Kick kick kick kick kick Kick Kick Kick
He said, “No, it's a marriage. And by definition there are only two pieces, and they only fit together in one way.”
Kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick Kick Kick Kick
“Dammit, Petey! Lay off once in a while. Please, oh please, just lay off
His hand on her belly wasn't helping like it usually did. She gasped a little. It hurt.
He just looked at her, lost.
“Unh,” Tears sprang straight out of her eyes. She had no control over that whatsoever.
When she began to sob, so did he. They got closer and lay on their sides. They just held each other. The gas came and went. It didn't matter. They didn't do anything but lie there and sob.
Sleep, for a moment, came as a blessing.
“Lili, are you all right?” It was Yimar, holding Joss in the little bed.
“I don't know,” she said softly. Her hand was being held. She looked to her side, and he was there.
“Unka!” Joss cried out. He squirmed out of Yimar's arms and hugged Malcolm's leg, “Mackum.”
“L's are hard letters,” Yimar explained.
“I, I don't think I can do this tonight,” Lili said.
“It's okay,” Yimar said. She shrugged. She'd seen nighttime people before. It didn't faze her, “But T'Pol said she wants you all to try to figure out the size of the ship if you can. Pace out rooms if you can do that.”
“Oh. We can do that,” she said mechanically.
“Yimar, they are sending us – and seventy-nine other species – out to another galaxy,” Malcolm said, “They want us to play war games of some sort.”
“Huh,” Yimar said, “Oh, there's also a letter on Doug's PADD. It's from someone named Laura Hayes. Should I read it?”
“No. Give him his, his privacy,” Lili said, “We should, we should go. I can't handle this right now.”
“Yes. Mommy's very sad.”
They awoke. They'd been sleeping for maybe five minutes, tops.
He whispered in her ear, “I, there are so many things I've wanted to say to you. Not just here, but for the past two years, Lili-Flower. And now I just can't.”
“Maybe there's a way. There has to be one,” she said, voice cracking.
“I'm so very, very afraid that there's not,” he said, and they both began sobbing again. Wet shoulders, wet noses, wet mouths, drenched eyes. Hands clutched together.
When morning came, they didn't get up to take their food, and didn't get up when the guards came in to collect them for exercise.
The only way the guards could get them apart was to shock them both, repeatedly. They concentrated on Lili's legs – no one wanted to be responsible for damaged or missing stock – but Malcolm got the full brunt of their efforts. When they were finally broken apart, and finally got Lili separated out for exercise, the other four women just stared. Lili looked haggard and exhausted, and was shaking a little.
Only one person reached out to hug her and try to make her feel just a tiny bit better, as the others were just in shock.