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Morgan Lefler hated the common cold, for it was the one thing that even her immortal immune systems couldn't shrug off. Every terminal disease known to humanity, those meant nothing to her. But the damnable cold that she was currently suffering through was hammering her, and Morgan was not a particularly good sick person, since it happened to her so rarely. She tended to become somewhat fetal, lie about and complain incessantly. When she was sick, she felt as if she were in a deep hole that she would be trapped in the rest of her life. And considering the fact that she was -- to the best of her knowledge -- virtually immortal, the rest of her life tended to seem a very long time.
She could have consulted with Doctor Selar about it, but in many ways, being sick was preferable. Ever since she had reached the final weeks of her pregnancy, Selar -- never exactly renowned for her bedside manner -- had become more distant, unfeeling and cold than ever before. It was not as if she were incapable of carrying out her duties; she was as capable of diagnosis and treatment as ever. She was just...so damned unpleasant. Her speech pattern had become flat and mechanical -- even more mechanical than the computer. It was downright chilling just to be around her. Morgan didn't know whether all Vulcans were like that in the last stages of pregnancy, but if they were, then she pitied Vulcan husbands everywhere.
"No wonder Spock's father married an earth female," she murmured. "Probably went a long way toward saving his sanity." She hated the way her voice sounded. She hated the way her head was pounding. She hated herself.
At least Robin wasn't around to see it. She was busy at the banquet, which was enough to make Morgan insanely jealous. Here she was, flat on her back, and her daughter was organizing a wonderful, semi-formal get-together designed to welcome the long lost sister of Si Cwan to the good ship Excalibur. All of the senior officers were going to be there and, frankly, it was going to be a good opportunity for Robin to impress her superior officers with her organizational skill. In a way, it seemed a rather trivial exercise. All the solid duties that Robin carried off in the course of a day should have been more than enough to warrant attention and promotion from the rank of ensign which she currently carried. Yet the simple truth was that people could be impressed by the damnedest things, and Captain Mackenzie Calhoun and Commander Elizabeth Shelby might be just as likely to find her duties as hostess as memorable as anything she did at ops. It didn't make any sense, but people were just funny that way.
Morgan could see the gathering in her mind's eye. There would be Calhoun and Shelby, bantering over brisket or some such preparation. Their attraction for each other was electric, and their knack for short-circuiting that same attraction was just amazing. And there would be Si Cwan, tall, noble and proud, with his young sister, Kalinda, next to him. Morgan had only caught a brief glimpse of her, having contracted her illness right after Kalinda ("Kally" as he called her) had come on board. The girl had looked older than she had originally envisioned her, equivalent to an earth child in her late teens instead of the very young girl that Si Cwan had always described. Morgan reflected that perhaps the way he described her was the way he saw her. She couldn't help but wonder whether that attitude might cause problems down the line.
This new fellow, Xyon, she hadn't seen at all. Supposedly he was the son of Captain Calhoun, but no one seemed to know quite what to make of that. Well, whatever the situation between them was, certainly it could all be worked out. Calhoun was nothing if not innovative when it came to the realm of personal relationships.
The door to the quarters slid open and Morgan, using what little energy she had, half propped herself up in her bed as she called out, "Robin! How did it go...honey..."
The term of endearment died in her throat as she saw the dishevelled condition of her daughter.
The front of Robin's dress uniform was covered in what appeared to be frosting. There was a small bruise on her forehead, and her hair -- which had been neatly arrayed in a very becoming 'do -- was hanging down around her face. Her expression was carefully stoic.
"It could have gone better," Robin said.
"My God! What happened?!"
Robin said nothing at first. Instead she walked across the room to the closet, from which she withdrew a towel. She used it to start wiping away the frosting from her uniform and the ends of her hair.
"Robin! Tell me what happened!"
"This," Robin said slowly, tapping the frosting which was now covering the towel, "was the welcome aboard cake. It had Xyon and Kalinda's names on it. Apparently, however, the cake also had my name on it."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean I was the one who wound up wearing a good deal of it, so that's why I said it had my name on it."
"I still don't understand..."
Robin sighed deeply as she peeled off her uniform to toss it into the ship's laundry. "There was some friction."
"Seems to me more like there was total combustion."
"Xyon," continued Robin, as if her mother had not spoken, "is having a bit of difficulty working and playing well with others."
"Captain Calhoun. Oh, and Si Cwan."
"What happened?" asked Morgan.
