There were a few happenings this week that seem – in hindsight – to have been Universe-given wake-up slaps to take care and provide self care. Not in a bad way, and thankfully not that hard, but still. Definitely a couple of brain dustings.
Last weekend was good. No big, extra chores and no extra outings. And that arm stretch I'd found was still helping reduce nerve pain in my left elbow to an amount letting me almost function normally, too.
Then on Monday morning, only about an hour after drop-off, the school called and asked me to come pick up my 6 year old. She'd told her teacher she felt like throwing up, and the sweet lady who runs our school's front desk said my little one was pale and shaking. My youngest has been dealing with anxiety since the pandemic started (her teacher has been so amazing and understanding with the kids in her class), and Monday morning her anxiety monster got a hold of her and gave her a stomach-turning, heart-racing, tear-inducing attack in the middle of class. She was fine once we got home, and over the rest of the day we brain stormed some new coping skills which got teacher approval for becoming part of class. Things have been going pretty well for her for the rest of this week, and my youngest now has key word sentences and a comfort fidget. Total win!
On Tuesday I was talking on the phone with my uncle, who also has chronic pain, and I realized (through a bit of nudging from him) that I don't have to "earn" feeling better. We have benefits right now through my husband's work and I can go for a physio treatment when my arms aren't working. I can also go for an extra chiropractor appointment to deal with the new issues my neck has given me during the past few months. I currently feel like I was beat up, due to going to both a physio and a chiro appointment one day apart, but feeling post-treatment "bruised" (because of muscle tension release) is a lot better than the nerve and muscle spasm pain.
So, because the Universe decided I needed these three reminders, please take this blog post as your reminder that self care isn't some big, grand thing. It can be discovering you have fifteen minutes of unexpected time to enjoy the first sips of your morning coffee and actually using those fifteen minutes to enjoy your coffee. It can be creating a free day by not filling up a day off with chores, or taking an extra day away from your regular duties to get all the chores done that have been piling up.
Self care can be giving yourself new coping strategies, remembering you can ask for help if you need to, reaching out to an understanding ear when there isn't help available, or binging your favorite shows or books for however many hours are needed until you can engage reality again. For me, whatever I can do across a moment to recharge my battery, accomplish in a day to refill my spoon count, and/or use in a heartbeat to balance out the dark monsters in my mind with some light, those are my best self care... as long as I remember to use them. (Reminder to self: use them!) I hope you have a good weekend! :)
Leo pushed back from his desk. He needed some air and his personal cabin had gotten very small during the research he’d been doing. The bland walls surrounding his desk and bed broke for the closed door to the main hall and then for the open door giving a view into his clean, the mirror above the sink taps reflecting clearly the nausea he was feeling. His name and Trevor’s were announced on the intercom before he had a chance to stand up, and the ship-wide message requested both of them to the bridgeside immediately.
Leo quickly changed back into his uniform and hurried to the bridge. The bridgeside was Captain’s private and was segregated from every other place on board. Leo waited on the bridge, outside the bridgeside door, for Trevor. They’d both been called so were required to enter the Captain’s private together.
It was a challenge not to pull nervously at his sleeves as the minutes stretched out. In his head, Leo tried to come up with good arguments for not registering his and Trevor’s relationship yet. It was the only reason he could think of that they’d both be called on.
Trevor entered the bridge, looking even more worried than Leo (if such a thing was even possible) and took up her station beside him as their arrival was announced through the bridgeside intercom. But she didn’t stand too close beside him. They walked in when the door opened, Trevor first as she was the senior member of their scan team, and then stood awkwardly side by side as the door closed behind them. They were facing two people, Captain and… a stranger?
