<<Personal Quarters, USS Hippocrates NCC-58555
Day following Romulan invasion
He'd been up for 36 hours. Heavy feet marched down the cooridor. Muscles ached and the tired reverberation in his throat made N'throl sound like he was twice his age and twice as deep. _Romulans dead or in the Brig and the interrogation with it, the reports, the debriefs, the coordination, the..._ His room door slid open. As he gazed at his bed a glimmer of joy crossed his face. "There you are my lovely. You and I have a date." Then the joy faded as it was simply a bed and no Dora to ornament it with her lithe grace or crack of her wit. Quickly he got into his day robe and instantly felt unrestricted relief. With a great "Harumpf" he sat in his chair and closed his eyes lost in weary thought.
He pulled out a small case and retrieved its small round contents allowing his thumb to glide over it.
_I could put it on a hanger in her wardrobe. Nope she doesn't need a wardrobe because she materializes what she wears. How about hanging from the shower? That could be sexy. Uh, nope she doesn't take showers. Dangling from a champagne bottle?..._ He smiled despite himself. _Wrong again cat-man, she doesn't need to drink._
_Drink? Why yes, I think I shall_ He contemplated a variety of alcoholic concoctions. "Milk, warm, large." He instructed the replicator. Feeling the need for something more soothing, more personal, without the chemical edge.
Rotating in small arcs in his swivel chair he thought back; the motion and the rhythm lulling him into serene contemplation. His actions and fear over Dora in the lab gave him pause, the need to ponder, and finally he had time to reflect on it. "Rationality has left you, you dumb-tard." The furball told himself. "Dora, Dora, Dora, what about you dear Dora?" He mouthed to himself as if hypnotic.
“N’throl?” Metrodora materialized in front of him. “Did you call me?” Metrodora didn’t know when she had started to label herself as Dora enough for it to ping her programs but the nickname was beginning to mean a lot to her. Something about N’throl sitting there concerned her. An attitude of exhaustion and wariness perhaps. “Are you alright?” She glided to him and took his hands in hers. “I’ve missed you lately. We haven’t done much together.” She had noticed it, even if he had not. Every second was an eternity to an AI if they were counting time to see someone. And she had been counting the seconds in some odd way; torturing herself with the thought he might get into trouble. She had considered just watching him all day but that seemed to be…an invasion of privacy, somehow.
Heavy eyes stayed shut as the crystal clear melodic voice played in his ear. Dreams in the in between of consciousness were the most vivid and this made him smile.
"Whoa!" Eyes shot wide as the truth she was there with him, breaking him of his melancholy. As she made her way to him, everything about her aroused him. Her look, her walk, even the cadence in her voice made his senses come alive and all the while relaxed him.
"I hadn't realized I did but yes, your name was on my lips and in my mind. i'm alright dear." As their fingers wove together he felt like he wanted to melt, no meld with her. He pulled her down onto his lap enjoying the closeness. Wrapping an arm around her he was overcome by the sensation that she was the soft to everything in his world that was jagged and hard. "I'm glad you've come. There has been so much work from duty to these crazy missions. Ship to protect and Romulans to interrogate. But somehow in the back of my mind, I always hoped for and then enjoyed the moments I got to see you."
Metrodora had melted into his arms when he wove his fingers into hers and pulled her close. She had not seen him enough and she had missed him. Having his arms around her changed something inside of her. He didn’t think of her as an AI anymore; that much was obvious. And it meant so much to her…that he didn’t see her as that. That he saw her as more and special to him.
A muscular arm surely but softly drew her to his chest. "I was thinking that when you stay with me we could set up some hologram in here. Perhaps take the picture of space outside and project it in here. That way I could watch the stars with you every night you stay. Speaking of..."
A feline paw reached into his robe pocket and pulled out a small shiny object attached to a chain.
"Here. This is the section of the universe where Cait is, where I called home. Now my home can be close to your heart or your heart close to my home."
