Tuesday, November 17, 2020

"Every New Beginning"

By Christina Moore
____


Starbase Echo 
Echo Park Residential Quarters, Unit A3 
3 days before full operational status…


Jordan Kelley watched as his new lover, Trevor Whitehorse, pulled his shirt over his head and straightened the collar. A memory from three months ago came to his mind unbidden, and he chuckled. 

“What are you laughing at?” Trevor asked, looking back at him from the bathroom. 

“I don’t know what made me think of it, but I was just recalling Dilik’s reaction the first time he saw you in the right uniform color.” 

Command Master Chief Dilik Zram, a Bolian who had dedicated his life to serve the Federation in the enlisted ranks of Starfleet’s Security division, had taken one look at Whitehorse the first time he had appeared in his Marine green, snorted, and quipped, “Shoulda known you were a fuckin’ jarhead.” 

Whitehorse shook his head and grinned. “He still likes me, in spite of my ‘defection’.” 

Kelley scoffed. “If believing that lie helps you sleep at night, go right ahead and keep dreaming. You know as well as I do that he doesn’t like anyone who never wore Starfleet gold.” 

“True enough,” replied Whitehorse, though he still wore a smirk as he sauntered back to the bed and sat next to Kelley, who perched on the end of it. “Thank you, Jordan, for last night.” 

“Whatever for?” 

Though Whitehorse’s eyes were Betazoid black (he had been adopted, along with a sister, by a human couple after the deaths of his parents), they seemed to Kelley to show a flash of vulnerability—something the brash, arrogant soldier would be mortified to know he’d let slip. 

“Thank you for letting me stay,” his companion said. “I know I’ve been rather aggressive in my pursuit of you, which could have turned your mind against me rather than in favor of me. I’m more likely to piss people off than recommend myself with my particular brand of bluntness, but… I’m glad that didn’t happen with you, especially in light of your recent disappointment.” 

Kelley shrugged, and tried not to dwell on precisely why his almost relationship with Rogan Enek had failed before it began. “It’s been five months since that happened, and as you said, you were very aggressive. Maybe that’s just what I needed.” 

It wasn’t as if the other man had made a secret of his instant attraction to Kelley; almost from the moment he’d stepped foot onto Sanctuary’s Cardassian-manufactured deck plates, he’d flirted with him in an annoying, almost outrageous fashion. And throughout the three-months-long journey to the new Federation starbase in orbit of Regulus 8, he had continued that pursuit. Kelley had finally broken down and agreed to one date. 

He hadn’t expected to be so at ease by the end of the evening that he would not only invite Whitehorse into his house, but also into his bed. He hadn’t had a serious relationship since his academy days, and having screwed things up with Rogan, had figured it simply wasn’t in the cards for him to be with any one man long term. 

Chance still existed that Whitehorse’s unusual assignment as Captain Natale’s bodyguard would be rescinded and he reassigned elsewhere. So Kelley had decided it was best not to give in to his persistent flirting, no matter how attracted to him he was. 

Except he had given in, and hoped in secret he wasn’t making a huge mistake. 

“You’re not making a mistake,” Whitehorse said then. 

Kelley frowned. “Stop that. You’re not on duty, and you know I hate having my private thoughts invaded.” 

Whitehorse turned to face him more fully. “Hey, I gave you my word I would not read your mind without permission. And I haven’t since I made that vow all of about twelve hours ago. But it wasn’t hard to figure out what you were thinking just now, given you told me your history with men has been…problematic.” 

Kelley sighed. “Sorry. I guess I’m still getting used to the idea of maybe having a boyfriend.” 

Whitehorse flashed one of his trademark grins. “Oh, there is no ‘maybe’ about it, baby. We’re an item, you and me. I can’t wait to tell everybody how I finally won you over with my infectious charm.” 

He couldn’t keep a straight face at that declaration. Kelley laughed and pushed at Whitehorse’s shoulder. “You are so full of shit.” 

Whitehorse reached over and grabbed Kelley’s head in his hands, and stared into his eyes intently as he said in a low voice, “I’d rather be full of you.” 

Desire shot a lightning bolt to his loins. Whether because he was Betazoid or he’d had more men than Kelley over the years, Trevor Whitehorse was a bold, adventurous lover. When Kelley had impulsively kissed him as he prepared to leave the night before, the other man had returned the kiss with an intensity that told him he would not be leaving until he was fully satisfied. And somehow, he hadn’t minded being almost commanded to the bed, where the control had been entirely in the hands of someone other than himself. It had long been his custom to be in charge, to engage in no-strings encounters, but to just take instead of give… 

It had felt so liberating

With an effort of no little force, Kelley tamped down his lust. “I would rather the same, but you’re on duty in fifteen minutes, and you still need to get to your place and change.” 

Whitehorse quirked an eyebrow. “Killjoy.” 

Before Kelley could reply to that, he found his lips crushed beneath Whitehorse’s own, their tongues tangling together in an almost desperate dance. Neither man breathed evenly when they at last separated. 

“I really better go,” said Whitehorse. 

Kelley nodded mutely. With one last brush of the lips, the Betazoid departed. Kelley dropped back onto the bed with a groan, though not half a second later he was grinning. Last night had been spectacular, and he was fairly certain that he would spend the whole of his day off smiling like a fool. 

That is, if it weren’t for the fact that he had calls to make. He was long overdue in fulfilling his duties as a son, brother, and uncle. But even as he rose from the bed with another groan and headed for the bathroom to shower and dress properly, he knew his family would understand. 

<> 

Starbase Echo 
Captain’s Office 


“Okay, jarhead, spill.” 

Whitehorse quirked an eyebrow at the question, spoken by the reason he—a Federation Marine—was working on a starbase and not out pounding ground on some backwater planet with the rest of his unit. Captain Synnove Natale mirrored the gesture, then reached with one hand toward the steaming mug of tea on her desk while rubbing the now-visible roundness of her 5-months-pregnant belly. They’d just finished going over her schedule for the day. 

“Spill what, Captain?” Whitehorse countered. 

Natale set the tea back down after taking a drink. “Don’t play coy with me. You’ve been grinning like a Yorkshire cat whenever you think I’m not looking.” 

“I think you mean Cheshire cat,” he replied nonchalantly as he turned off the PADD he held. 

She waved a hand dismissively. “Whatever. You’re evading the question.” 

“You didn’t ask a question.” 

Natale growled. “Will you just tell me what’s got you so jolly this morning? Your contentedness is making me uneasy.” 

Whitehorse looked up at that remark. “Curious, Captain, that my being happy would make you uneasy.” 

“Oh, come on. You know what I mean—it’s not like you to be so genuinely at ease. You’re always wound up tighter than a Caitian’s tail during their first Season. But today you’re…chill. It’s not you.” 

With a sigh, Whitehorse crossed his legs, and though it was a mild violation of protocol (since there was no reason to suspect danger to the captain’s person), he reached out with his psionic abilities and read her surface thoughts. 

