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Breaking the Looking Glass

Posted on Wed Apr 3rd, 2024 @ 9:49am by Evelyn Reynolds & Oliver Lucas
Edited on on Wed Apr 3rd, 2024 @ 10:05am

Mission: Fractures
Location: SS Mary Rose, Sickbay
Timeline: Future
2201 words - 4.4 OF Standard Post Measure

He was older, Evelyn realised almost immediately. It was difficult to place by how much, there weren't a lot of clues in their surroundings to add detail to any attempt at guessing. Everything looked run down, including the man currently staring at her, but enough remained that was familiar for the experience to feel a little less jarring than her first introduction to time displacement. Disorientation took a moment to fade, the dull throb of her pulse just behind her ear demanding enough that she closed her eyes for just a few seconds and instantly regretted it. The bout of dizziness didn't last but she learned her lesson. Breathing through the panic that wanted to dominate, Evie's hand found Oliver's; her Oliver's, and unashamedly forged a tether that at least gave her some reassurance she wouldn't be forced anywhere on her own.

"You don't look surprised to see us." It was, in some respects, a lie. The arrival of time travellers from the ship's past didn't seem to have confused the older doctor, but there was something about the way he hadn't taken his eyes off her that made Evelyn decidedly wary.

"You're not the first visitors I've had today," Future Oliver explained, a stoicism to his voice that wasn't present in his younger self. "Give him a moment, the aphasia will clear in a minute." He leaned back on a disused biobed, head tilted to study the pair. "You'll have to forgive me, it's been a while."

It took that statement, and the moments that had passed to allow her own dizziness to abate a little, for Evelyn to fully conceptualise what it was that was making her so uneasy. Her previous encounter with time displacement had seen her sent backwards to a time where she recognised nobody, where the ship's function was vastly different to the one it would one day embrace, and it had been almost tempting to just believe that they'd arrived somewhere entirely different. This was her Sickbay, albeit a little worn around the edges, and yet her own presence was notably absent. There were any number of reasons for that but Evie found herself, heart in her throat, not really wanting to find out if it just happened to be her sleep rotation or...something else.

Steel blue eyes scrutinised the older features of a man who seemed far more familiar than perhaps he should. Even now, it was difficult to curb the instinct to make sure he was okay.

"How long?" It was dangerously close to elaboration that she instinctively wanted to avoid and yet it seemed important to know, at least, how far ahead they'd shot.

"It's hard to pin down an exact timescale. But certainly many years," the older Oliver replied. His stance was noticeably more relaxed than his younger counterpart's, though the odd 'weight' he always seemed to carry around his shoulders had remained. "You...look good. Strange, this is sort-of how I always pictured you in my memory..."

A sliver of ice down her spine did very little to ease Evelyn's partially-contained panic.

"I don't think this is a conversation I want to have," she protested quietly, her tone not quite a whisper but lowered in an attempt, perhaps, to avoid the younger Oliver's participation. It was a fool's attempt to keep herself from speculating, however, and no amount of practised poise could restore her composure entirely as she proceeded. "I take it you're in charge then." Even beneath the strain of tension, there was a glimmer of gentle pride to the doctor's tone.

"It is what it is," the older Oliver said by way of response. He wasn't claiming ownership of the sickbay, more suggesting it was his refuge. A safer, more familiar space. "I do my best. You taught me reasonably well in the end. I guess you'd have been proud..." A sad sort of bitter chuckle escaped his lips.

A shaky exhalation was the only response Evelyn could muster at first. By at least some interpretation of temporal law, it hadn't been that long since the panic attack Oliver had originally pulled her from and the restoration of equilibrium, the settling of her adrenaline spike and calming of her amygdala's incessant freeze response, usually took a decent amount of time. Fresh provocation had elevated her heart-rate again and she swallowed, aware of the pounding in her ears, and offered what strived very hard to be a measure of reassurance, or at least a tentative attempt at advice. "It's more important that you're proud of yourself." It seemed to be something she reiterated on a daily basis.

A look of surprise flickered over his face before being replaced by that sad smile again. "Yes. You used to say that to me a lot."

A groan from the younger Oliver indicated that he was finally lucid again. He looked up at himself, then Evelyn.

"Oh no. This can't be good," he mumbled.

"You've had worse," his older variant replied. "You look like a Klingon's ass, though."

Only one of the pair of eyes that blinked at him, stunned, held an element of emergent humour after a few seconds had passed. "Are you okay?" Evelyn asked this of what she could only conceptualise as her Oliver, turning to focus on him a moment as she ran an eye over his strained features. Tentative fingertips pressed gently against his implant. "Is it bothering you?"

"It's...sore, but I'm adapting" he admitted, feeling a slight warmth at her gentlest of touches. He smiled faintly at her. It drew a little grunt from his counterpart.

"Tsk. I remember that look," Future Oliver noted. "Aren't you both just the cutest couple..."

It took very little for discomfort to flick over to annoyance, especially when Evelyn was already struggling to hold herself together. The look she shot the older doctor contained remnants of icicles and the silent request, if it could really be called that, to mind his words. "You have better knowledge of this than I do," was what she chose to say, ignoring his unwarranted jab entirely to focus instead on Oliver's situation. "We've adjusted his cortical implant to scan for whatever is causing our time displacement but I'm reluctant to fine tune without better access to information on how."

