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There is a tide in the affairs of men.
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.


– Brutus, Julius Caesar Act 4, scene 3, 218–224

“Let me be there when you tell him. I gotta see the look on his face. Just, do that for me.” – Doug Beckett

“Poor Malcolm, I'm gonna wake him up and stun him. You, uh, I guess everyone's up. So everyone can watch. Please, be kind. You know what this feels like, Doug.” – Lili Beckett

“Malcolm, do you think Doug is a good father?” – Lili Beckett

“Malcolm, you're gonna become a father. Malcolm! Malcolm!” – Lili Beckett

=/=



“You wanted to see me, sir?”

“Yes, Malcolm, come in. Please, sit down,” Jonathan said.

“Yes?”

“I noticed you asked for leave. A short leave now, and then, what is it?” Captain Archer checked a screen, “Two years. Seems kinda silly to go there for a few days and then return for a couple of years. I mean, I need you, we've got the Coalition of Planets forming and, well, I just need you. Can't you, uh, put the short one off for a while, and just tack it onto the end of the longer one?”

“I, uh, it is within my rights, sir,” Malcolm said, becoming just a slight bit uncomfortable.

“Oh. Well, um, I don't want to pry,” Jonathan said, “Are you, uh, is something wrong?”

“No, sir. It's just, it's private.”

“I mean, if you need to care for a sick family member, I do understand. I hope you feel you can talk to me.”

“It's not that.”

“Are your parents all right?”

“Never better, sir.”

“And your, you have a sister, am I right?” Jonathan asked. He'd never, really, gotten to know Malcolm. Years of service but he barely knew the guy.

“Yes, Madeline. She's doing well.”

“So, uh, what is it that can't wait?”

“I, uh,” he reddened, and pulled a handkerchief out of a zippered pocket, “I should have mentioned this earlier.”

“Oh?” Now he was getting somewhere.

“Yes. And I certainly had the time to. It's not like, as if I am ashamed of it or anything. I suppose I just never really knew how to, to broach the subject. Plus there's an awful lot of explanation that goes along with it.”

“And ...?” This was like pulling teeth.

“And, sir, I am taking a short leave now to, well, to attend the birth of my child.”

There was a stunned silence for a second, then Jonathan erupted, “Child?! Ha, why you dirty dog, not telling us! Tell me, is it that beautiful doctor who was here a few years ago? What was her name, Pamela? She was quite a looker.”

“No, sir. Pamela isn't the one who's pregnant. It's Lili Beckett,” Malcolm said. He touched a dull grey cuff on his left wrist. It was a gift she'd given him, and he touched it whenever he was nervous or apprehensive. It felt strange to suddenly be telling, and to be revealing, what had been going on for a couple of years. It was wonderful, but it was complicated.

“Oh, well, that's good. I understand some women have surrogates. And I'm sure Lili has been taking care of your and Pamela's child as if it were her own,” Jonathan said. He'd have to find the stock of Champagne. Chef kept some, he knew that. This would be a good time to break some of it out.

“No, sir. Pamela's not involved at all. It's just Lili and me, sir. She's having my, our, uh, baby,” he smiled to himself and choked up a bit. He really, really hated showing that, and particularly to his commanding officer! He'd have to control himself, but it hadn't been easy for quite a while. He'd had to hold it all together for months. He'd done his job as per usual, but there had been things that had reminded him of what was happening. Seeing a star being formed had almost made him break down. Meeting a new species had been another cause of a near-meltdown. He didn't enjoy being so emotional, but it was all of a piece.

“Oh. Uh, isn't she married, Lieutenant?” Malcolm nodded, “And not to you. Are you, uh, I realize this is none of my business but, is this child the product of an affair?”

=/=



“Look. I can guess at what's happening – I only have a few pieces of this. … But not all songs are soloes or duets. Maybe yours is a three-part harmony of some sort. 'Cause I can tell you – if Reed isn't in on this, he's gonna be miserable forever. And if you're not in it, you'll be the one who's miserable. And if either of you are missing, she's the one who gets it. Actually, she's the one who gets it either way. If either of you care about her happiness at all, you'll, I dunno. You'll find a way to get this to work.” – Pamela Hudson

=/=



“Not exactly,” Malcolm said, touching the cuff more than ever. He'd have to explain.

“Hmm?”

“Do you recall – uh, that's silly, of course you recall – a little over two years ago. There were ten of us who were captured by a species called the Witannen.”

“Of course I remember,” Jonathan said. Deborah.

