Todd didn’t know how he managed to act normal when he was swimming in a sea of light and joy. Ellie loved him! But somehow, he managed to make his way through the outbriefing, giving his presentation to the main officers of the Impulsive and the HuFleet and Union admirals who had teleconferenced in. His own boss was there, as was Keh Ren from Legal. His mouth moved on automatic while he concentrated on not blushing and keeping a serious expression. All seemed pleased at whatever he said, but he didn’t remember a word of it.
Afterwards, Commander Smythe and Captain Tiberius pulled Ellie aside, so he waited by the door.
Commander Smythe told her, “Ensign Smirnov needs some leadership experience. I’d like him to handle preparing Ops for our departure. Ensure he knows what needs to be done. Mr. Ahndmore can wait for you here.”
How she could say “Yes, sir,” with such aplomb baffled him and made him love her more. When she left through the door to the bridge, the two men turned to him.
“Have a seat,” the captain said.
He did so, smirking, “Just so you know, Security has already said what they’d do to me if I ever hurt Ellie.”
The two officers exchanged glances.
“Were you going to threaten bodily harm?” the captain asked his first officer.
Smythe replied, “I wouldn’t think it necessary or appropriate.”
Todd felt his face redden. “I’m sorry! I thought… Is this about the janbots?”
“Oh, no. this is about our lieutenant,” the captain replied. “We just want to be sure you understand what you’re getting into.”
He gulped. “Sir?” He thought he’d be having this conversation with her father. Somehow that seemed less intimidating.
Smythe steepled his fingers. “Lieutenant Doall is the amazing officer – the amazing woman – that she is not just because of her genius and ability to think outside the box. She’s driven.”
“Loyal and dedicated,” the captain added.
“And has an insatiable need to be useful on a grand scale. She won’t be happy with anything less. If you want a relationship with her, you’d better be ready for all that implies.”
“Absolutely, sir!” But what did it imply?
But these were not the people to ask.
Before he could figure out what else to say, Ellie stepped into the briefing room. “He’s all set, sir, Captain,” she told them as she moved to take a seat by Todd. She gave him a curious glance. “Did you want us to work on the Cyber issue, Captain?”
He waved toward the door. “I don’t think I can stop you from working on it but do so in the back of your mind. I want you to take a day off.”
Todd saw how her brow knit just slightly in confusion, and how she stiffened, as if about to protest. The captain’s advice hit home.
But the captain pointed at the door. “Git. Just don’t forget the variety show tonight.”
“No, sir! Of course not, sir. Thank you!”
Once the door closed behind Ellie and him, she let out a squeak of joy. “Is there anything you have to do today?”
“I have to pack, and I promised I’d bring home souvenirs. Shoot! I was going to ask the Captain to sign something for my little brother. He’s crazy about starship captains. He collects the cards.”
“That’s easy. We can ask after the pageant. Let’s replicate one for Captain Genoa, too. Who else?”
“That’s the problem. Mom’s a freighter captain. She’s got a pretty steady route, but when she goes someplace new, she always brings back something cool. I never go anywhere, so I have to outdo her.” While he told her about the other siblings at home expecting trinkets, they made their way to her to the lazivator.
Meanwhile, Jeb and Phineas went to the Bridge.
“Do you think he understood what we were saying?” Phin asked.
“He’d better have, ‘cause if he hurts her, I’ll kick his butt,” Jeb answered.
* * *
Misha looked up from a plant she was misting and smiled at Ellie and Todd as they entered the botany ward. “Hey, you two! Where were you last night? Never mind! I don’t need to know. You missed a lot fo fun, though. Gel is a weirdly good dancer.”
Ellie smiled, “So you made up?”
Misha held up both hands to forestall any jumped conclusions. “We’re just friends, El. That’s all we ever were and all we’ll ever be. Neither of us is into that level of species variance. What brings you here? Fyodor’s in charge of preparations. He’s so bossy.”
“Todd has a little brother who’s interested in botany, and he wants to bring him home something special. I thought maybe…?”
“Hmm.” Misha frowned. “How interested is he?”
Soon Misha had gifted him with a small pot holding the cutting of a Primeval Hisser of Juras 2. The thick-leaved plan earned its name because it responded to sudden, near movement by rearing back and hissing. “It’s completely harmless, but it looks cool,” Misha reassured him. Plus, it pulled moisture and nutrients from the air, making it easy to care for.
“But if your brother follows the instructions, this little cutting will be ready to bloom just about the time he’s going to want to impress girls,” Misha concluded.
“What’s next?” Ellie asked.
“I’m getting Raela candy that’s spun in vacuum, but I’ll do that tomorrow.”
They entered the lazivator, where they had spent many joyful minutes, talking, holding hands on the sly, and a time – or twenty – stopping it altogether for a real kiss. He was going to miss that lazivator.
Ellie broke his thoughts. “What about your parents? Don’t they get anything?”
“I was thinking about that,” he said, which was a complete lie. His mouth was moving on automatic, while a tiny part of his superego was shouting, “Don’t do it! Think about what the captain said! It’s too soon!”
But Ellie was there, and she was so wonderful and his heart was so full. The words tumbled out.
“I thought, maybe, they’d like a future daughter-in-law?”
Her eyes got wide. “Pulsie! Stop the lazivator!”
Now, I had added this part, but I thought ending the scene as I did above was better. What do you think?
She set her hands over his. “Toddy, are you sure? I mean, there’s so much we don’t know about each other, and so much to consider…”
Of course, she’d be thinking that. Could she be any more perfect? “I don’t care. I know we’ll make it work. I love you.”
“I love you, too. And yes, omigosh, yes. I’ll marry you.”