"Are you done for
asked Scotty. His bedside reader had displayed the same
for over ten minutes. He wondered, and not for the first
what supreme power women had to suck the living marrow right out of a
decent man's mind. He had so much reading to catch up on, but
matter how hard he tried, his eyes and his thoughts kept wandering
right back to Mira.
"Not quite," said
from the desk computer. She took a break to rub the fatigue back into
her eyeballs. "I still need to calculate the optimal orientation for
the mnemonic transponder array and calibrate all of the transplanar
smart and expert
knowledge in a technical field too. He had hit the trifecta. Most days
it seemed too good to be true, so he figured that he'd better make the
most of it now, just in case it turned out not to be. He
off the reader and pulled to his feet, all thoughts of professional
journals--or professional anything--completely abandoned. "I
it when ye talk like that."
voice was distracted. She toggled a switch and pulled up a
display: the Memory Alpha communications grid. She
Even before the tragedy with the Zetars, it was going to be a big job
and now, with the librarians dead, that much more of the installation
process fell to her. So much work--
around the mesh
divider and sidled in behind her. "When ye talk sexy like 'optimal
orientation for the mnemonic transponder array'. Say it. Say
'transplanar data metacouplers' just for me." He leaned over
body and massaged his hands slowly up her thighs as he whispered the
words into her ear.
Mira twisted her
neck away and
zoomed in to the first coupler position, trying her best to act like he
wasn't there. She did change to voice control; it's not easy
use a toggleboard with a full-grown man hanging over your shoulders.
"Computer: show me the primary data metacoupler interface."
it! You're going to drive me crazy, lassie." Scotty
his lips in against her neck. He loved the little dint in her
breastbone where throat met chest. What do you call that
spot? He'd have to look it up sometime. He nuzzled
nudged his head against her chin until talking was as difficult as
"Oh, you're crazy
but I'm pretty sure it happened before you met me." Mira
brush him away--tried, but not too hard.
senses and her hair brushed soft along his cheek. There was
question: her body made him insane; her soul made him hers.
"Crazy for you. And it wouldn't do to upset a crazy man, so I
suggest that you cooperate fully. "
Mira leaned back
to meet his
kiss, acknowledging the surrender for what it was. "Oh, I
that that can be arranged." The work would still be there in a few
hours. One thing that the Zetars had taught her is that one
should not assume the same of mortal lives or loves.
His hands made
their way under
her uniform and together they made their way to the bunk. At
first there was laughter and silly chatter about dynamic egonium
hyperion rods, then there was only the soft sounds of two healthy
people very much in love.
When it was over,
with his head on her breast. She stroked his head and he made
lazy circles on her stomach with his hand.
"Why am I so
lucky?" she asked.
pushed away the lull of sleep.
"That you should
be here waiting for me. Why weren't you taken long ago?"
By the finest
ship ever built. But for you, she'll just have to learn to
share." Scotty cuddled her closer to him.
"No, silly." She
shoved her palm into his stomach. "I mean by a real
girl. Why aren't you already married?"
over on to his back, Sleepiness was no longer a problem. "I
guess I never met the right woman."
"In all that
time?" The skepticism in her voice could have cut through a
engineering programs since I was fourteen. For me whole life, I've been
surrounded by men. As you may have noticed, women aren't
swarming around impulse vents and antimatter pods."
giggled. "Of course I noticed. Why do you think I
went into engineering?"
girl." He kissed her on the nose. "So, surrounded by all of us dashing
and brilliant engineers, why haven't you been swept away by the right
"I have." She
tugged at him
playfully. He still uncomfortably sensitive there--as well
knew--but somehow, from her, he didn't mind.
"I meant before
"I thought I was;
I was wrong." She let him drop from her hand.
"I'm sorry." He
pulled her back against him.
"It's okay," she
"If I things didn't happen like they did, I wouldn't be here
now." She kissed him on the chin.
"So, nice try on
the change of subject, Scotty boy. Back to you: all that time
and you never met the right…person?"
the carefully chosen word. "No, lassie; I never have."
was about as
removed from Montgomery Scott as helium was from hawkinium. A
lady's man with a joke for every occasion, John had never been heard to
raise his voice in anger. Older than Monty by three
he had a string of would-be lovers as long as the registrar's list at
the University of Aberdeen. He also had a fiancée
home, whom he called every night and saw every other weekend.
they had in common was a gift for creative engineering and an apartment
rental in Aberdeen.
the moment was
a more economical design of a trimodal personal transport. If
impulse vents could be redesigned to be water tight with a pleomorphic
seaborgium valve--instead of the current convoluted system--it would
cut production costs by a third, not to mention maintenance and repair.
nearly did. They had found an isolated patch of coast north
Aberdeen and now stood on the rocky shore to test their scale
model. John manned the tele-troller and brought the robot
down from space flight into atmospheric propulsion mode.
Monty--as everyone had called him back then--scanned the sky.
Today was a pleasant change from the usual Highland gray. The
was playing hide and seek and losing a great deal of the
The clouds had scattered respectable distances apart and Monty hoped to
see their model fly.
dropped out of
about five kilometers away and cruised down toward the ocean on an even
vector. The splash was visible from the shore.
from the Russian judge," joked Monty.
drive?" grumbled John. "I didn't realize style counts."
counts," said Monty. "That's the art of
engineering. How's the telemetry?"
ninety percent. Internal humidity ranging from twenty to
twenty-four and holding."
Drop down to the bottom."
That's as deep as she gets," announced John. "We need to test it off
the continental shelf next time. "
through this time. Humidity?"
impulse temperature drops to ambient, then bring it in," said
degrees. No reason I can't have a little fun with it 'til
then. Have you ever seen a submarine ballet?" John
the tele-troller control. "Look it's Swan Lake!"
beeped. "Bugger all! Port valve failure!"
bring it in before the conversion chamber floods!"
John's brogue thickened as he furiously tried control after
control. "It's shorted the guidance."
told ya nae to
run the transfer cable through the mix chamber."
up! I've almost--"
looked up in
to the rocks
as the transport model went shooting over their heads, up over the
cliff behind them. They heard a woman scream, then a
each other, then went running.
of the crash up the hillock; John headed in the direction of the
scream. It had seemed to come from an irregular outcropping
the rock. When Monty came back with the model in his hands, he found
the little hideaway. Inside was John staring at a woman,
save for a miniskirt and long, silver hair draped about her breasts. A
few strands of black were peppered through her hair, and one shocking
streak of coal black ran down its length.
at?" she demanded in a vigorous Highland brogue. "Haven't you ever seen
a naked woman--or perhaps not one you just tried to kill."
that you are very striking," said Monty, trying not to stare.
