"I feel sick."
"Yeah, I feel like crap, Doug. Total PMS."
"You, uh, you still have to get up for work, Lili."
"Yeah, uh, slowly."
"It's late," he said, "c'mon, you've gotta shake a leg, O'Day."
"No," Lili sighed.
"C'mon, I am not kidding."
She slowly began to get up, and then ran to the bathroom in their apartment. She opened the door a few moments, later, staggering a bit, pastier and paler than usual. "I can't go to work, not the way I'm feeling."
"Uh, okay," he said, "I'll call Treve; tell him you can't cook for that investor today."
She disappeared back into the bathroom. She then returned. "Don't, uh, don't mention food."
He took care of the call. "Uh, Treve? Yeah, she's sick as a dog. Er, sick as a perrazin."
"A perrazin?" asked the Calafan, wondering what was so remarkable about being as ill as a creature that looked like a big, blonde buffalo with fangs.
"It's a Terran – er, Earth – expression. She's just barfing and stuff. She shouldn't be cooking for any investors today."
"Understood," said Treve, "I'll just have the workmen do construction on the restaurant today. Let me know how she's feeling, all right?"
For her part, Lili grabbed a stick from the box. She shook her head. Blue or clear today?
A minute later, she carefully crept out of the bathroom and presented the stick to him. "What's this?" he asked.
"What do you think it is?"
He stared at it for a second. "It's one of those testers we bought. Right?"
He stared at it for another minute, taking in its color. It was the very essence of blueness, the epitome of blue. He had never seen one that had turned blue before.
He looked up at her, standing nearby. "What's the accuracy on these things?" he asked.
"Ninety something percent."
He stared a little more, turning the stick over in his hands a few times. Fumbling, he dropped it and got on the floor to retrieve it, and then realized where he was. He took her hand. "Marry me."
"We already talked about this. And, and we weren't going to until the restaurant was set up, but I mean, we should, we should get married now. Right?"
"Um, yeah, I guess we should. I mean, we should. I mean, yes."
He was about to kiss her when she ran back to the bathroom.
It was a few hours before Lili could sit and contemplate what was happening without experiencing dry heaves. Anything to expel was long gone. She just felt terrible. "We need to go to Doctor Miva's. I, uh, she has to do surgery, get things squared away. You know why."
"Yeah," Doug said, remembering. When he'd come over, from the other side of the pond, the parts hadn't fit properly. On the NX-01, Doctor Phlox had fixed and moved and rerouted her cervix, her uterus and any number of pelvic blood vessels. But for a pregnancy, it would all have to be undone, for the sake of the child. And it had to happen soon, as embryonic implantation would be expected within forty-eight hours. He clicked open his communicator. "Yeah, I'd like to talk to Doctor Miva about, uh, about undoing the O'Day Reversal. My uh, my girlfr – my fiancée – uh, she thinks she's pregnant. The stick says she's pregnant."
"Come on in," was the response.
He packed her a bag, as she was still tentative. "Blue hoodie sweatshirt, right? You like that one. Socks, sneakers, bra, panties, jeans, tee shirt – am I missing anything?"
"Maybe sweatpants instead of jeans, I, uh, I don't know how my stomach's gonna feel."
"Got it." He swapped the articles. "I'll take your PADD; too, maybe you'll want to do crossword puzzles or something."
"Okay," she said, weak and feeling very passive.
He thought for just a moment and stuck in her sapphire blue dress and a pair of turquoise ballerina flats, too, but didn't tell her, wondering and hoping a little that maybe they would get married that day. It was a beautiful day on Lafa II and the four suns were all shining brightly. It seemed to work, and then everything would be complete, all in one shot, even though Lili did look and probably felt, like hell.
He gently guided her to the car, and then drove slowly to the Main Hospital.
"Let's see," Doctor Miva said merrily. She was a Calafan woman, about Lili's age – that is to say, in her late forties. She had complicated silvery scrollwork up and down her arms, as did Lili. On Lili, it was tattoos. On Miva, it was her natural coloring. Her – Miva's – accent was almost Irish sounding.
She stuck a needle in Lili's arm as Lili lay on a hospital bed, "Just a moment." She spread some of the blood onto a slide and looked at it under a microscope. "Ah, yes, you've got all the hormones associated with a human pregnancy. I can even tell you the gender of the embryo."
"That quickly?" he asked.
"We have that technology here. 'Course, not everyone likes knowing. Do ya wanna know?"
"Uh, do we wanna know?" Doug asked.
