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Old May 3 2012, 03:41 PM   #31
Alienesse
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Re: Together

I've just started reading your story and I quite like it.

This had me laughing: “Gawd, I'm the size of a planet. Pretty soon forks and spatulas will start revolving around me,”
I also laughed at the you're-the-goose-I'm-the-gander exchange. I think you have a very effective sense of humor.

The fact that you infuse both characters with a sense of humor is very attractive to me, especially considering the delicate and possibly stressful situation they're in. Even without the tension of having a small child to care for and another one on the way, humor is something that can come in highly useful in a couple. So I'm really looking forward to reading more.
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Old May 3 2012, 07:15 PM   #32
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Re: Together

Thank you; I appreciate it!

I like to write imperfect people - the hero will always snore, or have lactose intolerance, or be balding or something; the heroine will always fret about her abs or crow's feet, or will say something or another that's inappropriate.
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Old May 4 2012, 12:01 PM   #33
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Re: Together

“So, whaddaya think?” Melissa asked, when it was just her and Norri in communication.

“Well ... I dunno,” Norri sighed, “We have the kid coming. And I want to go to grad school.”

“I know. We're going to lead busy lives.”

“Are these dreams restful? I mean, you're pregnant. You need to get rest, Mellie.”

“I think they are. I'll ask. But I gotta figure they are. He had – Doug had – explained a little of that to me. It's how they met, actually. I'll tell you the details some other time. But it did seem like, if it wasn't restful, he couldn't do it. And he dreamed like that for a while. But when they finally got together, he stopped.”

“Why?”

“Because he thought it was cheating,” Melissa explained.

=/\=

Pamela and Malcolm were back in the hotel room, “Dinner?” she asked.

“Oh, sure. I'll, I will buy you dinner,” he said.

“Then I'll have a steak. But – what do you think of all this? You seem to be hot to do it.”

“Is it that obvious? I am, of course. Whatever I can get – and to not be sneaking 'round. She doesn't want that, and neither do I. I just don't want it to be some horribly clichéd affair, where we go to sordid motel rooms that are rented by the hour, or we tell him that she's traveling for some reason or another. I don't want it to be a lot of lying.”

“At least it wouldn't be,” she said.

“Yes, although it is, as I said, a half a loaf. I don't suppose Starfleet scheduling would allow more than that anyway,” he looked out the window as the lights of San Francisco began to wink on. The Golden Gate Bridge was nearby, shimmering as the August day settled into a cool night.

“Reed?! Hello! Earth to Reed.”

“What? Oh, sorry. What were you saying again?”

“I said – I wanted to know what you'd do if this arrangement never gets off the ground, and never happens.”

“Oh. I, uh, I don't know,” But he looked tired, and older, and set his mouth in a hard edge as he looked at the city. The lights shone in his eyes and he seemed to be searching.

“Just don't – promise me you won't die for love,” she said.

“I don't think anyone does that these days.”

“Sure they do. Remember my classmate Owen?”

“Aussie chap, right?”

“Yep. He and my other classmate, Blair – they went out for a year or so. He was totally all over her. He wanted it to be forever and all of that. Drove him to cheat on tests because he was failing out of school and they'd be separated. He wasn't thinking with the right head, know what I mean?” she said, “And when we left the Enterprise, he was found out, and expelled. She broke up with him – she was angry that he was endangering everyone's career, and may have made it harder, when we were all sick, to get us cured. Although now I doubt he had much to do with that – I think that was just a tough thing and it was almost coincidental. But it didn't matter to her. She couldn't trust him anymore, so she said sayonara.”

“And?”

“And it was on the news. You really should pay more attention to the news, Reed. We left the Enterprise at the end of July of last year. And in early August – it was the fourth, I'm pretty sure – he hanged himself.”

“My God.”

“She's engaged to someone else now. His big sacrifice was for nothing. So don't do that, Reed. Don't get to that point, okay? 'Cause I might miss you a little bit.”

=/\=

The morning came. They were back in quarters.

He came in and woke her by kissing her cheek. She looked up and smiled at him tentatively, “Hello.”

“I missed that,” Doug said, “Really, really missed that like crazy.”

“Me, too.”

“I was thinking. Let's go to Andoria. Let's leave this all behind. You'll, you'll get the cuff back and give it back to the Calafans. It is their artifact, after all. We'll sell Reversal. You'll start another place. I'll reup with Starfleet and get involved with the defense of the new embassy. I could be home nights and weekends. We'd forget it all ever happened. Patch it all up again and make it right.”

“Doug, yesterday morning, you said you thought we were through. And then you said you wanted to work on things, and now you seem to still want to work on things. But, well, where is your mind at?”

“It's on the side of working on things,” he said.

“And are you gonna just try to kill him again the next time you see him?” she asked.

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

“Partly it was him. Partly I saw Donnelly again. Weird. Just Donnelly, and I hit the same mode I was in back then. All fourteen of them – all fourteen – whenever I, I killed a guy. It was because, well, it was because he had something I didn't. Something I wanted really, really badly. Donnelly had a higher pay grade. Geming Sulu had a spot on the Enterprise.”

“And Malcolm has?”

“Your heart, or some of it, at least. And I want it back.”

“And you just want to go to Andoria and forget everything.”

“Yes.”

“But you're already forgetting someone. There's a certain unnamed child. He's going to pull you back. And you should let him pull you back. He will always be a reminder.”

“He can, uh, fit in somehow. I dunno how. But he will.”

“And what of Joss? Lafa II is the only home he's ever known. He'd lose Yimar, too. And we would. And sell Reversal? Sell it? When we've worked so hard to get it up and running?”

“That's your work, not mine, not really.”

Reversal was our dream. And you just want to toss it away,” she said.

Kick Kick.

“You can work anywhere. You've told me that.”

“I love the Calafan people. I love our home. And our friends. And you have friends there, too. I know it's not easy for you to make friends, Doug. So you'll just toss them out as well?”

“We have to start fresh. No reminders.”

“That kid is going to be a reminder.”

Kick Kick Kick Kick.

“He won't remind me, Lili.”

“Yes. He will. And you will have a connection to Melissa. And I won't have a connection to Malcolm.”

“But I don't want a connection to her. I'll forego that to be with you.”

“Doug, do you love her? I keep asking you and you keep evading the question.”

“Stop asking me that,” he looked away and she couldn't see his eyes.

“You – if we go to Andoria, you get everything you want. You get this fresh start – or sorta fresh start. You get a new job. You get me far away from Malcolm. And you get to keep Melissa as well. You get it all.”

Kick kick kick kick Kick Kick Kick.

“You'll have plenty,” he said, “You have Joss. And Pete. And, and me. Can't I be enough for you?”

“No more than I can be enough for you.”

“What?” he asked angrily.

“I'm not enough. Because I'll answer the question for you, since you won't. You do love her. Even if it's only a little bit. You do. There's one day, when you're fine. And you're minding your own business. And then, suddenly, the next day, you're in love. And you didn't plan it and maybe didn't want it. But it's happened.”

“I need some air,” he said, and walked out.

