“I, uh, I didn’t know you were,” Stellar Cartography Crewman Dave Constantine muttered. It was January 14, 2154, and the crew of the NX-01 had just had a most curious experience.
“Yeah,” replied Frank Todd, a MACO Private. “I knew about Jennings, and I kinda guessed about Donnelly. And Jones, yeah, I had always kinda figured. And she and Jennings, whenever you’d see ‘em together, I guess I always figured, you know, that they weren’t really feelin’ it.” The two men walked down a corridor of the starship as it sped to a rendezvous in the Delphic Expanse.
“And me?” Dave asked.
“I kinda had you in the maybe column. Keep in mind; I had Haber in there, too.”
“Yeah, Haber.” Frank shrugged. “With, um, with him, it was sorta detached curiosity, see. A bit of idle speculation on my part.”
“And with me?” Dave persisted.
Frank didn’t answer. “It’s funny. Haddon and Masterson, I can kinda see. And Crossman and MacKenzie – the Golden Couple – oh yeah, pretty dang obvious there.”
“Lattimer and Money, I can picture that, yeah,” Dave conceded. “And Ryan and Porter, and Carter and Tiburón – I can wrap my head around ‘em.”
“Yeah, but Torres and O’Day, or Khan and Sato? Eh, not so much,” Frank said. “How often do you imagine a ship ever meets itself, run by our, uh, descendants? You learn who you were with, who you chose.”
“Or who chose you.”
“Right, that. And even the odd guys out, the ones who ended up with Ikaaran brides. Saw their descendants, too, didja meet any?” Dave shook his head, so Frank continued. “Notched noses, and dark hair, dark eyes. At least that was the case with the ones I saw. Nice-looking folks. Captain ended up that way, yanno.”
“I know.” They were in front of Frank’s quarters and stopped walking and talking. “Frank?”
“When I was in the maybe column, was it, was it just detached curiosity?”
“No,” Frank responded after a while. “It wasn’t detached curiosity whenever I had wondered, before today, whether you were gay.”
“Then what was it?”
There were people walking down the corridor – Andy Miller and Shelby Pike, another pair who had married when another version of the ship had been kicked back in time, in what was practically another reality. But Frank Todd didn’t care about them seeing. He leaned forward and kissed Dave Constantine. After a few minutes, they both opened their eyes and smiled at each other, the tall, tough MACO and the shorter, bookish stellar cartographer. “It wasn’t detached curiosity, and it wasn’t idle speculation,” Frank stated unequivocally.
“Oh? Then what was it?”
“It was hope.”