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Dox's Final Leap: Victory - Part 11 of 12

Posted on Fri Aug 21st, 2020 @ 8:51am by Commander Rita Paris & Lieutenant Commander Mnhei'sahe Dox
Edited on on Sat Aug 22nd, 2020 @ 2:37pm

Mission: The Bulikaya Particle
Location: The Multiverse, the USS Victory
Timeline: 2397, 2286

EPILOGUE: Charybdis

The day had been a long and introspective one for Dox, as she spent a good deal of the day following her doctor, friend and mentor’s advice, and did her best to reflect on her experiences of the last day. To review and process what she had learned from interacting with the version of herself from a timeline where she had never been lost over a century into her own past.

After visiting engineering and the flight deck, she had talked with many of the friends she had made during the year she had been here on the Victory. Having a very lively lunch in the officer’s mess with Jessica and Tivri, they laughed for what felt like the first time in days.

With her natural inclination being to try and work through stress still very much a habit for the young Romulan, it was never easy to take it easy. The more she thought about it, the more she suspected that she was very likely perfectly fine to go back to work, but that Siivas wisely took the opportunity to give her the much needed time to think.

In most cases, Siivas was generally right, and time was definitely what Mnhei’sahe Dox needed. Time to think and reflect, as her mentor had said, on being here. And after a long day of thinking, she was coming to a comfortable conclusion that she was happy. She had become accustomed to clinging to the memory of the Hera, but by now she had been on the Victory longer than she had been on that other ship... a century away.

The woman she was on the Hera… the woman who had just left the day before… approached her anxiety and distress with overwork and by abusing her own body. That woman would have gone for blood sparring with Qurka. That woman would have taken out her frustrations and her lack of answers on herself. She would have raged against her own pain in the gym until she bled. She would have fallen into a glass of Kali Fal. But Mnhei’sahe Dox was working VERY hard to not be that woman anymore.

In truth, Dox was still a very dangerous woman when she needed to be. She kept her training up so that if necessary she would be able to defend her shipmates in any way. But she had pulled back from the almost fanatic level of force she one gave to such endeavors. The kind of training that caused her more harm both physically and mentally. Instead, she worked now to face the causes of her anxiety and anger and address them instead of punishing herself for her feelings. Sometimes it worked. Other times, not as much. Today, she was doing fairly well, all things considered.

So, it was with all of that still on her mind, that she ended her day as she very often did, arriving at her Captain’s quarters to talk.

In her Quarters, Charybdis was currently enjoying the benefits of telepathic offspring whom she had taught to communicate with her while in the womb. While they did not speak nor string together sentences, what they could manage was to make their needs, desires, and wants known. Which was somewhat maddening when they grabbed hold of something they picked up from her and then repeated it endlessly. Currently she was listening to Schubert Symphony number nine replayed from her children for the sixth time. The subtle hints to them to change tunes or to just plain knock it off were having little effect on them, and between having one of them currently shifted to be parked uncomfortably on her bladder and her overall malaise at being pregnant, today was not a good day.

~ENOUGH~ she said telepathically, and that upset both of them, who promptly started making sounds of distress, which while they tore at her heart were somehow, she was ashamed to admit, easier than listening to the same chunk of a symphony over and over again. Waddling back from the bathroom she eased herself onto the comfortable couch Wally had decorated her quarters with, only to decide that it was too soft and be forced to wrestle herself back upright, move to the utility couch she’d had installed that was minimal comfort and drop herself onto it. Finally comfortable for a brief moment, that’s when the door chime sounded.

Of course.

Scanning the hallway she realized it was Dox, but she still had to get up to open the door. Voice activated commands... would it REALLY be that hard? she mused to herself as she hauled her overstuffed mass off the couch and narrowly missed stepping on Sneezy, poking his way out from under the new couch with an adorable sneeze. Arriving at the door, she looked vaguely exhausted as she opened the hatch, eyebrows raised, and an attempt at a patient look on her face.

“Yes, Miss Dox?”

The redheaded Romulan pilot was tired looking herself, but with a decidedly different kind of weight on her than Char was having to deal with. It was still clear on her face as Dox took in the weariness of her Captain and friend.