Last night was the night—he and Jordan went out on their date. Must’ve gone well, if that satisfied smirk is any indication. Oh man, did they do it? Nah, couldn’t have. Jordan wouldn’t have. He’s fought his attraction to the smartass for too long to just do it on the first date

Fighting a wider grin, the Betazoid simply said, “I had a date last night, Captain, and it went very well. I would apologize for the happiness I feel at the success of the event disturbing you if I felt sorry in the least, but I don’t think you’d appreciate being lied to.” 

Natale laughed. “And there’s the arrogant little shit I’ve come to know,” she returned. “The truth is, I’m just not used to seeing you so relaxed—I honestly didn’t think it was in your nature to relax, like you’d completely forgotten how to or didn’t even know the meaning of the word. On the other hand, Colonel, I am glad that you and Jordan had a good time together.” 

“We did indeed,” Whitehorse replied, his mind briefly flashing back to the night of passion he and Jordan had shared. “I know that when we first met, you believed me only toying with him to amuse myself. And maybe that was my motivation at the time, but…” 

He drew a breath, held it for five seconds, then huffed it out. “But despite the idle designs with which I began, my attraction to Jordan has become something more than physical. Something much more.” 

Natale smiled. “I’m glad to hear it. I will also do you the justice of acknowledging, as I may have denied at the time, that I don’t have any right to interfere in the personal affairs of my crew—we’re all consenting adults here. It’s just that Jordan has become a really good friend to me, and it’s been hard to see his misery at missing out on a love life; I know he’s been wanting something real but been afraid to go after it. He came close with Rogan Enek, but got thrown an unexpected curveball. It’ll be good to see him happy for a change—he’s been due some happiness for a long time.” 

“Indeed he has, and so long as it is in my power to keep him happy, I will do so,” replied Whitehorse with a nod. 

Their tête-à-tête was interrupted by the chirping of Whitehorse’s commbadge, followed by, “Ops to Colonel Whitehorse.” 

He slapped his badge to respond. “Whitehorse here, go ahead Ops.” 

Sir, we’ve just received a transmission from the U.S.S. Ojai. They have a passenger requesting your presence at Dorsal 3 when they arrive.” 

Whitehorse frowned. “Did the passenger who made this request give their name?” 

No name, Colonel, but there is a message. It says, ‘Prepare to be on screen.’ You’re supposed to know what that means, sir, according to the transmission we received.” 

Being a master of the poker face, he was able to keep his expression neutral while at the same time feeling an overwhelming sense of dread course through him. Damn her, he thought. She was supposed to have given him a hell of a lot more warning. 

“Acknowledged, Ops. ETA of the Ojai?” 

There was a moment’s wait, and then the reply came. “Ojai is scheduled to dock at Dorsal Pylon 3 in precisely thirty minutes, Colonel.” 

“Thank you, Ops. Whitehorse out.” He slapped his badge again to cut the channel, then released a frustrated groan. 

“Do you know this person who wants you to meet them?” Natale asked. 

“I do. Unfortunately, their arrival means I am going to have to shirk my duties, at least for an hour or so, if it’s not too inconvenient, Captain.” 

The Orion shrugged. “I don’t see any problem, Colonel. I’m not planning to go anywhere anytime soon, but if it will make you feel any better, contact Security and have Zram send one of his officers up here to stand guard. Then go take care of what is obviously some kind of personal business.” 

“Obviously?” 

She flashed a grin. “Trevor, I may not know you very well, but four months is long enough for me to have an idea of when something is bothering you. You were happier than a Bolian at a buffet until you heard that message. Sounds like personal business to me. Go deal with it, so you can finish your shift and go back to making Jordan happy.” 

Though he offered a smile as he rose, Trevor Whitehorse had the very distinct impression that Jordan was going to be anything but happy by the day’s end. 

<> 

The first thing Whitehorse did after departing Natale’s office was to head for his own on the second level. It was his hope—though he acknowledged it likely to be in vain—that he could convince Tiessi not to disembark onto the station. If he could convince her to stay on the Ojai, Jordan would never have to know she had been there. 

Nearly ten of the thirty minutes had passed before he was able to reach Tiessi, having to wait for the Communications officer in Ops to contact the California-class Ojai and then the comms officer on the Ojai to get his unwanted visitor on the line. When her face finally appeared on the screen, he immediately began to berate her. 

“Just what the hell do you think you’re doing?” he demanded. “If you come here, you will ruin everything!” 

Tiessi’s expression was sorrowful, but determined. “I’m sorry, Trev, but I don’t have a choice. My boss has assigned me to cover the opening ceremony there.” 

Starbase Echo, the Federation’s second Unity-class starbase, was three days from going fully operational. A whole slew of media outlets had already arrived on the station to record videos and conduct interviews—Captain Natale had two scheduled for that afternoon. 

“They couldn’t get anyone else? You can’t ask someone else to cover the opening for you?” 

She shook her head. “I tried, for your sake, and failed. They’d have sent someone else before now, but all our people in the nearby sectors are too far away to get there in time. GBC almost missed an opportunity to send anyone, considering I was covering a story on Kenda II, but we finished up ahead of schedule.” 

Tiessi sighed. “I am sorry, Trevor,” she said. “But you and I both know that his finding out was inevitable. I should have told him the moment I found out, but you’d already met him and fallen in love, and I waited to see if he would open his heart to you.” 

Whitehorse scoffed bitterly. “And what the hell makes you think I’m in love with him?” 

A sad smile lifted the corners of her lips, and a knowing expression entered her black eyes. “You’re my big brother, Trevor. I know you better than anyone. You may act like an arrogant jackass, but I know that underneath all that bluster, there’s a soft heart and a tender soul. You and Jordan have both suffered badly broken hearts, and though he and I obviously didn’t spend a lot of time getting to know one another, from what I’ve been able to find out about him, I just had a feeling you’d do well together. Maybe even heal each other.” 

“And we could! You’re right, I do love him. More than I thought it even remotely possible after only four months,” he replied. “But Jordan’s nowhere near on the same level. I just last night got him to go out with me.” 

“And you made love?” 

Whitehorse’s jaw dropped. Tiessi laughed, then said, “Remember, brother, I know you—” 

“—better than anyone,” Whitehorse finished for her. He loosed a sigh of his own. “Shit… SHIT!” 

He pounded a fist on the desk as he spoke. “I can’t believe this is happening. Right when I actually fucking find someone who calms my storm…” 

“Trevor, please… This is not entirely your fault. I should have told Jordan months ago that I—” 

“And I should have told him the day I met him that you were my sister. But damn it, I was so instantly attracted to him, I was afraid to ruin what we might have before it started. I figured there was no damn way he’d want to get involved with the brother of the woman who—” 

“—who ruined his chances with the first man he let himself care about in years,” Tiessi said, this time finishing his thought. “But like I said, we both know this had to happen sooner or later. And considering what I have to tell him, Jordan’s far likelier to forgive you before he forgives me.” 

<> 

After making and returning about half a dozen calls, Kelley headed out for the market level. He was positively starving! A big breakfast, after burning so much pent-up sexual energy the night before, had left him feeling famished. There were so many places to eat on what many of the staff were already calling “restaurant row”, he wasn’t sure where to go. Echo’s market level was already bustling with activity, and they weren’t even officially operational yet. But many of the businesses were already open for the convenience of the station crew and their families, and there were already hundreds of reporters milling about, as well as crew from the starships docking to drop of more of the same. 

