He removed a black-sleeved
tunic from its hanger in her closet and tugged it over his head as he continued to speak. The action muffled his words, but
not quite enough. “All I’m saying is, if we control it, it’s
on our terms. Let’s just do it and get it over with.” The conversation had been going downhill already and he
knew that last sentence was a mistake as soon as it left his mouth, but it was too late. He glanced at her as she emerged
from the bathroom, semi-clothed, green sparks shooting from her eyes.
“Just get it over with? Nice, John.” She reached into her closet for her own uniform. “That
ought to be very romantic.”
“How romantic can it be with other people watching?” With her back toward him his eyes wandered
down her body, currently clad in a lacy pink bra and matching bikini panties. It was almost a shame she ever had to wear more
than that. Not that he’d want everyone to see her the way he saw her, but still, a damned shame to disservice a figure
like hers with these ugly uniforms.
She spun back around before he could adjust his gaze. One elegant eyebrow cocked mockingly upwards. “Enjoying
Sighing in exasperation, he admitted the indisputable. “As a matter of fact, I was.” He zipped his
tunic, adjusting the collar for comfort. “As a matter of fact, I ogle your body every chance I get. You have some problem
She sat on the edge of the bed and began pulling on her trousers. “Just wondering if you ever think about
anything else, that’s all.”
Good God, is she PMS-ing or something? He did know better than to ask that aloud but he couldn’t stop his own sarcasm. “I didn’t
notice you thinking about anything else last night.”
She slipped one foot into a boot. “That was last night,” she snapped. Her voice was elevating more than she meant it to; she made herself lower it by one octave and a few decibels.
Picking up her other boot, she continued, “And that was private. You weren’t trying to get me to give a public
“Oh for God’s sake, Helena!” He rolled his eyes in annoyance. “We’re talking about
a kiss. One little kiss!” He waved an index finger at her. “I wasn’t planning on ripping off your clothes,
bending you over my desk and inviting everyone to watch.”
She sniffed with exaggerated primness. “Charming. Resort to crudeness now.”
John sighed again, rubbing a hand across his face. He attempted to phrase his next remarks in more polite terms
than he was thinking them. “I’m sorry…Look, all I’m trying to say is,” his tone betrayed the
effort of forced composure, “I believe at this point we can probably count on one hand the number of people who don’t
know we sleep together.” He tried to be matter-of-fact. “It won’t take long for gossip about Sandra’s
report to make the rounds. Meanwhile, I assure you that my staff knows and so does yours. They’ve found me in your quarters
or you in mine too many times, too many nights and mornings for us to be having ‘meetings’. And I guarantee you
the people in the laundry department have known since the beginning…unless of course they can think of other explanations
for the state of our sheets and why your panties get mixed in with my underwear.”
‘That one went too far, Koenig. Now she’s embarrassed.’ He watched her turn away from him and pull on her own tunic, trying to figure out
how to fix what he’d just said. He hadn’t meant to upset her with any of this. When he’d first broached
the topic he meant to be funny. His voice went to a placating note. “Honey…”
Helena cut him off. “If everyone knows so much, then I can’t imagine why they need to see anything, can you?” ‘That was a little icy, Helena. He’s
only stating facts, and you know it.’ She was about to say something more conciliatory, but he’d had enough.
“Judging by the ridiculousness of this discussion, I’m assuming there won’t be anything for
anyone to see for a day or two.” He didn’t sound especially angry,
But now she was angry all over again. “If that’s what you want, John, fine.”
“Fine,” he replied, now angry because she was. He fastened
his belt quickly and retrieved his commlock from the coffee table where it had been tossed the night before. Striding toward
the door, he called over his shoulder, “I’ll call you later. Maybe you’ll be in a better mood.”
She didn’t turn to look at him. The last thing he heard before her door swooshed shut behind him was,
“Do whatever you want, John.”
John paused outside her door. He almost let himself back in. This was not the way he wanted to start the morning.
Days on Alpha could be tough enough without idiotic quarrels weighing on his mind.
He hesitated a moment longer before deciding instead to head for work. He hadn’t said anything the way
he’d meant to and he didn’t know what to say right now to smooth things over. Hopefully he’d think more
clearly after an injection of bad Alpha coffee.
Helena almost went after him. This was not how she wanted to begin her shift. Though she and John could go quite
a few rounds if they disagreed professionally, they seldom argued personally and when they did, it wasn’t typically
She took a couple of steps, then stopped. She’d overreacted and she knew it, and she was too irritated
with herself right now to risk talking. She’d only end up sounding like she was still mad. Sighing, she scooped her
commlock off the coffee table and snapped it to her belt. She’d give them both time to calm down and maybe see if he
was available for lunch.
