Spoilers: "Sandoval's Run"
Author's Notes: This was written as a response to Molly's Challenge on PS to reunite Sandoval and Deedee. It is mostly about them, although other E:FC characters make appearances during the story. Readers will have to forgive me for sticking so much of Sacramento in there; I'm very fond of the place. I think that the event in this story is based upon "Gold Rush Days", which does take place in Old Sacramento. I've moved the (proposed, at the time I wrote the fic) real-life extension of the light rail line from over past Executive Airport to down closer to the Land Park and Greenhaven areas.
The Solemn Dance
by Estirose (Angel Island)
The woman named Christina had not been near a Companion for a few years. This was for a good reason; the woman that Christina had been was supposed to be dead, and she didn't want anybody discovering that she wasn't dead. That would have stained the Companions' memory of their loyal Implant, William Boone, the man that had, along with his friends in the Liberation, faked the death of DeeDee Sandoval. The woman she had once been.
She had no love for the aliens that had taken her Ron away and left her with Companion Protector Sandoval. The ones that had been responsible for taking away her life, first by depriving her of her husband as she had known him, and then causing him to put her in that Institution, drugged to the gills, and then, finally, forcing her to have her death faked. Now she was a single woman, never married. Her history as Christina said that, and she must follow the background she'd been given.
Christina wished she could get out of her obligation as Volunteer Coordinator for this event, but too many people had depended on her by the time that Randy had managed to get the North American Companion to come for the event. Of course, she couldn't explain to Randy that she had once been DeeDee, wife to the Companion Protector of the head of the Taelon Synod. Not without a lot of explaining... and dishonoring Boone's memory.
Her only chance was to lay low and hope that nobody recognized her. At least it was Da'an, and not Zo'or, that was coming to the event. Da'an had had large amounts of staff turn over since she'd 'died'. Maybe she'd get lucky and nobody would remember her.
Unfortunately, she was very much wrong.
* * *
Just as the woman known as Christina had been thinking of her former husband, Companion Protector Ronald Sandoval was remembering the last time he'd been at the particular event that he, Major Kincaid, Zo'or, and Da'an were going to. He and DeeDee had been spending time taking an informal tour of the California wine country during one of his rare vacations, and had ended up in Sacramento, preparing to take a plane out of Sacramento International Airport the next day. It was sheer coincidence that the two of them had come across the History Festival in the historic section of that city, but DeeDee had in short order persuaded him to go to it. He hadn't been expecting to enjoy it, but he had, and he and DeeDee had made plans to visit Sacramento again for the event. Of course, they'd never made it.
Now DeeDee was dead, embraced the Void as the Taelons said. Boone had killed her, but in a way, he was the one responsible. Had he never come into the service of the Companions, he would not have become Implanted, he would have never put her in that Institution, and Boone would have never found reason to kill her for his good and the good of the Companions.
Boone was dead now, like DeeDee was dead. Sandoval knew from first-hand experience what the Motivational Imperative could cause somebody to do. No, he didn't blame Boone for what the other Implant had done. It was the Companions that were guilty of that crime. A crime that he and DeeDee would have their revenge for. He wished that he could tell her that she would be avenged. He wasn't sure if she'd like that very much, but it was something he had to do, something that he'd accomplish with one of the many plans he'd set in motion.
In the meantime, he'd play the part of the loyal Implant, protecting the so-called 'Companions', never letting on what he really thought of them and what they'd done to his life. He'd go to this event like he'd gone to so many events with Da'an and not so many with Zo'or, listen for their instructions, and use the day to remind himself of what he must do. For DeeDee, and for his whole planet.
Major Kincaid brought the shuttle down as gently and gracefully as he ever did, and soon Da'an and Zo'or were getting out of the shuttle. He followed, falling into place as Major Kincaid took up position near his Companion, Da'an. He wasn't too fond of the Major; however, the man was more than competent, and he was living proof that the Companions didn't need Implanted humans, controlled humans, to be their servants.
The event coordinator, Randy Johnston, rushed up to greet the two Companions, though Sandoval could tell that she hadn't been expecting both Da'an and Zo'or. In fact, the invitation had been solely to Da'an; Zo'or had come along when it looked like it would be a good publicity move. The woman was burbling, clearly excited about having two Companions along to her 'little' event, the one that took up the entire Sacramento historic district, and Sandoval took that time to scan the area around him. It wasn't as if he could forget anything the woman said, even if he wasn't paying total attention.
