Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by jespah, Apr 6, 2012.

  1. jespah

    jespah Commodore Commodore

    Jun 21, 2011
    Boston, the Gateway to the Galaxy
    “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.”


    “'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.


    “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.


    “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?”



    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.

  2. jespah

    jespah Commodore Commodore

    Jun 21, 2011
    Boston, the Gateway to the Galaxy
    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.


    “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,” she said, “Not anymore.”

    “A puzzle, 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.
  3. jespah

    jespah Commodore Commodore

    Jun 21, 2011
    Boston, the Gateway to the Galaxy
    “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?”


    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.”
  4. jespah

    jespah Commodore Commodore

    Jun 21, 2011
    Boston, the Gateway to the Galaxy
    “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.


    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
  5. jespah

    jespah Commodore Commodore

    Jun 21, 2011
    Boston, the Gateway to the Galaxy
    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.


    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.
  6. jespah

    jespah Commodore Commodore

    Jun 21, 2011
    Boston, the Gateway to the Galaxy
    “Hoshi! Uh, Hoshi! Can we talk?” Tripp was breathless. He'd run after her.

    “Sure,” she said, and they went into an unoccupied lab.

    After the door had closed, he said, “Marry me.”


    “I said, marry me. Uh, will you marry me?”

    “Tripp, I'm not pregnant. You should know that by now.”

    “I know. But that would be just the cherry on the sundae. I mean, when I realized that, well, that there was a real possibility that we could be, uh, becomin' parents, I realized how much, well, that I love you. And, and you could, you could learn to love me, too. At, at some point. I mean, we're good friends, right? And that's a good three-quarters of the way there, isn't it? We know we're good together. We both know this. You know this, Hoshi.”

    “Tripp, calm down. You won't want to in, like, a week or so. That gas, maybe it's still affecting you. You'll see. You don't love me.”

    “But I do. Really. You want I should, uh, get on my knees? Is that what you want, Hoshi?”

    “No, no. Stop,” she dug her fingernails into the palms of her hands. Stay strong, she said to herself, “Get up. Please. Don't, don't do this. You don't mean it.”

    “But, uh,” he looked in her eyes and she looked away, “I do mean it,” he tried to take her hand but she rebuffed him.

    “We have to be able to work together. We can't do that if, if, you know.”

    “So we'll change jobs, or I'll change, and you can stay on the Enterprise, which you love. And we can be together, I dunno when, when you're on leave or somethin'. Everybody needs an engineer. This could work.”

    “No, it can't,” she said, “Please. No more.”

    It finally sunk in. He got up, “I, uh, I'm sorry. I'm, uh, I'm only gonna say this once,” he swallowed, and then continued, “I think I can understand. We're not in the same place, you 'n me. And that happens. And that's, uh, that's all right. I love you enough to, to not push it,” he swallowed again, “But I just want you to know. Just, just say the word. And not about, about gittin' married but about just, well, just giving this another chance. Just say the word. Any time, any place,” His voice breaking, he left.

    Hoshi looked down at her hands when she moved one up to wipe her eyes. The fingernails had dug right in and drawn blood.


    “Jennifer, we should talk,” Travis said.

    “What's there to talk about?” she asked.

    “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?”



    “It's an easy question.”

    “No, it's not. How about you, do you love him?” he asked, voice beginning to rise.

    “We're talking about you, not me.”


    “Oh, no. You're in on this, too. You're guilty, too. See, that's something that I've always been troubled by, Lili. When I got here, when I hit this side of the pond, I was a guilty SOB,” he was getting louder, “I had never been punished. I had gotten away with a boatload of sins. And you were innocent. You got to be the forgiver. You were the perfect one.”

    “Perfect? I was – and am – far from perfect,” she said, getting up and starting to match his volume.

    Kick Kick Kick.

    “Oh, c'mon, you practically had a halo on. And you said – you said if we loved each other and we put that into everything we did, then, then I'd be forgiven. And you doled out forgiveness like you served up stew.”

    “Excuse me? If you thought I was holding back, or holding any cards in that area, why the hell didn't you speak up about it then?”

    Kick kick Kick Kick Kick.

    “I was too guilty. I was consumed with it, Lili.”

    “You were happy. Or was that a lie? Were you lying to me, Doug, when you said you were happy, that you had everything you'd ever wanted?”

    “I was guilty! It was uneven! I needed your approval!”

    “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.”


    “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.”


    “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.

  7. jespah

    jespah Commodore Commodore

    Jun 21, 2011
    Boston, the Gateway to the Galaxy
    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.”


    “Melissa, I can, uh, I can get myself a job and, and send you money. You don't have to take me to court. I'll do it. And I'll, um, I'll stay away if, if you want me to,” he said.

