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Story Notes: BIg Thanks to Lil black Dog for the Beta check.
Written for the December 2013 Favorite things Challenge.

2235.350 (17th December 2235)
Valley View Town - Bottom of Reed Street.


Captain Martin Lallason of Starfleet Supplies Division walked quickly down the street in the small Starfleet town of Valley View, so named as it overlooked San Francisco. He was heading for his old friend Captain Lily Fitzroy’s house. Lily had been his object of affection for twenty plus years since they were both junior officers on the old Daedalus class USS Tabard together. In the past thirty years he watched her from afar as a colleague and then later on the USS Ajax as a close friend. He had been unable to approach her outside a group of their mutual friends to tell her the truth that she was his favorite thing in Starfleet.

But less than an hour ago he’d had a worrying conversation with a Lieutenant Ha’rris from the Starfleet Academy History Department about Lily’s recent behaviors. The Xindi- Reptilian had struck up a fast friendship with Lily since her demotion and reassignment to teaching tactics at the Academy. So when Ha’rris had seen her go home with a strange finality about her statement and actions, he had come to find him as the only person he could turn to outside official channels. Martin had agreed with Ha’rris that Lily just hadn’t seemed herself since the failed Centauran first contact incident. Having listened to the lieutenant, he realized that he was also off shift, and went to investigate.

So at the kiosk next to the air shuttle stop he grabbed a box of what he had known, as the junior quartermaster, had been her favorite chocolate brand during their time serving together on the USS Tabard. Still now as he approached her house, he was trying to think of a good excuse to explain coming over out of the blue, as “your friend from the History Department thinks you’re having some sort of mental breakdown,” wasn’t a great opening line and he knew he’d not done enough to restore their friendship.

The problem was Martin had the same worries about Lily as Ha’rris had. Martin didn’t like to admit to himself that for a while now he had being trying to speak to Admiral Ineiri earlier this week about Lily, but the Admiral seemed busy with the growing fleet escalation along the Klingon border.

Ha’rris, like Martin, feared that Lily was getting ready to quit Starfleet, but to Martin that was unthinkable as the service was so much a part of her. It served as both her escape route from a life of near poverty in her childhood and her way of life for thirty odd years. Martin just couldn’t imagine any other job giving her any satisfaction.

Martin, like few in Starfleet, had seen what had become of Lily’s twin sister Jasmine who had run away from Starfleet many years ago. It was clear in Martin’s mind that for Lily, starship command had always been her first and best destiny. He just wasn’t sure how to reach his old friend and help her. Still, he thought he was a Starfleet captain and they were supposed to be able to do the impossible.

Martin came to the bottom of Lily’s drive and garden and looked up at the house; he passed this way most nights, why had he never walked up that drive before?

Martin kicked himself; he shouldn’t have needed a junior lieutenant to state the obvious to him, to make him come and check on a friend who he could see was clearly in a bad place and sinking further into it. ‘What sort of friend am I really to her,’ he wondered to himself.

So he screwed up his courage and walked up the drive to the house. As he got closer to the building, Martin was shocked to see how un-festive the house looked--not a single decoration inside or out. That was so unlike Lily. She loved Christmas; heck putting up the decorations was one of her favorite things. Martin recalled that she gone out of her way on the USS Tabard, Ajax and according to gossip even as captain of the USS Argonaut to ensure she got to put up the tree and to do it in the first weekend of Christmas.

He could remember during their time together on the USS Ajax that Lily had even pushed the regulations with her crazy earrings in the final week of December. The quartermaster on the Argonaut had told him they only got bolder as commanding officer of the USS Argonaut. Only not this year. She had just worn flat studs.

‘Perhaps I should have gotten her some crazy earrings rather than these chocolates,’ pondered Martin as he walked up to the front door.

Martin stood at the door and he still didn’t have a good reason to be here, beyond he was worried about a woman he worked on and off with for close to three decades. He reached out and pressed the doorbell button.

The chime was the traditional bell chime. Martin then heard movement inside and braced himself for the door opening.

Lily opened the inner door and a look of surprise crossed her face at seeing Martin, before she opened the door. However Martin missed it as he was shocked by how red her eyes looked; she clearly had been crying recently.

“Captain Lallason, Martin, what are you doing here?” she asked.

‘Good question,’ Martin though to himself.

“Hello Li-- Captain Fitzroy, I’m sorry to bother you at home but I’ve come to realize, due to a visit by the ghost of Christmas past, that I’ve not been a very supportive friend of late and I just want to give you a small gift to say sorry for that,” said Martin.

“You didn’t need to do that Martin, but I appreciate you coming out of your way to see me, and please you’ve known me long enough to call me Lily,” she said.

Martin awkwardly handed her the box of chocolates, and said, “But I do, Lily. I can’t explain why or how much this bothers me, but it does and my peace of mind requires I make this up to you.”