After a few minutes of wandering, it suddenly came to him that Nadia Lawton had opened another restaurant on the station. He’d enjoyed her style of cuisine more than once, especially once she’d opened up a place on Sanctuary—a station deep in Cardassian space, of all places. Kelley headed there with lightness in his step and a grin on his face, thinking he should take Trevor there on their next date. 

He stopped short on approaching the restaurant when he saw at one of the outer tables his new lover and a dark-haired woman. Trevor appeared to be having an intense conversation with her, his hands waving about emphatically. His companion, of whom Kelley could only see from behind, was doing much the same. Strangely, however, he could not hear their voices, and deduced that they must be communicating telepathically. 

Curiosity at last got his feet to moving again, though he approached slowly. He was but ten or fifteen feet away when at last Trevor noticed him. The other man’s countenance drained of color and a startled, almost fearful expression settled onto his features. Kelley frowned, concern flooding through him along with a heavy dose of confusion. 

Why would he be so unhappy to see me all of a sudden? he wondered. 

Kelley continued forward; Whitehorse stood, and swallowed heavily. “Jordan, I…” He cleared his throat. “This… this is my sister.” 

The woman slid her chair back and stood, turning slowly to face him. And Kelley felt the blood drain from his own face as he found himself looking upon one he never thought he would see again. 

“Hello, Jordan,” Tiessi said softly as she lifted her hands to rest atop her protruding belly. 

Pregnant. Holyfrakkingshit she’s pregnant, Kelley thought, his heartbeat increasing to a frantic pace. 

He looked between brother and sister, becoming suddenly acutely aware of the similarities between them. He looked again and again to Tiessi’s middle, knowing in his heart, without having to ask, that the child she carried was his. 

“You’re right about that,” Tiessi said. “I beg your forgiveness for prying into your thoughts, but I wanted to make it clear that there’s no doubt on that score.” 

“I… I…” Kelley swallowed. “I’m going to be a father.” 

“You are. We’re having a daughter in five months,” she told him. 

A girl. She’s going to have a baby girl… My baby girl

His eyes flew then to Trevor. “You knew about this, didn’t you? Why the frak didn’t you tell me?! For that frelling matter, why didn’t you tell me she was your sister? I told you what happened, how it screwed up my relationship with Rogan! I know for damn sure I told you her name, and you never said a word about her being your sister! How could you do this to me?” 

Trevor stepped around the bistro table. “Jordan, please let me explain—” 

“Explain what, exactly?” Kelley retorted, anger steadily eroding the hurt. “How you’ve been lying to me for the last four months?!” 

“I never lied to you—” 

Kelley scoffed. “You didn’t tell me the whole truth, either. And my granddad always told me that not telling the whole truth was still not telling the truth. In other words, a lie by omission is still a lie.” 

He turned his furious gaze onto Tiessi, took in the gentle swell of her stomach that was about the same size as his captain’s; he saw the expression of sorrow on her face and felt his anger lessen a fraction…but just a fraction. 

“And you,” he said to her. “How come I’m just now learning you’re having my baby? Clearly you knew months ago—why the hell didn’t you tell me?” 

“Jordan, please,” she pleaded softly. “Can we go somewhere more private and talk about this? People are beginning to stare.” 

“Why should that bother you? You’re a news reporter—aren’t you used to people staring at you?” 

Tiessi drew a breath. “I understand that you are angry and hurt, and you have every right to be. But this is not the place to have a discussion that is admittedly long overdue.” 

Kelley took a step back even as he threw up his hands in surrender. “Whatever you say, Miss Whitehorse. But I’m not going anywhere with him.” He jabbed a finger over her shoulder at Trevor. “You want to talk, we do it alone.” 

He did not wait for a response, did not feel in the slightest affected by the pained expression that came over her brother’s face. Kelley merely turned about and walked back in the direction he had come. Moments later, Tiessi was beside him, her hands cradling her belly. They walked in silence for several feet before he noticed her lifting one hand to her temple and rubbing it. 

“Tell him to shut the hell up,” he muttered angrily. 

“It’s not Trevor bothering me,” Tiessi replied. “I’m getting a headache. I’ve been getting them more frequently since that night.” 

Kelley paused in mid-stride and turned to her. “Being pregnant is giving you headaches?” 

She nodded as she stopped beside him. “It’s quite common in many species for the additional hormones produced to elevate a pregnant person’s blood pressure, thus leading to headaches. And even if not, meeting you again would have no doubt given me one.” 

He snorted and continued on. “Well, excuse the hell out of me for being such a frakking pain in the ass.” 

“Now come on, I meant nothing of the kind,” she protested. “I never meant for you to find out about the baby in such a painful way, Jordan. I hope you believe that. I’ve been kicking myself for not telling you from the moment I found out, but…” 

“But what?” 

Tiessi sighed. “But there as Trevor to consider, as well as me and you. Before I even knew I was pregnant, I told my brother that I had met someone that I thought would be perfect for him.” 

Kelley snorted again. Tiessi looked up at him with a slight smile. “It’s true! I do think you’re perfect for him—for each other. You have a lot in common, Jordan, you and Trevor. You see, out of curiosity, I looked you up after I left that morning. I wanted to know about the man whose life I knew I had likely messed up—part of me, I think, had hope of making things right somehow. Not that I had any idea how, but it was a thought. Except the more I read about you—what little about you and your career that’s publicly accessible—I began to think that you were just the kind of guy my brother likes. So I told him about you. Not that we’d slept together after drinking a cocktail with triglobulin in it, but just that I’d—” 

“Met someone you thought was perfect for him, I get it,” he interrupted. “That doesn’t explain to me why he never told me you were his sister or why you never told me that you were pregnant.” 

“Simple: we were afraid. By the time I found out I had conceived, Trevor’s messages about you told me—before he’d even realized it himself—that he was falling in love with you.” 

Kelley tried not to let that revelation affect him. He was too hurt, too angry, to want to be happy that she believed her brother in love with him, let alone to consider the possibility she was right. 

“When was that, exactly? When you found out?” He was curious about the timeline because unlike Captain Natale, who’d discovered her condition just days after the Aphrodaiquiri Crisis, Tiessi likely had learned of hers in a more natural manner. But surely it must have been only a few weeks… 

“Just after the first of the year,” she replied. “I know what you must be thinking: Why didn’t I get a contraceptive shot? Yes, I’ve heard all about the so-called Aphrodaiquiri Crisis. Given I was on Sanctuary for layover when it happened, my manager at GBC wanted to send me back to do a story on it, but by the time the story broke, I was too many lightyears away and another reporter was sent in my place.” 

Kelley nodded in silence, recalling the influx of reporters that had come asking questions, after some unknown “source” had leaked the story about Rek, his d’quir, and the after-effects it had had on some of Sanctuary’s citizens. One of the few times he had one hundred percent agreed with Eton Kirek, the station’s then first officer-turned-commanding officer after Starfleet’s departure, was in the rounding up of the newshounds and escorting them to their transports. 

“So why didn’t you?” he asked her. 

