“I know that this is yours. And it is a symbol, for your mother got it from someone she loves, and gave it to you.” – Lili Beckett
Ethan Shapiro was running down the Enterprise's halls. He stopped in front of Karin Bernstein's quarters and allowed himself to calm down and catch his breath again. Be cool, be cool, he said to himself. He hit her door chime, hoping her roommate wasn't there.
She answered, and she was alone, “You're early!” she exclaimed.
“Oh, is that a problem?” he asked.
She kissed him, “No, of course not. I'm just freshening up my makeup after shift. C'mon in.”
“Oh, um, okay,” he fidgeted a bit, feeling a tad weird. They had been dating almost a year, but he had been the very model of respectable and so being alone with her in her quarters was, well, unnerving was not the right word. Distracting. That was a good word for it.
She fiddled with her hair and makeup a bit.
“So, um, I'd like to take my best girl to dinner,” he said, “It's, um, I think it's chicken cacciatore.”
“Best girl? You mean there are others?” she teased.
“Uh, no, of course not. Only girl. One and only girl,” he said. Be cool. Be cool. That was not easy.
She turned back to a small wall mirror and he seized the opportunity. When she turned around to face him again, she found him on the floor. His left knee was on the floor itself, his right one was bent. He was kneeling, and he took a small box out from a zippered pocket, “Uh, um, Karin, will you, uh, will you marry me?” he asked.
She looked at him in some amazement, “Yes,” she finally said.
He was up like a shot – he still had the box in his hands – and ran out into the halls, yelling, “She said yes! She said yes! She said yes!”
People came out from quarters. The Botany Lab was nearby and Shelby Pike and Travis Mayweather came out of there. And there were Chip and Deborah, strolling. And Lucas Donnelly and Brian Delacroix had been chatting about something but they stopped to look at the crazy man running around in the halls of C deck. He – Ethan – stopped when he saw Andrew Miller, Josh Rosen and Azar Hamidi, “She said –” He stopped in mid-sentence, in front of Miller, who was Karin's ex. If he'd been a nasty fellow, he would've yelled something like, In your face, Miller! But he wasn't that kind of a guy.
It was Miller who was the gracious one, and he offered his hand and said to Ethan, “The better man won,” But Ethan didn't take his hand; he just hugged him, which surprised Andrew.
“Uh, Ethan?” It was Karin.
“Um, yes?” he answered; running back to her doorway.
“You, uh, don't you wanna give me the box and, um, see my reaction and stuff?”
“Oh. Uh, yeah. Sorry. I got a little carried away there.”
She took the box from him.
“We can, uh, if you don't like it, we can get another one,” he said hastily, but having no idea how he'd afford that.
“I'm sure it'll be great,” she said. Shelby and Deborah came up closer to see. She opened the box and gasped a little, “This must be, it must be very old.”
“Yes,” he said, “It was, um, it was my great-aunt Rachel's. And even before her, I think it was her great-great-grandmother's. It was made for a wedding in, um, 1896.”
She put it on, “It's, um, it's a little big on me.”
“You can get that resized,” Deborah said, and hugged her, “Congratulations!” she enthused.
Andrew came over, and Karin hugged him. He whispered in her ear, “Don't worry about Josh and me. We're not down for the count just yet. You're with the one who really loves you.”
“You will be, too,” she whispered back.
They crowded around her, and him, and the knot of people made it difficult to pass, particularly as others kept joining the throng, once they'd heard the reason for the crowd. There was Hoshi, with José Torres, and the minute she saw what was happening, she hit a wall communicator and told the captain, who then he hit the intercom and just said, “The magic's hit again. We better get this ship in dry dock before everybody gets married.”
Karin and Ethan didn't go to dinner that night. They stayed in, and that was something very new, and when it happened for her, Karin lay back and thought to herself that no one could ever make her happier.
“We're gonna be there for them.” – Doug Beckett
“You're back,” Lili said, as Q reappeared.
“Yes,” he said, and smiled a bit.
“The deed is done,” he said, “I'm gonna be a Dad.”
“Huh,” she said, “That was, um, it seemed fast.”
“Are you denigrating my performance?”
“Um, uh, let's just say it was, er, less than five minutes, Q.”
“What makes you think you weren't in what you've been calling molasses time?”
“Oh,” she said, “But, really, you should, um, stay with her and stuff.”
“Later,” he said, “First, this. The war is done.”
“Maybe I was knocked out a bit,” she allowed, “So are we, uh, done?”
“I still have my debt to you,” he said, “You, uh, about forgiveness. That was the key. I had to, I had to understand that what had happened, it was awful, and it was wrong. But, ultimately, I forgave her. Because I, well.”
