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Old April 21 2012, 02:30 PM   #16
Chanukahjes
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Re: Together

Gently, he held her.

“Oh?” she said.

“Yes. I'd like to do for you what you did for me this morning. It was devastatingly satisfying.”

“What? I'm terrible at that.”

“No! Absolutely not, Lili-Flower. What's, what's making you feel so inadequate about it? I mean, if anyone were to have cause to feel inadequate, it would be me.”

You?”

“You forget I've been made to shower with your husband and the others. He is quite, eh, remarkable. Truly. I mean, we're not supposed to look, but of course everyone does, I suppose. I wonder what the others think. And I wonder, even more, is that, is it a necessity for you? Am I able to, to satisfy what you need?”

“Of course, Malcolm,” she kissed him, “I mean, can't you hear me?”

“Well, now that you mention it,” he pantomimed cleaning out one of his ears, “I fear I may be starting to suffer a little upper register hearing loss.”

Kick Kick.

She laughed at him and hit his shoulder lightly with her hand, then turned serious, “It's too much, actually. He's too much. I'll tell you the details some other time.”

He remembered, “When he first came to the Enterprise. You were in Sick Bay. We thought you were going to die. And I didn't, I didn't put it together. I was just in a rage. But there was, there was blood on his, his shorts. I didn't realize then, but I realize it now. It was your blood, wasn't it?”

She nodded, “Phlox had to do some seriously fancy work to get it all to work at all.”

“I do hope Melissa Madden is all right.”

=/\=

He kissed her. He didn't do that, much, but she was okay with that.

“C'mere,” she said.

He touched body parts that were smaller than he was used to, hips that were wider, and hair and skin that were darker, “Melissa,” he said softly, “let's do this.”

“It gets better every time.”

“Good. Let me show you something else.”

=/\=

She laid there, stock still, not moving. All she could think of was, please, please, please, let's just get this over with.

Then the gas took effect, finally, and she was able to embrace Travis, after a fashion.

=/\=

She wore him out. Again.

“Man, oh man,” he said, “Deb, you shoulda seen me in my prime.”

“It's okay,” she whispered in his ear and then kissed it, “You've got skills. Experience. Technique.”

“Ha, well, I guess it comes with the territory. You're very agile,” Jonathan said.

“Security,” she said, “I'm wily like a cat.”

=/\=

“Whew!”

“Yeah. That was, uh, wow.”

“Feels like we got a double dose, Hoshi.”

“Probably. Can't say they don't know their stuff.”

“Can't say you don't know yours,” Tripp said, “Might wanna bottle that technique so's we can repeat it later.”

“How 'bout now?”

“Hmm. Yeah,” he kissed her and ran his fingers through her glossy black hair, “Gimme a sec.”

=/\=

They lay back, panting, side by side, “I can kinda see what the fuss is all about,” she said.

“You're a quick study,” Doug gasped.

“Got any of the tube food left?”

“I think so. Here.”

“Thanks. I'm craving oatmeal cookies,” Melissa said, squeezing the tube.

“Lili makes those,” he said suddenly, sitting up.

“Oh. She seems really domestic. Is she a stay at home Mom?”

“No. Well, only for the first six months after Joss was born. Then she went back to work.”

“Work?”

“We own a restaurant. She's a chef,” Doug said.

“Oh. That would explain the cookies, I guess. What do you do there? You're retired from Starfleet, right?”

“Yep. I, uh, she does the cooking and the shopping. She's the talent. And our friend, Treve, he does the books and the buying. And right now he's supervising the expansion.”

“And you?” she prompted.

“I was supposed to do that – the books, the buying. But we found out that I'm not good at that. So first I worked on construction, and I also did that at home – helped the workmen build the house. And when she went back to work, I ended up caring for Joss a lot when the sitter was at school.”

“Did you like doing that?”

“Well, I love my son. So I changed diapers, fed him milk from a bottle, that kind of thing. He's more independent now.”

“And you'll take care of the one that's coming?”

“Assuming I get a chance to, yes.”

“Is that enough for you?” she asked.

“Not really. I go hunting – made friends with some of the Calafan workmen. We go every few months or so. I can't take Joss yet. I also fish. That I can take him to, although he doesn't have a lot of patience for it.”

“Well, he's still little.”

“Do you hunt?”

“Sure I do. I bagged a buck the last time I was in the Pacific Northwest.”

“We should go some time.”

“Heh, I don't think your wife would like that.”

“Yeah, you're right. Or at least, she shouldn't.”

“True,” she said.

“I kinda jumped at the chance to teach this class and get out of the house for a while.”

“You kinda don't know what to do with yourself, do you, Doug?”

“Yeah. I got here and I thought I'd be happy. And it's good here. I'm not unhappy.”

“But ...? Doug, if you were still on the other side, what would you be doing right now?”

“Probably the same thing I – uh, we – just did. Then sleeping. I'm sorry that I snore.”

“I don't mean this. I mean, you know, work and stuff.”

“Ha. Less fun. I'd run Tactical, be put in command sometimes, blow stuff up. I'd also be watching my back, though. It's a tough place. There’s always someone gunning for you.”

“You don't want to go back there, right?”

“No. Never. But I – this seems ungrateful. But I do kinda miss the excitement sometimes, Melissa.”

=/\=

“Ohhh. I need some water.”

“Me, too.”

“Huh. That was intense.”

“Yes,” he kissed her after they had both downed some water, “So good.”

“You should see me when I'm not pregnant. I can move better.”

“Oh? You'll put me in a coma,” he smiled, and then thought of something, “I should tell you. If you wish to hear. About Pamela.”

Now?”

“Well, if you're all right with it. I just feel I can tell you anything.”

“Very well,” she said, grabbing the blanket.

Kick.

He put an arm around her, and the other one on her belly.

“It was definitely intense. She and her class came to the Enterprise for some instruction from Phlox. It was some sort of special program. And she was beautiful and captivating and I just did everything, anything I could to win her.”

“Like what?”

“I sent her poetry. Anonymously,” he looked down.

“From a book? Elizabeth Barrett Browning or something like that?”

“No. Shakespearean sonnets. I wrote them myself,” he admitted.

“Oh, wow,” she touched both sides of his face with her hands and smiled at him broadly, “That's extremely creative of you.”

“I don't normally get a chance to be creative. You do, I know. I've seen things you've made – different colors, textures, shapes – putting things together in all sorts of unexpected combinations. I remember your cooking very, very fondly,” he kissed her.

“Well I like trying to make something that no one's ever thought of before. But I know that you're creative. You're inventive – you've had to improvise all sorts of weapons stuff. I don't know the particulars but I do know that you saved our bacon many, many times. And you did it without much of an instruction manual.”

“It's a puzzle. I like puzzles. Putting them together, taking them apart and, and reconfiguring them,” he said, “Seeing the combinations in my head and acting on them.”

“Do you do crossword puzzles?”

“I love them.”

“Me, too. I remember my mother used to do them. I'd sit next to her on the couch and would try to help her fill them in. I do that with Joss now. He doesn't know the answers, of course. It's more like, 'This is an A, this is a B.' that sort of thing. Do you play Scrabble?”

“Yes, but I imagine I spell things a bit differently from how you do.”

“Yes. You probably put in a lot of extra U's.”

“They're not extra! They're needed. Do you play chess?”

“Very, very badly. I can't seem to see all the moves or even any moves. I probably telegraph a lot. There are people who can see, like, eighty-seven moves ahead. They probably have me figured out before I even set up the board, let alone make a move.”

“Oh. Well I'm the big champion on the ship.”

“Really? How excellent. How about sports? Anything physical?”

“Ahem,” he said, and then kissed her, “Football.”

“You toss a spheroid down a field?”

“No, no, no, you're talking about American football. Me, I kick a black and white ball. And Pete in there would probably be rather good at that, with all of his kicking,” he patted her abdomen.

“I played baseball when I was in High School. Shortstop.”

“Really. I don't know baseball very much.”

“Oh, it's great. And to go to a game! It's a complete sensory experience,” she said.

“I beg your pardon?”

“It is. The crack of the bat – it's physics. There's a certain sweet spot on every wooden bat. When you strike horsehide with it, it makes a distinctive sound. It's unmistakable. And the sights! It's colorful uniforms and blue skies and green grass. You can feel the people around you, and the changes in the weather if they happen. And you can smell peanuts roasting.”

“And hot dogs, right?”

“Oh, yeah. They're made with about a thousand different horrible things. Which means Joss will probably want six whenever he's taken for his first game.”

“And taste – you forget taste.”

“Beer. You have to have a beer whenever you go. Unless you're a child or pregnant, of course.”

“Of course. I suppose a footy game's a bit like that. There’s the same green grass and blue skies. Colorful uniforms and people wearing team colors. Loud crowds, announcers with all sorts of accents. Red cards. Some woman running down the field, dribbling the ball forward, then some fellow comes in, arcing on the side,” he demonstrated by tracing it all on her forearm, “and if she sees him, she kicks it over here, to her teammate. And if not, he intercepts it, and it goes 'round this way,” he turned to face her and kissed her, then smiled at her.

“You looking to score again?” she asked.

=/\=

“What would be exciting for you, Doug?”

“More, I dunno. More something. I want to expand my world. I'm just not so sure how to do that.”

“You'll think of something.”

=/\=

“First, I never actually told you much about Pamela.”

“Oh, yeah. Sorry, I guess I interrupted you there.”

“That's quite all right. A lovely diversion, that.”

“Tell me what you need to,” she said.

“I, well, she's an abuse victim.”

“How awful,” Lili involuntarily held her stomach.

Kick.

“Very bad. There's no sugar-coating it. But what it did to her was, it sort of held her, held her sexuality hostage. She would get pleasure out of, from intense feelings.”

“I get the feeling you're not talking about the intense feelings you and I just had,” Lili said.

“That's correct. It was intense bad feelings. Pain. Dominance. I'm sorry. It's unpleasant.”

“Did you, did you go along with it?”

“A bit. Mostly on the receiving end of it. I stopped while it was still rather mild. The word avocado – we used it to signal when we should stop, you see. It doesn't – I don't like it. I didn't get a charge out of it like she really did. Let her do things but, for the most part, didn't do anything back. At the time, I had thought I was too hung up and unable to relax but no amount of relaxation would have truly made me enjoy most of it.”

“Was any of it, uh, fun?”

“Tell no one.”

“My lips are sealed. Except, uh, right now,” she kissed him, and they lingered for a while.

“See, no need for any extras,” he said, “When it's, when it's ...,” His voice trailed off.

She just smiled at him, “No need.”

“Oh, but getting to what was a spot of fun – it was silk restraints. That part's kind of fun,” he admitted, whispering conspiratorially, “Being restricted – it means you have to get creative.”

“Back to creativity again,” she smiled, “Will you still see her for Jenny's wedding?”

“I suppose I can't uninvite her,” he said, “I don't know how I'm going to handle myself afterwards. Assuming we escape from here.”

“Me neither,” she admitted.

They kissed.

“It's getting late,” he said, “We should sleep. I don't want to. But it would be better for you, and for Peter. Yes?”

“Yeah. We should sleep. Malcolm?”

“Yes?”

“Thank you for feeling you can trust me.”

He just nodded. They lay together, intertwined, and fell asleep.

=/\=

Lili dreamed.

It was the Enterprise, again.

She made her way to where Joss was. He saw her again, and she hugged and kissed him as before.

Yimar was there, too. She sat up, “I can see you, Lili,” she said.

“Good. I have information that we think can help T'Pol. Do you have a PADD?”

“No.”

“Tomorrow night, then, make sure to have one. In the meantime, remember whatever you can from what I'm about to tell you.”
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Old April 22 2012, 01:51 PM   #17
Chanukahjes
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Re: Together

“Do you have all that?” Lili asked.

“I don't know. You're right; I'll need a PADD next time,” Yimar admitted.

“'Ommy, o'meal.”

“We managed to use a spoon all by ourselves yesterday,” Yimar explained.

“You did?!” Lili broadly smiled, addressing her son, “You're such a big boy now!” She paused for a second, “I'm missing that.”

“Just keep working on what you've been doing. I'm sure you'll be able to get back here soon. And, uh, Lili, can I ask you a question?”

“Of course.”

“It's totally off-topic. And I mean totally,” said the teenager.

“Uh, all right.”

“Do you know why Brian doesn't like me?”

“What?”

“He, like, totally blows me off sometimes. And he's not always nice to Chip, either!”

“Actually, Yimar, I think he likes you. A lot.”

“Huh. Really?”

“Yes,” Lili chuckled a little, “He's just shy. And he doesn't have a lot of experience around girls of, of any species. And I think he thinks you're too young.”