Sitting at his desk, nursing the third cup of lousy coffee, his aggravation level was not improving. The whole
thing was his fault and he knew it. He’d come off sounding like he was trying to push her to do something that would
make her uncomfortable…and he never wanted to do that to her, never wanted to make her feel that way. What made it worse
was that last night had been so enjoyable.
Last night she’d been so affectionate and…frisky…
The evening had begun with her briefing him, after dinner in her quarters, on some additional details she’d
learned from Sandra regarding the recent incidents on Retha…intimate details that neither Sandra nor she were planning
on entering into the main database.
He listened with interest and a bit of alarm and when she’d finished, asked hesitantly, “So you’re
saying that right in front of everyone, we…”
“No,” she shook her head, “no, not at all. We evidently possessed enough decorum to retire
to our sleeping area first…and then we…” She paused. “Rather
loudly, apparently. And more than once.”
He cleared his throat. “Well, I guess it’s a good thing no one but Sandra knows…or remembers
“True,” she nodded agreement, “though I think there’s more than enough in her general
report for everyone to have plenty to speculate about.”
“I could make her entire report ‘Eyes-Only’,” he offered. He could tell she felt self-conscious
about this new information. Truth be told, so did he.
Helena gave him an appreciative smile, but shook her head. “And have everyone wonder if you were trying
to hide something about the situation on Retha? That isn’t the way you do things and I wouldn’t ask you to.”
She sighed, bracing herself for the coming whirlwind of gossip. There was so much conjecture about them already. They’d
played the game for months, not precisely denying but never quite admitting to being a couple. A select group of friends knew
the truth, but they hadn’t gone public, per se. She realized, they both realized, the end of the game had probably been
Slipping his arms around her waist he drew her against him. “It is interesting, don’t you think,
that even our forty thousand years ago selves are together?”
She kissed his bare chest - he was wearing just his pajama bottoms - then lightly kissed his mouth. “Almost
like it’s inevitable.”
“Maybe it is.” His lips lowered to hers in a much deeper kiss than the one before.
Her mouth moved down his neck. She murmured against his skin, “From what Sandra had to say, I don’t
think this is exactly the way we did it way back when.”
He chuckled and flashed her a roguish look.
She returned his gaze questioningly.
“No,” he agreed. “I think it sounds like ‘way back when’ was more like this.”
She was only wearing panties and one of his t-shirts; it took him a matter of seconds to remove both. In one fast action,
he flipped her, naked, up into a fireman’s carry on his shoulder and carried her to the bed. Tossing her atop the covers,
he stripped off his pajamas and joined her, interrupting her flow of laughter with his mouth and tongue. His roaming hands
turned what was left of her amusement into gasps of pleasure, bodies swiftly uniting in a familiar arching rhythm.
Many minutes and several position changes later, she lay sated in his arms, fingertips teasing through his chest
hair. “You look like you’re analyzing something,” she observed.
He smiled fondly, running his hand over the smooth skin of her back. “Since I don’t remember, I’m
just wondering whether your Cro-Magnon counterpart was quite as…verbally expressive as you just were.”
She laughed. “I wouldn’t talk, Conan. You were doing a fair amount of expressing yourself.”
“Ah,” he acknowledged, kidding her, “but I was only doing it because you were doing it. I
didn’t want you to feel silly with all that screaming, ‘oh, John, oh, yes, yes, right there, harder, harder, faster,
yes!’…That’s the only reason I said anything.” His eyes twinkled at her.
Giggling against his side at his breathy imitation, she questioned, “Oh really? So all that ‘oh,
God, Helena, yeah, baby, oh yeah, oh you like that don’t you, oh yeah, baby’, was just so I wouldn’t feel
He smirked at her throaty rendition of him and held her tighter, brushing his lips across her forehead. “I
guess it could be because you make me crazy in bed,” he admitted.
They kissed and snuggled and slept. It had been a very enjoyable night.
He smiled at the memory, then sighed as his mind returned to the unsettled morning. He should never have brought
it up, should never have suggested they move things along by forcing the issue of The First Public Kiss Pool themselves.
It was true that gossip about them had reached a near frenzied pitch. Rumors practically stampeded through Alpha,
and were likely to grow worse once Sandra’s general report hit the database. It was irritating and occasionally intrusive,
but understandable, too. They were all sorely challenged to find ways to stay entertained. The situation had never turned
John still thought he was right that the way to handle things at this stage was to affirm the obvious, do the
deed and move on. If they chose the time and place themselves they’d feel in control of the situation and less like
they were being stalked…and then that idiotic pool would finally be over. A new one would be invented about something
and someone he had no doubt, but at least it would be new.
