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One Last Dance


Ben Livingston
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A knowing smirk formed on her face as her eyes found the man in a blue Starfleet uniform on the opposite side of the room.

“I don’t want to,” she declared. It was simple and direct; Hector would appreciate that. Hector shifted his weight in the chair, crossed his arms across his chest, and shifted his weight back to how it had been. For a moment, he sat in silence, staring back. His eyes worked their way around her face, measuring everything in the systematic method he applied to his work. But she wasn’t supposed to be work. Is that what I’ve become? A project? Her smile melted away as her gaze drifted down to her arms. She hadn’t remembered crossing them. She shifted her gaze to the pair of cut daffodils in water beside her bed.

“You’re lying,” she heard him say, but her mind was still on how exactly he saw her. When she looked back, Hector was standing; he strode toward her, up the length of the bed, and ended up standing right at her side with mischief in his eyes. She inquired what he was doing with a glance. He’d know what she was asking. But he just leaned down over her, resting his arms on the bio bed to either side of her. Just a few years ago she had pined for them to be in this position. His unshaven face – it’s my fault; he doesn’t even have time to care for himself – was just inches away when he started again. “You’re lying, Karla, and I won’t have it.”

Karla stifled a laugh. “I’m lying?” She slowly lifted her arms and draped them over his shoulders. “What am I lying about?”

“About not wanting to dance.”

Before she knew what was happening she was out of the bed; in the air, more precisely, with solid arms wrapped behind her. Karla whooped with surprised delight, unaware of what would happen but in well-trusted hands. At length she felt the cold deck beneath her bare feet; but it was a feeling she’d not had in so long that the cold was welcomed. It seemed Hector had found a way to take her mind off of things. I’ll have to remember not to ruin this, she thought as she closed her eyes and allowed her head to rest on his shoulder. Who knows if we’ll ever dance again?

The music filled her mind, though the only sounds were medical devices and an EMH in the next room. It was reminiscent of a summer afternoon, lying on the grass at a festival with a warm breeze blowing through the air. Karla could even feel the breeze; her hair swayed back and forth. But that was just Hector, it turned out, playing with what little of her hair remained. He caressed the once-full mop of golden threads and she felt him sigh. Before long they danced no longer; he stood holding her against his barrel chest as her tears fell silently down his sleeve. When she opened her eyes, the pip of a petty officer loomed before her.

The magic had not been lost, but the moment that contained it was over, now present only in memory. Karla’s joints creaked as she stepped back toward the bed. Her handsome attendant helped her back down and lifted her legs up onto the bed. “The doctor said I’m not to do things like that,” she commented as he sat down beside her.

“You needed it as much as I did.”

“That’s no excuse.” Karla felt his hand slide over hers, clasping it gingerly.

Hector screwed up his face in what Karla could only make out to be mock seriousness. “Whatever happened to ‘quod est necessarium est … legitim’?” He held the face for a moment as Karla shook her head with a chortle. Reaching up, she pushed his shoulder with her good arm.

“It’s ‘licitum’, you dunce!,” she said breaking into laughter. “And I don’t think doctors care about that.” Legal principles from Hector? She wondered. I may die of shock if I make it through this alive. Her lips parted to say it, but as she looked at him smiling down at her, she couldn’t quite bring herself to say the words.

Instead, she settled on a pleasant smile. It was a good decision; the peace of silence was much more soothing. As Hector slid closer, the light caught his pip again, and Karla sighed.

“Your shift starts soon. Want something to eat before you go back?” It was painful to say, but if he had to leave, she at least needed some transition time.

“No, I’m not hungry yet.”

“Well won’t you be later?” Breaking from routine was not something Hector often did.

“I’ll eat when I’m hungry. With you.” Hector paused as a smile more tranquil than she remembered seeing on him grew on his face. “I’ve arranged for my duty shift to be covered. I’ll be here with you.”

Comfort took hold of Karla, but it gave way soon enough, as though the bed had dropped out from beneath her. “Oh. Is it that bad?” Karla knew they had increased the dosage of two of the medications last week, but they hadn’t changed her prognosis, so far as she knew.

“No, no, it’s not that.” The reply was quick, and he reached over to take her hand again. “I don’t know any more than you do. But we needed some time, right?”

Karla’s smile returned. “Hector Adler, is this your idea of a date?” Hector walked around to the other side of the bio bed and lay next to her. It was a position in which they had been so often before, but as time had progressed ever onward, lying beside him took on ever evolving meanings. There was a time, long ago, when it left her feeling giddy. Now she was too tired to feel giddy; having him beside her was a tremendous comfort. She reached to the bedside table and found the vase of daffodils. He’d even brought flowers.

“Yeah, I guess it is,” answered Hector. “Isn’t it romantic?”

-----

Ensign Ben Livingston

Assistant Chief Engineer

Starbase 118

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