“I'm not!”

“For humans, you are. You're supposed to be eighteen. I mean, you could kiss, but you shouldn't be, um, Yimar, you should be having this conversation with your mother.”

“I can't talk to my mother like I can talk to you. She can barely string three words together.”

“Yimar, your mother's been through a lot. She's been very ill.”

“I know. But I need to talk to a Mom.”

“If – uh, when – I get back, we can have a long talk, okay?”

“Okay. I bet you didn't have these problems when you were sixteen.”

“No, I had other problems. I played baseball so the boys all thought of me as one of the guys. But that was a long time ago,” Lili smiled, and then felt the tug of morning.

Yimar felt it, too, “Gonna wake up soon. I'll tell T'Pol everything I remember.”

“Don't forget the PADD tomorrow,” Lili said, then addressed Joss, “Be a good boy for Yimar. I love you.”


She awoke.

=/\=

Malcolm knew she was talking in her sleep, and not saying those three little words to him, but it was still a rush to hear them, in her soft voice.

=/\=

Exercise, that day, was less eventful. Jennifer walked around with the others, compliant, bowed, a little broken, perhaps.

On the men's side, Doug walked behind a Vulcan, “Do you have any idea what's gonna happen to my kid?” he asked.

“We do not have that information.”

“But, I mean, are they, Gawd, are they served up as filets or something?” he asked anxiously.

“Quiet!” yelled an Imvari guard.

“That's hardly logical,” said the Vulcan, “There is an enormous amount of effort and care being taken to assure that they are being born alive and healthy.”

“Hmm,” Doug thought for a moment, “Then, uh, is this for some sort of an alien pet store? Are they puppies, wagging their tails, licking hands and hoping to be adopted by kindly families with boisterous alien children?” his voice was rising.

“Becoming overly emotional will not answer your questions,” The Vulcan chided him.

“How many have you lost to the Witannen?”

“Two,” The Vulcan admitted, “Going through a form of pon farr every single night is ... difficult,” he stated, “It is not what we would choose for ourselves.”

“Yeah, I hear that. What's your theory on what happens to them?”

“Speculation is useless. But this ship is large and fast-moving. Perhaps they are being kept as eventual replacements for all of us, the ones you see before you.”

=/\=

“Mr. Masterson, work with Yimar on what she has to tell us.”

“Yes, Commander. C'mon,” he said to Yimar, who was holding Joss, “Let’s go look at the database.”

“Okay. Now, I only know what I can remember.”

“Understood,” he said, punching a few buttons to get the screen to light up. Start talking.”

“Lili said there's five species there. Humans, Vulcans, Klingons, Andorians and, um, Xindi.”

“Know what kind of Xindi?”

“I forget,” Yimar said.

“That's okay. What else?” he was tapping away, quickly.

“Cookie,” Joss said.

“We'll get a cookie later. Um, the Xindi were picked up, uh, three years ago. I think it's called Beta Colony,” she adjusted the child in her arms.

“Hmm. Looks like there's no Beta Colony. I think it's Betar. Yeah, that should be it. So, huh, that was 2156. Here, let's map that. And here's where our people were grabbed, about a week and a half ago. What about the others?”

“She said the Andorians were there the longest.”

“Yeah, we got that, it was almost ten years ago, on a ship, uh, here,” he added the data to the map, “Who else?”

“Klingons were somewhere in between. I forget when. And the Vulcans were the most recent – two years ago.”

“Got any information on where the Klingons and Vulcans were grabbed from?” Chip asked.

“No. Oh, and Lili said they were replacing the Kreetassans.”

“So they were picked up, huh, let's assume it's not the exact same time as the others were yanked. And, here, let's put these up tentatively – Klingon and Vulcan home systems, Kreetassan home system, too. I'll use orange to show those, green for the ones we're surer about,” he finished tapping in the coordinates and stopped to admire his work for a second.

“Cookie?” Joss asked again.

“No, cookie later, okay?” she said.

“Will you look at that,” Chip said, whistling slightly through his teeth, “I do believe we have something. Commander, can you come here a sec?”

=/\=

Deb followed a Klingon, “Do you, uh, do you think the guards are corruptible?”

“Corruptible? What would you propose to bribe one with?” asked the Klingon, laughing a little to herself.

“Uh, I dunno. Sex, I guess,” she hadn't really thought that one through.

“An Imvari would bust you in two. I imagine they're even bigger than my Kolos,” she pointed, “The greybeard. He was a political prisoner when we were picked up – as we all were.”

“Oh. Huh. Just a thought.”

“Griud over there – he likes the ladies,” she said, indicating one of the Imvari, “But, like I said, I hardly think you have what it takes.”

“Hmm. Thanks. I think.”

=/\=

“Are these coordinates and dates correct?” T'Pol asked.

“As correct as I can make them so far, Commander,” Chip said. He traced the arc on the screen, “So we have a segment of an ellipse, it kinda looks like, going from this part of Andorian space, to possibly the Kreetassan home system, through to the Klingon home world, maybe, then to the Xindi Betar Colony. Then it doubles back to Vulcan and, eventually, to the spot near the Lafa System where our people were grabbed. So it's not a perfect arc. They might have, I dunno, picked up supplies as they went along,” he speculated.

“And the continuing course?” she asked.

“Looks like it heads past the Solar System and then, if we take it to its, heh, logical conclusion, right outta the galaxy,” he said.

“Cookie?”

=/\=

Travis walked in front of an Andorian, “Can I ask you a question?”

“I suppose. But I was raised with manners in the Diplomatic Corps. I am called Serin.”

“Oh. I'm Travis. Do you think there's any way to resist the effects of the gas?”

“Hmm. I'm not sure,” Serin said, “But satisfaction can calm the urges. Just as it does when there is no gas, of course. You have noticed this, no?”

“I guess a little.”

=/\=

“Do you think the people who were grabbed from each species, do they have purposes? Other than the obvious,” Hoshi asked a Xindi.

“Hmm. We have a government worker and a student. But also a pilot, two weapons officers, uh, four engineers and, I think we have a Communications person but he and I have not been together yet.”

“We have, uh, two pilots,” Hoshi ticked off using her fingers, “an Armory officer and a former one, two Engineers, me, I'm in Comms, a Security crew member, our Captain and a Chef.”

“We also have an Armory officer,” interjected the Klingon who was walking behind her, “Three pilots. Two in Communications. I am the only Engineer. Plus an advocate and a Captain. The last one, I do not know.”

“Hmm. So we might all have at least one pilot, one Communications person, one Engineer and one Armory officer. Might or might not have a Captain as well. Then the others are mixed. They don't seem to matter quite so much, I guess,” Hoshi concluded.

“Plus every species is warp-capable,” The Klingon said, “The Kreetassans were here before you. And, before the Vulcans, there were Calafans. I don't know about earlier.”

“Thanks,” Hoshi said, “This was really helpful. I think.”

“Quiet!”

=/\=

“So, thanks for the cookies,” Yimar said to Brian later, in the cafeteria, “I think Joss really liked the square one. What did you call that again?”

“A brownie,” he said.

“They're really nice,” she said, “Like someone I know.”

He reddened. She had to mean Chip Masterson. Of course.

=/\=

Back in the cells, Doug and Melissa sat together, eating, “So who do you like in the preseason?” he asked.

“Hmm. That new quarterback from Brandeis looks promising. What's his name?”

“Culp,” he said.

“Y'know, Doug, at some point we should probably have some sort of a serious discussion.”

“Yeah, I guess so. I'm just not sure what I'd say.”

“Me neither,” Melissa admitted.

“I love my wife,” he said, “I do. But I'm also getting, I'm getting confused. I don't like being confused, and I don't like sitting around and doing nothing.”

“Understood,” she said, “And I love Norri. And I respect your marriage.”

“Yeah. Whatever shape it's in now.”

=/\=

“Do you think you could stand on my shoulders and reach the panel?” Tripp asked.

“Didn't someone else try that?”

“Yeah. But we got a little while before we get, uh, all happy and stuff. I won't let you fall, I swear.”

“You better not. How tall are we together?” she asked nervously as she stepped onto his interlaced fingers.

“Over three meters, I'm sure. Maybe close to three and a third, three and a half. Okay, now, step up. Stay steady.”

“Uhhh. I hate this.”

“If you're scared, I'll letcha down. But I won't letcha fall.”

Hoshi reached up and touched the panel, “I think I can get my fingers into the grid.”

“Is it fastened with anything you can recognize?”

“There are round holes. Not too deep. I'm guessing the fasteners are in there somehow,” she leaned back a little and swayed, “Okay, that's enough. Please let me down.”

“All right,” he said, letting her down and holding her until she calmed down a bit, “See, I didn't letcha fall. Hmm. I bet we can work with that. Now, let's think. What's round?”

=/\=

He hadn't done it with her without the assistance of the gas before. It felt pretty good. She was attractive, and more than willing. He made sure that she enjoyed herself, and did his best to please her. When they were done, he said, “Deb, give it to me straight.”

“Really good. And that's not just the crush talking, Jonathan.”

“You make me feel like I'm younger than I am, like I don't always have to be so responsible all the time.”

“Well, you're still in control, you know.”

“Just, let it be a bit more equal,” he said, “That's the problem with relationships like ours. They're too unequal. I can decide to fire you at any time if it doesn't work out. And that's just too shaky for anything, you know, lasting.”

“We'd never be together without this all happening,” she said, “I know they didn't know that when they decided to pair us up. But it's almost like it was designed to make me never want to leave this place.”

“It's a gilded cage,” he said, “But it's still a cage.”

=/\=

She grabbed his hands and kissed him the moment she saw him.

Kick Kick.

“Uh, what's this?” Malcolm asked, aroused but also a bit amused.

“I just want to do it before they help us along chemically,” Lili said.

“Oh. Well, I believe I can accommodate that,” he smiled at her, “You make me incredibly happy.”

They kissed, and she took off his shirt slowly, “Just right,” she said.

“All right, Goldilocks,” he said.

“I know,” she said, “that I've been all over the place emotionally. Pregnancy will definitely do that. But this is different. It's more,” They kissed deeply.

He swallowed a little and looked her in the eye before he kissed her again. It was what he wanted. Exactly, precisely, no argument, no deviation.
There was a hissing sound, and they both looked up.

“Right on schedule,” he said.

“It feels wonderful,” she said, “Just right. Together.”
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Old April 23 2012, 02:43 PM   #18
Chanukahjes
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Re: Together

“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?”

“'Ommy, 'eech.”

“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 okay.”

“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.”

They kissed.

“I enjoy indulging you as well. I'm so very glad that you're, that you're letting me.”
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Old April 24 2012, 02:18 PM   #19
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Re: Together

Melissa got behind a Klingon as they began to shuffle around.

“You are the pilot?” the Klingon asked.

“Yes, that's right, but I'm not the only one. There's also a male pilot,” she replied.

“Are you paired up?”

“No. I have,” she paused for a second. That was an odd choice of words, “the former Armory Officer. There,” she pointed.

“Fairly tall for a human,” said the Klingon, “I think the mismatches are intentional, at least for the first pairing. Do you have duplicated skill sets or positions?”

“Two Armory Officers – one current, one former. Two engineers. And two pilots,” Melissa said, “Otherwise, nothing matches.”

“And are any of them paired up?”

Melissa thought for a second, “Uh, no. The female engineer is with the male pilot. And the Armory Officers are both male.”

“So a pairing is impossible for them.”

“Why does that matter – particularly for the first pairing?”

“The Witannen seem to have done that – at least this is my own pet theory – they kept similar people apart because, I suspect, they thought there would be more conspiring that way. More attempting to escape. And then as a species stays longer and longer, the attempts to escape become less and less frequent.”

“Huh,” Melissa said, “I wonder if the Andorians saw a lot of that, or if that's a more recent development.”

“Leveqa,” the Klingon asked the Andorian in front of her, “were there a lot of escape attempts in the beginning?”

“Some. No one got very far.”

“Question,” Melissa said, “Have any species been here longer than the Andorians?”

“Well?” asked the Klingon.

“There was one here when we got here. They looked a lot like humans. But they were telepathic. The Witannen did not realize this. So this other species – I recall they called themselves Beta-something-or-others – they conspired, and it didn't matter that they were separated. They made a big attempt.”

“How?” asked Melissa.

“A rush at the guards.”

“So they failed, of course,” said the Klingon.

“I guess – are they in another unit?” Melissa inquired.

“No. The Witannen had the Imvari kill them all. Losing good stock is not preferred, I am sure, but they could not have this kind of behavior occurring. They cannot do anything against telepathy.”

Lili heard some of that – just enough. The Calafan dreams were a little like telepathy. She'd have to tread carefully.