    The doctor came in, “Ah, I see you're attending to matters. I will be nearby if you need me.”

    “Doug, I, um, this baby, she –”

    “Melissa, you're probably going to have a boy,” Lili interjected, “There’s a three-quarters chance.”

    “Oh. Well then it's even more imperative. If I have a boy, well, he'll be in a house full of women. I think he'll, uh, need a man to, uh, show him how to grow up. To, to be a good man.”

    It was practically involuntary, but Doug took her hand. He didn't say anything.

    “I, uh, I want you to be in his life,” Melissa said.

    Kick kick Kick Kick Kick.

    They both looked over at Lili who was distractedly holding her own belly, “Of, of course,” she said, “And the kids should know each other. They'll be brothers.”

    “And you should meet Joss,” Doug said. He suddenly realized what he was doing, and dropped Melissa's hand.

    “Yeah. I never actually got a chance to meet him. But I've heard him sometimes.”

    “Oh, well, he's a boisterous little boy,” Lili said, “You'll have your hands full.”

    Melissa just looked around nervously and ended up sitting on her hands.


    “We should sleep together some time,” Yimar said, after Brian let Joss win again.


    “We should! See if we like it.”

    “You shouldn't, uh, talk about that in front of Joss.”

    “Race again!” squealed the child.

    “I haven't, yet. Have you?”

    “Me? I'm, well, I'm not uh, well, I have experience,” he said, bending the truth a bit. Okay, a lot.

    “Oh. I'm untouched. But I didn't mean that. I mean the other way,” Yimar said.


    “Oh, the dream thing!” she said, “You know, you sleep, I sleep, and we connect. See how that goes. I mean, there's this guy at my school. And I think he is interested but yanno, he's just kinda icky.”

    “Oh. Are you, um, are you saying I'm not icky?”

    “Well, you're less icky.”


    “C'mon, race again!” Joss pulled on his arm before Brian could really answer.


    Meeting over, Melissa went to the Bridge, “Would it be all right if I spoke with you a minute, Captain? I can come back if you're, if you're busy,” she said.

    “No, that's all right. In my Ready Room,” he said. Deb had been standing behind him and looked over a little. T'Pol raised an eyebrow but said nothing. There had been some news reports of a large number of Vulcan children and forced couplings. The humans – it was logical to posit – had been forced as well. But she didn't know the specifics. Her concern was only to assure that Captain Archer was able to perform his duties to the best of his ability. Gossiping was not in her nature.

    “What can I do for you?” Jonathan asked as soon as the door had closed.

    “Captain, I don't know if anyone else is, but I came out of the Witannen experience pregnant.”

    “I see. Are you – can I ask – and this is more a personnel question than anything else – are you going ahead?”

    “Yes, I am. So I guess I'll have to, uh, figure out maternity leave and all of that.”

    “I suppose congratulations are in order, then. Does Phlox know when you're due?”

    “Late Spring. I'd like to be back on Ceres when, uh, then.”

    “There's a war going on, and this ship does engage in battle, as you are well aware. So you'll be removed from a combat role in a few months, if I recall Starfleet regulations correctly. How are the – eh – how are the Becketts taking the news?”

    “Pretty well. They’re supportive and all that. My girl's okay with it, too. She wants kids and can't have any, so I would be elected anyway.”

    “Oh. Your girl. Sorry, never knew that about you.”

    “I don't imagine you had occasion to ask, Captain.”

    “I guess not,” he paused for a second and looked out the window.

    “Sir, can I just say something, totally off the record?”

    “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.


    “I wonder if she'd let me be there when he's born.”

    “I dunno. Uh, Yimar said you have a note from Laura on your PADD.”

    “Huh. I haven't opened that yet,” he did. It said:

    Dear Mr. Beckett,

    Thank you for your kind invitation. I am assuming you are related to me on my mother's side – her maiden name was Beckett. It's always good to hear from a member of the extended family. My own family was greatly diminished a few years ago by my younger brother, Jay's, death. He was killed in action during the Xindi War, while serving aboard the USS Enterprise.

    I would love to meet you and your family, but I can only get away for the morning of the twenty-eighth. My firm works with the Xindi envoy and I have to catch a transport. I hope 0900 hours is acceptable to you.

    Very Truly Yours,

    Laura Hayes, Esq.
    Law Offices of Laura Hayes

    “Are we going?” he asked.

    “Sure,” she said, “For Joss's sake.”


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

    “Doug, do you love Melissa?”


    “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.”


    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.”


    “No,” he smiled slightly, “Wish he was, a bit. At least that would make it so that there would be some sort of a bond, continuing over time. But now it just feels like we'll drop them back at their home and, and that will prove to be the end of it.”

    “Drop them back?”

