The first time is Marc’s fault.

The second time is debatable, and the third is Selene’s idea, and after that, it’s kind of a running joke with the bridge crew, but the first time is definitely, definitely Marc’s fault.

“Selene,” he says. He’s bouncing on the balls of his feet, tricorder in hand. “Ice volcanoes.”

“We’re due back on board at eighteen hundred hours,” Selene says. “We have time for, I don’t know. A tour of the Corysan building. Grabbing a drink downtown. Not a spacewalk to look at volcanoes.”

“Ice volcanoes. Why would I want to grab a drink when there are ice volcanoes?” Marc asks. “Anyway, last time we went drinking on an unfamiliar planet I hugged that Alurian and you flipped out.

“I was really drunk,” Selene says. “And you didn’t!”

“Come on, Selene,” Marc says. “These things are insane. We gotta go see ’em. Who knows when we’ll be here again! Let’s carpe some diems!”

“That’s not how Latin works,” Selene says, but she sets her e-pad down on the desk and pushes back her chair.

Marc does a victory fist pump. Selene smacks him upside the head.


The shuttle flight to Altaria 114’s southern pole is worth the price of admission all on its own. Marc digs a gleeful elbow into Selene’s ribs every time they fly over a dark, spidering ravine or the purpled surface of a glacier. His nose is practically glued to the window.

“You’re gonna leave a smudge,” Selene says. Marc scoffs without taking his eyes off the view.

“I can’t believe you left your sense of wonder in your other pants,” he says.

“I can’t believe you left your self-restraint on another planet,” Selene says. She can hear the smile in her own voice. Of course, Marc can hear it, too.

“Too late to go back for it now!” Marc says cheerfully. The tourist shuttle, programmed to fly this route and this route only, touches down with all the grace of automated practice.

“Too bad,” Selene says. Marc turns from the window and grins at her.

“You love it,” he says.

“Of course, I do,” Selene says with a sigh. She rolls her eyes for good measure. “Come on, let’s suit up.”


It’s bitterly cold outside the shuttle. The suits only help so much-Selene can feel the chill trying to gnaw its way in at the edges.

“We could be eating dinner right now,” Selene says as they pick their way along a rocky thing that might, if you squinted, be called a path. “Someplace warm. Warm food, warm restaurant, warm everything.”

The wind picks up the higher they climb. Selene’s done harder work in the name of Squadron, but she’s not sure they have time to scale an entire mountain today. Hopefully it’s not what Marc has in mind.

“Warm drinks,” she says belatedly, in case Marc has forgotten.

“Look,” Marc says, tugging at Selene’s wrist. Selene turns, and looks.

Spread out in a semi-circle below them is a crooked mountain range. The peaks are dark, and jagged; they remind Selene a little of cracked teeth, maybe.

“Okay, so watch this,” Marc says. When Selene looks over, Marc has the chrono display up on his suit face. He’s squinting at the numbers. “In like-thirty seconds. Ish. Thirty-ish seconds.”

“Very precise,” Selene says. “Very scientific.”

“Shut up,” Marc says, laughing. “Who’s the scientist here? Just watch, okay, it’s-see? Selene.”

A sudden, silent explosion billows up from one of the volcanoes below. One moment it’s an expanding cloud of something that looks like gas; the next moment it darkens, gathering mass somehow before it plummets down to dash itself against the mountain’s surface.

“Damn,” Selene says.

“So, these are cryo-volcanoes,” Marc says. He’s fiddling with his tri-corder through gloved fingers. Trying to take readings, probably. “Their internal structure actually isn’t that different to volcanoes you’d find on Earth, right, but instead of molten rock they produce liquid methane, and it’s so cold here that the methane freezes, like, the second it hits the air. So then it crashes to the ground-well, you just saw-and shatters, which, I mean, is amazing just to watch, but it’s also chemically fascinating, the whole thing. The geology department of the Corysan university is, like, entirely devoted to these volcanoes and how they form and how they interact with the planet’s atmosphere, you could spend your whole life studying it and not know everything there is to know. I mean, obviously you could, but. Think about it.”

Marc would make a good geology student, is what Selene thinks. Better at chemistry or biology, though. Something a little more to do with life, and a little less to do with rocks.