Aunt Fannie! Thanks to you, I was all but struck down!"
stammered Monty. "You've heard of the one that got away? This
it." He held the model out for her surveillance, but the joke
need to take
better care of your toys around others," she said, pulling a pink tank
top on over her head.
not a toy;
it's a trimodal transport model," said Monty.
stared at him
like he was
a moron. She had a way of making him believe that she was
correct. "At least your friend has some manners," she
John was working on picking up her belongings. It looked like
ultra-portable easel. It was. The seascape painting
had been smudged beyond repair by the fall to the wet rock.
pronounced. "A full day's work."
happen you know." John's tone was a mite defensive, Monty
More around some than around others." She eyed them
myself. John O'Flaughty, at your service." John's
shifted to his most winning. He gave a deep bow and whipped
imaginary tam off of his head with a sweep of an arm.
your help, John," she said with a grudging grin.
this is my
flatmate, Montgomery Scott," John said, gesturing in his direction.
me Monty." He extended his free hand.
nodded, pointedly not taking the hand. "I'm Lesa. I
don’t think we need to be on a last name basis."
think that this
was quite fair. John had been the one at the controls, but
how he was now the bad guy left holding the bag--or the experimental
model trimodal personal transport, as the case may be. He set the unit
tried one last
"Look, I don't know what else to do. I've just met the most
stunning woman I have ever seen in my life. I am sorry that it was
under less than ideal circumstances, but that's over with, and I want
to get to know her better. Can ya nae give me some advice as
over much more
purposefully than before. "If the woman's had a long day, ya
might try feeding her. You've heard it's the way to a man's
heart, but I've news for you: women eat too."
It was far too early to be counting his eggs; there was nary a
hatchling in sight. "I know a place near here. Do
out the North Sea. "Look where we are. None
her bag. "We'll see about that. You're buying?"
invited you," said Monty.,
her rucksack. "Lead on, Macduff."
arm that John offered. Monty didn't think this was quite
fair. After all, this had been his idea.
crock of steamed
langoustines shared among them. Lesa spoke of life in the Orkneys.
John waxed charming and hung on her every word. Monty wished
could think of something not related to physics or matter/anti matter
mechanics he could discuss. Mostly he watched and
to drip food on his shirt.
worse, he'd left his credit ID back in the flitter. John paid
for all three of them.
here, for a while." Lesa answered a question from John as they walked
back to the flitter pads.
Monty, trying and failing at not sounding over-anxious.
least until I
series of paintings, which--thanks to you two--will be a mite longer
than I had planned." She aimed the words deliberately the both of them.
We'll crash into
you everyday, if that's what it takes to keep you here," said
Monty. The glare she gave him told him that it had been the
thing to say.
try the direct approach. It couldn't get much worse. "I'hd
like to see you again."
most days when
the weather is warm and fair." Her tone was neutral,
nothing more than her presence.
was a damn fine start. "This is the Highlands. It
could be next year before that happens."
could…that soon if we're lucky." She laughed with
him. Year-round freezing drizzle keeps out the
or so went the local expression. It was a love only true
relented. "If we plan on next Saturday, could your friend
come?" She looked to John.
hoping to being alone," said Monty.
can be alone
all you like," she quipped back.
throat. "There is nothing I would like better to do that day than to
share your company."
then. Don't be late."
is." John motioned her into the flitter. "Ladies
said. "I'll walk. Where I am staying isn't far, and
I don't get enough chances to stretch my legs."
that case, we
will regretfully bid you a good night." John took her hand and kissed
had thought of that.
She gave them both a quick peck on the cheek before turning back to the
road and Monty was in heaven.
the fog was heavy. "She won't be there," Monty kept repeating
during the ride over.
John, turning the craft north toward the beach.
me such an expert on women?" Monty grumbled, wanting desperately to
This ride could not be over soon enough.
them, her rucksack over her shoulder. John gloated as he set
flitter down, but Monty barely heard him. He had never been so happy to
first and kissed her hand. She allowed it with wry amusement.
painting anything but fog today, but the way I see it, you--" she
tossed her head to Monty, "still owe me a meal."
Monty. He double-checked for his ID this time.
and he ordered kippers. Monty wished he'd picked the
again--or anything that took longer to eat. It was the best
he'd never tasted and it would be over far too soon.
John's comm beeped. It was his plasma field lab partner with
a crisis in their project.
I'm going to have to leave and take the flitter," he said.
"Do you want to come with?"
finished, and I promised her." Monty's voice took on that
slight whine it did when stressed.
gave him a
peculiar look over her fork and chewed purposefully.
doesn't mind walking. Monty?"
tone was firm.
way," said John. "Ma'am." Again he kissed her hand
I didn't know
better, I would have thought you two planned that." Lesa sipped at her
fine, man and I enjoy your company. You’re just so
young in the ways of the world--"
is only two
years older than me!"
her fork. "That's not what I meant. It's just that...I'm not
someone you want to lose your head over."
said with a goofy grin.
looked to the
wall. "That's what I mean."
has a girl,
Anne, by the
way--back home. I thought that you should know--before you lose your
head." Monty blurted it all out at once.
gave him a
that radiated a patient tolerance that he couldn’t reconcile
the circumstances. "Don't worry about me. I can
hold me own
with men--and their women."
arms wide apart. "Here I am."
know what I
I shouldn't. It may not seem like it, but I am thinking of
let me worry
about me," said Monty. "Tomorrow? You did lose another day of
thought. "John will come too?"
lips. "Aye, if you want." Half a win was better than nothing.
then. Noon. If it's foggy, I could paint you
anything you want with me," Monty said.
eyes and picked
up her rucksack as they went out the door. They were going
separate directions; she wouldn't let him see her home, but she waited
at the airtram stop with him and kissed him on the cheek before he
than happy to
oblige on the condition they could run more tests on the model. Women
and experimental engineering pretty much summed up his favorite things
in life, if not necessarily in that order.
was not so
happy about the whole arrangement.
accepted to University at sixteen was feeling superior to the other
freshmen; the worst part was feeling overwhelmed by every woman who
ever lived. Even two years later, Monty
tossed about in a winter North Sea storm. He had no hope in
of ever being able to get the upper hand, but getting out of the water
never crossed his mind.
one thing he didn't need, though. He spoke to John
heart belongs to Anne."
the rest of
you?" asked Scotty sounding more childish than he had planned.
John plopped his feet up on the desk and smiled. "I like a
face, to be sure, but she is all yours for the taking."
her face is up
here." Monty gestured up from his neck, but the tone kept the
same unintentional petulance.
"Don't worry, me
lad. I might well double-cross you over the Hawking
Physics Fellowship, but a girl, never!"
time in hours Monty relaxed. It was something only engineers
usual, and the air was full of the taste of the sea and life.
one else was there when they arrived, and so they fired up the model.
dry down to seventy meters. They were about to try for eighty
when they saw her on the rocks. She was in an
dress, windblown with her silver hair loose and whipping about her
face. Staring out to sea, she looked like something out of a
museum watercolor or the cover or a young girl's romance
only for her,
but John followed her gaze out to the water where waves broke over a
covered sandbar. He thought that he saw
Turtles? Dolphins? He directed his engineering datacorder but
wasn't calibrated for bio and couldn't read at that
He snapped a still photo of her instead. She was
beautiful in a way that made him wish that a man could have two girls
and keep them both blissfully happy forever. But that would
rocks when she turned and saw them. She had an easy smile for
both that was a pleasant change from their first meeting.
on about your
boys," she said as she unpacked her painting supplies from her
rucksack. "I want to paint you doing manly things like
with your manly toy."
nae a toy,
started over in a lower tone. "I'd rather make my business
staying with you." He pulled the easel the rest of the way out of the
rucksack and helped her settle it into a relatively stable spot.
head and set the remote for eighty meters. At least one of
them could get some work done.