=/\=

Travis walked in front of a Xindi.

“Are you the pilot?” asked the Xindi.

“Yes. One of them.”

“What were your final coordinates?”

Travis told him.

“I have been trying to figure out course and speed for years now,” said the Xindi, “We never leave the Alpha Quadrant, or at least the Andorians here don't believe we have, and they have been here the longest. We also seem to be skittering along one of the arms of the Milky Way galaxy.”

“Well, our home world is nearly at the end of an arm,” Travis said. He couldn't say anymore as that was still a strategic issue, certainly not to be divulged for nearby Klingons to hear.

“I wonder if we are about to leave the galaxy,” said the Xindi.

=/\=

Jennifer walked around slowly. Round things. Hoshi had mentioned that the grates were somehow held up with some sort of rounded fasteners. They would have to get the fasteners off, and with something round. But what was round?

The puzzle helped take her mind off things. Fingertips were round. Toes, too, possibly, but the thought of using one – or, ugh removing one somehow – repulsed her. Teeth? Again, she was repulsed. She was running out of things.

What was a typical day like?

They'd wake up and she'd yell at poor Travis or cower in a corner. Then the tubes would be thrown in, they'd uncap them and eat something. Then they'd be brought out, under guard, and go walking around and around. Then a shower and a change, and back for another round of tube food and then – she didn't want to think about that part.

Round, round, round, what was round?

When she realized the answer, she practically jumped for joy.

Tube caps.

=/\=

It was the same as before. They filed back and were cleaned up. Jennifer didn't tell anyone what she was thinking – she just figured she'd try it. No sense in disappointing anyone else if it didn't work.

Information shared – as much as possible – they were led back to their respective cells.

=/\=

They lay back together, close and warm, smiling at each other.

“I feel a little like a teenager again. But with, uh, better activities.”

“Oh. Were you a good girl, studious and all that?”

“Nope. Got into trouble during the off-season. Nothing really bad, more like joyriding, that kind of thing. You?”

“Chess club, Eagle Scout and football. I was booooorrrring.”

“Oh, c'mon, I'm sure you were – to use your word – devastatingly cute.”

“Cute? I was completely awkward. In the dictionary, under awkward, you'll see a photograph of Malcolm Reed, age fifteen. Go ahead and look when you can, if you don't believe me.”

“You're definitely not awkward anymore,” she said, “You move really well.”

Kick.

“Oh. Well, I have the perf – a great – partner,” he said, and they kissed for a while, “Say, how does the dream actually work?”

“You'll need to maintain physical contact with me and the bracelet.”

“Oh. Well I can certainly do that. No need to tell me twice. And we simply fall asleep?”

“That's all we've gotta do. If you want out, you just tell yourself to wake up. At a certain point, your body clock will just wake you up anyway. Ready?”

“Yes, I think so. Definitely tired – getting tired is quite delightful,” he made sure to put his hand over her braceleted wrist.

=/\=

It was the holding center, and they walked along the hallway, hand in hand.

“So, this is it?” he asked, “Feels real, almost.”

“Yes, these dreams feel incredibly real. If I didn't know they were dreams, I'd swear they were an alternate reality. For the Calafans, they almost are.”

“Can we see rooms we don't know?” Malcolm asked.

“That doesn't seem to be possible when it's just us. I did something like that, but it was on Lafa II and of course that's populated with a few billion Calafans. They all, I am guessing, amplify themselves a bit. We can make stuff up, but that's not the point of this particular exercise, of course.”

“All right. So we can't map the area. But we could walk into rooms, yes?”

“Sure, but I think maybe we, uh, shouldn't disturb the people in the cells,” Lili pointed out. She really didn't want to see what Doug and Melissa might be doing, or if she was sleeping in his arms. Her old place. From about a billion years ago, or so it seemed.

Malcolm swallowed hard, “Yes. That would be discourteous. Best leave them some privacy. But we can go into the exercise area.”

They did, and saw the Imvari, filling the tubes with paste. The tube would be filled at the end and then sealed shut with heat, then capped. No one could see or hear them.

“Not very exciting,” Lili said, “Ready to go to the Enterprise?”

“Lead the way.”

It was nearly instantaneous, and no transporter was needed. They were in the cafeteria first. It was deserted.

“I wonder if we could get a sandwich,” Malcolm joked.

“Focus, focus!”

“Yes – silly of me. Uh, can I ask my small indulgence, though?”

“All right.”

“On B deck.”

“Well, we're going there anyway. That's where Joss and Yimar are.”

“Yes. And my quarters are, as well.”


=/\=

It was after, and Travis was about ready to call it a night. Jennifer said, “Think you could hoist me on your shoulders so I could get a good look at the panel?”

“Uh, I guess so. I am a little tired, though. From, you know,” he said, trying to kiss her.

“Understood,” she said, “But we – I need to do this. Hand me that tube, too.”

“Okay. Just a sec. Okay. Step here.”

He was a little shaky but managed to keep everything pretty steady. Jennifer looked up at the panel and found the same holes that Hoshi had seen. She uncapped the tube and tried it. It didn't fit. She turned it around. Now it was too wide a circumference, “Hmm, it doesn't match.”

“I wouldn't expect that,” said Travis, “Can you put something in to wedge it?”

She took a look at the uncapped tube. It was flattened pretty well, “I'm gonna try the end of the tube,” she wedged it underneath, and it seemed to hold. She pulled back and turned sharply.

Travis almost dropped her when they both heard a pinging sound on the floor.

“Something fell!” he yelled.

“Get me down! We gotta find that.”

=/\=

“Oh. I do want to see my little duck, you know,” Lili said, as Malcolm led her to his quarters.

“I know. I won't take long, I swear. Ah, here we are.”

Inside, she looked at his desk, “Your PADD is really flashing. You must have all sorts of messages.”

“Some other time,” he said, “First, please, this,” he sat down on the bed. She sat next to him.

She smiled at him a little shyly, “Now it's my turn to be awkward.”

“You said that it's possible to kiss in these dreams.”

“Absolutely. We could do a lot more, except there's just no time,” she said, “Your quarters even smell a little like you do.”

“Is that offensive?”

“No, no, not at all. It's wonderful. It's the Malcolm smell. It definitely should be bottled. I know I would buy a case.”

“Now you're just flattering me,” he paused, “Do go on,” he smiled.

“The scent is one way you can tell it's a Calafan-style dream. You can use all of your senses in it.”

“Oh, yes, you had said that,” he said. He took her hand and his hand was shaking just a little bit.

“I've never been in this room before.”

“I know,” he leaned over and their mouths made soft contact. She smiled at him and he was encouraged, and he kissed her again. He put his hand on her waist and brought her closer. This time it was a full-blown French kiss that made them both gasp when it was done. Red-faced, he looked at her, “That was one major fantasy right there. To, to kiss you. In my room. On, on my bed.”

“Just to kiss?” she breathed.

“A lot more than that,” he said, kissing her again. Now it was painful.

“We have to, we have to focus,” she said, “I, I need to tell Yimar what we found out today.”

“I know. I don't want you to go. I'll, um, I may need to, uh ....”

“Understood.”

“All I need to do is think of you,” he said. “You had best take care of, of business.”

“You as well,” she said, getting up.


=/\=

“Well, I'll be damned,” Travis said, looking it over. It was a little nut with a rounded end, silvery in color.

“I think there are six others,” Jennifer said.

“Okay. Hmm. We can't take them all off because they'll notice if the grate is off. But we can probably take off all but one of them,” he suggested.

“We'll need to store them somewhere. I don't know if they go through the rooms while we're in exercise, but they might. They're definitely in here long enough to take out the old tubes and replace them with newer ones.”

“No pockets,” he said, “You got anything?”

“No. I don't even have a bra, really.”

“We could swallow them.”

“They might be toxic,” she said.

“Bring it with you tomorrow, to exercise. Maybe one of the other species can help.”

“Travis, I think this might work.”

“Well, the panel looks big enough. Maybe the crawl space is wide enough for you to go through. But where would you go when you were done?”

“I dunno. And I'd have to come back here for you.”

“Even though you're furious with me most of the time?”

“You're not trying to mess me up,” she said, “I may have a lotta issues right now but I think you're not deliberately trying to mess me up.”

=/\=

Lili got into the quarters that Yimar and Joss were sharing.

“I thought you were bringing a passenger,” Yimar said.

“Uh, too confusing.”

“Any new info?”

“Yes. It looks like the ship is heading to the edge of the Solar System, and then out of the galaxy entirely.”

“That's T'Pol's idea as well.”

“Ears!” Joss added.

“Yes, she has interesting ears,” Lili said, “But be polite, Joss. Maybe don't point that out to her.”
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Old April 25 2012, 01:44 PM   #20
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Re: Together

“Ohh. Now that was worth the wait.”

“Sorry I teased you earlier.”

Kick Kick.

“It's all right. I've been teased before,” he said.

“Well, I just don't want to be cruel of course.”

“You could never be cruel,” he said, “The simultaneous, uh, thing. When we're all told the facts of life, I don't imagine anyone's actually told the mechanics of that.”

“Probably not,” she allowed, “Even the number makes me laugh.”

“Me too, a little. I am forty-six years old and I still chuckle a bit when I hear it.”

“Does it ever end up as a part of coordinates or anything?”

“Absolutely. And I'll be sitting there at Tactical and minding my own business. The Captain will oh so officially state we're going to some system or another and there's that number, right in the midst of the coordinates. Hoshi blushes, Travis smiles to himself a little and I think T'Pol wonders what the devil it is we're all so amused by,” Malcolm said.

“It is fun, though,” Lili said, “We should have some sort of a name for it,” Not doing math. That was what she and Doug called the act. It didn't seem right to use the same terminology.

“Hmm. How 'bout a great number?”

“Huh?”

“Yes. I have met a great number of Vulcans in my life. I enjoy a great number of books.”

“I've cooked a great number of meals,” she replied, smiling.

“Yes, precisely. Maybe don't tell me how many involved sausage, all right?”

“Long as you don't tell me about how many of yours involved oysters.”

=/\=

“Let's dance again,” she suggested.

“Dance? I thought that you said that was a bad idea, Hoshi.”

“Well, maybe I've changed my mind,” she said, getting up. She held out her arms.

“'Course if we dance it might turn into something else.”

“I am kinda counting on that, Tripp.”

“Oh. Well, ahem,” he began again.

“Longing for you all the while, More and more;
Longing for the sunny smile, I adore;
Birds are singing far and near, Roses blooming ev'rywhere
You, alone, my heart can cheer; You, just you.”


“And now for the big finish!” she exclaimed.

Let me call you Sweetheart, I'm in love with you.”

There was no more singing, just kissing, and it would have become a lot more than that but it was time for exercise.

=/\=

“Quickly, before they come back, I should tell you what I did after you left my quarters,” Malcolm said.

“Uh, I have an idea,” Lili said, smiling at him and glancing down briefly.

Kick.

“Well, yes, that. 'Twould have been a bit painful otherwise. But after that – I went to the Captain's Ready Room.”

“Oh?”

“I saw T'Pol. I suspect she's not sleeping much. She was sitting at Archer's desk, head down, sleeping. There was a PADD next to her, and I remembered you can type on them in these dreams. So I wrote a letter.”

“And?”

“I wanted her to know that we may be leaving the galaxy soon. I think it's becoming more urgent. Any attempts will need to be made soon.”

“Agreed. I get the feeling that we wouldn't be able to make even Calafan-type contact if we were to depart the galaxy. I want to see my little duck again.”

“I know,” he said. As for going back to the rest of it, he knew what he felt.

=/\=

Dayah found Lili, “I should tell you, I'm in production again,” she said.

“Oh. Should I congratulate you?” Lili asked.

“A bit. It's mixed, kind of bittersweet. Now I have a bond with Emmiz but that also means the clock is ticking. Ten months' gestation, then two or three with our infant and then I'm back to one of the others.”

“Well, I hope you can make the most of the time,” Lili said. There wasn't anything else to say.

=/\=

The remainder of exercise passed by fairly uneventfully. At the showers, Jennifer showed off her treasure.

“Hmmm. How are we gonna keep that thing secret?” Hoshi asked.

“And the others?” Deb added, “Five of us, seven fasteners apiece – we'd be pulling off thirty of them and would have to find a home for them.”

“No,” Lili said, “the four of you, only. I can't get onto Malcolm's shoulders. I'm too heavy, and if he dropped me it could hurt my baby. As for the other way, I wouldn't be able to lift him without hurting the baby, too.”

“All right, so there are only going to be twenty-four at most that we have to hide,” Melissa said.