Every planet they visit, and hundreds of planets they don’t, has some kind of natural phenomena Marc would happily stop and research until the stars fell out of the sky around him. At which point he’d get straight to work autopsying the stars.

“Quit zoning out, you did fine in your science classes,” Marc says. Selene can hear the dimples before she even looks over.

“I was listening,” she says, even though she ought to make a joke. “We should probably get back to the shuttle, though.”

They should, she realizes as she says it. The sky’s darkening quicker than she’d like, and the wind’s not dying down.

“Uh,” Marc says. He’s tapping at his tricorder again. “Actually, I think-shit.”


“Tell me,” Selene says.

“This part of the planet gets some pretty nasty wind storms,” Marc says. “Especially in the evenings. We should probably find shelter, wait for this one to pass. I don’t think we’ll get back to the shuttle before it starts.”

“Alright,” Selene says. Work with the intel you’re given, in the environment you’ve got. “Geologically similar to volcanoes on earth, right?” she asks.

“Yeah,” Marc says. “It has to do with-oh, caves, yeah, there should be-”

“Yeah,” Selene says, and pushes at Marc’s shoulder until he’s facing the right way. “You see it?”

They make it into the cave’s mouth just before the storm hits. It’s not much, as far as shelter goes-shallow, over-exposed-but it’s better than being out in the open. Allison can see particles of earth and rock being scoured away by the wind. She’s not sure the suits would hold up to that.

“Sorry love,” Marc says. His breath puffs against the helmet glass.

“Eh,” Selene says. “It was worth it.”

“What, just for a couple of ice volcanoes?” Marc asks. He bumps their shoulders together and then doesn’t bother moving away. It’s a very Marc thing to do, even through layers of Squadron’s most advanced tech. Outside, the air is so full of dust that everything’s gone dark.

“I’ll have you know, those are cryo-volcanoes,” Selene says. “They produce liquid methane, and they’re chemically fascinating.”

“Oh yeah?” Marc asks. He’s a solid weight against Selene’s side, and the storm will blow over soon enough.

“Yep,” Selene says. “This really smart guy told me so. He’ll make somebody an amazing science officer someday. If he doesn’t get eaten by something chemically fascinating, first.”

“Somebody,” Marc huffs. Selene ignores the way her stomach very briefly tries to eat itself and leans into Marc, instead.


Selene can blame Marc all she wants, but the fact is, they’ve been serving on the same ship for two years now, and they were at the academy for four years together before that, and still, every time Marc grins and says, “We gotta go see this, Marc,” Selene goes.

“I can’t believe you talked me into this,” Selene says. She shoves irritably at the giant fern leaves blocking her way; they spring straight back into her face, showering her with something she really hopes is water. Dew. Rainfall. Something.

“You brought it up,” Marc counters from up ahead. Selene can hear the cheerful beeping of his tricorder.

“I said Aaron had gotten some interesting atmospheric readings,” Selene says. “I did not say, ‘let’s beam down to the planet’s surface to investigate, where the interesting atmospheric readings will stop the ship from being able to pick up our transport signals and bring us back.’”

“Exactly,” Marc says. “All your idea.”

Selene steps on the back of her boot. Marc makes an affronted noise, but doesn’t look up from his tricorder.

Marc has been a little antsy, lately, is the thing. He tries not to show it, because antsiness isn’t really Squadron-approved, but negotiating a trade agreement with the Ruon had taken almost a month, and before that it was providing security for the royal wedding on Cerengi. It all added up to a lot of time spent shipside talking about imports, exports, and seating charts, and Marc had started to look pinched around the edges.

So, alright, maybe Selene mentioned the atmospheric readings on purpose. Maybe she brought them up when she and Marc had an overlap in their off-duty hours. Maybe she had the transport room notified and ready.

But Marc can’t prove anything.

“Anyway,” Marc is saying, “it’ll be fine. We just need to get to higher-that’s a dinosaur.”

“What?” Selene says, and runs into Marc’s back.

“Oh,” she says. “That’s a dinosaur.”

There’s a small clearing in front of them. It’s a pretty unremarkable clearing, except that there’s a dinosaur in it.

“Hi!” Marc says. The dinosaur blinks, and then bends its neck to chomp at the foliage. “Are you, uh, verbal?”

The dinosaur chews its green mouthful, distinctly uninterested.

“…Where do you keep your genitals?” Marc asks.