A door in one building opened, the building that the volunteer staff for the event was using, and a brown-haired woman stepped out, made a noise, and hurried back into the building. The door's slam had brought the attention of both Companions, Randy Johnston, and the rest of their entourage. "And that was Christina Barnett, our volunteer coordinator, who seems to be a bit shy right now. Anyway, here's what I have planned...."
Sandoval forced himself to tear his eyes away from the door and pay attention before anybody else noticed; he didn't want to draw attention to himself. But his mind was racing. Take away Christina's beyond-shoulder-length brown hair, give her a frizz of blonde hair, keeping the rest of her looks and the way she moved, and then Christina looked very much like his wife, DeeDee.
But DeeDee was dead. Boone wouldn't have lied. Or had he? Boone was always coming up with unorthodox solutions. Maybe this had been one of them, avoiding killing the woman while removing a distraction for his fellow Implant.
In any case, he'd have to slip away and find Christina Barnett again.
* * *
Christina slipped through the building, the familiar building, until it seemed safe to stop and catch her breath. Even though she didn't have her former husband's enhanced memory, she could remember the scene as if it had happened in slow motion.
She had exited the building to do some conferring with Randy. She'd wanted to do so before their Taelon guest came, for she was afraid that Da'an may have remembered what she looked like, even if none of his staff did. However, she'd been delayed by a minor personnel crisis at the south gate that she'd had to take care of, and by the time she left the building to talk to Randy on her way to the south gate, the delegation had arrived. Only it hadn't been Da'an... Zo'or, head of the Taelon Synod, had apparently decided to come, and wherever he went, her former husband would follow.
At least most of them hadn't been looking her way, except, unfortunately, both protectors. Both Ron and Major Kincaid had seen her, and it was clear that Ron had seen her. A look of surprise had formed on his face as he'd stared, and it took all of her will to stop staring back at him before the rest of the group around Da'an and Zo'or noticed her. She turned around and shut the door, trying to lose whoever might follow her in the twisty backends of the museum.
She tried to remember if she'd seen Lili Marquette in the group, but the sheer surprise of seeing Ron had blanked her on anything else. If Lili was there, maybe by the shuttle or in Da'an's and Zo'or's entourage, then maybe the other woman would help her get away. If not, then she'd find her own way. Ron would surely recognize her and tell his Taelon masters about her.
Fortunately, she might still have the three other identities that Lili had given her. Maybe one of them would still be functional, be something she could slip into, start a new life with. She'd get her stuff together calmly, and then head towards the south gate. They were expecting her, and she could double back to her car. Or maybe it was safer to take public transit? It would be a bit of a walk, but the light rail train came fairly often and the stop was only down at the K Street mall.
Good grief! If she only now had Lili's number, just to call her! But she didn't. She'd have to get out of there on her own. Without help. Her life literally depended on it.
* * *
Sandoval had decided that Randy Johnson was a bore, but she was a bore worthy of attention. The radio that she carried at her hip was constantly reporting the state of the Fair and the constant minor problems that had cropped up. It was his only way of figuring out where DeeDee - Christina - was. She was probably halfway across Sacramento by now.
"Has anyone seen Christina? Over. She was supposed to give us a hand once she fixed the problem at the South Gate. Over."
"She left to get some supplies after she finished with us, over. I think she may have been headed for her car, over. She had the stuff there; maybe she forgot. Over."
Sandoval had wondered at the old-fashioned terminology, for the radios were fairly new, but dismissed it as staff eccentricities. However, he was now paying strict attention to what was going on. Randy picked up her radio. "Howard, if you see her, tell her I'd like to see her, over."
His mind flashed him the security layout of the fair, and he was easily able to find the staff/volunteer parking lot, which was as far from the south entrance as one could get. No doubt Christina had tried to be as inconspicuous as possible before getting to her car.
The chatter on the radio continued on, but there were no more mentions of the missing Christina. Sandoval turned and went over to Major Kincaid. "Major, there is a matter of security that I must attend to."
The Major nodded. "Take all the time you want, Sandoval; I can handle things here."
Sandoval could have sworn there was a flash of understanding in the younger man's eyes, but had no time to deal with it. Perhaps the Major thought that he needed to use the nearest restroom. Very well; Sandoval hoped that he could catch Christina in time. What happened after that, happened. He just wanted her to stay in one place.
