That night, they slept in the same bed – or, rather, they tried to. They lay next to each other, without touching, stock still, arms at their sides, unfeeling as mannequins. There could just as well have been the Great Wall of China between them.
No one crossed the border.
The morning was quiet and somber. Their plans were to meet Melissa in Sick Bay. It seemed the only thing to do.
“And I want to thank you again for – you've really gone above and beyond as a sitter, Yimar,” Lili said.
“Oh, it's okay. I love Joss,” The frosty atmosphere had not escaped her observations, “We're gonna run a race against Brian in one of the empty halls. And maybe we'll be able to get Porthos out for a little running, too. I dunno. The Captain seems to want to keep him close right now.”
“Well, just don't bother anyone – don't be too loud, okay?” Lili said, “And you, Mister,” she said to her son, “If you win, be a nice winner. Tell Brian he ran a good race, okay?”
“We may or may not have gotten that,” Yimar said.
“It's easy to forget he isn't older than he is,” Lili explained.
“Easy to forget lots of things,” Doug said softly.
“We'd, um, we've got an appointment,” Lili said. They left.
Melissa was waiting when they got to Sick Bay, sitting on one of Phlox's bio beds, her feet dangling off the side.
“How are you feeling?” Lili asked almost immediately.
“Like I've got the worst case of PMS. Ever
“Yeah, I was like that in the very beginning, both times,” Lili said, “Then you get to move onto barfing and binge eating.”
“Doesn't the binge eating cause the barfing?” Melissa asked.
“Sometimes. Do yourself a favor and avoid fruit. Trust me
“That's assuming she's going ahead with this at all,” Doug said.
“Uh, well, um, look,” Melissa said, “This is not the way I thought I'd start a family. And it's not the time or date, either. But, uh, Norri – that's my girl – she and I got to talking and we think, well, it seems like it's a good, um, opportunity.”
“So you're going ahead?” Doug asked.
“Yes. I'm doin' it.”
“Melissa, I can, uh, I can get myself a job and, and send you money. You don't have to take me to court. I'll do it. And I'll, um, I'll stay away if, if you want me to,” he said.
The doctor came in, “Ah, I see you're attending to matters. I will be nearby if you need me.”
“Doug, I, um, this baby, she –”
“Melissa, you're probably going to have a boy,” Lili interjected, “There’s a three-quarters chance.”
“Oh. Well then it's even more imperative. If I have a boy, well, he'll be in a house full of women. I think he'll, uh, need a man to, uh, show him how to grow up. To, to be a good man.”
It was practically involuntary, but Doug took her hand. He didn't say anything.
“I, uh, I want you to be in his life,” Melissa said.
Kick kick Kick Kick Kick
They both looked over at Lili who was distractedly holding her own belly, “Of, of course,” she said, “And the kids should know each other. They'll be brothers.”
“And you should meet Joss,” Doug said. He suddenly realized what he was doing, and dropped Melissa's hand.
“Yeah. I never actually got a chance to meet him. But I've heard him sometimes.”
“Oh, well, he's a boisterous little boy,” Lili said, “You'll have your hands full.”
Melissa just looked around nervously and ended up sitting on her hands.
“We should sleep together some time,” Yimar said, after Brian let Joss win again.
“We should! See if we like it.”
“You shouldn't, uh, talk about that in front of Joss.”
“Race again!” squealed the child.
“I haven't, yet. Have you?”
“Me? I'm, well, I'm not uh, well, I have experience,” he said, bending the truth a bit. Okay, a lot
“Oh. I'm untouched. But I didn't mean that. I mean the other way,” Yimar said.
“Oh, the dream thing!” she said, “You know, you sleep, I sleep, and we connect. See how that goes. I mean, there's this guy at my school. And I think he is interested but yanno, he's just kinda icky.”
“Oh. Are you, um, are you saying I'm not icky?”
“Well, you're less icky.”
“C'mon, race again!” Joss pulled on his arm before Brian could really answer.
Meeting over, Melissa went to the Bridge, “Would it be all right if I spoke with you a minute, Captain? I can come back if you're, if you're busy,” she said.
“No, that's all right. In my Ready Room,” he said. Deb had been standing behind him and looked over a little. T'Pol raised an eyebrow but said nothing. There had been some news reports of a large number of Vulcan children and forced couplings. The humans – it was logical to posit – had been forced as well. But she didn't know the specifics. Her concern was only to assure that Captain Archer was able to perform his duties to the best of his ability. Gossiping was not in her nature.