“You cannot hug the dinosaur!” Selene says, even though, objectively, the dinosaur is kind of cute. It’s a mottled blue color, and scaly, with a long neck and a rounded head. It also comes up to Marc’s ribs. It’s probably a baby dinosaur, Selene thinks, a little despairingly.

“We’ll see about that,” Marc says, but when he moves forward another few steps, he goes tricorder-first. The dinosaur huffs a breath out of its nose, but seems otherwise unfazed by the entire experience.

“Its mom is probably around here somewhere,” Selene points out, even though it’s sort of hard to feel threatened at the moment. The clearing is lush, and green, and smells like a forest after rain, and the dinosaur is making the kind of cute, messy eating noises universal to baby animals everywhere.

“You think so?” Marc says. He sounds delighted. “The thing is, like-maybe these dinosaurs just don’t get any bigger than this. Maybe something about the planet, the atmosphere or the ecosystem, wouldn’t sustain them. Or maybe they get freaking huge, maybe they’re starship-sized.”

“‘Hey, love, maybe this planet is full of giant lizards the size of starships,’” Selene says. “You know what, you’re not convincing me we should stay.”

“I’m sure your mama’s a perfectly nice dinosaur,” Marc croons happily to the creature in front of him. “Right?” The dinosaur’s head comes up, and tilts to one side.

“Right!” Marc says, as if this is agreement, and reaches out to scritch the dinosaur between the ears.

“One of these days,” Selene says, “you’re going to pet something that’s poisonous. Or homicidal. Or both.”

“And then you’ll drag me back to the ship and administer first aid,” Marc says. He’s joking, probably.

“Obviously,” Selene says.

“-come in, Mike, come in,” Selene’s communicator says. Or squawks, really. The dinosaur startles, glancing over.

“It’s just Mike,” Selene says.

“Did you just talk to the dinosaur?” Marc asks. Selene blinks.

“I-no,” she says, and then hurriedly takes the comm out of its holster so she can say, “Selene to Redbird, we read you.”

“Finally,” Mike says. “Damn, that took forever”

Someone coughs, disapprovingly.

“Sorry captain,” Mike says, not sounding remotely sorry. “Anyway, Selene, listen, just stay where you are, I can read your signal from there. Might take a little longer than usual.”

“We should adopt this dinosaur,” Marc says. Selene makes sure the comm isn’t transmitting anymore before she says, “I wasn’t talking to it, I was just. I didn’t want it to worry, that’s all. It might be sentient.”

“You love him,” Marc says. “Come on. He can live on the Redbird! When you get your own ship he can come with us, and then you’ll be the first Squadron captain to command a dinosaur. You’ll make the history books for sure.”

The dinosaur butts his head expectantly against Marc’s hand. Marc strokes his thumb over the scales there.

“He really can’t come with us,” Selene says.

“I know,” Marc scoffs.

“Yeah, I know you do,” Selene says, and then feels the peculiar sensation of something tugging at her on a molecular level.

They materialize on the transporter pad, intact and sans dinosaur.

“I took a bunch of readings first,” Marc says.

“Hmm?” Selene asks.

“So I knew it probably wasn’t poisonous,” Marc says. “Or homicidal. The dinosaur. I took a bunch of readings.”

“Oh,” Selene says. “Sure, I-”

“I’m just saying,” Marc says, “I won’t make you administer any emergency first aid. If I can help it, I mean.”

Something warm is trying to unfurl in Selene’s chest.

“I don’t even wanna know what you two are talking about,” Mike says from behind the control panel.

“Don’t be jealous,” Marc says, breezy. “If you ask nicely I might show you these anomalous atmospheric readings.”

“Tempting,” Mike says, “but I think there’s a dishwasher manual I can read instead, so…”

“Philistine,” Marc says.

You won’t get hurt, Selene wants to say. You promised. No take-backs. But it’s too late, and not true, anyway, and nowhere near fair.

She resolves to sign up for one of Squadron’s distance learning first aid classes, instead. She could probably use a refresher, and a good captain should be equipped to care for her crew. Whoever they are.


Selene files their initial report from the planet’s surface at 2373.5.

It doesn’t even take half-an-hour for the order to come through.

“We can’t just leave,” Marc says. He’s staring at his comm like it’s going to rescind the order itself, somehow. “Selene. We can’t just leave.”