He wanted to apologize, make things up for her. He couldn't do that today, but at least if he could get her to stay, and stay out of sight, then he could find his way back. This fair, the same one he and she had been to so long ago, was the perfect place for a new start between them. He passed behind the history museum, sliding between the crowds waiting to pan for gold and by the clearly tired woman signing and handing out certificates, and was soon behind the museum. His heart pounded in his chest as he realized he wasn't too late.
Christina was just entering the parking lot, looking around furtively as she headed towards a car about forty feet away from him. "DeeDee," he breathed, and she must have heard him, for she stopped, frozen. He walked towards her, hoping that she would stop before he would have to stop her.
But she was opening the door and sliding in. His heart racing, he raised Raven up and fired. She collapsed to the ground.
He was at her side in an instant, checking her for injuries. Finding nothing but a few scrapes and scratches, he dragged her into her car, arranging her so that she was sitting back, unconscious, in the driver's seat. He then unlocked her back door, slipping in behind her. He figured that he could keep a better eye on her that way, just in case she had injuries that his quick once-over hadn't caught, and he could hopefully persuade her to listen. It wasn't as if she were going to go anywhere anyway; he had her car keys.
There was no doubt in his mind that this was his wife, DeeDee. If the sheer fact that she looked and moved like the woman he remembered wasn't enough, she had the same peculiar birthmark on her back, the one that had caused her to avoid spaghetti-strapped and low-backed clothing because she thought it was ugly. He'd never persuaded her that it wasn't ugly. Maybe, now that she was back, maybe he'd have the chance to do so again.
Maybe, after his revenge was finished, he could have his wife back again. DeeDee could change her name back to what it had been, and they could remarry. As he watched his wife lay unconscious in the seat and hoped that nobody would come to look for her, he once again thanked Boone for being as unconventional in his solution with DeeDee as he had been in so many matters relating to the Companions. Boone's solutions had frequently exasperated him, rankled his sense of how things should be done for the Companions; DeeDee's 'death' had been one of the few times where the Commander had seemed the typical Implant.
He had to admit, Boone's solution to the DeeDee problem would have probably seemed equally admirable if he'd still been under the control of the motivational imperative. After all, Boone's well-known compassion, even under his motivational imperative, had improved the Companions' image. That he had worked so effectively to better the lives of both DeeDee and himself would have been one more sign in the Companions' favor.
In front of him, DeeDee stirred and gasped. His hand was over her mouth in an instant. "Don't scream," he told her.
* * *
Christina's last memory before she'd been hit was to get away before her former husband found her and killed her. So, when she woke up to find herself alive, she was a little surprised. The moment after she breathed in the blessed air, a hand came from behind. "Don't scream," Ron said, and she froze, wondering how much longer she'd live.
"DeeDee," Ron said in a much gentler tone, "if I remove my hand, will you stay calm and not scream?"
Unable to speak through his hand, she nodded. Shortly thereafter, Ron removed his hand and she dared open her eyes. She was still in the parking lot, in the driver's seat of her car, and her car was still parked where she'd left it. She didn't remember actually getting into the car before Ron had shot that thing at her, but it was possible that her memory was just a little bit hazy. She slowly turned around, hoping he wouldn't shoot her again. "Ron."
Ron's hair was mussed, even more than the last time she'd seen him, when his CVI was dying and taking him along with it. He seemed unsure what to say, finally coming to a decision. "I've missed you, DeeDee. I'm glad Boone didn't really kill you."
"He was a fair and decent man, especially for an Implant," she responded.
He nodded, and then turned serious. "Listen. I don't have much time before Zo'or and the rest start wondering where I've gone. They don't know that I'm free from my imperative, and I don't intend to let them know. You've got to go back to your duties, unless you want your boss to start wondering where you are. I can get your address and meet you at your home tonight or tomorrow."
"You're free?" Christina asked, wondering if it was one big trick.
"I'm free. Forever, unless the Companions realize I have free will again. I'm not their puppet anymore, DeeDee. You have nothing to fear from me."
Christina shook her head, wondering how hard she'd hit it against something. Ron seemed to realize her concerns. "Look, I know you have no reason to trust me. For all you know, this is all some devious game played by the Companions. But I truly love you, DeeDee. I want to be with you when this is all over. You've got to trust me. Please?"