“I think swallowing them is out of the question,” Hoshi said.

“Okay, hmm, how 'bout this?” Deb asked, sticking the fastener into her cleavage. It fell right through, “Hmm, I wish I wasn't so flat-chested,” she complained.

“No, I don't think it's that. I tried to do it, too,” Jennifer said, “But, see?” She demonstrated, “It's because there's no bra there.”

“I have a bra,” Lili said, “Well, it's kind of a shelf. But the front of the dress is more like a supportive stretchy material. It makes it a little easier to get around.”

“Then you try it,” Hoshi said.

“Here goes nothing,” Lili dropped the fastener in and let it settle. Then she walked around and shook herself a bit.

“Anything?” Melissa asked.

Lili fished it out, “Still here. Now, I can't promise that I can fit in all twenty-four without giving myself some problems. But I should be able to handle some of them. At least let me do this, as we can't do the other part of things.”

“You'll have to keep track of the numbers – we all need to,” Hoshi said.

“Yes,” Lili said, “I can keep track of the overall figure, but you'll have to know your own individual ones. So Jennifer has one out, everyone else has none out, as of today.”

“Anybody have an idea of where we would be going, assuming we can get into the vents and go somewhere?” Deb asked.

“To wherever there's Communications, and contact the Enterprise,” Hoshi said.

“Or to where the cloaking mechanism is,” Jennifer added.

“Anyone got an idea of how we'll be able to do this while or after we're being gassed?” Melissa asked.

“It's really hard to resist,” Deb said, stating the obvious for them all.

“We'll think of something,” Lili said, “Maybe wait until afterwards.”

“In the meantime, though, let's get those fasteners off. And maybe see if we can get some of the other species to help us,” Hoshi said, just as the door slid open.

Lili dropped the fastener back into its hiding place and walked out compliantly – the most obedient prisoner the Imvari had ever seen.

=/\=

This time was a little bit different. They were placed back into their cells but the lights stayed up. Quellata got into the hallway in between, “I have an announcement!”

“Wonder what that's about,” Jonathan said, standing next to Deb. Across from them – they had never seen inside that cell – was a Klingon couple. The woman was already showing a bit.

“Slime molds, Denebian slime devils, blood worms, whatever you'd like to be called – I have some news. We have completed the collection phase of the process! That is to say, we've got all eighty species that we wanted. We have our supplies and we're ready to depart.”

“Depart?” Jonathan asked, “To where?”

“The nondisclosure has been lifted,” she said, “So I can answer that. The Zetal – my clients – they don't reside in this galaxy. So we'll be out of here in perhaps two weeks. We'll get a few supplies and then be off.”

“What's the purpose of all this breeding?” asked Serin, the Andorian.

“Replacements. It is, as you can imagine, a rather long journey. We might lose some stock. So we need some extras, and we'll be needing more when we reach our destination. And then you – and your descendants – will be ready for your real purpose.”

“What's that?” a Vulcan asked.

“War games. My clients love them – and on a grand scale. So this unit will get its own ship to fight with one of the other units, and so it goes. All in what you call a Round Robin-style tournament. There are – I know you're about to ask this – sixteen units.”

“I bet they won't give us ships fast enough to get back,” Tripp said quietly to Hoshi.

“Will we be able to see the children?” Lili asked.

“Only when replacements are necessary. Don't want to deplete the stock all at once, you know,” Quellata said, “Enough questions. There now, don't you slime molds all feel more informed?”
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Old April 26 2012, 01:11 PM   #21
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Re: Together

“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.”

“Why?”

“'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.

Ping.

“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.”

“Poor Robin.”

“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.

“Oh Malcolm.”

“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.”

“I –”

“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.

KICK.

“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.”

“'Ommy sad?”

“Yes. Mommy's very sad.”

“Daddy sad?”

“Probably.”


=/\=

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.”

Kick Kick.

“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.

Melissa.
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Old April 27 2012, 02:28 PM   #22
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Re: Together

It was – what? – a week? Ten days? Two weeks? Something like that.

It was hard to keep track of the days and nights as there were no windows. But they both needed to recover from all of that shocking. So each night, they would just lie together, and the gas had little effect or, if it did, they did nothing. They just needed to rest and recover. Perhaps it was a punishment, for the vet was never called. Or maybe he was busy elsewhere.

But there came a day when Lili had twenty-three fasteners to keep track of. One more - but that could be removed quickly, of course. That one was Hoshi's. Otherwise, everyone had but one fastener holding up the vent grating. Just one. They all reported that the vents were wobbly. So it was decided – the big push would come that night.

The women gathered together as they dried off.

“This is it. Everybody know what to do?” Hoshi asked.

“Yep. Hoist up, remove the last fastener and away we go,” Jennifer replied.

“Still not sure about the gas, though. I mean, if we wait until afterwards, um, he's mainly gonna wanna sleep. And so will I,” Deb explained.

“Sure,” Melissa said, “It's physically taxing.”

“That's one way to put it,” Hoshi said, “We need some way to either ignore the gas or, um, do what we need to without exhausting ourselves or the guys.”

“Might I suggest,” Lili said, “something less conventional?”

“You talking about what I think you're talking about?” Deb asked.

“I probably am. Think of yourself as being, erm, back in High School. Satisfaction without actually going all the way, to borrow a quaint phrase,” Lili said.

“I can do that,” Hoshi said.

Jennifer stared blankly. She was not on board with that decision, “Uh, is there any way we can, uh, do something else?”

“Suit yourself,” Deb said, “But, really, you need for Travis to be able to focus. And you've got to focus, as well. And not be so sleepy.”

“You'll be fine,” Hoshi said.

“Wait, wait, what?” Melissa asked, “I never did that before.”

Never?” Deb asked, incredulous.

“Um, no,” Melissa said quietly, “Can't anybody, uh, help me with this?”

Everyone backed away and pretended to be far more interested in something else. Finally, Lili spoke, “All I can tell you is, think positively.”

“Uh, okay, I guess I got that. And, that's kinda over the top. I shouldn't have asked. And you shouldn't have told me, I think,” Melissa said to Lili.

“It's okay,” her voice dropped several decibels and Melissa had to strain to hear her, “He doesn't like how I do that.”

“Oh. I would have thought it would be, I dunno, perfect. He seems to think everything else about being with you was.”

Lili smiled tightly, “That's very kind of you to say, but I know Doug, and he doesn't open up much. Do you, uh, do you love him?”

Melissa turned pale, “I, uh, I....”

“He's very lovable. I would, I think, understand if you, if you did.”

“I like him,” Melissa finally said.

“I don't hate you,” Lili said, “You should know that.”

=/\=

Back in their cell, Deb stared up at the ceiling. The gas had not yet started. It was now or never.

“C'mere,” Jonathan said.

“Okay. Let me, uh, I hope you don't think I'm, uh, I'm some sort of, uh bad woman for what I'm about to propose.”

“Oh? Something different? Things have been good so far.”

She smiled at that. It was great to hear it, “Thanks. But, uh, a little variety. What do you think of –?”

=/\=

Tripp and Hoshi sat together, “Can I interest you in, um, a little?” she whispered in his ear.

“You silly gal! Why can't you say that out loud?”

“I just, I dunno. It's weird to broach it as a subject.”

“Well, broach away.”

=/\=

Jennifer didn't ask. She didn't want Travis to do anything back to her. She just wanted it to be over with, so she got right down to it.

=/\=

Lili smiled a little to herself.

“What's funny?” Malcolm asked.

“I, uh, know how everyone else is trying to, um, get past the gas without getting too tired afterwards.”

“Hmm. Is it some strange Orion slave girl type of techniques?”

“Something like that. Uh, noncoital, um, contact.”

“Lots of great numbers, eh?”

“Yes. And a lot of massages that suddenly turned South, I think.”

“Ah. When you rubbed my back a month ago, a few weeks ago, whatever it was, I confess I did hope that you might take a bit of a detour, although, at the time, I was thoroughly unsure of your willingness. If there was any, at all.”

“There's definitely willingness,” Lili said.

“And on my end as well, of course,” he said. He put his hand on her chin and moved her mouth to his.

“How are you feeling?”

“Much better now. I suppose it takes a while to recover from being thunderstruck. In, uh, in one way or, or another.”

She looked at him intently.

“Something wrong?” he asked, “Have I got, uh, something 'round the side of my, of my mouth, or something?”

“No. I just, I know.”

“You know? What is it that you know, Lili-Flower?”

“I definitely do. I know,” she said, “I know that I, that I love you.”

=/\=

“Um, I'm really bad at asking for what I want.”

“Well, I won't, uh, judge you, Melissa.”

“I know. It's just odd, 'cause I can talk to my girl about whatever and it's easy. Not as easy sometimes, with you.”

“Well, can I make it any easier? What are you, uh, trying to, um, do?”

She touched him tentatively.

“Oh,” he said, “Here, like this, lemme show you.”

=/\=

“No, no, you don't. You love Doug.”

“I, I do. But I also know that I love you.”

“What? I mean, I would certainly want to hear that, and feel that it's, that it's true. But you don't love me. It is him who you truly love.”

“Why does it have to be one or the other? Why is that the case?”

“Because it just is.”

“But why? Something just existing, just being, seems to be a damned foolhardy reason for something.”

“Still. You, you're confused, Lili-Fl – , uh, Lili. And I, on my part, I haven't helped things one bit by calling you by a pet name and all. You are in love with him. Not with, with me.”

“Don't tell me my feelings, Malcolm,” she said, “I know them. I know them. Like I am finding that I know you – how you wake up on a hair trigger, how you flex when you think I'm not looking – but I think you secretly hope I am. How you make silly jokes. How you sneeze, even. How you kiss, how you walk, how you make love.”

“It's not, it can't be, it's not the same as with your husband,” he protested, but he didn't really want to.

“No, it's not. And it should not be. You're different people, after all,” she explained, “I won't enumerate the differences, but they are definitely there. And that's okay,” she ran her fingers along the back of his scalp, and it made him shudder just a tiny bit with excitement, “It's better that there are differences.”

“There's no, there's no precedent for this.”

“Sure there is. You forget I am part-French. And forever, and probably still, there would be, there would be men with a wife and a mistress. And the wife would have the marriage, and the home and the children.”

“And the respectability.”

“Somewhat. But the mistress also had her spot and she also got her due. Sometimes she would bear a child as well, sometimes not. And when the man died, the wife would be gracious and the mistress could go to the funeral, too. She'd sit in the back, in some sort of wickedly inappropriate outfit, perhaps in fire engine red, and cry as much as the wife would.”

“I, I can't be called a mistress. The genders are reversed and it's just not manly,” he said, smiling just a tiny bit. Hmm. He had no idea if he liked the idea, or if it would work at all. But at least, someone else had blazed the trail already.

“I said – the male equivalent of mistress is lover.”

Lover. I do like that,” he said.

“I love you,” she said again.

“And, and I love you,” he said, and the slow, quiet words suddenly came out in a rush, because they had been held back for so long. It was like a dam bursting, the words just tumbled out, “I love you beyond all reason, beyond all hope, beyond all belief and beyond all faith.”

“My lover,” she said softly, “Can I give you something?”

Me? I should be showering you with presents and all I've got is this damned tube.”

“I have something to give,” she said. She slipped the cuff bracelet off her wrist, “Here.”

“I'm not normally much for jewelry, at least not on my wrist. Never even wanted to own an old-fashioned watch,” he smiled, “What an interesting piece this is. It's got the same kind of scrollwork that's tattooed on your arms.”

“Yes; I think it's meant to be complementary to that somehow. And see where it's all faded and softened?”

“Yes,” he said, “It's like hundreds of hands have touched it.”

“Maybe thousands. It was – Yimar's mother is the High Priestess of the Calafans, or at least she was before she got really sick. And I think this went from the priestesses on down. I have no idea how old it is, but I'm sure their culture is a few thousand years old. Maybe it's as old as all that.”

“A cultural artifact. I shouldn't own it, then,” he said.

“Yes, you should. It was given to me, to do what I wanted. And I choose to give it to you.”

“I'll, I should hide it in my sleeve. Otherwise I think Doug will be upset,” Malcolm said. He adjusted his shirt, “There, does that work?”

“Wait, pull this down just a touch. There.”

“Thank you. I don't know what tomorrow will bring. If we'll be together at all. Or perhaps we'll enrage our captors so much that they'll slaughter us all.”

“That's not outside the realm of possibility,” Lili allowed.

“And I know that a big piece of your heart is not with me. And I think I'm all right with that. There is no perfection. But there is something. Something very rare and good.”

They kissed.

“Rare and good and botanical,” Lili said.

“Botanical?”

“Yes. I'm the lily flower and you are the reed.”