“Keep your voice down,” Selene says. The last thing they need is mass panic. Even though the med center is clean, and bright, even though every doctor they’ve met has been entirely professional, there’s something nasty stretching just under the surface. Selene really doesn’t want it to snap. Especially not while they’re the only two representatives of Squadron present. The only two outsiders present, period.

“Keep my voice down?” Marc hisses. Even at a whisper, his voice echoes around the empty conference room. Selene drops into the seat across from him. “This planet has seasonal radiation storms. They survive those! There was a famine here like two generations ago-”

“In 2507,” Selene says.

“2507, fine, and they survived that. They survive all kinds of run-of-the-mill, everyday diseases, too! And now all of a sudden, they start trading with the Federation, there’s a little more intergalactic traffic, there’s a sudden, devastating virus, and Squadron’s official position on that is that, what. It’s unrelated?”

“Squadron’s official position is that until we know more, it isn’t safe to deploy personnel or resources,” Selene says. “We’re due to beam back in ten minutes. It would be sooner, but Mike wants to compensate for the planet’s irregular orbit.”

“These people need a doctor,” Marc says. “Oliver would come if he could! I cross-referenced the symptoms, there’s a 92.4% chance it’s Altarian encephalitis. Even without the stupid tricorder-it’s textbook, Selene, this is first year case study stuff. We have a vaccine for it! Every federation ship is stocked with a supply, it’s mandatory. Ever since-”

“Ever since the Naurus incident, I know,” Selene says. They keep the vaccines in capsules, ready to be loaded into hyposprays. She’s seen them in the Redbird’s stockroom, a neat little row of cases, carefully labeled. Just in case they’re needed.

“And we can’t even send somebody to administer a vaccine?” Marc says. “You can freaking beam back, I’m staying here-”

“What did you say about radiation storms?” Selene asks.

“It’s-what? It’s not the season for them,” Marc says. He deflates, a little, slumping back against the bench seat. “It’s fine.”

“No, but-they’d interfere with our transporter signals,” Selene says, “and our comms. Right?”

“Sure, if there was one,” Marc says.

“If the Redbird couldn’t raise us on comms, or beam us back, they’d have to send a shuttle,” Selene says. “And if they sent a shuttle-”

“You think Captain Damus would go for it?” Marc asks. He’s staring at Selene like she just shoved the sun out from behind the clouds. Selene wants to hang on to that look badly enough that she almost says, I’d do it, if he wouldn’t, but now isn’t a good time to voice mutiny, and anyway, Damus will do it.

“Yeah,” Selene says. “But we need a radiation storm.”

“Or we need to fake one,” Marc says. He’s on his feet. “One of the doctors was saying-hang on.”

It turns out that you can fake a pretty good radiation storm with a cryotube and an old-fashioned x-ray machine.

When the shuttle arrives, Doctor Cassidy just happens to be on board, and she just happens to be accompanied by several cases of vaccination for Altarian encephalitis.

“I believe in being prepared,” Olivia says. The very corner of her mouth tips up.

“I could kiss you right now,” Marc says. “Seriously. Say the word.”

“Maybe when I’m done administering these vaccines,” Olivia laughs. Marc beams. Selene slips outside to get some fresh air.

There’s a courtyard outside, distinctly free of radiation. It’s landscaped with native plants-gray, sculptural trees and squat flowering bushes. Selene sits down on a bare stump and hopes she’s not getting dirt on her command uniform.

She didn’t actually disobey any orders, she reasons. Her orders were to stay put, and wait for transport. She stayed put, and she waited for transport.

There are hundreds of people in the med center behind her who don’t deserve to die. She doesn’t regret what she did. But goodness, she’s only in her second year on the bridge.

“Hey,” Marc says. He emerges from the same door Selene did, his hands in his pockets to ward off the chill. “This is kinda nice.”

“You going to tell me about the medicinal properties of this stump?” Selene asks. Marc sits down next to her, bumping their knees together.

“The whole garden is made up of plants they use in the med center, actually,” Marc says. Selene waits, but he doesn’t say anything else.

It’s quiet in the courtyard. The light is fading out of the sky in streaks, and there’s the kind of breeze Selene associates with early fall, just starting to turn truly cold. If they were on Earth, leaves would be changing.

It’s warm enough, sitting next to Marc, that Selene doesn’t miss her coat.