“I’d like to watch the stars with you, N’throl.” Dora told him and kissed him gently. He handed her a necklace and she looked down at the beautiful whorl of universe and gemstone. She flickered a bit as her programming stuttered. It was so…sweet.
“Thank you, N’throl.” She told him with a soft smile. “I’ll wear it always.” Which meant she would have to stay solid always. Or create a virtual version. Which was probably her only option. She WAS an AI and always on duty. Still…the thought was so perfect and sweet that she felt something inside of her open a little. She looked up at him with smiling eyes. “I don’t have anything for you but...I really love this. It means a lot to me that you want me close to your home.” She leaned forward and kissed him softly, again and again.
He accepted each kiss and returned them longingly. Kissing her seemed to let his being become lost. Probably how she felt when looking at the stars. Lost among the universe - no cares just endless moments of completeness. Being with her was without pretense, no posturing, no superficiality...
After long moments his awareness of the room returned. He released her lips from his savoring the taste. "Those love, are all i'll ever need as a gift from you." A relaxed large endearing smile, which few had ever seen, creased his face. N'throl reached around her and picked something off the desk and inserted it into his PaDD. Computer run Dora Expanse from my PaDD.
The lights turned down and stars started to stream by inside his room.
"Oh.....It's beautiful, N'throl. Thank you so much." Metrodora's eyes reflected the stars perfectly as she looked at him. "I'm so glad you helped me practice dating." The words were soft and sincere. "I know we aren't practicing now but I'm not sure we'd be in the same place if you hadn't offered." She laid her head on him and admired the starry expanse.
"I want to make love to you under the stars."
Large arms held her tight against him. Soft fur brushed against her cheek as the lover moved his head down to whisper in her ear. "As you wish." Kisses flourished as he started at her neck. He could feel his body and his mind melt. There was only him, her, and the stars.
“N’throl?” Metrodora asked as she sat at the table with him over their repast. She had consumed a small amount of “food” and was replete. “Are you really my boyfriend? Like the…courting to be married type of boyfriend?” Her eyes were locked on his as she watched his whiskers tremble as he ate. Those whiskers were so incredibly sensitive and she didn’t mind admitting that sometimes she reached out just to watch him flush and his spots darken with desire.
<gulp> "I consider myself your boyfriend, yes. I don't think we've really made anything official - not saying I don't want to. I think i've made my care for you evident. I've spent my time enjoying you and our time together. Often the intent of a boyfriend and girlfriend would be to eventually marry." _Marry? I, I... hmmm. I could see it. Did I just think that? Hmmm must be true._ "It all of a sudden strikes me that there are things to think about - questions to ask. One of which is how do you consider you and I?"
A wash of reality hit him. The cat had normalized his life with Dora, had given up and put out of his mind any ethical or other issues as to the unique relationship he had developed with her. He just saw her as her but it suddenly rushed into his mind, there are serious implications to what he was doing. Beyond that and something more personal... _Marriage? No doubt she fulfills my needs, I can say I love her, I know I think about her when we aren't together. I know I want to be here with her when my duties are over. I know I want to sneak peeks of her when we are at work. I know I think of her as a person...but I also know others don't. What does that mean? Can I marry her? Legally? If nothing else, a ceremony even if it is just us. Would I be marrying code??? No, she is as real as anyone, even more so. It is just complicated. People don't see her as real, but she is to me. How could we do that?
He was suddenly thrown into deep thought just as he had when he first recognized he like her but now it was serious, like life and death serious.
“MARRY?!” Metrodora was flabbergasted. “I never even considered that!” She thought about it and then shook her head. “I don’t think it would be legal and I don’t think I need that. Plus we haven’t known each other long enough. The average time to date someone before marriage appears to be 9-12 months. We have known each other…20 days, 14 minutes, and 26 seconds…roughly.” She studied his face with a pensive frown.... “Maybe someday? If we feel like we want to?”