“And, and they paired us up, in order to, well, there's no pretty way to say it. They wanted us to breed for their own purposes. And, and Tripp and Hoshi were paired, Jennifer and Travis, you and Deborah Haddon, Doug Beckett with Melissa Madden and, and, Lili and me,” he paused for a second, “I don't suppose the Witannen thought we would form true emotional attachments. But we did. I had, I had already felt something for her. But as a married woman, well, you're not supposed to feel such things. Or, at least, not act upon them. But Melissa ended up pregnant and so there would be a connection in any event. As a group we, uh, we decided to keep the attachments, keep them going.”

“I'm not so sure I understand. This is a, what, a group marriage?”

“Well, I'm not married to anyone. And neither are Melissa or Leonora.”

“Who?”

“There are five of us. It's possible because, well, because of things like this,” he hitched up his sleeve to show the captain the cuff, “The, uh, the Calafans. They have a dream state. It's almost an alternate reality, and they make their contacts using a sort of amplifier material that this cuff is composed of. Their lives are filled with, with two sides. A day and a night, and they have relationships in both. So during the day, she's married to Doug Beckett. At night, she's with, she's with me. And at night he is with Melissa Madden who, during her days is with her, with her lover, whose name is Leonora Digiorno. We do, uh, sometimes see each other in person. Which is, uh, well, how this all happened.”

“I'm getting a headache just hearing about it,” Jonathan said, “And nobody minds?”

“I can't speak for all. But, well, everyone tries to be, to be considerate. It's not just our relationships with each other that are important, but the children. They, truly, are the most important parties in this, uh, arrangement. Doug and Lili have two children – you've met their son. Melissa and Doug have a son, and they are, well, she's to give birth to a second one about two weeks after, after my son will be born,” Now he couldn't hold it in, and blew his nose to try to cover it up.

“Lieutenant?” Jonathan asked gently. Well, he'd wanted to know the man. Now, maybe, this was a bit too well.

“I'm sorry, sir,” Malcolm composed himself, “I'm so glad they're the ones who have them. Lili is, she keeps telling me, she's an old pro at this.”

“I guess so. Did you, uh, always want a family?” Other business could wait.

=/=



“Just, consider how today is going to be, and tomorrow, here. And think of the future later, when it has come and it matters. Be happy today.” – Dayah

=/=



“Do you recall, during the Xindi War, we met with another ship that was being, it was being piloted by our descendants?”

“Yes, I, uh, it had turned out I married an Ikaaran woman,” Jonathan said. Not Deborah.

“Ah, yes. Well, I was the only senior officer to die a bachelor. Lili ended up with, with José Torres. Not Jay Hayes, which I suppose would have been fitting. But he, too, died without, without love. It bothered me, sir. More than I let on to anyone. Even to myself, you see. And, well, it was 2157, and, and the Enterprise came to the Lafa System for the first time.”

“I remember that. Lili was, uh, Lili O'Day then.”

“Yes,” Malcolm smiled, “And she and Doug made contact, even though it was completely unwitting. And she, uh, she suddenly became just, I don't know. It was like a light had come on. And I realized she was someone I wanted to really know. And then I couldn't! But I didn't stop thinking of her. Truly, the only time I really took a break from that was when Pamela and I dated. And then in 2159, we went to their home. It was you, me, Hoshi and Jennifer. We all had a lovely time. Lili made a kind of roast, I remember. But while everyone else was taking seconds or being amused by their son, I was, it was, it all came flooding back again. Then we were thrown together. I know the Witannen had no way of knowing that I had felt the way I did. And they had no way of knowing that Doug and Melissa would be so well-paired as well. But whatever criteria they used for making their pairs, it was, it was as if it was meant.”

Jonathan nodded slightly. He and Deborah weren't perfectly matched. She'd had a crush on him the size of Jupiter. Perhaps it had been ideal for her. For him, it had been, well, it had been good, and not just the physical parts. She'd been someone to confide in, and protect, and care about. And now she'd married someone else.

=/=



“What's more important is how we move ahead, together.” – Lili O'Day

=/=



Jonathan shook himself out of his reverie, “Is, uh, do you know the day for certain? I'd hate to set you down on Lafa II and have you wait and then return to the Enterprise, and then have everything happen a day later.”

“She's having a Cesarean, sir. So it's all set. All Hallows' Eve.”

“And she's having a boy?”

“Yes. A boy, sir,” he gripped the handkerchief. Not again.

“Got any names picked out?”

“The baby will be named Declan.”

“Declan?”

“A family name, from Lili's side,” Malcolm explained.

=/=



“I convinced you because I appealed to your sense of efficiency.” – Lili Beckett

=/=



“Does, uh, Declan have a middle name?”