“To be true, but the flower's the exciting part. The reed's just an ordin'ry thing. Nothing special or worthwhile.”

“Don't say that! The flower needs the reed. Otherwise it's got no nourishment, no support and is just a bunch of petals falling on the ground. The flower can't live without the reed.”

“Can't?”

“Can't,” she said, “Not anymore.”

“A puzzle, right?”

“Right.”

“Pieces need to be arranged somehow. Rotated, perhaps. No box or guide to look at, though.”

“No guides.”

“A fit, though,” he said.

“Yes. They – somehow – have got to fit.”

“Lover, eh?”

“Yes. Lover.”
=/\=

They didn't hear gentle pinging sounds in the other four cells, or the louder sounds of grates being dropped or thrown to the floor.
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Old April 28 2012, 02:59 PM   #23
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Re: Together

“Hey, you almost hit me when you dropped that!”

“Oh, sorry, Travis. Really, I'm sorry. Can you lift me a little higher? I can hold the lip here and hoist myself, but a little help would be, uh, helpful,” Jennifer said.

He hoisted. She grabbed and pulled herself up. Suddenly, she was in the vent.

=/\=

Similar conversations went on in three other cells. More – actually.

=/\=

“Unh!” Melissa managed to get herself into the vent. She sneezed.

“Bless you!” yelled Doug, looking up, “You all in?”

“Yeah. It's dusty in here. And it's not very high. I have to crawl like a snake.”

“Well, think positively,” he said, “I'll be here if you need to turn around.”

Think positively. Ha. If he only knew the context when she'd last been told to do that.

=/\=

They crawled. And were joined by some others, for the other species in their unit knew about the attempt, knew they were leaving the galaxy, and wanted in.

They wanted to see their families again, and return to their old lives, if they could. Or maybe they were tired of endless couplings with mates who could sometimes leave a lot to be desired. Or perhaps they just wanted a change of pace. Three male Xindi, including Emmiz, joined them. A female Andorian – Leveqa. One Klingon female, the slightest of them. None of the others could fit into the vent. Two female Vulcans and one male also joined the ranks.

Hoshi was farthest along and so she ended up leading the way. There really wasn't much of an indication as to where to go. It's not like there was just some big arrow painted inside the vent, so she followed sounds of hydraulics.

Behind her, the others struggled with getting past the openings. Every vent opening was wide enough to go all the way from side to side, so there was nowhere to get purchase. You had to crawl over it, and when you were more than halfway beyond it, your feet would flop down and you'd end up kicking them to move along. Deb almost lost it when she felt a hand on her foot while she was doing that. She looked down through the opened vent. It was a Klingon, greybearded, “Steady,” he said, “I won't let you fall, human.”

“Uh, thanks,” she muttered, her heart finding its way back into her chest.

They crawled on.

=/\=

Kick Kick Kick Kick.

“I'm so afraid. For them – for us. I know this is the right thing to do but it's still scary,” Lili said, shuddering a little.

“I'm here,” Malcolm said, arm around her shoulders, “I wish I could wish the fear away. Or, better, the danger itself. I do feel a bit left out, like I should be doing something.”

“You're doing plenty right now,” she kissed him, “And I think there'll be an opportunity for you to, to be a hero. Just, I hope, not too much of one. Not like Jay Hayes.”

He smiled a little, “Without Jay's outcome, most definitely. I am finally with you. I don't wish for this to be the first and last day of that, my love.”
That word. It charged the air. Even the baby seemed to know, for the kicking changed tempo just a little.

Lili put Malcolm's hand on her belly, “Feel this.”

He smiled broadly at her, “It's life itself. I don't think we're about to die. Despite my worries – and I have plenty of those – I think we are going to live.”

“I hope you're right.”

=/\=

There was a hissing sound, “Okay, we were expecting this,” Hoshi called to everyone behind her, “Lie as flat as you can and if you're near an opening, breathe that air for a while.”

Emmiz was right over a cell where there was just a Vulcan woman, “My apologies!” he called down, “The gas is coming and I hope I will be civil to you.”

“Join me in meditation,” she replied.

“Does that really work?”

“No.”

But it was all they had.

=/\=

The hissing stopped. Hoshi felt lightheaded but not bad.

And not really that stimulated, either. Huh?

“I don’t seem to be affected. I guess it affects you if you have a partner,” she called back, “Is anyone else feeling the same?”

“It might need to be a partner of the same species,” Melissa said, “Let's just say I'm stuck between a male and a female Vulcan. You do the math.”

“Let's keep moving,” said the Klingon woman, “Time is short.”

“Try to keep it together,” Jennifer said to the Vulcan woman in front of her.

“I am maintaining control,” she said, but her voice was a bit shaky.

“It's not too far,” Jennifer said, although she really had no idea.

=/\=

They continued on. There was a bend in the duct work. Hoshi followed it. Suddenly, it dropped, but it also widened considerably. She saw a light, and there was a mesh grating.

She got closer, and could see out. It was some sort of supply room. Tubes, tube caps and clothing were stacked up. Big bags of white paste were shoved into cubby holes. No one seemed to be on guard.

She managed to turn herself around and get her bare feet to face the grate. She tried to kick it open, but didn't have enough strength. The Klingon woman got there next. Together, they were able to get it open.

Everyone followed them in and looked around. There was a door, of course, but it would help to know where they were in the holding center.

Emmiz finally looked at the side of the door, “Look, it's, if you move your head the right way and get the light to hit it at the right angle, you can see a picture.”

Leveqa looked, too, “Yes. It might be a word, maybe.”

Hoshi checked, “Looks like a pictogram. Not really a language – maybe the Imvari aren't literate in the Witannen language. I don't know. This seems to mean, hmm, I'm guessing here. Main hall?”

“There are similar graphics over the cubby holes,” same one of the Vulcans, “See? Here, and here. And where the clothing is, as well.”

“That might mean sizes,” Melissa said, “Or maybe maternity versus non.”

“Yes,” Deb said, “I think these are maternity. They look like Lili's dress, and the graphic is, it's a circle with a smaller circle in it.”

“Yes,” Leveqa said, “It must mean mother and baby.”

“The symbols over the food stores could mean anything from which goes with which species to expiration dates or something,” a Vulcan said.

“Let's get out of this room,” Jennifer said, “It can't help us that much,” she pushed on the panel that might have said main hall. The door slid open, almost completely silently.

They departed, and crept down a hall. It was different from the hall on their floor. There didn't seem to be any cells or exercise areas. The rooms were dark, and all had panels on the side.

“Look,” Hoshi said, “Let's try this one,” The panel's pictogram was of a triangle and a circle.

It ended up being a place with more stacked tubes and tube caps, and bags of paste, “So that one means food storage.”

“The other one, the one we came out of?” Emmiz said, “I looked at its symbol when we were out of it and in the hallway, and it had the circle and the triangle, but also a rectangle. So maybe that one was food and clothing storage.”

“Your guess is as good as mine,” Hoshi said.

They came to a room with a door panel that depicted a semi-circle that was divided in several places.

“Table? Cafeteria?” asked Leveqa.

“Bed?” asked the Klingon woman.

“No,” Melissa said, “Window. Or maybe screen. I bet this is Navigation.”

“Only one way to find out,” Deb said, “I'll go first.”

“You and I,” said the Klingon woman, “It is better as a team.”

=/\=

“How are you feeling?” Lili asked.

“Wonderful. I do believe I have completely recovered from the shocking,” he said. They lay next to each other and he kissed her hand.

“Good. I was worried, you know.”

“I know. Seems a bit unfair, them doing all the work while you and I are here and loving each other.”

“Well,” she smiled, “blame me. I just wanted you. And I do that a lot.”

=/\=

It was, indeed, Navigation. Or, rather, more like a generalized control room.

It being the middle of the night, the room was sparsely populated. And there were no Imvari – just unarmed, yawning Witannen on the night shift.

They were as surprised to see the prisoners as the prisoners were to see them.

The Vulcans and the Klingon woman were best at getting them subdued. Deb rummaged around and found one of the shocking sticks, “I am guessing you didn't think you'd be needing this,” she said, pointing it at them.

“I don't suppose you'll tell us how to decloak this ship,” Jennifer said, looking around at the odd controls on a semi-circular console that matched the crude pictograph on the door.

The Witannen were silent.

“Look,” Melissa said, pointing at the view screen, “I could swear that was the Kuiper Belt.”

“Maybe it is,” Emmiz said, “That is close to your home world, yes?”

“Very. Too close,” Hoshi said, “Okay, hmm. The red controls might be alarms.”

“Are they?!” yelled Deb, brandishing the stick.

“Try one and see,” said one of the Witannen.

“We can figure this out,” Hoshi said, “Wide rectangle. Panel? Room?”

“Door,” said Leveqa, “Because a thinner rectangle meant clothing.”

“So, one door. Probably the door to this room. Okay. Four triangles.”

“Navigation,” said Emmiz, “Right?”

“Maybe,” Melissa allowed, “Or it could be torpedoes.”

“Wide rectangle, with a lot of little circles in it,” one of the Vulcans said, “Logic would dictate – if a wide rectangle is a door, and the circles are people, then it's the doors to the cells.”

“Or to the room with the children,” Jennifer said.

“Stacked wide rectangles,” said the Vulcan man, “If one is a door, then this may control all of the doors.”

“Parallelogram,” said the Klingon woman, “With one edge folded over.”

“I know what that is!” Melissa said, “It's the cloak.”

“Only one way to find out,” Leveqa said, “Start pressing.”

“Parallelogram,” Jennifer said, and pressed.

“Stacked wide rectangles,” said Emmiz, and pressed.

“Four arrows,” Melissa said, and pressed.

=/\=

There was a sound of hydraulics.

Six human heads whipped around as one.

The doors were opening.

=/\=

“Wide rectangle with circles,” said the Vulcan man. He pressed.

Even the door to the control room opened. The Witannen tried to leave, but Deb managed to keep them there.

The ship shuddered and the image of the Kuiper belt shimmered just a tiny bit.

“I think we're decloaking,” Melissa said. She rummaged around underneath the console, “Found it,” It was a joystick. Somehow, pressing one of the buttons – perhaps the one with the four arrows, had opened up the bottom of the console. She started to move it over to the right. The ship moved as she steered, “Holy cannoli. We have helm control.”

=/\=

The next several minutes were chaotic.

The Imvari weren't around – they had been in the exercise area, refilling tubes. Before they could run out into the hallways, the remaining prisoners were out.

“We'll go that way,” Jonathan pointed, “Past exercise. There's a light past there. It matches the direction Deb went in.”

“I love you!” Malcolm called out, following.

“Be careful!” Lili called back.

Kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick

Doug looked back for a second, “Miss you!” was all he yelled, and then he followed.

=/\=

The nine pregnant women were left, plus there was an Andorian woman holding a small infant.

“Let's stay together, sisters,” Dayah said.

There were three Xindi, including her. There were three Vulcans, and two Andorians, not including the new mother with her daughter. And Lili.

“I don't think they will harm us,” said one of the Vulcans, “We are in production. It would not be logical to damage the stock.”

“What's that buzzing sound?” asked one of the Andorians, antennae waving.

“That's not buzzing,” Lili said, “It's coming from far away,” she pointed, away from where the men had gone off to, “It sounds like babies crying. Lots of them.”
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Old April 29 2012, 02:31 PM   #24
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Re: Together

“Mr. MacKenzie!” T'Pol called out.

“Yes, I see it,” Aidan replied, “Hull plating is polarized.”

“Helm about,” she said to Chris Harris.

“Yes, Commander.”

=/\=

Jonathan could've sworn there were only maybe twenty-five or thirty people with him, but suddenly there were more. All of the doors had opened, and there were species coming in from other units on the floor. He could see Xyrillians, Takret, Tellarites, Tandarins, Calafans, Gorn, and a lot of others that he didn't recognize, both male and female – and some pregnant. There was no time to get acquainted.

They were passing the exercise area, and there were sounds. It would make sense to subdue the guards somehow.

“We'll split up!” he called out, “Take out the guards and get armed. Other half will follow where the women went. There – uh, Hayes, take half to follow the women. Malcolm, take out the guards.”

“Aye, Captain,” Doug said, even though he was no longer working for Starfleet and no longer called himself Hayes. A small quibble in the heat of it all, “Quick march!”

They disappeared down the corridor, following a light. Jonathan went with that group.

=/\=

Lili and the other pregnant women rushed to the sound of the crying. There was a room with an opened door – all of the doors were opened – and an image of a rectangle with a lot of small circles in it.

The crying was loud, in all manner of octaves and rhythms.