Robin sagged into a chair as she pulled on a short bathrobe. Her hair was still a mess, and the bruise was getting darker. She ran her fingers sadly through her hair and shook her head as she looked into a mirror and apparently wondered whether she was, in fact, the individual in the reflection. "It started nicely enough," she recounted. "Everyone was standing about, chatting. Everyone except Xyon. He didn't seem especially happy to be there. I went over to him and asked him if something was bothering him. He told me all he really wanted to do was get his ship fully repaired. Apparently his ship sustained some damage in escaping the nebula surrounding Star 7734, and there were some other repairs made to it that were simply stopgap in nature to begin with. His ship really needed an overhaul, and Captain Calhoun was more than happy to offer it since Xyon had been of such help in the entire Kalinda affair."
"So?" prompted Morgan.
"So he was spending the party keeping in a corner off to himself. In retrospect, if he'd just been left there by everyone, allowed to stew in his own juices and maybe be sociable on his own terms, then maybe matters would have turned out differently.
"But no, not our crew. First there's Captain Calhoun, trying to engage the boy in conversation. Now Xyon, he's making it clear to the captain that he's not interested in talking to him. Apparently there was some sort of falling out, or Xyon felt that Calhoun hadn't been much of a family, or something like that. In any event, Xyon was brushing him off. Everyone saw it. It was openly disrespectful. But it was obvious to everyone that the captain didn't want to make a big deal about it. That his attitude was, 'If this is how Xyon feels, I'm not going to fight with him about it. Let him work it out on his own.' Which was pretty sporting of him, if you ask me, considering that the first time they met each other, Xyon hauled off and slugged the captain."
"Yes, I know. Word of that spread rather quickly," Morgan said with a dry sense of irony. "Xyon was fortunate that the captain simply rubbed his chin and turned the other cheek, so to speak. I have no doubt that the captain could put him through a bulkhead if he were inclined to do so."
"Well, he almost had the inclination," said Robin. "After he brushed off the captain, Xyon started to leave the party."
"Did he have any of the buffet before left?"
Robin stopped talking and stared at her. "The what?"
"Mother, who cares?"
"I do. You worked very hard to set it up."
"I don't know if he did. I don't care. The point is, he started to leave...and then Kalinda stopped him. She seemed very anxious to talk to him. She sat down with him and soon they were laughing and having a grand time."
"Oh! Well, that's good," said Morgan.
"No, that was bad," Robin corrected her. "Because apparently Si Cwan decided to become overprotective of her. So he rather politely asked Xyon to stop monopolizing her time."
"Oh. That's bad."
"No, that was good," said Robin. "Because at least he was polite about it. He was nothing but civil to Xyon."
"Oh. So that's good."
"No, that was bad, because Xyon took offense anyway. I believe he said, 'After everything I've been through to save your sister, I can't believe that you would try to prevent me from having some private time with her.'"
"Oooo...that is bad."
"No, that was actually good. Because Captain Calhoun overheard, and stepped in on his son's behalf, telling Si Cwan that Xyon was absolutely right, and Si Cwan should give them some distance."
"Oh! Well, that's good."
"No, that's bad. Because Xyon told the captain that he could handle the situation himself."
"Well, that's..." Morgan stopped, frowned, and then shook her head. "I lost track. Are we up to bad or good?"
"It doesn't matter. The point is that Xyon put his arm around Kalinda and tried to walk out of the room with her. I don't know whether he did it in order to show that no one told him what to do, or in order to annoy Si Cwan, or what. But Si Cwan grabbed him and pulled him away, telling him that no one manhandles a princess of Thallon. And then Xyon shoved Si Cwan, and Si Cwan shoved him back, and the captain got in the middle and there was more shouting..." She shook her head in disbelief. "It's hard to understand how it spiralled out of control, that quickly. One minute I was standing there chatting with Shelby about something perfectly innocuous, and the next thing I know, someone is slamming into me -- "
"You were attacked!" Morgan's voice bordered on outrage.
"Not exactly. More like, I got hit on the rebound. And I fell into the cake. And there was more shouting, and anger, and security showed up as Lieutenant Kebron restored order pretty quick, but they needed a cleanup crew and..." She put her face in her hands. "God, what a mess."
"Robin, it wasn't your fault..."
"And if everything had gone swimmingly, Mother, that would have been something I'd get the credit for, right? So when it turns into a debacle, as this did, who are they going to blame?"
"You're being much too hard on yourself." She coughed several times to try and clear out her lungs.
"Maybe I deserve it. I mean, look at the way things are going, Mother. Maybe fate is trying to tell me something."
"Tell you what? I don't understand -- "
"Well, first I decided to tell Si Cwan that I have strong feelings for him and that I wanted to accompany him on the mission to Montos...except by the time I did it, he was gone. And then I offered to conduct the entire reception, arrange everything, set it all up, mostly to make him happy...and it became a huge misfire. Maybe somebody up there," and she pointed, "is trying to tell me something."