Immediately, Dox became concerned that she should have predicted this and not bothered Char after hours. “I’m sorry, Captain. This is a bad time, I can just…”

But the anxious helmsman was cut off quickly by that familiar look on her commanding officer’s face, that she knew well enough not to argue with. The one that let her know to stop overthinking.

Offering a dismissive wave as she turned and moved slowly back into her quarters, the cumbersome captain sighed. “There is no convenient time any more. Come in, Dox. Make yourself at home and pardon my lack of formality...” Chary eased herself onto the red velvet fainting couch awkwardly, then got one leg onto it only to have to reach over to grasp the other leg and flop it onto the couch by hand. “... or dignity.”

The standard felt carpeting of the quarters had a surprising layer of soft insulation beneath it, in the dark blue that was the mainstay of the Victory, a personal choice of her captain. In the rectangular glass display case with lights strategically designed to illuminate it was Chary’s old Science Commander uniform, pale blue, far too short, and starched over a mannequin that replicated her dimensions back in those days, which had been impressive, to say the least. A few bookshelves held books, a few still images were displayed tastefully about, magnetized, like the books, to the wall.

The fully half of the large and spacious 4 by 6 meter quarters was taken up by the sitting room, a low, soft couch, a collection of color cushions and a sturdy fainting couch all gathered around a low round coffee table, which had storage beneath it for the plates and utensils Charybdis used when entertaining. The small and modest kitchenette she had built for herself was multifunctional and efficient, and while she was no gourmet, she could follow a recipe, stating that it was ‘just chemistry’ after all.

Beyond the tinted transparent aluminum that doubled as a windscreen, which divided the ‘living room’ from the bedroom, Chary’s bed took up quite a bit of the available space, but she needed it this days, so doctor’s orders. On the nightstand beside the bed was the image of a ruggedly handsome dark-haired man, his image captured in the middle of a laugh. Raine MacGregor, the Scottish highlander who had captured the heart of the raucous Romulan rebel. While she had her love affair with Earth, it was he who had forever cemented the planet as her home.

Not like she’d be returning to Romulus, save on her own terms. But that had to wait a bit longer than she’d planned, it would seem. The open basket at the foot of the bed was empty, and the trouble of Tribbles were currently rolling about the quarters.

“So that was a very interesting day you had. Not one many will ever experience... but, it seems that’s life on the Victory.” Tossing a small throw pillow at the happy helmsman, Char pursed her lips in a smirk. “I’d get you a cup of tea but if I get up again then I’ll have to pee again, and I just don’t have the energy. So here’s something to do with your hands while you talk about it.”

There was no sarcasm, no malice, nor condescension in the tone. Weariness, certainly- in the past year Dox had been witness to the gradual loss of mobility and athleticism the vital Romulan commander possessed. In the here and now, though, she tossed her friend a bone and called her out because she understood, and she had to do something to help.

Such was Charybdis.

With a light chuckle, Dox ran a finger over her ear and smirked. She was in uniform even though she was off duty, but being off duty, her large mass of red curls were loose about her shoulder as her free hand did, in fact, begin fidgeting with the offered pillow. “Indeed. You’ve told me about your own experiences with this. Jessica has as well. I suppose… I’m just…”

The young woman stammered a bit, as it almost seemed as if her eyes were darting around looking for her words. “It was like looking into a mirror. But not some… dark, twisted nightmare or some… idyllic fantasy brought to life. Just… who I was not that long ago. And… there was so much I recognized and remembered. But a lot that… that I didn’t. Like… she wasn’t really me. It was strange.”

“I’m sorry. I’m going on.” Dox said, looking at her friend and feeling a bit guilty for venting, all things considered. “Is there anything I can get you?

“Yes... in theory I do regain possession of my own body again in a few months... oh, please, children, not now...” Charybdis paused for a few seconds, her eyes closed but pupils moving rapidly beneath, and it was obvious that she was having an internal conversation, likely with her children before she opened her eyes once more and began to wrestle herself upright.

“It’s... oof! It’s simple, Dox. I am putting you under more and more pressure. In addition to your duties as chief helmsman, my second officer, and the additional concerns of simply being my friend and confidant, you also now have been confronted by the path not taken, literally visiting you in your own backyard. All of that’s aside from the very simple fact that life aboard the Victory tends to be anything but dull.” Charybdis looked over at the second officer from beneath her sharply angled brows.

