798: But Not Today

by Lair Kellyn
Concurrent with First Impressions

-=Deck Four, USS Serendipity=-

"Now don't forget to write. At least once a day."

"Once a day? I don't know,"

"Don't forget to zip up your coat, and,"

"It's a desert planet."

"Don't eat anything that is still moving under its own power and-"

"The Vulcans are vegetarians, remember?" Kellyn couldn't help but smile, a sad smile though it was. "Reece, it's going to be all right. Everything is going to be all right."

She sounded though more like she was trying to convince herself of the truth in her words than even him.

"Yeah? Well I liked this deal a lot better, letting you go off with Pointy to the Pointy home world when I knew you were leaving your kid as collateral. Now you're taking her with, what does that do to reassure an old slug that his best friend is gonna come home?"

He looked down at the deck, ceasing his seemingly endless bouncing motion, and whined, "Nobody else will eat Szechwan with me."

"I'll be back to eat Szechwan with you soon and Dengar will be back to pretending that he...likes it." Kellyn looked up, her words slowing as she saw Rada standing just over Reece's shoulder. She'd been so preoccupied trying to calm Dabin down that she didn't hear the Angosian approaching.

"He likes it! He just doesn't want to, oh." Reece realized that Lair was now staring beyond him and turned toward Dengar. "Hiya Danger. I guess..." Reece sighed.

"Don't take any tin slips of latinum." The Trill said in parting, refusing to speak anything that could even remotely be construed as a goodbye.

Kellyn leaned over and kissed him on the cheek.

"I'll be back in time to hold that new daughter of yours, and be sure that you don't teach her half of the things that you taught Arie when she was little."

"What fun are you." Reece frowned in an exaggerated fashion.

He tried to bounce down the hallway, but the weight of his worry held his feet firmly to the ground. "Be good while you're gone." Then he spun around and made a quick sign to her, one that brought a lump to Kellyn's throat, as she had not seen that sign since Jariel had left the ship. It was the Universal Standard Sign... [[I love you.]]

Lair's response was far less poignant.

"Don't blow up my lab while I'm gone or I'll take it out of your ass! And stay outta my stuff!"

"Hey, if you left the Kava rock-candy sticks in the top drawer of your desk, I can't be held responsible for what happens to them while you're gone." He called back, before disappearing around the corner.

Kellyn squared her shoulders and looked at Rada. "Sorry about that. Didn't mean to leave you hanging there for so long."

Without saying a single word in greeting, Rada shifted his weight uneasily from foot to foot and his voice took on a tone of concern. "You're taking her with you."

Kellyn's face turned to the color of ash. "Yes. But it was not my idea. The Counselor thinks..." She shrugged. "The Counselor thinks. End of story."

"But, then how will I know if, if I should," he lifted and dropped his shoulders. "Maybe you should take the research with you-"

"Rada," Kellyn reached out, putting a hand on his arm and patting it gently. "I won the bet."

Rada's eyebrows climbed and seemed, for a moment, almost suspended in the air, independent from the rest of his facial features.

"I won the bet, in that soggy Irish field. And the day that I concede that you won it will be the day that the fire caves freeze over- and the day that I turn over my place in The Alchemy Project to anyone else. Understand?"

Rada nodded.

"I have to go." She tilted her head toward the door to the transporter room. "Salvek, Arie and the rest of the team beamed over an hour ago. I had a few things to finish up, but they're going to-" Before her sentence was finished, the sound of her combadge interrupted.

[Alchemy to Lair.] Ashton Ledbetter hailed impatiently. [You may not be on a clock, Commander, but some of us have time-sensitive plans on Vulcan. So if you don't mind,]

"Two minutes. Lair out." Kellyn said, closing the channel.

"Take care of yourself, Kellyn," said Rada, adding with artificial certainty, "I'll see you soon."

*I hope so,* Kellyn thought, but she merely nodded to him one last time before spinning around and dashing through the doors to the transporter room, not pausing at all to look back.

-=Bridge of theAlchemy=-

"But why can't someone else go instead?" Dane folded his arms, leaning down over the helm to speak to Gira Lassiter in hushed tones.

"Because, they want me to get some on-deck experience flying her before it really counts," Gira whispered back. "Not that I need it, honestly. After flying the Perseids, this thing is about as difficult to navigate as a tricycle." She wasn't bragging, she was just thinking aloud, something she seemed to do more in front of Dane than anyone else.

"But you just got here."

"We're not supposed to be gone long," Gira replied, twisting in her seat. "You can still... you know, write to me. If you want to." She hated to admit that even in just the time since she'd come back from Betazed, she had actually missed his letters. At that moment, Dane felt a slight, bony hand clamp down upon his shoulder.

"Mister Cristiane," Ashton Ledbetter whined.

"Yes, Sir?"

"Yes Captain." Ledbetter corrected, before pointing to the lift as if it were an exit. "Get off of my bridge."

Dane cringed. Everything Zanh Liis had ever said about Ledbetter was true, and then some, and Dane simply couldn't stand the man.

"Aye, Sir." he grunted, wondering how long it'd be before Zanh chose to remind Ledbetter that he was to be addressed as Agent Ledbetter and not 'captain' of anything aboard the Sera or Alchemy since he held no rank at all in her crew structure. He only wished he could be in the room when that little chat took place...

"I'll write to you soon." Dane added, before he reluctantly turned away from Gira. He tapped his badge and requested transport back to the Sera, and in a flash, he was gone.

An instant later, standing in his place was Lair Kellyn. "Are we ready?"

"Some of us have been ready for over an hour." Ledbetter snapped.

"Then let's get on with it." Lair searched the bridge for Salvek but was not surprised that he was not present. "My husband?"

"I believe he's in the galley with your daughter, Commander." Lassiter answered helpfully. "The ship is ready for your command, Sir." Gira nodded toward Ledbetter. She had absolutely no problem working with the man or knowing what to expect from him, after all he'd been her XO on the Perseids for two years of non-linear time when they'd been lost out there in the middle of no-when with only each other to depend upon.

"Move us a safe distance away and then prepare to initiate a transwarp jump." Ledbetter sighed. He'd reviewed the Alchemy's capabilities, such as they were. "We might as well be going in a horse-drawn buggy, but I guess it is what it is."

On any other day such an insult to her husband's design and all of their hard work as a team with Rada and the rest of the Sera's crew to make the Alchemy into what she was today would have brought forth a sharp reply (or more to the point, suggestion what he could do with his opinion) from Lair.

But not today.

Commander Lair Kellyn
Engineering Research and Development
Aboard the USS Alchemy on the way to Vulcan