Dox's Final Leap: Victory - Part 3 of 12
The Bulikaya Particle
Location: The Multiverse, the USS Victory
Timeline: 2397, 2286
Arriving on Deck 5, which similarly to Deck 8 on the Hera, was essentially “officer country” where the command crew quarters were located, the two Doxes stepped off of the turbolift as the Victory’s version turned right and began walking. The Hera’s Dox noticed that this version had clearly maintained the martial stride that both women picked up from their many walk-and-talks with Rita Paris, as they arrived at their location. Waiting there, standing with a much larger and clunkier looking PaDD, was a short, lithe Andorian woman waiting with a pleasant smile.
Doing her level best to keep the surprise off of her face, the Hera’s Dox still let her eyes go just a little wide at the sight of a woman who, in spite of the maroon duty jacket and uniform of the era, was the splitting image of Lieutenant Commander Thex, from back on the Hera.
“Lieutenant Commander, I can take it from here.” The strange doppelganger said as she met the twin-Doxes in the narrow corridor, switching her attention to the newcomer, “If you will follow me, I can help get you cleaned up and refreshed a bit, uh, Lieutenant Commander Dox.”
“The Captain is recommending ‘Dox 97’ to simplify things, Tivri. If that helps” The Victory’s Dox said with a light, but tired smile.
“Anyway. Officer’s dining lounge is on Deck 3 in half an hour.” The Victory’s Dox said to her counterpart and the Andorian lieutenant with a weary smile and that same air of casual, well-earned comfort that seemed to be the norm on the Victory. “Thanks, Tivri. Ten hours on shift, I need to freshen up a bit and run a brush through my hair.”
“You… might want to do the same.” She said to her shorter-haired counterpart with a slight grin. She needed a few minutes freedom away from the living, breathing reminder of what could have been her future, but also knew her own mind enough to know that it was a bad idea to leave herself alone with her thoughts. One way to ensure that was in pairing her counterpart with a woman who was, herself, a counterpart from the Hera. A minor mystery would keep that anxious brain busy and occupied, which was likely for the best.
“Meet you then, thank you.” The Victory’s Dox said as she turned and started off down the corridor. As the Victory’s Dox vanished around the bend, the Andorian Lieutenant turned towards the Hera’s Dox and looked her up and down for just a moment.
“My quarters are this way. I don’t think we can get you a new uniform in time since the quartermasters don’t have that pattern on file, but we can at least get it cleaned and pressed for you, and get you a shower. So you’re Dox... another Dox from an alternate universe where our Mnhei’sahe didn’t get thrown back in time?” Tivri, unlike Thex, was a bit more outgoing, and seemed to be trying to chat up the newcomer, to put her at ease by talking about the topic she knew best- herself.
“If you slip up and call me Thex, it’s okay. We’ve had that talk- well, not you and I, but Mnhei’sahe and I have, so I know it’s a little weird for you. But I’m not her- I’m the Communications assistant chief. Although it sounds like this Tivri and I have about the same luck with our love lives,” the little blue girl giggled. It seemed this counterpart to her own friend was also calmer, more at ease with herself and more confident.
As they arrived at the chamber, Dox nodded as she processed everything. It had only been recently, since the Bachelorette party for Schwein Von Alcot, that Thex had begun uncovering the secrets of her own background and learned that she was a clone. And not just a clone, but one of thousands as part of the machinations of some form of dark, elder god beings. It was a controversy that they had just uncovered on the Hera before all of this happened. That meant the specifics of that information weren't things that the Dox that had been living here could only have guessed at or known anything about. “So, you two talked about it. About your doppleganger back in the… future. Where... we came from?”
“What do you know about it?” Dox asked, not wanting to give up information that she wasn’t sure might have negative ramifications.
“I guess she’s just a descendant. Which means that I’ll find a quad and make a youngling someday,” Tivri chirped cheerily. It was as if the idea of reproducing fulfilled her purpose and brought her contentment. Which was a thought that came to mind for some reason to Dox, who in that moment also realized that reproduction was also pretty much the main topic of conversation with Thex more often than not: a factor Dox now knew was a directive built into the clones.
