The hallways were strangely magical.
Doug had never liked starship hallways. They had been places where someone would try to knife him. Or, at best, conduits between one assignment and another, or a gateway to an encounter, perhaps, but nothing more, nothing special.
Yet there they were, holding hands like schoolchildren, smiling and laughing and talking to anyone who went by. Lili introduced him to, it seemed, everyone, and he was as gracious and polite as he could be, and they were all so very kind. People asked about their future plans, and he freely spoke of the restaurant and Lafa II and possibly doing some training for Starfleet. He felt young and alive it was like walking in a garden. They stopped and he backed her into a wall and kissed her. She was a little surprised by that and said, "I thought you didn't like public displays."
"I guess I do now. Changing my mind about lots of things." he took off his jacket and casually flung it over his shoulder, and looked over to her frequently as they strolled.
"Oh, hi, Ethan." he heard her say.
"Hiya, Lili. I hear you're leaving, said a young Crewman.
"Doug, this is ..."
He didn't hear the rest of it. He knew who that was.
It was like a crash, the end of the idyllic mood, replaced instantly by chaos and pain, fear and nausea. His thumb had been caressing her fingers. He stopped doing that, and instead pressed it into her palm.
She glanced down, seemed to catch the signal. "Uh, we have to go, Ethan. I'll see you later." she smiled at Ethan Shapiro as he walked away.
Doug steered her into a nearby empty lab.
"What's the matter?" she asked quietly, as soon as the door had closed.
He looked down. "That was Number Two." He was unsteady on his feet, reeling.
"Ohhh, she said, When did, when did it happen?"
"Thirty-two years ago. On the Vulcan home world. I phasered him in the belly, Doug said, shaking.
"No, wait, wait. I guarantee that that kid is at least a good five years younger than that, Lili said, So unless you got him in utero, that's not him."
"The name is the same. It looks just, just like him."
"No. It's the nephew of him. Or his son. Or some cousin or something."
"The name ..."
"The names don't have to match. And neither do a lot of things. You should know that better than anyone, Doug. You should know that this mirror is distorted. It is not him." she made as if to leave the lab.
He put his hand out to stop her. "Lili, this is, I am so stupid. This is going to keep happening. There are a lot of people I can run into, and I know what I did if not to them, then to their families."
"You'll be on Lafa II."
"And what about when the Enterprise
comes back? Or I go and I do training? I am gonna see these, these ghosts over and over again. Did you know I almost popped Delacroix because he was in almost exactly a situation when I did that on the other side?"
Lili shook her head. "But you didn't, right? Doug, you're right. This is going to keep happening."
"Yes, he said softly, trembling a little.
"What did you, what did you expect? Doug, coming here, did you think it would all be gone? You would have escaped all of it?"
"I, I don't know what I thought, he said, voice breaking.
"Because you, you can't escape it. You can't just reverse it away and pretend like it never happened."
"I know, he said, It's shame. It's guilt. It's fear. I feel sick. I feel physically ill."
"Why did you, why did you come here? Why did you come to this side?"
"I, I wanted to be with you."
"I know. But why else?"
"It was, I, Gawd, I'm not making any sense. It was, I thought I could leave it all behind me. Achieve, maybe, some measure of forgiveness. But that's not the main reason. I came here because of you."
"So the rest of it, it's secondary?" he nodded. She continued, "You came here for love?" her voice was rising.
"Yes." his body shook.
"Then prove it, she said, almost shouting at him. "Love me. And that will be how you'll be forgiven."
"Love me." she insisted sharply. "And love our home. And love our friends. And love everything we make together, whether it's a restaurant or a hand to hand class or a pumpkin pie or, or," her voice dropped to a whisper, "or a child."
"Do you want that?"
"I want whatever happens, she said softly. "And if we don't become parents, then we don't, and we'll have happy lives together. And if we do, then we'll have a happy life to share with someone else. Who, who we haven't met yet."
"A happy life?"
"Yes. That is what I want. And I think we can have it. And you know what else I want?"
"Tell me, and I will try to give it to you, he said.
"I want your playfulness. I want your spirit. I want your strength. I want your kindness yes, you have it. I want your thoughtfulness. I want your risk-taking. I want your ambition. I want your joy. I want your, your everything. And in return I give you mine, she said.
"You said I gave you confidence."
"No. You already have it. I get it from you, he said.
They left the lab and went back to quarters.
He put his jacket down and looked at her.
"I have to wash this all away, he said, I know it's not really gone, the guilt and all. But I want it to go away for a little while, and, and be with you, now."
"Do you know what forgiveness does?"
"It doesn't make it all go away. Not at all. It does, though, make it so that you can live with yourself a little easier, and a little better. And it makes it so that you can move forward."
"I guess that's all I can, I can ask for."
"Here, she said, unbuttoning his shirt. "It's time to let it go. If only for a little while."
He took off her hoodie. "It's the little whiles that matter."
She stripped the rest of her clothes off, and he did the same, standing and staring at her. She checked her face in a mirror. "Gawd, I really need to wash my hair. It's a sweaty, sticky mess. Why didn't you tell me?"
"I, I told you I was going to like you, almost no matter what you looked like."
"What's this almost
"Well, I did want you to be humanoid. I mean, I do have standards and all." he smiled at her tentatively. "This is all I've got. What you see in front of you."
"Coincidentally, that's all I want, she said.
He followed her into the little bathroom and she turned on the shower. "C'mere." she beckoned, getting in.
There was a moment when getting clean turned into getting down and dirty. Their breath was fogging up the shower door when she finally switched off the water. "Here, she said, handing him a towel.
He rubbed her back. "Don't get too dry."
She smiled. "Not a chance." She sat down on the bed and trembled a little.
"No. Just realizing, remembering what, what happened the last time. A little scared."
