Chapter 1: Visiting the Past
Visiting the Past
Edra stepped out of the lift and strolled down the corridor. The events of the last day had been a lot to take in. The actions the crew had taken could be considered dubious at best, but they had been reacting to the unexpected plea for asylum. Keeping the Wonan security detail distracted had been nerve wracking, but honestly, had gone easier than she expected. She wondered how much was short-sightedness on their part, or trust in the relationship between their culture and the Federation. That trust would certainly be eroded if the Wonan returned to find that the situation was more than they had foreseen. And if they were able to determine if the princess had been pregnant…
All of that hung in the air as the Mercutio sped away from the Wonan homeworld. But something else stuck out to Edra. Something she recognized. She stood outside the current resting space of the Princess’ offspring, and her impromptu guardian, the ship’s Counselor.
The door chimed. Millie looked over her shoulder, one hand holding down the wiggling infant, the other hand trying to maneuver a diaper around an equally-as-wiggly tail. “Door’s open! Come on in!”
Edra entered, an instant smile spreading across her face at the sight. “You need a hand?”
Millie chuckled. “Between the claws and the tail, and the fact that diapers are not meant for felines–” She gave a nod, making room at the changing table–suddenly yelping as a tiny set of tiny teeth clamped onto one of her hands. “Yes! Please! Fasten this before she eats me alive!”
Edra grinned at the scene before her. It was almost comedic, and not much different from times she’s walked in on Henry doing the same when Marcus was younger…minus the sharp teeth. But upon hearing the instructions from the counselor, she sprung into action and helped with getting the diaper secured on the small feline. “Will this even hold up on her?”
Millie laughed. “Not hardly. Ev and I go through uniforms about as often as she goes through diapers!” She managed to free her hand, giving the baby a soft ruffle of the fur on her stomach. “I’m sure the Wonan have a way around this, but our current information is–limited.” There was a flicker of something across Millie’s expressions before she affixed her smile to her face. “What brings you down here?”
Edra decided not to beat around the bush. She answered gently, but firmly. “I wanted to have an honest conversation about her, and your plans for the future, both immediate and farther reaching.”
“That’s the question, isn’t it?” Millie didn’t look up from La’lana as she pulled a “Future Starfleet Cadet” onesie on over her head. “I made a promise to her mother–and it’s a promise that comes with its own share of danger, or so her mother indicated. The Wonan are not a widely-traveled species, so if she stays in my–our–care, then we’ll need a believable and consistent back story for her.”
She leaned against a nearby wall, crossing her arms. “Did you promise to personally be the one to raise her baby?”
That caused Millie to glance up. “The Princess asked me to protect her. I promised that I would.” She paused. “I’m not sure I can keep that promise if the baby is sent elsewhere.”
Edra nodded. “I hate to burst your bubble, but we can’t even always do it when they’re here.” She pushed herself off the wall. “Part of your purpose here is to make sure we all stay grounded. So I think you should seriously consider if that promise you made in a heated moment was really intended to be a long-term, if not lifetime commitment. I’m not saying you shouldn’t do it…that’s your choice. But telling yourself you have to if it’s not something you really want to do won’t help anyone in the long run.”
At the sound of gurgling bubbles, Millie turned back to the baby. “If you had asked me a few years ago if I ever planned on being a parent, the answer would have been no.” She sighed quietly. “I didn’t exactly have the best role model for a mother, and I never knew my father. There’s–there’s been closure in that part of my life, at least in regards to my mother. I never planned on having a family. Not initially.”
“You approach life very differently when you plan to stay in one place for a while.” Millie slipped a blanket under the infant, wrapping her in a swaddle. “That wasn’t the original trajectory of my Starfleet career. I had planned on a career where I never stayed in one place long enough to become attached, and I had no intention of putting a family through the constant relocation.” She chuckled softly. “And then I came here, and all of you asked me to stay.”
The XO smiled softly. “I think if you were in my place, you would point out that you haven’t answered the question. Not yet anyways.” Her wink was quick enough to be missed if one looked away for even a second.
Millie smiled. “I’m well aware that I haven’t answered the question. I think it’s okay that I don’t know the answer to this question. I’ve counseled several new parents in my time on the Mercutio, and I don’t know that anyone is ever prepared for parenthood–and those are the parents that had 9 months of advance planning.”
Edra nodded knowingly. “Very true, and that’s probably the truest response anyone could give. I just want to make sure you’re considering all the right options, and don’t trap yourself in guilt. Keeping her safe can include finding the right person to care for her if that’s the better option for you.” She shifted and sighed, ready to relive her own moment. “I also want to make sure you don’t make the same mistake I did.”
Millie nodded quietly. “You’ve never talked much about what that transition was like for you and Henry.” Balancing the baby in one arm, she cleared the few toys from the couch and gestured for Edra to join her.
The Bajoran did as much. “I don’t mean there was a mistake in adopting him, only in the way I went about trying to do it.” She paused there, but when Millie only looked at her she continued. “Youth Services came aboard some time after his father died on an away mission. But in that in-between time, I’d developed an attachment, and with they’re sudden appearance, I realized that he could get lost in the system and was convinced I’d never be able to help after that.” She shook her head, half laughing. “I was very naive in some respects. Anyways, I ended up hiding him until we could start the application process.” She shook herself out of the past and looked at Millie. “I’ve seen how you look at her, and I felt like I needed to let you know that not only shouldn’t you try that, but you shouldn’t need to. We’ll help however we can, if that’s the road you want to take.”
Millie smiled. “Chance told me about that day. Has he ever told you what he remembers?”
Edra grinned. “Any conversations we had mostly just laughed at how insane I was to try to hide him from Youth Services, thinking that was all it would take.” She paused and looked up. “What did he tell you?”
“Now, you know that those conversations fall under doctor-patient confidentiality, right?” Millie winked at the woman who, as a doctor, knew exactly what that privilege entailed. “But–off the record?”
Edra chuckled, “Of course.”
“What imprinted on him most about that day was you, Edra.” Millie reached out a hand, placing it on Edra’s knee. “What he remembers is how you insisted on protecting him. It’s come up several times during our sessions.”
Edra took a deep, slow breath, trying not to get too emotional, but her eyes shined. She nodded but decided that was enough of an acknowledgement.
Millie saw the emotions that came to the surface and she gave Edra’s knee a squeeze. “You two were–and are–amazing parents. You and Henry have been through more than your fair share of bumps in the proverbial road, but you made sure that your children never once doubted that you’d go to the ends of the universe if it meant keeping them safe.” It was Millie’s turn to blink back the tears. “La’lana’s mother gave her life to make sure her daughter was safe–and there’s a big part of me that knows when I look at this little baby that I would do the same.”
The other woman nodded, satisfied with that answer. Although she had a fleeting thought for the possibility that Millie was using the anecdote to sway her, but it was quickly gone. “Good,” she said. “When we get more distance between us and the Wonan, we’ll do all the proper paperwork to make it official to protect all of you as best we can. We’ll say we picked her up as an orphan in an abandoned ship, or planet, or something.” She stood up, her composure and humor returned. “And if you find yourself needing a break or some time with Evelyn…I have two teenagers at perfect babysitting ages, who would love to spend time with her.”
Millie chuckled. “They think they do. But diaper changes when your behind is covered in fur are a completely different experience.”
Edra stopped her. “There’s a reason you constantly make the offer to us. And it’s the same reason I’m making it to you. They can learn.”
“Understood, Commander.” Millie paused. “And thank you for stopping by, Edra. It means a lot.”
Edra smiled softly. “My pleasure.” Without taking up anymore of the Counselor’s time, she headed for the door.