Captain was sitting at her wide desk, the wall of transglass windows behind her seat providing the same planetary horizon view as on the bridge. Removed equipment for system interfaces now controlled by the upgraded desktop had left even more extra room, which was currently filled by a large plant and a small, separate work station, but none of the holes in the walls from removed securement bolts had been covered or filled, and the sterilpoly flooring had mismatched new patches where removed equipment had left gaps. Leo remembered Captain had ordered the small work station, but Dods, Chief Navigator, had put the plant in here to try and add something with colors other than the grey floor and walls or the dark beige uniforms everyone wore.
With silvered hair cut short, skin a lighter shade than her uniform, and no jewelry to be seen on her person, Captain Tallishen Os matched her bridgeside decor perfectly. Her shipside decorating didn’t hold function over fashion, there simply wasn’t a ‘fashion’ part included. The lack of decoration in the surroundings made the colorful, expensive, and extensively flamboyant outfit the pale-skinned, bald stranger was wearing appear so out of place as to look ridiculous.
“Explain this,” Captain ordered Trevor and Leo, tossing the handheld she’d had in her lap onto her desk and not bothering with introductions.
As the senior member of their team, Trevor stepped forward and picked up the thin frame holding an active holoscreen. She scrolled it and then handed it to Leo, a question on her face he didn’t know how to answer yet.
“This is the scan report from our most recent shift,” Leo said quietly, only to Trevor.
“Louder, please, for the rest of us,” Captain ordered.
“This is Dockland’s ReadScan report from our most recent shift,” Trevor said clearly, setting the handheld on top of Captain’s desk.
“What about this?” the stranger asked, pointing at another active handheld on the desk. Trevor picked it up and looked at it, scrolling slowly. Her eyebrows were pinched together when she looked at Leo. He stepped closer and read over her shoulder.
“This is our scan report from five cycles ago, just after we arrived in this orbit, but…” Trevor’s voice trailed off as she scrolled the report. Leo completely agreed with her confusion. He picked up the handheld Trevor had just set down so they could compare the data side by side. “These are identical?” Trevor asked.
“That’s the same question I had,” Captain said. She frowned up at the stranger when he inhaled to speak, her quick hand gesture stopping him from interrupting the collaboration between her two Analysts. His face reddened from the pressure of unsaid words building up angrily behind pinched lips.
“No, wait, this says it’s ours, and has our time and info stamps, but look,” Leo tapped a finger to the screen he was holding, highlighting what he wanted Trevor to see.
“That’s not the reading we had a few hours ago,” Trevor said. “I remember because you pointed out how high the reading we got was. How high it should be in this report, but isn’t.”
“This has the correct date and time stamp, but it isn’t the scan report from our last shift,” Leo said, looking at Captain after a glance at the stranger.
“So what happened to our report?” Trevor asked Leo, and then also looked across the desk to Captain.
“We were expecting you would tell us,” the stranger accused, glaring at them.
Leo and Trevor scrolled through the identical reports again, seeking something else they could add from more than thirty seconds of observation. Some of the spacing in the corrupted report wasn’t a perfect match, indicating whoever had copied it hadn’t had access to an original file. That appeared to be good, as in at least it looked like Dockland’s new control systems hadn’t been corrupted into the records. But their latest report being a forge of their old one implied the live part of the system was corrupted.
“Have anyone else’s scans of their most recent shifts had this corruption?” Trevor asked.
The stranger glared at Captain but she didn’t look up to notice. “No,” Captain said. Leo and Trevor stared at her, both of them with their brows creasing together. They’d heard the hesitation in her answer but didn’t know why the hitch was there. She sighed and shook her head. “Not from Dockland,” she added. The stranger frowned harder at Captain for divulging this extra bit of information. “I need to speak to my team in private.” Captain didn’t look up at the man beside her.
“This holovid has the highest security in –”
She tapped a control on her desk and the stranger blinked out of existence. “Dockland’s new systems came with a life sized holovid upgrade I’m finding I regret agreeing to more every time I have a vid with anyone Senior Coalition.” Captain sighed heavily. Before she could continue her desk controls chimed for another holovid request. She declined and muted the keys.