She sighed, knowing she'd never get out of there if she didn't agree. She could always leave tonight or tomorrow. "All right," she said, "I'll go back."
Ron nodded. "And so will I," he said, pulling out a comb.
Da'an, Zo'or, and the rest of the Taelons' entourage were still being led around by the enthusiastic, if boring, Randy. Sandoval slipped back into his place, keeping a watchful eye on threats to his employers, as well as trying to see if anybody had noticed his extended departure. Major Kincaid nodded at him as if he'd indeed only stopped to use the restroom, and he extended the same courtesy to the Major.
As they stopped for Randy to show them yet one more exhibit, Da'an slipped behind Zo'or and Sandoval could see that the Taelon was heading his way. "Agent Sandoval. I trust that your security matter is... resolved?"
Da'an was, of course, rather unreadable. Or rather, he was unreadable if one hadn't known him of a long time, like Sandoval had. But still, Da'an's body language confused him, even with help from his CVI. Had Da'an seen DeeDee? Surely the Taelon would know what DeeDee looked like....
But Da'an and his swirling mixture of concern and courtesy, was soon gone, paying attention to Randy as a good diplomat should. Sandoval tried not to breathe out a sigh of relief. He still had to get past Zo'or and anybody else who could have recognized DeeDee. He had told her to go back to her duties, just put her back in danger again.
This time, he would protect her with his life.
* * *
Christina drifted back into the grounds of Old Sacramento, waved through by the ticket-takers of the east gate, who recognized her instantly. After all, she'd prided herself on knowing as many of her volunteers as possible, and they were no exception. It made her terribly vunerable, though, since everybody knew what she looked like. Not terribly useful for a getaway.
Ron had said to go back, to not arouse suspicion. She knew that she'd have to stay out of the way of his delegation, although that would probably be a good idea anyway. Seeing him would remind her too much of the way he was before, when he'd locked her into that institution.
But he was different now, he'd said, and somehow, she'd trusted him. It was like having her husband back again, with no fear of his death. Yes, there was still danger if she was found, but she didn't intend to let the Taelons see her.
She felt as though she'd been caught up in a wild dance, abducted by the spriggins, going from terror to love back to terror again. Now, would she get her husband back, even for a while? She couldn't have him permanently, she knew that, not while she was a servant of the Taelons. And she did want him back.
Christina had yet to tell her former husband they still danced in her dreams.
* * *
Sandoval waited impatiently for the Taelons to finish their tour of the event so that he could go back to the mothership, stay for a while to allay suspicion, and then find some business which would allow him to depart inconspicuously for where DeeDee lived now. Of course, he'd have to find her first, but that was a simple matter of getting a sample of his wife's DNA and running it against the databases.
Getting off the Mothership would be more difficult, for he rarely left it except on Companion business. He ran through his memory any reasons that he could spare for being out of the sight of the Companions. After all, he'd just gotten DeeDee back; he didn't want to lose her again!
He had to squelch the adrenalin coursing through his system as he replayed his recent rediscovery of his beloved DeeDee. Not a good idea to let the Taelons know that anything exceptional was happening in Sacramento.
Not a good idea to lead them to DeeDee.
Did she want to see him again, or had she just agreed to his plans so that she could get away from him? She had obviously still cared for him when they had been together the last time, but she had also not been overly happy at him that day. Would she forgive him for messing up her life? Or would he go to her place of residence and find that she had already left?
He would only know if he went and found out in person. This was not a mission he could entrust to anyone else; DeeDee would be perceived as a way to get to him. She had to be protected, hidden, until the Companions were gone and he wasn't in the position he currently was in.
Finally, the tour was over and he, Major Kincaid, and the Volunteers were back at the shuttle. He strapped himself in, pretending it had been a visit of no consequence, and let Major Kincaid pilot them back to the Mothership.
* * *
It had been an exhausting day for Christina, who had spent most of it going around and pretending that her encounter with her former husband had never happened. After all, Christina, never married, could never explain why in the world the head of security for Zo'or had developed an interest in her. Still, more than one of her volunteers had had to get her attention after she had become distracted thinking of Ron.
Would she stay? Should she stay? If this was her Ron, her Ron back again permanently, it might not be a good idea to take off, and yet she was fully capable of realizing what her former husband was capable of.
Of course, he had been capable of loving, as well, or she would never have become married to him. The Ron that she had known was a sweet, gentle, if ever plotting man with a passion towards music, art, and dancing. If it weren't for them meeting up at the dance floor, both without partners, she never would have met Ron.