“You’re gonna be a really great captain,” Marc says into the silence. Selene frowns down at their shadows, stretching across the dirt at their feet and says, “It was insubordinate.”

“It was the right thing to do,” Marc says. He pauses, and then leans over to dig his chin, briefly, into SeleneAnd you know it. Quit moping.”

“Ow,” Selene says. Marc huffs out a laugh that tickles Selene’s ear, and then pulls away.

“I’m, uh. I’m not moping,” Selene says belatedly.

“Good,” Marc says. “Moping wouldn’t be very captainly.”

“They don’t always promote pilots to captain, you know,” Selene says. “Even when a post comes available. Which it might not.”

Marc shrugs. He’s close enough, still, that it knocks their shoulders together.

“They’ll promote you,” he says. If Selene was in the right mood-slightly drunk, and sentimental-you could convince her that Marc’s certainty has its own gravitational pull.

She could ask if Marc still wants to come with her. She should ask, probably. But if Marc isn’t so certain of that, anymore, she doesn’t want to find out.

“We better go inside,” she says. “We don’t want to miss our ride.”


Shore leave is always a little unsettling.

The Redbird docks above San Francisco for mandatory repairs and debriefings for senior staff. Selene spends a cursory couple of hours in front of the admiralty answering questions, mostly about the solar flares, and then she’s left to her own devices.

That’s the unsettling part.

It’s January on Earth, and the planet’s tilting toward spring without any need for a pilot.

Selene’s communicator buzzes with a new message.

Come home, it says, I wanna make dinner.

Selene blinks down at the screen. She’s pretty sure Marc hasn’t cooked a meal since he nearly burned the dorms down making rice in their second year at the academy. Their carpet had smelled like starchy smoke for months.

Should I call the fire department?, she types, but she doesn’t wait for Marc to respond before she starts heading for home.

They’ve rented an apartment together since junior year; they talked about breaking their lease when they got assigned to the Redbird, but even an entry-level Squadron salary was nothing to sneeze at, and neither of them really wanted to be in a hotel room during shore leave. It’s nice to have somewhere to go, but it does mean that when Selene unlocks the door and steps inside, it’s a little like stepping into a time capsule.

The sofa is still in the middle of the living room, oozing stuffing at the edges. Everything on the walls was free: posters from shows at the student union, and a painting by somebody in one of Marc’s xenobiology classes. Selene half-expects to find a stack of textbooks in the corner and half-empty drinks in the fridge-the last time they spent any extended time here, it was finals week.

“In the kitchen,” Marc calls and then, after a pause, “Wait, damn, I hope that’s you, Selene, because otherwise we’re about to really disappoint a burglar.”

“You don’t think our sofa’s worth much on the open market?” Selene asks. She drops into one of the kitchen chairs.

“I don’t want cook anything,” Marc says. He’s staring at the counter, where a small supermarket appears to have thrown up. “Like-anything.”

“This is what takeout’s for,” Selene says mildly. There’s something tense about the set of Marc’s shoulders.

“Yeah, I guess,” Marc says. He picks up what looks like a package of ground meat. “Do you just cook this shit? Like, in a pan or whatever?”

“Probably,” Selene says. Her culinary prowess isn’t exactly the stuff of legends, either.

“If I give us both food poisoning, Damus’s gonna make me fill out forms about it in triplicate,” Marc says. He puts the ground meat back down, and picks up what might be kale, turning it over in his hands.

“We could look this stuff up,” Selene says. They both still have access to the university’s virtual library. There’s got to be a cookbook or two in there.

“I should call my mom, probably,” Marc says. He pokes at a jar of mayonnaise. “I wanted vegetables.”

“We could do that, too,” Selene says.

“Yeah,” Marc says. He opens the fridge and sticks the mayonnaise in the door, and then turns to look at Selene when he says, “The admiralty asked to read my report on Altaria 114.”

“What, the ice volcanoes?” Selene asks.

“Yeah,” Marc says. His mouth is twisted to one side, like the words taste bitter.

“That wasn’t actionable,” Selene says, half in disbelief. “That’s-I mean, listen, you’re entitled to a defense, and there’s about a zillion precedents-”

“No, hey, not that,” Marc says. “They want to know about military applications.”

“…Of volcanoes?” Selene asks.