=/\=

Melissa was on a call with Norri, and said, “I think this might be good for me. I kinda already have the whole day-night thing going anyway. Daytimes, I think of you, and love you and miss you tremendously. And then I go out at nights and I look for guys. What if I had just one guy?”

“I'd know where you were,” Norri said, “That counts for something. I have definitely worried about you.”

“Yeah. I know – I don't want another guy. He was good to me. I'm sure he still will be. I'd stay out of trouble.”

“I'd say you're already in trouble,” Norri said, patting her own flat belly, “But I can see the advantage.”

“But you! It doesn't seem fair,” Melissa said.

“It's not necessarily unfair,” Norri replied, “You'd be sleeping. Everybody sleeps. I can't get into your dreams. All that's changing now, really, is that I know, more or less, what those dreams are. But you and I, we have the big thing, the big love.”

“Yes,” she smiled, “And we're gonna be parents.”

“Yes. Thomas, right? You like that.”

“Yes. Or Tracy,” Melissa said.

“And I'll come to the Enterprise after that wedding is over, and meet everyone?”

“Of course,” Melissa said, “I get to show you off,” she smiled.

“I do love you, you know.”

“I love you, too. And him, too.”

“And him, too,” Norri said, “I hope he loves you back, Mellie,” she closed the connection.

There was a chime at the door, “Come in,” Melissa said.

It was Doug, “Am I bothering you?”

“No. Not at all.”

“I, um, I don't know why I'm here.”

“I do,” she got up and kissed him.

“I can't do that. Can't,” he said, turning away, “It's all cheating. It's wrong.”

“It's open,” she said, “If we consent, it's not cheating.”

“I wanted it to be different with her,” Doug said, “Change who I was. Be true.”

“I know,” Melissa said.

“I have to go,” he said.

=/\=

“Y'know,” Pamela said over breakfast, “I think you and he would be getting the same amount of time, actually.”

“How do you figure that?”

“Because, well, you sleep for eight hours, right? And you work for eight or so and they don't even work together. And then it's the other eight.”

“Perhaps,” Malcolm allowed, fingering the cuff a little between bites. His omelet was good but missing something.

“And what are those hours filled with? She cleans dishes, changes dirty diapers and probably takes a transport to and from work, or drives. She cooks, too, right?”

“Right. And better than the chef here,” he said.

She smiled, “You really are bitten. But, really, none of that is terribly romantic stuff. I think you're getting the better end of the deal, Reed.”

“He called it party time. No responsibilities.”

“You're a Starfleet guy. If this was conventional, you'd have to go flying off to this place and that crisis. You wouldn't be home for report cards and first steps, or to get the furniture moved. Don't knock this and keep thinking you're second best,” she said, “I think you're getting a very good deal here.”

“I think it all depends on whether he thinks he's getting a good deal. He seems to be holding veto power over all of our futures,” Malcolm said, “Pass the salt, will you, please?”

=/\=

Doug got back to their quarters quickly. She was dressing for the wedding.

“I need to know,” he said breathlessly, “Will you give him up?”

She shook her head, “I can't.”

“Then – I didn't want it to be this way. But it has to. We'll go back to the Lafa System. And on the way, we'll pretend and we'll hold it together for Joss's sake. But when we are back there, I'll file for divorce. I will go to Andoria and work. And you can stay on Lafa II. And we'll, we'll work something out with the kids. And you can, uh, do whatever you want.”

Kick kick kick kick kick kick Kick Kick Kick.

“And for this wedding?” she asked.

“We will smile and pretend like nothing is happening. We will not ruin Jenny's day,” he said, “And it'll be practice for how much we'll have to hold things together in front of Joss.”
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Old May 5 2012, 12:46 PM   #34
jespah
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Re: Together

“Communiqué coming in for you from Admiral Gardner, Captain,” Hoshi said.

“I'll take it in my Ready Room, thanks.” When the connection was ready, Jonathan said, “Go ahead.”

“Jonathan! I thought you'd be interested in this, seeing as you're heading back there soon.”

“Oh?”

“The Lafa System. We're looking to establish and defend a more regular trade route through there.”

“It's near Klingon space,” Jonathan said.

“Yes, that's definitely one reason. We certainly need to watch our, ahem, neighbors. But there are people who are looking to settle there. It's a new frontier, but it also isn't – it's not exactly what anyone would call a wilderness. The people are friendly and we are looking to normalize relations even more. Establish more of a human presence, even before this damned war is over. Those people might end up having to fight beside us at some point. It would be good if we had a solid foundation with them.”

“I understand that's the idea with most of our allies, or our hoped-for allies,” Jonathan said, “And, um, any specific reason to be mentioning this now?”

“Well, I understand you know the homesteaders who are already there. The Becketts, right?”

“Yes, I do,” Jonathan said.

“And if the additional settlements go well, we'll put together an official outpost. We might even open an office of the envoy – maybe even an embassy someday. We need a good presence with our allies.”

“Understood. The homesteaders have good relations with the locals. They own a restaurant and are doing well with it, so there's an interest on the ground in us humans, as well.”

“Great, that's a good basis for a friendship between peoples. Always helps when it's mutual like that. The other thing is, I heard about the training class that went wrong.”

“Yes. I don't have a way to discipline Beckett – he doesn't work for Starfleet anymore. Good thing there was no permanent damage,” Jonathan said, shaking his head.

“It did get me to wondering, though,” The Admiral said, “I was thinking, while I was watching it – he's got talent that we should be tapping. That guy should reup with Starfleet. I'd rather see him knocking out Klingons and Gorn than our own people. What the hell is he doing retired?”

=/\=

The ceremony was scheduled for the afternoon. It was a beautiful day on Oberon. Like with most domed communities, Oberon Central Control took local radiation and converted it to heat energy as a byproduct of massive life support. Therefore it was usually hot, and not just because it was late August. Even January on Oberon was hot.

Lili and Brian put the finishing touches on the food, “You've got the lobster en croute hors d'oeuvres ready, right?” she asked.

Kick.

“Yes, of course. With lots of ice. Stop fussing,” he replied.

“Well, you're my number two guy,” she said, “I know you've got it under control. You've gotten really good at this, Brian. You have a good career ahead of you.”

“Thanks. I learned from the best.”

Emotional again, she just hugged him in response.

=/\=

Anyone connected with the Enterprise was wearing a dress uniform. Pamela stuck out like a sore thumb, and much of the crew had stared when she got onto the shuttle. She and Malcolm found a seat near the back of the church, on the bride's side, “You look positively demure,” he said to her quietly.

“Heh, you should see the thong I'm wearing,” she smiled wickedly and was pleased that a few of his coworkers had overheard her.

“Now, you know our arrangement,” he replied quietly. He didn't want to look at her thongs – not anymore. But he did still redden a bit. He was still a man, after all.

She was wearing a light flouncy flower print dress with an ecru background and matching ecru pumps. Her hair was down and curling, snaking around. And then there was the hat! It was a wide-brimmed affair with peach and pink floral trim. She did look demure.

“Please, we're in a church,” she said, “I am a good girl. Until I'm not.”

The music began.