“That's my job, sir,” Malcolm smiled.

“Any ideas?”

“I have a list that goes on for pages and pages,” he chuckled a little.

“I bet you do. Are you, uh, going to Movie Night tonight?”

“Yes. After I call her, of course. I need to know how many kicks today, and all of that.”

“Absolutely. Give her my best. And, if it's all right, I'd like to meet Declan sometime.”

“And Marie Patrice, and Tommy and Neil when he arrives, too, yes?” Malcolm asked.

“Sure,” Jonathan said, “If they're important to you, then I guess they should be important to me as well. Thank you for telling me. Dismissed.”

“Yes, sir,” Malcolm said, leaving before he was again overcome.

=/=



Jonathan punched up Communications, “Travis.”

“Yes?” asked Travis Mayweather as he piloted.

“A quick course change. Please lay in a course to the Lafa System. That's not too far out of our way, right?”

“We can be there in a few days at Warp Four,” Travis said after checking a few instruments, “Course plotted and laid in, sir.”

“Thanks. Archer out,” he then sat and dictated.

“Captain's star log, October twenty-fifth, 2161. We are passing Andoria and on our way to the Lafa System. This is a slight detour in order to drop off our Tactical Officer for a few days.

What the Tactical Officer, Lieutenant Malcolm Reed, neglected to tell me until now is that this side trip is for a very happy occasion. His son will be born in a few days to his, uh, wife.”


Jonathan stopped dictating for a second. Wife was not the right word.

He punched a few keys on the console to find a thesaurus, “Hmm. Lover seems too personal. Girlfriend? I think she's older than he is. Girlfriend hardly seems dignified for someone over the age of fifty. Sweetheart? Spouse? No. Consort? No, he's not an Emperor. Helpmeet? What are we, in Shakespearean times? Hmm. Soul mate? Heh, I can't embarrass him like that. Even if it is true. Huh. Significant other. That's it!”

He turned on dictation mode again, “Computer, erase the last word. Actually, erase the last sentence. Resume dictation,” he took a breath.

“His son will be born in a few days to his Significant Other, Lili Beckett. Lili is a former Sous-Chef and Steward and has ties to Starfleet. Lieutenant Reed will return for duty after the baby is born but will return to Lafa II in mid-January of 2162, where he will remain for two years.

Also, it has recently come to my attention that Ensign Chandler Masterson and his wife, Ensign Deborah Haddon-Masterson, are expecting their first child. She will be on duty, in Security, for four more months and will then go on maternity leave at the location of her choice. Her husband will be given two years' leave starting a month before her due date.

Finally, with the decommissioning of the NX-01 on the horizon, there will be some other personnel adjustments. I will report these in Human Resources mode.”

He stopped the dictation and switched to a different mode, “Human Resources, provide Lieutenant Reed with one year additional family leave, effective January first, 2162,” he paused, “And Chandler Masterson and Deborah Haddon-Masterson as well,” At least he could give her that. “Promotions. With the decommissioning of the NX-01, my first officer, T'Pol, will be returning to Vulcan. I cannot think of a more suitable replacement than Chief Engineer Charles Tucker III. As of January 1, 2162, he is hereby promoted to full Commander and I hereby offer him the role of first officer in my next assignment, on the USS Zefram Cochrane. In addition, I hereby promote Lieutenant Malcolm Reed to the office of Commander and offer him the role of Tactical Officer on the Cochrane once he returns from family leave. During his leave, I offer the position of Tactical Officer, on a temporary basis, to Ensign Aidan MacKenzie, who is also promoted, to Lieutenant. All promotions are effective as of January 1, 2162. Please let me tell the men, so kindly refrain from sending forms. However, please do send a form to Lieutenant Reed as he may wish to make changes to his listed next of kin.”

He exited human resources mode and sighed.

“Porthos, what do you think of all this?”

The beagle looked at him with trusting eyes but, naturally, said nothing.

He picked up the dog and set him on his lap, “It coulda been me,” he said softly, “Yanno, I have no idea if any of us will ever have normal relationships. But what's normal, anyway, so long as people are happy? Thank you for being there for me, buddy. But I think I better get myself a gal of my own,” The dog licked him in the face, “At least, she'd probably kiss better. And certainly wouldn't have kibble breath,” he smiled and looked out the window. Life could be damnably unfair sometimes.

Champagne! He'd make sure Chef took it out, but maybe after the film had ended.

And he had an idea about that as well, and started clicking Search on his PADD furiously.

=/=

“There is nothing like love.” – Malcolm Reed



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