you got in there?" Monty asked. Painting gear
removed, the rucksack was still fairly full.
clothes, just in case your toy runs wild again."
held his tongue.
go on with
you. Down to the water."
rather watch you paint." Monty rocked happily on his toes.
nothing to paint
if you're up here, will there? Go on and do whatever it is
you were doing and let me start the scene first. I'll tell
when I'm ready for you to come up."
what?" asked John.
model for me."
so, Mr. O'Flaughty." Lesa took out a tube of slate gray and started on
the rocky shoreline.
want, Lesa." Monty kissed her hand.
saints that he had better sense in women than Monty did.
without event. Monty thought that John came out significantly
better than he did, but Lesa seemed pleased with the result.
submarine tests weren't much better than last time, but at least there
weren't any incidents. John begged out of dinner claiming a
due the next day.
shot Monty a
dirty look. Monty tried his best to look innocent.
all she said
was, "Come on; I'm starving."
told you, I
can take care of myself."
right, Montgomery Scott, I dearly hope that you are right."
restaurant. He still didn't taste the food, but she ate
for them both. He was struck by the elegance of every move
made. It gave him a possible thought.
you like to
dance?" he asked.
up. "Love it. I don't get to do it enough."
at the University Hall. John will be there--with his girl, if
that matters. I thought maybe you might like--"
you up at your place. Say seven? Or earlier and we
but I'll meet you at your place. I have some other things to
do that day."
tableside comm, he
printed out a copy of his contact info and coordinates to his
apartment. "If you need directions--"
good at navigation." She tucked the printout into some fold
her clothes or body. "See you then."
was clearly a
cue and he
rose just before her. This time she kissed him on the
mouth. Now, that he tasted and prayed that he would for a
wearing a dress of midnight black that clung to every curve and fell
clear down to her ankles. The fabric practically beckoned to
touched, not that Monty needed any more incentive.
Monty. "For anything!" The gleam in his eye didn't look like
that of a man heading for a college dance.
eyes. Men, was the unspoken thought. "Where's your
flatmate?" is what she said.
He and Anne left
already. Said they wanted to get their music requests in the
queue. Did you want to come in for a drink or something
waiting." Lesa extended her right arm. Stepping
door, Monty extended his left, elbow bent. She took it and they
strolled along the walkway to the stairs.
a flight to
the rooftop flitter pads. Lesa held her ground.
walk," she said. "I want to warm up for dancing."
skeptically at the
sky. Years of coastal living told him the pressure was
dropping. "It's more than likely to rain tonight. With all
crowd, I canna guarantee we can get a transport back."
said. "I don't get out this way much; I'd like to walk
around. And I'm not afraid of a little water; I won't melt."
an increase in heat; they dissolve when exposed to--"
at him in that way that girls had all through school when he was just
trying to be helpful.
had tried to
explain it to him once. It hadn't made any sense.
told him that he was thinking too hard. "You can't bait for
women, Monty. Or at least you can't hang on to the ones you
with bait. With women, everything you already know
that he understood the first part, but the last phrase he knew was true
for damned certain.
started down the stairs. "We'll walk to Edinburgh if ye
like. I rather fancy the fog meself."
dance hall will be fine." She tugged his arm a little tighter and
pulled her body in next to his.
dance was in
high swing by
the time that they arrived. John knew how to do it
taught her how to polka and Lindy and Harriman step and even something
obscure called the Charleston. Monty tried, but body kinetics
never been his thing; engines were. They were predictable and far
easier to control. "Don't worry he said," I'd rather have a
view to watch you." And he meant it. After all, John was
was easy on the eyes and light on her feet with a friendly smile for
everyone. She had no lack of dance partners herself and
delight in every one. Monty caught up with Anne while she sat
a dance to get some punch. "Does it bother you?" he
nodding to where John and Lesa reeled happily around the floor.
wrinkled her forehead in confusion.
laughed. "Oh, lord,
no. You know him as well as I do, Monty. He's a
person. He lives to make other people happy. I
wouldna try to stop him from that. It's possibly the thing I
best about him. How stupid would it be to let jealously
the vera best of a man?"
to be pledged--"
his public face. He can have as much fun as he cares to with
anyone whom he cares to, but I'll always be the one he comes to when he
hurts. If that ever changes, then I'll worry."
in delight as John dropped her into a giant dip and whipped her back up
again. He whispered something in her ear and she laughed loud
enough to be heard across the room.
conspiratorially. "Besides, how many times can I listen to
same old jokes and be expected to laugh?"
despite himself, Monty laughed.
aside, John came and pulled him onto the floor for a Scottish
reel. It would be unpatriotic not to, he said.
was a waltz. Lesa promised to be gentle with him and he didn't step on
her toes too often. Next was something fast and Rigelian.
escaped before they could lasso him into trying to learn. He worked on
trying to deduce why the sound system quavered every now and
then. He had it narrowed down to the piciculator or a fault
the ion feed when Lesa plucked at his sleeve.
dance," she said.
see if I
can call us a flitter."
silly. I want to dance it with you."
couldn't stop the smile.
eyes. "Dissolve, melt, and trimodal transports, but you don't
know much about women, do you?"
exactly considered it a secret.
knew enough to
end up holding her close in a sweet, slow dance. He wrapped
tightly in his arms and inhaled the heady mix of the sweat and perfume
that radiated from her neck and moved without thinking to the strains
of "Goodnight, Irene," and decided that he didn't give a damn what he
was chilly and
they finally made it outside, but Monty felt warm all over. The fog was
thick as it should be on a proper Scottish night. "We can probably bum
a ride off of someone," said Monty. "I dinnae think the
will hold out much longer. "
powers that will keep the rain away," she said and waved her arms in a
was thick and brimming at the edge of saturation. "Aye, well,
do hope that those powers won't--melt if they get wet."
looked at him
with approval. "You're learning," she said and tweaked him on
mental note to send Mary a very nice Christmas gift this year.
had a good
time," she said as they strolled along the pedway. "I don't know how to
said. "You had most of your fun with him." He
didn't intend for it to come out sounding so petty.
indication that she noticed. "I already did. But he
had as much fun as I did. It's not the same."
had fun," he
her hand a little tighter and remembering how she had felt, warm and
glowing in his arms. "I just love to see you happy--however that
happens." Much to his surprise, he meant it.
happy," she said. She stopped where she was and kissed
gentle, guaranteed not to offend. It wasn't clear whose mouth
opened first, but either way soon their tongues were mingled.
clutched her tight against him, trying to press as much of his body
against hers as he could muster. It was awkward as he had
thought to spare for the logistics. All that filled his mind
the sinful feel of her mouth on his and the little sounds she made from
deep in her breast.
is until the
first wad of rain hit his face.
that it would
be a gradual thing, from fog, to mist, to drizzle, to rain, to
deluge. Scotland seldom went the way of the rest of the world
however, and the sky simply opened up and dropped water on the land by
the freightload. Startled, they broke apart and
their heads lest they risk drowning otherwise.
your magic is working," said Monty.
in magic anyway," she laughed.
he said. "I think we better run for it." Hand in
hand, they did.
soaked to the skin is that once you can’t get any wetter, the
rain simply ceases to matter. Since they were already
they stopped under the spread of a giant yew tree and kissed some
was no gentle
hesitation. The delved as far as they could into each other.