“So yes, Dox. We are not that far apart in age, but... I am... I think, in some ways, I was quite literally made for this. I thrive on stress and conflict and responsibility, and it is unfair that I am placing the same expectation on you. I am treating you as if you are me, and you are not... you are Mnhei’sahe, and I feel as if I am potentially causing you harm at this point.” There was no anger in the starship captain’s voice, nor defensiveness nor accusation- if anything there was the admission of guilt.

“I guess what you can get for me is some peace of mind,” Charybdis sighed as she retrieved a Tribble scooting across the backrest of her fainting couch. Taking the mottled black and brown-furred trilling lifeform to place by her hip, she gently pet the cheery Tribble. Then those violet eyes came up- not sharply, but with concern. “Please tell me she didn’t say anything to upset you, or give you regrets. She... that version of you... had met a version of me, and she held the old woman in high regard. I tend to think she would have obeyed my order, even if she wasn’t under my command.”

“So, Miss Dox, after your visitation, with time to reflect upon it... are you alright?”

"Pretty much, yes. Yes, I am." Dox replied. It was the predominant truth, in spite of the questions swirling about in her head. "As strange and… uncomfortable as the experience was, it reminded me that… a lot of those memories from that life weren't all positive. She reminded me of where I was, before coming here. And regardless of the circumstances of the how… and even though I sometimes feel guilty for it...she reminded me that I am… comfortable here. Moreso than I ever felt I could be. A little more than I think I ever was there."

"And no. She did not tell me anything of any real measure. Well, short of inadvertently telling me that, for her, some of those crew members there are at least still alive by mentioning people in the present tense." Dox added, pacing slightly, as she was wont to do when her mind was busy. "But, yes. She obeyed your order as such. This version of you she met… She… reveres her. I know that look."

“So, tell me what you saw in yourself that you didn’t like,” Char switched to speaking Rihannsu, as the language was more direct for discussions like this, particularly between the two of them. “Not as self-loathing, I would hope, but instead, analytically. With a dash of compassion- let us not be stoic about this.”

“I don’t know what is more difficult for me… being analytical or emotional, in regards to talking about that? About her.” Dox replied with a slightly awkward shrug as she effortlessly slipped into her native tongue. It was far easier for her to form her thoughts when she was feeling conflicted when she also wasn’t searching for the proper words in Federation standard. “

Still fidgeting with the offered pillow, as Char knew she would, Dox was running through her memories of her uncomfortable experience. “She was… trying very hard to keep her emotions locked down. I know how distant and angry I was when I first came here. I haven’t forgotten how much work I needed to do to finally just accept where I was and start moving forward.”

“But… this was different. She approached almost every interaction I had with her as if it was… and interrogation. Some… verbal chess match. Perhaps it was just the circumstance of having been moving from one reality to another. Perhaps it was just her having to look at all of us and not know what to trust.” Dox said, looking at her own feet a bit as she talked, “But it… reminded me of things about myself that I thought I was getting better at. And… some of it reminded me of my mother.

Then, the anxious Romulan pilot’s eyebrow cricked as she looked down and thought about it and realized she was making a mistake. “Which… isn’t what you actually asked me, I realize. I… answered the question I thought I heard. Or, maybe, the easier to answer question.”

Slightly embarrassed, Dox nodded and pushed past her momentary mistake. “Regarding what I saw that I didn’t like in myself and not her, I… reacted badly to her. I know I did.”

“We worked out some of it, but initially, I viewed everything about her as a judgment on me and my choices and I lashed out because of that.” Dox admitted, somewhat nervously. It was clearly difficult. “Ultimately, I had to accept that I still am holding on to more guilt at being happy here than I was letting myself see.”

“Even knowing everything I do about temporal mechanics and altering the timeline, it…” the redheaded Romulan paused as she considered her own feelings. “There is still a part of me that resents myself for not having tried to return. For choosing to live in the here and now and try and move forward. And… maybe a little anger that...”

Pacing for a moment, it was clear that Dox’s anxiety was building a bit as she had realized a truth that she didn’t want to admit to herself, much less her friend, role model, and Captain. But keeping secrets from Charybdis MacGregor was not just functionally impossible, but also not who Dox was. She trusted Char deeply, on a level only comparable with her trust for Rita Paris back on the Hera.