“That makes sense.” Dox said flatly, realizing that Tivri clearly hadn’t put much thought into the coincidence of an identical ancestor over a century removed. But Dox knew enough to not volunteer that information if it wasn’t known here. At least to Tivri herself, who seemed to be somewhat innocent in her demeanor.
Opening the door, the lithe Andorian woman let the officer from another century in and showed her the quarters. Knowing the layout of a refit Constitution class starship, it shouldn’t have been as much of a surprise as it was that the room was so small, but that didn’t stop Dox from being slightly taken aback regardless. But not a bit of that showed on her face as she was quickly remembering everything she had learned during her captivity with the Tal’Shiar regarding controlling what she let be seen on her face.
“Thank you, by the way, for letting me get cleaned up. I do appreciate it.” Dox said as she stood a little awkwardly in the oddly decorated chamber.
“Oh, least I can do for my bestie... sorta. Anyway, I’m out, I have to get back to the bridge. The place is all yours, enjoy!” With that said, Lieutenant Tivri scampered off.
Standing in the small, windowless chamber filled with artifacts of a life unknown to her, it’s occupant simply trusted her there without question. After a moment, the redheaded Romulan began taking off her uniform, tossing it in for laundry before heading to the sonic shower. Now to get ready for dinner on this bizarre ship, where she couldn’t help but begin to understand just how a version of herself could have found a new home.
With this crew, her counterpart seemed so much closer to her than she was with most on the Hera.
Stepping into the small quarters she shared with Lieutenant Jessica Valin, Lieutenant Commander Mnhei’sahe Dox of the U.S.S. Victory was upset and drained as she pulled the rank markers off of her duty jacket and tossed the jacket on the bed. She could hear Jessica in the sonic shower and smiled for a moment .
“Kreldanni Areinnye..” She muttered to herself, cursing in the native tongue she had to try and avoid using as much as possible these days. In 2286, in order to serve on the Victory, Dox had to make many compromises and one of them was in pretending to be what was called ‘V'tosh ka'tur’. A Vulcan Sans Logic. There was no protocol in place to allow a Romulan to serve in Starfleet yet. So, like her Captain, she had to lie. Pretend to be something she wasn’t.
Unlike so many of her people, Mnhei’sahe Dox was a poor liar.
Sitting down on the bed she shared with her unexpected yet welcome human lover, she looked around the cramped quarters that were tiny compared to the quarters she had inhabited on the Hera. She once again eyed the gridded room dividers and architecture that was more than a little bit like Rita’s office back on the Hera, and definitely reminiscent of the quarters the anachronistic officer had created with the space allotted her. There had been good times and good memories associated with those things, but that wasn’t where her mind now dwelled.
In that moment, her mind was on her old quarters. The quarters she had shared with Mona. The woman who, in another life, had been her wife and bond-mate.
Mona… she thought to herself.
It was a name she tried to not think about. When she initially found herself in the past, she could still feel the energy within her that was a part of her empathic bond with the Miradonian woman she had just wed. But after she woke up in Starfleet Medical, she immediately realized that something had changed. Slowly, she could feel that energy fade from her. Over the course of that first week in the past, that lovely lavender glow she could see in her mind’s eye faded back to her original red aura.
After a week, the somewhat literal piece of Mona she held within her had vanished, in spite of the insistence that it would be a part of her for the rest of their lives. As she struggled to hold onto it, she began to understand what had to have happened. Mona didn’t exist here. She wouldn’t be born for 75 years. But, more importantly, that bond would never be possible to reestablish because of the changes in the timeline that had come to pass by Dox’s insertion into it- a magnificent example of why Starfleet needed a Temporal Prime Directive. For Dox, it had been personally devastating to have what she had incorporated into herself intrinsically to simply fade away.
It was a wound that had at least scarred over, but that scar had been torn open by the arrival of this other Mnhei’sahe Dox. Because while Captain MacGregor had forbade this other her from talking in detail about her life, it didn’t matter. It didn’t matter because Dox could FEEL Mona's energy radiating from her double. Even without touching.
Standing too close to her other self was maddening. It was like agony, and she was sure that Siivas, whose telepathy and empathy were both extremely powerful, could sense it from two decks away. So as soon as she got the opportunity to get a few minutes away from the bitter reminder, who was walking around in the uniform she had to give up for what she wore now, she happily took advantage of it.