took his arm and wrapped it around her back, led it down the curve of
her buttock. She began to hitch her dress up in the back, and when he
finally got the idea, she moved her other hand to his rear.
had her backed
trunk of the tree and pressed up against her, feeling every curve,
every wiggle, every rise and fall of her chest. He grew
almost faint. He thought every bit of his blood must be trapped below
his waistband; surely there couldn't be enough to reaching his
brain. He backed off from her a little as the extent of his
ungentlemanly actions knocked politely at his conscience.
ass and pulled
him back hard against her. "I'm not a little girl," she said, running
one hand under his shirt and around his nipple until he was sure his
head would burst.
managed to choke out.
pelvis against him harder.
stop or ahm
going to embarrass myself." It was everything he could do to
himself from moving against her, virtually taking her here and now like
stop you. You're cute when you’re embarrassed," she
said and nibbled at his ear.
spun. He made
one last valiant effort to pull away, and might have made it, save for
her other hand sliding down the front of his pants. She barely had
tickled the hair and brushed against a little skin when he choked out
her name and collapsed against her shoulder.
you for a
lovely evening," she said against his neck.
time." He tried to
laugh, but had no breath for it. So settled for holding her and
listening to the rain on the leaves,
slacked off a little when they reached his door.
to come in for a drink?" he asked, feeling acutely unaware of
the social rules here.
head. "I don't drink."
ya like me
to call you a flitter--or pilot you home myself?"
hadn't moved from the doorstep. "Would you like to come in--not for a
nodded. He opened the door.
me get you a
towel," he said. "You must be awfully cold."
went into the
When he came out with the towel, she was standing
He forgot what he was going to say. He forgot the towel.
am cold," she
said. "Is there a place I can warm up?" She walked
bed and climbed in. "Like here?"
and leapt in beside her swearing to get Mary the nicest Christmas
present she had ever had in her life.
body, every inch, every curve, every ripple. The skills he
uncoverfor himself, she showed him without the slightest hint
laughter and when he lowered himself within her, it was the way he had
always envisioned perfection to be.
he moved over
her and in
her and watched her face contort in pleasure, he decided she was
probably smarter than he was. Had it not been for the earlier
interlude, he never would have lasted long enough to feel her claw her
nails into his back in desperation or to have her pound her heels
against him in a frantic, prolonged climax and that would have been a
bloody shame to miss.
it was, he
lasted just barely two seconds longer than that.
teacher had never
mentioned that it would be like this as the world reformed around
him. He decided that he should definitely try new
experiments more often.
do next time?"
he asked, fingering her hair. The black streak fascinated
him. She'd said that that was her natural color--that
of her family's women had gone prematurely gray. Her mother
claimed that it was from putting up with generations of her family's
old enough to
agree that that made sense, and just young enough to swear that if he
ever had the chance to be the one she chose, that she would never lose
another jet-black strand again.
there'll be a next time then?"
rolled over in
alarm and gaped wide-eyed into her face.
laughed. "I'm jokin,
silly." She ran the tips of her nails over his balls. "And
we did this time was fine by me."
relaxed at her
touch. The skin of his sac twitched and tugged in
the gentle scrape. "No complaints from my side either, but I
meant before this."
tightened as his
balls were pulled in to the humid heat of her mouth. "Or,
after…" His eyes rolled back and he let himself go
she took him.
was a curious
feeling. It was much too soon. There was not even a
of an urge to climax anywhere within him. It all felt warm and intimate
and tender and so very, very good.
this made him a
sissy, but if so, that was fine by him. He did decide that he
would never tell the guys.
a time, she
came back up
beside him, leaving her hand where her mouth had
allowed him to think a little. What had he been saying, oh,
Their next date.
could take a
around the islands, if you want. Maybe do a little fishing.
said you liked it, didn't ye?" When he thought of her, he
of the ocean in the same flash. He thought of the way he had first seen
her on the shore--wild, natural and waiting for him. He hoped
his neck. "Aye. What I'd really like is to see it
high. Really high. See all the islands at once,
brow. "You've never been into space?"
than a commuter flitter."
twenty-third century, woman!"
fashioned kind of girl."
the surprise for you then."
spread her legs.
kissing his way down her body. It wasn't what he'd meant, but
could take a hint. A man's work was never done.
two weeks later. Monty met her at the restaurant.
was just about
to order." She looked stunning in a flowing, silver dress.
wait until after? You may not want much on your stomach for
hugged his neck.
John and I are working on," Monty explained as he led her out to the
landing lot. "We're modifying a Yager GR-3743 for marine use
too. The submarine operation isn't safe
yet, but it
runs fine as an aerospace craft."
pointed at a craft
on the edge of the lot. It looked like the no-contest winner
the You'd Be a Fool to Trust Your Life to It Award.
it." It came out a wee bit testy for a fourth date. He tried
again. "But if you'd rather not…"
did nae say
that." She ran
her hand over the underbelly of the starboard engine with the gentle
sensitivity of a lover's touch. "Just makin' sure." She
her head up at him. "So, can I drive?"
face about split with an ear-to-ear grin as he opened the passenger
hatch. "She's a little finicky; mebee next time."
pressed to the window. She took in absolutely
Her islands, the ocean, the mountains, the lights, the nuclear void on
the eastern edge of the Mediterranean where there would be no human
habitation for the next 600 years still. Like most
she couldn't look at it with out a lump forming in her throat at the
magnitude of devastation that power and stupidity had wrought.
he asked as they left the coast of Africa to pass over the Pacific for
the second time.
the gravity, and she went floating with a cry of glee.
automatic with a large perimeter alert and floated up to join
her. Brushes and tubes floated everywhere. Apparently her
rucksack had been undone.
warned me," she laughed as she propelled herself around collecting
stray items in the air.
be the fun of that?" he asked, catching a tube of cinnabar red where it
spun above the console.
took the tube
from him and stuffed it back into the sack with the rest of the errant
Monty asked as
he tucked a handful of items back in. At the bottom of the
was appeared to be a big, soft, wad of fur.
said as she stuffed paint tubes and brushes back in.
you an art
too?" she bounced around the small cabin collecting the stragglers and
looking decidedly more at ease. It was a side of her he liked
wanted to see a lot more of. "How's your stomach?" he asked
snagged one last brush drifting near the controls.
head back and collected her hair into a makeshift knot.
"Okay, if I don't think about it--I think."
Monty tucked a few straggling hairs behind her ears and twisted the
paintbrush into some hair and slid it behind an ear too.
chest and arms as she tried vainly to push it down into some semblance
of propriety. There was no underwear in sight.
thigh. "Lassie, have ye ever heard of the 100 kilometer high
again to push her dress back down.
dress back up and kissed her--no where near the mouth.
I think I'm
going to like space flight," she said. She wrapped her legs
around him and together they went spinning.
landed back on his apartment rooftop, the restaurant had already closed.
resignation. "It's hard to keep track of time when you're
back and forth across the terminator and such, I suppose."
really. That's what chronometers are for."
arm. "You knew? I'm starving! Why didn't you tell me?"