_Did I say marriage out loud?_ Perplexity mottled his face combined with a bit of awkwardness. "Dora dear, it is a thought, not a proposal. I'm just saying what you did. Legalities and things to consider. I just had a dose of reality there for a minute. But rest assured, marriage is the farthest thing from my mind. I'm perfectly content with just being with you no matter what label you give it. I'm sure you are familiar with the custom though. "Boyfriend," denotes a certain exclusivity without legal ramifications. "Marriage," is the formal bonding whereas the bond is made legal either/or through a government or religious affiliation. For others though it isn't that long. In fact you could call it "mate at first date." Usually in the animal realm, one just knows and the pairing happens. No fuss, they just know. However, just talking about it, it sounds cold. When done with the right person, it is simply a label. Some concentrate on the label and it ruins the relationship. Let's just be us..
Metrodora searched through her database and found that “Let’s just be us” seemed to be male speak for Not interested in Marriage as he had indicated. She wasn’t hurt by this but it did leave her to wonder what N’throl thought that Us was. Still…she was wanting a partner not a husband. She wasn’t even sure she liked the idea of marriage and she knew that she was never going to have any form of children. Since marriage had originally been meant to protect and rear children, it seemed an antiquated notion that she didn’t require. The women in the videos, however, said this phrase was often preceded by some level of breakup. She did feel sad about that; she was getting oddly attached to N’throl. She might even have feelings of the human “love” for him. She scoffed at herself. She WAS feeling love for him. She just wasn't sure how to react to this. Her systems catalogued many possible reactions and she chose the one that seemed most suitable for this situation. “I understand, N’throl. We won’t speak of marriage again. Did you have anything else we should discuss? I have work to do and we have copulated and had a relationship discussion.” Perhaps it was a bit formal but she felt that she had reacted well to the statement. She was proud that she was being mature and that no hint of the hurt she felt was in her voice or face.
The cat wasn't totally oblivious. Although her demeanor didn't change, her vocabulary did and that indicated he'd said something wrong - again.
"Dora dear... We can discuss love, marriage, sex, relationships - all that. It is just new to me is all. We have a unique relationship that brings up many outside influences. So when I say let's just be us, I want you and I to develop in our own way without judgement or influence or regulation or whatever. If I said that I wanted to be with you and only you I wouldn't be lying. You make me happy in so many ways. It's not copulation for me, it is making love. Well it is hot sex some times too, BUT the point is, is that I feel an emotional attachment to you and I want to explore what that means. I want to explore what that means to you. Wrapping you around me gives me a security and a level of freedom i've not known. But is it a fragile security? I hope not. I hope you can say and mean you love me some day. And when that day comes, we'll discuss what it means to be more than a boyfriend and girlfriend. I know how I feel and as you said we've only know each other a few weeks but it doesn't matter. So i'm working it all out and hoping you are too. I don't want things to change unless they change to be even better.. Do you understand? I don't need a label to know how I feel. But if it means something to you, i'll gladly give it."
He took a second to reach deep inside. "Dora, love. I'm afraid. I'm afraid that if we say or do something formal that it might cause people above us to take notice, to make decisions, to make orders. If we were to get married let's say, that shows a certain ownership. Can I own you in a matrimonial way? Can they take you away from me whenever they please?" He let out a long breath. "What i'm not afraid of is being with you, only you." He looked inter deep, unfathomable eyes. "Please come to me, lay here and stroke my fur for just a few minutes more. Soak me in."
N'throl was soooo far over his head but he was trying to feel his way through it. Dora was no ordinary person, well hell she wasn't a person, but it didn't feel she was any different than him. Logically he knew what she was, emotionally he didn't care. She fulfilled his needs. He'd marry her if he could, if she'd let him, if Starfleet would. There were so many hurdles that he didn't want to think about he just wanted to be with her in the moment and let them be them.
Metrodora stared at him. She didn’t know what to think or say. He obviously didn’t want to break up with her. So her worry about that was groundless. Maybe the movies were wrong? She would have to stop depending on them so heavily. Perhaps novels would be better. There were many romance novels out there. She would read them in preparation for the next relationship dialogue.