    “We brought them here,” he said, “For a, a wedding, the one I invited you to.”

    “This just keeps getting better and better,” she said, “There was a, uh, a news story. Seems there was a big ship nearby, with lots of species on it. Some sort of forced breeding. And there were humans on it but none of them were identified in the press. Know any of 'em?”

    He just nodded.

    “And it was you and her. Right?”

    “Right,” he said quietly.

    “And he was on the Enterprise, wondering what was going on?”

    “No. He was also there. He was paired with one of the pilots.”

    “I see. She a looker?” Pamela asked. He glanced back at her and she added, “So I'm shallow. And curious.”

    “No, actually, not so much. Not as conventionally captivating as you are.”


    “I must apologize again. I don't mean you are conventional. But she is, her looks are, they're above average at best, I suppose. But there is just something. ”

    “And now she's pregnant. No, wait, she was pregnant during?”

    “Yes,” he smiled a little, “You're being thrown over for an older, somewhat plain pregnant woman, if I had to be brutally honest about her appearance. I don't believe it, either.”

    “Stay here,” she said.

    “No. I can't,” he said, “I'm sorry. It would only be like, like it just was. I cannot concentrate on anyone else, cannot see anyone else. It would be very unfair to you.”

    “Okay,” she said, “Although I did have things planned. Stay. And we'll, uh, sightsee or something.”


    “Madden to Communications.”

    “Go ahead, Melissa,” Chip said.

    “Can I talk to Leonora Digiorno on Ceres?”

    “One sec. Go ahead.”

    “Norri, hi,” she said.

    “Hiya. How's the bean doing?”

    “I don't even think it's a lentil yet,” Melissa said.

    “It'll be big soon enough.”

    “I met with them. He would like to be involved. And I would like him to be, as well.”

    “Melissa, do you love him?” Norri asked.

    “A little,” she admitted, “I won't lie to you.”

    “I guess we're gonna be parents,” Norri said, “You, me and him.”


    Jonathan got back into the Captain's chair. He mentally went over personnel records. He'd need a new night shift pilot. He felt contact to the back of his neck. He turned a little. It was Deb.

    The Bridge was filled with people. This was not a good time. But he'd have to deal with it, “In my Ready Room,” he said to her.

    Once the door closed, she said, “Look, Jonathan, I don't know why I did that.”

    “It's, um, it's okay. But you can't be doing that. You have to be on duty.”

    “I know. I'm, um, having a hard time concentrating Jon – , uh, sir.”

    “It's only been a day.”

    “I know, but you'll have to explain this meeting and everything, and I don't want to make life harder for you. Jonathan, I think I should leave the Enterprise.”

    “I was afraid it was going to come to this,” he said, “I'd rather you didn't go.”

    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.


    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.

  8. jespah

    jespah Commodore Commodore

    Jun 21, 2011
    Boston, the Gateway to the Galaxy
    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.


    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.”
  9. jespah

    jespah Commodore Commodore

    Jun 21, 2011
    Boston, the Gateway to the Galaxy
    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?”


    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?”


    “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?”


    “Is the baby all right?”


    “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.”


    “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.”

  10. jespah

    jespah Commodore Commodore

    Jun 21, 2011
    Boston, the Gateway to the Galaxy
    “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.”
  11. Alienesse

    Alienesse Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Jun 7, 2010
    In Thorin's company
    I've just started reading your story and I quite like it. :p

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

    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. ;)
  12. jespah

    jespah Commodore Commodore

    Jun 21, 2011
    Boston, the Gateway to the Galaxy
    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. :)
  13. jespah

    jespah Commodore Commodore

    Jun 21, 2011
    Boston, the Gateway to the Galaxy
    “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.”


    “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 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.”


    “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.”
  14. jespah

    jespah Commodore Commodore

    Jun 21, 2011
    Boston, the Gateway to the Galaxy
    “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.”


    “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.


    “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.


    “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.”


    “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.



    “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!”
  15. jespah

    jespah Commodore Commodore

    Jun 21, 2011
    Boston, the Gateway to the Galaxy

    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.
  16. jespah

    jespah Commodore Commodore

    Jun 21, 2011
    Boston, the Gateway to the Galaxy
    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?”


    “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.”


    “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?”


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


    “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?”


    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.


    “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.”


    “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.


    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.”


    “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.”


    “The world's oldest one.”


    “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.”


    “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.
  17. jespah

    jespah Commodore Commodore

    Jun 21, 2011
    Boston, the Gateway to the Galaxy

    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.
  18. jespah

    jespah Commodore Commodore

    Jun 21, 2011
    Boston, the Gateway to the Galaxy
    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.



    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?”


    “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?”


    “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.”


    “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.”



    “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.