“Because you needed to, right?” she asked, “Because if you're going to love someone, well, you forgive them. Even if a court wouldn't. Even if society does not.”
“Yes. Tell me, you, you say forever.”
“Yes, we do,” she said, “Doug and I said it to each other. Melissa and Norri said it to each other. Malcolm and I, Melissa and Doug – and we've said it to our children, too.”
“But you don't have forever.”
“Not here, we don't. If it's real – if what I saw, through Kevin's eyes, and what I heard, through Kevin's ears – if that's real, then we do have a measure of forever. And even if we don't, we still mean it. For us, it is forever.”
“I really do have forever,” he said, “And I am finding out that I, too, mean it. I can, I can mean it.”
“That's wonderful,” she said, picking up the baby again and bouncing him a tiny bit.
“One more thing, one more event,” Q said.
“You don't owe me.”
“Oh, but I do,” he said.
“This is – what? Is it the end of time, is that it?”
“No. But you may find it to be a little bittersweet.”
“I see,” she said, as the scene changed.
“Our love for you goes on forever, even past the end of our lives. Remember that.” – Lili Beckett
It was a large outdoor party, in her yard, and the air smelled of barbecue. Lili counted. It was a good twenty-five or so people, maybe more. She heard a British-accented voice call out, “Lili-Flower!”
She turned and saw an older Declan, and he had his arms out and was kneeling. A little, partly Asian girl ran over and hugged him tightly, “Great-uncle Dec!” she called out. She was, maybe, six or so. A boy ran after, probably her brother, and Declan hugged him as well.
“Doug,” he said to the boy as he straightened up, a tad stiffly.
“How old is Declan?” Lili asked. Q just directed her back. She found a PADD on a big table, which she realized had been taken out of her own dining room and set out in the yard, and another large table added, clearly from someone else's dining room as well. There were a number of foods laid out. The PADD was next to a big bowl of fruit salad, filled with strawberries and orange wedges and pineapple chunks. She watched as the PADD scrolled through some photographs. There was Declan and Rebecca's wedding photograph, and the one of Neil at the 5K race with Yinora and Ines. And there was another one of Yinora with her Calafan family, and another of Kelly Masterson's High School graduation and another that slid by quickly of, Lili thought she saw, herself between Malcolm and Doug, with Melissa on the other side of Doug and Norri on the other side of Melissa, and each of them was holding a child. But that picture moved too quickly to really be seen clearly.
Rebecca came over to Declan, “Where should I put the salad? Can you find a spot?”
He cleared some space on the table for her. A young man came over and helped. Declan then asked, “Peter, where is Stuart?”
“He's picking up Susan,” said Peter, “He is so nervous. Can you give him a break? She's never met any of them before.”
“Ha, she'll be in for a shock,” said Rebecca, “We will not embarrass him. Much. Kids! Help set the table!”
A silver Calafan girl came over and started setting the table, and a partly Asian woman helped her, “Is that Shaoqing?” Lili asked.
“Yes,” Q replied, “With Yipran.”
“Ah, I see. Looks like Shaoqing is, what, forty?”
Neil came over and picked up the PADD. That jogged it out of sleep mode, and it presented the time – thirteen hundred hours – and the date, October twenty-eighth, 2234.
“Do they have any idea that this is the anniversary of the day that Doug and I first made contact?” Lili asked.
“Probably not,” Q said.
“It's been, um, seventy-seven years. Wow,” she said. Then she thought for a moment, “When we first started talking, I asked you if any of the children died young. And I defined under the age of seventy-seven as young. You said there were two. Kevin was one. The other one, you said that one was seventy-four when he passed. So, hmm, if it's 2234, well, Joss is, uh, he's seventy-six, right?”
“That is correct.”
“So it's not him. And, and I think I remember you said that it was one of the boys. So it's not Marie Patrice,” Lili said, “It's, there are only three candidates,” she looked down at the baby, “And he is one of them.”
“Tommy!” yelled Joss, as a shuttle landed. The side of the shuttle said USS Kelvin. He ran over and the two men hugged, “C'mon, we're gonna embarrass Stu Reed and his new girlfriend,” Joss looked a lot like Doug had looked at the end of his life, but less worried. He hadn't buried a child. And he didn't have the weight of years of guilt on his shoulders.
“You are so mean,” Tommy responded, “I'm in,” he grinned. He was wearing a Lieutenant Commander's uniform.
The little girl that Declan had called Lili-Flower ran by, “Daddy!” she called out, “Pick me up! I wanna see!”
“Lilienne Melissa Beckett,” her father said to her, “you are getting to be a little bit too big for this, you know,” But he picked her up anyway. He was partly-Asian, too.
