They waved as the shuttle left. Dishes in the sanitizer, Doug turned to Lili, “So, whaddaya wanna do?”
“Actually, if you don't mind, open presents. You okay with waiting a little bit?”
“Only a little bit.”
“Well, I feel a little like a bride all over again. And this time without morning sickness.”
“That is definitely an improvement,” Doug said, “I'll hand over, you tear wrapping,” he handed her the biggest box.
“Hmm, this is from Engineering,” Lili ripped, “Ah, it’s a set of knives. These are good, titanium blades.”
“I better be nice to you, then.”
“Nothing to worry about,” she smiled. She took a little necklace out from where it had been tucked into her blouse and looked at the charm on it, “Pity I can't wear my ring these days.”
“Well, it's not fitting. Don't want to cut off your circulation.”
“You always keep yours on,” she said.
“Yes, I never want to take it off.”
“Yeah, but you even wear it during diaper changes,” she said.
“I wash my hands well,” he assured her, “Okay, this is from Navigation,” he said, handing the box over.
“Hmm, it’s candlesticks. Not exactly our style, but okay,” Lili said.
“Well, they probably had to guess. Here's an envelope.”
“Ah, hmm. This is from Security. Your side of the family,” she said, “A gift card, see?”
“Oh, it's that place in San Francisco. Wow, that's really generous,” Doug commented, “This one's from Archer.”
“A linen tablecloth,” Lili said, “This is really nice. We won't put it down if we, er, use the table for, ahem, unconventional purposes,” she smiled at Doug wickedly.
“Ah yes, I remember those.”
“Back before I weighed about a thousand kilos.”
Kick Kick Kick
“What's that one?” asked Lili, “No, the smaller one.”
“It's from Communications. Here.”
“Hmm. It's a book. Jane Eyre
,” Lili read off the spine, and then cracked it open, “Have you read it?”
“Nope. I'm not so sure it exists on the other side of the pond.”
“Ah, yes, that distorted mirror you called a universe for so long,” she said.
“It was bad and it was nasty but it was how we met,” he leaned over and kissed her.
“There's an inscription. It says, 'One good love story deserves another. – Hoshi and Chandler.
' Who's Chandler?”
“That's Chip Masterson's real name? Holy cow.”
“Is that a bookmark?” asked Doug.
“Yeah, but it's also one of those things where you can scan it with a PADD and it passes data. Here, hand me yours, please.”
“Lots of other books, mostly about movies. I guess those were heh, Chandler's contribution. 'Film Criticisms throughout the Years',”
she read, “Critiques from Rex Reed, Pauline Kael, Roger Ebert, etc
.,” she clicked around randomly and then laughed.
“What's so funny?”
“Here's one that just says, 'Clint sings like a moose
“Oh, c'mon, it doesn't say that, Lili!”
“Yes it does! Here, under 'Paint Your Wagon'
,” she showed him.
“Well, I'll be damned. One left,” he handed her the box.
“Hmm, it says Marks & Spencer
on the side. That's British. This must be from Tactical. Your side.”
“You open it. You're the blushing bride.”
“Okay, hmm,” The box was heavy, and filled with all sorts of cans and jars, some of which were wrapped in blue cloth, “Some of it is wrapped up, and some of it isn't.”
“Okay, what's not wrapped?”
“Here, uh, cheddar cheese, a bag of mixed nuts,” the bag crinkled a little when she lifted it, “a box of orzo and basmati rice and a small tube of curry paste.”
“What are the canisters?”
“Oh, it's a kitchen canister set. Heavy,” she opened one, “They're filled! Look, flour, sugar, whole bean coffee and loose leaf tea,” she sniffed, “English breakfast, I think.”
“What are the wrapped ones?” he asked, taking each canister from her.
She unwrapped one, “Hmm. It’s a tin of kosher sausages. Little card says this one is from Ethan Shapiro,” she unwrapped another, “It’s a jar of chestnuts, from, uh, Karin Bernstein,” Next one, “Fortnum and Mason
jam, blueberry. From, uh, Lucas Donnelly.”
“Yeah. Uh, you know him?”
“Yeah,” Doug looked down, “Number one from the other side of the pond.”
“Oh,” Lili said, “Not the same guy, right?”
“I suppose you're right,” Doug said. He didn't want to kill her mood, or blow his chances for later. But Lucas Donnelly was, well, his counterpart in the mirror universe was known to Doug – as the first man Doug had ever killed.
