Chapter 1: Somebody Else's Wedding
Prylar Halen intones in Kendra dialect, "Boray pree hadokee. Tolata impara boresh. Preeya Armen Aldos, Preeya Kanril Teran, abrem varo atel. Ni ya var alun bat."
Vedek Armen turns to face my sister, then sweeps her into his arms for a powerful kiss and the congregation at the Priyat shrine starts clapping. Standing next to Teri in full dress, party salad shined and hanging from my breast, I join in the applause as he leads her off the dais and down the center aisle. I catch sight of Gaarra standing with the rest of my command crew, grinning. He hollers something I can't make out. Tess elbows him and Biri starts laughing.
About half an hour later I'm standing with my family at the reception on our front lawn. It's the first time I've seen them in over six months. Gaarra and I are on light duty after the Schrödinger's Butterfly mission and the Bajor's deflector room is still under repair, so we managed to get shore leave for a few days to attend the ceremony.
My mother Shora is much shorter than me, only about 165 centimeters. I got her dark green eyes but I mostly take after my father Torvo, who's big and bulky from decades of construction work and stands even taller than me at 190. He used to have flaming red hair like me but it's all gone white, and he wears an eye patch where his left eye used to be, a souvenir from our war of independence.
Teri, my little sister, is leaning up against her new husband's shoulder, still wearing her burgundy wedding dress. If you didn't know us you wouldn't think we were related: she's the exact opposite from me in terms of whom she took after, with mousy brown hair, hazel eyes, and a cute little round face. And of course she's a schoolteacher, not military. "I wish Sharya could've made it," she lightly complains. Our cousin's in second year at Starfleet Academy and there was no way to get the three weeks' leave, minimum, that would've required. She'd miss too many classes.
"We can get her on subspace later," I answer.
"Not the same."
"No, it's not," Armen agrees.
"Trust me, Vedek Armen," I answer, "serving in Starfleet absolutely sucks sometimes."
"You know, you should really just call me Aldos. I'm your brother-in-law now."
"Yeah, but you were my T.A. in temple way before that." I raise my wine glass to my lips but it seems to have sprung a leak. "Phekk."
"Eleya!" Mother scolds me.
"Sorry, Mother. Where's that d"—I catch myself—"springwine bottle? Ah, Gaarra, my lifesaver." He appears out of nowhere and pours me another glass of the pale blue wine. It's a very tasty local vintage you can't get outside the Kendra Valley, despite half the vintners on Bajor telling Indali Nerys she'd make a killing if she exported.
"Yeah, you looked empty."
"So, Vedek Armen, who do you like for next year's Bajor Cup?"
"Well, Tomis Lee is very, very good," Armen replies as he disentangles himself from my sister, "but there's a new guy, Nas Eli, who's making waves in the semipro circuit up north."
"He's half-human, isn't he? Kid of a Starfleet officer?"
"Oh, you've heard of him? Did you hear what he did to…" They move out of earshot and I look after them.
"So, when are you two getting married?" Father asks me, and a mouthful of springwine sprays across the grass.
"Um," I say, wiping my mouth on my sleeve. "Gaarra and I? We're not."
"You can't be serious, Big Sis. I've barely met the guy and I can tell he's head-over-heels for you."
"Yeah, I know, and I love him, too. But officially we're not even dating—too many regs to work through. Nobody other than you guys even knows we're a couple now, not even Tess." I pause for a second, then amend that with, "I think."
"So in other words, you're not marrying him because it's inconvenient?" Mother says in a disapproving tone.
"I'm not marrying him because I'm kind of in hot water with Starfleet right now and I don't want to give them any more excuses to beach me."
"Come again?" Father says in a confused tone.
"It wasn't luck that got the Bajor reassed to Marconi's command in time for the wedding, it was me losing it and cussing out three ambassadors, a rear admiral, and the Proconsul of the Romulan Republic."
Teri's jaw drops. "Seriously?" Then, more quietly, "Whoa."
I nod. "Only reason I didn't eat the big chicken dinner was because Captain Shon and Ambassador Doran Vala stuck up for me and Ambassador S'taass didn't feel insulted."
"Wait," Mother says, "what's chicken got to do with it?"
"Sorry, Starfleet slang. 'Bad conduct discharge.'"
Father whistles. "You've always had a temper, Eleya, but wow. That's a new one even for you."
"I have the coolest big sister ever." I roll my eyes and take a sip from my glass as Teri starts giggling.
"Anyway, after that Admiral Quinn just wanted to get me away from Earth and keep me away from anything even related to diplomatic functions."
"But they were willing to put you on that test mission two weeks ago," Father points out.