“He was Senior Coalition?” Tevor asked, her voice as shaky as Leo’s guts suddenly felt.
“Don’t lose too many skin tones over it. He’s low tier, mostly annoying, and only represents the small group overseeing explorations. What I wanted to tell you two, and that small group doesn’t want me to, was that this has happened on four ships so far. Influences don’t seem to extend to all fourteen ships involved in this exploration, yet, but I noticed a pattern he disregarded as soon as I said it,” Captain said.
“What’s the pattern?” Leo asked.
“So far Buccaneer, Oscareous, Dockland, and Shiner are the only affected ships.” Captain’s steady gaze shifted between the two analysts in front of her.
“Those are all the possible ships close to being assigned to scanning planet seventy-four,” Trevor said after only a moment. Leo was close enough to hear her swallow after speaking, as if she had planned to say more and then barely stopped herself. She’d done that twice during their shift earlier, once each time she’d said something to him.
It's going to be a short personal blurb today. The first reason is because writing is going well, but I can't share any of the things I want to gush about due to it all being in first draft condition and I refuse to subject you to anything before it's edited. And edited. And edited again. And that process repeated multiple times. Lol.
The second reason is because I've had eczema my entire life and currently the skin on a few of my fingertips is dry and cracked and typing hurts more that it should. I'll keep using my cortisone cream and have better fingers in a few days. Today, however, there is ouch and I don't want to suffer.
Content Warning: I know I said I'd do warnings for the big terror attack and the violence / injuries in this story, and those are still at a distance from now, but I feel there needs to be a warning here for the history of the Daions because of the plague and then mistreatment the survivors went through. These happenings are not presented as detailed accountings and this summary of the history in this story's universe forms part of its current politics. This warning is here so you know the flavor of this chapter.
Leo shut off his personal comp hours later. He’d been good at history, but the refresher he’d just given himself left a queasier feeling than he could attribute solely to the quickly eaten galley meal.
The last two worlds with signs of habitation Dockland had scanned were Daion worlds. The first was one of their historical First Landing Colonies, and this one Dockland was scanning right now – planet sixty-eight – had been a home world. Planet seventy-four had also been a Daion home world but, more than that, it had been their Central World.
The very first explorations out of Coalition controlled space had been one-way. The ships had been huge, designed to separate into components capable of landing on habitable planets and becoming shelters for the explorers. They’d carried building materials, housed active, mechanized farms because seed foods were all that were available at that level of technology, and they’d contained stable populations of all the living things needed to establish colonies and then enable them to thrive and grow. Early forms of Advanced Cryo were utilized so living beings could survive the dozens of standard years required for interstellar travel prior to modern over distance technology.
During the Fifty Year Revolt, many colony communications were disrupted and some lost, and a few entire colonies were lost along with the records of them. Some of the most distant lost colonies were close enough together they began communicating with each other when they lost contact with Coalition. They formed their own system, evolving into a people who called themselves Daions after multiple generations passed.
Scientists, innovators, farmers, artists, teachers, adventurers, every discipline deemed necessary for a colony’s survival along with the natural progression of expanding technology, medicine communication, and education… Daion worlds flourished just as well as Coalition worlds. Some historians argued Daions ended up better. A few hundred standard years after the Fifty Year Revolt, New Coalition started calling itself Coalition and history reduced those tumultuous centuries into a few pages within childhood school books. A few hundred standard years after that, new explorations were started – with more advanced technology – and Coalition ships travelled back out into what they thought at the time were uncharted and unexplored sectors.
Stumbling into Daion controlled space had been a chance encounter. Voice and vid communications, as well as history data exchanges once political relationships became friendly instead of tentative, confirmed Daions as descendants of Old Coalition lost exploration colonies. The news was top page for weeks, and search results now still brought up pages and pages of articles. The first formal meeting, face to face, was between allied political leaders for signing the Agreement of One Cause. Coalition Public Face travelled to meet Daion Voice, their highest members of both governments in the same room for document signing, vid ops, and still vid and still holo images. (Leo even found an announcement about a planned holocinema, but it was never made.) Daions were publicly recognized as equals, although there were thick private opinions about ‘upstart colonizers’ on more than a few Coalition worlds.