“When she first appeared on the bridge. When she stumbled against the railing and I hadn’t seen her face yet… just her uniform. A thought entered my mind. And… and it was something so quick and so immediate, and I felt terrible right afterwards for even thinking it… but… but...”

“You thought it might finally be that rescue mission that you’ve always been disappointed that no one tried,” Charybdis said softly. The situation and the emotions behind them were complex, and her voice was soft and kind as she relayed her summation of the situation. “That Rita Paris, of all people, left you stranded in the past. That they could have found you if they had tried, and that they should have. Because you would have torn apart space and time to find one of them, so how were you so casually discarded to the mists of time?”

Listening, Dox’s head sunk in shame hearing the thought that she had tried to ignore spoken back to her so clearly. Her reply was weak as she all but whispered it out at first, “Yes.”

“What I’ve found here…” Dox continued, a bit more strength in her voice as she elaborated on her thoughts, “...You, Jessica, everyone on the Victory… what we do here and have done here… what we CAN still do here… I am legitimately happy for. I truly am. I feel… acceptance here. I feel like… I don’t know if I believe in fate the way she does… but I feel like maybe this is where I was always meant to be, if that makes any kind of sense.”

There was a bit more confidence in her voice, even if it was clear that the anxious helmsman felt the need to explain what was giving her shame. “But, yes. I still… I still get angry sometimes. That nobody from the Hera ever came for me. She… reminded me of all that. Of those feelings I’ve been trying to put behind me.”

“Let me show you something, Mnhei’sahe, that perhaps I should have shared with you before... hand me that PaDD, would you please?” As it was further than her reach, the normally active starship captain would ordinarily just get up and fetch it for herself. But with the waddling mass of her pregnancy, the cumbersome captain just made the best of it, swallowed her pride and asked for help.

Once it was in hand, she tapped away at it until she had accomplished what she was after, and she handed it back to Dox. “It’s only a screenshot, and as you can see, there has been some redaction. But Vice Admiral Dox might have some sway on just why no one ever came after you.”

Onscreen was an image of Mnhei’sahe Dox, considerably older than she appeared today, in a uniform that was somewhat more familiar to her, although still not the era from which she hailed. She was struck by how much like her mother she looked, yet did not. Tall, regal, proud, and with the crow’s feet and laugh lines that indicated a good life. She did not look old nor broken- instead, she looked like a mature woman in her prime.

“When you were assigned here, I... reached out through some unconventional resources at my command, and inquired. Because I planned to slingshot the Victory to get you home. My response was this.... Just the image, and the rank, and the date... 2387.” Charybdis shifted in her seat, clearly still uncomfortable, even as she tried to explain and reassure her officer. “It told me that I was not, in no uncertain terms, to attempt to return you to your own time. I suspect, back on the Hera, a similar search was conducted, and similar discussions were had. While your friend Rita seemed like one to take undue chances, not unlike myself, she would not undo all of history, with a figure so prominent.”

“So I suspect, Mnhei’sahe, that yes, you were meant to be here,” Chary continued softly, hoping this secret she had held back for so long would help in the here and now. “I think there was a very good reason why they did not come after you. For all we know, you might have issued the order yourself. So for what it’s worth to you... somewhere out there are your friends, in the future, near the close of the next century. I don’t think they ever gave up on you- not if they were the caliber of people they were in your memories. Instead, they relinquished you to the role you are to play in history... and with a little luck, they all got to talk about this one day.”

Looking at the image on the PaDD and absorbing the weight of what Char had just told her, a wave of emotions sprung up in the young pilot looking now, at her own future. It was overwhelming and finally, Dox had to sit down.

Almost missing the small couch opposite Char’s own fainting couch, Dox flumped a bit on the cushions as her wide eyes blinked a bit, moisture evident in them. “2387… I would have been… 23. Still in the academy. I think I graduated that year. Heh.”

Working out the details which were swirling in her head, Dox ran her free hand through her hair as she continued. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, she let out a somewhat cracked laugh as the emotion simply burst out. “I… can absolutely imagine me making that order. This is… this is… I know it’s not funny... but… this is so perfectly appropriate in some way.”