“What can I do for you?” Jonathan asked as soon as the door had closed.
“Captain, I don't know if anyone else is, but I came out of the Witannen experience pregnant.”
“I see. Are you – can I ask – and this is more a personnel question than anything else – are you going ahead?”
“Yes, I am. So I guess I'll have to, uh, figure out maternity leave and all of that.”
“I suppose congratulations are in order, then. Does Phlox know when you're due?”
“Late Spring. I'd like to be back on Ceres when, uh, then.”
“There's a war going on, and this ship does engage in battle, as you are well aware. So you'll be removed from a combat role in a few months, if I recall Starfleet regulations correctly. How are the – eh – how are the Becketts taking the news?”
“Pretty well. They’re supportive and all that. My girl's okay with it, too. She wants kids and can't have any, so I would be elected anyway.”
“Oh. Your girl. Sorry, never knew that about you.”
“I don't imagine you had occasion to ask, Captain.”
“I guess not,” he paused for a second and looked out the window.
“Sir, can I just say something, totally off the record?”
“I don't think it's doing any of us any good to ignore the elephant in the room. We all came through this experience, and it's got fallout to it, and you're lookin' at it. But it's also, well, I think we'd all be foolish and in some pretty deep denial if we didn't admit to ourselves – even if we couldn't admit it to each other – that it felt pretty damned good.”
“Well, preferences aside, that's biology, isn't it?”
“Sure, it's that,” she said, “But it's also the feeling that, well, that someone was responsible for caring for, for only you. That they might not have had much, but they tried to, to help you in any way they could. Whatever it was, even if it was to just tell you to not be afraid or give up hope. And it was freeing, too, to be only concentrating on one person and letting all other obligations just kinda fall away.”
“You're probably right,” he said, “It was, kind of, I guess the right word is primal.”
“Yes. Like you were the only two people in the world. I should, um, go, sir.”
He stayed in the Ready Room after she left and looked out the window some more. Primal
. That was definitely the right word for it.
Returning to their quarters didn't do much to clear the air between Lili and Doug.
“I guess, uh, he'll be born on Ceres,” Doug finally ventured.
“I wonder if she'd let me be there when he's born.”
“I dunno. Uh, Yimar said you have a note from Laura on your PADD.”
“Huh. I haven't opened that yet,” he did. It said:
Dear Mr. Beckett,
Thank you for your kind invitation. I am assuming you are related to me on my mother's side – her maiden name was Beckett. It's always good to hear from a member of the extended family. My own family was greatly diminished a few years ago by my younger brother, Jay's, death. He was killed in action during the Xindi War, while serving aboard the USS Enterprise.
I would love to meet you and your family, but I can only get away for the morning of the twenty-eighth. My firm works with the Xindi envoy and I have to catch a transport. I hope 0900 hours is acceptable to you.
Very Truly Yours,
Laura Hayes, Esq.
Law Offices of Laura Hayes
“Are we going?” he asked.
“Sure,” she said, “For Joss's sake.”
“For Joss's sake,” he said. He composed a quick response and hit send.
“Doug, do you love Melissa?”
“C'mon,” he said.
“I could get it if you did. And I think you do, at least a little bit.”
“Do you love him?”
Kick kick Kick Kick Kick
That question again.
“Yes,” she said softly.
“Then we're done here. You can have the house, and the car. Hell, you can have everything. But I get the kids,” he said angrily.
Kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick Kick Kick Kick
There was a sound of the door opening, “Just coming to get a –” Yimar said.
“Joss, let's go,” Brian said, immediately sensing that something was off-kilter.
But it was too late. Joss had heard something. He didn't understand even one-tenth of it but he did know it was not good.
He began to cry.
“What's wrong? What's wrong?” Lili asked, a little frantic, kneeling down to talk to him.
Kick Kick Kick
“'Ommy mad. I was, was bad,” he was barely understandable between sobs, “Por-Porthos. J-Joss bad.”
“What happened? Did Porthos bite him?” she asked.
“No, no,” Yimar said, “He accidentally stepped on Porthos's tail. The dog squeaked but is okay. And nobody got bitten.”
“It's okay, Joss,” Lili said, “Porthos is okay.”
“Joss was bad,” he repeated, “'Ommy don't like bad Joss. Daddy don't like bad Joss.”