There were two bridesmaids. One was clearly Frank's sister. The other was unrelated, possibly a schoolmate of Jenny's. She had a little girl by the hand, who was strewing rose petals untidily.

Then came Joss, whose hand was held by a groomsman. Joss was walking, oh so very slowly, carrying a pillow with rings sewn on it. Careful, careful, oh so carefully. He knew he'd been charged with an incredible amount of responsibility, and his nearly one-year-old brain was overloaded with concentrating on the task. He was a solemn as a pallbearer.

Another groomsman came out, probably related somehow on Jenny's side. Then the best man, obviously Frank's brother.

And then, oh boy.

She looked like Jennifer – slender, peaches and cream complexion and green eyes. Wearing a dark green gown and carrying a smallish bouquet. Not Jennifer. Her twin.

“That's Claire,” Hoshi whispered to Aidan, who was seated next to her.

“Niiice,” Aidan said. He filed that information away for later.

Then Frank. He was a good-looking guy, dark hair and eyes, nervous in an old-style tux, calla lily and greenery pinned to his lapel. He waited.

And waited.

And waited.

=/\=

They were in a back room.

Doug looked at Jennifer. She was in her gown, irritable and pacing. The gown was creamy white, close fitting and strapless. The train came back in a fishtail, making her resemble a red-haired mermaid.

“You look beautiful,” he finally ventured.

“I can't go through with this,” she said, “Not after what I've done. I've cheated on Frank. I've cheated, I've cheated.”

“You're gonna mess up your makeup. And believe me, I can't fix that,” he said.

“I cheated. I've sinned. I've done him wrong.”

“Tell him, Jenny. Just tell him. And see what happens.”

“No. I can't tell him. Nobody's allowed to tell him,” she was getting more frantic, “God, I feel sick.”

“Well, barf if you have to. Just, uh, not on the dress,” Doug suggested, “Look, nothing I am saying is making you laugh at all.”

“No. I'm not gonna laugh right now, Doug. I feel awful. This is supposed to be the happiest day of my life and I feel horrible.”

“Well, things happened. I don't think he was expecting an untouched bride. Was he?”

“No, he wasn't. But I promised him I'd always be faithful! How about you and Lili? How are you keeping it all together? I mean, you both, well, you did.”

“Yeah,” he sighed, “We did.”

=/\=

“Where's Aunt Jenny?” Joss finally asked in the silent church, the question they all had on their minds.

Frank looked around, finally settling on the Captain, “Sir,” he said, “do you, um, is there something I should know?” he asked.

“Cold feet, I suppose. Give her a few more minutes,” Jonathan said quietly.

“I heard, uh, there was an incident with some really big ship. All of these species and their, their offspring. Maybe that's got her upset. She's obsessed with that news story, and always seems to be looking for updates, any scrap of info she can find. She, uh, she wants to start a family right away. Maybe she's upset that some people were, were kinda forced to do that,” Frank mused.

“I don't know,” Jonathan said cautiously, “It's been in the news a lot lately, as more of the information comes out.”

“Yes. And she's so sensitive,” Frank said, “It could be that or a thousand other things, I figure. I just want her to feel that everything's okay. She's got a right to be happy.”

“Then tell her.”

=/\=

“You two are doing okay, aren't you?” Jenny asked.

“Uhh.”

“Doug, if you can't work things out, what kind of hope have I got?”

He didn't get a chance to answer as Frank came in.

“Look, uh, honey, tell me what's bothering you,” he said.

“I'll just wait outside,” Doug said.

“Frank, I can't go through with this.”

“It's a lot of people,” he said, “I can understand. Maybe we could have a smaller ceremony later.”

“That's not it. I, I've done wrong by you.”

“How so?”

“Those, those people who were made to breed? That news story? There were humans on that ship. And, and I was one of them,” she looked out the window. Telling him didn't have the immediate relieving effect she had been hoping for.

“No wonder every time there's an update on the news, you seem to jump. It, um, you didn't want to do it, right?”

“No. And, and I tried to stop it. But I couldn't,” she said, teary.

“Were you at least, uh, whoever you were with, did he, uh, did he treat you okay?” Frank asked.

“Yes,” she said very quietly, “I wasn't so nice to him, but he wasn't mean. Didn't hit me or anything like that.”

“So I can, uh, I – I'm obviously not thrilled that this happened. But it did. At least you weren't hurt by the guy.”

“Frank, I can't marry you. I've been covering it up and scared to death you'd find out. And now that you know, well, I still think we shouldn't get married. I've sinned and cheated and it's like it's all under false pretenses.”

“'Course we can still get married. What's putting this idea in your head?”

“I'm a good Catholic. We're both good Catholics. Despite the, uh, premarital stuff. But if I cover this up, what else am I gonna cover up and deny? How can we build a marriage on, on this?”

“You can always tell me what's going on. Always. When I asked you to marry me, I didn't mean it was just this one-time offer that could be rescinded at any time.”

“But Frank, there's other stuff.”

“Tell me afterwards. After everyone's gone and it's just us, okay? And whatever it is, we will face it as we need to, and do whatever we need to do. But right now,” he pointed back to where everyone was waiting, “let's do this.”

“You sure?” she asked.

“Yes. I'll go back out there. You, um, dry your eyes. And get that guy to get you down that aisle for a full Catholic mass and everything. Because I'll be there. I will always be there.”

=/\=

Cocktails were quick afterwards – the real reception was scheduled for that evening. Lili ran around more than she should have, and ended up sitting and fanning herself. Joss and the flower girl got along pretty well until she smacked him with her little purse. He came to Lili, crying a bit. She shushed him but it was hot and he was getting squirmy.

She couldn't wait to get back and change and rest a little, but they were supposed to meet Norri.

=/\=

The meeting was a quick one. Norri was a pleasant woman, a little younger than Melissa. They shook hands all around and she presented Joss with a little bookmark.

“What's this? You didn't have to give him anything,” Lili said.

“No, definitely not,” Doug said, bristling a little, “We don't, uh, need anything.”

“I'm an editor,” Norri explained, “This is for data passage to PADDs. It's got all sorts of classic children's literature on it - Tom Sawyer, Alice in Wonderland, Treasure Island, Charlotte's Web, that kind of thing.”

“Charlotte,” Lili said quietly.

Kick Kick.

“She was a spider,” Norri said, “Do you like spiders?” she bent over and asked Joss.

“Spiders?” asked Joss.

“I don't know that he's ever seen one,” Doug said.

“They're small,” Melissa said, “And kinda crawly. Wild animals,” she glanced at Doug and quickly looked away.

“Ducks!” Joss exclaimed.

“He saw ducks when we were in San Francisco,” Lili said, “Seems he loves most animals.”

“Oh, then I'm glad I got him what I did. There are animal stories in there. You might want to wait before you read Black Beauty, though. There's a lot of cruelty in that one.”

“We'll be careful not to, uh, expose him to anything inappropriate,” Lili said, looking over at Doug quickly, “He can get upset when there's tension in the air.”

Kick Kick Kick Kick.

“So can a lot of people."

Definitely,” Melissa agreed, perhaps a little too quickly.