Some Daions had started getting sick before that first formal meeting, though. Over twelve hundred standard years had passed since those colonizers had left Coalition sectors for their one-way journey, and the immune systems of their descendants had been exposed to so many other things Coalition peoples hadn’t encountered that Daions were hailed as a better evolution. It was true their immune systems were heartier, something medical exploration had planned to study because of the benefits to populations the galaxy over, but their immune systems weren’t impervious.
The initial people who got sick barely raised any attention because they weren’t prominent people, and their sicknesses were the results of in-person meetings for trade business which wasn’t entirely legal. Due to the business being illegal, and Daions being descendants of lost Coalition colonies, proper isolation and cleansing protocols for meeting new species or visiting unknown planets were ignored.
After the agreement was signed, due to the large number of high profile people at the week-long schedule of meetings, the much higher number of sick started to get a lot of attention. Viral warfare verbiage was thrown around and denials were just as loud. It turned out a common cold virus in Coalition space was an airborne, lethal plague in Daion space. A vaccine was developed as quickly as possible, but the kill rate had been… beyond count. Daion civilization collapsed and survivors were (as the history books written by Coalition stated) absorbed into Coalition.
Not absorbed in reality, though, Leo thought glumly. The thick opinions on some worlds reared up in ugly ways throughout Coalition, running rampant that Daions viewed themselves as superior because Coalition medical scientists admired their immune systems. Daion culture was different, their ways deemed other, and the people were ostracized on some worlds and subjugated on others. Radical factions of Coalition populations simply assumed lies and opinions as fact, their point of view dictating that Daion people had been rightfully punished through the plague by some higher power for the original colonies having never returned after losing contact. It became a normalized view on some worlds that medical reports stating Daion immune systems were superior was publicly admitted self-proclamations of secular superiority over all Coalition peoples. The radical factions argued it was due justice to undermine, degrade and abuse the plague survivors for the opinion-based views many Radicals imposed.
To Leo, the whole argument against Daions was a bolt situation, but it had the partially positive outcome of bringing about Coalition’s response of New Wave. Radical factions were – and Leo had to quote his dad on this one because the history, surprisingly, wasn’t as polite – as isolated as they should have been in the first place. Daions who survived the abuse on those Radical worlds were granted refugee status on other worlds, but the damage had already been done.
So much damage had already been done.
Populations in the billions had been reduced to thousands. Those thousands had been marked irreparably when their worlds were placed under Non Settlement laws, meaning they weren’t allowed to return home. Radical views were thinned on Coalition worlds which claimed to offer safety, but radical opinions had been advertised enough to become ingrained through repetition. To admit being Daion now was an immediate track to a life of the lowest caste in Coalition space. Many made the best they could but, overall, it was apparent in the census reports for the past five standard years that Daion people were disappearing. Probably into extinction, Leo thought sadly.
Leo and most of the crew on Dockland hadn’t been born yet when New Wave started, but nobody on board was dumb enough to think New Wave planning for isolating radical groups would actually fix the situation. Now there were rumors of even more radicalized beliefs than had gotten the Radicals isolated, with the gossip and hearsay working into New Wave sectors. That’s why a lot of people – Leo included – had volunteered for these explorations.
Senior Coalition could call explorations whatever they wanted to, and right now they were going with something pleasant like ‘New Colony Viability’, but every planet on the list for being scanned had been discovered before and each one had a reason for having military viability. Daion planets were extremely valuable due to having so many developed assets left behind, and enforced Non Settlement laws protecting them, so Senior Coalition wanted to get to everything before any of the Radicals could. Planet seventy-four had the potential to be a world of opportunity as long as nobody acknowledged they were rooting through the hundred standard year old mausoleums every building had become.
