“Hoshi! Uh, Hoshi! Can we talk?” Tripp was breathless. He'd run after her.
“Sure,” she said, and they went into an unoccupied lab.
After the door had closed, he said, “Marry me.”
“I said, marry me
. Uh, will you marry me?”
“Tripp, I'm not pregnant. You should know that by now.”
“I know. But that would be just the cherry on the sundae. I mean, when I realized that, well, that there was a real possibility that we could be, uh, becomin' parents, I realized how much, well, that I love you. And, and you could, you could learn to love me, too. At, at some point. I mean, we're good friends, right? And that's a good three-quarters of the way there, isn't it? We know we're good together. We both know this. You know this, Hoshi.”
“Tripp, calm down. You won't want to in, like, a week or so. That gas, maybe it's still affecting you. You'll see. You don't love me.”
“But I do. Really. You want I should, uh, get on my knees? Is that what you want, Hoshi?”
“No, no. Stop
,” she dug her fingernails into the palms of her hands. Stay strong, she said to herself, “Get up. Please
. Don't, don't do this. You don't mean it.”
“But, uh,” he looked in her eyes and she looked away, “I do
mean it,” he tried to take her hand but she rebuffed him.
“We have to be able to work together. We can't do that if, if, you know.”
“So we'll change jobs, or I'll change, and you can stay on the Enterprise
, which you love. And we can be together, I dunno when, when you're on leave or somethin'. Everybody needs an engineer. This could work.”
“No, it can't,” she said, “Please. No more.”
It finally sunk in. He got up, “I, uh, I'm sorry. I'm, uh, I'm only gonna say this once,” he swallowed, and then continued, “I think I can understand. We're not in the same place, you 'n me. And that happens. And that's, uh, that's all right. I love you enough to, to not push it,” he swallowed again, “But I just want you to know. Just, just say the word. And not about, about gittin' married but about just, well, just giving this another chance. Just say the word. Any time, any place,” His voice breaking, he left.
Hoshi looked down at her hands when she moved one up to wipe her eyes. The fingernails had dug right in and drawn blood.
“Jennifer, we should talk,” Travis said.
“What's there to talk about?” she asked.
“Oh. Well, you just won't say anything and I won't say anything, and we'll be fine,” she said.
“Jennifer, you can't just wish this away.”
“Sure I can. Watch me
“Thank you for the ride,” Malcolm said to Chris.
“Thanks from me, too – and from the San Francisco Ballet,” Shelby Pike said, smiling.
“Oh?” Chris Harris asked, as he steered the shuttle out.
“I was a minor player. Second sugar plum fairy from the right, that kind of thing. Went to school for Botany at night,” she said, “I'm still friends with the troupe so we'll go out and have, I dunno, a half a calorie's worth of pizza tomorrow.”
“Sounds like fun. Just don't let a lotta big guys toss you around or anything,” he said, “Got anything planned, Lieutenant?”
“I'm, uh, meeting a friend,” Malcolm said tightly. Pamela. The shuttle was out of the bay and speeding along. He'd crossed the Rubicon. He touched the cuff again. That was becoming a reflexive habit with him. He seemed to do it whenever he was troubled or pensive. And he was troubled a lot.
“How long a trip is it?” Shelby asked.
“Almost twenty hours. So we'll fly in shifts. I'll take this part and the last part, which are the trickiest. You want between Saturn and Jupiter? That's the quietest part.”
“Sure,” she said.
“I'll, uh, I suppose I'll get some rest,” Malcolm said.
Yimar sat with Joss in the cafeteria as he played with Porthos. Or, rather, tossed Porthos bits of bread. She was nodding off.
Malcolm was in a darkened room. People came and went. No one could see or hear him.
He called out, “Is anybody there?”
“Sure,” It was Yimar.
“Oh. This is, it is one of your style dreams, isn't it?” he asked.
“Yes, it is,” she replied, “You're Lili's nighttime fellow, right?”
“I, uh, what?”
“Nighttime. You get together when you sleep. In a dream just like this.”
“I don't know 'bout that. I, uh, I'm not sure how to do this,” Malcolm admitted, “No one seems to know I am here, except for you.”
“And you want to find her, right?” said the teenager.
He nodded, “Desperately. But you, I don't want you to say anything to, to Mr. Beckett.”
“'Course not,” she shrugged, “I don't tell my Dad what my mother dreams about, either, since she started dreaming again. And vice versa. I mean, it's your business, right? You only share what you want to.”