“Look, We’re gonna go. I can see you're in between wedding bits,” Norri said, “Have fun,” she and Melissa left.

When the door had closed, she turned to Melissa and said, “Yanno, it is obvious that she is anxious and fretful and you, you're kinda nervous.”

“Me?”

“Yep. You want this to work, and so does she. But he's putting the brakes on it. He's exercising veto power over everyone, eh? It must be nice to have such power.”

=/\=

The reception was a grand affair, the ballroom capacious and elegant. Everyone milled around until Chip got on the communications system, “For those of you, who don't know me, my name is Chandler Masterson and tonight I am your disc jockey. I will be taking requests, of course, but you're on your own for weepy dedications. But first we have the bride and groom's first dance as a married couple. This song is old, bear with me. And I hope you'll get on the floor too. Show them you support 'em.”

There was a slight pause, and then Dusty Springfield's voice filled the room.

Now, when you're in love, a love song is a pleasant enough thing. And your own special song – that can be the sweetest sound. But when you're not, when your heart is breaking, a love song is a far different thing.

And so, for those whose hearts were breaking, or were already broken into pieces, every word was like a needle, and every line like a dagger.

And there were a lot of broken hearts.

I don't know what it is
That makes me love you so
I only know I never wanna let you go
'Cause you started something
Oh, can't you see
That ever since we met
You've had a hold on me
It happens to be true
I only want to be with you


Jenny was freer than she'd been in ages. She happily danced – and after the word “true”, she shook her hips a few times and the mermaid fishtail swung behind her. Huge, huge grin on her face, Frank twirled her. They'd been practicing. They were good.

“Captain, I'll take the initiative,” It was Jenny's mother, “Shall we?”

“Uh, okay,” he said, glancing over at Deb, who was standing near where Chip was DJing, looking around, a bit lost, “I'm not very good at this.”

“I'll keep track of my feet,” she said, “I'm Eleanor.”

=/\=

She could see what was happening. He was about to use it, but she grabbed it instead, “Gimme that. Someone else needs it more than you do,” she got up to deliver the article.

It doesn't matter where you go or what you do
I wanna spend each moment of the day with you
Oh, look what has happened with just one kiss
I never knew that I could be in love like this
It's crazy but it's true
I only want to be with you


It was after the word “this” that Lili lost it completely. She was already hot and teary. But that line “I never knew that I could be in love like this” – that one did it.

There was an aroma she recognized. A handkerchief was thrust near her face. “Here,” The hand holding it had a perfect manicure, dark plum polish, the color of a bruise.

Lili looked up. The handkerchief smelled just like Malcolm, “Thank you,” she said softly, and then used it.

=/\=

Malcolm was glad he had a spare. He needed it, and covered up by blowing his nose, “Weddings. All those flowers,” he said when Aidan walked by.

=/\=

You stopped and smiled at me
Asked if I'd care to dance
I fell into your open arms
and I didn't stand a chance


“I always cry at weddings,” Hoshi said when Shelby asked her what was wrong.

=/\=

Now, listen, honey
I just wanna be beside you everywhere
As long as we're together, honey
I don't care
'Cause you started something
Oh, can't you see
That ever since we met
You've had a hold on me
No matter what you do
I only want to be with you


Doug gulped down another whiskey. His third? Fourth? He'd forgotten to keep track.

=/\=

You stopped and smiled at me
Asked me if I'd care to dance
I fell into your open arms
And I didn't stand a chance


Tripp stared at the couples on the floor, “I got me a headache the size o' Florida,” he said when Travis came over.

“Me, too,” said Travis.

=/\=

Now hear me, honey
I just wanna be beside you everywhere
As long as we're together, honey
I don't care
'Cause you started something
Oh, can't you see
That ever since we met
You've had a hold on me
No matter what you do
I only want to be with you
I said, no matter, no matter what you do
I only want to be with you


Deb just stared. Chip cued up a much slower dance and set things to go on auto for a while, “Hey, I hear you're joining us on the night shift,” he said.

“Yeah, Movie Guy,” she said, a little fidgety. She didn't want to lose sight of him. At least he wasn't dancing with the mother of the bride anymore.

“Well, we need more pretty faces at night. And you are far better-looking than Hamidi,” he said.

“Huh. Uh, thanks. I think.”

“You okay?”

“Me, uh, I'm just, I'm getting over someone,” she admitted.

“Yeah. Yanno, love songs – they really, really stink when you're getting over someone. They just make you feel ten times worse,” he said gently.

“Yeah.”

=/\=

“Next victim,” Eleanor Crossman said, scanning the room. Ah, the guy at the bar, “Dance?” she asked.

“Uh, I guess so,” Doug said. The alcohol made it possible at all. Otherwise, he hated that, and never seemed to be able to do it right.

=/\=

Pamela scanned the room. No one seemed overly interesting, just a bunch of lummoxes in dress uniforms, “Wasted a perfectly good dress and manicure,” she said, looking at her perfect plum-colored nails. She bent over by the bar. José Torres noticed the stunning blonde in the black leather dress with no back, and came over.

=/\=

Brian sat next to Yimar. At least it wasn't the kids' table, although Joss was with them. After having been clonked by Gina Stone, he wanted nothing more to do with the flower girl or her purse.

“Do you dance?” Yimar asked.

“Not very well.”

“We – my people – we dance sometimes. This way is too slow, though. Do you think everyone who's dancing right now is in love?”

“Uh, I dunno. I don't think Doug is in love with Mrs. Crossman.”

“Yeah, I'm sure you're right. Do they all at least like each other?”

“I guess so,” Brian allowed, “Otherwise, why would everybody be touching that much?”

“Would you, um, if you liked me, that is, would you do that?” she asked.

“I should, uh, make sure the prime rib gets served right,” he said, getting up.

=/\=

“So I was thinking,” Aidan said, leaning over where Tripp and Travis were sitting, “there are three of them, and three of us.”

“Three of what?” Tripp asked, still headachy.

“Bridesmaids. But hands off the twin. I mean, man oh man. Another Crossman! It's like, ha, that is one serious movie premise right there,” Aidan said.

“Movie?” Travis asked, not following him.

“Yeah. You know – beautiful twins. Can't tell who's who so ya kinda, you know, split the difference – that sorta thing. Don't tell me you never thought of Crossman that way,” Aidan replied.

“Oh. Uh, no,” Travis said, “Never,” he lied.

“The hottest girl on the ship and you never, uh? You're hopeless. Anyway, there's the Ramirez girl – she's kinda young – and the flower girl's mother. I have it on good authority that she is a single mother. So, whaddaya say? I need wingmen.”

“Include me out,” Tripp said, “I got a phase cannon hitting my skull every few seconds.”

“Travis?” Aidan asked, “We could include Masterson, I bet.”

“Not me,” Travis said, “I'm just here for the prime rib.”

“Suit yourselves. Maybe I'll just take my chances with all of them,” Aidan said, getting up, “Ladies!”
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Old May 5 2012, 12:48 PM   #35
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Re: Together

=/\=

Dave Ryan was one of the groomsmen. He came over to Lili and introduced himself, “Frank and I were college roommates. I understand you were Jenny's roommate on the Enterprise.”

