Dox's Final Leap: Victory - Part 10 of 12
The Bulikaya Particle
Location: The Multiverse, the USS Victory
Timeline: 2397, 2286
EPILOGUE: Jessica Valin
It had been one of the longest days in the strange life of Lieutenant Commander Mnehi’sahe Dox in the year since she had joined the crew of the U.S.S. Victory. Her counterpart was gone, spirited away by the Bulukiya particles within her, presumably back to the Hera and the end of the 24th century. But back in the late 23rd century, the young Romulan pilot was relieved that at least one part of the trial she had weathered was behind her.
None of that meant that the rest of her day had been uneventful, of course. They had rendered necessary aid to the crew of the Saratoga as planned, and saved a lot of lives. Back on Earth, James T. Kirk and his crew had saved all of humanity yet again. And it had gone exactly like it had in the young officer’s comparative history class back at the academy.
But it wasn’t history in the here and now. The here and now was where Mnhei’sahe had lived for over a year now. Pulled out of her own timeline, she now really understood, to some degree, what Rita Paris had always struggled with being a woman out of time.
Just in the other direction.
It had been a long day, but it was finally over. Her shift was complete, and her official duties all managed. Now, all she had to do was go home and hope Jessica was okay.
As Dox walked, a bit slower than the martial pace she had adopted from Rita back on the Hera, she was purposefully stalling. Lieutenant Jessica Valin’s shift ended earlier than her own, giving the already anxious human tactical officer that much more time to think about what had happened.
Throughout the entire, bizarre scenario, Jessica had done her level best to keep a cool head, but the cracks in the tough, tall, well-built human had shown. And they were deep cracks.
This other Dox challenged everything. She had been a walking, talking reminder of everything Mnhei’sahe had struggled to walk away from to embrace her life on the Victory and the resentment Jessica had been feeling, combined with the anger fueled by fear, had been palpable.
Pushing the pad outside their shared quarters, Dox took a breath as she stepped into the modestly sized space. The lights were dim, but those sensitive Romulan ears caught the familiar breathing of the woman she had unexpectedly fallen for. “Jessica. Are… you okay?”
Curled up on the bunk was the tall, athletic form of Jessica Valin, the tactician from Titan, the insecure alcoholic who was not a lesbian, yet had fallen in love with one all the same. The woman whose vulnerability was a closely guarded secret, yet clear to any who understood such things. Uneasy with her own body and sexuality, she made Mnhei’sahe seem bold and lascivious by comparison.
So the fact that she was artfully arranged in a pink frilly nighty with matching panties, her hair down and loose, makeup applied, soft music playing and Dox’s favorite incense lit, spoke volumes. Offering a tumbler filled with not liquor, but the sour candies Dox she knew Dox loved, Valin did her best to sound seductive.
“See anything you, ah, like...?”
“Every single time I look at you, Jessica.” Mnhei’sahe said as she walked over to the bunk, took the offered tumbler of candy and set it down with a light smile. “But… just you. You know that. I appreciate whenever you make this kind of effort, I really do. But, I also know you aren't exactly comfortable.”
Sitting on the side of the bunk, Dox ran her hand through her thick, red curls and nodded with a warm smile and she gently placed her hand on Jessica’s cheek. “I know that none of… what we are came easy to you. It came out of… what’s the expression… left field, for both of us. But I don’t want you to feel like you need to do anything that you’re uncomfortable with. I’m here for you. And I always know that you’re here for me. You’ve been here for me and I love that. I love you.”
“And nothing that happened today has changed that.” Mnhei’sahe said, leaning on her side and pressing her forehead against Jessica’s. “Today… all that happened was a reminder that this is where I belong. Not just the Victory. But here.”
As she said the word ‘here’, she gently took her hand and put it over Jessica’s heart.
At which points no words were spoken, and none needed. For both expressed how they felt quite thoroughly without a single word.
EPILOGUE: Qurka Qurg
Waking up next to Jessica, Dox felt good. She had expected a fitful night’s sleep after the emotional turmoil of the last day, but instead she slept surprisingly deep and long. Unlike when she was still on the Hera, THIS Mnhei’sahe Dox occasionally slept in a little but this morning, she had a bit of energy to spare and someone she wanted to talk to.