“That could be our future daughter-in-law you're talkin' 'bout.” – Tripp Tucker
The scene jump cut to later.
“What did we miss?” Lili asked.
“More greetings,” Q said.
The family was seated at the two tables. Stuart Reed arrived, with his new girlfriend. He was, as his brother had said, nervous. She was a short girl with a wide, round face and big green eyes. She looked about as scared as Stuart, seeing all of the people.
“Okay, um,” Stuart began, “Everybody, this is Susan Delacroix.”
“A relation to Brian?” Lili asked.
“His granddaughter,” Q said.
“They settled here?”
“On Andoria, actually. She is in High School here – it's a school for the gifted,” Q replied.
Stuart continued, “Let's see. You've met my Mom and Dad and my brother, Pete. Over there is my Aunt Marie Patrice Beckett and her, um, boyfriend, Ken Masterson. And that's his daughter, Kelly. His son, Wes, didn’t come today.”
“Boyfriend! Stuart, when they're over seventy, that's, uh, not the term,” Marie Patrice said.
“Um, what is?” Stuart asked.
“Soul mate. Or something like that,” said Ken.
“That's just Ken,” Stuart said.
“Moving right along,” said Susan.
“That's my Uncle Tommy Digiorno-Madden. He's a Lieutenant Commander on the USS Kelvin.”
“I'm the only one here with a real job,” Tommy cracked.
“Ha, the next time you eat at Reversal, I'll be sending you a bill,” Neil joked, “I'm Neil Digiorno-Madden, another Uncle,” he got up and offered his hand.
“And next to him are Ines Ramirez and their kids, Jenny and Marty,” Stuart said, “And, uh, on his other side is Aunt Yinora and her husband, Uncle Fepwev and their kids are my cousins Yipran, Treve and Chelben.”
“I'm already confused,” Susan said.
“We're just getting warmed up,” Neil said, leaning over and passionately kissing Yinora.
Susan was a bit shocked, “Uh, isn't his wife sitting next to him?” she said quietly to Stuart.
“He's not married to either of them. You, uh, you know about the whole day/night thing, right?”
“I thought just Calafans did that.”
“Nope. Humans do, too. That's, um, the different last names – you noticed that, right? We're, um, the grandparents, they did that, too.”
“Oh. It's really complicated,” she said.
“I got news for you. Your life – your lives – are complicated already.” – Pamela Hudson
“Me, next?” asked Joss.
“Sure, Uncle Joss. And that's Aunt Jia and their kids are Shaoqing and there's Jay, and his kids are Lili and Doug.”
“I am never gonna remember all the names,” Susan said.
“Don't worry about it,” Rebecca said, rising and coming to the young girl's rescue, “When I married into the family, they were already fairly well set. So I've been in the boat you're in right now. But you see this?” she rolled up her left sleeve and showed a tattoo, “All of the women of my generation have the same body art. So if you see that, then it can only be five of us. Me, Yinora, Jia, Marie Patrice or Ines.”
“Can I see that?” Susan asked.
Lili also peeked. It was a scroll-like tattoo, in silver, around Rebecca's left wrist, made to look a bit like a bracelet. There were even tattoo charms on the bracelet. One was a MACOs insignia. Another was a daylily. Another one was a pineapple. Another was made to look like a book. And the last one was an oval with three circles in it, “We got these when the last of the older generation passed,” Rebecca said, “And that's not too long before I married in. I guess I was committed when I got the tattoo, eh? The symbols all stand for the five people in the earlier generation - Doug, Lili, Malcolm, Leonora and Melissa.”
“Is that, uh, it looks like the same silver on the Calafan lady's arms,” Susan said.
“Yinora,” Rebecca said, “Yes, it's the same amplifying material. So we can have good dreams no matter where we are.”
“I am happy, despite my many familial complications.” – Dayah
The scene jump cut again.
Before Lili could ask about that, Q just said, “Did you really want to watch everyone eating?”
“Hmm. Perhaps not. It looks like there were empanadas made. I hope they got the spices right. Those little kids aren't gonna like it if it's really spicy.”
“Must you concern yourself with food all the time?” Q asked.
“Well, it's my thing,” Lili smiled.
The family had gathered on the lawn, “Joss, you are no Spring chicken,” Jia said to him, “Will you please take it easy?”
“Not a chance,” he said, “Who's up for ball?”
They played a bit; most of them, and even little Doug played, and ran around the improvised bases after a series of completely intended 'errors' negated his strike-out. When Joss next came up to bat, he hit the ball far and straight, and no one could catch it.
Lili watched the game a little more, and then saw Stuart and Susan go over to the markers. There were six of them now, “How are they all related?” Susan asked.