I wanted it to end, now, do you? And I have food at my place."
sneaky, Mr. Montgomery Scott."
have eggs and
sausage," he offered.
said. "But you're cooking."
they raced each other to the fridge for some soda. Monty said that
something about how zero-g always dries out the mouth. She
she thought it was more likely the pubic hairs. He said he
willing to experiment as many times as it took to be sure.
the time she
her second glass of juice, the eggs and toast were ready and the
sausage was very close. She thought of going back to the roof
her rucksack, but cold eggs are good for no one and Monty assured her
she wouldn't be needing her clothes until morning.
dinner were left
to congeal on the table, the extra time to take them to the washer
seeming too great a sacrifice at that moment.
and full they
other again. Lying beside him, she painted invisible pictures
his skin with the paintbrush from behind her ear. She told
was a scene of pirate and his fair maiden on the high seas. He closed
his eyes and followed her brush strokes with just the sensation of his
skin until he could see it too.
a short while,
closed too. Her head flopped over against his chest and the paintbrush
fell from her hand and rolled off and onto the floor.
the middle of
the night there was a knock. "Pssst! Monty!"
up! I think I figured out a way to damp the Kyhlmer wave
That would solve all of their water surface problems. Lesa stirred
beside him. He stroked her hair. "Go back to sleep."
tomorrow," Monty whispered to the door.
all day. Come on, I'm dying to know if this works."
stomped to his jumper pocket for the key. He passed it out
through a crack in the door. "Let me know how it
remember, no more than a 0.003 percent variance. I'll be wanting ta see
widened. "You're kidding! You'd part the dynamic
duo for a girl!"
"Nae! Not any girl, me lad. And I'll tell ya, a man can be
as dynamic without his pal as with him. Mebee
inclined his head towards the bed, shut the door, and practically dove
back under the covers.
comm when it beeped. There was no one else he wanted to talk
to. There was no news that could make his life any better
was now. He would have been happy to live in this one moment
forever, but the comm kept right on insisting.
pulled on his
pajama top and ran fingers through his hair in a token gesture. "Scott
him with a sort
of dreamlike incredulity. The young never believe that things
like this can really happen to people like them, He sat there
staring at the blank screen until she came up behind him and kissed his
accident. John and the spacecraft--"
into the other room and threw open the bedroom door. "John!"
say it just
exploded. No one on the ground was hurt but--"
John!" She punched up the landing pad on the outside
monitor. The place where they had parked was empty.
Where did it happen? I have to go." She scrambled
into clothes and shoes.
see." Monty grabbed her shoulders and tried to hold her eyes. "It
exploded in the air. He's gone. The craft vaporized."
have to be
sure. Where?" she pleaded.
if you must."
understand. Just tell me where!" Her voice was
desperate. He could feel the racing of her pulse beneath his
"Dornoch--just over the water, they say. Witnesses said he
it back out to sea so that--" He couldn't finish. "I'm sure
authorities can direct you."
the door. It was the first time ever that she had
left without kissing him goodbye.
bedroom. He slipped on something: the paintbrush.
it up and out of habit looked around to stick it back in her rucksack,
but of course, he couldn't.
all its mysterious contents had gone down in the explosion with the
when she came
back three days later. Not that that was news for Aberdeen,
she was again completely soaked, like the drowned Phoenician
Sailor. He didn't know why that image came to mind.
plastered her hair against her body in a haphazard sort of
Water streaked her face and rolled off of her forehead and the tip of
I stay?" her
said. Her eyes said something different--something about an
infinite sadness that he couldn't quite translate then. He
aside for later and concentrated on the one thing he did know.
relief. "Of all the stupid questions!" He pulled
her in and
clung to her for dear life. "Now I have a stupid question for
please don't ask. I'd tell you if I could, but it's not just
hair with what
he hoped was reassurance that he didn't know how to put into
words. "I've got ta ask you this one question. The
doesn't matter a whit. Will you marry me, Lesa?"
pulled her in
chest. It was many minutes later that Monty realized the rain
still blowing in on them and maybe he should close the door.
lay in bed
other. It was the oddest thing. No one would have called it
but it felt like making love all the same. "Do you
call your family?" Monty massaged her back.
tell them about the wedding. I have university rates on my
comm--it's not bad at all."
family is a
one. Not all of them are." She turned her head away
bundled her hair to the side as if to let him work on her neck.
different--their only daughter getting' married." Monty
considering how little he really knew about her. "Are you
knead her neck. "I never heard you mention them.
But I suppose, as you say, if you're not close."
words had been that 'some families' aren't close.
they'd want to come," said Monty.
guesses when you don't have the facts. They're different than
your kinfolk. They wouldn't come."
if you dinnae ask."
approve of me, is
that it? I know it doesn't look like much now, but I have
prospects not just at Aberdeen but at any Federation
I've already won two grants and been offered more positions than I
could take in a lifetime."
it's me," she
said. "Like I told you, not all families can be
voice was wavering dangerously and she looked away at the last word.
changing the subject. "And I am sorry about that."
too." She reached
back and squeezed his hand. "But I was hoping maybe
borrow your family for the occasion."
hands down her
neck to the tops of her shoulders. "My family is your family
now. But I hope you aren't thinking of anything as temporary
borrowing." He cupped her shoulders and swirled fingertips
the top ribs and the mysterious region where chest miraculously
transforms itself into breast.
through her nose, but little humor came through. "No such luck. I'm
afraid that you're stuck with me now."
said and lay down beside her giving up his erstwhile sincere attempts
nearly normal. She was accepted to the university
design program and spent most of her days at school and all of her
nights at the apartment. She had an inarguable eye and talent
design and her mentors held out great hopes for her.
never took a
painting class or went back to painting again. It was as if that little
part of her had died.
about it once.
She'd answered sharply enough that he had known better than to raise
the subject again. It wasn't the same without her old
she'd said. They'd been made just for her and were special.
odd as women
were, Monty found that evasion hard to believe.
her at her
word. He'd offered to have a set custom made, ergonomically
designed for her. Anything she wanted. He'd hoped
going back to painting would give her back that ineffable
That it would fix whatever had been ruined by the crash over Dornoch.
him that moron look again and he'd left her alone with her design texts.
we go for the
honeymoon?" Monty asked as they lay intertwined on the sofa.
"Anywhere you want. You'd never been in space
could go to Andor--or how about Cyrillius VI? You'd love the
said. "They both sound lovely."
put a rush on your passport then. If you go for the
genotests tomorrow we might just get it in time."
You'll need to submit a DNA specimen as positive id for your
passport. Don't worry; it doesn't hurt."
to home. School is so hectic, I hate to lose more travel
time." She looked away to the sofa back with that same
timbre to her voice.
We could go
see the places that John talked about. Visit his family if you like--"
His voice trailed off, but he kept his eyes glued to her head.
firmly and turned back to him. She took his hand. "I want to
away with you, but let's keep it on Earth, okay?"
Thailand? They have lovely beaches."
said Lesa. "I was thinking mountains."
you love the
ocean." Monty massaged her hand "I thought you
it with some sunshine for once. You haven't been the same
you stopped going--painting."
change; I changed. I don't want to be around the
really like to see the mountains. I want to go as high as you
go on earth: Mount Everest. I want to go all the way to the
of the world." She rolled over onto his stomach and held her
very close to his. "Can we afford it?"
back of her
knee. "Aye, I can work out the fee easy enough, but I'd
nae to be spending our honeymoon in biosuits." He kissed her
and again. And again. And again.