But he hadn’t thought things through before he spoke. Though she harbored little shyness in private, she
was far more restrained than he was in public. She had a level of natural reserve that he lacked and he’d made her feel
as if he was trying to violate that. It discomforted him to admit he might have been trying to do exactly that; not violate
her restraint, but nudge it…yes, nudge was a nicer word.
What he should have said, what he should have explained was that he was tired of the status quo. He was more
openly tactile than she. He could tone it down when he consciously thought about it, but it was his natural proclivity and
he didn’t often think about it. He didn’t want to think about it with her anymore. He knew the moment was coming
when he was going to slip an arm around her in the middle of Main Mission, or give her a kiss when he walked into Medical.
It had nearly happened several times already, but he’d always caught himself. But it was going to happen, and it wouldn’t
be premeditated, and it wouldn’t be meant to embarrass her…and he didn’t want to take a raft of shit for
it after the fact. Maybe that sounded too combative, but it was how he felt.
Another uncomfortable idea crossed his mind; that he might have more in common with his caveman alter ego than
he’d like to admit…because the simple crux of the matter for him was that she was his and he was tired of pretending
she wasn’t. She wasn’t his property. He felt no urge to put an identifying tattoo on her ass. But she was…‘Go ahead, Koenig…form the thought’…she was…His Woman…and
he wanted everyone to know. He was as proud of the fact that a woman as amazing and beautiful as she was chose to be with
him as he was of any achievement in his life…and he belonged completely to her. He didn’t care anymore who knew
Really, it was simpler than all that…He loved her. He had no qualms admitting it. If she’d wanted
him to make it as a general announcement to all of Alpha, he would do it….
That was what he should have said.
With a heavy sigh, he tried to focus again on the final reports on Retha, the initial reports on the next star
system…He was supposed to be working, not fixating on his personal life. He would call her later, after she’d
had time to cool off, and he’d had time to think about exactly what he wanted to say so that it would be right this
time. A romantic dinner was very much in order.
The door to his office buzzed. Without looking, he held his commlock over his shoulder and pointed it…and
nothing happened. Slamming the instrument onto his desk, he rose and went to the touchpad. The sliding door admitted Victor,
with Carter fast on his heels, as John strode back to his desk.
“John?” Victor knew with his first glance that something was wrong.
“You okay, mate?” Alan inquired affably. “You’ve been barricaded in here all morning.”
He attempted to keep his tone even and normal. “I’m fine. Just reviewing reports. Some things never
end.” He pointed his commlock at the door to close it; he didn’t feel like dealing with anyone else. Again, nothing
happened. “Dammit!” So much for the pretense at normalcy. Slamming the commlock once more to his desk, he shouted
Alan and Victor exchanged thoughtful frowns. Leaning in toward the older man, Carter whispered, “First
guess...woman trouble.” Victor tilted his head in consideration of the suggestion.
“Commander?” Kano stood beside his desk.
John grabbed the commlock, waving it in David’s general direction. “This goddamned thing has been
malfunctioning all day. None of the codes work. It won’t operate anything it’s supposed to. Fix it. Or get me
a new one.”
Taking the device from Koenig, Kano gave it a cursory glance. “Was Dr. Russell having trouble with it
“What are you talking about?” John snapped at him. “What’s Dr. Russell got to do with
anything? I told you it doesn’t work.”
A smirk of understanding crossed Victor’s face as Kano cleared his throat. “This is Dr. Russell’s
commlock, Commander,” he explained carefully, trying to keep all amusement from his voice. “If her codes are malfunctioning, I’ll program another one for her.” He struggled not
to react to Carter’s chortle in the background. “Your codes won’t work on this one, sir,” he added
Snatching the commlock from Kano’s hand, John turned it to one side. He hadn’t bothered looking
at the thing, just expected it to work as it should and grown steadily more livid every time it failed to do his bidding.
Sure enough, clearly visible on the side where the ID always was: Helena’s
commlock, not his.
Behind him, Alan erupted in a loud guffaw. Victor turned away so his expression went unseen. Kano’s upper
lip was twitching, but he held himself together to inquire, “Was there anything else, Commander?” The lip twitch
became more pronounced.
Glowering, but forcing himself to respond quietly, he said, “No, Kano, thank you. That was all.”
He watched Kano return to his desk, noting the rigidity of the man’s shoulders as he fought to contain
his amusement. Alan was still audibly cackling and Victor had become fascinated by one of the several white plastic chairs
that dotted his office. This day just refused to get better.