Morgan looked up to where Robin was pointing. "Up there? You mean on the bridge?"
"No, Mother!" she said in exasperation. "I mean 'up there.' You know. Divine intervention may be trying to get a point across."
"You're overthinking it, Robin."
"No, I'm not. Nothing goes right for me."
"Now you're just dissolving into self-pity, Robin. I won't have it," Morgan said sternly. "You're made of better and stronger stuff than that. So instead of complaining about how everything goes wrong for you, just pull yourself together, and be the officer and the woman that I know you can be. Clear?"
Robin's jaw twitched in irritation, but finally she sighed heavily and said, "Clear."
She went into the bathroom and took a shower. By the time she came out, she was sneezing and her temperature was starting to climb. As she blew her nose, she looked daggers at her mother. "Thanks, Ma. I'm sure the cold you've apparently just given me will serve me as well as your advice."
Morgan rolled her eyes and pulled the covers over her head. As one, they sneezed.
Xyon sat in his quarters, chair tilted back, whistling softly. He was bare to the waist, having cleaned up after the debacle originally intended as a welcoming banquet for Rie -- for Kalinda. He had to keep reminding himself that her real name was Kalinda. His long blond hair was newly cleaned and hanging around his muscled shoulders. There was a chime at his door. "You can't come in," he called. "Apparently I have misbehaved and am in isolation."
The door slid open and Mackenzie Calhoun was standing in the doorway. "Actually, what with being the captain and all, I can come and go as I wish."
"That is what you excel at, isn't it? Going? As you went from Xenex after leaving my mother pregnant with me?"
Calhoun sighed deeply. "Xyon...grow up. Whatever disputes you have with me, they don't begin to excuse what took place at the banquet."
"I'm not looking to excuse myself to you, Captain. I don't care what you think."
Calhoun shook his head. "That's not true. If you didn't care what I thought, you would not have acted, and reacted, as you did. You would have ignored me, or brushed me off. You would not have taken a swing at me, certainly, and tried to hurt me."
"I didn't try. I did hurt you."
"No. You couldn't. Particularly if I'm ready for you."
Xyon's eyes flashed. "Is that a challenge?"
"No. Simply a statement of fact."
Instantly, Xyon was out of his chair. It was an impressive burst of speed. Anyone else would have been very hard-pressed to get out of his way.
Calhoun sidestepped and drove his knee up into Xyon's midsection. Xyon gasped and Mackenzie slammed him in the back of the neck, sending Xyon to the floor. Xyon lay there, momentarily stunned. He couldn't understand it. He was as formidable a fighter as they came, and had handled any number of opponents with facility. So what in hell had just happened?
As if reading his mind, Calhoun sat down next to him and said, "You rushed it. Also, you were probably a bit daunted by the fact that I am your father."
"My mistake, then," Calhoun said, sounding oversolicitous.
There was dead silence in the room then for an uncomfortable period of time. "How is Catrine?" Calhoun asked finally.
"My mother is fine. I'm sure she hardly thinks of you at all."
"How could you have done it?" He was shaking his head in slow disbelief.
"Xyon...certainly you must know the circumstances of your conception?"
"I know, I know. Mother wanted to continue the family line, her late husband had been dead a year, and you, as Warlord of Xenex, in keeping with tradition, accommodated her by producing me. Hurray for you. Hurray for tradition."
"You don't know...you can't understand what it was like for me, Xyon. It was not something I desired to do. But I had my duty -- to tradition, to your mother, and to my title as warlord. Frankly, it should have been my brother, since he was the ranking..." He waved it off. "No, it doesn't matter. Because I also had a duty to myself. I was going to be leaving Xenex, attending Starfleet Academy. I couldn't put that aside because of -- "
"Of a son."
"It was what your mother desired. She wanted to raise you on her own. She didn't want to hold me back."
"That may be what she told you, but it wasn't what she desired."
"What do you mean?" When Xyon didn't reply immediately, Calhoun repeated shortly, "What do you mean?"
"It doesn't matter."
"Obviously, it does. To you."
Xyon looked at him levelly and said, "She always hoped you'd come back some day. She could never ask you herself, tell you herself, because she didn't want to force you. But she hoped that someday...you'd return. Or send for us."
"I..." Calhoun looked stunned. "She never said..."
"Of course she never said. She felt it had to come from within you." Xyon leaned back against a wall, hands draped over his legs. "She has too much pride. And optimism: She hoped, sooner or later, your thoughts of us would become so overwhelming that you'd feel the need to return to her...to me...to us."
"That's not how we left it between us," said Calhoun tonelessly.
