The week Captain Taes took command of USS Dvorak
Yuulik shouted, “No,” but she was laughing so hard it came out sounding like a vaguely ‘naw’ sound.
Elbon overlapped her with a peal of laughter that was practically a scream.
After downing the rest of her aperitif, Yuulik shouted, “No,” again. The sound lasted less than a second, because she was breathless with laughter.
Kellin interjected a, “Wait now,” catching his own breath after a low chuckle.
Elbon took another swig of synthale but he laughed into the glass, which sent the bubbly liquid pouring down the sides of his face and pooling on his uniform jacket.
“No,” Yuulik said, all the more insistently. “This is happening!”
“Wait,” Kellin countered. “This is dumb.”
“No!” Yuulik shrieked. “You’re dumb!”
Frustration burned through Kellin’s chest in that way only his father could normally make him feel. More than anything in life, Kellin yearned to respond to Yuulik with a clever riposte, but his mind was lost in a fog. His hearing was muddled; Kellin was losing track of who was saying what; the synthehol in his bloodstream was making it harder for him to differentiate between the three of them, cackling all over the furniture in Elbon Jakkelb’s living room.
Of note were a couple of firsts.
Firstly first: this had been the first night Elbon Jakkelb had invited Kellin Rayco to his quarters aboard Dvorak, ever since Kellin had been assigned to the ship. This was largely notable, because Kellin was Elbon’s estranged husband. Kellin had expected to be invited to these quarters from day one, but the invite never came. Lesser so, this was notable, because at the same time Elbon invited Kellin to his quarters, he had invited Yuulik to his quarters too. Kellin pondered if, perhaps, Elbon was as confused as Kellin himself was feeling.
Secondly first: Kellin and Sootrah Yuulik had been body-swapped that morning in an archaeological weird science accident. Kellin’s life-energy inhabited the Arcadian body of Yuulik and Yuulik’s life-energy inhabited the Trill body of Kellin. While Kellin was curled up, alone, on an oversized sofa, Yuulik was lumbering around the compartment on Kellin’s long legs. Elbon, meanwhile, was draped over his desk chair. Even while Elbon was dripping in synthale –and his greasy hair was longer than what was fashionable this year– Kellin couldn’t think of many who exuded such effortless, sensual energy than Elbon Jakkelb. Between the scruff on Elbon’s sharp jawline and the pleasing fit of Elbon’s stained uniform, it physically pained Kellin not to be touching him right that second, but Kellin couldn’t abide touching Elbon with Yuulik’s hand.
“This is happening!” Yuulik said again. “We can’t waste this unique opportunity for scientific observation! I’m going to therapeutically role-play with Elbon, as Kellin, if that’s what it takes to single-handedly save this marriage.”
Kellin crossed his arms over his chest and he frowned at Yuulik in pointed disapproval. He had confided in Taes about his marriage to Elbon, but he hadn’t told Yuulik. Kellin was left to wonder if Taes was close enough with Yuulik to tell her about their estranged marriage, or if Elbon had told Yuulik himself. All the same, Kellin couldn’t look away, seeing his own body through new eyes, stepping closer to where Elbon was sitting.
“I don’t imagine,” Elbon said dubiously, “this will have much therapeutic value in your current state.” He cocked an eyebrow at Yuulik as he shrugged off his soiled uniform jacket, leaving him in his uniform’s sleeveless, turtleneck undershirt.
Visibly getting into character as Kellin, Yuulik affected her most vapid facial expression and began flexing Kellin’s muscular arms at her own reflection in the viewports. “Go on!” Yuulik insisted.
She didn’t have to ask again. Cocking his head in Yuulik’s direction, Elbon squinted at her, and he asked, “What ever happened to Emem? That flight controller from ‘Seventy-Two you were dating?”
Before she’d even begun, Yuulik broke character to make eyes at Kellin, questioningly. “I don’t think I know the answer to that one,” she said in an oddly accusatory manner. “Nune says you don’t talk about him anymore…”
Although Kellin received the words, he didn’t recognise the body language displayed by Elbon or Yuulik. Yuulik’s Arcadian vision wasn’t sharp enough to identify the types of micro-expressions Kellin would normally look for. His stomach churned with the knowledge there was something left unsaid in the room, but Kellin couldn’t quite detect it. Struggling for the right words, Kellin said, “I don’t– I don’t track every minute of my day. We all need jazz cat time sometimes.” He shook his head, “We never made a vow of monogamy.”
Elbon shook his head from side to side. “I’m not asking for monogamy,” he said through a frown. He angled his gaze in Yuulik’s direction, while she looked so much like Kellin. “Honesty is what I ask. What happened with Emem, are you still together?”
“Duh,” Yuulik intoned in her affectation of a Trill accent. She whipped her face to the side, bouncing the mess of blond curls atop her head. “He got bored of me and my two-syllable vocabulary,” she said. Nodding at Elbon, Yuulik asked, “Why don’t you take me to nice places? I see Kellin– I mean you leave me alone in the Orchestra Pit most nights.”
Clearing his throat, Elbon folded his arms over his chest. Even to this day, Kellin found his eyes wandering to watch the way it made the musculature of Elbon’s arms pop. After clearing his throat again, Elbon tucked his chin down to cast a serious gaze at Yuulik. “I’m nearly fifty,” he said. It came out sounding like an academy professor’s lecture. “My alarm is set for oh-four-hundred hours to work out and read the gamma shift reports. I’m normally in bed by twenty-hundred hours.” Far more affectionately, Elbon added, “I can’t keep up with you.” And then in an undertone, he said, “Who knows how you put up with me?”
“Haven’t you heard of caffeine, man?” Yuulik rhetorically asked Elbon. Her Trill accent had started to wander into Betazoid territory. Kellin could see less and less of himself in Yuulik’s portrayal, and that was oddly comforting. Some part of him had remained afraid that inhabiting Yuulik’s body would slowly transform his sense of self into Yuulik herself. Yuulik concluded with, “The computer can tell you all about it!”
Hearing a break in the role-play, Kellin interjected with a question for Elbon: “Why did you quit the Vedek Assembly? I asked you on our honeymoon and you told me to ask you another time, when you were ready…”
Yuulik snorted at Kellin and she shot back, “Yuulik wouldn’t care to know about any of that.”
Despite Yuulik’s protestations, Elbon was looking at Kellin, looking right at him. “Ask me again, another time,” Elbon said gently. He couldn’t meet Kellin’s eyes after that and he didn’t look at Yuulik-in-Kellin’s-body either. “Whatever happened to Emem?” Elbon asked for a third time and he raised his eyes to look at Yuulik.
Closing the distance between herself and Elbon, Yuulik fluttered her eyelashes at him, and she said, “He didn’t look like you…” Yuulik took hold of Elbon’s bare shoulders and she leaned in for a kiss. Elbon swerved out of Yuulik’s clutches and he literally screamed.
“Don’t scare me like that!” Elbon shouted.