In the ship’s somewhat spartan gymnasium, with a little over an hour before she had to report to duty, Dox had her hair pulled back into a high ponytail. She was wearing her usual black workout pants and top, as she stood in front of Qurka Qurg.
“So, you seemed like you were having a bit of fun.” the redheaded Romulan said to the half Vulcan, half Klingon temptress who had spent the past two days rather aggressively hitting on the Dox from the Hera.
“Two of you? If I worked it right I could have had TWO redheaded Romulans at the same time?” Qurka Qurg laughed throatily as she dropped to a pivot sweep which Dox hopped over, then double hopped for the follow-up sweep she’d learned to anticipate. “What can I say. Seeing you like that again... all wound up tight, exhausted, at the end of your rope and still gamely trying to put on ‘officer face?”
Stepping in to grab Dox’s arm, Qurka locked on a hold which Dox then countered, which led to Qurka adding her other hand, which then led to Dox adding another hand as they struggled for dominance. “How could I NOT tease her a bit? Not like I mentioned that birthmark on her inner thigh...”
"I'm… impressed you showed such restraint, then." Dox said with a clearly knowing smirk, straining a bit against the much taller, physically stronger woman before twisting the hold into a roll which sent Qurka over her shoulder, slamming them both to the mat with a bit of a thud that did little more than break the hold for a moment.
It wasn't all that hard to remember what she had been like when she had first joined the Victory, and it was troubling to see that the version of herself that had returned to the Hera didn't seem to have learned to manage her anxiety much in the year the two had been on different paths.
"And frankly… I half expected her to crack." Dox said, trying and failing to roll away from Qurka's grip as the skilled Klingon pulled the red headed Romulan into a leg lock.
“I was at LEAST expecting some violence out of her- sleep deprived, jumpy and whoo, the shades of mint she turned. I had her HOT under the collar, and she did NOT like that!” As she applied pressure to the hold, Qurka continued to chat- a habit she had while during nearly anything she engaged in but sex.
"Aggh." Dox winced as she began twisting to try and get out of the grip as Qurka quickly countered. "She seemed… I don't know. I don't know if I'm the best person to gauge myself, but she almost seemed… more uptight than I did."
“Mmmmm, less at home in her own skin. Of course, you were pretty quick to turn on her too, because you thought she was judging you for actually being happy.” With a grunt and a twist, Qurka released the hold, but it left her sitting astride the Romulan woman in her typical teasing fashion. Tapping Dox’s chest with a long fingernail, Quirk’s lips formed a pout of consideration. “I think THAT’s telling more than anything else. That you assumed she would resent you for having found happiness here. Did she?”
Once upon a time, Dox would have raged at the indignation of such a defeat, but the woman in the here and now rolled her eyes, more focused on the conversation than in simply being out-wrestled again by Qurka.
Letting out an exaggerated sigh, the supine pilot conceded and laid out flat as if she had been deflated by her sigh.. “Noooo, that was on me. When we finally just talked... she said she was… jealous of me. Of what I had here. Said it reminded her of what she didn’t have back there as much as anything else...”
The expression on the pretty Klingon woman’s face turned from one of mischief to genuine curiosity as she sat back in consideration. “That... has to be flattering. So what have you got that she ain’t got? Other than me, of course...” As she spoke, Qurka slid down the body of Dox, managing to make it sexually suggestive before she rose smoothly, offering her hand up to her sparring partner.
With a light smirk, Dox took Qurka’s hand as the powerful woman helped pull the much shorter Romulan woman back to her feet. “I’ve been thinking a lot about that, really. And… well, I think back to when I was there. On the Hera, where she is now. I think about what I really had there, and I think…”
“As much as I missed it there when I first arrived here, and as much as I still miss some of the things that were there.” Dox said with a bit of a chuckle as she continued, “Food replicators and windows in my quarters, for a start.”
“But… I mean. I was… lonely. My mother was there, but it’s not like THAT was a healthy relationship. And, I had a wife and that was good. I still miss that and on some level, I’ll always miss her. But so much of my relationships there were cold. Rita Paris was like a big sister and I miss her a lot. But… the Captain… she had an agenda for me that was always making me choose between her and Starfleet. The other command staff… I always felt like they just… tolerated me. The flight crew there was afraid of me more often than not.”