"He could," the younger Oliver said, looking at his elder doppelganger. "If you wouldn't mind?" The older Oliver made another noise, as though slightly put-out, then approached to take a cursory look.

"You know," Future Oliver noted as he took a cortical stimulator to the younger man's temple, "She doesn't need you to keep acting all brave around her. She doesn't like that."

"She is also not fond of being spoken of as if she didn't exist." If there was one person in the universe Evelyn would have thought it impossible to ever be actually angry with, it was Oliver Lucas. Frustration wasn't out of the question, but that was rarely so personally motivated and was usually the result of him second-guessing himself. Frayed nerves didn't leave her particularly well-equipped to deal with the barrage of implications this version of her friend exuded and, though she was reluctant to step outside grabbing distance given the unpredictable nature of the displacement, the doctor nevertheless shot her replacement a glare taken right from Liha's arsenal and moved away just long enough to find her own tricorder.

"She hasn't changed," Future Oliver remarked softly in his doppelganger's ear.

"You...I have though, it seems..." Oliver grumbled, glaring at his older self. "That was rude, you know, calling her out like that."

The words caused Future Oliver to hesitate a moment, a faintly guilty expression on his face as he looked down at a younger, far more idealistic - and perhaps innocent - version of himself. Tired eyes looked at the cortical stimulator a moment.

"It's funny; I barely remembered what her voice sounded like until today," Future Oliver whispered, a distant sadness permeating his words. "Losing her-"

"Don't say it," Oliver said, shaking his head. "Don't tell me-"

"Hurts more than any assimilation...any distant memory of the collective..." Future Oliver's eyes looked up at Evelyn across the room. "Losing her..."

"Stop." Oliver stood quickly, taking a step back and towards Evelyn.

Keen not to to keep her distance for too long lest she be either catapulted somewhere on her own or left to deal with the discomforting presence of an Oliver she couldn't quite figure out, yet nevertheless felt compelled to try, Evelyn returned in time to overhear only the final demand. Concern puckered her brow as she raised her tricorder and, perhaps fortuitously, misinterpreted the younger man's distress. "More pain?"

The young Oliver glanced up meaningfully at his older counterpart. "Nothing unmanageable." The words made Future Oliver clear his throat and turn away.

"He'll be fine." Again, there was something veiled behind that reply that remained unspoken.

"We should go," Young Oliver hissed to Evelyn. A desperation not only to return to their own time but to escape from what this twisted future version of himself had become.

There was no hiding the fact that her gaze lingered on the back of the older Oliver's head, even as he turned to demand his retreat. It was a complicated place to be, stuck between the desire for ignorance and a compulsion to become involved. It was not so far removed from Evelyn's entire perception of Oliver Lucas, in the moment where she still questioned the wisdom of continuing to meander down the undefined pathway that kept them both circling the same deep hole. Her rational, analytical side would have taken this entire exchange and the implications behind it as a perfect example of why reservation and abstinence formed the basis of a better choice, but the carefully camouflaged whims of her more emotionally covetous side only saw defeat as temptation. She eventually dragged her attention away, if only because the younger set of eyes fixed anxiously on her were not so inclined to cloud with pain at the sound of her voice.

"Do we have any control over that?," she wondered, gazing around despite lacking his newly-acquired clarity.

"More than we did before," Oliver nodded, trying to keep an encouraging tone despite the weight of encountering some future twisted version of himself. He pointed to his temple. "I can see them. At least a little. It should help us find what we're looking for."

"Okay." Evelyn's agreement was soft, quiet in an attempt to remain private. "See if you can find us something worth risking."

She turned then for a minute, blue eyes fixed on the back of a tousled head that seemed on its own to betray a lack of sleep, and hesitated only a moment before stepping towards the older Oliver. There were so many twists and turns that separated them, so many intangible possibilities that lay between her reality and his, that there would never be any way of knowing for sure how likely his experiences were to become her own. It was confronting enough to consider even at long odds but the palpable absence of an older Evelyn made it strangely easier to centre her empathy on the man left behind. Mortality was a given, even if she wasn't quite ready to be gone this early, but the suffering came not from the knowledge that her time was over but from witnessing, as unexpected as it might be, the unhappiness that lingered afterwards. Evie couldn't know for sure if there'd been time for goodbyes the first time but she could do her best to make sure there was an adequate one now.

"She would be proud," she assured quietly. "If not a little inclined to chastise you for hiding in Sickbay all the time." A ghost of a smile tugged at her lips.

A single tear dropped from the future Oliver's eye, but the rest of his face didn't seem to change at all. A curt nod followed, unspoken appreciation, and a farewell.

"Evie..." Oliver the Younger tugged her arm. "We should go."

The familiar wave of disorientation confirmed the lack of alternative. Even as she blanched, no more accustomed to the onset of nausea and dizziness than she had been the first time, Evelyn maintained her focus through sheer stubborn determination tinged with regret. Staying wasn't an option, of course, but leaving evoked such a strong sense of guilt and remorse that it almost overrode the physical ramifications of another temporal displacement. An arm anchored around her waist added insistence to their departure, the need to move to properly intersect whatever it was her Oliver was seeing. She allowed herself to be guided, a final glance behind locked eyes across unfathomable distance as the clarity of her vision once more evaporated into darkness. There was no time to speak, and no words left to say in any case, though for a brief moment there was purpose to the movement of the older man's lips that almost translated as sentiment.

And then he, and everything he'd been left to endure, were gone.

Once more, she was falling.


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