There was a legitimate smile of unusual relief on Dox’s face as she sat back on the couch, just barely avoiding one of the roving Tribbles as a tear rolled down her cheek as she laughed a bit more, the emotions she had been trying to contain finally finding release.

“I kept it from you as long as I could.... after all, our destinies are not written in stone, as your visitor so casually reminded us,” Char fairly grumbled, her own discoveries from the visitation in no way comforting to her. “I... hope you don’t resent me from keeping it from you. I knew... of your disappointment and I wanted you to work it out in your own time, for yourself. But... I think now you need to know why. They never came for you because you were already there, Mnhei’sahe. Fvadt, you may be the ones sending them on missions, for all we know.”

“You weren’t abandoned, Mnhei’sahe. Never.” Reaching out to grasp her hand, Char grunted with the effort of moving around the beachball her abdomen had become, but she did it anyway. “You were left here rather deliberately, and apparently by a woman older and wiser than yourself, who made damn sure no one destroyed time and space looking for her. She sacrificed a lot for that, but I guess we’ll have to wait a little while before we can ask her in person, hm?”

Wiping a few errant tears from her cheeks with the back of her hand, Dox nodded with a legitimate smile as she put the PaDD down and held Char’s hand with both of her own. “No… no, I… thank you. I can’t tell you everything you’ve meant to me over this last year. You didn’t need to reach out to me the way you did. You didn’t need to tell me this now. You had no reason to trust me as you have. But… you did. And that has helped me be the woman I am in the here and now.”

“So thank you for this.” Dox said as she both glanced at the PaDD and squeezed her friend’s hand just a bit, the two meanings clear. “I know that picture can always change. Every step we take means that whoever that woman is might be different from who I’ll eventually become. But whatever happens, I know I have you to support me, and that means everything to me. Even if I don’t always know it.”

“That said…” Dox said with a light chuckle… “I don’t think you need to worry too much about putting too much pressure on me. It… looks like I can handle it.”

“This,” Charybdis indicated her markedly obvious pregnancy, “is an endurance test, and one that I was never particularly prepared for. I was sterilized at age eight, did you know that? Apparently with all of the tinkering that they did they undid that verdict in the process. So while my own sexual education I took on for myself, I have no idea what my people go through nor how they deal with it, so perhaps that has some bearing.”

At that she paused, then sighed as she admitted, ”I will admit, while you have been incredibly supportive and a dear friend, as have so many of my family here onboard the victory... I long for their father. To have him near, to lean on him, physically and emotionally, to relieve... er, stress.”

“I have stifled it as best I could because of the impracticality of the desire, but it is worse now, and it has been so long. I wish I could ask my mother what it was like for her, I wish I could speak to Bonnie McCray and laugh at her tales in person, I wish I could sleep with the arms of my betrothed about me... but I cannot, and none of those things can come to pass, and... it wears on me, to be frank.” It was clear that the admission had cost her, and that she did not wish to be sharing these things, as she had kept most of them bottled up for nearly a year now.

“Then I see how this is affecting you, and it makes me feel as though I am leaning on you too much, and I should be doing otherwise, but I live by instinct and intuition and I do not know what other course to take.” Char flopped back against the backrest of the couch, then waved her hand lazily in the air. “We’ll skip tired and fat and uncomfortable and take those for granted.”

“Your instinct is what guides you, Char. You trust it, and I trust you. Yes, this was a hard couple of days, but I’m getting through it. And I’ll be fine. Better than fine, now. She has her life, and I have mine. And even before you showed me that picture, I had no desire to trade my life.” Dox said, with a bit more of a serious tone in her voice.

“In all truth… if that WAS Rita… or someone from the Hera who had appeared on the Bridge…” Dox crinkled her eyebrows and tilted her head with a slightly awkward expression, “I… don’t know what I would have told them. It’s been a while now since I’ve wanted to go back. Even before I had any idea of what you just showed me… I’ve felt at home here.”

“Often… more than I think I did there.” Dox admitted with a light shrug. “But what about you?in all of this… with her… me... you know.” the redheaded Romulan said, looking at her friend now with a raised eyebrow. “I know she let you into her mind to see that other version of you and what they talked about.”

“She did,” Char said simply, a wariness aroused that Dox was familiar with.

