(Standard Year 2242)

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Under normal circumstances, most people would be alarmed if a pretty blonde woman entered their abode and shrieked, "I hate this place!"

However, the first occupant of that particular cabin in the cadet's quarters of Starfleet's Academy merely sighed as he looked up from his computer terminal and asked, "Is it 'Hello Pavel - Goodbye Pavel' time already?"

"You mean finally," the other occupant of the room growled without venom as the beautiful blonde flopped down beside him on his bunk. He welcomed her with a sympathetic kiss on the forehead. "Wassa matter, cher?"

"If an attempt is made to stop an absolute embarrassment of a lieutenant from giving incorrect information to this and future generations of cadets," the blonde asked focusing her large purple eyes on him seriously. "Is that insubordination or doing a favor for Starfleet and probably the entire Federation?"

"The way you probably did it?" Chekov muttered, gathering his study supplies. "Insubordination, definitely."

"Goodbye, Pavel," Ruth Valley ordered unsmilingly.

"Have I mentioned how unfair this is?" the Russian replied, retrieving a few data cartridges that needed to be returned.

"Tell it to the librarians, Tovarish," his roommate advised, tossing him a final cartridge.

After the door closed behind him, Ruth snuggled against Del discontentedly. "Do I need this aggravation?"

"Nope," he replied, putting an arm around her as he continued to study the data pad he was holding. "But you gonna put up wit' it, darlin'. Jus' like th' rest of us do."

"Why?" she challenged. "One good reason. Just name one."

Del turned and smiled at her. "'Cause you love this ol' place," he said, brushing loose tendrils of hair away from her face. "If you not love it so much, it not get under your skin so bad."

Ruth made a face at him. "Is that the kind of person you think I am?"

The Cajun grinned. "If you ain't, it pretty sad for me, ain't it, cher?"

Conceding the point, she melted into his kiss with a weary sigh. "I've got to get out of here for a few days... Let's go to the beach. We can buy some food..."

"An' by 'food' you mean 'meat.'"

Ruth didn't bother to confirm this obvious point. "And you can cook for me..."

"Oh, I can, can I?" Del ran a teasing finger up and down her long neck. "An' then maybe you plan to do somet'ing fo' me, non?"

"I'm planning to do..." Ruth smiled as she let her hand run down his thigh. "...Things."

"Yeah?" he returned, kissing the trail his finger had traced.

"Wonderful things," she promised, giving his ear a soft, playful bite.

DelMonde sighed deeply as he pulled away. "That sound so good, darlin', but..."

"But what?" she demanded.

The Cajun shrugged apologetically as he retrieved the data pad he had been reading. "I got to write me a paper."

"No," Valley said, her entire aspect changing as she sat up. "No, no, no, no. Not again. No."

"I not too thrilled 'bout it neither," Del replied mildly.

Ruth crossed her arms. "I'm not writing your fucking paper."

"Did I ask? No, I did not," DelMonde shot back. "So 'less you pokin' 'round in my head jus' like you tell me I not s'posed to do..."

Valley frowned mightily as she ignored this barb. "When is it due?"

Del made a vague gesture as if this was a very unimportant piece of trivia to be asked to recall. "Monday, I t'ink."

"Oy." The Antari rolled her eyes. "Have you even started?"

"Yes," her lover replied defensively.

"How much have you written?"

"I got a title," he said, tilting the data pad towards her.

She read off the small screen, "The Beloved Divine in the Age of the Bonded Diode: The Influence of the Translated Poetry of Jalaladdin Rumi on Trends in Free Verse in Early 20th to Mid 21st Century."

He smiled. "Pretty good start, non?"

Valley narrowed her eyes. "Have you done any actual research?"

He gave her another non-committal shrug. "Pavel pickin' up a few t'ings fo' me right now."

"Oy," Ruth repeated, shaking her head. "And it's due Monday?"

"Uh-huh," he replied, unconcerned.

"And today is Thursday?"

"All the day an' half the night," he confirmed, kissing her neck again.

She pulled back and looked into his eyes sternly. "I am not writing this paper for you."

"Who asked you to?"

Despite the peevish tone creeping into his reply, Del's hands did not retreat from her body. His touch was pure alchemy. Just being near him sent waves of exquisite electricity through her.

"It's cheating," she pronounced, trying to ignore the torrent of need coursing through her senses. "And you are completely capable of doing your own work."

"When you ever written word one fo' me?"

"When 90% of 'your' paper comes from my head..."

"Well, darlin'," he replied, letting his lips brush deliciously against her temple. "I s'posed to read t' get information."

"Read books not read my thoughts, you womprat!" she returned sourly.