“I took your “Let’s be us” as a statement that you wanted to break up. That’s what they say in the movies. If that is not what you intended then I am fine.” She said as she softly brushed against his fur. “I was…upset…that you seemed to be giving me a…dear John speech.”
"Nothing further from the truth. I'm just trying and wanting to be happy with you, happy for a change." Large feline eyes searched hers.
“Then let’s just be happy.” Metrodora told him softly and gave him a gentle kiss. “I would like to try this swimming thing. I’m not sure if my programming can account for it. I have calculated a 72% chance of avatar failure during the first three attempts but I’m eager to try. The challenge excites me.”
"I'm half cat, so swimming will be a bit of an embarrassment. Cats don't do water well. I'm not particularly averse to it and I can swim, but I do much better on the beach than in the water. But if it means you in a bikini...i'll try anything."
“Well….if its not pleasing to you then we could stay on the beach.” Metrodora smiled warmly. “And I can experiment with sand patterns and manipulation. Either way we can enjoy ourselves and spend some time together.” She snuggled next to him with a sensual little wiggle. “Perhaps we can map out the Delta Quadrant together as well? Since you're so interested in stars...”
"I know one star i'm interested in. I certainly love mapping that one and that pleases me." Grinning ear to ear he studied her loving how so very different from him she was. "No...we are going to swim. I'm here for you. It will be fun. Then you can teach me about the grains of sand that is the Delta Quadrant. I'll even bring a pail." He had to chuckle.
“Okay!” Metrodora bounced up and was suddenly in a bathing suit. It was from somewhere in the 50s with a ruffled skirt and high neckline but she looked sort of adorable. She even had a ball in her hands. “Come ON!” She laughed with a carefree face he had rarely seen. “Bet you can’t catch me!” She called out as she took off for the door.
Chuckles continued at Dora's enthusiasm. A silken day robe, as was normal for N'throl, was thrown around his shoulders and belted as he shuffled after her. _I didn't mean right now....but why not?_ Her near childlike enthusiasm at times was infectious. He'd chase her alright, catch her, toss her around a bit, hopefully steal a few kisses while floating in warm waters maybe share some intimate time while watching the sky. In his black and white, get the bad guy, hardened outlook type of life, how great was it to have someone to bust all that up and let him be something other than a security guy or "the cat." "Fair warning, cats don't wear bathing suits." He called to her as they reached the holodeck doors.
Metrodora could have flashed into the holodeck but that would have been cheating. She raced into the room with a child-like shriek of laughter and then flung herself into the ocean simulation she had entered as they raced. She could feel the "water" racing over her but it wasn't real. Suddenly, she was thinking. SHE wasn't real. Why else would she have to alter her patterns to compensate for this? She swam as she contemplated the matter but there was one thing she knew for sure. Even if she wasn't real...her feelings were. And she would not fail the friends and people she cared for us.
Swallowing his pride, N'throl jumped in after her, his traditional Caitan robe a pile on the beach. It wasn't the prettiest swimming stoke but he made hes way out to her. Paddling out he chased and splashed water. He hugged and kissed in a lovers play then attempted to float, letting the scene quite literally soak in. He didn't know exactly what she was feeling but he figured this was a new sensation for her. He was glad he could share this with her.
Increasingly he had thoughts on how he could make her "life" more concrete, more real, more live. He swam over to her. "Dora, you look super sexy. Long hair, wet and flowing. I bet half the ship is envious of me right now... and I like it." He smiled in satisfaction. Not prideful but indeed just happy. "Hey. I got a question. Have you thought about having some sort of physical body? You know a cybernetic you? I've heard tell of others that do it. Maybe even have the body to download into when you want to have harder, tactile experiences and then when you need to do ships business you return? I mean I don't know this stuff or if you want to feel things in a different way... but I want you to be happy. Is this something you've considered?