“I mean… I was a kreldanni pain in the ass. I know that. I was always anxious and I reacted to that by shutting myself off, so I was half of the problem right there, and I know that.” Dox said, shrugging slightly. “But I didn’t REALLY understand how to start changing that until I came here. And… I don’t think SHE understands that either. Or, at least, she didn’t until she saw me here. Saw me with all of you. I… hope she learns.”
“There is not here,” Qurka replied, leaning into an arm grapple with Dox that the Romulan woman knew would develop into a shoulder throw or a leg trip designed to take her down to the mat with the perfumed mass of Klingon atop her. ” We are not them. So what she goes back to won’t have changed, but perhaps she will?”
As if on cue, that ankle hook arrived, designed to sweep Dox off balance and to the floor. There were at least half a dozen ways she could think of to have avoided the maneuver, but in the moment, the red-headed pilot from the future let it happen as she slammed back down to the mat.
Predictably, Qurka took advantage of the momentum and was quickly straddling Dox with that familiar, predatory grin. But unlike the Dox from the Hera who reacted to the seductive Klingon with anxiety and a flustered embarrassment, THIS Dox knew her ‘opponent’ much better.
While the move knocked the wind out of her for an instant, her reply was a somewhat sly grin of her own. “I hope she will. I tried to show her that it was okay to breathe. Okay to let people in.”
The double entendre was not unnoticed as Dox continued. “I have to say… it seems like you missed that version of me a little. The stiff, awkward blushing and stammering. You seemed to miss that hunt.”
The grin that split the face of the glamorous Klingon was one of equal parts genuine glee and guilty pleasure. “I admit it, being able to fluster you was soooooo easy,” Qurka stretched the syllables as she threatened to smother Dox to death with her prodigious and prominently displayed breasts for a second, before backing off to sit down beside the Romulan woman.
“But I prefer this version- happy, secure, sees sex as something healthy and not a shameful secret, is comfortable with her own body and has herself a nice conservative girl who’ll always eye me with just a little teensy bit of jealousy,” Qurka giggled. “Jessica will NEVER like me, and she’ll always be hung up on the fact that I’ve been where she goes. But in a way, she’s a lot like that version of you who just left. Maybe that’s why you and her work so well together, hm?”
With a light grunt, Dox scooched up to a sitting position next to Qurka and nodded with a smile. “I think so. We both… had some pieces missing, and I think in helping each other, we found that support we both needed. We see ourselves in each other, and in helping the other work on their issues, we work on our own in the process. I’m not sure. But… she makes me happy.”
“I hope I make her happy, too.” Dox brushed a stray forelock out of her eyes. “I like to think I do, at least.”
“Oh staaahhhhhhp,” Qurka said dramatically, rolling her eyes. “She wants you though she doesn’t want to, she needs you even though she doesn’t want to, and she loves you more than she can admit to herself because being that vulnerable terrifies her. ‘I’d like to think I make her happy’. You know that little squeal noise she makes when you...”
Seeing the building reaction on her face, Qurka held up her hands in surrender. “WHAT? There are no secrets on this ship, you KNOW that!” she laughed as Dox batted at her playfully and Qurka feigned distress.
But, as Dox turned to the side to throw a mock punch at her friend, after everything the two had just done, there was a light popping sound and the red-headed Romulan seized up and winced in pain, grabbing her neck.
Sitting on a biobed in Sickbay, Dox was embarrassed. After spending a half hour sparring with Qurka, she ended up pulling a muscle in her neck that was currently throbbing. For someone who used to try to hurt herself to manage her emotional issues, it felt silly to be in sickbay with a pulled muscle. But she also could barely move her neck in SPITE of Qurka’s best efforts at rubbing the knot out.
“Hey, at least it’s not broken. It’s… I didn’t actually break anything, did I Siivas?” Dox asked of the Victory’s Deltan doctor on duty.