Planetary grave robbing was, apparently, a great way to accumulate developed resources and technology.
It's Friday again! This week seems to have flown past, and been productive in spite of hours flipping by at what feels like an accelerated rate.
I finished the first draft of my sci-fi side story, picked at a few edits in my big manuscript, and not much else because my left elbow is still whingy and doesn't like too much typing. Thankfully a few of my physio exercises are specifically for releasing the nerves throughout the whole arm and I no longer have the extra stabby-stab of nerve pain now that the elbow is moving properly again.
I've still been able to do my small cardio workouts despite the whingy elbow (with appropriate icing and stretches / physio exercises after). I do a half hour of Just Dance three times a week because, although I'm happy with my body shape and weight, the amount of loose jiggle I experience while doing basic activities is getting out of hand.
For those of you confused that I have good self body image and knowing I have an eating disorder, my E.D. is (luckily) not tied to body image. Mine is tied to anxiety and control, which makes exercising a part of it. This means working out – for me – is pretty dangerous to my mental and physical health if I don't constantly monitor and check my activities (which personal history has proven becomes the mental load of a full time job). Activities I enjoy will auto-trigger an E.D. compulsion which spirals really fast into an unhealthy mental state and self-harm. (I have chronic injuries. Overdoing any activity can hurt me a lot, but controlling pain = control, and my E.D. is a control thing so... I hate my brain sometimes.)
I'm actually working out! The control trigger in my brain to DO MORE hasn't switched on automatically because I don't like the activity I'm doing for workouts. My fight against this part of my E.D. is rigged for me to succeed instead of it having the upper hand. It's a struggle, of course, but one I've set up so I can win in mentally and physically healthy ways. Plus, once I get bored in the game with one version's songs, there are so many more to get for new songs, and oodles of videos free on YouTube. (I do think the game needs to be rebranded as Just Tried to Kill Me through Musical Cardio, but only because I'm kinda old and kinda fat :D...). Working out is fun and I hate it. This is perfect for me!
Speaking of Friday cardio sessions, it's time for me to get to it. Today the kids don't have school so they'll likely sit on the couch and heckle me like the old men in the balcony on The Muppet Show. That's what they've done previously when they didn't have school and I did my Just Dance workouts. It's hilarious! Half my core workout today will come from laughing about their "critiques" while attempting to fling my limbs and groove my torso in a coordinated manner. I hope you're staying safe and well! Have a good weekend :)
Leo smiled at his smart. <I will definitely get back to you when I have a solid answer> he wrote, and then smirked as he deleted the last part to edit the message so it said <I will definitely get back to you when I have a hard answer> before sending it to Trevor.
Her reply was fast and just a sound file: the ding-ding of a bicycle bell. Leo laughed and decided to have a shower. By the time he dried off, finished his usual nightly routine and climbed into bed, he already knew he wanted to take up Trevor on her offer. First, though, he needed to talk to her about how serious she was for this relationship to get to a point of being established. With her qualifications and status, losing her contract on Dockland only meant she’d likely get another, similar contract or hourly job within a week. For Leo, losing this position meant being sent home and likely never working for Coalition again, so his only option would be the same unreliable jobs his parents had and a lowest caste, landside life weighted by poverty-enforced debts.
A bad sleep and another of Hodahvay and Mollin’s pranks made the start of the next shift miserable. Getting a chance to talk to Trevor seriously, despite that she was tossing around bicycle puns like free candy at a Central World parade, improved the cycle considerably. She agreed it was a good idea to wait a bit longer for sex as they adjusted to their new situation of being together in a budding relationship. Then, a couple of weeks later when they decided to become established, Leo didn’t have any hesitations.