"Things are never as we think they are. But I knew. I am your son, after all," he said bitterly. "I know your mind as well as I know my own. My guess is, over the years, you never thought of us. Did you? And the idea of returning, of being with her, with me...you never considered that at all. Did you?"
"No," was his soft reply. Then he looked over at Xyon with his hard, purple eyes. "I won't lie to you. The answer is, no, I never considered coming back to stay with her, not really. I had my own life to lead. I thought she was living hers."
"You said I had no idea what it was like for you," Xyon told him. "Well, you had even less what it was like for me. Living in the shadow of my father, the legend. The man who cared so much about his people that, by the time he was the age I am now, he had liberated an entire planet. Do you have any inkling what it was like...knowing that you cared that much about Xenexians in general," and he raised his hand, flat and horizontal, high above his head, "that you would do all that for them...and that you cared for me so little," and he placed his other hand just above the floor, to indicate the disparity in distance, "that you didn't come back to Xenex, or contact me, or...anything."
"I did come back...once. And I tried to find Catrine...but she had moved out of Calhoun. No one knew where she was."
"And you made oh-so-much endeavor to find her. Strain yourself mightily, did you? Use all your resources? Or was the challenge of finding one woman and one child on a small world too much for the redoubtable M'k'n'zy."
"I took her absence -- her 'disappearance' -- to mean that she did not want me as a part of her life," Calhoun told him.
"No. That was what you wanted to think. And what she knew you wanted. And deep down, you knew it, too. But pretending otherwise made it that much easier for you to go on with your life."
There was a long silence then.
"So what have you been up to?" Calhoun asked.
It caught Xyon off guard. Still on the floor, he angled himself around to look at the captain. "What do you mean?"
"It's a fairly straightforward question. What have you been up to? When you're not rescuing princesses. Or is that all you do?"
"Captain..." Xyon felt as if he were back in the nebula. "Didn't you hear anything of what I said? I don't like you. You're not someone I feel like discussing my life with."
"Yes, you've made that clear. And if all you want to do is dwell on that which can't be changed, then that is entirely your privilege. But I can tell you that the 'legendary' M'k'n'zy of Calhoun didn't help free his world from its oppressors by obsessing about what had been. Instead I thought only about what could, and would, be. If the only future you see for us is one of hostility, fine. We've gotten along just fine without each other to this point, and we can continue to do so, I would imagine. It's one thing to learn from the past; it's another to be a prisoner of it."
"Do you always speak in aphorisms?" Xyon asked.
"Depends on my mood. Aphorisms, riddles, rhyming couplets...whatever strikes my fancy at any given moment."
He headed toward the door and didn't even bother to look over his shoulder as he said, "I'm lifting your isolation to these quarters. Feel free to go where you choose, barring standard security protocols. Try not to slam anyone around. Oh, and you may want to tender an apology to Ensign Lefler; you made quite a mess of her little gathering."
"You mean that's it?" demanded Xyon. "That's all you have to say to me?"
This prompted Calhoun to turn and look questioningly at his son. "What else is there to say?"
"I don't know."
"What..." Calhoun actually looked astounded at the notion -- "you're not...actually expecting me to say I love you or some such, are you?"
"Of course not," Xyon said stiffly.
"Good." Once more Calhoun started to leave, and suddenly Xyon said, "Did you love her?"
This time Calhoun did not turn quite as quickly. "You mean your mother?" he asked.
"Yes. Did you love her?"
"Xyon," he said heavily, "you probably don't know this...but your mother was the first."
"The first woman you got pregnant?"
"No. The first woman."
"Oh." Xyon cleared his throat uncomfortably. "I didn't...uhm...no. No, she never mentioned that."
"I love...that she was good to me. That she didn't make me feel self-conscious. That she understood that there could never be anything between us other than that. I love those things about her. But I don't love her. For the most part, I didn't even know her. I don't know you. You can't love someone you don't sufficiently know; it's just not possible."
"You know..." Xyon said with a touch of defiance, "I bet you've never 'known' anyone enough to love them...truly love them. Not ever. Because to get that close to them, you'd have to let them get that close to you. And you never have."
Calhoun appeared to be considering the concept. After a long, thoughtful pause he said, "You know what? You may very well be right. Then again, I should point out that, while you're busy judging me...I notice that you didn't feel compelled to remain on Xenex, with your mom, any more than I was. And I was about your age when I left. So before you're too quick to judge me...you may want to think about judging yourself. Enjoy the rest of your day, Xyon." With that, he walked out into the corridor and left Xyon behind, thoughtful, in his quarters.
Copyright © 1999 by Paramount Pictures. All rights reserved.