Then, as she dwelled on the past and how it was haunting her IN the past, she thought of the sound of the sonic shower, and the woman in it. Guilt began to settle in and gnaw at the Romulan helmsman, as she began running a finger nervously over her pointed ear. She wasn’t being fair to Jessica. Once Dox had realized that there was no going back to her old life, she had done everything in her power to commit to this new life.
Charybdis had taken her under her wing, in much the same way that Rita and Enalia had done on the Hera. Although here on the Victory, Dox found herself being this ship's ‘Rita’. The conscience of Starfleet, keeping the Intel ship on course, morally. The irony was thick enough to cut with a phaser. Siivas taught her how to do more than defend her mind in ways that Sonak hadn’t. And of course, there was Jessica.
Looking around, she took in the mementos she had been collecting since she had joined the Victory. On the far wall, was a Klingon D'k tahg she had won in combat with the Captain of a Bird of Prey the Victory had faced and defeated. Below that, pictures taken with the ship’s crew and with Jessica. On the few, narrow magnetic shelves, sat miniatures she had built of some of the ships of the period, including a recreation of Rita’s old ship, the Exeter. It was the few things she had as a memento of her time on the Hera.
That and the framed photo next to it.
The picture she had obtained from the Starfleet personnel file- it was that of a KIA young officer that had vanished during a transporter accident thirtyish years earlier. A plain-looking young woman in the gold minidress uniform of the day, with an upswept head of long blonde hair. It was the only image of the local reality’s equivalent Lieutenant Rita Paris Dox could secure, and the closest she could come to an image of her friend, mentor and sister she had left behind.
The local version was not quite the bombshell that Dox had known from the Hera, as this was the Rita native to this universe. But the eyes were the same, and that was important for the young Romulan to remember. Those eyes that always looked into the future, to see it as it could and should be. The living embodiment of Starfleet in any universe, and the memory of her still provided the moral compass that still guided Dox.
On the Victory, Dox had refused to do what she had once done on the Hera, keeping her quarters almost completely plain until Mona moved in, but for the few miniatures of starships and family photos.
Sitting there on that bed, Dox couldn’t believe it, but she even missed her mother. She had a picture of A Rita. But nothing of Asa or Enalia. Nothing of Ila Dedjoy or Mona or the Hera. Nothing of Jaeih Dox, the authoritarian woman that had been more a commanding officer than a mother. The woman she had finally began to mend her relationship with before being pulled apart. She missed them all, and seeing this other version of herself opened up that wound she had worked so hard to heal.
Getting up, Dox walked over to the small closet the two women shared and slid open the door to pull out a fresh duty jacket and a small box buried in the back of the top shelf behind some of Jessica’s things. It was a small black box containing a very specific personal item that was important to her. One of the only things she had on her that Admiral Jones had allowed her to keep when she arrived in this timeline after it had been throughly studied: Her old commbadge.
Taking it out of the box, she rubbed her finger along the raised, silver delta, and over the two gold towers that backed it. Staring at it with a longing look on her face. Then, eyeing her reflection in the metal mirror mounted to the bulkhead, she looked down at her chest and the Starfleet badge upon it. The badge of the current era, that had been a century old when she was born.
Would be born. Most likely.
But it was the Starfleet that had given her back a career on faith, when it could have just as well locked her up as a spy. The Starfleet that accepted a woman lost in time, with no place else to go, giving her a new purpose, and a new future. The Starfleet that Rita Paris had spoken of with that impossible pride and unwavering commitment. For weal or woe, this was her Starfleet now, her reality, and the badge in her hand was nothing more than a memory of her past.
With the visitation from her life not led, she realized she didn’t want to dwell on that past any longer.
Stuffing the old and yet future badge in her pocket, she took a breath. In most respects, she was to the Victory what Rita Paris had been on the Hera, in more ways than one. She had found a new home here- no, she had built a new life here. She had made new friends on the Victory, and she wasn’t going to let the reminder of what might have been ruin what she had worked so hard to build. The future was a backwards step for the conflicted young Romulan. But she was also committed to being a part of this new present. This was her home now, and she wasn’t going to let the idea of what might have been ruin that.