“I’m… guessing what you learned didn’t all sit well with you. Beyond what you know to help prevent anything from happening in sickbay.” Dox added, only knowing the barest knowledge from what had been circulating about the ship since her time-tossed counterpart had left. “You don’t have to go into it if you don’t want to, of course. But that door is always open. You’re my Captain, but you’re also my friend. So that door opens both ways… anytime.”

Uncharacteristically, the curious captain flopped her head back onto the headrest and groaned in frustration. “Yessssss, Miss Dox. She told me of a great many things that I might do and experience, of events that may or may not come to pass, and of deeds and plans I have made, yet not made.”

“Apparently,” Charybdis raised her head and leveled her odd violet eyes on her friend and confidante, “I will go leaping in time. To that precise year, in a coincidence that I find unsettling. I will seek out the records of Starfleet, then surrender the Victory to the Tal’Shiar, bargaining for the crew’s safety. I will escape at great cost, but in doing so I will apparently stop to shame the Imperial Senate, which is certainly something I look forward to, perhaps,” the Vulcanoid vixen chuckled.

“Steal the sword of S’task, and warn them of their doom, because, as Siivas likes to say, the firebird, the harbinger of the end days... I am Romulus’ reckoning,” the uncomfortable woman declared. “I’ll come back, root out the puppeteers and wild talents of the Rikal project and set Starfleet back on course, history righted and our children’s futures bright again.” Reaching down, Chary stroked her hand over her swallowed belly, reassuring her little passengers.

“Have no fear, you two. It was odd, the memories in her mind, because if her memories are to be believed the old woman came to her as a ghost... so who knows? But she said her greatest regret was in not being there for her children. Off saving the galaxy when she needed to be home with the next generation. I thought that would be sooner than later, but...”

Looking up at Dox, Charybdis shook her head. “If I lost everyone in Sickbay... and I was sent back out into the stars, away from my family. If I ventured through time and fought my way through all that she did, only to have Romulus saved, but in the process, be damned. I cannot... I honestly cannot imagine what that would have been like for her, Mnhei’sahe.” The loquacious leader paused, then when she spoke again, her voice was a whisper.

“I’ve been given a second chance. Siivas says he’s isolated the mutation strain and they’re working on a cure. I know... a bit more about the future than I ought to now, again, but that can’t be helped if I’m to time travel specifically for historical archives from the future in order to outmaneuver the present. I wonder...” A thoughtful expression settled onto the pretty woman’s face. “Do you think this was what Bulukiya had in mind when he created the particle? So that he could leap to alternate realities where he could change lives, for the better? Leaping from life to life, striving to put right what once went wrong, and hoping each time that the next leap will be the leap home?"

“Perhaps.” Dox said, considering the question. “But… they do show us that our choices can create separate paths that exist independent of each other. THAT Dox made it back to the Hera and her life kept going. I didn’t, and I found my way HERE. And if I was meant to be here, then maybe I was sent here to help you do what her version of you didn’t. All of it. That tells me if we have the chance to do something to put things right… we should at least always try to do the right thing.”

“What exactly are you driving at, Dox?” The curious captain narrowed her gaze at the portly pilot.

“You were given a second chance. The way it looks to me, so was I,” Dox said as she worked through her thoughts. “Another version of me… who met and befriended another version of you in the future came here. Specifically where we both exist simultaneously and told you about a version of your future. She showed you the decisions that you made.”

“A version where you may have found happiness from what she told us all at dinner… but a version where all… all those prophecies Siivas is always talking about… fell apart.” The anxious aviatrix leaned in a bit, to peer into her friend’s eyes. “I don’t know if Bulukiya created the particles for this purpose… but it certainly seems like you’re being given a chance to do things differently. Be the mother they need when they’re young AND... and still save Romulus’ soul.”

“And… you didn’t have me in that timeline. I’ve already changed things. Everything I DO here changes what might have otherwise happened, and none of it undoes anything in that other Dox’s timeline. We’re not changing history. We’re writing our own. Yesterday, you might have tried to save Earth instead of the Saratoga. Tomorrow… who knows. But it’s your future to write again. You… simply have a more detailed map, now..”

“Yes... yes I do. I also have you, which that version did not.” At that, the beleaguered captain laid her head back, hands unconsciously stroking her broad and swollen belly. When she spoke, her voice was low and quiet, and she did not make eye contact, which was exceptionally rare for her.