Lily raised her eyebrows and for a moment consideration crossed her face and then she stepped back and gestured for him to come inside.

Martin followed her into the house. If Martin thought the outside of the house was routine then inside the house was a barren desert. There seemed to be no great evidence of anyone actually living here. Indeed Martin thought he would made a bigger impact on a hotel room for a weekend break than Lily had on her assigned accommodation of the last six months.

As he discreetly looked round, he couldn’t see any personal items in the hall or in the living room.

“I take it you’re off-duty Martin?” asked Lily.

“Yes, I had the early shift today,” said Martin.

“Good. I need someone to drink with tonight, wait here, while I get some glasses,” said Lily.

“Okay,” said Martin.

Another alarm went off in his head. Lily wasn’t historically a great drinker, and along with looking round the spartan room, the more something felt wrong to Martin. He didn’t know quite why but he felt that this room seemed like it wasn’t lived in but just occupied. ‘Maybe she’s been replaced by a shape shifting alien or is under some kind of mind control,’ thought Martin before dismissing that as a silly idea. Starfleet medical and security wouldn’t miss both of those risks.

Lily returned with two shot glasses and a two-thirds full bottle of bright yellow liquid. She indicated for Martin to sit on a lazy chair next to a small coffee table. Lily then put the bottle and shot glasses on the table. Lily proceeded to then fill the shot glasses with the yellow liquid before she handed one of them to Martin.

Martin smelled the drink and got a hint of lemon and then a memory from his Ajax days struck him. “I think I remember this stuff. Isn’t it that Italian lemon liquor our Italian doctor used to drink on the USS Ajax?”

“Well remembered, yes it’s Strega so we blame Doctor De Liara for this,” said Lily.

“She was a great doctor but ever so eccentric when she was off duty. She should write a book of her escapades, still we did have some good times on the USS Ajax, didn’t we?” said Martin.

“Well at the bar she was. You know, I think the rest of the Ajax days patrolling the Federation and Xindi border might be good material for a book,” said Lily. Then she took a sip of the liquor and let out a small but sad sigh.

“Maybe,” agreed Martin.

Martin took a sip and remembered the drink. When he looked up Lily seemed to be trying to stare her drink down.

Martin tried to think of a line to address his real thoughts and concerns about Lily’s increasingly odd behavior.

“So you looking forward to the end of semester staff ball?” asked Martin.

“No,” replied Lily.

“Really?” asked Martin, not believing his ears.

“Really, got no date and nothing to wear, plus then there’re the--” said Lily, leaving the sentence unfinished.

“I guess the Academy staff must all seem like children--” started Martin.

“Brain boxes and dusty admirals,” said Lily.

“I’m not sure anyone can call Ineiri ‘dusty’--”

“No, just an ice witch, who seems to only speak to other admirals these days,” injected Lily.

The bitterness in that statement greatly surprised Martin. Lily quickly registered Martin’s surprise, so she shook her head and said, “I’m so sorry Martin, I’m not good company right now. I seem to want to hurt what few friends I’ve got left.”

“Lily, a problem shared is a problem halved, as they say so what’s really wrong?” asked Martin.

“Martin--” started Lily, but Martin held up his hand to interrupt her.

“I said I’ve been a bad friend of late, even so I only need to look round this apartment to see that you’ve not got one personal item on display, there is no Christmas tree, you’re not wearing any fun earrings this close to Christmas. Plus your red eyes show me that you’ve been crying; it seems to me that you’re missing a big piece of yourself. I know we’re more than friends--we are Starfleet family and I’m happy to drink with you till stupid o’clock and pretend we’re still twenty-somethings serving on the USS Ajax again or what ever story you’re telling yourself, but please give me the real reason why first and I’ll let you do as you wish afterwards,” said Martin.

Lily looked at him and then she slumped back in her chair as if her strings had been cut. She drained her glass and then turned the empty glass round in her fingers to study the light reflecting in it.

“The harsh truth? You really want the harsh truth, old friend?” asked Lily.

“No, I would prefer a beautiful lie but if I’m the friend that I should be, then I need that harsh true answer to where are all your favorite things,” said Martin.

“But then you’ll leave and I don’t want that,” said Lily.

“I’m not leaving till you throw me out, and that’s a promise,” said Martin.

“You promise?” asked Lily.

“Yes,” said Martin.

Lily leaned forward and refilled her glass, then she looked Martin in the eyes, then she said with a lack of conviction, “The beautiful lie is that my personal belongings are still onboard the USS Argonaut and haven’t been transferred back to the Academy yet.”

“Only I know we got a shipment last week of science samples back from the Argonaut and its contents were less than three months old, and that you’ve been back on Earth a lot longer than that,” said Martin.