"If you not wanna help me," he said, softly biting her shoulder to emphasize the point, "then don't."

"I'm not going to," she informed him resolutely.

"An' I ain't goin' to th' beach wit' you," he replied, turning from her and picking his data pad back up. "'Cause I gotta write this paper. Wit' no help from nobody."

"Womprat," she accused, biting his shoulder less softly to emphasize her point. "You know who else would stand his girlfriend up to do homework?"


"Pavel Chekov."

"Now you th' one bein' a swamprat." He reprimanded her with a voracious kiss, then gave her a firm smack on the backside. "Go on an' get out o' here if you goin'."

"Maybe I will," she replied defiantly.

"Yeah? You do that then."

"Fine. I will."

"Fine. Go."

They lay together, staring fiercely into each other's eyes for several moments.

"I seem to notice you ain't goin' nowhere," the Cajun drawled.

"You've got your hand in my tights," she pointed out.

"Since you got your hand down my pants it jus' seemed fair," he replied before withdrawing. "Go on, then."

"I'm not helping you write this paper," she warned instead of making any move to go.

"Nobody asked you to," he replied diffidently. "But you gonna have to get out o' here so I can concentrate."

"You know what this is?" she accused. "This is sexual blackmail."

"Oh?" His black eyes turned on her dangerously. "Is it?"

Before she could articulate a reply, he put his hand around the back of her neck and pulled her to his lips. As his hands quickly disposed of her uniform, his mind surged into hers with a breath-taking wave of raw power. His need intertwined with hers until they formed a solid column of burning desire. His presence shot through her like candied lightning - sharp as diamonds and sweet as nectar.

And then it was gone.

"Now this," he said, giving her a gentle push that rolled her off the bunk, "is more like sexual blackmail."

"Oh... you...!" she sputtered, furious.

"Don't be callin' me a swamprat again," he warned, casually picking back up his data pad.

"It's womprat, you idiot!" she said, scrambling to her feet.

"That ain't even no real t'ing," he replied dismissively.

"Of all the..." she began wrathfully, excruciatingly torn between the desire to choke him and the desire to cling to him madly. Instead of giving in to either, she angrily snatched her uniform from the bed. "I'm going to take a shower."

"If you wanna," he replied, coolly. "Go ahead."

"A cold one."

"If that what suit you, honey..."

"And then," she said, leveling a stern finger at him. "We're going to have a discussion about mental manipulation."

"If you wanna..."

"A long one," she promised coldly.

"If that th' way you like it..." He smiled at her maddeningly. "An' I know you do."

"Womprat!" she shrieked, throwing her uniform at him before stalking angrily into the bathroom.

*** ** *** ** *** ** *** ** ***

Even when he made her angry - which was often -- Ruth Valley liked taking a shower in Del's cabin. It had such a wonderfully clean, masculine smell to it. As little as she cared for Pavel Chekov, he did great taste in soap. The Russian always managed to have an ample stock of thick bars of a cleanser made at least in part of almond and olive oil and generously scented with wintergreen.

Del hated for her to use it.

"Girl," he'd complained. "Do you t'ink that I wanna be in th' midst of a truly epic - an' I mean, a truly heart-stoppin'ly, mind-blowin'ly, brain-numbin'ly, body-pleasin'ly, soul-satin'ly epic fuck, take in a deep breath an' t'ink, 'Oh, Pavel'?"

"You'll just have to be like Catherine the Great," she'd told him. "And think of your duty to Mother Russia."

She frowned in annoyance at the memory of the heart-stopping, mind-blowing, brain-numbing, body-pleasing, soul-satisfying sex they'd had after that conversation.

"Womprat," she concluded, lathering up liberally with Pavel Chekov's wintergreen soap.

She could hear him start to sing inside her head before the sound was actually audible over the deluge of the shower.

Joli Blon, ma chere 'tit fille
Gardez donc quoi t'aprés faire
Joli Blon, tu croyais Il avait juste toi dedans le pays

Eh a ha! Eh a ha!
Joli Blon ma 'tit fille criminelle
Joli Blon, tu m'as laisse moi tout seul

"I'll 'criminelle' him," she muttered.

Ruth considered yelling something about how he ought to be working on his stupid paper, but she could tell he was thinking about it. Del's music always somehow managed to forge a gate in what was normally the pretty formidable wall of her shielding. It was as hard to completely ignore him as it was to not listen for the strains of "Jolie Blonde" wafting over the sound of the shower. His thoughts shaped the music inside her head. As he played, she could tell he was sorting through his ideas.

"Ideas about how to get me to do this paper for him," she decided, frowning.

Del had switched to a song in Turkish.