They rushed in. The room was not guarded. There was just one Witannen woman, frantic, “You woke them all up from stasis!” she yelled. She was at her wit's end.

Kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick

Dayah blanched, “There must be over a hundred in there.”

“I think we all have an idea of what to do,” said one of the Vulcan women, “The logical act is to quiet them.”

There were rows and rows of what could have charitably been described as bassinets but were really more like tiny versions of their own meager beds, but with rails. And most of them contained a wailing infant of one species or another. Lili didn't know most of the species, but that wasn't exactly her area of expertise. One child nearby had what looked like a spoon on his forehead. Another was a lot like a human but had a horizontally ridged nose. Another had spots on her neck. She grabbed the first one she saw, which she figured was probably Xyrillian. She had never seen a Xyrillian infant before. It was so tiny, barely bigger than the palm of her hand. She could pick up two at a time, and did so, “Shh,” she said, “Uh, Auntie Lili is here. Shh.”

And she saw them – Andorian holding Gorn, Vulcan holding Tellarite, Xindi holding Nausicaan, Tandarin holding Calafan. She counted, when she got a chance, and saw that there were nineteen separate species of infant. Just about one-quarter of the eighty species the Witannen were collecting, so there had to be a total of four floors of prisoners. The only species missing, of course, was human. Not all of the infants could be comforted. They were swaddled, in a way, but there were no fresh diapers. Wet children, unfortunately, had to stay wet. And there was nothing to feed them with. Clearly, no one was expecting them to be awakened anywhere near that day. But they were awake all right.

All of the women rocked and cooed and shushed and sang and smiled at faces that did not match to their own. They were mothers. They knew just what to do.

=/\=

Malcolm's team got in quickly. The ranks swelled – they were little more than an angry mob. They stormed into the exercise area. The Imvari were ready for them, but there were just too many of them.

Pale hands smacked dark faces, long feet kicked midsections. The shocking sticks, with some effort, began to change hands.

A green-skinned Orion handed him a stick, “I don't need it!” the Orion said, “I'd rather beat them with my bare hands.”

The riot continued and Malcolm wondered how he'd get them to settle down. But he had to admit, getting the Imvari back was something he had to let everyone do.

=/\=

Doug's team made it to the light. There was an alcove with a turbo lift. The sign on their wall was just a single pip, like the one-spot on a dice.

They crowded into the lift – about eighteen or so of them could get in at once, “Where to?” It was Travis's voice.

“What are the options?” yelled Doug.

“Uh, we're on one. And it goes up to four,” The markings were just pips – one, two, three or four, “Plus the one below one is just a semi-circle.”

“Try that one!”

He pressed. They went down.

=/\=

Quellata was not pleased. She threw the vet out of her bed.

“I thought you said the mix was going to keep them subdued!”

“It normally would,” he replied, “We must have another telepathic species.”

“Root them out! We'll have to trash that stock. Humans!” she seethed, banging a panel on the wall, but no one was answering communications hails.

=/\=

Hoshi kept looking at button after button. Finally, one looked like it might be useful. It was almost like an asterisk – a crude starburst, “Is this Communications?” she yelled to the Witannen.

They did not answer.

“Okay, I'll do it myself,” she pressed. There was a crackling noise and a small panel slid out from underneath the console.

“Thanks so much for your help,” she sneered back at the Witannen. She yelled into what may or may not have been a transmitter, “Calling the Enterprise! Or, or any vessels in the Kuiper Belt! This is the Witannen ship! We cannot slow down! Repeat. We cannot slow down!”

=/\=

“Commander, listen,” Chip said. The crackling voice was unmistakably Hoshi's, although she was breaking up quite a bit.

“Ensign, go ahead,” T'Pol replied.

“Hoshi, we got you,” Chip said.

“Chandler, anyone ever tell you you're beautiful?” Hoshi replied, crackling, through the static.

“Not recently,” he said, “Now, tell us the trouble again.”

=/\=

They quick-marched it out of the lift and down a corridor. Imvari were coming, and they were a lot more evenly matched than the mob in the exercise area, but they didn't know that. They weren't armed, but the Imvari were.

The fighting began. Jonathan, Doug and Travis punched and kicked alongside Klingons and Gorn and Orions and Vulcans. Blood of several colors ran. The Imvari didn't hold back with the sticks.

The lift door opened again, and this time it was a part of Malcolm's mob. They rushed to the fighting and moved along the Imvari flank. The Imvari were far from immune to the shocking, and writhed as much as anyone else.

More sticks changed hands, and differently-shaped faces grimaced in pain and anger and many-colored hands grabbed and poked and hit and did whatever they could to subdue the Imvari.

Doug got himself a stick, and used it to back two Imvari up against a wall. He had to admit to himself, he had almost missed doing this kind of thing. A split second's loss of concentration gave one of the Imvari a chance to try to make a break for it, but he was able to get that one back in line.

=/\=

“I can hear fighting out there,” said the Klingon woman.

“I can't slow us down at all,” Melissa said, “I can barely keep us from hitting all the junk that's out here. This isn't exactly smooth sailing, and we're going like a bat outta hell.”

“Look,” Deb said, “we're gonna die here if this ship can't be slowed down. We'll just ram into Pluto or something. Cooperating might turn out to be a good idea,” she brandished the stick again at the Witannen.

“Just tell me what to turn or press,” Jennifer said.

“Who's to say the fighting out there isn't going our way?” one of the Witannen said.

As if in answer, Jonathan burst in. He had a bruised cheek but was otherwise okay, “Ladies,” he said, “we might wanna slow down. I can see Charon out there. Oh, and you folks,” he indicated the Witannen, “might want to get new lackeys, 'cause your old ones are cowering out in the hallway.”

“Over there,” one of the Witannen said, “The button that looks like three wavy lines.”

Jennifer found it, and pressed. Another panel opened up, with a series of bars and a stick with a handle, “These are warp factors, right?” she pointed to the bars, which graduated in size.

“Yes,” said the cooperative Witannen.

Jennifer pulled the stick down to the shortest bar. The ship jolted from Warp Nine to Warp One, but they kept their footing.

=/\=

“I think we might be in control,” Dayah said, shushing a small Xindi Reptilian.

“I hope so,” Lili said, “I thought one was enough work.”

=/\=

“Someone needs to get Mrs. Beckett,” Jonathan said, as the ship settled down and he realized that they could do that.

“I'll –” Malcolm volunteered. Doug glared at him.

“Uh, I'll go, sir,” Travis said.

“And me,” Emmiz said.

“I as well,” Leveqa said.

They took a stick and departed.

=/\=

“Captain, is everyone all right?” T'Pol asked.

“All but one is accounted for,” he replied, “Stand by.”

=/\=

Emmiz, Leveqa and Travis found them, still rocking, still cooing.

“My God, it's like Day Care Hell in here,” Travis said.

“Mayweather, pick up a kid if the noise bothers you,” Lili said.

Emmiz found Dayah. She was looking over two small beds with identical twin boy Xindi in them, “These are mine, with Jannar. I think. They should be a good year old, but it looks as if all of the infants were kept perpetually small. Perhaps we can consider today to be their birthdays.”

“Will we marry?” Emmiz asked her.

“What will your schoolmates think, you marrying an old granny like me?”

“I don't care what they say.”

“Oh, you are a prize,” she said, kissing him, “If there is any such thing as a good part of this, it is you.”

Leveqa looked down at Andorian infants. Serin had left the mob and was there as well, “That one. I am pretty sure,” he said, “Our first one, before Erell. We never named her. Should we, you think, name her Erell?”

“No,” Leveqa said, “That was a different person. This is the child with a chance. I don't know what we shall name her, but it must be anything but Erell.”

“As you desire,” he said.

=/\=

There were two shuttles for the humans. Who knows how many for the Xindi, the Klingons, the Takret, and more? But the Enterprise was there, and sent the two shuttles.

T'Pol gathered up her passengers. Melissa got in and Doug followed her. He had a bit of a shiner going but it wasn't bad. Then Lili. Malcolm got in to sit next to her. Doug, again, glared.

Jennifer was looking around nervously.

“Jennifer,” Malcolm said, “Come sit here,” he placed her between him and Lili. That seemed to work for Doug.

The shuttle left and they kept quiet. After a while, Melissa asked to pilot, “I just want to do something normal for once,” she explained.

=/\=

In the other shuttle, it was cozy and cramped. Chris Harris sat at the controls and Travis got in next to him, “I gotta work a bit,” he explained, “Extended vacation – kinda.”

Jonathan and Deb sat together, and he quietly and surreptitiously held her hand. He had no idea what he was going to do once they were actually back. The cramped conditions more or less forced Hoshi onto Tripp's lap. He did not object.

As they piloted the second shuttle out, Travis paid attention to what he was doing, but a little bit of him thought of the frightened doe of a woman that he'd just spent almost a month with.

=/\=

“'Ommy! 'Ommy!”

“My little duck!” she hugged him and kissed him, “Go see Daddy,” she straightened up.

“Daddy!”

Doug lifted Joss up in his arms, “How's my brave boy?”

“Tell them what you told me,” Yimar said.

“Oh?” Lili asked.

“Aunt Jenny,” Joss said.

“We can say J's now,” Yimar explained.

“How wonderful. My big boy!” Lili exclaimed.

“Unka Mackum,” Joss said, reaching out.

Malcolm hung back. The sleeve of his shirt moved slightly, and the cuff glinted a little in the light of the shuttle bay.

Doug just glared.

Kick kick kick kick
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Old April 30 2012, 04:03 PM   #25
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Re: Together

Phlox arrived in the shuttle bay, “You look like you've been in a riot,” he said.

“Doctor,” Lili said, forming an idea in her head, “can you give me an examination first? I want to be sure the baby is all right.”

Jonathan nodded, “I need to get a debriefing together anyway. Executive level staff – we won't even bother changing. Main conference room. Now.”

“I guess I'm free to go,” Jenny said, still tentative.

“Here, let's get to quarters. I know I wanna shower and pass out,” Deb said.

Doug looked at Lili for a second, “I'll take Joss back to quarters. Spend some time with him.”

“We can talk, uh, later,” Lili said. She couldn't help it, but her eyes did follow a certain person on the Executive level staff as he filed out with the others, “I just want to make sure Petey is all right.”

Kick kick

“Of course,” Doug said tightly. So this was how it was going to be? He departed with Yimar and Joss and Lili could hear him ask, “What's today's date, anyway?”

=/\=

Sick Bay was its usual mayhem.

“You are in perfect health. Mother and baby are doing splendidly,” Phlox said, “You’re about four and a half months along or so. It’s hard to tell with the placenta getting in the way of everything.”

“Doctor, I don't want to tell you your business.”

“I don't understand.”

“It's just; I think you should, uh, examine the women next. The other four who were in captivity. And, um, I think you should give them all pregnancy tests.”

“Oh?” Phlox arched an eyebrow. This would require a little fancy footwork, given privacy regulations. He could cover it, initially, with just a request for examinations. But if there were findings, it would get trickier. He also knew – given the pay grade and rank differences among the ten who'd been held captive – there could be sexual harassment issues. He was not looking forward to this.

=/\=

The debriefing contained a call from Admiral Gardner.

“Go ahead,” Jonathan said.

“You all look a bit tired,” Gardner said.

“None the worse for wear.”

“Still. Maybe we'll do the real debriefing later. But I do have some interesting news that may come out of this.”

“Oh?” said T'Pol. She was the only one in the room who was in uniform.

“This rescue involved an unprecedented cooperation among species. The Andorians, Vulcans and Tellarites were particularly helpful. Starfleet has taken the liberty of opening up negotiations with them. Once the Earth-Romulan War is concluded, we think this alliance should become more permanent. It just seems best to have our allies somewhat on call when we need them. Vice versa, of course, too.”

“Might mean more work for me,” Malcolm said.

“Or different work,” Travis stated.

Hoshi yawned, “Sorry. It's just been a long day. Uh, month. Uh, two months?”

“It is August twenty-sixth,” T'Pol said, “You were held captive for about three weeks.”

“That's all, eh?” Tripp said, “It sure felt longer. Like a lifetime,” he glanced over at Hoshi for just a second.

“We should adjourn, Admiral,” Jonathan said.

“Very well, Gardner out.”

“T'Pol, can you excuse us for just a minute?” Jonathan asked.

“I'll be on the Bridge,” she left.

“What are we gonna tell them?” Jonathan asked, “I am open to suggestions that don't involve out and out lying.”

“We were prisoners,” Malcolm said, fingering the cuff just a little bit. It had been more than that.

“Yeah, but the rest of it,” Travis said.

There was a communications chime. It was Phlox, “Ensign Sato, may I give you an examination now?”

“On my way,” she left.