“Yes, that's right,” Lili said; managing a small smile, “Thank you for taking my son down the aisle,” she adjusted her sleeve. It was the same blue as her dress, but sheer, and her tattoos were translucently visible under it. But right now it was too hot to have sleeves, even filmy ones.

“He took his responsibility so seriously! I hope nobody tells him those rings were fakes.”

“They'd better not, or he'll be one disappointed little boy. He'll want to do it again.”

“You live in the Lafa System, right?”

“Yes,” she said.

“My wife and I are thinking of maybe settling in a place like that. Tell me what it's like.”

“Cooler than here,” she said, fanning herself, “And the people are wonderful.”

Kick Kick.

=/\=

Deb still stood there, but Chip had to get back to his DJing work, so he left her there.

Jonathan came over, “I, uh, I was thinking. You might want to train as a pilot. I'll be needing one for the night shift. Would you do that?”

“I, I don't know. I've had a lot of changes in my life lately.”

“Well, think about it. I need someone I can trust. Deb,” he said very quietly, “I'm sorry it's all like this. I wish there was a way that life could go on without you being hurt.”

“I'm Security,” she said, “Wily like a cat. And beyond pain.”

He left.

Chip got everything back on auto and came back. He hadn't missed the exchange.

“Look, um, it can be tough to get into the swing of a new schedule. I, uh, shift starts at zero hundred hours as you, as you know. So every night, at, like, nineteen hundred, I get up and go to the gym. Then I shower and have breakfast. You're, uh, you're welcome to join me for any of that.”

“Even the shower?”

“Huh. Uh, maybe after you're a little more over the guy you're trying to get over, okay?”

“Yeah,” she smiled a little at him, light brown eyes suddenly noticeable to him.

“So, uh, tomorrow, then?”

“Yeah. Just the gym and the breakfast. Not the other thing, uh, for now.”

He went back to his DJing tasks and announced, “Now, I wanna see everybody out there! This next one – I know you all know it – it's by The Sweet Cupcakes – and it's dedicated to the ladies of the NX-01 and their many admirers. And I count myself among them. Here it is – 'Tough Girl'!”

The music started, and he looked over and saw three bridesmaids turn on their heels as one and walk away from Aidan, good and fast. Aidan. Best-looking guy on the ship – everybody knew that. And he was just big, tall, goofy Chip Masterson. He balled his right hand into a fist and pointed it up by his chest, then suddenly jerked it downwards and simultaneously said “Yes!” through his teeth.
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Old May 6 2012, 02:19 PM   #36
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Re: Together

The next few nights, they had the same dream.

They met, and smiled at each other, tentatively and shyly, like teenagers at a mixer.

“I can't sneak around. I can't,” she said on the first of those nights.

“I know, Lili-Flower. That part is definitely wrong.”

“We'll be back at Lafa II soon enough,” she said, “And then, he thinks he wants to file for divorce.”

“I never wanted you and Joss to have pain.”

“I know.”

“Whatever I have caused, oh, I so did not wish for that to happen.”

“The cracks were already there,” she said.

“No sneaking,” he said, “But you, you will tell me if, well, whatever happens with your marriage, yes?”

“Yes. Of course,” That could be a happy end to it, but she couldn't quite see it behind the fog of pain she was feeling.

The dream ended this way every night.

He would put his hand on her, in an act far more intimate than a kiss.

He placed it on her belly.


=/\=

September second arrived – Joss's birthday. And Malcolm's. Lili had promised to bake a cake.

But her PADD was flashing. She took a look – a letter from Dayah.

Emmiz and I have wed. I hope he understands he will be taking care of an old woman in a few decades. But I am happy, despite my many familial complications.

I hope you are happy as well.

– Dayah


The letter from the Xindi was not upsetting in and of itself, but it did remind Lili of Erell, the Andorian baby who had not lived to see the end of her first day. She stood in quarters and wept.

Doug came in, looking for clothes, “We got his birthday today,” he said, “Can you hold it together?”

That was all the comfort he offered – small comfort indeed.

“Yes, I think so. I will, I'll make sure to,” she said. She dried her eyes and left.

=/\=

Cake baking, Lili sat down, “Brian, can I ask you something?”

“I guess,” he was busy taking the dishes out of the sanitizer and putting them away.

“I don't mean to embarrass you, but, do you like my babysitter?”

“She's a nice enough girl, I guess,” he reddened and almost dropped a bowl.

“I think she has a crush on you.”

“Oh. Um, well, she's underage, right?”

“In our morality, yes,” Lili conceded.

“Well, whose morality applies to us?” he asked, “I mean, aren't there species that still have child brides? Do we go by their rules, or ours?”

“I guess we do what we think is most right,” she allowed, “All the while hurting the smallest number of people.”

“Assuming that all works together,” A bell dinged. He said, “Cake's ready. You do the decorating. I still haven't gotten the hang of using the pastry bag and tip.”

=/\=

The party was held in the Observation Lounge, and was crowded. Lili hadn't gotten a chance to cook at all on the Enterprise until then, so there was a definite demand for her cake.

She and Doug arrived with Joss. They put on their best fake smiles – Joss's was real, of course – and looked around at the assembled guests.

Brian brought out the cake with two candles on it. It was decorated with a picture of a huge shuttle on it, as Lili had promised. There was also, in the lower right corner, in green and blue icing, a bit of a jungle scene. Malcolm recognized it but kept the information to himself – it was day lilies and reeds.

“What is the significance of the candles?” T'Pol asked Jonathan.

“You blow them out and make a wish,” he replied.

“Seems a rather less than assured manner of making a wish come true,” she said.

“Shh. It's supposed to be magic. Joss still believes in that,” he said.

The guests sang and then the two of them blew out the candles. Lili and Brian started to cut pieces of the cake. Joss was jumping up and down and clamoring for a piece.

Malcolm stood off to the side but then came over, “Joss, may I speak with you a moment?”

Doug glared but Lili held his arm a little, “Allow this,” she said softly.

“Now, Joss,” Malcolm said, kneeling so as to face the child directly, “We are the hosts of this party. And all of these lovely people are our guests. And that means that we serve them first. And we must thank them all for coming to see us today.”

“Don't try to raise my kid, Reed,” Doug said.

“Doug. Not now,” Lili said, looking at him, “Just wait a minute.”

Malcolm looked back at Joss, “Now, who would you give the first piece to? The person you love the very most in the whole wide world?”

“'Ommy!”

“All right. Then, good, take that over to her. Very carefully now.”

Joss slowly delivered his package, and then came back, “Mackum!”

“Yes, yes, that's me. Now, who's next? Someone you love very, very much.”

“Daddy!”

“Yes, that's right. Now, here, let's give him a really, really big piece. He's a, he's a very big fellow, your father is. And he should get a big piece. There, go on.”

While Joss was delivering, Lili and Brian handed out other pieces to be passed – otherwise it would have taken hours.

“Ready!” Joss said.

“All right, now, who would you like to give the next piece to?”

“Yim!”

“All right, yes, your babysitter – she's a nice girl. There you go.”