She never would have been involved with Ron, never been forced into that institution. Never been given this life. If somebody had asked her before that afternoon if she had been satisfied with the life she led, she would have said yes, but that was before Ron had made it clear that he wanted her to be part of her life again.
In a way, she could forgive him for shooting her in the parking lot. She'd been so blinded by fear of what her former husband had become that she hadn't thought of the possibility that he could be changed.
Leaning back in her chair, she wondered if she should neaten up the place, just in case Ron came. With Ron taken away from her, and with her incarceration, she had become somewhat sloppy. Well, what did she expect when the passion of her life had been taken away? For Ron had been her passion, her reason for living, before the Taelons had come.
The doorbell rang, and Christina's heart leapt. Had he found her? Could he get away? Would he really be the Ron that she knew?
For her heart, she hoped so.
* * *
Zo'or had been in a smug mood when he'd gone up to the ship, and he'd been distracted enough that Sandoval had been allowed time of his own, instead of hanging around the bridge. In the name of Companion business, he'd been able to sneak a scan of a strand of DeeDee's hair that she'd put behind her picture in a picture frame so long ago.
The information confirmed that she was, indeed, Christina Barnett, a resident of Sacramento. He quickly digested the rest of the information the report offered, and then strode out of his office. He was out on business for Zo'or often enough that nobody would think it suspicious that he would request an unscheduled shuttle flight.
Leaving the office, he nearly bumped into Major Kincaid, who had apparently been taking care of some business of his own on the Mothership. "Going back to Earth, Sandoval?"
The younger man's tone irritated Sandoval, but he did his best to cover it up. "Yes, Major."
Major Kincaid's face broke out in a smile. "So am I. Do you want a ride?"
Sandoval took a second to consider that. Major Kincaid was not his first choice of pilots, but he was going in the right direction at the right time, and Captain Marquette wasn't there anyway. "Yes, Major."
Still grinning, the Major led him to the shuttle bay, skillfully transporting him to the North American Embassy. Sandoval was relieved when the Major loped off to do his paperwork, telling the younger man that he was going to go home for the day. His fellow Protector just smiled again and wished him a good night.
Once the Major was gone, Sandoval quickly hailed a cab to his apartment, making a short visit there to pick up some stuff. This was not the first time he had had to be inconspicuous, and he needed to be as inconspicuous as possible. After he was done, he headed to the Washington, D.C. portal and got a ticket for a transit to Sacramento. The small device he wore would prevent the Taelons from knowing he ever took the trip.
The transit to Sacramento was short and, as usual, uneventful. He walked out of the specially-built transit building in downtown Sacramento, knowing from his study of the local map that her home, the half of a duplex that she rented, was only a few blocks away from a stop on the Greenhaven route. The train arrived in short order, took him to the station, and it was only a few pleasant blocks to her home.
Steeling himself, he rang the doorbell, praying that she was still there.
She sat there for a moment, frozen, and then literally leapt up from her chair, trying to not look like she'd just spent the last half an hour trying to think of what to say to Ron if and when he came. It scared her to think that she could just blindly accept Ron's word that he was free, even though a part of her insisted that she had gone through the day at the History Festival without being arrested, a fact in Ron's favor. If he'd intended for her to get arrested, he would have arrested her.
On the other hand, maybe he didn't agree with what Boone had done, even though it had been an effective solution to the 'distraction' she had apparently been to him under his implant. Maybe he intended to kill her in a form that would attract no suspicion. He was capable of that, after all, if it suited his Taelon masters.
Stop it! she berated herself mentally. She'd decided to trust him, after all. This had to be Ron. This would be Ron. If it wasn't Ron, her Ron, if he didn't come, then her heart would break.
* * *
Ronald Sandoval stood on the porch of the duplex, wondering if DeeDee had already packed and left. If so, he wouldn't blame her. So much deception, so many lies! And then the Taelons taking him over and warping his perceptions towards her. No, he wouldn't blame her at all if she'd taken her chance to run away from him and the danger he posed. He would have richly deserved it.
DeeDee was the symbol of so much of what the Taelons hid and deserved to be punished for. They had ruined her life in the effort to control him, just like they were planning on doing to humanity. In some ways, DeeDee and others like her were a small microcosm of what had happened, was happening, and would happen to humanity if somebody didn't stop them.