“Doug, help me out,” Lili said, “Please
Despite his anger, he couldn't refuse his child. He knelt down as well, “Joss, you’re a good boy. You didn't do anything wrong. I'm not angry with you.”
“Joss bad,” he insisted, still crying a little, “Porthos hurt.”
“No, no, Porthos is all right,” Lili said, “And everybody loves you. Daddy loves you. And I love you. And, and Yimar loves you, see? And Brian loves you. And, and Hoshi loves you. And the Captain loves you. And Tripp loves you. And Aidan loves you. And Jennifer loves you. And Shelby loves you. And, and, Deb loves you. And Doctor Phlox loves you. And T'Pol loves you even if she doesn't show it. And, and Travis loves you. And Chris loves you. And Chef loves you, especially when he makes you peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. And, uh, Chip loves you. And Karin loves you. And Porthos loves you. And, uh, and Melissa loves you,” she straightened up, “And Malcolm loves you.”
Doug looked her in the eye and went to the bureau. He got out a change of underclothes, “Yimar, you and I will switch. You sleep here tonight.”
Kick kick kick kick kick Kick Kick Kick
“Um, okay,” she said.
Malcolm got to the Hotel Nikko in record time, small duffle bag swinging in his hand. It was close to Starfleet Headquarters. He could be early for the class the following day, if he wanted to. Or sleep in.
Pamela was there, standing in the lobby, pretending to be engrossed in her PADD. She was wearing a leopard-print mini-skirt and a one-shoulder honey-colored top which was fitted and showed off her tan. Her black heels were high – they always were – and had little criss-cross straps going up to her calves. She had let her hair grow a bit, and it was piled up on top of her head, but a corkscrew curl had come loose and was annoying her, so she would blow it out of her face every now and then. The view from the back was, as always, excellent.
He cleared his throat.
She turned around, and he could see long nails, painted the same shade of dark purple as her mouth – the color of a bruise. She smiled at him, “Hey!” she called out.
“Later,” he said, “Where is your room?”
“Oh,” she said, smiling at him broadly. She turned to switch off the PADD.
“Later,” he repeated, taking her arm with his free hand, digging his fingers in just a bit.
“Here,” she said. She got out the electronic key and fitted it to the elevator's call slot, “Just a sec.”
It got there quickly. They got in and were followed by a businessman. Malcolm glared at him but said nothing. The ride, fortunately, was a swift one.
“Here we are,” she said as soon as she'd gotten the door open, “How've you –”
,” he insisted, dropping the duffle.
“I see,” she said, moving away to put her PADD on a table.
He grabbed her arm, more roughly this time, and brought her close to him, “Now
“Now,” she said softly, “You look like you haven't had sex in months. Or longer.”
He grabbed at her clothes, and took them off in a frenzy, not caring where he threw anything, or if he damaged anything. It was fast.
“Hey!” she yelled, “Help a girl out.”
He shook his head, looking down angrily.
!” she repeated, “What the hell has gotten into you?”
He just sat and stared out the window.
“I said, what the hell is going on with you
?” she yelled.
,” he seethed through clenched teeth.
“Look, Reed, I can't say that I wouldn't get a spark if you were to spank me – but really
! You have never been like this.”
“Oh come on, Pamela. We have had our share of nasty business.”
“I am not just, just some repository for you,” she said, “What the hell happened to the knave?”
“Don't, don't call me that.”
“I was, ha, I never liked it, but I was your sweetie-darling. You were at least, well, friendly. What happened to that? What happened to you?”
“Please, don't ask,” he said.
“Wait, wait, I get it,” she said, “You did
have sex recently. Really
recently. But it didn't work out.”
He shook his head.
“There's some other sweetie-darling. No, wait, you don't call her that. You call her something else. You don't call anybody sweetie-darling
because she's it. She's the one.”
He turned away a little.
“And you're here because you – you had a fight or something. Something's making it not work out.”
He fidgeted some more.
“Look, if you're not gonna talk to me, Reed, and you're not gonna take any time out from your busy schedule to at least help me out here, I don't see that we've got anything to say to one another,” she said, a bit indignant, “You can let yourself out and I'll go see if the hot desk clerk is up for something.”
That got his attention. He looked up, “Please. Pamela, I'm, I'm sorry. But please don't throw me out. I haven't got anywhere else to go right now.”
She came close and put an arm on his shoulder, “What is it? What's going on that made you just turn into this insensitive creep?”