“B'ian!”

“Ah, good. Mr. Delacroix has been making very nice sandwiches for you, I understand. Now, who's next?”

“Uhh. Aunt Hoshi!”

“Yes, yes, Hoshi's such a kind lady. Now, Joss, Hoshi understands lots and lots of words. If you talk to her, she shall understand you.”

Joss walked over very slowly.

“Um, thanks,” Hoshi said, reddening. Joss kissed her on the cheek before going back.

“Now, Joss,” Malcolm said, “You’ve got a lot of pretty ladies admiring you. But you don't have to give this piece to a pretty lady if you don't want to. Would you like to give it to Captain Archer, maybe?”

When he returned, Malcolm straightened up for a second, “Ah, Joss, you should give the next piece to Miss Melissa over there. Do you see her? She's standing right by Mister Torres. She is going to become very special to you.”

Joss came over, “Missa,” he said.

“Thank you,” she said, looking down at him. She reached out and tousled his hair a bit.

He shook his head afterwards and ran back, “Ready!”

“Hmm, it looks like there are only two pieces left. Does everyone have a piece?” Malcolm asked. They did, “All right now, there's a piece with still a lot of the picture of the shuttle and a piece with the kind of jungle scene on it. I will take the piece with the greenery on it.”

The task completed, Joss dug in with gusto.

Malcolm moved more slowly and retreated to look out a window. He looked down at the cake and tasted a bit. Pineapple, just like she'd promised. He watched Joss run around and thank people a bit, a toddler's quick thanks, complete with hugs and kisses. T'Pol was unfazed, even when he called her Ears, an act that mortified a very apologetic Lili.

The party was pleasant and the cake was tasty but Malcolm didn't smile much, just looked, alternately out the window and at the scene in front of him. Outside, looking in.

This did not escape one person's gaze.

“Hey, there's a gift box here,” Torres said, “It's heavy. It says it's for Joss. There's, um, no one signed the tag.”

“A present!” Lili exclaimed, “Whoever did this, you shouldn't have.”

The box was brought over. It was wrapped in turquoise paper. Without even opening it, Lili had an idea of who it was from.

It was jars of peanut butter – some smooth and some crunchy. There was a jar of almond butter, and another of cashew butter. There were jars of grape jelly and strawberry jam and one lone jar of orange marmalade. The jars were all from a large store on Hyperion, but the marmalade was from Fortnum & Mason. To confirm her thoughts, Lili looked at the gift tag. True, there was no information on the giver. But she recognized the neat, cramped handwriting, which confirmed her thoughts. It was Malcolm's. She silently smiled at him and mouthed her thanks. He nodded back.

=/\=

“Captain, I was thinking of reupping with Starfleet,” Doug said, “Assuming what happened at the class didn't totally blow my chances.”

“No, I don't think that did, although you'll need to rein in your temper, I think,” Jonathan said.

“I'd like to, uh, get work on Andoria. I hear they'll have an embassy to defend.”

“Well, they will. But I'd've thought you'd prefer the Lafa System. There are going to be settlers there,” Jonathan explained, “They'll need protection. Wouldn't your family prefer that?”

“Yes,” Lili said softly.

Doug looked back at her, “Are you sure?”

“Yes.”

Jonathan said, “I think it's a great idea. You know, you should be able to get a serious commission – probably as Captain of your unit, seeing as you were a Lieutenant Commander when you retired. Plus you probably know the area better than any human.”

“So we'd be the same rank?” Doug asked.

“It looks that way to me,” Jonathan replied.

“Huh. I think I like these merit promotions,” Doug said.

Lili went over to talk to Yimar, “I think you should just take the perrazin by the horns with Brian.”

“Huh?” replied the teenager, “Why would I want to touch a dangerous animal?”

“It's a human expression. Just take the initiative and stop beating around the bush. Uh, just make the first move.”

“Ohh,” Yimar said, bracelet glinting in the light of the Observation Lounge.

“Is that bracelet very important to you?” Lili asked.

“This thing? No, not really. I, uh, you won't tell my mother, will you?”

“Tell her what?”

“I got it when my friends and I were playing hooky one day.”

“Ah, I see. Well, you shouldn't do that, Yimar. Although I got in trouble a bit at your age. Can I, uh, can I have it? I can get you a new one – and a lot of other things in thanks for everything you've done here – and then you can tell your mother the truth about how you got it. Okay?”

“Uh, sure,” Yimar slipped the bangle off and handed it to Lili.

=/\=

Party over, Lili and Doug sat in quarters, “Can I, um, can I ask you something?” he said.

“Sure.”

“Do you want to work on things?”

“Yes. I do.”

“I do too,” he admitted, “I don't want our sons to grow up with only a little bit of one or the other of us. I don't want to have to divvy up our friends.”

“Any other reason?”

“You know it. And I don't say it enough. But yes, of course – it's also because I love you,” he said, “I want us to work, to pull together. In, in whatever, uh, configuration that it becomes.”

“Pull?”

“Yeah. It's like pulling in a catch, a net of fish, I guess. I, I had thought there would be only, uh, two people in the crew. But maybe it's a bigger boat than I'd thought,” he said.

She leaned over and took his face in her hands, and they kissed.

Yimar, Brian and Joss walked in, “Oops!” Yimar said, “We can get the stegosaurus later.”

The three of them walked out, but Lili and Doug didn't notice. They hadn't stopped kissing.

=/\=

Yimar put Joss down once they were outside of the room, and he scampered to the other end of the hall.

She looked at Brian, “Take the perrazin by the horns,” she repeated to herself quietly.

“Huh?”

She grabbed his face and kissed him. He did not put up a struggle. When they broke away, he looked at her.

“We shoulda done that earlier,” she said, “Now we should sleep together.”

“What? Uh, Yimar, anything more than that, and Doug'll kill me.”

“Just to dream? Honestly, Brian, I dunno where you get these ideas that it's anything other than dreaming!”

=/\=

The two of them finally broke apart, “Oh, my God, I so missed that,” Lili said.

“Me, too,” he kissed her hand, “It's almost like when we first got together.”

“Oh?”

“It's, uh, it's almost like a séance,” he said.

“Huh, way to make a gal feel great,” she said.

“No, no, no, it's a good thing,” Doug said, backpedalling a bit, “See, the other universe, it was a charnel house. I was one of the walking dead, or at least the walking wounded. And I would touch your hand, or kiss you, or even just see you, and I could contact the living.”

“You're away from that now.”

“Yes. And I never want to go back to it. I, I know I've been pretty stubborn. But it's been because I wanted everything to be different. See, I didn't tell you this, but on the other side of the pond? I, I'm not proud of this.”

“You can tell me anything,” she took his hand.

“Yeah, I know. Well, on the other side, I cheated on every girlfriend I had.”

“Even Jennifer?”

“Even Jennifer. With, uh, with the gal who runs the Botany Lab here.”

“Shelby? The ex-ballet dancer?”

“Belly dancer?” he asked.

“No. Ballet,” she articulated better, “Her? I thought you liked a little more, uhm, heft.”