The door squeaked open and Sandoval managed to calm his raging heartbeat as DeeDee's face cautiously appeared in the opening between the doorframe and the door. She gave him a tentative, almost timid nod, and Sandoval almost didn't control his expression, knowing that the reason she was acting this was because of what he'd done to her. He'd never abused her, never hurt her, not before the Taelons had come. Now she was like a frightened mouse, and it was all his fault. She opened the door as if she expected him to attack her at any moment.
"DeeDee," he breathed. "Don't be afraid." But it was clear that she didn't believe him. And why should she?
But she still closed the door behind him. "I'm afraid I didn't make us anything to drink. Or anything to eat."
"It's okay," he told her. "DeeDee... you don't have to do anything special for me. Seeing you here, safe, is all that matters. Nothing else is important."
* * *
Christina looked over at her former husband, wishing that she could believe him. True, she was happy to see her husband back to his former self again, the self that she had fallen in love with; however, she personally knew how he'd changed, both after his initial implantation and in his second implantation. He could change very easily again if the Taelons caught them. "Are you sure it's safe for you to be here?" she asked, standing by the door and wondering if running might not be a bad idea.
Ron's face was schooled, in the same way it always was when he had bad news to impart. Her heart beat heavily at his expression, for it never meant anything good. Had he come here to warn her because the Taelons' goons were coming to reimplant him and get rid of her for good? "I'm sure," he responded, slipping a firm mask over whatever he felt. "The Taelons and their personnel think I stopped at my apartment for the night; for that matter, I took precautions to make sure nobody knew I would be coming here. You're safe, DeeDee. Nobody followed me."
"You sure?" she asked, knowing Ron would probably hate having his knowledge questioned but still not quite sure that the Taelons were nearly as dumb as Ron apparently thought they were. Of course, they had failed to detect William Boone's true ties as a Liberation operative, so they were probably a bit blind when it came to their implants. Still, didn't they think to test those stupid imperatives that they put into their supposedly loyal subjects?
In response, he took her hand as if he was going to lead her onto the dance floor, but instead led her to where her couch was and sitting her down on it. "I came by Portal with a false ID and a device to mask my DNA," he explained patient, and Christina felt instantly like a child in a schoolroom. "Nobody would expect me to do that, because I have no reason to do so. Why would I need to mask my DNA from the Taelons, after all?"
"You've got a point," Christina conceded. "I... I'm glad you came. How long have you been... like this?"
Ron shrugged. "A few months," he responded. He turned and studied her as if he couldn't recall every detail, and Christina was instantly afraid again. What if his new CVI, the one she'd seen implanted, only had lasted him a year and a half? What if the CVI's effective lifespan got shorter and shorter the more they were implanted, like how the effectiveness of some drugs was shorter because the body developed a resistance to them?
"Ron, are you okay? Is it... is your CVI breaking down again?"
Her former husband shook his head. "No. Just the part of it that the Taelons used to control me. They can't hold us under their wills forever, actually, no matter how strong they make the CVI. I've been free for a few months now, but the Taelons don't know that, and I don't intend to let them know. It makes certain things easier."
"Certain things?" she repeated. But he didn't answer, like he sometimes never had even before the Taelons had come to Earth.
He did respond, finally, but not to answer her semi-question. He was twisting his wedding ring around on his finger. "DeeDee, I have one question for you: do you want me back?"
* * *
Sandoval studied his wife as her gaze rested on his hands. "I... I...."
She lapsed into silence, and he couldn't guess what she was thinking or what she'd been about to say. "I really want to know. After everything I've done to you since the Companions recruited me, I wouldn't blame you for wanting to walk away."
"And then you were willing to sacrifice yourself so that the Liberation would keep me safe," DeeDee responded with a hind of the woman he'd fallen in love with.
"I'm just glad that it was Boone and not truly the Liberation," he told her. "I'm so glad that I'm here now to see you once again. As I told you the last time, I know what I've lost, and I know what I've done. I'm sorry."
He watched her carefully, trying to judge if she still felt like he deserved her forgiveness. She gave him a small smile. "I read somewhere that forgiveness is more for the one that is to be forgiven than the one that has to forgive."
"I know," he responded. "And it means a lot to me."
"Then," she told him, "I forgive you."