“Right. And, well, I don't know that Mr. Beckett would be, well, too receptive to it all.”
“I dunno. But, so, anyway, you wanna know how to sync up with her, right? 'Cause right now, except for this conversation, you're totally asynchronous.”
“Yes, I suppose that's right,” he said.
“All you gotta do is just –”
Shelby elbowed him, and he woke up, “We're in visual range of Saturn. Thought you might want to look.”
“Oh,” he said, shaking cobwebs, “That large moon, is that Titan?”
“Yep,” Chris said, “It's the biggest of Saturn's moons, as you know.”
He knew. He also knew that Lili had grown up there. He touched the cuff again.
“So, what was the debriefing about, and why can't we talk about it in front of Joss?” Lili asked Doug.
“It wasn't a debriefing, not really. It was Phlox.”
“Are you okay?”
“Me, yeah. He wants to give me an exam but I can tell I'm okay. The shiner isn't bad. But – Lili – he said at least one of the girls is pregnant.”
“Oh. Uh, who are the lucky parents?” she asked, turning off her PADD and paying full attention.
“He wouldn't say. We've all got to play this elaborate parlor game. It's all under cover of getting physicals from him. Which we need – but we're to ask about, you know.”
“I see. Well, I did tell him to give the tests. I know the others are, uh, they're all grown women. But I figured, you know, they might be too shell-shocked to figure out to ask for that.”
“Yeah,” he said.
“Doug, is there a possibility that you've hit this lottery?”
“Yes,” he said very quietly.
“Did you, um, did you try to, uh, prevent this?” she wasn't sure which answer she wanted to hear.
“In the, in the beginning, yes.”
“But not later.”
“No. Not really,” he gulped.
“I see,” she said slowly, “Do you, uh, do you think you love her?”
“It's an easy question.”
“No, it's not. How about you, do you love him?” he asked, voice beginning to rise.
“We're talking about you, not me.”
“Oh, no. You're in on this, too. You're guilty, too. See, that's something that I've always been troubled by, Lili. When I got here, when I hit this side of the pond, I was a guilty SOB,” he was getting louder, “I had never been punished. I had gotten away with a boatload of sins. And you were innocent. You got to be the forgiver. You were the perfect one.”
“Perfect? I was – and am – far from perfect,” she said, getting up and starting to match his volume.
Kick Kick Kick
“Oh, c'mon, you practically had a halo on. And you said – you said if we loved each other and we put that into everything we did, then, then I'd be forgiven. And you doled out forgiveness like you served up stew.”
“Excuse me? If you thought I was holding back, or holding any cards in that area, why the hell didn't you speak up about it then?”
Kick kick Kick Kick Kick
“I was too guilty. I was consumed
with it, Lili.”
“You were happy
. Or was that a lie? Were you lying to me, Doug, when you said you were happy, that you had everything you'd ever wanted?”
“I was guilty! It was uneven! I needed your approval!”
?!” now she was really shouting, “What the hell did you think you needed my approval for? You're a grown man.”
“I followed your lead. I did whatever you asked. Even if I found it boring or slow, or, or not what I wanted.”
“Why didn't you tell me what you wanted? You could have talked to me!”
Kick kick kick kick kick kick Kick Kick Kick
“Well, I can't talk to you anymore. At least it doesn't feel like I can. I see the way you look at him. I see – you gave him that cuff. You did that. I know it was special, and you just gave it to him.”
She turned away.
“I see it now,” Doug said, voice lower but chilling, “It's that you – you're guilty, too. And you can't handle it. You are getting a taste of this medicine. And it's pretty bitter, eh?”
“At least I'm no killer.”
“That, now? Look, I haven't laid a hand on, on him or on anyone on this side of the pond,” Although he had to admit – if he were totally honest with himself – that he had certainly considered it.
“Did you kill any Imvari today?”
“No. I won't say I didn't think about it, or that I didn't smack the bejeesus out of them. But, no, I didn't kill any of them.”
“I suppose that's, that's something,” she said tentatively and a little quieter, “We should, um, we should talk about, about Melissa.”
“No. That's over.”
“Not necessarily. What if you're suddenly gonna have Number Three Son?” her voice rose back up again.
“That won't happen.”
“How can you say that? Did you, did you stop before it was too late? Did you pretend like you were a teenager again? Do a lot of math? Or did you two do it?”
Kick kick kick kick kick Kick Kick Kick
“We, we ...”