“Well, sure. But she was a bit heftier there, too. She wasn't a former ballet dancer. She, um, she was brought on board to pilot. But before that, she did have a profession.”

“Oh?”

“The world's oldest one.”

“Ohhh.”

“And even with Jennifer I could not keep my hands off Shelby. It's true. I cheated on Jenny, I cheated on Susan, on Christine, on all of them.”

“And all of them with Shelby?”

“No, I didn't know her until later,” he said.

“Why are we talking about her again?” she kissed him.

“Because I just wanted you to know why this has been so very hard for me, Lili. I wanted us to be different.”

“We are. You didn't stray – that's such an awful word, as if you were a dog – you didn't, didn't do what you did because you wanted to. But it had unintended consequences. And the same thing happened on my end. Unintended effects.”

“Yes. About those,” Doug said, “He, I was watching him today.”

“I know. And I'd appreciate it if you would give him a chance.”

“I did, and I do. But I need to tell you what I saw.”

“Hmm?”

“Lili, I saw that look. I know that look. It's the one that says, 'I'm never gonna have this. I'm never gonna be happy – not really. I won't have love and a family and a future.' I saw that look, and I recognized that look because, well, because I used to see that look every single day of my life, whenever I'd look in a mirror.”

“How did that make you feel?”

“Like I've been holding his future hostage. I've been holding everyone's future hostage. If you, if you dream with him, and it's really good, would you leave me?” Doug asked, trembling just a little.

“No. I won't leave you. Would you leave me, if your dreams with Melissa turn out to be really good ones?”

“No. And I've never wanted to leave you. I've – this has all been a lot of posturing. I'm sorry it's been hurtful. My pride really took a hit there.”

“I understand. I think this pride business needs to, uh, there should probably be less of it,” she said.

“Agreed,” he said, “It's a lot to swallow.”

“How do you think it will all go?”

“Rough at first, but a lot of things are. You work out the details, I guess. And I reserve the right to change my mind,” Doug said.

“Call him. And I will call her,” Lili said, “It's time.”

=/\=

Malcolm sat in quarters, fingering the cuff, “Scraps from her table. They will have to be enough,” he said to no one.

There was a communications chime. It was Doug.

“Come,” was all he said.
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Old May 6 2012, 02:22 PM   #37
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Re: Together

=/\=

Malcolm came over, but was cautious – after all, he didn't want another beating. Lili and Melissa were already there so he felt able to relax a little.

“Call Norri,” Lili said, “And I will explain. Ready? Good. This can only work if we all work together. There can never be any jealousy. You have to let all of that go, but you also have to make it possible for the others to let it go. No one gets to go around hurting the others. No one. You, Malcolm, have this piece, Doug has this one. And, in turn, Melissa has a piece, and Norri has another one,” Lili said.

“Letting go of jealousy isn't easy,” Norri said, “Not impossible, but not easy. Something for me to work on.”

“Me, too,” Doug said.

“And, for you, Malcolm, anyone can have your daylight piece – Pamela, perhaps, or someone else when you're ready,” Lili said.

Malcolm said, “Not with Pamela. That ship has sailed, and I don't wish to go chasing after it. I don't know – I haven't really had long-term connections. Perhaps this is a way for me to finally, truly have one. And, have, well, I could have a real connection to you. Couldn't I?”

Lili nodded, “And that's for as long as you want it.”

“I, I want it for, for a long time,” he glanced over nervously at Doug.

Doug said, “I'm in this for the long haul. You better be, too, Reed, because you better not hurt her.”

“I, I feel that I am all right with being second,” Malcolm said.

Second?” Lili asked, “I don't want to think of you that way.”

“Actually, isn't the guy who walks in the back of a patrol just as important as the one who walks in the front?” Norri asked, “I've been reading a book on the Viet Nam war,” she said, explaining.

“Yes, that's true,” Doug said, “Walking point – being in front – is most dangerous, but bringing up the rear is a vital position as well. That's the first guy hit if there's an ambush.”

“And when you pilot a ship – the last course correction you make, it's no less important than the first,” Melissa said.

“The last page of a book is no less important than the first,” Norri said.

“Last step of a recipe is just as necessary as the first,” Lili said.

Malcolm smiled, “We can be very kind people to each other when we want to be.”

“Then I choose to be kind,” Norri said.

“So you are a kind lioness, Miss Leonora?” Malcolm asked.

“That's me, the book editing literary lioness,” Norri said, smoothing her auburn hair a bit, “I don't have much of a mane these days, though.”

“I'm not quite done yet. I have conditions,” Doug said, “No one confuses the kids. That means we watch the public displays. I'm not joking about this.”

Norri said, “While on the subject of children – I refuse to be called Aunt – and he shouldn't be called Uncle,” she pointed to Malcolm, “We aren't your siblings.”

“So what should you be called?” Melissa asked.

Malcolm suggested, “Well, how about by first names? It seems like Joss uses them anyway.”

“Yes, he does. The Calafans don't have last names,” Lili said.

“Oh and my condition,” Malcolm said, “Is that I'd like to be able to visit on occasion. In person, get together and be together sometimes.”

Doug added quickly, “If we're gonna have visits, I gotta insist on this one. No one sleeps in – or has sex in – my bed except for my wife and me. No exceptions.”

“Same here,” Melissa said, “I don't want some icky boy in the bed I share with Norri. Well, I don't. You guys have germs and stuff.”

“Well, there are hotels, right?” Lili said, “There's a pretty nice one on Lafa II, in Fep City. Now for mine, I must insist – my condition is – I want pictures of everyone – kids' births and graduations, medal ceremonies, vacations, anything and everything.”

“We're putting a slide show wall into the house”, Doug explained, “We had, uh, talked about it before this trip started.”

“And I want to fill it up with all of your images,” Lili said, “With the new babies when they're born, and every time we all do something wonderful or even just something silly. Give me all of them, don't edit anything out.”

“What will you call us when people ask who all those people are?” Melissa asked.

“My family,” Lili said.

“I suppose that's all our families now,” Malcolm said.

Norri said, “Is this arrangement, is it related at all to the world you live on?”

“A bit,” Lili said, “But not exactly. Usually when they make contact, it's with someone in the mirror universe, on the other side of the pond. And it's just the four – the husband, the wife, his nighttime partner, and hers. We've got five, it's not identical. Oh, and here,” she handed Yimar's bracelet to Melissa, “You'll need to wear this to make contact.”

“Their wedding vows even take the nighttime arrangements into account,” Doug said, “They are, um, 'I will love you all of our days, and support you all of your nights.' That's right, isn't it?”

“Yep,” Lili said, checking on a PADD, “My heart,” she kissed him on the cheek, “My soul,” she leaned over and kissed Malcolm.

“I'm working on the jealousy,” Doug said, “I am, I swear, my heart,” he kissed her, “My soul,” he said, walking up to Melissa and kissing her.

“Both,” Norri said to Melissa, “I don't go by half-measures. And I will love and support you both day and night, kiddo, like I have ever since we met.”

“I as well,” Malcolm said to Lili, “I don't intend to be looking for girlfriends. I think my hands will be quite full this way. And you, Miss Melissa. You and I will be on ship together. I shall watch out for you.”