The cycles and weeks passed easily into months. The only irritant being Hodahvay and Mollin’s pranks becoming progressively more complex, and thankfully less frequent, as Captain changed their security access permissions for the systems they targeted. Once Leo and Trevor weren’t being forced to fix systems before Captain’s shift multiple times a week, they started to use solving the pranks as games to break up the tedium of planetary scans and over distance travel.
When the audit arrived, Captain had more than enough evidence to support Dockland getting upgraded, and to get the new systems and equipment on an expedited schedule. It put the exploration on hold for two standard months, but as much of Dockland as possible was upgraded to current interfaces and system sets.
Trevor’s contract was extended for the additional months, and her experience as an installer meant she was working the entire time in Dock. Using her connections, she even got Leo a temporary apprentice position so he could learn the fine arts of stripping cables and carrying equipment and tools to the right locations for the people actually doing the work. The hours were long and the pay was identical to his Analyst position, but he saw Trevor more often than just after her shifts, and he didn’t have the reduced wage from being on standby that most of the crew received.
Dockland’s new systems had the same generation holoscreen console interfaces Leo had learned with at Academy, and the console supports were the same smoothly transparent pillars as had become standard in the past thirty years. The console interfaces displayed between supports came with the optional vertical holoscreens projected above when needed.
Surprising to Leo, the upgrades were unfamiliar technology to Trevor, and he found himself in the strange situation of training her. It only took one shift for her to get comfortable with the interfaces and she learned the systems way faster than he ever had. He proclaimed it was because she’d grown up shipside and knew every previous generation of the systems back-to-front and front-to-back, even if she teasingly argued her ability to learn so fast was because her intelligence was a great deal higher than his.
Six months into Dockland’s exploration, and eight months working together, her question about how exclusive they were made him laugh. Not because of any secret doubts he was harboring, but because the cycle before he’d filled in his information for the Exclusive Relationship Registration submission and had been mentally stumbling over the timing of when to ask her to add her details.
She’d laughed about the form and said “not yet”… which wasn’t a ‘no’. Especially when she threatened to gut him and anyone he might look at as relationship material going forward because she hadn’t signed. He was pretty sure she was kidding, because her next question had been if he’d put any thought into stopping repression, but she’d been holding a knife while cutting some snacks so joking about gutting him at that moment was the right level of mean added to dark humor he loved about her.
The one standard year completion for the exploration loomed a little closer every cycle, the half-filled registration waiting patiently for Trevor’s info, and their exploration routing taking them further from recognized Coalition sectors where every planet was already scanned. They came to a world that had been home to an ancient colony, long disappeared, and completed their scans to include the useless technology that was found. Trevor was quieter than usual during those ten cycles in orbit.
Dockland travelled to the next planet, uninhabited and without any historical signs of life, and took up scanning. Leo couldn’t help but notice that Trevor continued getting more distant and professional whenever they were working. He tried to talk to her about it, first jokingly and then seriously, and she brushed off and avoided every attempt.
They came to another planet with evidence of more recent but still abandoned habitation. As the required orbits were finishing up, Captain received Dockland’s list of possible next planets to scan and – as she usually did – saved it to Dockland’s announcement file so every member of the crew could read it.
Leo tried using the list of potential planets they could be going to as a way to start a conversation, but Trevor stopped reading at planet seventy-four (or ‘LXXIV’ in the numbering Trevor had introduced him to and Leo pronounced phonetically as ‘Lexxive’ to try and make her laugh). She didn’t speak to him for the rest of the shift except for one or two words relating completely to work. After a full eight hours of silence, with only two months left in this exploration, she went back to her cabin alone and locked the door.
Walking to the galley by himself, Leo’s brain recycled over the past month for what he’d said and done with a fine filter, looking at everything for anything which would make Trevor shut him out. Mollin and Hodahvay passed him in the hallway, too embroiled in their own conversation to notice anyone was around them, and Leo mumbled his usual apology when Mollin accidentally bumped his shoulder. They were talking about planet seventy-four, wondering excitedly if Dockland would finish ReadScans here on sixty-eight in time to get assigned to seventy-four because three other ships were also near completions.
