Monday, February 15, 2016
August 25 (part 2)
Betra is not the only Anrel hog around here. Tep came straight from his shift to claim her for babysitting tonight.
“For heaven’s sake Doc, I told you an hour from now,” I said when I answered the door.
“I know, but why shouldn’t I pick her up on my way back to my quarters?” Tep beamed. He already reached to take her out of my arms. “Hello, lovely girl! You haven’t forgotten me yet, have you?”
I sighed and gave her up. It wasn’t just me who wanted to wring every drop of making memories these last few weeks of our journey. I was pretty sure I wouldn’t get more than a couple hours at a time with my baby until we left the transport for good.
“Are you still seeing Megan, or have you moved on to your next conquest yet?” I teased Tep as I packed Anrel’s diaper bag.
He made a face at me. “Yes, she’ll be helping us babysit tonight. And I’ll have you know that it’s the women who move on, not us.”
“Is that so?” I knew the score about Tep and his clan, but I couldn’t resist kidding with him.
He sighed, adopting the attitude of a martyr. “I feel like a test subject. ‘Hi Imdiko Tep, I’m here to get a sample of you.’ A couple of weeks later, they’re on to the next experiment.”
I had to laugh. “Poor thing. Most of the girls are like kids in a candy store. They can’t help but try all the flavors.”
He shrugged, his grin wide. “I don’t mind. When one lady starts looking around for something new, there’s usually another ready to let my clan to satisfy her curiosity.”
I’ve recently found out that Tep is hilarious when he’s outside of Medical. And wasn’t I shocked to discover what a charmer he is with the gals on board! He and his clanmates are handsome enough to attract their share of interest, all right. Plus they are one of the few full clans on the Pussy ‘Porter. Of course the women newly awakened to their sexuality have to give them a try.
“I hear you’ll get another round of evacuating lonely Earther maidens after this trip,” I said, handing Tep the diaper bag. “By the way, my door is still keyed for you to come in as needed.”
“Thanks. Yes, my clan is already planning on gifts to stock up on for the sweet ladies we’ll meet when we get back to Earth.”
“Rogues,” I laughed. “You three have no shame.”
He waggled his brows at me. “And we want to cure all the Earther women of their shame if we can.”
“All of them? You really are scoundrels. I feel like I should send warnings to the rescue sites about your clan.”
Tep snickered. Then Anrel made a happy burbling sound and he went from scalawag to doting uncle in an instant.
“Oh, you’re the best girl of them all. No one can compare, little sweetling. No, no one in the whole universe.” He left still talking in goofy besotted tones as Anrel yanked enthusiastically on his ponytail.
Yes, the amazing no-nonsense doctor who is all business in Medical is an out-and-out scoundrel when he’s off the clock. It’s good to know he can let loose and have fun.
With Anrel gone early, I had plenty of time to get ready for my night out with my own pair of rogues. I was still chuckling over the mischievous Tep when Betra and Oses walked in.
Oses was in uniform since it was the nicest clothing he owns. He’s not a going-out-to-dinner kind of guy. Betra wore a silky blue-gray shirt on with white trousers. He looks delicious no matter what he wears.
I wore a slightly daring dress. Daring for me since I’m still self-conscious about my body. That little bit of post-pregnancy tummy doesn’t want to leave. I can’t complain though. If I’d gone full term, I’d be a good deal farther behind in the game. What little bulge is left was camouflaged by the fabric of my dress criss-crossing over it.
The pink dress I wore went to mid-thigh, showing more leg than I typically do. The truly scandalous part was the keyhole opening between my breasts, which showed their inner curves. Hello boobs. Enjoy getting partially out and about.
Oses and Betra were happy to see them. After a few seconds of their silent stares I waved my hands next to my head. “Eyes up here, boys.”
They were unabashed in their appreciation of the cleavage. “Oh look, Oses. She has a nice face too.” Betra grinned.
The Nobek snorted. “If you say so. I’m sure I’ll see it eventually. You know, I bet I can fit my face in that hole in your dress. You should let me try.”
I shook my fist at him. “Not before coffee and dessert, you lout.”
He finally looked up and winked. “You look stunning, pet. As always.” He gave me a gentle kiss.
I got another nice kiss from Betra and we left my quarters.