“My Dad had three mothers and two fathers. And the little marker, that was his brother.”
“That can't be right,” Susan said, “I mean, who's really, really related?”
“Um, lemme see,” Stuart said, “All the way over on the left is, read that off, okay?”
“It says Leonora Digiorno, 2136 – 2212 – True companion. Adored mother and grandmother,” Susan read.
“That was, uh, they called her Norri. She wasn't anybody's actual, biological mother.”
“Then why is she being called mother and grandmother?”
“She adopted, um, Uncle Neil and Uncle Tommy,” he said.
“Next is the little marker. Kevin Madden-Beckett, 2177 – Adored brother and son. We hope he now has a chance,” Susan read, “Why isn't there a death date?”
“He, uh, he was less than a year old when he died.”
“Oh. That's horrible,” she said, “So he's related to, um, your Uncle Joss?”
“Same father. Different mother.”
“Huh. Next is Melissa Madden, 2134 – 2209 – Caring companion, mother and grandmother,” she read, “So she was Kevin's mother?”
“Yeah, and she's Neil and Tom's mother, too. And, um, she and Norri were, uh, that's why it says companion.”
“Oh. Um, if Neil and Tom are named Digiorno-Madden, then why isn't Kevin?” Susan asked.
“I'm not sure,” Stuart admitted, “Maybe because he was the last one. Or maybe because he was so delicate. I guess, um, it was some sort of a decision. I'm sure I'll never know.”
“Why did they do that?” Lili asked.
“It was,” Q said, “and you know I'm not one for details.”
“No, you're a big picture kind of a guy.”
“Well, that comes with the territory,” he admitted, “But it was because your husband insisted. He wanted the lost child to be readily identified as his,” he directed her back.
“Next to her is the stone that says Douglas Jay Hayes Beckett, 2102 – 2181 – Devoted husband, father and companion,” Susan read.
“He, um, Doug is father of my uncles Neil, Joss and Tom. And he's Aunt Marie Patrice's Dad, too.”
“What's the Hayes part?”
“It was his original last name. He, um, he came here and he wanted to change his life, and, uh, reverse it. So he changed it to, I think it was a family name. It's, uh, why the restaurant is called Reversal,” Stuart explained.
“So he's the Beckett part of Digiorno-Beckett?”
“That's right. Yeah, I didn't mean to forget, but he was also Kevin's Dad.”
“Okay. Next is the one with the flower engraving. It says Charlotte Lilienne O'Day Beckett Reed, 2109 – 2202 – Loving wife, mother and grandmother,” Susan read, “So is she your grandmother?”
“Yes,” Stuart said, “She was Joss and Marie Patrice's Mom. And she's my Dad's Mom, too.”
“Or Mum, as he likes to say,” Susan said, “The last one says Malcolm Reed, 2112 – 2202 – Beloved husband, father and grandfather. So that's your grandfather?”
“Yeah. He was a Starship Captain, it was the USS Bluebird. My other grandparents, you'll meet them some time, too. They live on Denobula.”
“That would be great,” Susan said, “Are there a lotta names there to remember, too?”
“Not too many. My Grandma Karin, Grandpa Ethan and my Aunt Alia and her family. Not too many,” he put his arms around here, “So, um, whadda ya think?”
“I thought it would be scarier meeting them all but they're all right. I do hope they don't want me to get a tattoo, though.”
“Ha, that's not necessary,” Stuart said, “That was because, uh, my Grammy Lili, she had these big long tattoos up and down both arms and on her legs, too. There's pictures. Come with me, I'll show you some. Okay?”
They walked back into the house, and Lili followed. Stuart showed the video cutout, and it scrolled through various scenes. He hit a few keys, “Okay, now it'll go chronologically. Ready?”
“Sure,” said Susan.
“Here's, uh, my Granddad Malcolm and his friend, I think his name was Mike. This was at school on Earth. I think it's around 2131 or so.”
“It's 2130, and that's Mark Latrelle,” Lili corrected him, “Yeah, I know he can't hear me.”
“This one is from 2157. It was taken on Ceres, when Granny Norri and Grandma Melissa first met. Here's Grammy Lili and Grandpa Doug's wedding picture. It's from 2158. And the same year, here they are with Joss as a baby. I think she was already expecting Joss when they got married,” Stuart said.
“Oh, a family scandal!” Susan exclaimed, “This one must be the opening of the restaurant.”
“Yep. Same year. They musta been busy. And this beach one, I think it's the next year or so.”
“No Joss? Huh, I bet that was a second honeymoon or something.”