“And another thing. How come – when you and I do it – I have to have surgery for cryin' out loud? I can't have sex with you without having my body altered. And I've had that done twice. And it'll be a third time after Pete here is born,” she patted her own belly. Assuming they could find some way to stay together, “But she, she's fine. Not a scratch on her. Why is it so rough with me? Why can't you be, why can't you touch me, when I'm not all altered, without, without hurting me?”
“I have been gentle with you! I have been careful
“But it's never careful enough. I'm still the one who ends up broken and bleeding. I'm the one whose life is, is in danger. And that last time, Pete, too. You should just, you should get with her because at least she's not gonna die when you do it.”
“I don't know who you are anymore. Wait –” he said, “I do know. You killed Lili.”
“You. You're not Lili at all. You're Charlotte
,” he spat out her first name like it was a curse.
“Yeah. Charlotte O'Day. That's you. Because, you see, Lili Beckett? She's not like this. She's loyal and she's kind and she's good. And she would never tell me to just go and gallivant off. She would want to, to be with, with me.”
“And you're Hayes, right? If we're gonna do this, let's do it up right. If we're gonna go with your first fallback position – denial
– then let's go all the way. Right, Hayes
? Mr. Tactical Officer, who just so happened to get promoted because he's got an itchy trigger finger? Yeah, that guy. The one who strafed a Denobulan village all by his lonesome, and killed innocent children. The one who is a distorted version of Jay. That
“And what of you?” he yelled back, “Charlotte – who lies down with, with the likes of Reed,” That got her to raise an eyebrow and reddened her face a lot, so he kept twisting the knife, “Are the kids mine? Tell me that, Charlotte. Are they
“I got news for you! We are homesteaders! Pio – freakin'
– neers! There are exactly three humans in the entire godforsaken Lafa System. You, me and Joss! And he's not capable of doing the deed, so I guess you're elected.”
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“What about that supply ship?” he accused, “They had a human pilot. Did you get with him when I was busy building our house?”
“Do the math, Doug. It was a year and a half ago. I was already pregnant with Joss. And I was barfing almost constantly, in case you've forgotten. I wasn't exactly a beauty queen.”
Math. That word for something intimate, “Did you do that with him, too? Huh, did ya do math? Is he good at it? Does he think you're good at it?”
“As good as she thinks you are at it,” Lili said, her volume much lower than it had been, “She – if she is pregnant. She is scared. She is worried. She – pregnancy is hard enough, particularly in the beginning. Your body's not your own anymore. You get pulled around all the time.”
“She is not
“What if she is? What will you, what will you do?”
“It is – if she is – then it is my responsibility,” he said, “Mine
“You would let that kid starve, assuming she has it?”
“No,” Lili repeated, “It's not your
“Yes, it is.”
“No. It's, it's ours
There was a sound of the door. Lili wiped her eyes quickly and turned to face the door.
It was Yimar with Joss. Brian was hovering behind them.
“Just here to get a clean diaper,” she said, “And the stego – what is that word again?”
“Stegosaurus,” Brian said.
“Here,” Doug said, handing over the toy.
“A little,” she said, “Give me a big, big hug, okay?” He complied, and then ran over to the window.
“C'mon, buddy,” Brian said, “You ready?” he asked Yimar.
“Yep. Have diaper, will travel,” The three of them left.
“Ours?” he asked, “I, uh, I won't have contact with that kid. We can get it so that, so that my pay is just automatically deducted. I'll go to work doing, uh, something. Construction, maybe. And the money will go to her and she can do whatever she wants with it. Make sure the kid is fed and clothed and goes to a good school. And she can tell him, tell him anything she wants to about me. That I'm in prison or dead or whatever, I don't care.”
“No, you can't. You can't punish that child that way,” she said, “He's innocent.”
“I can't be in that, in that place.”
“Doug, I know you,” Lili said, “You wouldn't be able to stay away. The minute you see that kid, whether it's in person or just a photograph, I know you. You're gonna fall in love. And that's okay. It's what's supposed to happen.”
“It's too complicated,” he said.
There was a communications chime. It was Doctor Phlox, “Mr. Beckett, I am ready to see you now. Phlox out.”
“Okay, I'll, um, I'll be back, uh, soon.”
“I'm coming with you,” she said.
Sick Bay was quieter than usual. Phlox was a little surprised to see Lili, “Are you sure you wish to be here, Mrs. Beckett?”
“Yes,” she said.
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“Very well,” he cleared his throat, “Ask me what you need to ask me, Mr. Beckett.”
“Is Melissa Madden pregnant?” Doug asked.