“What do you suppose they are talking about right now?” Malcolm asked.
“You gotta know,” Pamela said.
“I suppose I do. I had always hoped for a kind of simple existence. Not mere, and not stupid, just, I did not want a complex one.”
“I got news for you. Your life – your lives – are complicated already.”
Doug was coming down the hall to where they were sitting, “Come back. She wants to talk to you. And set up a call.”
Lili was already on a communicator, “Chip, tell me, can you connect me to Melissa Madden?”
“Sure thing. When are you gonna make hot dogs?”
“I have a wedding to cater in a coupla days,” she said, “I'll be busy making sure the lobsters don't die before then.”
“Okay, got her. Go ahead.”
“Thanks. Hiya, Melissa.”
The other three walked in.
“And get your girl patched in,” Lili said, “Please.”
Once that was ready, Lili spoke.
“I was thinking. We are intelligent people. And we all have big hearts. And it seems painful and unnecessary for us to have to confine those hearts to just one person.”
“Oh?” Melissa said.
“I – Doug and I remain married. You and Leonora, is it? You remain together, of course.”
“Norri is fine,” she said.
“And, and,” Lili said, “Malcolm is single and has girlfriends if he wants them. Doctor Hudson, perhaps. She's a finer lady than she thinks she is. But we also, we entwine.”
“Entwine,” Malcolm repeated carefully.
“There is – we live on Lafa II. There is a means of contacting the sleeping. These dreams are vivid and almost magical. They are a lot like life. And they can be as chaste or as steamy as you wish. They can be a kind of a secondary relationship. I can make these dreams happen for myself. And I think Doug can, too, although it would help if Melissa had some amplifying metal to help her along.”
“What are you talking about?” asked Melissa.
“Lili and I wear wedding rings,” Doug explained, “They are made from a Calafan alloy. It has dream-amplifying properties. I don't use it for that, though. The cuff – I think it has that as well.”
“Probably,” Malcolm said cautiously, “Dreaming has gotten rather vivid as of late.”
“So a bracelet for you, too, Melissa,” Lili ventured, “To wear to bed. And to, uh, to meet Doug.”
“Yes. And to do whatever you like, whether it's hunt or talk or watch football or make love,” Lili said.
“Interesting,” Norri said.
“But that's just the night. During the day, the two of you are together, as always. You do whatever you like, as usual. You raise the child, of course. You go to work; you have your life together. And Doug and I have our life together. We raise our children and keep our home. I run the restaurant. And at night, he dreams of you, Melissa. And I dream of Malcolm.”
“Let me see if I've got this straight,” Norri said, “The nighttime thing – it's secondary, right?”
Doug said to Malcolm, “You hear that? You're second-best. And that's a good thing, too, because if this happens, you get to have party time, all the time. You get the sex and the fun and the laughing. And I get to hold her head when she's got morning sickness. And bang away at the cooling unit when it doesn't work and there's a teething child screaming and she hasn't slept well for two days. I get to make sure the car always starts and the bills are paid and the roof doesn't leak. And you get the party.”
Malcolm said, “What you get is real. It's the parts that really mean something. You're right; I am second best – regardless of what she says. She's too kind and gracious to say otherwise, but someone is in front, and that someone is not me. And, and I'm all right with that. I can't be there to be the one to, to hold her head and go to meet the teachers and all of that. Starfleet will never let that happen. It's half a loaf. But I've always been taught – that's far, far better than none.”
“All I ask is that everybody think about it, okay?” Lili asked, “We all have to be in agreement for this to happen. Pamela, you're a witness.”