“Maybe a first if she was pregnant during the first one, eh?” Stuart asked, “Here they are with Joss and Marie Patrice when Aunt Empy was just born, so it's gotta be early in 2160.”
“Uh, MP, like in MP Fashions? And here's Grandpa Doug and Grandma Melissa with Uncle Tommy,” Stuart thought for a moment, “That's the middle of 2160, and it's about when the whole big arrangement got started, or so.”
“So that big tough guy was this little cute thing? Ha!” Susan said.
“I hope that you will realize that it shouldn't matter who has which mother. We are all family. Do your best to stay together. Be strong and stay alert. There are a thousand things I could tell you about where you may be going but the biggest one I can tell you is to not show weakness.” – Doug Beckett
The scene jump cut a bit.
“Hey!” Lili exclaimed.
“You've seen these already,” Q said.
“And here's, uh, this is my great-uncle Treve and his wife.”
“She's a human,” Susan said.
“She's Pamela,” Lili said.
The scene jumped again.
“And this is me, with the folks and Pete. I'm, uh, two here, and Pete is five.”
“You were so cute. You still are,” Susan said, kissing him. They ignored the rest of the photographs, which were more pictures of the latest generation.
“You have my hairline. You have my nose. And even if you didn't, I would still know you were mine. You were, you gotta understand, Neil. You were made by two people who loved – love – each other.” – Doug Beckett
The scene jumped, and they were outside.
The smallest children were all tuckered out, and sleeping under a spreading olowa tree.
The couples had paired off, for the most part.
Lili felt a bit like she was spying. She saw Joss and Jia; he pinched her bottom and asked, “Can I, uh, hit a home run tonight, too?”
“Uh, I think so,” Jia replied, “I am your biggest fan.”
A walk over to where Declan and Rebecca were sitting was another occasion for eavesdropping, “I like her. She's nice,” Rebecca said.
“I do, too,” Declan said, “I do hope he's happy. He's so young. If he really has found the one, that is. He didn't wait as long as I did. Of course, you were well worth the wait.”
“You won't have to wait tonight,” she whispered to him.
Neil was sitting between his two ladies, with Fepwev nearby as well, “I tell ya, if ya don't mind, Fepwev, the nights are as magical as the days are.”
“As well they should be,” the Calafan answered, “Let's wear each other out,” he said to Yinora.
She grinned at him, “Oh and then I will sleep and sleep. I hope you wear each other out as well,” she said to Neil and Ines.
“Huh, I suppose I'll have my usual dreamy dreams,” Ines said.
“Or you could take a bit of amplifier with you,” Yinora suggested, “I bet there would be a lot of fingers flicked in your direction.”
“Would you mind?” Ines asked Neil.
“When the hell would I ever mind?” he replied, “I'd say it's about damned time.”
Marie Patrice and Ken were just kissing. The only one who was alone was Tommy.
“Does he ever find anyone? I remember, Norri gave him her earrings. Does he use them, Q?”
Q thought for a moment, “He does wear one at times. I cannot say whether it works for him.”
“Oh. That's unfortunate,” Lili said.
“It's a great number, divisible by two primes: three and twenty-three.” – Doug Hayes
The scene jumped again, and the children were absorbed watching something on the view screen in the house. The older adults were all sitting together and lingering over coffee.
Joss said, “Do you remember when you first figured out what math was?”
“Oh my gosh,” Marie Patrice said, “I was at college. And I had just, ahem, done the deed for the first time. And I put, ahem, two and two together.”
“I was fourteen,” Declan said, “And my parents, they referred to it as a great number, you see,” he said, “Well, I heard of it while I was away at school, and then I realized my parents were probably doing that very thing. It was shocking. I suppose, like any generation, I thought that mine had invented sex.”
“You weren't, uh, already doing it then, though, right?” Rebecca asked.
“No. Not quite yet,” he replied.
“Well, I got you all beat,” Tommy said, “I was six.”
“Six?” Neil asked.
“Yep. And you remember, Mom and Norri, they used to call it a fine figure? Well, I was sent home early from school once. I was a naughty child, you see. And they weren't expecting me or anything. I, uh, I got an eyeful.”
“Oh my God,” Ines said, cracking up.
“Yeah,” Tommy said, “And I was, yanno, I'm discovering girls, and I see that, and all I can think of is, what the hell do you people need me for?”
“Well, when my parents were a lot older, you see, Mum was going a bit deaf,” Declan said, “And I don't think they cared so much about being quiet. So I used to hear them a bit. Two people in their nineties, going at it, both sleeping and awake, at times. I didn't walk in on them, though.”