Jonathan looked at them. Travis, Malcolm and Tripp – they all had good careers. Providing too much detail could blow it for any of them, let alone himself.

“The rest of it,” Tripp said, “is gonna be a lot trickier. What are we supposed to say about our private lives? About a married woman, and another one who's about to git married? How do we get that into Starfleet's official records without, well, without hurting people's feelings?”

“Or their careers,” Travis said, “I mean, Jennifer wasn't exactly, uh, willing,” he gulped, “She could sue me for harassment.”

“But she wouldn't, right?” Tripp said, “Right?”

“We have issues with the rank differences as well,” Jonathan said, “My own imbalanced, uh, relationship, is obvious. Travis, you and Jennifer at least are both Ensigns. But Tripp – you have the same issue with Hoshi. At least the Becketts are civilians now, otherwise we'd be seeing the same imbalance with both of them. He was a Lieutenant Commander when he retired – she was an Ensign when she quit.”

=/\=

Phlox let Hoshi go. He stared at the four tubes in front of him. Each of them had a stick in it. He had already told who he needed to tell. He sighed and hit the Communicator.

“Phlox to the Main conference room.”

“Yes?” It was Jonathan's voice.

“You should have Mr. Beckett join you,” Phlox said, “What I need to say concerns him as well.”

=/\=

Lili was back, and she sat with Joss and read to him, “And the big, bad wolf said, 'I'll huff and I'll puff and I'll blow your house in!' See, like this,” she demonstrated and Joss laughed.

There was a communications chime. Doug answered it, “Uh, okay,” he said, “Beckett out. Lili, they want me to go to the debriefing. I'll, uh, be back soon.”

“Okay,” she said, and then went back to the story.

=/\=

Doug got to the Main conference room and looked around. He found a seat across from Tripp, “Okay, what can I help you with the debriefing?” he asked.

“This isn't about that. Doctor, tell him what you just told us.”

Phlox said, “Sperm has met ovum. I cannot go into more detail at this time.”

“Oh,” Doug parsed that out in his head. Someone was pregnant, “Who?”

“We have strict privacy regulations,” The doctor said, “Therefore I am not even able to tell you how many of the women are pregnant. We will do it this way, if there are no objections. Each of you will come to Sick Bay. You need to be examined anyway, so that will be the cover story. My understanding is that the pairings were monogamous, is that correct?”

“Y-yes,” Jonathan said.

“Very well,” Phlox continued, “You will come to Sick Bay. And I will still examine you. And you will also ask about one woman – the one you were paired with. No others. The answer will be, of course, a positive or a negative. And the woman – or women – like I said, I am not even able to give you that as a particular – will be contacted. And you can decide how you wish to proceed as, well, as a couple. I suppose that's the right word.”

“Why all the mystery?” Travis asked.

“Privacy. Starfleet is very strict about this. Oh, and don't just flat out ask the women, please. As you can well imagine, this news is rather unsettling. Please follow directions and do as I ask.”

“Okay, um, Tripp, you go first,” Jonathan said, “Then Travis, then Malcolm.”

“No, sir,” Malcolm said, “It's a physical impossibility. I was paired with Mrs. Beckett. She can't get pregnant while she already is.”

Doug shot him another look.

“Of course that is true,” Phlox said.

“You are excused,” Jonathan said, “Doug, when do you want to, um, get examined?” His mouth tightened.

“I can go last,” he said, “I guess I need to have a talk.”

“We probably all do,” Jonathan said, “Phlox, you'll be discreet?”

“That is my oath as a physician. I have pieced together some of what happened, from the women's accounts. Clearly, this is not something you would wish to share with too many others. I will be here. Phlox out.”

“I guess I'm up first,” Tripp said.

“We're adjourned,” Jonathan said, “I'd wish you all luck, but, ha, getting lucky is what got us into this in the first place.”

=/\=

Jennifer contacted Chip, “Can I talk to Frank Ramirez, on Enceladus?”

“Sure thing. And, welcome back. You can make it to your church on time,” he paused, “Ah, go ahead.”

=/\=

Melissa then reached Chip, “Can I talk to Leonora Digiorno, on Ceres?”

“Righto. Just a sec.”

=/\=

Doug got back to quarters, “Yimar, can you take Joss?”

“Sure,” she said, getting up from the desk, “Let's go see the puppy again.”

“Doug, we just got back here. We should spend time with him,” Lili said.

“No. We need to talk. Right now.”

Kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick

=/\=

There was a message on Malcolm's PADD. There were several, but he only wanted to read one.

Reed,

The mining disaster turned out to be not quite so disastrous after all. Plus – Gawd – boring doctors trying to hit on me.

Anyway, I'll be on Earth a day early. So would you like to meet me at my hotel on the twenty-seventh? I'm at the Hotel Nikko.

I have all sorts of surprises. And I think you'll like the dress I've picked out for the reception. You'd call it fetching but you should really call it ravishing – and then be the one to do the ravishing, my knave.

See you then.

– Pamela


He punched the communications button, “Reed to Harris. Chris, can I get a shuttle ride to San Francisco a day early? I'll clear it with the Captain, of course.”

He got into the shower, wearing nothing but the cuff, “I don't know what I'm doing,” he said as the water rushed all over him, “I don't know my own mind, or my own heart, at all.”

=/\=

Phlox and Tripp sat down to have a long chat while the first physical examination went on.
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Old May 1 2012, 02:32 PM   #26
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Re: Together

“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.”

“What?”

“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.

“You know.”

“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?”

Kick.

“What?”

“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.”

Kick.

“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!”

“My 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.”

“What?”

“You. You're not Lili at all. You're Charlotte,” he spat out her first name like it was a curse.

Excuse me?”

“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 one.”

“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.”

Kick kick kick kick Kick Kick Kick.

“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 pregnant.”

“What if she is? What will you, what will you do?”

“It is – if she is – then it is my responsibility,” he said, “Mine alone.”

“No.”

“You would let that kid starve, assuming she has it?”

“No,” Lili repeated, “It's not your responsibility.”

“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.

“'Ommy sad?”

“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.

Kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick Kick Kick Kick.

“Very well,” he cleared his throat, “Ask me what you need to ask me, Mr. Beckett.”

“Is Melissa Madden pregnant?” Doug asked.

“Yes.”
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Old May 2 2012, 02:50 PM   #27
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Re: Together

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.

Kick Kick.

“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.”

Kick.

“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.

“What?”

“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.

“Huh?”

“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.”

“Huh.”

“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?”

“Sure, Crewman.”

“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.”

“Very well.”

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.

“Probably.”

“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.”

Kick.

“For Joss's sake,” he said. He composed a quick response and hit send.

“Doug, do you love Melissa?”

“Huh?”

“Do you?”

“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.”

Kick.

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 –”

Later,” 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.

Hey!” 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.

Nothing,” 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.”

“Yours?”

“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.”

Conventionally?”

“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.”

Really?” 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'm sorry.”

“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.

“Oh?”

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.

=/\=
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Old May 2 2012, 02:53 PM   #28
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Re: Together

There was a communications chime. Doug answered it, “Sure, Jennifer,” he said, “Uh, Jenny Crossman has a question for me. You mind if I, uh?”

“No, go ahead,” Lili said. She hugged Joss just a little bit tighter.

=/\=

“So, um, Jenny, what can I do for you?” Doug asked.

“My mother is widowed.”

“Oh, I'm sorry to hear that.”

“It was several years ago. But anyway, it's an old fashioned wedding. Will you give me away?”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, of course!”

“Jenny, um, you should know something. I, uh, on the other side of the pond, your, um, your counterpart – she and I lived together for over a year.”

“Oh. Huh. Whooda thunk it?”

“Yeah, pretty nutty,” he said.

“Did you, um, was she anything like me?”

“Looked the same, except for bigger hair and darker makeup. And, um, it was not a very good relationship, to be honest with you.”

“Well, I understand things were often out of hand there,” she said.

“She was, uh, well, it was mutual. We were cheating on each other.”

“Oh,” she said, “How?”

“She had, uh, lots of offers. Some are counterparts of people you'd know, some aren't. I just, uh, had one gal I'd see. Anyway, I've said too much already.”

“Yeah, probably.”

“Did you, uh, did you tell your fiancé about what happened to us while we were held captive?”

“No. He doesn't need to know the gory details of that.”

“Hmm. I think you should tell him something.”

“No,” she said, shaking her head.

“Do whatever you wanna do. You're a grownup. And, uh, I'll do it. I'll give you away.”

=/\=

Lili lay down to rest a bit.

The room was filled with people.

Humans, Calafans, Vulcans, Xindi, all of them.

It wasn't the holding center and it wasn't the Enterprise. Then she was in actual space, tumbling end over end.

She was moving along, hurtling toward Earth.

She got there.


=/\=

Malcolm, too, was all in. He kept his distance from Pamela, even though they were sharing the hotel bed. He felt terrible as he folded his hands behind his head. He could feel the cuff behind his left ear.

He opened a door.

She was there.

They just smiled at each other for a moment. He spoke, “I was unsure of how to do this.”

“We both have to be receptive.”

“I am definitely receptive,” he said, “I am more than receptive,” he smiled at her broadly.

“Me, too. But I don't want to do any sneaking around.”

“Me neither,” he said, “The pieces still aren't quite configured properly, Lili-Flower.”


=/\=

Doug walked back to quarters. He thought a bit about the girl he'd known, lo those many years before. Shelby Pike. But she hadn't been a Botanist and ex-ballerina on the other side of the pond.

No.

She'd been the night shift pilot, just like Melissa was in this universe. But unlike Melissa – or the Shelby on this side of the pond – she'd also been a former professional.

He opened the door to quarters. Wrong room. Force of habit. Lili was sleeping in the bed they had shared. Her eyelids were fluttering something fierce – she was clearly dreaming up a storm.

Then he heard her distinctly say, “I don't want to do any sneaking around.”
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Old May 3 2012, 02:32 PM   #29
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Re: Together

He left her to sleep, trying not to think about things. He didn't sleep well, and his dreams were fitful, mostly a lot of people wandering in and out but no one was talking directly to him and he wasn't talking to them. In the morning, he returned to the shared quarters to get some clothes. She was up and Yimar was showering.

“Doug,” she said, still in bed, “I don't want to end it. I do love you, you know.”

“You just told me you're in love with another man. Isn't ending it what's supposed to happen?”

“Why is it impossible for me to love – and really and truly be in love with – both of you?”

“Because it is.”

Yimar came back into the room, clad only in a towel.

“I'll, um, I'll see you at the shuttle,” he said, and left the room.

=/\=

Pamela was alone when she woke. Her PADD was flashing.

Went to the gym. See you at the class. I have to prepare.

– MR


She shook her head, “You got it bad. I even heard you talking in your sleep, saying her name. Or at least I guess it was her name. Flower something,” she said to no one, and went to her suitcase to select an outfit. A bit of bright green cloth caught her eye. He'd brought back her scarf, “I guess this is it. There's new royalty in town.”

=/\=

Laura Hayes was almost sixty, with greying brown hair and hazel eyes. She wore a black suit and had a briefcase with her. She looked at Doug with wide-eyed surprise but then was bowled over by Joss.

“Joss, take it easy,” Lili said, “He's very excited. He loves everyone.”

“He must be a very pleasant child,” Laura said.

Doug made the introductions and Yimar took Joss and amused him by showing him how to spin the thin bracelet on her wrist.

They sat down.

“I, um, this must look very strange to you,” Doug said.

“Yes,” Laura admitted, “I am, I know it's impossible. But I could swear that you were my brother's doppelganger. Although perhaps you're aged forward in time a year or so. Jay died in 2153,” she sighed, “Six years ago. At least our parents didn't survive to see that.”

“Were you and Jay very close?” Lili asked.

“A little. He was younger than me but he could be very overprotective. I guess that's military for you.”

“I know that,” Doug said, “I'm also former military.”

“He wasn't really close to anyone, not much,” Laura said, “A pity. He was a good person. Smart, capable and with a lot to offer. But no serious relationships, not even a girlfriend to mourn his passing. Then again, I never married, either. I guess neither of us were cut from that kind of cloth. But you two. A growing family and everything!”

“Yeah, um,” Doug said, looking away.

Kick Kick.

“Tell us more about Jay,” Lili prompted, “What he did for fun, that sort of thing.”

“He trained. All the time, it seemed. He always wanted to be ready. The safety of the Enterprise was his primary concern at the end. He, uh, he died rescuing their Communications officer. She sent me a very comforting note afterwards,” Laura stopped for a moment, “I'm sorry, it's a downer. Can I ask, Mr. Beckett, how are you and I related?”