As is the usual for the three of us, Betra had made all the arrangements. The man is a natural at romantic dinners, and this time was no exception. I admit to having my doubts when we entered the ship’s cargo area, but that was quickly allayed when we walked into one of the bays.
I gasped to see large aquariums everywhere. When I say large, I mean huge. Many were empty, but half a dozen still contained swimming critters. Those were lit, turning the water that filled them blue, just like in an aquarium back home.
The dining room occasionally serves up seafood for our meals, but it hadn’t occurred to me to wonder if it was fresh or flash frozen. Here was my answer. I’m no fish expert, so I didn’t know what most of the species were. I saw big fish, smaller fish, drab fish, colorful fish. I saw crabs, lobsters, and shelled things.
A low table surrounded by seating cushions and set for three had been set up in one corner, where it was surrounded on two sides by the tanks. As always, Betra had gone all out. There were flowers and a large bottle of shel on the table.
I applauded the setup. “This is a great place for dinner! What a terrific idea.”
He looked happy I approved. “It would have been better if I’d thought of this months ago, when the tanks were all full.”
Oses wandered to the tanks to peer at the amazing sea life swimming around. He grinned as a big fish caught a small one and chowed down right in front of his face. “Stunning.”
Betra laughed as he guided me to my seat, making sure I faced the tanks. “I hear we lost half the stock that way. No one knew what liked to eat what. They still haven’t figured it out in most cases.”
“Big fish eat little fish,” was my verdict. “To me, that would be the basic rule of thumb. Are we going to devour their brothers in front of them?”
“Just the lobsters. And ronka steaks. It’s – what did she call it? Surf and turf.” Betra turned to the small portable warmer that must have come from the kitchen. “I got the idea from Katrina when I asked for romantic dinner suggestions.”
“I haven’t tried lobster,” Oses said, frowning slightly as I took the lid off the tray Betra gave me. “It looks buggy to me. All those legs.”
“They taste better than they look,” Betra told him.
I eyed my dinner with delight. In addition to a generous portion of grilled ronka and the lobster was a baked potato swimming in wedi herb sauce. Divine.
Oses poured the shel while Betra got two more trays from the unit and sat down. “I’ll be impressed if you eat all that,” the Nobek teased me.
“With all the training I’m doing? My appetite is off the rails these days,” I laughed as I cracked open a lobster claw. “I’m working calories off faster than I can take them in. The nutrition guy you sent me to keeps having to adjust for it.”
“I’m seeing a big change. You’ve come far fast,” Betra acknowledged. He watched Oses gingerly take a small bite of lobster. “Can you handle it?”
The Nobek’s expression had said plainly that he expected to be disgusted by the shellfish. His face smoothed out as he chewed. “Not bad. It just looks hideous.”
I was amused at big, bad Oses getting grossed out. “I never thought you’d be squeamish about anything.”
“You never found yourself crashed on a swamp planet with nothing to eat but creatures that looked a lot like this. Those tasted like a Tragoom’s unwiped ... well, we are supposed to be having a romantic dinner, so I won’t finish my description. I survived on those things for a month before my squad found me.”
I laughed. Betra grinned and asked, “Where were you that you had to eat nasty bugs?”
“One of the moons orbiting Trag. I was part of a squadron sent to routinely bomb the Tragoom home planet. One of their unmanned defensive drones shot me down.” Oses rolled his eyes at the memory. “Dumb rookie pilot mistake. I was so embarrassed. I almost avoided rescue to hide my shame when it finally showed up.”
I was surprised. “I thought the Galactic Council of Planets made the Tragoom home system a no-fly zone for member worlds. What were you doing attacking them?”
“This was before they placed the ban. I was very, very young when I flew raids.” He swallowed the last of his lobster. I guess it agreed with him after all once he got past its appearance.
The rest of our dinner passed like that, with us sharing stories from our younger days, teasing each other, sharing thoughts. We laughed a lot. Betra and I had our sentimental moments. We talked about Anrel, how fast she was growing, and about her future.
From there, we went to the promenade. A few Kalquorians from something Betra referred to as an ancestral warrior appreciation society gave a presentation. They told stories about the great fighters from the Empire’s history. Where my Kalquorian language skills failed, Betra and Oses filled in the blanks. The group even performed an old tribal dance from long ago, one the ancestors used to do just before battle. It was mostly stomping, yelling, and slapping the hell out of each other in a furious floor-shaking rhythm. The members of the crew who watched seemed to like it a lot, yelling with the performers.