She shrugged. “It honestly didn’t occur to me at the time that I should. I’ve had unprotected sex plenty of times—not that I’m promiscuous, I don’t want you to think I’m some kind of whore—and I never got pregnant. Plus, Betazoid females and Human females have something in common in that the window in which we are fertile each month is really so very small, it’s a wonder we ever conceive at all.” 

Kelley let that information sink in, then asked again why she hadn’t told him about the baby as soon as she knew of it. Tiessi sighed as she rubbed her temple again. 

“Are you sure you’re okay?” he asked, feeling a flash of concern at the pinched expression on her face. 

“I told you, it’s just a headache,” Tiessi told him. “I’ll take something for it soon—speaking with you is just a little bit more of a priority at the moment.” 

He drew a breath. “I suppose the polite thing to do would be to thank you for the thought. But as angry as I am about being kept in the dark, I’m not so much of an ass that I would want you to put your comfort aside for me. It can’t be good for you or the baby to be suffering from pain, even if it is ‘only a headache’. Let’s go to the med center and get you looked at.” 

Tiessi stopped walking. “Jordan, really, it’s nothing.” 

“I insist,” he pressed, taking her by the arm and turning them in the direction of Echo’s medical facility. “Look, I know I’ve known about the baby for all of five seconds and therefore have very little say, but I’d feel better if you at least got an analgesic.” 

With another sigh, she relented and gave a nod, so he released her arm. They had walked a few feet in silence before she said, “When I first realized I was pregnant, I was surprised. I almost couldn’t believe it had happened. It wasn’t until I had a doctor confirm my self-diagnosis that it really hit me that I was carrying the child of my brother’s boyfriend—” 

Kelley snorted for a third time. “I am most definitely not his boyfriend, not then and certainly not now. We went on one date, and there sure as hell won’t be another.” 

Tiessi touched his arm. “Jordan, please… Don’t punish Trevor for my not telling you about the baby.” 

“Oh, I’m not punishing him for that. That’s on you, and don’t think for a moment I’m not still pissed about it,” he retorted. “Trevor’s being punished because he frakking lied to me. I told him I’d been with you and how I felt about it, and not once did he tell me that the woman I’d slept with was his sister. Maybe it wasn’t his place to tell me about the baby, but it sure as shit was his place to tell me that.” 

“I agree, it was, and believe it or not I have actually been pressuring him to tell you from the start,” Tiessi said. “I foolishly thought that if he told you that the woman you were with that night was his sister, it might make things easier between us on the chance that we ever met again. And when I found out I was pregnant, I thought it might make telling you that easier as well.” 

“Is that why you waited three months? Would you even have told me at all if he didn’t fess up to your relationship?” 

She stopped again, and fixed her black eyes on his green ones. “I would have told you, Jordan. I can’t say when, because the longer Trevor went without confessing about me, the more afraid I became of how angry you’d be. The more I feared you would deny you were the father, or say that it couldn’t possibly be yours.” 

Her gaze fell to her belly, which she held again with one hand on top of the swell and one on the bottom. A small smile came to her lips as she said, “But lately, the more I began to feel her movements, to sense her primitive thoughts, the more I realized I had no right to keep her from you just because my brother was being a coward. I knew I was going to be in a nearby sector block when Echo went officially operational, and had planned to make use of some vacation time I’ve saved up to come here.” 

She looked up at him again. “This is your daughter, Jordan, as much as she is mine. You have every right to know about her, to be in her life. So I was planning to tell you you’re going to be a father, whether Trevor liked it or not.” 

For the first time since the shock of seeing her had hit him, Kelley began to slowly smile. Hesitatingly he reached a hand toward her, as though striking a deal on a bargain. Instead of the handshake he had planned, Tiessi took his and placed it atop her stomach at the very moment the baby moved inside her. 

“Was that…?” 

Tiessi’s smile grew. “It was. She tends to move when I am still, as though to tell me to keep moving. During the day this is all well and good, but when I am trying to sleep, I can only wish she would as well some days.” 

He laughed a little. “I’m sure she’s just preparing you for those oh-two hundred feedings.” 

“Probably,” said she with a laugh of her own. 

They started off again, and he could see Echo Medical Center ahead of them. Kelley was about to ask her what she would tell the doctor who examined her about who the baby’s father was when she said, 

“Trevor does love you, Jordan. I know you don’t want to hear that right now, but he does. I don’t just suspect it—he told me so himself. But for all his arrogance and bravado and smartassery, he’s as vulnerable at heart as anyone. In spite of my pressuring, he never told you about me because he was afraid you wouldn’t want to be with the man who was brother to the woman that ruined your last attempt at a relationship. Being with him meant I’d eventually be a part of your life, and I’d be a constant reminder of what you’d lost. He didn’t want you to dwell on someone you’d lost, or wishing to be with someone who wasn’t him.” 

Kelley couldn’t deny the truth of her words—or at least the possibility. “Much as I don’t want to admit it right now, I can understand why he felt that way. But I can’t tell you whether or not his fears would have come to pass, because I was never given the chance to make the choice.” 

They stopped once more, this time in front of the med center doors. “But you do, Jordan,” Tiessi told him. “You have that chance right now. Forgive him, and let him prove to you how much he cares about you.” 

Kelley shook his head. “I don’t think I can do that, Tiessi. He kept a monumental secret from me—how can I forgive him for that? How can I risk my heart and my future on a man I can’t trust to tell me the whole truth?” 

<> 

It was, as Tiessi had told him, just a headache. 

Kelley could not help making sure. He may only have been a father for a few minutes, but just knowing that a child was coming—his child—had already flipped his internal switch to protective mode. And as the child was not even born yet, that included looking after her mother until she was. 

It would include looking after Tiessi in whatever ways he could after their baby was born as well. 

The doctor that conducted the scan on Tiessi was an older Denobulan that Kelley recalled had served on the Columbia for some time. He was a friendly fellow, always with a story to tell. He also seemed able to weasel personal information out of his patients—and their companions—as he had casually asked Tiessi if she knew the medical history of her baby’s father, since none was listed in the medical record he had requested from Earth. 

“His medical history is my medical history, Dr. Jiraz. I’m the father,” Kelley had blurted without thinking. 

Tiessi had glanced at him with an expression of surprise, though the set of her shoulders also relaxed a fraction. He wondered suddenly if she felt some relief at having shared her secret at last, and began to understand that while he was still hurt she had kept it from him for the last three months, it couldn't have been easy for her to bear the knowledge on top of knowing she had been part of the ruin of his chance at a relationship with Rogan. 

“Is it now? Well, allow me to offer my congratulations, Commander. I was unaware you were interested in having children, given your… particular proclivities,” Jiraz replied. 

Kelley snorted. “Just because a man prefers other men for companionship doesn’t mean he’s not interested in fatherhood.” 

“Oh, no need to defend yourself, Commander, I assure you,” the doctor returned. “We Denobulans are very open about our sex lives. Wives and husbands sometimes see each other so little, they are free to seek their pleasure with other partners, for instance.” 

“I believe it is considered something of an honor to be asked, is it not, Doctor?” said Tiessi. 

Jiraz laughed. “I don’t know about it being an honor, Miss Whitehorse, but it is not an offer one should turn down, if I do say so myself. We are…quite adventurous in our love-making.” 