Somewhere in there
he lost track.
Kilimanjaro?" he asked when they finally broke apart. "No biosuits and
they provide private envirotents."
far is it
from the coast?" she asked.
far inland, I think. We can look it up in the morning if you
want, but the area isn't known for seafood, if that's what you mean."
she said and rolled him over and on top of her. "Can we stay for a
was about a
the wedding date that he came home and found her crying. At
he couldn't place the strangled noises; certainly they were sounds he
had never associated with her. They were coming from his study--the
room that had been John's bedroom. When he opened the door,
saw her with her back to him, the painting from their second date out
on the desk and the photograph John had taken of her clutched in one
enough to pretend he hadn't seen. He backed out and closed
enough not to accept the tacit offer. She didn't turn, but
called to him. "Monty, would you do something for me?"
went to her
beside her, not quite touching her, feeling about as useless as he ever
had. "Now that's the stupidest question I've heard all week."
through her tears and took his hand. He grabbed her arm and
pulled it up under his chin.
we go to the
comprehension began to form--or maybe it had already formed a while
back. In any event, Monty's words were not a guess.
want to say goodbye."
didn't mean to
John. He was fairly sure she didn't either.
"Yes. And if I were to ask you to wait in the flitter--?"
that's the second stupidest question. You're on a roll today.
Did I not just say I'd do anything?"
arms around his neck and hugged him. "I love you."
I am so
vera, vera, glad."
apart, Monty picked up the canvas. "It's rather a nice picture, really.
Can we frame it and put it up?"
I'd like that. I miss the ocean. Hang it where ever
you think best."
design expert," he teased.
She stood and tucked the little photograph into her
he got another glance at it, he saw something gray out in the
ocean. Turtles? Maybe seabirds on the
it was, she concealed the photo so fast he couldn't really be
trip to the
uneventful. She stayed less than an hour. As promised, he
in the flitter. He even closed his eyes. He didn't ask her
questions when she came back with her eyes puffy and her nose reddened,
except whether she cared to go eat. She said, no, that she
hungry, even for their favorite restaurant.
home and made sweet, slow, love instead.
rang. It was a small parcel addressed to Lesa, delivered by
courier, no reply, no return address. She cut open the
weatherguard wrapping and gasped as she picked up the contents of the
box. It was a set of perfectly matched pearls, each one
than a pea.
beautiful," said Monty, leaning over her shoulder. "They're
heirlooms," she said running them through her fingers. "Over
five hundred years old."
picked up the
strand. "The clasp is Jeluronized gold. They didn't
have that five hundred years ago."
have to be
periodically re-strung and re-knotted. I suppose they replaced the
clasp one of those times. The pearls are natural though,
from open-water oysters."
use synthaline and save all the trouble."
natural beauty is their attraction. Synthetic fiber would
that. Help me put them on."
of it as
spoiling when the silk rots through and they spill all over the floor."
He fastened the clasp in the back of her neck.
the knotting is for. And two, I will be restringing them to
make sure that that doesn’t happen."
you very much to send you beauties like these."
beads at her neck. "Yes."
lips. "So don't you think--"
off her computer, went into the bedroom and shut the door.
said how he knew. When he was eleven, the proof to Hyzander's
theory of cho particles had just popped into his head fully
formed. He had known that he was right, even though at a gut
level he hadn't dared to believe. His science teacher had
to help him set it up, but immediately realized she was over her
head. She had called the University of Edinburgh and gotten
into the physics lab with a faculty mentor and the rest was
history. Four months later, he and the entire physics
had no choice but to believe.
It wasn't a matter of putting together the little clues. One
he just looked at her and knew at some atavistic level in his gut, even
if he didn't really believe.
first time the
idea had been raised. His gramma had claimed that his grampa
one. When grampa had died, Monty had stood at the coffin and
waited for something to happen--some proof of the myth--but it never
did. Finally they closed the lid and laid the coffin in the
the time to
question gramma, so he'd asked Ian MacKintock
thought they turned into sea foam." Ian was in eighth grade. He should
to selkies, then?"
don't die; they just put their fur suits back on and turn back into
seals again." Ian didn't really know, but he was in eighth
and supposed to have the answers, so he just made something up.
it's just a matter of when," said Monty. They'd covered that
eyes. "It's just a story, Monty. Don't be such a baby."
baby, so he let it go.
it up one
other time. He was home from university and gramma had grown so old in
the three months since he'd seen her last. Everyone
but he didn't have to like it.
sat with her
reminiscing. They had shared some wonderful times.
spoke of the old bedtime stories, the trouble he'd gotten into, the
things they'd agreed that his parents didn't need to know, they bedtime
stories she had told. Finally he asked, "You used
me that grampa was a selkie."
most beautiful one you'll ever see."
selkies were immortal."
are. As seals they
can live healthy and beautiful forever. As humans, well, they
don't just die in body like we do; they sort of fade away a little bit
at a time. That's why they can't ever stay."
wheezy laugh. "You're old enough to know it now. I
meant your real grampa."
shocked, boy. I'm talking about love, not some evil thing."
sadly. "It doesn’t work that way." All
with us is here. " She tapped her head. "And here."
tapped her heart and left her hand in place.
and a nurse came in. "Time for your hypo, Mrs. Scott."
stood. "Can it wait? I don't get to visit often and
we have a lot to talk about."
drew the drapes against the sun as it dropped low to window
level. She put the hypo back in her pocket. "I'll
thirty more minutes, if you like, but frankly it would be better if you
could come back in the morning. She doesn't do well when her
schedule is disrupted and her mind is so much clearer earlier in the
right. I don't want to interfere with her care." He kissed
the forehead. "Goodnight, gramma."
they had talked
of birthday parties, a pair of pet wolverines they had kept for a few
months and a family trip to Luna. When he'd broached the
of his real grampa, she'd said that she had no idea what he meant.
on proof and not belief, but sometimes it works backwards.
things cannot be proven until and unless someone believes.
didn't make an
scientific sense, but given a choice between the two, any good Scotsman
will chose heart over brain when a lady is at issue. Some say that is
what brought down the Stuarts at Culloden. Monty preferred to
think that is why Scotland was still the great, independent state that
him that Lesa was too important to let her slowly fade away.
was a long
shot, but so was
warp drive. Monty waited until she left for class, then he
entered their bedroom. He took her old paintbrush from the
nightstand. As an afterthought, he took her hairbrush
He'd dated a girl in a bioscience fellowship. Okay, 'dated'
stretch, but she had held his hand while she'd told him that he was a
great guy and then explained why it wouldn't work. That was
closer than he had come with any other woman before now. Her name was
Rachel, Rachel Judson. It wasn't hard to find her lab.
liked to have
thought that Rachel was helping him for the sake of a the handful of
good times they had had, but he had to admit that a fellow scientist
was more likely to leap at the puzzle that at his looks and
charisma. For whatever reason, Rachel took the paintbrush.
looked skeptical, but put it in the sequencer anyway.