“Okay, ready for bed, Joss?” Jennifer asked.
“We already read two,” she said.
“Whatever Duck Duck
is, it'll have to wait for tomorrow.”
“No. Here's your dinosaur. Time to sleep,” she bent over him.
He touched her, “Milk?”
“Ha, no. The kitchen's not open yet. And you will be too old for that by then. I thought your Mommy said you were weaned.”
“Yes, she'll be here tomorrow, with Daddy. Say good night.”
“Jenn. Uh, that's okay,” she crawled into bed with him and put her arms around him. Joss squirmed a little bit, but settled in soon. She smiled to herself and fell asleep, dreaming of having her own someday.
“Moving along, yes?” Lili asked.
“Yes,” Doug said, “The blue cloths, how many do you have?”
“Eight. Two more to unwrap. Ha, I just realized, these are cloth napkins,” she smiled, “Okay, hmm, this one is Scottish Steel-Cut Oats.”
“That's gotta be from MacKenzie.”
“Right you are, sir. One more. It must be from Reed,” she opened it. It was a small can of pineapple rings, “Yep, these are from Malcolm.”
“He must've packed that whole box himself. It's very British-centric.”
“Nah. I bet he just flirted with some shopgirl at Marks & Spencer
and had her do most of it,” she looked at the bottom of the box, “There's an old fashioned card.”
“It says, 'We don't know if you can make one meal out of all of these things at the same time, but we'd like to see you try, and we will eat it no matter what it tastes like. Congratulations from the Tactical Department
'. And then they all signed their names, see?”
“Excellent. Now that that's done....”
“Yes!” she cried out.
“No, not that yet. There’s one more thing. I shoulda cleared this with you first, Lili.”
“It’s nothing alarming. At least I don't think it is. I wrote to Laura.”
Melissa Madden piloted the Enterprise
in a meandering course around the Lafa System. There were lots of stars and planets to duck, lots of movement and ships. It was an interesting challenge.
“Crewman Madden,” T'Pol said, “Are you aware that you'll be picking up the Becketts tomorrow?”
The course continued figure eight upon figure eight around and around.
“Laura as in Laura Hayes? As in Jay's sister?”
“Yes. My counterpart's sister. Here,” he brought the letter up on his PADD.
Lili read it aloud.
“Dear Ms. Hayes:
My name is Doug Beckett. I know you don't know me, but we are related. I don't want anything from you, I just want to introduce myself to you, if that's okay, and have you meet my family. I will be on Earth on August twenty-eighth, in San Francisco. I will send you the particulars if you are interested. I recognize this probably looks really strange but all I want to do is introduce myself. Please feel free to suggest any place where you would prefer to meet if Starfleet Headquarters is not acceptable to you. Thank you.
Lt. Cmdr. (Retd.) Douglas J. H. Beckett
“Well?” he asked.
“It's perfect,” she smiled.
“Good. That's been, that's been worrying me a little. I really want to do that. I think she should know that, well that Major Jay Hayes may not be alive, but his counterpart is.”
“He is very much alive,” Lili said, kissing him and nodding a tiny bit towards their room.
“Let me show you how alive I am,” he said, getting up and helping her up.
Kick Kick Kick
The kissed and moved into the bedroom. She smiled at him, “You're already ready to get started.”
“Uh huh, I thought that box from Tactical would take forever! C'mere,” he stared at her and then appraised her, “A little different from when I first saw you.”
“I would imagine so.”
“It's all good. Sit down; let me take care of you.”
“Oh, twist my arm,” she said, holding her hand out. He gently turned her wrist slightly and she laughed, and then sat down.
“Here, now, back up a little. Yeah, that's it.”
“Didn't I tell you? I'm as into this as you are. But, uh, you'll be careful, right?”
“Absolutely. I love you, and I love Number Two Son. And I won't do anything to hurt either of you.”
“Good thing Number One Son is flying high above our heads right now. I'd rather not be explaining this to him for a few more years.”
“Better be soon, Lili. The first time I saw a girl naked, I was four years old.”
“Yep. She was, uh, also four. Kathy Norris. The ole - you show me yours, I'll show you mine
“So show me yours. I'm already showing you mine,” she said.
He rolled over to her side.
She shook her head, shaking off cobwebs a little, “Huh,” she breathed, “That was less, uh, frustrating that time,” she got up.
“Where are you going?”