“Thanks, I'll, um, make sure you eat enough, and stuff like that,” she said, “You are my heart,” she said to the image of Norri, and blew a kiss to the screen, “And you are my soul,” she said to Doug, and kissed him, “You, you're an icky boy. But you're all right,” she said to Malcolm.

“Oh, and I got one more thing. Not to be too graphic about things, but I just feel strange about kissing her right after you, uh,” Doug said.

“Yes, I suppose that could be an issue – and vice versa as well,” Malcolm said, reddening.

“On this end, too,” Norri added. Lili nodded.

“Mints,” Melissa said, taking a roll out of a zippered pocket, “Chef has a big box of them.”

“Take most of them with you,” Malcolm suggested to Lili, “Then we'll all, um, chip in for them.”

“Can't you get some sort of a discount if you order them in bulk?” Norri asked.
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Old May 7 2012, 01:21 PM   #38
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Re: Together

Lili sat on a Bio Bed in Sick Bay.

Doctor Phlox smiled at her, “You’re surprisingly healthy, and the baby is a dynamo. You’ll be kept very busy. You’d best get your sleep now, while you can.”

She smiled, “That’s a good thing. Assuming Joss lets me rest.”

“Here now, let's do another scan for Doctor Miva.”

She lay there as he ran the scanner and performed tests, “Hmm.”

“Hmm? Is that a bad hmm?” she asked, a little anxious.

He reversed the bed and Lili was brought out of the scanner, “Look here,” he pointed to the scan.

“Oh.”

=/\=

Melissa and Doug made their good-byes, “Let's go hunting tonight,” he said.

“Anything else?” she asked, kissing his ear.

“Sure. But let's do it in a proper bed, not in one of those nasty holding center beds. They always gave me a backache.”

“We could go camping!”

“Yeah, I seem to recall you, heh, like tents. And my back will survive. I also want to tell you,” he faced her and took her hands in his, “Everybody keeps asking me this, and I hadn’t said anything. It’s not that I didn’t feel it. I just – I don’t say it much. It’s a difficult three words. But I do. I love you, Melissa,” he kissed her slowly, gently.

“I love you too, you icky boy,” she said “Oh, and the baby will be named Thomas. Assuming I have a boy. You okay with that?”

“Of course. Thomas Beckett?”

“Thomas Madden. Thomas Digiorno-Madden if you really want to get technical.”

“Huh. I guess I’ll learn to be okay with that.”

=/\=

Lili and Malcolm kissed in his room. They broke apart and he sighed, “Oh that is divine. When shall I see you in person next?”

“Tonight.”

“Yes, but like this,” he kissed her again.

“Ah. Hmm. The springtime – Melissa will have the baby then, and Doug will want to be on Ceres for that. And you and I can – will you be getting vacation time?”

“I'm sure I can swing something. Do you like Risa?”

“I’ve never been there.”

“We can take the children, too, if you like.”

“Do they have day care?” she asked, and then kissed him. This time, she was the one to sigh when they broke apart.

“I'm sure we can get someone to, uh, take care of them for a few hours one day. Or every day, my love,” he said, brushing her hair back from her face.

“So what’s Risa like?”

“Warm. It’s got beaches.”

“We’ll take sunscreen. I burn really easily.”

“What makes you think we’ll be leaving the room that much?”

They kissed again. He looked at her, “Now it's getting a bit painful. You're such a wicked, wicked woman, Lili-Flower.”

“Wish I had a bit more time. And, um, at some point, you know, we will do more than kiss here in this room, on this bed,” she said.

“Oh, I look forward to that.”

=/\=

“Got everything?” Travis asked.

“Yes, I think so,” Lili said, “Thanks for the case of mints, Brian.”

“Oh sure. Chef could spare 'em. Are you making cookies or something?”

“I'll use them for, uh, something,” she came close to him, “Yimar has good taste in men,” she said quietly.

“Um, thanks. But what's a perrazin?”

“It's a big, carnivorous cow that's found on Lafa XII,” Doug said, “Lili, we need to go.”

=/\=

Melissa and Malcolm watched them leave, and started walking down a hall, “So, uh, we don't know each other that well,” she ventured.

“No. I suppose this will be a time for us to get better acquainted.”

“I'll only be here another three months or so. Then, according to regulations, I have to be transferred away from combat.”

“Oh. So that's, uh, right before second trimester, right?”

“Right.”

“How are you feeling, Melissa?”

“Still PMSing. So, uh, watch it. Then I have barfing to look forward to. Will ya hold my head, Reed?”

“Huh. I am not exactly looking forward to that as a task. But I will do it,” he said, “Do you like Movie Night?”

“No chick flicks,” she said.

“All right. Something with lots of explosions, then?”

“Yes! Some old war picture or something. Chip must have loads of 'em.”

“Good. I'll take you to Movie Night, then. When you're up for it.”

“People will think we're an item,” she said.

“We'll know the truth. We can just let them wonder.”

=/\=

Upon returning to Lafa II, their bed was a most welcome sight, “Think Joss will sleep through the night?” Lili asked.

“Just do your best to stay quiet, okay? C'mere,” he started kissing her neck.

“Oh,” she said, although it came out more as a moan, “Professor Beckett.”

“Hmm?”

“I was wondering. I need to, uh, study mathematics. Can you privately tutor me?”

“I believe I can fit you into my oh so busy schedule,” he said.

“I'll have to bite the pillow again,” she said, a little breathless.

“Better that than anything else,” he said.

The pillow was a goner.

=/\=

They slept.

“I am really enjoying camping,” Melissa said, “'Specially the, uh, extracurricular activities,” she kissed him.

“That's why there's only one sleeping bag,” Doug said.


=/\=

“Did you like the regatta?”

“I did,” Lili said, “Although, ha, when they go by and the coxswain yells out 'stroke!' I have to confess that I'm not thinking about racing shells.”

“This will be a very slow race,” Malcolm said, kissing her.


=/\=

That morning, Lili woke to the sounds and smells of Doug making pancakes.

“Oh, you shouldn't have!”

“You know, except for barbecuing, this is the only thing I know how to make.”

“Pancakes! Pancakes!” Joss danced around the kitchen, bare feet on the wood floor.

“Yes, pancakes!” Lili enthused, “I had craved them for soooo long.”

Doug turned off the flame, holding the wooden spatula, “Good thing we got the flour.”

“And a good thing there's going to be more trade. I don't want to wait another year for pancakes. Do ya, Ducks?” she asked Joss.

“'Ommy, Duck Duck!”

“In a few minutes, Joss. I wanna kiss Daddy first.”

Doug said, “I love you. And I love Number One Son,” he kissed Joss on the top of his head, no mean feat as the toddler was still running around and jumping a bit, “And I love Number Two Son,” he knelt down and kissed her belly.

She said, “No.”

Kick.

“No?”

“No. Number One Daughter.”

There was a clatter as the spatula hit the floor and they kissed, and Doug knew, and Lili knew, and Joss knew, and even Marie Patrice knew, that once again all was right, in this or any other universe.

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