Asik olmayali uzun zaman oladu/ It's been long time since I last felt like I was loved
Ele ele tutusmayi unuttuk sandim/ I thought I had forgot how to hold a hand in mine
Istedim ama bi turlu olmadi/ I wished for love but my wish wouldn't come true
Dogru zamani bekliyorum uzun zamandir/ It's been a long time that I've been waiting for the right time
Gec olsun ama guc olmasin istedim ben/ I don't care if this love isn't happening on time, I just wanted so much to for love to come again

A huge lump formed in Ruth's throat. She knew Noel DelMonde as completely as one person could know another. She knew him for what he was - arrogant, ill-tempered, impatient, insolent. And yet, she also knew and never failed to be moved by his deep, hidden face - the face of a lost, lovesick child, amazed and grateful that the two of them had managed to find each other.

The poet Rumi's words came from his mind:

Your love lifts my soul from the body to the sky
And you lift me up out of the two worlds.
I want your sun to reach my raindrops,
So your heat can raise my soul upward like a cloud.

She tried to push the words away and remember why she was mad at him, but the sweet words of the Turkish poet whispered into her innermost ear:

In your light I learn how to love.
In your beauty, how to make poems.
You dance inside my chest,
where no one sees you,
but sometimes I do,
and that sight becomes this art.
how very close
is your soul with mine
I know for sure
everything you think
goes through my mind
I am with you
now and doomsday
not like a host
caring for you
at a feast alone
With you I am happy
all the times
the time I offer my life
or the time
you gift me with your love
Offering my life
is a profitable venture
each life I give
you pay in turn
a hundred lives again
And just the moment
when you are all confused
leaps forth a voice
hold me close
I'm in love and
I'm always yours

There was no trace of pique or annoyance left in her when he opened the door to the shower and took her greedily into his arms. She couldn't stop herself from laughing as they kissed and she mentally quoted back to him:

Suddenly the drunken sweetheart appeared out of my door.
He drank a cup of ruby wine and sat by my side.
Seeing and holding the lockets of his hair
My face became all eyes, and my eyes all hands.

They melted into each other eagerly, their minds joining as quickly and as easily as their bodies. Inside her, Del's voice thrummed with Rumi's words:

When it's cold and raining,
you are more beautiful.
And the snow brings me
even closer to your lips.
The inner secret, that which was never born,
you are that freshness, and I am with you now.
I can't explain the goings,
or the comings. You enter suddenly,
and I am nowhere again.
Inside the majesty.

The sensation of him inside her was certainly as majestic as anything she'd ever known. She let her thoughts quote back to him:

There is a smile and a gentleness
inside when I learned your name.
Teach me how to kiss. On the ground
a spread blanket, a flame that's caught
and burning well, cumin seeds browning.
I am inside all of this with my soul.

His caress was simultaneously wild and tender as he responded with:

There are some kisses we want with
our whole lives, the touch of
spirit on the body. Seawater
begs the pearl to break its shell.
And the lily, how passionately
it needs some wild darling! At
night, I open the window and ask
the moon to come and press its
face against mine. Breathe into
me. Close the language- door and
open the love window. The moon
won't use the door, only the window.

As they rocked together passionately, she could feel him still playing with his idea for his paper. It wasn't in the top of his thoughts, but was still there as an undercurrent - a huge, expansive picture.

The twenty-first century rolled and tumbled in his thoughts. Anarchy bumped shoulders with tenderness. Events and people collided in a wild dance, then spun off in a thousand directions. Molecules joined then split in catastrophic explosions. Man joined with woman. Man joined with man. Man killed man. Christian joined with Muslim. Muslim joined with Jew. Suicide bombers burst into flame. Lovers became towers that exploded into infernos. A plaintive Turkish ballad played beneath it all.

Ask yakar, yakar, yakar./ Love makes you burn
Yaralar yakar, yakar sonra askla sarar./It hurts. It burns, it burns and then it wraps one with love
Ask yakar, keser, bicer. /Love burns. Love blisters.
oper, koklar, gecer yillar gecse de ask yakar./ It kisses. It breathes. The years pass, and still love makes you burn

Ask yakar./ Love makes you burn
"Nazli ile Mustafa, biri ask digeri asik./ Nazli and Mustafa -- the one is love, the other is a lover
Biri kul, oldu digeri bulbul,/ One of then become ash and the other a nightingale
Dikene bogdular bu sevdayi./ They made this love drowned with nettles
Biri silah oldu, digeri mermi,/ The one became a gun the another one a bullet
Alnindan vurdular bu sevdayi./ They shot this love in its forehead
Mustafa'yi el aldi,/ Strangers took Mustafa
Nazli kizi sel aldi./ The flood took Nazli girl
Hayat oldu zindan,/ Life became prison
Hayat oldu figan./ Life become groan
Bir ask bu kadar mi caglar?/ Does love babble this much?
Bir asik bu kadar mi aglar?/ Does a love cry this much?
Bunlarinki ask ise "bizimki ne?" dedi sevenler./ If theirs is love then what is ours? the lovers asked.