Stepping across the relatively small quarters to the refresher area, Dox took a breath and smiled. She thought of what she did have, and not just what she had lost as the sonic shower cut off. Stepping into the small room, she looked in through the frosted door at the tall, broad-shouldered woman that she had come to love in this unusual situation. She looked at her dark brown mane of hair and the body that, being human, was always a bit cool to the touch for the hot-blooded Romulan woman.
“Hey.” Dox said, so Jessica would know she was there.
“Hey,” came the soft-spoken reply. About the ship and on duty, Valin spoke in clear tones of command, as she’d been taught as an officer. But with her redheaded lover, behind closed doors, she could be soft-spoken, and usually chose to be. They had argued, as all couples did. But for the most part, the tactician from Titan tended to allow herself to be vulnerable and feminine when it was just the two of them, which Dox found endearing. It had taken considerable time and trust for the two of them to overcome their initial dislike of one another, and their misunderstanding of just who the other person was in reality.
Being from the future, or A future more accurately, Dox was even more guarded than she had once been, which made it hard to get close to her. While Valin had not been interested in women until Dox, with whom quarreling and arguing had finally given way to a night of passion, and since then, she had been tentative and cautious about their relationship. But she had still dedicated herself to it bit by bit, until the two were inseparable at this point.
Jess and Minnie, interspecies romance.
Looking down at the considerably shorter and stouter pilot, the navigator whose position involved only handling the tactical systems, in an innovation Captain Charybdis had put forth on her bridge, was hesitant, and she didn’t say anything. That, of course, meant that she was anxious about something-likely everything that had been running through her lover’s mind. It also meant that she wanted to help, to comfort, to somehow make the situation better, but did not know how. They were traits that were easy for Dox to read and understand, having herself been anxiety riddled for much of her life. But only behind closed doors did Jess show her vulnerable side, and only to her Minnie, whom she trusted more than she wished she did.
Silently moving into the taller athletic woman’s personal space, Dox offered comfort in exactly the manner she knew her partner needed- a long, silent hug. Valin was a hugger, and tended to be deeply comforted by the action. Which was why Dox held her in silence, until the tall woman spoke.
“She dredged up everything about your old life, didn’t she? About your wife and your old ship. Why did Char make you play tour guide for her? It’s not fair. I don’t.... I don’t like this.” Jessica was also not the best in the universe at articulating her feelings- another trait Dox knew well.
“The second she appeared here, that was pretty much inevitable. That... seeing her like I did on the bridge, would automatically have me pulling all of that back up.” Dox said, reaching up to gently rub the back of Valin’s neck as she spoke. “At least this way, It’s not just… me running around in my own head, punishing myself. Maybe Char is thinking that I can get some closure this way.”
“After all, how often does one get the chance to yell at themselves for real?” the shorter red-head said with a light smile as she looked up into her lover’s big brown eyes.
“But… do you know what I keep thinking about in all of this, Jessica?” Dox asked, her generally raspy voice as soft and delicate as she could get it as she looked up at Jessica. “I keep thinking about… how no matter what happened in her life, that’s her life. And this… here. On the Victory, with you is mine. This is where I’m meant to be, and I’m happy.”
“You sure you’re not just gonna throw me over in some wild attempt to get back to the future?” Jess asked, half-jokingly. Only half, because of course, that’s exactly what she was afraid of. While Mona had been telepathic, to which Dox had been receptive, Valin was just humanoid, and possessed zero telepathic potential. Thus it was up to Mnhei’sahe to figure out what she was thinking and feeling. Which had been challenging, but in truth, rewarding. It made her work harder at the relationship, and she enjoyed the challenge of puzzling out the big girl’s thoughts and emotions.
Taking her hands and reaching up to cup the much taller woman’s face gently, Dox looked up with a smile, “I know you’re scared, e'lev. I know that this is just as hard for you, in a way, as it is for me. I also know that this… what we have… hasn’t always been easy. But that’s why it’s what I need. What I want. Why you’re who I want. We worked our asses off to find each other. We both had to overcome so much to let the other in. I’m not letting that go. I promise that.”
“She has her life. I have mine. I have you, and you have me.” Dox said, resting her warm face against Valin’s chest. “You’re stuck with me. Like it or not.”