"I come in peace, he said, kissing her.
He lay her back and rolled her onto her right side. He put a pillow under her back.
She brushed a damp strand of hair away from his face. "I remember this way."
"Yes, he said, and touched her, "Are you ...?"
"Yes, she said, teeth chattering a tiny bit.
He kissed her deeply. "Tell me, he said, Tell me if anything is off. Anything at all."
They opened their eyes and looked at each other for a second. "Check! Check! We have to check!" she cried out.
They sprang apart, both leaping out of bed to the left side of it. She put her hand down on herself. He inspected the sheets carefully. After a minute or so, they both looked up. "Did you find anything?" he asked.
"N-no blood, she said, You?"
"No blood." he dropped the top sheet onto the bed and approached her, enveloping her, arms around her arms, mouth on the top of her head. He whispered, over and over again, "We can do something. We can do something. Thank God. Thank God. Thank God."
For her part, she was shaking. She put her head up. "Is this how it's gonna be?"
"I don't, I don't know." he sat down on the bed, and she sat beside him. "I, uh, I can't do it the Tantric way every time. It's, it takes a lot outta me to hold back like that for a long time. Hard to stay patient and move slowly when it feels so good to move fast."
"How, um, how often? Wait, I don't want to be selfish."
"Only maybe once a week." he admitted. "Can you live with that? We could do math or something, right?"
"Yes, she said, and then thought better of it. "We should, we should try it the regular way."
"You mean ?"
"Yes, Doug. We need to know if we can, if we have options."
"I don't want to harm you."
"I know. But we need to test this. I mean, what if we forget one time? Or we just, we mess up?"
"I can't, couldn't let it happen to you again."
"This is the best opportunity, she said, Phlox is just a communicator call away, and he knows what we're up to. Keep what you need, uh, close. Shorts, communicator, anything else. Just in case."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes. I want to be with you all the way, any way that we can." She kissed him.
"Yes!" she said, a little more sharply than she'd intended.
"Lili!" he exclaimed. "You've gotten, well, angry a bit lately. I suspect that underneath your chef's whites you're a bit of a spitfire when you get riled up. I think you may have a bit of a temper."
"Hey, I'm half-Irish. Don't mess with me."
"I will mess with you all I like, he said, But I am, you do recognize, I am scared that you'll, well ...."
"Like I said, you'll be prepared and we'll see what happens."
"Here goes nothing."
"Here comes everything." she corrected him and touched him.
"You have the right touch."
"So do you." she panted.
They were panting, asynchronously panting. He found his voice after maybe a minute. "We, we have to check, he said.
"Yes." she breathed.
They got up again, and did as before. He was done checking first, and stared at her for a second. "If I didn't know why you were doing that, I'd swear you were ...."
She smiled. "No blood, she said, inspecting her fingers.
"None here either, just evidence that we made love. I'll, um, I'll take that side."
"You don't have to."
"It's okay, he said, clicking her communicator open. "Get me Doctor Phlox. It's, it's not an emergency."
"Doc, we're okay, he said.
"Might I suggest you make a second attempt?" Dr. Phlox asked. "Make certain before you declare yourselves fully fit and all."
"We already did that, Lili said.
"Very well then. I will see you tonight for your farewell dinner, is that correct?" Phlox asked.
"Yes. I'm making holiday foods, since I won't be here when they come around. Christmas ham, potato latkes and tabbouleh, salads, a vegetarian hoppin' John for those who keep kosher or halal and of course for Commander T'Pol."
"Sounds marvelous. See you then. Phlox out."
Doug put the communicator back on Lili's desk. "Lili," he said, "I swear to you that I will never leave you that fast again."
"Doug, don't write checks with your mouth that maybe your body can't cash."
"I, I know that eventually I'll get to the point where I can't just keep going. But until that happens, I'll stay right with you, keep it going, as long as you want it, whenever you want it. Because that's what I want, too."
She kissed him. "And when we do sleep?"
"I will hold you and keep you warm and smell your hair. I will never buy you perfume. I never want you to smell of anything but food and yourself."
"What if I make something with sardines in it?"
"Then we'll take another shower together, he said.
"And I promise that I will always let you know when things are right, and when things are wrong. If I'm tired or having PMS or whatever. I won't blindside you. And, and I want you to smell like you, too. Because that's how I was able, that's how I knew it was you, back when it was just dark and I didn't know your face."
He kissed her deeply.
"Lili, I was thinking. I, well, Jay had a sister. And it would be really bad if she were to find out about me by just stumbling upon me or something."
"So I was thinking, I should change my name."
"Change your name? But I love Doug and I love Douglas Jay and I love Douglas Jay Hayes, she said.
"Just a new last name. I'd stick it on the end."
"Oh? Well, don't make it anything I can't spell, like Grabinsky, okay?"
"Can you spell Beckett?"
"One or two Ts?"
"Two, he said.
"Where's Beckett coming from?"
"It was my mother's maiden name."
"Ah. Well that would honor her, she said, Hmm. Doug Beckett. Douglas Jay Beckett. DJ Beckett."
"No, no, Hayes would still be in there. So it would be DJH Beckett."
"Ah. Huh, she said, You know, I'm in love with this guy."
"Yeah. He's thoughtful." she kissed him. "Strong." she kissed him. "Handsome."
"You'd better get your beautiful crystal blue eyes checked."
She smiled. "Sexy." she kissed him deeply. "And his name is Doug Beckett."
They kissed and she touched him again.
He smiled at her. "Definitely the best hand."
He kissed her again, hand lightly tracing her face. "Lili?"
"Yes?" she gasped.
"I was thinking, you should really change your name, too."
"Oh? To what?" she asked, looking deeply into his bluish-greenish-greyish eyes.