Mollin and Hodahvay were way too excited. Their conversation broke through the Trevor-shaped fog clouding Leo’s thoughts. He decided while he was in line at the galley he should look into planet seventy-four a little closer because, now that he was listening to things outside of his head, almost everyone in the galley was buzzing about the possibility of going there.
It wouldn’t be hard to look up the information. After all, everyone had access to the existing research about the planets all the exploration ships were scanning. Not much use to Coalition for someone on the crews to not notice something important or to ignore regulation protocols regarding first contacts.
Bit of a rough week this week, but only physically. I've bunged up my left elbow somehow. I'd thought it was getting better and then overdid a few activities due to believing it was getting better... which landed me back at recovery square one; icing, rest and pain meds. Learnings: it was not better enough lol. Today I can mostly use my hand and arm normally again – and in about half the recovery time as the first bunging a couple weeks ago – so I'm considering that a win.
For writing, the big manuscript edits ended. They spurred a couple of smaller ones for fixing up, but overall the story feels like it's breathing easily again and ready to start into new drafting. My prompt word story is nearly done drafting, just a few more sessions, and then I can start cutting and gutting in edits. This smaller story is d-r-a-g-g-i-n-g as it gets closer to the end. I'm already excited about how much hack 'n slash is needed to fix it, and grumbly about how much overwriting is needed to find the gold thread of storytelling in all the backstory and side tracks.
Trevor elbowed Leo gently and he laughed. “Plus, having kids isn’t actually a concern right now if you and I do decide to have a relationship,” Leo said. “Lindsay didn’t want children when we were together because she felt we were too young, and I just never bothered to stop taking repression.”
Trevor burst out laughing. “Really, Leo? You haven’t been touched by anyone in three standard years and you’re still taking repression?” she asked.
“Of course,” he said with a shrug. “It’s one pill a cycle and takes a month to be fully effective. I just take it with the rest of my cycly shipside supplements.”
“You do know you don’t have a twenty-eight cycle body rhythm to keep under control even when you’re not sexually active, right?”
“Yup,” he replied with an easy smile and a shrug.
“So you’re already ready in case of surprise sex. Makes sense.” She rolled her eyes. “You know it actually only makes sense if you have surprise sex,” she added, leaning her shoulder into his and talking out only one side of her mouth.
“Eh,” he said. “I can’t get fully interested in someone quickly enough for surprise sex. Physical attraction will get me talking to someone, but a person has to be worth talking to for me to get sexually attracted.”
He stepped behind her, making room in the hallway for two members of the crew to pass them. Neither of the other crew members walking toward the galley noticed the gesture, and they continued past Leo and Trevor without any interruption to their conversation.
“So is this where you tell me that you like talking to me?” she teased, pulling his hand so he’d come back to walking beside her.
“Pfft,” he scoffed, squeezing her fingers gently. “That’s the biggest understatement of the exploration. I love talking to you.”
She stopped suddenly. He paused to face her, the apology for having said such a bolt thing already on the tip of his tongue.
“Leo, I really want to kiss you,” she said before he could say anything. “Can I?”
He choked back the apology as his mind scrambled to catch up and understand what she’d just said. “You want to…?” he started, and then shook his head to see if that would help straighten out his thoughts. “Really?”
“Yes,” she said, laughing quietly. “Are you going to make me ask again or can I kiss you now?” she asked.
“A kiss? I mean, yeah. That would be… I would like that. Very much. All right. Yes.”
She was still chuckling when her hand cupped his cheek and then her lips touched his. Leo’s heart pounded against his ribs as the entire galaxy vanished around him for the perfect seconds of kissing Trevor, the sounds and lights of Dockland returning in a rush as it ended.