“Please, uh, please, call me Doug,” he said. He looked at Lili, “You explain it.”

Me?” Lili sighed a little, “Ms. Hayes,” Lili said, “I'm no physicist. But I know that there are many universes. This one – the one that we're in – and there's at least one other viable one.”

“I don't understand.”

“I didn't, either. But, see, the other universe, it's almost a mirror of us. There are some subtle differences, though. And in ours, Jay is born on December fifth. And he's named Jay Douglas Hayes, right?”

“Uh, yes,” Laura said, a little hesitantly.

“In the other one, that same person – kind of – he's born on December third. It’s during the same year, 2102. And when he was born, he was named Douglas Jay Hayes. And he's sitting across from you.”

There was silence. Joss broke it, “'Ommy?”

“Excuse me a sec,” Lili said, going over to him.

“What does this all mean?” Laura asked.

“I'm not really Jay,” Doug said, “I grew up without a sister. And, I'm sure, without his values. I'm an imitation. Not really your brother at all. Not back from the dead, for sure. But, I hope you'll take this day in the spirit in which it was intended. Because, uh, I just want to know who that guy was, and what made him tick. And, and who loved him and all of that. Because he shouldn't be forgotten.”

“No. He shouldn't be,” she said, a little shell-shocked-looking.

“I, uh, my life isn't the continuation of his story. I don't give him a happy ending. And I probably don't give myself one, either. But at least it's not a story that ended six years ago.”

“Is there, do you know, is there some place that Yimar could take him for a few hours?” Lili asked, “I haven't lived in this area for a while, and I never paid attention to any attractions that would be good for a preschooler.”

“I thought you said he was going to go to the class and watch,” Doug said.

“I thought about that. It's hand to hand combat. I just don't think it would be appropriate,” Lili answered.

“Lili, you promised.”

Kick kick Kick Kick Kick.

“Doug, you saw how he melted down when he thought the dog was hurt. How's he gonna react when he sees a bunch of grown men fighting? I don't think he'll understand that it's all supposed to be pretend,” Lili said.

Laura glanced from one face to the other, and then said, “I think there might be a petting zoo nearby. Does he like animals?”

“Loves 'em,” Yimar said.

“Here,” Laura found the information and showed Yimar on a PADD.

“Look, Joss, they have ducks!” Yimar said, showing him a picture on the PADD.

“He's the duck,” Lili explained.

“Oh,” Laura replied.

Joss squealed, “Duck Duck! 'Ommy Duck Duck!”

Doug finally conceded, “Yeah, um, I guess he'll watch me in action some other time. Go and, um, take him to see the ducks, Yimar.”

Yimar and Joss left after Joss gave out another big hug and a kiss to a rather surprised but delighted Laura.

Laura then looked at both of them once it was just the three of them, “I appreciate your coming here, and telling me all of this. It's a lot to process. I don't even know what to call you. Cousin? Brother? Half-brother? In-law?”

“Uh, just my name is fine,” Doug said.

“I also – and this is absolutely none of my business. But – I don't even know you. And I can tell – and I'm sure your son can tell this as well – you look like you're on the rocks.”

Lili looked away.

Kick Kick Kick.

“It's that I need a job,” Doug said, and then quickly added, “But that's not why we came here. We don't want anything from you.”

“Oh. I see,” Laura said, “You said you were ex-military.”

“Yes, but I shouldn't go back into combat,” Doug said.

“Hmm, I suppose not. There's other things, though. Desk jobs and the like. Also, well, one thing I've noticed. We have been building a Xindi Embassy. And there are going to be other embassies opening up in other systems. I know there's an intention to get a human presence into all sorts of places. And those places need defenders. But, they never seem to know the terrain. The unit assigned to Vulcan almost lost a Corporal to heat stroke. They just weren't properly prepared for the climate.”

“That's a real problem,” Doug said, “I mean, a defense unit should be in place a good year or two before a facility like that opens. Ideally, more than that.”

“I believe the next embassy will be opening up on Andoria,” Laura said, “I could put in a word. Emily Stone is a good connection and knows a lot of people.”

“I, our business is on Lafa II,” Lili said quietly, “Yimar's home world.”

“Can it be moved?” Laura asked.

“It's a restaurant,” Lili said.

“Oh, hmm. Well, think about it. Oh, look at the time! I have to go,” Laura said, “Do be in touch.”

“Of course,” Lili said, “You're family.”

“I, I guess I am.”

Doug kissed her on the cheek, “I never had a sister before. Let me know if I, uh, if I need to make up for years of short-sheeting your bed, or something.”

Laura smiled, “Jay beat you to that. Bye.”

=/\=

The class was crowded. Everyone, it seemed, wanting to watch a little sparring. Lili found an aisle seat near the bathrooms.

There were eight cadets – three were female. They stood at attention as Doug explained some basic maneuvers. Malcolm stood at the back and didn't seem to know what to do with himself. Lili could see the cuff flash just a tiny bit.

“Now, we've been going over combinations for a while, remotely. But now's the time to get down and dirty. You won't really learn this unless you do it.”

He selected a cadet and let her try to punch him. He blocked her arm easily, “See what you did there? Elbow's a little too high. Next one.”

A cadet kicked at him. Lili winced. She didn't much like such things. Doug was knocked down but got up quickly. Then he felled that cadet with a hit to the man's jaw. He helped the cadet up, “See, it's distractions. Don't look at the pretty girls and don't think about anything else. Next.”

The next cadet used both hands in a swift one-two combination. Doug got her left arm pinned behind her back, “Okay, the issue here is, it's almost like a chess game. You've got to be thinking three, four, nine moves ahead. Get into your opponent's head. Watch which side they favor, which is their dominant side. Attack the weaker side and push it until you've hit the logical endpoint. If the weaker side is damaged, you may not have to face the stronger side. It might be enough to get your opponent to just up and quit.”

Another cadet came at him. He turned slightly and grabbed a wrist. The man was on the ground, practically crying for mercy, “Okay,” Doug said, releasing him, “Peripheral vision is key. She's in front of me but you're over there. She's just a distraction. Hang on, let me show you a long combination. Reed, c'mere.”

Malcolm came over, “Okay, right-cross, then left uppercut,” Doug said. Malcolm nodded.

They got down to it. Malcolm started as planned, then veered into an elbow into Doug's side. Doug countered with grabbing Malcolm's waist and hoisting him up, throwing him over his shoulder and to the ground in front of him. Malcolm got up, a tiny bit dazed, and got Doug's arm pinned behind his back. Doug shifted his weight over. Heavier and taller than Malcolm, he was able to break the grip and punched Malcolm's cheek. Malcolm punched Doug in the gut and there was the audible sound of “Oof!” as the wind was knocked out. Doug got his left back up, and uppercutted to Malcolm's jaw. Malcolm countered with an elbow to Doug's head, which knocked the bigger man down briefly.

Kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick Kick Kick Kick.

Doug shook the cobwebs and got up.

It was a switch that flipped, and he kind of, sort of, saw Malcolm. But he also saw Lucas Donnelly. From over thirty-five years before. The first man he'd ever killed. Other side of the pond. It was a quick thing, designed to get Doug a raise in pay grade, nothing more.

So distracted, Malcolm was able to kick at Doug's knee and bring him down.

Doug got up and the vision was stronger. And he did what he had done almost four decades previously.

He grabbed a throat. And he started to press and squeeze.

Kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick Kick Kick Kick.

Everyone just stared.

This wasn't a class anymore.

It was murder, and they were all watching it.

Lili stood up as quickly as her bulk would allow, “Stop it! You'll kill him!” she yelled.

Kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick Kick Kick Kick.

“Doug! No more! Stop it! Stop!”

The kicking was too much, and she doubled over and fell.

=/\=

Doug broke out of his trance long enough to say to Malcolm, “If she miscarries, you're a dead man.”

=/\=

Pamela saw. She was torn for a second as to who to help, but she was closer to Lili. She ran over, “Quit it, ya lummoxes!” she yelled as she raced over.

She got to Lili, “Are you in labor?” she immediately asked.

Lili shook her head.

“You sure?”

“Yeah. I'm just, he won't stop kicking.”

Pamela pushed down on Lili's abdomen. The kicking only increased, “Okay, hang on. I'm a doctor,” she flipped open a communicator and called for an ambulance.

Lili shook and winced, “What are they doing? Have they stopped?” she asked.

“I think so. Look, there's the stretcher. Just, we'll get you to the Med Center. I'll go with you, okay?”

“Okay.”

The ride was quiet but Lili did ask for the doctor's name.

“Pamela. Just call me Pamela.”

“You're – you're, no. You can't be,” Lili said.

“I am. And you are Reed's girl, aren't you?”

“I suppose.”

“And the big guy's your husband, right?”

“Right.”

“Ai yi yi yeah this was a smart idea,” Pamela said, shaking her head.

“You should marry him,” Lili said.

“Me? No. I don't do such things. He wouldn't have me, anyway. I'm the bad girl.”

“C'mon,” Lili said, “He wouldn't be spending time with you if he didn't think you had some fine qualities.”

“No. I don't have any. He, uh, I saw him last night. And he is completely taken with you. He won't marry me or anyone else. I can tell. I don't know if that helps things or not. I just believe that people should have all the information. Know what I mean?”

“Yes, of course. I got a mess on my hands. And maybe blood as well.”

“I think they stopped,” Pamela said, “They better have.”

=/\=

The hospital room was small and bright. Pamela clicked open her communicator, “Reed, we're at the Med Center. I assume you and the lummox are done killing each other for one day.”

“At least he stopped,” Malcolm said, “We – the whole thing was stopped. No one wants to see that much of a beat-down.”

“Tell him I've got her here.”

“Doug,” Malcolm said, “get to the Med Center. Lili is there.”

“I don't know how to go.”

“I'll, I'll take you.”

=/\=

They arrived quickly. Doug took one look at Pamela, “You a doctor?”

“Yeah.”

“Is the baby all right?”

“Yes.”

“Good,” he said, plunking down into a nearby chair and staring into space.

“Is she all right?” Malcolm asked.

“Shaken up. And that kid is a kicking machine. It's all stress-related, I'll wager, Reed.”

“She has another four months or so to go,” Malcolm said.

“She's enormous for that stage,” Pamela said, “We can, um, let's go in. But no stressing. I mean it.”

Lili looked a little drowsy but otherwise all right, “I was so afraid,” she said shakily.

“For which one of us?” Doug asked.

“For both of you,” Lili said, “Both of you.”

“But –” Doug said.

“But nothing,” Pamela interjected, “She's allowed to worry about both of you.”

Malcolm looked down, “Whatever I have done, I cannot put you through this.”

“No,” Pamela said, “You got bitten. Hard. Don't just concede it.”

“But she's married to him.”

“Yeah, to me.”

“And you,” Pamela said, facing Doug, “you strike me as a guy who's not listening. Who's busy playing gimme, got it and gimme more.”

“She's my wife. That means there are only two of us!” Doug said.

“Look. I can guess at what's happening – I only have a few pieces of this,” Pamela said, “But not all songs are soloes or duets. Maybe yours is a three-part harmony of some sort. 'Cause I can tell you – if Reed isn't in on this, he's gonna be miserable forever. And if you're not in it, you'll be the one who's miserable. And if either of you are missing, she's the one who gets it. Actually, she's the one who gets it either way. If either of you care about her happiness at all, you'll, I dunno. You'll find a way to get this to work.”

“Pamela,” Malcolm said, “We must leave them alone for a while,” he took her by the arm, “They have to talk,” The two of them left.

“Doug,” Lili said, “I know there are cracks in our marriage. And I know that both of us have made those cracks bigger. But I think they were there before.”

“Before?”

“Yes. You weren't happy. Sure, you had lots of things that were okay for you. And some of them were truly wonderful. But you had a lot of missing pieces as well. I don't hunt with you. You don't work. You have a life filled with family obligations – and now you're about to have even more.”

“I accepted those obligations gladly,” he said.

“I know you did. And I appreciate that. But you also did it to the exclusion of yourself. You gave up who you were, completely. And you didn't have to. There are cracks in our marriage.”

“And I want to fix them,” he said.

“But just plastering them over isn't going to do any good,” she said, “It's never right when you do that. You know that.”

“What are you saying?” he asked.

“What if, instead, what if we crack it all open? And I mean really open.”

“End it?”

“No. Change it. Add to it.”

“Lili, I don't understand.”

“We are not the only parties,” Lili said, “There are – by my count – five. I had thought there would be a sixth, but I am thinking, no.”

=/\=
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Old May 3 2012, 02:35 PM   #30
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Re: Together

“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.”

“Meet him?”

“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?”

Lili nodded.

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.”
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