Jiraz then stepped away from them, prepared a hypospray, and when he returned he pressed it to Tiessi’s neck, explaining that the medicine should relieve her headache within minutes. “By the by, Miss Whitehorse,” he added as he pocketed the hypo once finished, “I noticed in your medical file that Lt. Colonel Trevor Whitehorse, our captain’s security escort, is your brother.” 

“That’s correct,” she replied slowly even as Kelley felt himself tense up. 

Jiraz looked between them. “I just can’t help thinking what an interesting family dynamic this child will be born into, with her father being involved romantically with her mother’s brother. Kind of makes me miss my family back home even more.” 

Kelley barely managed to bite back a growl as he said, “Colonel Whitehorse and I are not romantically involved, Dr. Jiraz.” 

The doctor blinked rapidly, his cheeks darkening with obvious embarrassment. “Forgive me, Commander. I… I just assumed, what with the way you were behaving toward one another last night at The Garden…” 

“You assumed wrong. Tiessi, we should get you back to your work now,” Kelley said, taking her by the arm and maneuvering her pointedly toward the door. 

Outside the clinic, Tiessi frowned up at him. “You didn’t have to be so abrupt with him, Jordan.” 

“No sense in letting the man continue to delude himself. Pass that message on to your brother as well,” he said sharply. 

“Jordan…” 

He shook his head. “I don’t want to talk about him anymore. If you don’t mind my doing so, I’m going to go and inform Captain Natale about the baby.” 

“Is that necessary?” Tiessi asked. “Not that I mind, just I don’t see the need.” 

“If I don’t tell her, he will. I’d rather it came from me,” Kelley replied. He ignored her frown at his pointed avoidance of her brother’s name. “Besides which, now that Dr. Jiraz knows, it’s likely he could inform her—and in any case, it’s standard protocol for a Starfleet officer to inform their commanding officer of a significant change in their personal circumstances. My having a child coming would qualify as a significant change even if, as you say, she won’t be here for another five months.” 

“I guess I can understand that,” Tiessi replied. She drew a deep breath, then tilted her head to the side as she regarded him. “What about your family? Will you tell them?” 

He lifted an eyebrow. “Why wouldn’t I?” 

She shrugged. “Well, given how this came about, I just… I guess I’m wondering exactly what you’ll say. I mean, given you’re not into women and all that.” 

“My sister Rebecca already knows the truth about what happened during the AD Crisis,” Kelley told her. “We’re close, she and I, and I cried on her shoulder over subspace one night a while back. And more than likely, though neither my parents nor my sister Lynn have mentioned anything about it, I don’t doubt that they know as well, having been told by Becca.” 

He sighed as he looked around them. “I don’t doubt that they’ll be happy for me, my mom and dad especially. I know that they’ve worried I’d never get the chance to be a dad even though there are any number of ways a man of my ‘particular proclivities’ could become one.” 

Kelley paused as they reached the busy market area once more. “I really should let you go and get started on your work, but I’d like to speak to you about this again this evening. I want to talk about…I dunno, formal arrangements, I guess.” 

Tiessi nodded. “Of course. I’d be glad to, Jordan.” 

He nodded and started away from her. After a few steps, he turned back, holding up a hand as he did so. “And just so we’re clear, he is not invited. Do not make the mistake of thinking that if you spring him on me I’ll be willing to talk to him, Tiessi, because I can promise you that I never will if you force his presence on me. Bad enough that I have to work with him.” 

Allowing her no opportunity to respond, Kelley turned away again and walked off. 

<> 

Kelley was disappointed, though not altogether surprised, to find Whitehorse standing at his regular post outside Captain Natale’s office when he reached Ops. He became annoyed further when the Marine looked to him with an almost desperate expression on his face. 

He frowned as he continued on from the turbolift. Lt. Carmichael, the captain’s administrative assistant, looked up with a smile—her mouth just opening to speak, perhaps to greet him—but her expression fell the moment she took note of his. She cleared her throat softly and said, “The captain’s just taken a call from Commander Grafydd on Sanctuary.” 

This news actually made Kelley feel marginally better; he grinned as he moved around the “pool table” and began to ascend the steps to the office. 

Whitehorse stepped over as he reached the top and prepared to ring the chime. 

“Hey, can we talk for a minute?” 

“You’re on duty, Colonel Whitehorse,” Kelley said without looking at him. 

“I’m sure Captain Natale will understand.” Whitehorse took him by the arm. “Jordan, please!” 

Now Kelley turned his eyes to the other man, his frown becoming a scowl. “Unless you want me to lay you out in front of all these people,” he said in a low voice, “I suggest you take your hand off my arm.” 

The hand remained for just a moment more before he was released. Kelley keyed the door chime to the office and entered upon Natale’s invitation. 

“Jordan, guess who’s on the horn?” the captain said with a smile as he entered. 

Kelley smiled. “Carmichael said you just got a call from Grafydd. How is the big lug?” 

“Ask him yourself,” Natale said, gesturing toward the monitor on the wall, before which she stood with one hand on her own baby bump, the other on her lower back. 

Kelley turned, his grin growing wider as he took in the image of the large Terellian he had met just a year ago. Stepping closer to the screen, he asked, “Hey Graf—how’s it going over there on the old bicycle wheel?” 

“Not too bad, actually,” Grafydd replied. “Our people and the Cardassian staff still butt heads occasionally, but we’re actually getting along for the most part. The reason I called is because I have some very interesting news that I think will blow your minds.” 

“He was just about to tell me when you arrived,” Captain Natale said. To Grafydd she added, “Go ahead, Graf. Tell us this oh so interesting news of yours.” 

Grafydd grinned hugely. “You know how you got yourself knocked up, as you put it, during the AD Crisis? Well guess who’s gonna be a daddy again after twenty-five years?” 

Natale snorted even as Kelley felt his own mirth evaporate. Just how many had fallen victim to that damn drink? he wondered. 

“Well, I know it’s not you,” the captain was saying. “Your oldest is not yet sixteen.” 

“Nope, not me,” said Grafydd. “It’s Kirek.” 

Kelley and Natale exchanged surprised glances. “You’re kidding,” the former said. 

The Terellian shook his head. “Nope! Just found out like, fifteen minutes ago. Do you remember Lt. Kurampour? The electrical systems specialist who left just days after the crisis due to some family emergency?” 

Beside him, Natale nodded. “Yeah, I remember… Her father, I think it was, was in some kind of accident and her mother needed her help back home while he recuperated. Don’t tell me she…are you serious?!” 

Grafydd nodded, holding up both of his right hands as he said, “As a mind meld, Captain. She returned to Sanctuary yesterday, reported for duty this morning, and I made note of her condition. Kirek walked into my office just as she was telling me that she’d been a victim of the crisis and had delayed her return to the last possible moment because she had no idea how to tell the father. The moment they saw one another, I knew. First words out of Kirek’s mouth were ‘That is my child’. Tarinda simply said ‘Yes’ and without another word they left together. Still have no idea what he came to see me for.” 

A sudden memory flitted across Kelley’s consciousness then. With a snap of his fingers he said, “I bet that’s it! That’s what he was all worried about that day you returned from your wedding trip, Captain. The personal issue that was keeping him awake.” 