“You call this a dance?” I whispered to Betra, wincing as palms cracked hard across fierce, set faces.
“I like what you and the other women do a bit better,” he grinned. “But it’s really feminine compared to this.”
So that’s why Kalquorian men don’t dance like Plasians and almost every other citizen of the known worlds. It looks too sissy compared to how they think they should present themselves. Maybe if I promised to slap the fuck out of Betra, he’d get on the dance floor with me. I’ll have to ask.
When the presentation was done, we wandered around for about an hour. We window shopped, grinned at the happy sounds spilling from the dance club, and grinned even bigger at the cries that came from the pleasure club when its black door opened to admit or expel patrons. Mostly we talked as we had at dinner. Nothing profound happened, but it was still an amazing night out with my guys.
We finally ended up at my quarters again. Betra had already had some bohut delivered in anticipation of our return. We opened it, with the two men carefully measuring how much ration they had left for the day. The three of us settled on my lounger, me happily sandwiched between those gorgeous muscled bodies.
Betra smiled at me. “You never asked why we were having a special night out,” he said.
“I figured it was for my hard work training. I am due for another treat, right?”
“I get the reports tomorrow,” Oses said. “Although I am pleased with your progress and Nobek Idow always compliments your blade work. I still need to hear from Resan about how you’ve done with him the past two weeks.”
As always, the Dramok physical trainer’s name made me pull a face. I pushed thoughts of him away. “So this isn’t my reward night? What is it all about then?”
Betra swirled his drink in his glass, looking moody all of the sudden. “It’s about taking advantage of the time we have left. We’re counting down pretty fast now.”
“I know.” I sighed to be reminded. “That’s been on my mind a lot too.”
Oses had whatever emotions he felt locked away so they didn’t show, but he swallowed his drink in one gulp. He set the glass on the table in front of us and rubbed my leg. “My time with you is cut shorter still. With those enemy ships showing up twice, I have to be on duty more than usual. Betra’s suggestion to make every second meaningful makes sense to me. I want us to enjoy as much as we can while we are still three.”
Ugh. We were starting our goodbyes already. It made my chest tight. At the same time, I appreciated that they thought I was worth so much effort.
“You two need to know what you mean to me,” I said. “You’ve each saved my life and my sanity at some point. I wouldn’t have survived without you.”
“You don’t give yourself enough credit, pet,” Oses told me. “You have more strength than you know. And you get stronger every day.”
I shook my head. “It’s not just that you’ve been my protectors. It’s not even that you’ve been my lovers. You’ve been my friends, the kind of friends who drop everything when I need you. Who call me on the dumb things that I’ve done. That’s why you two had better not disappear for good when this ship leaves Kalquor. You’re more than friends or lovers. You’re family to me. Forever.”
Betra’s eyes went bright with unshed tears as he smiled at me. Oses’ grip on my leg tightened. He leaned over and gave me kiss on the cheek.
The Nobek’s voice was lower than usual, as if he had trouble dredging it up. “You will not lose us, no matter how far away our travels go. We cannot remain your lovers once you take a clan. But you will always be a part of us, and if we are needed, we will come to you and Anrel.”
Betra nodded. “Coming to the end is every bit as hard as I thought it would be. But I wouldn’t have traded one second, Shalia.” He barked a sudden laugh. “I wish many parts of it weren’t as challenging as they were for you. Those times I would have been glad to skip.”
I wiped the moisture escaping my eyes and managed to laugh. “Yeah, the whole abduction thing, then the It ... let’s not do those parts again.”
Betra helped me rub the tears away. “Don’t cry. You’ve got a wonderful future ahead of you. As for us, Oses and I have each other. Not only that, with you I feel I have loved a lifetime’s worth in these few short months.”
I didn’t want to waste our precious hours with mourning. I could cry my eyes out later, when I was on Kalquor and they were headed back to Earth. Besides, I knew they wouldn’t cut me off like Clan Dusa had. Even if I didn’t have Betra and Oses every day of my life, I would still have them. I wasn’t going to lose them forever.
Pretending that would be enough, I stood and held out my hands to the two men who had seen me through so much. “Enough with this sentimental shit. Let’s get in my bed and make more memories.”