“Oh, yeah, I remember finding these; you remember Mom and Malcolm’s bed had these little throw pillows on it?” Marie Patrice asked, “Well, the pillows used to change. And I remember finding one in the trash when I was, like, I think I was about twenty-two or so. It had all these tooth marks on it.”
“What?” asked Yinora.
“Mom was, uh, she was kinda loud. So I think she was biting down in order to keep from making noises. I mean, we'd've all been treated to an eyeful then,” Marie Patrice said, “She and my Dad had the same rotating throw pillow situation on their bed. I guess it was a solution she kept with.”
“I heard the bed a few times, when Dad would come over,” Neil said, “And by the time I was around sixteen or so, I figured out what was going on and all I could think of was, Go Dad.”
“Same thing in our house,” Joss said, “He came in with a hammer and nails and stuff once to reinforce the slats.”
Lili cringed a little at the sound of the word hammer.
“I remember once, man, it was some hunting trip. And Dad and Mom, they must've been in some horrible fight. I was in High School. And they had probably really been fighting about something. And then something just changed, and I guess they apologized, and then there were just no words. And Mama Norri, she told us we were going to go out for dinner,” Tommy said, “The two of them, Dad and Mom; they just went straight into the bedroom. No words, nothing, not looking at anyone. It was like they couldn't be anywhere else,” he said, “And, um, she ended up pregnant with Kevin.”
“Kevin,” Declan said.
“Here's to Kevin,” Marie Patrice said, and they all raised their coffee cups. Lili could see that she was wearing Melissa's bracelet, with the oval charm with the three circles in it.
“Mom and Dad had something like that, too,” Joss said, “It was, you see, a few years before that. And I was, uh, thirteen, maybe. Dad ended up having to do a hostage negotiation. I dunno why. He was never that good at expressing himself verbally. But he made it work somehow. And it was hours and hours. Everyone came over. And he finally came home, it was really late. Mom had fed everybody but herself. And Dad saw Melissa, and he kissed her, and then Norri, gotta love Norri, she was amazing. She just said to us, Kids, you're gonna stay at the apartment tonight. Don't even bother packing.”
“That's right,” Neil said, “And they just walked right into the bedroom, not even talking. She musta been terrified that he would die there, that day. I know Mom was, and Ma Lili, she really must've been, too. I remember seeing her drop things and swearing and stuff, she was just jangly.”
“My parents, too. There was one time; it was a few years after they had wed. They were not speaking. It was for days. I don't know what the reason was,” Declan said, “But somehow, at some point, there was forgiveness. I don't know the specifics. And they just, I knew enough to clear out. I ended up walking 'round Fep City, long past midnight. I came home and their door was open, and I saw them. They were sleeping, but they were so completely intertwined, as if they had to have every possible surface touching the other person. And their eyes, moving and jumping under the lids.”
“That's rapid eye movement dreaming,” said Jia.
“Yes, and a few words, too. My mother talked in her sleep. So did my father, but my mother really did, and she was saying something about forever.”
“They all talked in their sleep. I recall Mama Norri saying something about the word wonder at one time,” Tommy said.
Stuart and Susan came over, “Can we take a family photo?” he asked.
They got up and gathered the children. Joss spent some time getting the camera and tripod set up, and they assembled. His family was all the way on the left, as he stood with Jia, and Jay, and Shaoqing and Lili and Doug. Then Tommy stood next to him and elbowed him and said, “Gimme some room, Old Man,” And they laughed.
On the other side of Tommy was Marie Patrice, with Ken, and they insisted that Kelly stand there, too. And then Neil, and the Calafan brood stood together, and Ines with Jenny and Marty. Finally, all the way on the right, were Declan with Rebecca and Peter and Stuart. They, too, insisted, and Susan joined them.
The picture was snapped.
“Yeah, we'll do math. Every night and every morning if you like.” – Doug Beckett
“And you've got your father's eyes – all bluish-greenish-greyish like stones, like the pebbles you find at the bottom of a clear stream.” – Lili Beckett
“I want to show you something,” Q said.
He waved a hand and the family froze in position.
“Are they on molasses time now?” Lili asked.
“Somewhat. I want to show you, now, what happens on the other side of the pond. Based upon the people who Doug is responsible for killing.”
“Q, this is a happy time. Please don't spoil it.”
“Please. We have talked of forgiveness. I just, you need this information as well. Watch.”
“First, here,” he put his finger out and Rebecca, Peter and Stuart were all erased.
“What just happened?”
“Ethan Shapiro is killed. So there is no Rebecca.”
“But that wasn't her father. It was his cousin,” Lili insisted. She held the baby close.
“True. But the elder Ethan's death causes the parents to delay relations for one night. The dice roll differently. So Ethan's mother still becomes pregnant. But this time the child is a girl. Erin Shapiro. So, no Rebecca.”