He put his head in his hands, “She's – she's married,” he fingered the cuff a little.
“Oh. So you have no chance?”
“I don't know,” he said, “I don't see a way out of it, and, and back to her.”
“People do get divorced, you know.”
“She has a small child. And another is on the way.”
“No,” he smiled slightly, “Wish he was, a bit. At least that would make it so that there would be some sort of a bond, continuing over time. But now it just feels like we'll drop them back at their home and, and that will prove to be the end of it.”
“Drop them back?”
“We brought them here,” he said, “For a, a wedding, the one I invited you to.”
“This just keeps getting better and better,” she said, “There was a, uh, a news story. Seems there was a big ship nearby, with lots of species on it. Some sort of forced breeding. And there were humans on it but none of them were identified in the press. Know any of 'em?”
He just nodded.
“And it was you and her. Right?”
“Right,” he said quietly.
“And he was on the Enterprise
, wondering what was going on?”
“No. He was also there. He was paired with one of the pilots.”
“I see. She a looker?” Pamela asked. He glanced back at her and she added, “So I'm shallow. And curious.”
“No, actually, not so much. Not as conventionally captivating as you are.”
“I must apologize again. I don't mean you are conventional. But she is, her looks are, they're above average at best, I suppose. But there is just something. ”
“And now she's pregnant. No, wait, she was pregnant during?”
“Yes,” he smiled a little, “You're being thrown over for an older, somewhat plain pregnant woman, if I had to be brutally honest about her appearance. I don't believe it, either.”
“Stay here,” she said.
“No. I can't,” he said, “I'm sorry. It would only be like, like it just was. I cannot concentrate on anyone else, cannot see anyone else. It would be very unfair to you.”
“Okay,” she said, “Although I did have things planned. Stay. And we'll, uh, sightsee or something.”
“Madden to Communications.”
“Go ahead, Melissa,” Chip said.
“Can I talk to Leonora Digiorno on Ceres?”
“One sec. Go ahead.”
“Norri, hi,” she said.
“Hiya. How's the bean doing?”
“I don't even think it's a lentil yet,” Melissa said.
“It'll be big soon enough.”
“I met with them. He would like to be involved. And I would like him to be, as well.”
“Melissa, do you love him?” Norri asked.
“A little,” she admitted, “I won't lie to you.”
“I guess we're gonna be parents,” Norri said, “You, me and him.”
Jonathan got back into the Captain's chair. He mentally went over personnel records. He'd need a new night shift pilot. He felt contact to the back of his neck. He turned a little. It was Deb.
The Bridge was filled with people. This was not a good time. But he'd have to deal with it, “In my Ready Room,” he said to her.
Once the door closed, she said, “Look, Jonathan, I don't know why I did that.”
“It's, um, it's okay. But you can't be doing that. You have to be on duty.”
“I know. I'm, um, having a hard time concentrating Jon – , uh, sir.”
“It's only been a day.”
“I know, but you'll have to explain this meeting and everything, and I don't want to make life harder for you. Jonathan, I think I should leave the Enterprise
“I was afraid it was going to come to this,” he said, “I'd rather you didn't go.”
?” she took his hands in hers excitedly.
“Because,” he said, putting her hands down and choosing his next words carefully, “Because the ship needs you.”
“Only the ship?”
“I can't stand behind you anymore and just wait and think and keep checking the damned perimeter,” she said, “You're here on day shift, and I'm here, and we're gonna keep knocking into each other. And it's going to remain hard for me if I have to keep looking at you, and thinking about you.”
“Hmm,” he said, “What if you went on a different shift? Isn't there someone in the MACOs who would rather work the day shift?”
“I guess so,” she conceded, “Maybe Hamidi.”
“Talk to him tomorrow and see if he'll do it. And if not him, then ask a different MACO. I can't believe no one would want the day shift.”
“Yeah. I'll probably be able to find someone to, uh, take over. I barely know the night shift folks. I guess this'll be an opportunity to get to know them better.”
“Sure. There, that's good. They'll see how good you are at, at your job, Deb – uh, Crewman.”
“Just one more thing before you let me go,” she said.
She came up close and kissed him. He didn't break off quickly, and kissed her back. When they finally broke apart, he just looked at her in wonderment, “I know that was probably a really bad idea,” she allowed, “But I'll never be able to do that again.”
She left, and he went back to looking out the window, thinking of how damnably unfair life could be sometimes.