She nodded. “Could have been. I mean, with the revelation of my being pregnant, he could well have been wondering if he’d fathered a child that night. Though I honestly had no idea he had been at Nigella’s anytime in those three days. He didn’t often eat there.” 

“Could be he wasn’t, but Tarinda was, and she came onto him,” Grafydd suggested. “Didn’t get the chance to ask.” 

Kelley frowned. “She’s a beautiful woman as I recall, so I can see how it’d be hard for any straight guy to resist her, drunk off her ass or not, but I didn’t think Cardassians were Kurampour’s type.” 

Natale shook her head and moved to sit down on the loveseat that sat before the screen. “Women aren’t your type either, Jordan, but—” 

She fell silent when he waved his hand sharply through the air. “Yeah, I know what happened. And speaking of that, the reason I came by today is because I have pretty much the same news Kirek just got.” 

Natale shot to her feet again as she and Grafydd both cried out “What?!” 

Kelley sighed and raised his hands to his hips, then a moment later ran one over his face and head. “Yeah. The reporter I met that night, she’s here on the station covering the opening for her network. She’s pregnant, too. And… and she’s Whitehorse’s sister.” 

A moment of silence passed, and then Grafydd’s baritone said, “You’re shitting me.” 

Echo’s tactical officer shook his head. “I frakking wish. Found out both of those interesting tidbits at the same frakking moment.” 

Natale glanced toward the doors to her office, then back at him. “Now I understand… Whitehorse was called away to meet someone who came in on the Ojai, someone he didn’t seem too happy to see—must’ve been her. He was also mopey as hell after he came back.” She regarded Kelley closely as she crossed her arms. “I take it the meeting did not go well after you arrived?” 

Kelley snorted again. “Neither of them were happy to see me, that was for frakking sure. And no, I was not frakking happy to find out that the SOB never frakking told me they were related.” 

“Damn, are you pissed,” Grafydd remarked. “I’ve never heard you cuss so much.” 

“Damn right, I am! He knew what that night cost me! All the time he was annoying the hell out of me and flirting with me and making me frakking fall for him, he knew—and said nothing!” 

The captain stepped closer. “And Tiessi? What did she have to say for herself?” she asked softly. 

He paced away, studiously avoiding looking out the glass doors where Whitehorse stood. “She apologized for not telling me as soon as she found out, which was three months ago. Said she knew what she had already cost me and feared how angry I would be. She was afraid I would deny the baby was mine. Can you believe that nonsense? As if I would frelling deny my own flesh and blood!” 

Captain Natale shook her head. “No, you wouldn’t. You and Brian have that in common—family means everything to men of honor like you and my husband.” 

“So whatcha gonna do, Jordan?” Grafydd asked him. 

Kelley sighed. “She and I are supposed to talk again later. But I’ve already made it clear, at least I hope I have, that I want to be a real father to this child, as much as she will let me.” 

Natale flicked her eyes toward the door for a moment, then asked, “And Whitehorse? What will you do about him?” 

“Nothing,” Kelley bit out as his anger returned. “He’s nothing to me now.” 

Now the captain and Grafydd shared another glance. Kelley noticed the engineer drawing a breath as though to say something and Natale shaking her head. She then drew a breath, then said, “Thanks for the, uh, interesting news, Graf. It’ll certainly make Zram’s day when I tell him.” 

“I’ll bet,” Grafydd replied. “You hang in there, Jordan.” 

He huffed. “Yeah. Thanks, Graf. It was nice seeing you again.” 

“You too, buddy. Don’t be a subspace stranger. Same goes to you, Orange Blossom.” 

Natale grinned. “Same to you, Handsy.” 

When the monitor had gone black again, she drew a breath once more, then for a second time moved closer. “You okay?” 

Kelley sighed and ran a hand over his head again as he groaned. “I’m sure I will be, Captain. All I can think about right now is how frelling hurt and angry I am.” 

“Mostly at Trevor, I imagine.” 

“Yeah, mostly at him.” He shook his head. “When I think about the fact that I am actually going to be a father, which I obviously haven’t known for long, the first thing that comes to mind is I wish I had known sooner. I wouldn’t be dealing with so much uncertainty—wondering why Tiessi didn’t just trust that I would do the right thing. That I would do whatever I could to be there for her and the baby. And I find myself filled with this almost paralyzing fear that she won’t let me be as much of a father to our little girl as I already know I want to be.” 

Natale grinned. “A girl, huh?” 

Kelley felt a grin split his face. “Yeah, she told me it was a girl. I’m going to have a daughter, Captain!” 

“You’re having a daughter, I’m having a son. Maybe they’ll be best friends growing up,” Natale surmised. 

He smiled again. “I would like that, Captain.” 

She raised one eyebrow. “You know, Jordan, we’ve known each other for just over a year now. We’ve been true friends for at least half that time, if not more, and I’ve been using your first name for a while. How come you never use mine?” 

Kelley shrugged, feeling somewhat sheepish. “I don’t know. Respect for your position, perhaps? It’s just never occurred to me to call you anything other than Captain.” 

Natale pushed playfully at his shoulder. “Well, you’d better start—we’re gonna have kids together!” 

Unexpectedly, a laugh bubbled up in his chest. Kelley let it loose, then nodded. “Your wish is my command, Captain—I mean, Synnove.” 

“Good. Now we’ve got that settled, I want to let you know that I have a feeling this Tiessi won’t give you a hard time. Don’t ask me how I know, I just do—call it mother’s intuition if you want to.” 

“Well, I’ll certainly be relieved if you’re right. Bad enough Tiessi’s a reporter that travels from one end of the known galaxy to the other—I may hardly ever see my own daughter.” 

“Hopefully it won’t be that bad,” the captain said. “And what about the other Whitehorse?” 

Kelley shook his head. “I can’t go there. Not after he kept something so important from me.” 

“Tiessi did too,” Natale pointed out. 

He nodded. “Yes, she did, and I’ve not forgiven her for it. But she is the mother of my child, perhaps the only child I will ever have. I have to maintain some level of amicability if I ever want to see my daughter once she’s born.” 

Natale conceded the point with a nod. “And Trevor?” 

“I have to work with him—no choice in that unless you’re willing and able to have him replaced,” Kelley replied. “But that doesn’t mean I have to have anything to do with him on a personal level. Whatever might have been…just won’t be.” 

Drawing a long, deep breath, Kelley moved away toward the door. “I’m gonna go and break the news to my family. I’ll see you tomorrow, Synnove.” 

“See you, Jordan,” she replied, then with a wave at one another he departed. 

Outside the office, he walked past the captain’s bodyguard and over to a turbolift, departing Echo’s operations center without another word or look at the man who had given him hope of happiness and then broken his heart in less than 24 hours. 

<> 

Though he had warned her not to bring him along, Kelley half expected Tiessi would do it anyway, or that her brother would decide to tag along of his own volition. Thankfully, however, when she showed up at his door that afternoon, she was alone. 

For a moment, he was surprised to see her. “How did you know where I—? Nevermind, stupid question. Come in.” 

Kelley stepped aside to allow Tiessi to cross the threshold. When he had shut the door behind her, he moved past and then gestured toward the sofa. “Sit down and be comfortable. Would you like a drink or anything?” 