“Yes,” said Lily, dipping her head before continuing. “You say that my favorite things are missing, but in truth they’re not my favorite things anymore--my ship and my crew were my favorite things in this big wide quadrant and I threw them away, along with a career I worked so hard to carve out, in a moment of temper.”

“Hey I’ve seen the Argonaut footage, the Centauran prime minister lashed out first. You just acted naturally in self-defense; I mean you didn’t knock her block off like you did the Australian destroyer in the bronze medal Academy boxing match back in your freshmen year,” said Martin.

“You remember that?” asked Lily.

“I’m not likely to forget that; I won over two hundred credits betting on you, which helped me to clear a nice chunk off my student loans. It’s close to being my favorite day as a cadet,” said Martin.

“Better days,” said Lily.

“Um not really, having to do all those odd night and weekend jobs to pay for Academy tuition and room and board,” said Martin.

“I know, study during the day, work at night and wear those uncomfortable bar outfits,” said Lily.

“I recall you wore your tea-room dress uniform rather well,” said Martin.

“And you wore that bar tux rather well also,” replied Lily.

“How do you remember that?” asked Martin.

Lily didn’t answer but instead showed the first sign of a smile on her face.

“Is that a smile returning to your face?” asked Martin.

“Maybe, but you did want the whole truth didn’t you?” asked Lily.

“Yes I did, we can recall joint and better memories later,” said Martin.

“Later sounds nice for the first time, since that Centauran first contact failure,” said Lily.

Martin nodded. He said nothing, choosing to listen, as he had a feeling he might be about to find what was eating Lily.

“Ever since that punch, I’m just going around in circles not knowing whether to be scared of all the ups and downs as my life has been on hold. I'm always on the move but never gaining ground like some brightly painted pony on a carousel. It started with waiting for the Centauran trial, then waiting for my release. Then I was waiting for the Starfleet hearing and after that I was waiting for the re-education. Then I was waiting for demotion and now I’m waiting to teach cadets, kids who’ve never experienced life on a starship or the slightest hardship, who can’t seem to shut their smart mouths and listen,” said Lily before breaking into tears and continuing, “But most of all I’m waiting for all those questioning looks from everybody at the Academy to end, waiting for a friend or anybody to ask how are you today?” said Lily.

“So how are you today?” asked Martin gently.

“Scared, alone and with nothing I like, I’ve not even got my dream of my own command anymore. I’m going nowhere and like that brightly painted pony, I appear to be trying to catch the horse out in front, but inside I know there's not a prayer of it. I’m just an incorrigible old hag like T’Bek said, someone who’s thrown away a lifetime of work and worse I don’t want my favorite things as they seem empty and just remind me what a screw up I truly am. In the end I’m no different than Jasmine, for this Christmas I have nobody,” said Lily.

She put her head into her hands, and cried harder. Martin didn’t know what to say but he had to say something to offer some sort of comfort.

“Lily, I don’t know much but I know that you’ve got Lieutenant Ha’rris and you’ve got me. I know that you’re better than Jasmine. Your late twin let the universe scar her too deeply and she turned into an Orion syndicate mole and an enemy of the Federation. You just had one off day and paid the price. I don’t care what anybody says, you’re not incorrigible. You tried to keep the peace and save lives on both sides. We both know that if the Argonaut had to fight its way out of the Centauran system, as the Vulcan/Federation procedure requires, you might have lost crew but you would have had to kill Centaurans, thus making a later peace much harder.”

Lily looked up through her fingers. “You think so?” asked Lily.

“Yes, we go in peace. How can trying to keep the peace after a mistake be wrong? You need to confront your demons and not be caged by them. I mean I can’t say for sure but I suspect the reason people at the Academy stare and your other old friends like Ineiri are avoiding you, is that you’ve become a fractured mirror; they can see how emotionally devastating one mistake on duty can be. You’re making them second guess themselves and they don’t like that. I believe that you can get a command again, if you just show command that you’ve learned from your mistake, and understand why you lash out and are determined to prevent others from doing the same,” said Martin.

“You think so?” asked Lily.

“It’s a long shot, but not as long as you winning that boxing match. I backed you back then against all the odds, and I’m happy to do it again now,” said Martin.

“How do I start?” asked Lily.

“Somehow through the pain, you'll need to grab hold of the reins and then you can steer yourself to a happy end. Might I suggest we start small by getting your smile back? I would suggest finishing this bottle together while we make jokes about the past, as a starter for ten? Then tomorrow I’m going to take you shopping to get you some crazy earrings and a Christmas tree to decorate,” said Martin.

Lily smiled properly for the first time in months.

“Then comes the hard part--you need to make an appointment to face T’Bek and the Vulcan Psychiatric Directorate again and prove to them you’re not incorrigible and that you’ve regained control of your temper,” said Martin.

Lily pulled a face at that, but a mischief light had returned to her eyes. “Shall we start?”

“Seems a good way to make tonight a new favorite memory,” replied Martin.

=/\=


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