She lapsed into silence, studying her own hands in a way which, once upon a time, meant that she was pondering what to serve a guest to their mutual household. He wondered himself if he should tell her about the late Siobhan Beckett's attraction to him. He hadn't encouraged it, but it had been there. Idly, he wondered if Siobhan Beckett wasn't still running around. After all, DeeDee had come to him from the supposedly dead. "I know I can't stay with you, not while the Taelons think you're dead and I'm under control. But I've made it my work to make sure that the Taelons don't continue to do what they did to us."
There. He'd let her know what he was up to. Now it was up to her to approve. However, she just got up. "I think I need something to drink... and eat, I've been running around on not enough food all day. Do you need... want something?" she was looking at Raven, slightly visible under his sleeve.
"Yes, please," he responded, feeling suddenly like he was on his first date with her. He was no doubt responding to her body language. She disappeared into what must be the duplex's kitchen, leaving him to wonder if she was ever going to answer his original question. She hadn't given him any indication that she would be willing, although the fact that she hadn't run was a good indication that she was at least willing to consider the possibility of getting back together after this was all over.
He hadn't even realized that she could have taken the chance to run while he was sitting there mulling over things like an idiot, but DeeDee was back before he'd gotten up, bringing him a cup of his favorite blend of coffee. With amusement, he saw and smelled that she had chosen her imported black currant drink. There must be some import store that she'd gotten both at; they had always bought both his coffee and her Ribena at the same import store. Between the two was a small selection of foods that she must keep around for guests. She must be in a nibbling mood, he thought. "I didn't know you liked the coffee."
"I still don't," she told him. "I guess I bought it... because it reminded me of you."
This time, he didn't bother to hide his smile. "Thank you."
She smiled back at him. "I didn't think I'd see you again... you you, anyway, but I couldn't resist a few reminders of how things were before everything changed. The coffee, some of our favorite pictures... I even found a duplicate of your favorite tie. I guess that it was just a faint hope that something might happen someday and I'd get you back."
"And now I am... for a little while anyway."
DeeDee sighed. "I know. I suppose you have to go back?"
"Soon, before they start wondering."
Her shoulders slumped, and he was unable to resist sliding an arm around her shoulders. "I have some time DeeDee, before they miss me."
She looked up at him. "Then will you do something for... something with me?"
Sandoval looked into his wife's eyes, seeing a spark, a continuing sign of the life that had been in her before the institution. "Anything."
"Will you dance with me?"
* * *
Christina looked at her former husband, holding her breath. This was the one question that would prove if this was her Ron, or just a clever forgery of the emotions and feelings of the man that she had once known.
"Always," he responded. "But we don't have enough room."
She was unable to stop the giggle that erupted. She couldn't help it... somehow, from the very earliest days of their acquaintance, they were always scrambling to make room to dance. Not easy for an English major and a law student living in an apartment with limited room. "If we move the furniture out of the way, we will."
And so began the time-honored ritual of moving the furniture around to create a dance floor. When they'd finally wrangled the furniture around to allow them enough space, she set the player up with a selection of what had been their favorite music for dancing. Always the slow stuff. They'd both enjoyed the slower dances, the more solemn ones, over the rapid hip-grinding ones of their college days.
Then Ron took her in his arms, and the dance began, taking her away from the reality of Christina and back to the idealistic days of the young law student and the young English major.
* * *
If Sandoval hadn't known better, he would have said that he and DeeDee had danced for hours in the little space in her living room. However, her clock indicated it had been a far shorter time. The last of their favorite songs wound down as his wife looked up at him with her big, bright eyes, and he gently guided her off the floor, looking for someplace to sit down together with her.
He looked over to find that she was smiling wryly, already moving towards the coffee table in a clear plan to move it away from the couch. He joined her in the move, and, moments later, they were both securely ensconced back on the couch.
"I missed that," she said, almost sleepily.
"So did I," he responded.
"Oh, heaven, I get you back for one day and I want you back forever, except I can't have you!" DeeDee exclaimed. "I'm dead, and you're... you're still stuck."
"I am," he agreed. "But it's not forever, DeeDee. Someday it will be safe for us to be together again, I promise you that."
She shook her head, and Sandoval wondered what he'd said wrong, but she was still smiling. "It's strange to be called DeeDee again. When I was... when Boone took me out of your life, I resigned myself to never being called by my true name again."
"To me," he said carefully, "you will always be DeeDee, whether you call yourself Christina, or Molly, or whatever name Boone would have given you. You are my wife, after all."