Tiessi smiled. “Thank you, yes. A glass of raspberry iced tea, lightly sweetened.” 

She seated herself on one end of the sofa while he moved to the replicator, then after retrieving the beverages ordered, handed hers to her before sitting in an adjacent chair. 

“How are you feeling now? Headache gone?” Kelley asked. 

After taking a drink of her tea, Tiessi nodded. “I’m feeling much better now, thank you. Working actually helped—I was too busy arranging and conducting interviews to dwell on the unpleasantness of this morning.” 

He regarded her for a moment, then said, “I’m sorry if I made things worse for you being an angry bear, especially since I know you could literally feel my anger.” 

Tiessi shook her head. “Don’t blame yourself for being angry, Jordan, it was only natural. Trevor and I are to blame. He should have told you the day he met you that I was his sister, and I should have told you about the baby the moment I found out about her. You’ve every right to be angry and hurt.” 

She sipped her drink again, her expression becoming almost sad. “I think that’s what hit me hardest—not how angry you were, as I could tell that was mostly directed at my brother. It’s how hurt you were that I was too afraid to tell you we’d made a baby that night.” 

Kelley nodded, unable to deny the truth of her words. “I do wish you’d trusted me sooner. That you’d not been afraid I would deny the baby was mine—surely you found some evidence of my being dedicated and loyal in your research on me.” 

“I did. And I think I subconsciously ignored it out of fear that you’d take the baby away from me,” she replied. “Serving on a starbase means your life is rather more stable than mine, in which I could be uprooted at a moment’s notice for this story or that.” 

“You’re her mother, Tiessi. I would never take her from you,” Kelley rejoined. “My greatest fear, now that I know I’m going to be a father, is that because of your career I’ll never get to see her.” 

He sat forward and set his own peach flavored iced tea on the low table before him. “So what are your plans in that regard? Your career, I mean, after the baby’s born? Have you given it any thought?” 

Tiessi nodded. “I have—a great deal of thought, in fact. And although my manager will not be happy about it, I’ve decided that I’ll seek an anchor post somewhere, on some planet or starbase not too far away. That way you could easily come and see us, or I could bring her to you.” 

Relief flooded through him, and by the way tension seemed to melt from her shoulders, Tiessi was feeling it. He found himself glad to have relieved some of her worry, as she had relieved his. 

“I could not keep your child from you, Jordan, anymore than you could take her from me,” she said. “Having been orphaned at a young age, I know the importance and value of family. I still love and adore the Whitehorses, as they did such an amazing job of raising Trevor and me when they didn’t have to. But the connection there is different than what I have with my brother, and now have with you through this baby. She’s going to need her daddy and her uncle in her life.” 

Kelley scoffed and pushed to his feet. “It’s true,” Tiessi said emphatically as he paced away. “And like it or not, whether you work things out with him or not, Trevor is my brother and our daughter’s uncle. He will be as much a part of her life as you will.” 

He heard her stand behind him. “I won’t press you about Trevor anymore except to say this: If nothing else, I believe you should at least talk to him. If you’ve given up on him the way Rogan Enek gave up on you, that’s your choice. But since, as you say, you have to work together, I daresay it would be best if you attempted to make some sort of peace between you.” 

There was the sound of a glass being set down, and then she stepped around him toward the door, turning back before she opened it. “What about your family, Jordan? What did they say when you told them?” 

He smiled for the first time since she’d entered. “They’re happy for me—my mom especially so as this will be her first granddaughter. My sisters have both given her only grandsons so far. Also a little worried, about how much I’m actually going to get to see her and how this whole crazy frelling business is impacting me emotionally.” 

Kelley stepped closer to her. “I’ve been wondering… I know you said you’ve five months left, but… Have you thought of a name yet? Knowing the baby’s a girl, seems a bit silly to me to keep referring to her as ‘the baby’ or other such nomenclature all the time.” 

Tiessi looked down as she clasped her hands together under her belly. “Actually, I have. There’s a name I want to give her—can be her first or middle, doesn’t matter, I suppose—but I very much want her to have it.” 

“What name?” 

She looked up. “Cassana. It was my mother’s name. I should like her to have some part of the grandmother she will never know.” 

“Oh, of course,” Kelley agreed. “It’s a very pretty name. I like it.” 

Tiessi smiled softly. “Thank you. I’ve always thought it lovely myself.” 

“How about we honor both her grandmothers—my mother and yours?” said Kelley. “I think Cassana Laurel sounds good. What do you think?” 

Her smile grew. “Yes. Yes, I like it very well.” Looking down again she added, “You’ve a name now, my little darling—Cassana Laurel Kelley. It sounds very well indeed.” 

“You’re… You want to give her my last name?” Kelley said then, not bothering to hide his surprise. “I thought Betazoids were matriarchal and family names went along the mother’s line?” 

Tiessi nodded, seeming pleased he knew that piece of cultural information. “We are and they do, but you disregard that my upbringing was almost entirely Human. My legal surname is Whitehorse, and I feel that she ought to have the family name of one of her parents.” 

“What about your given family name?” he asked. “I don’t think I was ever told what it was.” 

“Zoito? I can always save that for if I ever have a son.” Tiessi shook her head. “No, Jordan… I’ve always known, even when I was foolishly afraid you might deny her, that she would have your name.” 

Kelley’s chest filled with emotion he couldn’t quite define. He smiled again and replied, “Thank you.” 

With a smile and a nod of her own, his guest departed. Kelley considered everything they had discussed, and was relieved again that she had decided to amend her career direction so that they could almost raise their daughter together. He felt great pride in the choice to give little Cassana his family name rather than hers. 

Then another thought intruded and soured his mood. If you’ve given up on him the way Rogan Enek gave up on you… The situations were different, damn it! He hadn’t purposely chosen to betray Rogan. He hadn’t really had a choice at all in what happened between him and Tiessi—the triglobulin in the d’quir made sure of that. Trevor, on the other hand, had had a choice…and he’d made the wrong one. 

If you’ve given up on him the way Rogan Enek gave up on you… 

Kelley emitted a disgusted sound. That made it sound as though he was a bad guy for ending what he and Whitehorse had begun. How was it wrong, though? How was he wrong to want nothing more to do with Trevor after such a secret had been kept from him? 

Tiessi did too

Now his captain’s words came back to him. He admitted, sourly, that she’d had a point. Tiessi’s transgression was no less grievous than her brother’s had been, yet he’d already all but forgiven her. His feelings toward her had softened so much that he felt almost no bitterness when thinking about her. That likely had a great deal to do with the baby. Little Cassana was not even born yet, and already she was healing the wound done to him by her mother’s own silence. 

Could she possibly heal the wound her uncle had caused? Kelley didn’t think so. That one simply went too deep. 

<> 

Starbase Echo 
Market Observation Deck 
2 Days Post-Opening 


He stood staring out the viewport as the Republic, which Kelley could just see from where he was, pulled away from Dorsal 2 docking port. As he watched the ship carrying his unborn daughter away from him, he was only slightly—in fact, barely so—affected by the sight of the 142-year-old starship, oldest ship in the fleet, engaging her impulse engines to head out of the Regulus system. 