“Phew,” she whispered. “I didn’t expect you to be that good at it.”
“Kiss me again?” he asked quickly.
Trevor shook off from holding his hand and wrapped her arms around his neck to hold on tightly as she kissed him one more time. Leo stroked her back and shoulders with his hands and then hugged her close, holding on to the embrace after the kiss ended and smiling when Trevor held their foreheads together.
“So does this mean I’m not a bad idea anymore?” Leo asked carefully.
“Nope, you’re still a bad idea,” she said with a chuckle. “But I’m starting to think you might not be a total waste of my time.”
“I could get used to that,” he whispered.
“So, what would you say if I told you I wanted to ride you like a bicycle?” she murmured.
“What’s a bicycle?” he asked.
Trevor laughed hard, stepping back and shaking her head at him. “You are still such a green-grass landsider sometimes,” she said, chuckling and smiling widely. “You look it up and then let me know.”
“I will,” he said, still distracted by the taste of her kisses remaining on his lips.
She backed away a few more steps along the hallway. “And, Leo?” she said through a chuckle. “That’s your cabin. Just right there.” She pointed at the door he was standing beside, laughing out loud when he blinked at it and then took a startled step back. She turned around and kept walking. “You get back to me about the bicycle,” she called over her shoulder.
“I will,” he promised. She waved without looking back. He watched her all the way down the hall until she turned the corner toward her cabin and stepped out of sight. “I wonder what a bicycle is,” he muttered to himself, and then he unlocked his door and went in so he could use the search on his comp to find out.
Stars align, ancient history had a lot of great innovations. Leo was certain whoever had come up with the idea of a two wheeled vehicle powered only by the operator hadn’t been thinking of it the way Trevor now had Leo thinking about it, though.
However, regulations clearly stated no fraternization between crew members, unless the relationship was exclusive, established, and Coalition registered.
Rather than swipe the holoscreen of his comp closed and message Trevor immediately agreeing to her offer of riding him like a bicycle, Leo’s hand hovered over his personal copy of Coalition regulations. Up until fifteen minutes ago, he and Trevor’s relationship could have gone on for the rest of their lives as great friends. Maybe as great friends who wondered sometimes if they might have had a successful romantic relationship, too, but definitely continuing as great friends none the less.
He picked up the dedicated handheld and scrolled into the menu to select the section on relationships between exploration crew members. He knew regulations were in place for a reason and, even if that reason wasn’t clear to him, there definitely had to be a reason. Then again, Captain knew he and Trevor had been flirting because she’d caught them holding hands over an extended dinner and she’d just smiled at them and winked before pointedly not looking their way again as she got a cup of tea and left to return to the bridge. So... maybe the threat of removal from Coalition employment stated as the only recourse for unregistered fraternization wasn’t as strictly enforced by Captain as Leo was worried about?
He swiped off the dedicated regulations handheld, hesitated but swiped closed his comp’s holoscreen, and then just sat and stared at the cabin’s ceiling. His smart chimed with a message from Trevor.
<Did you search up bicycles yet?> she asked.
<I did, yeah> he replied. His stomach twisted into a knot as the seconds ticked by and she didn’t respond.
<So you’re going back to being scared of me again?> She’d added a holoimage of a mouth aggressively biting air and then bouncing as it made exaggerated laughing motions.
<Yeah> he replied, then added <Regulations on crew relationships, though>
<No way to get to an established relationship if it never starts> she messaged.
“I know, but regulations are pretty clear on this one,” he told his empty cabin, his voice as depressed sounding outside of his head as the feelings were inside his chest. <It’s just a big step> he messaged.
<So think about it. I never said you had to get back to me tonight>
There was a long pause and then his smart finally chimed. <You’re worth waiting for> she messaged.
A weekly blog updating on Fridays with quick personal blurbs about me, as in what's going on during my life as an Author and mom, and that doles out my short stories and novellas in bite-sized parts for everyone to read for free!