“More to do with the geologic processes I think,” Marc says. “And the chemical reactions.”

“Listen, I’m sure it’ll go to the earth sciences department, too,” Selene says.

“I’m glad somebody is,” Marc says. Selene opens her mouth, but Marc says, “No, sorry, I didn’t-it should. It’s a perfect case study for Environmental Volcanology. Or Earth System Science. Professor Rennet would love it.”

Marc turns back to the counter, and opens a cupboard. “You don’t refrigerate canned stuff, right?”

“Not unless it’s open,” Selene says. That, at least, she’s pretty sure about. She stands up and opens the fridge. “Pass me those eggs?”

“We’re not going to use any of this,” Marc says, laughing. “I don’t know why-I just wanted food that didn’t come from a replicator, I guess.”

“We should call your mom about the food,” Selene says, in lieu of saying something stupid like, It’s okay to be homesick. “We might be able to cook that without messing it up.”

Marc hums, noncommittal, and says, “I got an email from Professor Rennet today, actually.”

“Earth System Science,” Selene says. She stares at their fridge. A carton of eggs, a jar of mayonnaise, and some seriously questionable orange juice stare back.

“Yeah,” Marc says. Selene picks up the orange juice carton. These things usually have a pull date on them somewhere, right? “There’s an opening for a research fellow in the department.”

Selene fumbles the orange juice, and drops it.

“Damn,” she says.

“Uh-we have dish towels somewhere, I think,” Marc says. He opens the drawer next to the sink, and passes Selene a blue-and-white checked towel.

“Damn,” Selene says again, and crouches down to try and soak up the orange puddle. “I’m, uh. Shit. Sorry. Are you going to take it? The fellowship?”

“I’d have to apply,” Marc says. “Do you think I should?”

“You’d get it,” Selene says. The towel is sopping wet. She shoves it under the bottom of the cupboard doors in a mostly futile attempt to clean up the rest of the mess.

“Maybe,” Marc says. “Lots of people are qualified, I bet.”

“You’d get it,” Selene says again. She pushes the sodden towel back and forth across the floor, squinting down at the linoleum like she’s going to find something she missed.

“So you think I should,” Marc says. “Apply.”

“If you’re going to do something like that, you should hold out for life sciences,” Selene says. “Professor Camden loved you.”

“You’ve thought about this, huh?” Marc asks. Selene can’t tell if he’s smiling or not without looking up.

“Have you?” she asks.

She and Marc had talked, at the academy, about where they wanted to serve someday.

“You’ll be a captain,” Marc said. He had his feet hooked over the arm of their sofa, and his e-pad open to a textbook on Interspecies Communication Strategies.

“Command track doesn’t mean captain,” Selene said. She was leaning toward navigation. Maybe piloting. It depended on her next simulation run.

“Please,” Marc scoffed. “People don’t double minor in history and interstellar politics if they don’t want to be captains.”

“Maybe,”Selene said. The thing was, she could sort of start to imagine it. All the case studies they were reading for class, all of the historical accounts and the modern-day simulations-she could picture herself on the bridge, more or less. And maybe she wouldn’t mess it up. Maybe she could help Squadron do something positive, out in the black someplace.

“Definitely,” Marc said.

“You’re not gonna make me go out there by myself, right?” Selene asked. There were plenty of planetside posts that would love somebody who’d worn science blues, but Marc must want to get out and explore. Two years? Five years? Ten?

“Of course not,” Marc said. He tipped his head even further back on the couch cushions, until he was looking at Selene. “I’m gonna come with you. I’ll be your science officer. We can see the universe. We can collect postcards!”

“Who’re we going to send these postcards to?” Selene asked.

“Doesn’t matter,” Marc said, waving a dismissive hand. “Think of the shit we’re gonna see-there’s lakes of liquid nitrogen in the Haleon System. Whole freaking lakes.”

“I can’t wait,” Selene said, as dry as she could manage while she was grinning that hard, and that was that.

The thing is, that was before Marc had actually been stationed on a starship. Every new mission the Redbird accepts pulls Marc away from some natural phenomena he wants to study, or document. Half of Squadron’s orders have to do with politics, and the other half aren’t military, but a fair number of them are. And now they want to take Marc’s cryo-volcanoes and militarize them, somehow.

Marc reaches down and takes the juice-soaked dish towel.