He could only think about the many weeks it would be before he saw her mother again, before he could lay his hand atop her belly to feel their little girl moving inside her. 

“So…” began Captain Natale as she stepped up beside him. He didn’t allow himself to tense. The captain’s bodyguard at present was a tall, hulking Capellan fellow with a phaser on one hip and the tri-bladed kleegat handed down through his family for centuries on the other. Kelley knew that Whitehorse would just now be walking away from the docking port through which his sister had gone. 

“When will she come back?” the Orion beside him continued. 

“Three months, twelve days, eighteen hours, nine minutes,” Kelley replied, having already calculated the time. “Tiessi has a handful of assignments she has to complete before she can take leave. She plans to spend the last month before Cassana is born here, so that I can be there.” 

“Very kind of her,” Natale remarked. From the former of his eye, he noticed her placing her hands below her baby bump, almost as though cradling the child within her. He absently wondered if it was a universal thing all mothers did, as both she and Tiessi had done that several times over the last five days. 

“Thought I would tell you that I looked into having the colonel replaced,” she said. “Would have told you before now, but you know how crazy busy it’s been around here.” 

“Yeah, I know,” he acknowledged, having assisted their security chief with the almost innumerable security arrangements. “What’s the verdict?” 

Natale drew a breath. “Brian doesn’t recommend it—despite knowing what we do now, he still believes Whitehorse the best candidate for the job of protecting me. He’s depending on his telepathy to alert us before any danger can come close.” 

“There are other telepaths in Federation military service, and in the numerous private security firms across both quadrants,” Kelley observed. 

“True,” the captain conceded. “So, while my husband doesn’t recommend it, as Whitehorse is already so familiar with me, my routines, and this starbase, he understands why you might want it done. Says it would take time to find another telepath with a similar skill set, but that he would see to it.” 

She looked up at him then. “You only have to say the word.” 

Kelley was silent for some time as he contemplated the ramifications of making the choice to send Whitehorse away. He would certainly be less aggravated every day just looking at the other man, as he had been since learning the truth. But really, would getting him reassigned—basically kicked off the station—be the smart thing to do? It might damage the tentative peace between him and Tiessi if he did that. She might change her mind about so many things that would end up hurting him far worse than her keeping the existence of their child from him for three months. 

He couldn’t risk making her that angry. His future relationship with Cassana was at stake, and he was looking forward to being a father more than he had ever looked forward to any other event in his life. 

“No,” he said finally. “Despite what I said the other day about replacing him, I’d be lowering myself to a level of petty that’s beyond immature if I asked you to do that. I will just have to deal with his being here in the best way I know how.” 

“You won’t be able to ignore him forever, Jordan. He is, after all, your daughter’s uncle.” 

“Even so, I don’t have to have anything to do with him outside of work, and in that I have no real reason to interact with him directly. Therefore, ignoring his very existence seems a perfectly reasonable method of dealing with his being here.” 

“But would that not also lower you to a level of petty that’s beyond immature?” Natale countered, using his own argument against him. She turned so that she was facing him and leaned back against the bulkhead beside the window. “I’m going to speak to you straight, as a friend, so you’re free to get pissed and tell me to sod off—” 

Curious in spite of himself, he looked at her. “Sod off?” 

She flashed a grin. “It’s an expression I picked up from Brian. It has the same meaning as ‘frell off’, ‘frak off’, ‘fu—” 

Kelley chuckled as he held up a hand for her to stop. “I get it. And it’s clear you’ve something on your mind, so—as my friend—just say it.” 

“Who is it you’re really mad at, Jordan?” she asked. “Is it Trevor, or maybe yourself?” 

He frowned. “Myself? Why the frak would I be mad at myself?” 

“It’s been five months since the AD Crisis. Have you never once, in all that time, thought to look Tiessi up?” Natale said. “Given I told you about my baby barely a week after it had been conceived during that mess, did it really never occur to you—not even one time—to look her up and assure yourself that the same thing hadn’t happened to the two of you? Like we found out just the other day had also happened to Kirek and Tarinda Kurampour, and who knows how many others?” 

Kelley found he could only stare at her, blinking rapidly as her words began to sink in. 

“You knew her first name and what network she works for,” Natale went on. “It would have been only too easy to do a search and discover her last name and relationship to my bodyguard. On discovering she was his sister, you might have argued with Whitehorse for his not telling you himself, but something tells me you would have gotten over it. Had you known about their relationship sooner, all this pain and anger could have been avoided.” 

Irritation flared. “So the fact that he kept a secret from me for five frakking months is now my fault?” 

The Orion shook her head. “I’m not saying that. Only that—subconsciously, at least—you might just be kicking your own ass for not looking her up as much as you want to kick his, and it's manifesting as excess anger toward him. Just… food for thought, Jordan, as you decide how you want to behave around Whitehorse. As you decide whether or not you can forgive him and try to be happy together, or want to throw away what you might have had together.” 

She stepped away then, turning back after a few paces to say, “I know how much losing a chance with Commander Rogan hurt you. Do you really want to give up on Whitehorse the same way Rogan gave up on you? Do you want to cause another man the same heartbreak you felt when you were abandoned, all over a mistake that neither of the parties involved really had any control over?” 

Natale sighed. “There’s a song from an old band Brian likes to listen to, a really old band, that has a line which I feel is unequivocally appropriate to describe this situation… ‘Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.’” 

“More food for thought, Synnove?” 

“Perhaps. But even if you don’t resume your relationship, I don’t think you’ll ever truly rest easy if you don’t try to make peace with the colonel. At the very least, you shouldn’t let your anger consume you. Living in anger is no better than living in fear.” 

Kelley said nothing as Captain Natale offered a final smile and turned again to walk away, her guardian falling into step dutifully beside her. He looked again out into the endless black, broken here and there by the light of distant stars, and he wondered. 

Why hadn’t he looked Tiessi up? Rogan had already ended things, so what point was there in trying to forget the night had ever happened? 

Would Cassana look like her mother or would she resemble him? 

Why had it been easier to make peace with Tiessi than it was to even consider doing the same with Trevor? Was it even possible that they could make peace? Was it possible for them to recapture the passion that had existed between them so briefly? 

Why, for the love of God, could he not get the memory of their night together to stop torturing his dreams? 

Yes, Jordan Kelley wondered. 



=/\= 



Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” 

~ “Closing Time” by Semisonic

4 comments:

  1. Good story. I'm happy that you added more to the story lines, surrounding the AD crisis.

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    1. Thank you! There was simply too much possibility with that one to leave it alone entirely. I am pleased you enjoyed the story.

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  2. Yes, a good story indeed, and one that had me thinking: how would *I* react in Kelley's place? I don't know if I could be so forgiving; I might be asking for a transfer, rather than making any demands about Trevor being moved, in order to minimise overall disruption (I'd already be on edge with someone who could read my surface thoughts so casually).

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    1. Kelley definitely had some hard decisions to make. I never considered transferring him, though, because of where things will go before I move on to the super-secret project. And Trevor really isn't as blasé about reading people's thoughts as you think he is - there are other things coming that will explain him better.

      As always, thank you for stopping by to read my stuff. I always look forward to your reviews.

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