“Fiona. When we were together... we were a team, she and I, and I had never had a friend like her before. She was unconditionally supportive, and she gave anything she had... and to this day I still wonder if maybe I didn’t see the signs. That crazy adventure with the slavers.. she was almost killed, and I thought she was alright, but she wasn’t. And then came that night on Risa... all of the craziness that just chases me around the universe all making a night on the town into a nightmare. I never realized she was... well. And then the cabin, the attack, the accident... I just kept moving from moment to moment, surviving, adapting.”

The winsome captain looked over to her friend, eyes bright and shiny with tears. “I was made for this, you see... at least, I imagine that is the case, because I seem to deal with it easily enough. But I forgot that she was a real person, with real people frailties and that all of this continued taking a toll on her. Instead, I leaned on her more and more, and she never spoke a word of it. She just kept working harder and harder and giving more and more until...” At that, Charybdis paused as tears flowed freely.

“I wonder if I killed her, however indirectly. If I leaned on her too much... if I should have seen the signs, if I had been more careful, more mindful that... that people were not meant to live the way that I do. And so when I see signs that perhaps you are under stress, I take an accounting and I look at how much you work, and then I worry. Am I killing you too?” the time-displaced Romulan spy turned starship captain smiled, a small and sad smile devoid of good cheer.

Getting off of the small couch she was sitting on, Dox knelt on one knee in front of Charybdis and put her arms around her Captain and her friend. She knew that the kind of vulnerability she was showing was, in part hormonal, but the two Romulan women had shared a lot in the year they had been serving together. And in any timeline, Mnhei’sahe Dox couldn’t bear to see those she cared about in pain.

“No… no… shhhhh.” Speaking in a low, quiet voice, Dox put a hand behind Char’s head, all but whispering. “You’re not killing me, Char. You saved me. I literally had nothing here. I didn’t exist. You opened up your ship. Gave me a home, and a purpose, and a family when I had nothing else. I will forever be in your debt for that.”

Leaning back slightly, Dox thumbed some of the tears from the violet eyes of her commanding officer. “I work too much. I did it before I came here, and I’d be doing it regardless. It’s how I deal… or don’t deal… when I need to quiet those angry voices in my head. The voices that were so loud before I came here. But they do what I tell them to, now, Char. I’m well. I haven’t hurt myself in a long time now, and I have no intention of going back to that place I was. A lot of that is because of you. So look at me.”

“I know how much losing Fiona hurts you. I do. And I don’t know if there was anything you could have done. But… from what I’ve been told, nobody knew what was going to happen. Not even Siivas.” Dox kept her arms on Char’s shoulders as she nodded, still on her knees. “It was a terrible tragedy. But if she was half as unconditionally supportive of you as you say, then I know she wouldn’t want you blaming yourself for what happened. She wouldn’t want you torturing yourself.”

“Onward, eh?” came the somewhat begrudging reply, with the smile that refused to be hidden.

“Onward, Captain. You tell me the heading, and I’ll fly us there.” Dox replied, a smile cracking her own chubby cheeks.

“I... thank you, Dox,” Chary gripped the arms of the other woman and composed herself, mopping at her eyes, embarrassed by her display. “It comes with the starship,” Charybdis muttered with a half-hearted smile. “You lose the ability to let people know you have problems, neh?”

Straightening up, wiping her face and composing herself as best she could given her inability to get comfortable, Char ended up rolling her eyes in despair, spreading her legs- she had abandoned skirts around month 3- and leaned forward. A wholly unladylike pose, yet one that suited the situation, and enabled her to arch her back and stretch.

“Fear not, Dox, I will heed all of the advantages that have been given to me in this twist of fate. Then you and I are going to make some plans, and see just what we can do to fight the Star Empire, and get their claws out of Starfleet. We have a timetable of five years, give or take. So what do you say, Mnhei’sahe?” Those sharply angled eyebrows wiggled in mischief.

Standing back up, Dox straightened her maroon duty jacket and smiled. "I say those are plans worth making, Captain. We have the advantage of time, and the perspective of history to look at this, and put right what once went wrong."

“Let’s go save the universe... slowly, cautiously and well-planned.” Charybdis laughed at that. “Doesn’t sound like me in the least. Which makes it the perfect plan...

To Be Concluded…


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