DNA." She took it out and changed to another
a few seconds she shook her head "It's been exposed to too many
chemicals," she said. "The bonds are too badly broken to
establish a curl pattern. That's going to limit the
identification." She pressed a couple buttons.
probably a pinniped, but I don't think I can narrow it down any more
than that. I'm sorry."
to his pocket
and unwound a few hairs from the hairbrush. Palming
length of the strands, he broke off a follicle end. "Try this."
put it in the
and her whole posture changed. She ran it again. "Where did
get this?" she demanded.
believe me if I told ya."
be part of
anything illegal. This is a phocid, and they are all
and strictly protected. If you've trapped one, or killed
Her voice trailed off.
Monty said acutely aware of how close the facts were to that despite
the intent. "I promise, it's nothing illegal or immoral, but
can't tell the details; I promised someone else."
written all over her face, but in the end she was a
scientist. She returned to the sequencer.
" I can't
match it exactly, but it is very similar to halicoerus.
it is, it is probably extinct." She removed the hair specimen and put
it into the ionic analyzer. "But the curl and bond structure
doesn't match. It looks--human."
up. "May I see a full hair?"
hand back in
his pocket. "Sorry that's all I have." He didn't
to sound convincing. He'd always been a crappy
didn't want to be too involved--"
I said I
wouldn't be a
part of anything illegal, and I won't. I love these
animals. I will not stand around and let one be
or worse." Her eyes flared in a way that only meant trouble from
Monty bent his knees and dropped to her eye level. He took
the forearms. "Rachel, I swear, I am trying to save
canna tell you more except that I need your help and that I would give
my life, my soul, anything that is mine to give to save this
creature. So, will ya help me, or nae?"
point, the fire in her eyes went out. She exhaled.
always were a crappy liar. Okay, I believe you. So
I do now?"
hand and kissed it. "Bless you, woman. Can you grow
me a patch of the fur?"
double-checked the data. "Sure. The curl-pattern
will still be off, though. Will that do?"
rueful snort. "Dammed if I know. How long?"
much do you
One more thing--can you put a black streak in it?"
That's just coding in more melanin."
nodded. "Make it noticeable, but not too big."
know what that
meant. Why couldn't men communicate?
called him back from his way out. "There are
Kilimanjaro. He'd never been that big on mountains anyway.
credit confirmation to the lab."
account." She wrote down a code. "They'll be questions if
is an outside donor. They don't ask me what I'm doing as long
I publish regularly." She paused. "Any chance of
publishing…something out of this?"
know as well
as I do that nothing should be completely ruled out in science."
back at the slew of incongruous data. "Ain't that the truth."
told him that he
should talk to Lesa about it, but he always shooed it away.
would the discussion go? Honey, I know you're a seal; I think
should sit down and talk? Wait, do seals sit? Maybe
should swim and talk. That's what he liked about mechanical
engineering; it did not rely on the imprecision of words. Everything
was math and fact and the final product either worked or it did
not. If it didn't one went back to the last decision point
couldn't help. She was worse off than he was for she was
with the iron certainty of centuries that it couldn't be
Monty had no such preconceptions. He would do what
inventors had done through the ages. He would see it through
the end, then flip the switch and see if the lights came on.
went to her
bridal dress fitter instead. "Can you do it?" he asked.
it's solid, I
can fit it," he said. "But I don't work on illegal
goods. Got a permit?"
grown," said Monty. He produced the lab certificate.
it over and grunted. "I'll need to keep this until you pick
it up. You want the entire body?"
Head, feet, hands, all of it."
holes? A mouth?"
faltered. How the blazes was he supposed to know?
"Sure, I guess."
gestured below his belt. His eyes narrowed. "Are
to be using it for any funny business?"
Monty flushed beet red and his brogue trebled in intensity. "What dae
yae think Ah ahm?"
commissioning a fur suit for his bride in time for their honeymoon."
He sincerely hoped this man did not know any of his friends or
family. "Nothing but the eye and mouth holes," he
"It'll be ready for the wedding day?"
can pick it
up with the dress, if she wants."
her! I'll pick it up meself. It’s a
eyebrows rose again.
that--" Monty began.
business; I just sew the stuff. Just tell me where you want
the fabriseal. Back? Side? Middle?"
how do you
expect to get the blame thing closed?"
a mechanic. Ye come to me with a flitter; I'll tell you how
should be fixed, nae the other way 'round. I come to you with
outfit, I expect you to work out the details. No synthetic
anything. Not the thread, not the closings."
leathery base of the fur. "I suppose I could make buttons out
Whatever works. And call me when it's done. Anything else?"
out his hand.
a credit chit. He'd heard that Kilimanjaro had been ruined by the
was ready a
week ahead of time. Monty went by to pick it up.
"Don't you want the lady to try it on for fit?"
head. "I don't think an inch here or there will make any
him a box and a bag.
fur. Grown or not, I don't want it on the premises without
the lab receipt."
There was rather a lot of scrap. It seemed like a shame,
considering what he'd paid. He punched info up on
flitter guidance console and headed for the nearest art guild.
said to the woman who greeted him. "Can you make custom paintbrushes?"
came to the
one box in each hand. His mother stuck her head out. "Go
It's bad luck to see the bride on the wedding day."
luck for the
bride, the groom, or for the marriage?" asked Monty.
same," said his mother. It wasn't often that she was so far
called through the door.
to the entrance.
mother with an I-wash-me-hands-off-of-ye scoff that didn't fool anyone.
for you." Monty raised the packages up to eye level.
that the groom gives bridal presents," she said eyeing them
just any bride. These are special."
aside. "Come in; show me."
hesitated. "Why don't you come out to the flitter.
I want to show you in privacy."
me get my
Monty spoke to her back as she rummaged in the closet. "But I
doubt that you'll need them."
the front passenger seat. "So, what have I got?" She reached
for the big box.
first." Monty handed the smaller box to her.
peel neatly at
the paper with her nails, but gave up rapidly and ripped it
Inside was a set of paintbrushes--at least thirty different sizes and
lost without you…painting. I thought maybe if you started
picked up a
and brushed it against her cheek. Her eyes widened.
"Monty!" She picked up another brush and then
"Monty, where did get the fibers?"
but I need to know, where did you get them?"
had them grown for you, maybe I should say."
very rare. How--?"
one." Monty prodded it at her.
really need to
answer it after, if you still want."
and threw aside the box top to pull out a sealskin body suit, sized it
seemed just for her. She stared between it and
threw her arms around his neck and began to cry. At first it
gasping little sobs, unsure of what to do next. Then it
full body wracking heaving sobs heavy with everything she had held
inside for so long.
through it all,
her long hair splayed out over her back and around her shoulders almost
covering her slight body from his view. "Thank you!
you know? I love you!" she kept repeating.
phenomenon. For the first time everything was out in the
but paradoxically Monty found that, for that very reason, he had no
idea what to say.
to the coast
in near silence, her hand resting on him the whole time.
were so many things he should have wanted to know now that this was out
in the open--questions coastal highlanders had had for centuries, maybe
even millennia. His grandmother had told him stories of the
selkies that her grandmother had told her. Each town had a different
version: the details of when they came ashore and why, how they seduced
their lovers, and whether they bore men good or ill.
of the few
remained constant was the skin. Should their sealskin coat go
missing, they would be left in human form forever.
could have all
the answers. He might be the only human being if he
None of that seemed to matter. He wanted only one thing, and
was exemplified by the gentle reality of her leg against his leg and
her hand upon his thigh.