“Sure,” he says. “I’ve thought about it.”

Selene doesn’t have any more reasons to avoid Marc’s eye level. She stands up.

“So what do you think?” she asks.

It’s stupid to take a conversation from when they were students-exhausted, second-year students-as binding. Selene doesn’t.

“I think it could be good,” Marc says slowly. “I’d get to choose my area of inquiry, and I’ve seen some good options in the last couple of years. It would be a big change, though.”

“You could do it,” Selene says. “You’d be busy, that’s-that makes it easier.”

“Selene,” Marc says. It’s an admonition, or maybe a question, but if it is Selene can’t answer it.

“I don’t know,” she says. If Marc is asking him for something he has to try, at least. “I still think Squadron has the capacity to do the most good, in the universe. Or, I don’t-maybe not the most good? But the most far-reaching good. We shouldn’t have had to circumvent orders, on Tromulan. I get that, but. It worked. And it worked because we were on a Squadron ship, with vaccines, and personnel-we have the resources. And we have a reputation that most parts of the universe believe in. That’s worth something.”

It’s quiet, for a minute.

“You’re gonna be a really good captain,” Marc says again, but he’s not quite smiling.

Selene thinks about it-about the Squadron insignia on her chest and a ship at her command. About the chance to do far-reaching good, even if she has to do it under the admiralty’s nose, instead of with their permission. A really good captain.

“I want you there,” she says. “It’s probably selfish-it’s definitely selfish, but I don’t-I wouldn’t be able to do it without you, not the way I want to. And even if I could, I’d want you there.”

Marc stares at her. Selene’s aware of the fact that she’s standing a half-step closer to Marc than she usually would; she doesn’t know how to back away.

“That’s a good reason,” Marc says, and smiles, and Selene remembers how her feet work. She edges forward, further into Marc’s space. She’s looking somewhere over Marc’s shoulder when she says: “I’m-I love you. Right?”

“Yeah,” Marc says. He sounds hoarse, like he’s dredging the words up from somewhere far away. “Me too.”

“That’s a better reason, probably,” Selene says, and drags her gaze over Marc’s shoulder, along the line of his throat, and up to his eyes.

Marc is grinning at her. There’s something about it that looks broken open, something that makes Selene’s chest hurt. Selene wants more of that feeling, for as long as she can get it. Possibly forever. She leans the last few inches forward so that she can press their mouths together.

For a second Marc freezes, and Selene feels the miles between an earth sciences fellowship and an exploratory mission unspooling between his ribs, getting tangled there.

Then Marc sucks in a breath and tugs Selene forward by the hips. Selene stumbles but she goes, of course she goes. Marc is handsy, and his tongue is in Selene’s mouth, and Selene will follow him to whichever parts of the universe he wants to see. She’ll bring an entire starship, for good measure.

They kiss like that for a while, pressed together. The counter must be digging into Marc’s back, at least a little, but he keeps trying to tug Selene closer. His hips start to rock up, little hitches of motion, and Selene can’t help but gasp.

“Okay,” Marc says.Selene can hear the way he stops to catch his breath; she can feel it, too. “We should, uh. We should be horizontal.”

“Yeah,” Selene says, “yeah, okay,” except she knows as well as Marc does that they both had single beds when they were at school, the frames scrounged from garage sales, which means, Selene is pretty sure, that if they want to make love in this apartment it’ll have to be on the ancient, plaid couch.

“Well,” Marc says speculatively.

“Well,” Selene says.

They made love on the couch.


“I still want to be a Squadron science officer, as long as I’m your science officer,” Marc says later. Selene is squished between Marc and the sofa back. Nothing about this is comfortable, or dignified, and she’s still trying to convince herself that she doesn’t want to stay here until she absolutely has to leave. “Not anybody else’s. In case that wasn’t clear.”

“This isn’t some kind of weird metaphor for monogamy, is it?” Selene asks. Marc groans, and whacks her with a plaid cushion.

“We’re gonna go see the universe,” Marc says determinedly. “It’ll be romantic. And full of weird, awesome things.”

“Alright,” Selene says. She rests her forehead against the back of Marc’s neck and thinks about how much room there is, up there in the stars. “Where should we go first?”

Submitted: December 11, 2019

© Copyright 2023 Dr. Shenita Etwaroo. All rights reserved.

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