Ah Nazli, Ah Mustafa/Oh Nazli! Oh Mustafa!
Yandiniz, kor oldunuz./You burnt. You became cinder.
Done done bir oldunuz./By turning you become one
Elmalar yagdi ya gokten,/Then apples rained from the heaven
Siz coktan masal oldunuz./Long time ago you become a history

Asik bir aglar, bir guler./Love cries and smiles
Kalbine gomer yasar./It buries itself into hearts and lives
Uzar gece, gecmez gunler/The night becomes long. The days don't pass
Asik askini arar./The lover searches for his/her love

Asik bir kuser, bir sever./The lover becomes angry and then
Daglari deler, asar./love breaks. Love crosses the mountains
Sevdigine kavusunca,/When he/she finds her/his lover
Sel olur cosar, tasar./He/she becomes the flood. Love rejoices and boils over.
Ask yakar, yakar, yakar./ Love makes you burn
Yaralar yakar, yakar sonra askla sarar./It hurts. It burns, it burns and then it wraps one with love
Ask yakar, keser, bicer. /Love burns. Love blisters
oper, koklar, gecer yillar gecse de ask yakar./ It kisses. It breathes. The years pass, and still love makes you burn.

"It's too much," Ruth mummered into Del's ear. "It's too big."

"Am I?" he replied, impudently thrusting.

"Not you, idiot, the paper," she scolded breathlessly. "It's a paper, not a poem."

"It s'posed to be a paper 'bout a poem," he countered.

"It's nothing now but a huge, huge, HUGE..." She gasped involuntarily. "...idea."

Del's persistent problem in doing all sorts of academic writing was that he tended to approach everything like it was a creative composition. Instead of starting with simple, clean, reasonable assertions and expanding them into modest, rational, well-supported arguments, he preferred to try to encompass vast expanses of thought and crystallize them into a beautifully stark, but rich, metaphorical expression. He managed to get by as well as he did, she knew, because sometimes - almost miraculously - he succeeded.

"Choose the poem first," she advised between gasps.

Without hesitation, he chose:

O Love, O pure deep Love, be here, be now,
Be all - worlds dissolve into your
stainless endless radiance,
Frail living leaves burn with your brighter
than cold stares -
Make me your servant, your breath, your core.

"Now simplify and support," she said, giving him access to the well-stocked library of politico-social, literary, and musical critique stored in her brain. "Simplify and support."

She experienced undeniable pleasure - not simply from the way he was expertly caressing her body towards orgasm - but also from watching him index through her offering of intellectual riches with the same unerring instinct for power, beauty, grace, and precision that made him a wonderful poet and a superlative engineer.

As they came to a shuddering, vertigo-inducing climax together, his brain held all the elements he would need to quickly produce a very provocative Neo-Foucautian critique of the contrasting interpretive stances of 21th century translators when dealing with overlapping religious and homoerotic imagery in Rumi's poetry.

"Je t'aime, ma chere," he said, tenderly smoothing the wet streams of hair from her forehead and kissing her. "Je t'aime."

"You'd better credit me for the help I gave you," she warned breathlessly, having to lean against him to remain upright. "Although I have no idea how the hell you'd footnote this."

He smiled and held her tight. Rumi's words echoed through her brain in his voice:

When you find yourself with the Beloved, embracing for one breath,
In that moment you will find your true destiny.
Alas, don't spoil this precious moment
Moments like this are very, very rare.

She was held in the sweet afterglow of the loving thought as he withdrew and gently left her sitting on the bench built into the back wall of the shower. As she watched her marvelous lover towel himself dry, Ruth shook herself enough to be able to postulate, "You're not planning to credit me, are you?"

"I t'ink I go t' th' sickbay an' pick me up some sunblock," Del said, running his fingers through his hair to style it roughly into place. "Keheil or no - I sure not wanna be sunburned in th' spot where I got burned th' las' time I went t' your house."

"You are a womprat," she informed him. "A complete and total womprat."

He gave her a lop-sided grin as he wrapped the towel around his waist and headed out to select a clean uniform from his dresser. "Remind me again, cher. Do shrimp count as meat fo' you?"

"Aaaarrrgh!" Ruth shook her fists at the ceiling and demanded, "Do I need this aggravation?"

Everything inside and around her echoed with an answer of, "Yes."

The End

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