"I am?" DeeDee asked, presumably at that last statement. Of course, there were several ways of seeing it, and only one way that he wanted to see it.
"Until death do us part," he responded. "I thought you were dead. But you aren't, and I'm not. I don't think that the legal authorities would see it this way, but to my mind, we are married, and you are my wife."
She smiled at that. "I never thought of it that way. But I guess in a way, you're right. It's too bad that we can't announce it to the world...."
"It's enough that we know," Sandoval told her, moving to prevent her from prematurely announcing it to the world and endangering herself. "Until it is safe to tell."
DeeDee nodded. "I can't wait for that day," she told him. Then she smiled in a wicked way. "In the meantime, I'm a little bit tired. Why don't we take care of some other things we missed out upon?"
It was her turn to get up and offer her hand, and he didn't hesitate for a moment.
* * *
Christina woke up to a global beeping and remembered after a moment that it was safe to be DeeDee, at least here. She handed Ron his global from the bedside table, wondering who was calling at three in the morning. Ron opened his global, not to answer a call, but to press some buttons on it. "I have to get going," he said calmly, his face reasserting itself into 'implant mode'. "I don't want Zo'or to get suspicious."
She watched as he put his underwear, pants, shirt, and shoes back on. His hair was still mussed from his not combing it this morning. "You want a ride?" she asked. "It'll be a faster ride, and besides, the portal building gets really busy around 5:30 in the morning from the commuters."
Her husband studied her for a moment. "I'd like that," he admitted, and she obligingly slid out of bed to get her own clothes on.
After a quick breakfast, she reluctantly got her car keys and escorted Ron to her car, letting him get in before getting into the driver's side. As they were driving towards downtown, he had a question for her. "DeeDee, did anybody else see you when you darted in the door after you saw me?"
She frowned at the question, out of the blue as it was, but she could tell her husband was rapidly making plans, probably for getting back here to be with her. She scanned her memory. "A few of them. I remember seeing Da'an's protector, but I was a little frightened and I don't remember anyone else. I don't think the guy recognized me anyway."
"Probably not," Ron replied, but further conversation did not come as he lapsed into silence. They drove into the parking garage near the Portal terminal, and got out. Coming around to her side of the car, he embraced her briefly. "I think it's better if we say goodbye here."
"Temporarily, I hope?" Christina responded, reminding herself that she was Christina again.
"Of course," Ron responded, his voice already remote. He spared her a smile. "I will always find my way back to you."
With that, he broke off the embrace and strode off towards the exit. Christina sat down in the car for a few minutes before driving off to resume her life again.
* * *
Ronald Sandoval took the steps towards masking himself again before stepping out of the garage and walking the block towards the portal terminal. As he promised DeeDee, he'd be back. If only she knew how much it hurt him to have to leave and go back to his job....
But there was no worrying about that now. He had plans to take care of, plans that he'd neglected during this weekend to take care of his DeeDee. The Taelons had to be stopped, and if he neglected his plans, he'd never get rid of them. And he and DeeDee, as a consequence, would never be together again.
Major Kincaid could pose a problem. Fortunately, the Major had never been implanted, and so his memory wasn't perfect, and as far as Sandoval knew, Kincaid had never seen DeeDee before. That didn't mean that he wasn't a danger to her.
Pretending he was just yet another commuter taking the daily portal from Sacramento to Washington and back, Sandoval purchased a ticket through one of his spare accounts and was rapidly transited back to Washington where he made his way to his car, back to his apartment, and changed his clothes.
Then he went back to the embassy, back to the shallow life he'd been leading, and prepared to live with himself for another day. Of course, now he lived for DeeDee. He had even more reason to get rid of the Taelons.
Major Kincaid was waiting to take him up to the mothership.
* * *
One and a half months later, Christina Barnett walked into her rented duplex in a half-daze, trying to comprehend the news that her doctor had given her. They'd only had one night together, just one night after trying for years, and yet it had happened. Of course, that one Sunday was a miracle anyway, so she shouldn't be so surprised.
In the last month and a half, various and sundry packages had been arriving from Washington, and she'd found herself surrounded by many items she'd thought lost after she'd been put into the institution and then presumed dead. She was grateful to Ron for sending them to her, though she steadfastly wished that he'd come instead.
Well, he'd have to come someday. And when he came, she had big news for him.