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of his Neck" ©
Her hair accidentally brushes against his neck, or perhaps he has
deliberately leaned down to it. She
turns her head and her eyes flick upward.
She is so petite that her view is only the pale arc of his neck above the
broad bulk of his shoulder. Something
about the composition of the shapes or the lighting reminds her of a scrap of
poetry: a line about the
“crescent moon that o’ertops the sunset-shaded hill.”
What a strange turn of thought! Wherever
did that come from? Stranger
still is the impulse of her hand, resting upon that shoulder, to stroke the
small place, redolent with his cologne, where his dark hair laps the back of his
neck. The nape of his neck.
They are dancing. Very close
together. The music is slow and
bluesy, Will’s favorite, jazz. She
settles her cheek against his chest, and all higher thought drowns in simple
sensory perception. She would like
the music to go on, but this will be the last dance.
Already the captain is bidding the Evora delegation goodbye.
The captain’s mood intrudes upon her empathy. She senses a new tension,
an impatience that is not the irritation of his comical beaded headdress nor the
petty errands that Starfleet has lately assigned. Embarking upon the evening bored and disgruntled,
he is now in his native state, a man poised for action.
She wonders what has happened. She
thinks for the millionth time, how quickly feelings change!
How little it takes to change them.
Indeed, the moment the diplomats exit, the captain waves his hand.
The music stops abruptly. Picard’s
voice carries across the floor ordering the reception hall to be struck like a
stage set. The stewards leap to the
clearing. Will straightens, but he
makes no move to leave her. She is
aware of the reluctance of his arms.
At last she moves away,
retrieving the dress jackets that they had shed for the dancing.
The captain glances toward them, frowning, perhaps, at their subversion
of the formal protocol.
But then, he frowns about much lately.
But then, so do they all. He
beckons to his First Officer.
Waylaid for some time by the anxious protocol officer who needs
reassurance of the night’s success, she is finally turning out of the door
when Will catches up to her. Ostensibly,
he wishes to reclaim his jacket, but he begins to tell her all about it: the
strange query about Data’s schematics, the planet survey team in sector four
four five, the “Briar Patch,” Picard’s
presentiment of something amiss. She
listens thoughtfully as he tells her of the new mission and their assignment to
study the Son’a. The mood,
indeed, is changed, all business, now. She
tries to think it welcome. For a
moment she had forgotten that they were--had promised one another always to
be--professional Starfleet officers.
But as they enter the lift up to deck eight, she realizes that his
briefing could have waited till morning. The
ulterior motive: he does not wish to forgo seeing her home, so he has seized an
excuse to prolong their evening. This
is not strictly professional. But
she does not object.
And so they stroll slowly toward her door and there they stop. He says good night. His
hands clasped behind his back, he leans down into a bow to place a chaste kiss
on her cheek. He is the perfect
parody of the proper schoolboy, except for the knowing smile, that twinkle in
She has noticed that he always maintains the tilt of his head, bent
toward her lips, as he withdraws. Just
in case, just on the chance she might--
--but she places her kiss just below his cheekbone, avoiding the beard,
closing her eyes against the beckoning arc where the curve of her face exactly
fits the crook of his neck. The
lights of her cabin draw her inside and the door sliding shut fades the light of
Her insignia rattles into the tray.
Her uniform is replaced by a dressing gown.
She brushes her hair and studies her reflection in the mirror, too
unquiet yet for sleep.
But is she not content with their relationship?
She has all that is most important:
companionship, independence, trust, and the intimacy of thought that can
come only between imzadi. Only
physical intimacy is lacking. Ah,
but if that is so small a matter, why this . . . discontent?
Despite inertial dampers, she can feel the ship come around, pointing
toward a yet unseen star system a day or two distant.
But she can look ahead if she chooses. Her computer brings forth an image
of sector four four five: clouds of
glimmering dust like the aftermath of a great conflagration and a solitary
planet amid the nebular gases. They
glow like something alive, warm, deceptively combustible.
She thinks for the millionth time, how strongly some feelings persist. What little would it take to reclaim them? She gazes at the unknown place until the silver gibbous moon behind the dark horizon of the planet recalls the shape of the nape of his neck.