“Just to the bathroom. You forget I live in there now,” she said.
And, again, although he had been so very, very careful, he saw it – a spot of blood on the sheet, “Lili,” he called out, trying to hide the alarm he was feeling, “Can you get dressed?”
“Uh, why?” she asked, coming back in.
“That,” he pointed to the incriminating stain, “I'll get the car and call Miva.”
She got dressed as quickly as she could, “Damn. Petey, I, Gawd, please be all right.”
The ride to Dr. Miva's was fast, breaking about every Calafan traffic law there was.
Miva was a middle-aged Calafan woman, arms a mass of silvery scrollwork. She was yawning and stretching when they arrived, “How bad is it?” she asked.
“It wasn't much,” Doug said.
“Yeah. No real change, I don't think,” Lili said.
“Here, let's do the examination,” Miva said.
The pelvic exam was thorough, and Miva spread some of the blood on some slides, “Now lay back,” she said to Lili, “Let me check these. That will take a minute or so,” she left Lili and Doug alone.
“We never should have done that,” Lili said, hand on her belly, shaking a little. It was finally sinking in.
“No. I, God, I guess not,” Doug said, taking her hand, “It'll, um, it'll be all right.”
Lili just stared into space.
Miva returned, “I checked, and none of the blood is the baby's. It's all yours. You have a fresh abrasion on your cervix. Now, I can guess how you got it or you can tell me.”
“It's obvious, right?” Doug asked, “We, uh, I, uh, I went too far.”
“Right,” Miva said, “Allow me to explain what is going on here, although we all know what is happening. I just feel it might help to get the message across to you both,” she sighed, “Your endowment is greater than most human males. Your wife is the same size or smaller than most human females, despite having had one child already. In order to accommodate your dimensions, your wife has had an operation to clear space. Otherwise, your parts do not fit, and you can injure her – which has happened in the past. For both of her pregnancies, I have reversed the operation so that your children could develop properly. You were all right with Jeremiah, and you waited. Why are you unable to wait when it comes to your second child?”
“Actually, we didn't wait last time, either,” Lili confessed, “But, uh, this didn't happen. We were okay. We, uh, only did it once then. I'm sorry.”
“Look, it's not me you need to apologize to. Or to anyone, for now. But you can cause a great deal of damage to the developing fetus if the uterus or the placenta is punctured. And those are very real possibilities,” Miva said, “The placenta is very large. Understand that you have gained more weight than human females are supposed to gain at four months' gestation. But that is mostly placenta. The weight gain has now mostly stopped and, instead, the proportions will change, and you'll go from perhaps five percent fetus and ninety-five percent placenta to more of a balance. And at that point, you'll have another Cesarean. But that is a good five months away. You cannot attempt this again. It is too risky to your child.”
“It's all my fault,” Doug said, “I pushed her.”
“No, I wanted to,” Lili said, “Doctor, isn't there anything that we can do?”
“I had thought that other stimulus would be sufficient, but apparently it is not,” Miva said, “You can also use directed dreaming. As you are aware, it is possible for you both to have dreams that are richer, deeper and more meaningful than standard human dreams.”
“I don't wanna do that,” Doug said, “It's not real. Lili is here, and real. I don't have to fall asleep in order to be able to touch her. Not anymore.”
“That may be so,” said Miva, “But given her condition – and the complications with this pregnancy – that may be your best option. Many of my patients in similar circumstances can have rather satisfying experiences this way.”
“But that's what you do,” Doug said, “You all dream, you all meet your dream lovers and have your dreamy affairs with people in the other universe, and it's all dandy for you. But it isn't for me. We have different values. We just, I just, I can't do it.”
“Your relations would still be with your wife. You have been with us for a long time and you keep a bit of amplifier metal on you at all times anyway,” Miva explained.
“Yes. Those rings you wear. A very human tradition – we don't do that. It seems a bit possessive, like the last name thing, or having a last name at all. I don't quite get it but that's what you humans do.”
“Well, I just can't get and accept what you Calafans do,” Doug said.
“We could try at least once,” Lili said, “You know we can have really good dreams together.”
“I know we can. But, like I said, it's not real. And you! Would you be pregnant in these dreams, or not?”
“I guess it would be as the occasion required,” she said.
“I'm sorry, I just can't,” Doug said, “I can't go back to that when we've moved so far forward in the past two years. I'll just have to stay away,” he muttered, “I'm sorry, Lili.”