“And here,” he said, and he flicked his finger at the family. If a Calafan had done that, it would've been a come-on. Instead, he wiped out Jia, Jay, Shaoqing and little Lili and Doug, “With no Geming Sulu, there is no Jia Sulu.”
“Oh. That's horrible,” Lili said.
“And here,” he wiped his finger over Ken, who disappeared, but was then replaced with a darker, shorter man.
“What happened there?”
“Ken's mother – for the Ken who's supposed to be here – she's Deborah Haddon. But in the mirror, Deborah Haddon died; the last of Doug's fifteen victims. So instead there is still a Ken Masterson. But his mother is Lucy Stone.”
“I remember, I had a dream and I saw the mirror recently. It was Chip, and his wife, and the wife was pregnant. Lucy,” Lili said, “I see that Kelly is different, too.”
“Not Kelly, but Denise. And there’s no Wesley now, either.”
“Is Neil affected?” Lili asked.
“No. Ines's parents, Jennifer Crossman and Frank Ramirez, still exist, although things are different in the mirror, of course. Plus the Calafans are wholly unaffected.”
“Yes,” Lili said, “But, huh, can I do that?” she asked.
“If you wish. Here, you can do that now.”
“Let's see what happens if there is no Doug,” she said. She wiped her finger over Joss, and then Marie Patrice, and then Tommy and Neil. They all disappeared, along with Neil's children. Doug's marker also vanished, along with the small one for Kevin. Others disappeared as there was no reason for Ines Ramirez and Ken Masterson to ever visit Lafa II, much less move there, “We're left with Fepwev and Yinora and their three. And, and Declan.”
“Six,” Q said.
“But no, that's not right,” she said, and wiped the rest of the scene, “For without Doug, Malcolm and I never connect, because I was a drudge and I wasn't open to being with anyone. So there is no Declan. And, and Melissa and Norri? We never – I never – would have known them. So their markers must go, too. And Yinora wouldn't be named that. She wouldn't be named student of Leonora if Leonora never, ever comes here.”
“And I wouldn't have settled here, so wipe my marker, and wipe the house while you're at it. The Calafans don’t come here, if there's no house or anything. It’s just an empty lot near the dishes,” she paused, “And, and you should wipe me as well. Because the Calafans were – at least Polloria was – they were going to kill me back in '57. I was kidnapped. That's why I have these tattoos on my arms in the first place. They had used me and they were going to kill me, but the only reason why Malcolm and the others could find me was because of Doug.”
Q thought for a moment, “That is accurate.”
“He made it possible, because we were in dream contact. So, yes, he's done tremendously horrible things. I don't deny that. But he's done a lot of good. And he tries, every day, to do more. He can't erase the past and just reverse it away. But he wants the future to be better. Put those people back. Put back the markers and the house as well, while you're at it, too. Because Doug – they all spring from him. Even Declan, who isn't related to him at all? Even Declan, my little love here, he exists because of Doug. So put them back, all twenty-plus of them. And remember that Doug Beckett put them there. Is he forgiven? Hell yeah, he's forgiven.”
Q flicked a finger again and the scene was restored, and the family was moving around again.
“There will be one more marker, for this occasion is the last time that the five eldest children are together,” Q said, and he showed her the seventh one.
She walked over to it, and read, “Thomas Digiorno-Madden, 2160 – 2234 – Beloved brother and son. Hero.”
“He dies in the service of his captain, George Kirk.”
“And without ever having found love?”
“I don't think so,” Q said.
“Oh, Tommy. Is this the last of the markers?”
“Yes. The family decides that the dead are overtaking the living, so the rest are buried in the local cemetery or elsewhere. It is only these seven markers that remain here,” Q said.
“Does the family survive?” Lili asked.
“Not forever, of course, but the human race does not. But, a few highlights of the future, if you like. I can show you them.”
“All names are meaningful and important. Wear yours proudly.” – Lili Beckett
It was a large Starship, and a man was walking down the halls, confident and proud.
“It is the year 2379. That is Martin Madden. He's the new First Officer on the Enterprise-E, under the command of one of my favorite humans, Captain Jean-Luc Picard.”
“So this is after Kathryn. Huh, why is Digiorno lost as a name?”
“It just is.”
Lili looked, and Martin Madden had a tiny bracelet in his pocket. It had an oval charm with three circles in it. He took it out and touched it once before going onto the Bridge.
“Melissa's bracelet,” she said.
“A good luck charm, so far as he is aware. And it’s something to give to his bride, when he meets her.”
“The light that was in your eyes when Marie Patrice first started walking – I shan't forget that.” – Malcolm Reed
It was the captain of a small vessel.