“Oh no, nothing broken except your pride when Qurka carried you in like the cutest little redheaded stepchild,” Siivas teased, knowing the sting to her pride would keep her mind off the pain in her neck. “Just a pulled muscle combined with a displaced tendon or two. Nothing a little muscle relaxer and a day off won’t cure,” the Deltan doctor explained cheerfully as he applied the hypo to her neck.
“So, no piloting starships while under the influence of muscle relaxers. 24 hours off duty, complain and I make it 48. No athletics with Qurka for that same 48 hours- I know you two play rough- and try to keep the sexual gymnastics to a minimum for the next 24. Try being on bottom, you might like it.” the smooth-pated physician wiggled his shockingly red eyebrows at the redheaded Romulan, poking her gently about a previous discussion.
Biting her tongue, Dox desperately wanted to protest. The last thing she wanted was to putter around all day with nothing to do but think, but she knew Siivas well enough to know he would absolutely make good on that promise to extend her off-duty time.
Instead, she sighed lightly as the tension in her neck started to abate, glad that while 23rd Century medicine wasn’t that big of a difference from her point of view to what she had been used to. Slowly, she tested the hypo a bit by gently moving her head from side to side, happy to no longer have that action met by aggressive, intramuscular protests.
“The bulkheads on this ship are too fvadt thin. At this point, I might as well just charge admission considering that Qurka is clearly right, and there really ARE no secrets here.” Dox said, as she lightly rubbed her neck where the hypo had been administered. THAT still stung just the slightest bit more than they used to for her. Or maybe she just noticed it more that she wasn’t really seeking OUT pain quite as much these days.
“There are no secrets on this ship from me and of course Char, but don’t let Qurka’s prescience get to you. She doesn’t KNOW, she guesses well and she knows how to read your reactions. Then she gets to see you squirm a bit, but that's just fun for her. Don’t let it get to you, Mnhei’sahe. What have I told you?”
“My self worth is far more important than my pride, and assuming people are judging me negatively only inspires them to judge me negatively,” Dox sighed, shaking her head just a bit at Siivas for, as usual, knowing her better than she usually knew herself.
“Might be why Qurka carried you in like that today... perhaps a little gentle reminder to your pride?” Siivas responded gently, patting Dox on the shoulder. “Go wander the ship and spend some time processing today. Not everyone gets visited by an alternate reality version of themselves and gets to see what their life might have been like under different circumstances. PARTICULARLY a life they had been torn away from, and had to adapt to all new circumstance. You’re allowed a little time to be off-kilter and examining things. It’s natural- I’d be more concerned if you didn’t.”
“I know you’re right. I know QURKA was right… though I hate admitting THAT.” Dox replied, adding a bit of a muttering gripe at her Klingon friend’s observational skills. “It’s still… difficult. I’d rather not have had to think about it at all, but that’s not really an option anymore. There was… a lot I think she wasn’t telling me, when we did talk.”
“It was NOT easy choosing to not ask certain things. And keeping myself out of her head took… a good bit of effort.” Dox admitted to the Deltan Doctor who had taken over the training of her nascent psionic skills in this reality, and done so with a good degree more proverbial gusto than Sonak ever did back on the Hera. “That said… I’m glad I did. I didn’t want to go in there and see all that. FEEL all that. But I understand why Char didn’t want her telling me anything about her life.”
“No good could come of it. Bad and you would want to help, good and it would make your heart ache.” Leaning in to hug the shorter woman, who still stiffened up slightly in response, the Deltan doctor held the redheaded pilot and patted her back as he whispered. Be here. Be in the moment. Let the past be what it was, and let future take care of itself while you live here in the moment, Rihannsu. Ie?”
After a moment, the initial stiffness loosened up as Dox nodded silently, leaning a bit into the hug. She thought of everything Siivas was saying, and knew she would have a long day to think about both his words, and the weight of what she had seen in that version of herself that had been here in her new home for the past day. “I was getting… better at that. At living in the moment. And… I’ll do my best to not backslide.”
“Thank you.” Dox said, sitting back and looking at the man that had become a mentor to her in many ways since arriving in this strange, exciting and challenging reality she had learned to embrace with difficulty. “For everything.”
“That’s why I’m here. We come to serve,” Siivas said with a grin before pointing out, “Did you know the Vulcans swiped that from us...?”
To Be Continued…