The Thing They Weren't Talking About

by Cheryl Petterson and Mylochka

(Standard Year 2246)

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"I'm in sickbay recovering from some stupid plague we brought back with us from a stupid re-supply of stupid Arachne Station. Our favorite hands-on healer is working her cute little butt off and McCoy is being stupid about it. So I get to be a guinea pig for my own labs. Feh! I don't know why they gotta pick on me. Kamikaze's got it, and he won't let Big-Shot-Keheil heal him, despite the fact that they've been schtupping like insane bunny rabbits since she got here so I'd think his blood would provide a better sample - but what do I know? I'm just a fucking Haven-class chemist..."

The voice of Daffy Gollub went on and Jeremy Paget walked softly across the cabin he shared with Noel DelMonde to stand behind the engineer's seated form. Del started - a first for him - then reached out and quickly stopped the replay on the communication screen. Paget quickly realized that his roommate had been so absorbed in his misery that he hadn't heard or sensed Jer's entrance into their quarters. The Hood had left Kottman's Glory a few hours before and had stopped at a nearby colony for a much-deserved if brief leave, Del and Jeremy still not having talked about The Thing They Weren't Talking About. Jeremy had hoped they wouldn't have to, but if N.C. was still replaying the message that had started the whole thing...

He sighed, and placed a comforting hand on Del's shoulder.

"It's not like we didn't know it was gonna happen when she got assigned to the Enterprise," he murmured.

Del scowled, scrubbing his hands over his eyes. "Yeah, Kam constitutionally unable t' keep his hands off someone who beautiful an' alien," DelMonde responded.

Jeremy winced. "Not kind, N.C.," he said.

"But true, non, mon ami?"

Rather than answer, Paget stated, "It's not like you own her."

"An' you not own him," Del returned. "That make it hurt less?"

Jeremy's reply was a quiet, "It has to."

Del swiveled in his chair, staring up at Paget's sorrowful face.

"Yeah? An' how that workin' out fo' ya?"

Paget sighed. "You know exactly how, N.C."

Del snorted. "Worth shit," he said succinctly.

"But it's the only thing that gets me through it," was Jeremy's simple response. "It has been for years."

Silence fell heavily between them, both lost in memory and sorrow and aching grief. Jeremy felt his throat tightening, a lump forming, and tried to take a deep breath. In his mind, he began forming a hoplesss, sure-to-be doomed plan, calling up words to the effect that they had twenty-four hours of leave and really shouldn't waste it. It wouldn't be enough time for a proper 'testing the warp drive' adventure, but...

DelMonde gave a sudden, incongruous grin. "Look at th' pair o' us," he said. "Mopin' 'round here like pathetic losers."

Paget blinked. Readin' my mind again, are you. babe? he thought, and got an unvoiced Like I help it when you blastin' emotion at me? Then he, too, began to grin. "Wallowing in our misery," he agreed aloud.

"Wishin' fo' somet'ing we both know never gonna be."

"Instead of accepting what we've got, however little that may be."

Del paused, then stood, putting his arms around Paget's neck, touching his forehead to the TerAfrican's. "'Leas' you know he never gonna settle down wit' no one else," he said sadly.

Jeremy's smile was heartbreakingly rueful. "And at least you know she loves you."

"An' we not goin' on no damn test run," Del said decisively.

"We're not?" Paget returned.

"We both gonna find some willin' beauty to fuck our brains out wit'."

"We are?"

Del's grin returned and widened. "An' this time, it not even have t' be each other."

The End

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