“Who is that? He's very good-looking,” Lili said.
“He's Captain Jay Douglas Hayes, and this is 2991. That is a series twenty-four craft.”
“Yes. You saw Douglas Malcolm Beckett at the barbecue. He ends up as a somewhat rebellious child, and changes his name back,” Q explained.
“No wonder Rick thought my last name was Hayes,” Lili said.
“You can't see them, but he's got a pair of earrings in one pocket – earrings that you know well. They are for him to give when he meets someone. It will be a few years from when this photograph was taken.”
“I know you wanted to be equal, but I am your faithful and loving servant. And I will never stop looking for you.” – Doug Hayes
“Speaking of Richard Daniels,” Q said.
“Rick is my descendant?” Lili asked, “And, uh, someone should tell him. That is not a good look for him.”
Q smiled a little, “His full name is Richard Malcolm Daniels. Declan's elder son is Peter Matthew Reed, and his son is Charles Malcolm. And, eventually, the Reed name is lost, but Daniels replaces it and, in 3069, Richard is born. This photograph was taken in 3109, not too long before he made contact with you. Within his uniform – for that is what that outfit is – he wears your key charm.”
“Rick said he had a sister. Can I see her? Is that all right?”
“All right,” Q said, “I had two favorite humans – Picard and Kathryn. I'm only doing this because you're becoming my third.”
“Tell me the truth, Q. It's the way I kiss. It's how I make you feel,” she teased him.
“No, it's how you have made me think. And this is Eleanor Daniels. She – the Leonora name is lost, but it's replaced by the name Eleanor.”
“She's a beautiful woman. And that's the Cuff of Lo on her left wrist, right?”
“Yes. It is,” Q said.
“She had the jeweler design it to her specifications. It's jagged on the side, you see. And the two rings, they were to fit, jagged edge to jagged edge. She never picked hers up, of course. I, I had the jeweler melt it down. I wear it now, on the same hand where I wear the cuff you gave me. They are my reminders.” – Malcolm Reed
They were back in the hospital room.
“So I'm a favorite.”
“I never should have said that,” Q said.
“It's all right. I won't tell anyone,” She thought for a moment as she put the baby back into the bassinette, “I, um, have a request.”
“Oh? This wasn't enough for you?”
“I want to, uh, I want you to wipe my memory of this. All of it.”
“I, well, it's not right,” she said, “Not all days are huge, red-letter ones. Instead, most of them are small, but they can be meaningful. I thank you for showing me all of the main events in our lives, but all of the parts in between are equally vital. And I want to live them, and experience them the way I'm supposed to, by being a part of them and not by being a removed observer.”
“Yes. Really. I don't want to take away things that I was never meant to see, like Doug's death, which belongs to Melissa, or, or Malcolm's death, which belongs to Jia. I don't want to look over Norri's shoulder while writing. I don't want to think of Melissa in any way other than as her smart, capable self – the woman I know right now. It's wrong for me to know these things, Q.”
“Are you absolutely certain?”
“I am. I don't want to know any of it, or remember a damned thing. I just want to roll the dice like everybody else, even if they're loaded. Give me my fortune cookie along with everyone else, and I'll crack it open when I'm damned good and ready, thank you.”
“Very well,” he waved his hand. But he only removed 99% of what he had done that day.
“You know I love you, at least a little bit.” – Jennifer Crossman
“I might love you a little bit, too.” – Treve
It was a plain room, with a lot of people in it, not looking at each other. Q got there. It was the Continuum.
And there she was.
He approached her, and said; “Can you be Joy?”
“I don't know. Is that possible?”
“Hmm. At least you didn't say no. Do you think that being a bit together, and a bit apart, can save us from extinction?”
“We will just have to find out. The way is unclear, and I can't see the other side,” she said.
“Would you let me kiss you?”
“I don't know. It seems so primitive.”
“Don't knock it 'til you've tried it.”
“Be as happy as you can. And have your dreams. Don't let anyone invade your head.” – Lili Beckett
Lili looked down at the nursing baby, and then at the changing table, where there was a bag, “Huh, that wasn't there before,” she said, “Lessons are all done for the day. So you can rest or eat as you wish. And I guess I will, too. Your Daddy will be back soon, with everyone else,” she smoothed his hair a little on his head. It was white-blond, like hers, “See, now, you're all spruced up. You're looking very stylish with your little woolen cuff on, mister. I hear they are going to be showing this look on the streets of Paris soon.”
She got up, still holding him, and walked over to look outside, “Looks like that storm's all done.”
“Will I remember any o' this after you turn the clock back?” – Tripp Tucker