“As long as you don’t work ALL your ass off,” the taller woman joked, reaching over Dox’s body to grasp her ample rump in both hands and give it a playful pat. Still shy about expressing her needs and desires in a lesbian relationship, Valin had made great strides to be able to make such a joke, and it was still hard for her. But she loved the little Romulan redhead, and treasured her, so she tried hard to be more of what she thought the other desired in a partner- at least, when it was just them.
Smiling and chuckling lightly, Dox knew that such expressions had been difficult for her partner, and she always tried to encourage simply through showing her appreciation, rather than any kind of direct leading. “This ass is as here to stay, as is the rest of me.”
After a moment, she stepped back slightly and grabbed a brush from the counter in front of their shared mirror. She hadn’t been joking about needing to freshen up and sighed lightly. “I feel like she added five years to my face just stressing out. I look like hnaev.”
Looking at herself in the mirror, there was even more that separated the two women. Where the Hera’s Dox was largely apathetic to her appearance and didn’t quite know how to feel about it, this Mnhei’sahe Dox had begun embracing her femininity over time. Maybe it was her relationship. Maybe it was her trying to distance herself from who she had been, but it had become true nonetheless. Her thick, curly red hair was much longer here and she spent a considerably longer amount of time styling it on the regular.
She preened slightly in the mirror, fluffing her hair out a bit, catching Valin’s eyes in the mirror as the taller woman stood behind her. Stepping over, she delicately removed the brush from the redhead’s hands and began brushing her bright red hair - an act of devotion that Jess knew her partner enjoyed.
“You look fine, birdie. Don’t worry about it. You’re prettier than she is by a Saturn ring,” the tall tactician said in a soothing voice, trying to offer reassurance. It wasn’t her strong suit, but she gave it a try all the same.
The short, thickly built redhead reached her arm behind her to place it gently on Valin’s own as the wide-shouldered, tall human continued to brush through Dox’s wavy curls. The Romulan pilot had her hair lengthened for the undercover assignment to stop Davo Mudd a year ago, and while the Dox that returned to the Hera had her hair cut short upon her return, this Dox chose to keep the longer hair, and had done so since.
“That’s sweet, but c’mon. We’re identical. Except...” Dox replied, her voice almost a purr of contentment as she half-heartedly tried disagreeing. But even there, looking in that mirror, Dox could see that it wasn’t completely true. Both women might technically be the same person from two divergent timelines, but there were many subtle changes over that year, and not just in the hair length.
It was clear to Dox that her counterpart had kept up with all of her intense physical training on the Hera. On the Victory, Dox kept herself in shape. She ran the corridors in the mornings with Valin. She trained with the ship's security to keep herself sharp. But the intense drive literally beaten into her by Jaeih Dox had softened, along with the rest of her.
On the Victory, she had more to be concerned with than combat training. The Victory focused far less on sword fighting and much more on winning with their brains. And learning duotronics instead of isolinear systems, along with the technical requirements of a ship from a different era kept this Dox focused much more on her career and her mind, rather than on her body.
She was still a skilled fighter and in much better shape than her pudgy, stout frame showed. But she was a little softer and rounder than her counterpart from the future. And, in point of fact, there was another noticeable difference between the two.
“It… doesn’t look like she smiles much, does it, Jessica?” Dox asked, a hint of sadness in her voice.
“I’d like to argue with you, babe, but you’re right,” the skilled and nimble fingers of the middle-class girl from Titan worked through the hair of the Romulan woman, the thick curls weaving into deliberate and stylish braids. “ Looks like maybe you were the one who hit the jackpot, huh?”
“On many, many levels. But none as important as you, Jessica.” Dox said, smiling broadly as she looked into her partner’s eyes through the mirror. The words came easily to her and truthfully from her heart. While she still missed much from her life on the Hera, and would always love Mona, it was different from what she had found on the Victory. In a time before she was ever to exist, the lost girl from Romulus found a true home and a very different kind of love.
A love she was going to hold on to tightly, and not let the shadow of a life unlived damage it.
Leaning down, the taller woman wrapped her arm protectively about the portly pilot, nuzzling her neck, using her chin to brush aside the crimson mane and breathe hot breath on her hot-blooded lover’s pointed ear.
“How long do we have until we have to be there...we could be fashionably late and Char will just smirk at us...?” Valin whispered, her lips brushing the sensitive tapered earlobes of her lover, her breath tingling inside Dox’s ear.
They would definitely be late.
To Be Continued…