"Sure," Lili said, still a bit shell-shocked.
Miva added a drop of something or other to the slide. "Da de dum, it takes maybe a minute. We'll do the surgical prep, too. You are, you want to have this child?"
"Yes," Lili said, "although I'd prefer not being so goddamned sick. I feel like hell."
"That'll pass, I understand. And we'll get an IV in ya. Don't worry, Doug, they won't starve." A bell dinged. "Ah! My test results!" She went over and pulled out the slide. Its contents had turned sand-colored. She showed it to Doug.
"What does that mean?" he asked.
"You're gonna have a son."
"Oh, my God." It was suddenly very, very real. He sat down quickly on a nearby stool, grateful that there was something there. Finally, he found his voice. "Lili, you'll have a boy."
She looked at him from where she was lying. "I hope he looks just like you."
Two hours later, Miva emerged from the surgical suite. "And?" he asked, anxious.
"Everyone's fine," she said. "Give her, I dunno, a few hours. You can go in and look, but don't wake her, all right?"
"Okay, um, Miva, do you know anyone who can, uh, can perform a, a wedding?"
"Sure. I can find someone, but they likely won't be free for at least a month. For when?"
He was a little disappointed in the delay. He clicked on his PADD. "Huh, it's December tenth. Can it, uh, can it be February the fourteenth?"
"I suppose. Any special reason for that day?"
Doug smiled a little. "Yeah, it's Valentines' Day."
"I don't know what that means," said the Calafan.
"It's, um, it's a day dedicated to human love."
"Then it's ideal, eh?"
Two months later, they were home, in their tiny apartment, waiting a little nervously. The door chimed and it was Treve, Lili's business partner. "How are you feeling?" he asked. His accent was clipped and higher class than Miva's, reflecting his background as a child of privilege. Younger than all of them, he was completely bald, and his arms were solid silver – both were sure signs that he was a Calafan under the age of thirty.
"Sick and nervous and tired and a little dizzy," she said. Lili was wearing the sapphire blue dress and the turquoise flats. She had a turquoise hair ribbon in her light blonde hair with a little bit of netting – a smidgen of a veil.
"At some point, you'll have to come back to work," he said, "But not right now."
"What are you doing, in my absence?"
"Reversal is just being constructed, but I don't have any investors lined up right now. You know I've got to wait on you so that we can present the unfamiliar human foods to them, see if they like them," he said.
"Then we're losing money."
"Don't fret about it. It will all work out."
The door chimed again, and Doug let Miva in. "I thank ya for inviting me," she said. "Hiya, Treve."
"Well, you need two witnesses, one male and one female, so here we are," Treve said.
"Now, where the heck is the officiant?" Doug asked, beginning to pace a little bit.
"Please, don't move around so much. It makes me nauseous." As did everything else.
There was a door chime. Doug opened the door. It was a Calafan man. "I am Braewev. I am here to perform a wedding."
"Yes, um, my name is Douglas Jay Hayes – er, Beckett," Doug said, still a little slow with the new last name, the one he'd taken on when he'd crossed over from the mirror universe.
"What does your name mean?" asked Braewev. "You do know that that is important to us, yes?"
"Yes," Doug said, used to that unique Calafan greeting already. "My name means dark stranger and my middle name is a kind of bird. My, uh, this is Lili, uh, Charlotte Lilienne O'Day."
"Free woman, a kind of flower," she explained, shaking Braewev's hand.
"Mine is master of storms. But no one masters storms, eh? So, tell me, I do not know any human wedding ceremonies."
"That's all right," Lili said. "A Calafan ceremony is fine."
"Ah, good, that one I know," Braewev said. "Are we ready?"
"As ready as I'll ever be," Lili said. Doug helped her stand up. Treve stood on the other side, holding Lili's arm. Miva was on the other side of Doug.
"Today, on February the fourteenth of 2158," Braewev said, "as Lo and Abic dance across the skies and Fep and Ub are sinking in the west, we are here to celebrate the wedding of a dark stranger to a free woman. Marriage is the joining of two days together, as hearts are bound in joy. And with this binding comes an understanding of the two nights, which remain separate, and keep the joined ones as individuals, each with his or her own strengths and weaknesses, and small secrets. Marriage does not bring the individual souls to their ends and it does not wipe away their own existences. Our hearts have more than one chamber, and our nights are our own, and are almost as precious as our days. Do you understand that your nights are your own, and your dreams are your own, to do with as you wish?"
"Yes," said Doug, wondering a little about just what that was supposed to mean. They had nighttime lovers, he knew that, but that was Calafans. Surely it would be different with Lili.