that nagged at him, petty and churlish as it was. As people
had a vestigal appendage, men still carried this vestige of the caveman
about John, was it," he asked, ashamed and oddly liberated at the same
No. Why do you
ask?" Her surprise was genuine and ironically, greater than any he had
been able to muster through all this.
feigned insouciance. "I dinnae. The picture, the
from a fold of her clothing. "The painting was the sea--my
home. And this one is my parents."
over at the snapshot. He saw waves and maybe--just maybe--two
hazy blobs. "I can't really tell much."
them. I was talking to them earlier. I thought this
was all I would be able to ever have of them to keep." Her
A Scottsman understands clan. "God willing, I'll see that you
back." A wet droplet splashed his hand, and he carefully kept
eyes on the control panel lest he have to pull over--and Lesa had
waited long enough.
instruments, Monty found the landing clearing. The fog was so
thick one could barely see the shore. The damp washed in as
as she opened her door. Monty shuddered as the bitter sea air
wrapped around him. He thought he knew now why he had never
learned to like the ocean: the purpose of its whole existence was to
take her away from him.
hopped out, skipping easily over the slick rock as if she were born to
it. Of course she did--she was.
found a flat
pulled her dress up over her head. Monty picked his
around the flitter and over to her. By the time he
there, she was naked, sitting on a rock with her legs turned to one
side running the sealskin through her hands.
against the cold and he fought the urge to shiver; Lesa was positively
aglow. He squatted down and moved his hand with hers, petting
fall of the fur. "I guess it's time ta fire up the engine and
if she runs as good as she looks."
glanced up at him a little shyly. "Humans aren't supposed to
watch us change. It's against the rules somehow."
straightened up and pulled away.
him slip and almost stumble on the rock. "It's
think the rules are different…considering."
in front of her on the rock.
pulled the sealskin on. Her feet turned out and her legs
together. She slipped one arm in and the arm became a
flipper. She pulled the hood up over her head and finally she
poked the last arm in, all but completing the transformation.
From the backside she was just another seal.
there was one
little problem. A very human, very familiar, very sexy torso
still poked through the middle.
reach it with a
flipper, but it was well out of her grasp. She twitched her
at him. "Good thing you stayed. I could use a hand."
mechanically towards her. Believing in the theory was one
but seeing it, touching it, having manufactured something that he
couldn't even begin to comprehend the workings of was another thing
entirely. And thus everything he knew of his ordered,
scientifically designed universe collapsed around him and the wonders
of infinite possibilities fell within his scope.
moving up, reverently he began to button. He traced the line
her body up between her breasts and over her neck, ending at the very
place he loved to nestle. He kissed it one last time, then
closing his eyes, he sealed it with a final twist.
sat back to
handiwork. Silver-gray, sleek and shiny, she was still the
beautiful creature he had ever seen. A scattering of darker
patches mottled her back and belly. From her head running
behind where her ear opening must be, a sharp streak of pure black ran
down to her neck.
"what do you think?"
love of his
life was a
myth. He had made the greatest natural discovery of
century with staggering bioengineering implications, but he would never
be able to tell. His entire worldview had been
picket fence life he had planned out with endless research grants, an
engineering chair and 1.37834 kids had just been swept away in one fell
think? He voiced the first formed thought that came into his
head. "You can talk."
her head. "Of
course. What did ye take me for, a seal?" Despite
Monty began to laugh. She followed suit, but the laugh was
and barking, exactly like--
Carefully he rolled a set of her barbels between his fingers.
twitched and gave a ladylike sneeze. He thumbed the rubber
of her nose--a nose that had not been sewn into the pelt they had
grown. He stroked the white streak, rolled his fingertip
the tiny ear opening, felt the ridges of tissue and a flap that had not
been there minutes before. He examined her flipper
webbed, the vicious looking claws on each one.
smelled like the sea.
flipper to his
mouth and kissed it. Choking back emotion, he let her
"You're nae coming back, are ye?"
slid a little
closer to him. "Monty, I was never meant to be here this long in the
and nodded. "I know. I've just…never met
anyone like you before--"
this time. "You know what I mean."
his knee. "I do. And I feel the same.
Monty, you have
given me--or given me back everything--and I do mean everything--that I
value in this life. I can never thank you enough for that--or
repay you--but I will always love you."
me," said Monty. He knelt back down and threw his arms around
her, burying his face in her neck.
happy. What I want more than anything is ta know that you're
happy and that I made you that way." He pressed his face more tightly
against her, the musty smell growing every stronger in the
"And if there is ever a time when you're thinking about not being
happy, well, you won't be able to because you made me a promise and you
have ta keep it."
She reached to wrap her flippers around him, but together they came
unbalanced and fell awkwardly to the rock.
Monty wiping a hand violently at his face.
said. "I'll always remember what it was like."
to his feet
and took a deep breath. "I guess this is good-bye,
He wiped his nose with the back of his hand but didn't move from his
flew wide in wonder. "You mean, I could?"
No. We can
teach our own children to convert, but not outsiders." Her
trailed off with a flush of the same sadness he had grown accustomed to
in the preceding weeks since the crash.
come with me into the water--to say good-bye."
woman! It's bloody freezing in there!"
not so bad
once you get used to it."
scoffed. "That's easy for you ta say; you’re
a--" He stopped.
selkie." The word hung in the air.
She slipped down the rock and toward the water's edge.
Monty peeled of
his jacket and kicked off his boots. Mindless of the rough
he plunged after her. He fell into a tide pool in the
"Shite." He stood up and made to turn around, but then he saw
just offshore, waiting for him. He lunged out of the tidepool and
crawled into the ocean's edge.
constricted his chest
when the water covered it. He felt his heart stutter and then
restart. She was there against him. "Welcome to my
world." She dove down; he paddled after her. She
around him, between his legs. She maneuvered to carry him
playfully on her back.
another wave washed over him. He choked on the salt water running down
his throat and spat out a mouthful of ocean and phlegm.
off," he said. "This is insane. Let me go." Let me
me go. He'd
He'd asked for it. Even in myth--perhaps especially in myth--some
things were just not meant to me. Drowning half-frozen after
being battered against the rocks is enough to ward off the romantic in
fairytales end in 'happily every after.'
off her back and he staggered to stand in the waist deep water.
you," he said.
his legs, her fur brushing softly against his calves, then she
surfaced, barked twice at him and dove away towards Orkney.
made back for the flitter. He stopped to pick up her
clothes. Nobody likes a litterbug. He paused and,
the better of it, stashed them under a rock and made a little
cairn--just in case. After all, you never know in this life,
he saved in a pouch that he kept with his personal possessions wherever
knows that most fairytales do end happily ever after.
lay on his
stroking Mira's hair. It was nearly thirty years ago now, but
experiences like that don't fade with time. Lesa had given
new way of seeing his universe. Because of her he had reached
other strange new worlds and found his life among the stars.
had previously thought that the cost had been his heart, but since Mira
he saw that he had been wrong again.
light. Apparently the transponders and couplers could
She curled against him and locked one leg tightly around him as if to
never let him go.
the pillow and
made a place for his left arm somewhere behind her
Okay, so he wasn't getting up tonight. That was all right
the morning he
out the paintbrushes and package them to send to Janice Rand on Earth
via the next mail ship. Janice would appreciate them and they
belonged on Earth.
no use for them anymore.