"I understand," Lili said, thinking of her own charged dreams, but not wanting anyone in them but Doug. It had been how they had met, a few months previously. Humans had not known, but in the Lafa System, in both universes, both sides of a proverbial pond, the septum between universes was thin, and a crossover was possible. She had dreamt of an unknown lover in the night, and it turned out to be Doug. He was from the mirror, which they hadn't known about. The NX-01 – her ship – and the Defiant – his ship – had been used to generate enough power to bring Doug to Lili's universe. The dark stranger had come to the light permanently, leaving it all behind for the love of the free woman.
"Do you represent the night?" Braewev asked Treve.
"Yes, I represent Lili's night." He didn't have a nighttime woman, not yet, and glanced at her for a second, contemplating the idea but rejecting it. She looked so uncomfortable. He doubted she could sleep much. For that was the nighttime for them – shared dreaming with someone dear.
"Do you represent the night?"
"Yes," Miva said, "I represent Doug's night." She did not look at Doug that way, for she already had her own nighttime partner.
"And the night serves the day, and is subordinate to it, and champions it, and wants only for the day to be at its best," said Braewev.
"I understand," Treve said.
"I also understand," Miva said.
"There are four in our marriages. There are the two, together, in the day, and the two in the night, who share the dreams and desires and bring an escape from everyday worries for the two main ones. Repeat after me," Braewev said.
"Uh, which one of us?" asked Doug.
"Both of you must repeat this together. I will love you all of our days, and support you all of your nights."
"I will love you all of our days, and support you all of your nights." Doug and Lili said together.
"We have rings," Doug said, fishing them out of a pocket.
"Doug, you didn't tell me."
"A surprise," he said, "hope you don't mind."
"Not at all."
They were made of a dull grey metal. His was a plain, tall band, meant to fit close to his finger. Hers had a small decoration, an etched day lily.
"Ah, these are made of callidium," said Braewev. "It's the same material that makes our amplifier dishes, and helps us to focus on our nighttime partnerships. Is there a human tradition where I say something about the rings? We don't have these for our ceremonies."
"Uh, here, I'll say something," Doug said, "Lili, this is not a rush. I have wanted to marry you since, well, pretty much since the second time I was with you. So it's been a few months. I guess, uh, I guess little Jeremiah made me shake a leg. When I met you, I was, I was down to my last chance. I know I'd be dead without you. I know I'd be in a far worse place. But I'm not here because you rescued me. And I'm not even here because you're going to have our baby. I'm here because, because I love you, and because that's forever." He looked deep in her crystal blue eyes as he spoke.
"I've wanted to marry you, too," she said, speaking low, trying to stave off any possible nausea. "When I met you, I was kinda down to my last chance, too. I would have been a spinster forever, I think. And I'm not here because of Jeremiah, not really. And I'm not here because we live together, or because we're here on Lafa II or anything like that. I am here because I love you, and it's forever."
Braewev looked at them. "You are married. I will file the necessary paperwork."
It was a short kiss, meant to not upset a delicate stomach.
"How ya doing, Mrs. Beckett?" Doug asked.
She just smiled at him, and admired her ring.
"I don't understand the last names thing," Miva said, "We don't have them. That's why everyone cares so much 'bout what one's name means. It's all hinged on just the one word. You even have middle names. It boggles the mind!"
"When am I gonna stop having morning sickness?" Lili asked, "Which, uh, lasts all day long, it seems?"
"In maybe a month or so. I've been reading about human pregnancies," Miva said, "On account that I'll need to know what to do in seven months."
"You're an obstetrician and you don't know?" asked Treve.
"It'll be what they call a Cesarean. It's an operation. And then I redo everything I undid a couple of months ago. It's lots of work."
"It's worth it," Lili said. "Hey, I think I have my appetite back. I'm a little sick of the protein shakes I've been drinking for the last several weeks. This half-mirror boy doesn't seem to like it when I try anything else. Do ya?" she asked her own, still more or less flat, belly.
"Something bland," Doug said, "like plain toast, okay?" He made some for her, and got glasses and a small bottle of Champagne out for everyone else.
"A toast," he joked, handing out glasses as Lili held a little plate with the single piece of dry, lightly toasted bread on it, "to my beautiful wife and our son."
"To my handsome husband and our son." She held up the plate as everyone else held up their glasses.
"And to our friends," said Treve, "may your days be beautiful and your nights be magical, forever."
"Here's to forever," they all said together.