"Yeah, I'm not sure that was exactly a diplomatic function. Marconi basically told me to sit down and keep my mouth shut during the briefings. And Professor Dukat turned out to be nice enough I could work with her. And, well, regardless of what the upper brass think of me I am kinda the highest-profile Bajoran in Starfleet right now, so I guess one set of politics cancelled out the other."
Father shakes his head in consternation. "I give up. I've never been good with politics. That's why I quit after we kicked the spoonheads out."
"It's usually not that bad, Father. Most days I'm pretty sure I have the best job in the universe."
"If it makes you happy, then we're happy, too," Mother says. "Now, about young Commander Reshek. Are you being safe?"
"Mother!" Teri and I both yell at once. My cheeks probably just turned as red as my hair.
"I like your family," Gaarra tells me after we've seen the newlyweds off on their honeymoon in the family flitter. "They seem like good people."
"One of these days you'll have to introduce me to your aunt and father."
"If we ever end up in the Gamma Quadrant, sure, we can maybe swing by New Bajor." The bandwidth on the trans-wormhole relay satellites can't handle real-time vid, unfortunately.
We go into the house, leaving my parents on the front porch, and I reach under the kitchen sink for the bottle of Romulan ale. "Want one? Last bottle from the case we brought back from New Romulus."
"Sure, pour me one." We clink glasses and drink, and I suppress the urge to cough when the ale hits my throat. There's an old joke that the Romulans drink the stuff mostly to prove that they can. It's good, though. "I'm gonna go upstairs and change into civvies."
"Yeah, me too. Where are the others staying, again?"
"They're not; they're taking the Glyrhond back to DS9."
"Wirrpanda still wants us on light duty?"
"Yeah, through tomorrow at least. Which means we get today and tomorrow all to ourselves." I turn left at the top of the stairs while Gaarra goes right to the guest bedroom. My old room is just as I left it when I shipped out for Militia basic twelve years ago. Still the same reproduction posters for The Fifth Element, Mass Effect 2, and Adrian's Curse. There's my old workstation console and wall screen, and the old Cardassian disruptor pistol I first learned to shoot with sits on top of my dresser. Collimator matrix burned out ages ago and I never bothered getting it fixed.
I strip out of my uniform jacket, undershirt and slacks and pull a pale blue tank top and shorts out of the dresser, then start disassembling the party salad from my dress whites. The humans think it's rude to wear white to a wedding if you're not a participant, but Bajoran brides wear whatever color they want. I carefully pack the uniform into its storage case and put the medals in on top of it.
"Knock knock," I hear Gaarra say behind me. He's switched into a gray button-down t-shirt and jeans. "So, this is your room, huh?"
"You really like old sci-fi movies, don't you, Captain?"
"Well, actually, Mass Effect was a computer game series, but, yeah, I love Earth sci-fi."
I give him a look. "Well, why do you like Trill mystery novels?"
He cocks his head. "Touché. What's The Fifth Element about?"
"Oh, forget telling you, why don't we just watch it?" I hop over to my workstation and go digging through the movies folder, then shoot the film over to my wall screen and hit play.
Two hours later the credits roll with us cuddling on the bed. The sun's setting outside and I can see Jeraddo beginning to rise. "That was … pretty good. Science was way off, of course."
I start laughing. "Well, what do you expect? They didn't know how this shiel worked back then!" I drain the rest of my glass of Romulan ale, still laughing, and put my head down on his shoulder with a sigh. "So, are you gonna grow your beard back?" It's still stubble from where they had to shave it after the EPS explosion that cost him his original lungs.
We just lie there for a moment, but I can feel his chest rising with each breath. He's now got the lungs of a man ten years younger, but the smell of his cologne mixed with his own skin, that's all him.
I feel his lips on my forehead as he squeezes me closer to him. I tilt my head back and catch his mouth. It's our first time since the Schrödinger's Butterfly mission and I think I feel up to some … mildly strenuous exercise.
"Do you … think your parents will mind?" he asks between kisses.
"Oh, hold on. Mm, computer, close and lock the door. Privacy mode." Off his look, "Not my first time having boys over."
"Started young, didja?"
"You really want to hear about my conquests, or do you want to be one?"
"Oh, I already am."
He's leading this time and gets above me. I've got his shirt unbuttoned and his hand is at the base of my spine and pulling up the back of my tank top. I capture his mouth again and let his tongue inside, but then I hear an electronic chirp, followed by Ensign Esplin's voice. "Bajor to Captain Kanril."
Phekk, I have the worst timing. I break the kiss and turn my head to the side, struggling to reach my combadge on the nightstand as he turns to nibbling my neck. "Mm. Get off." I hit the combadge on my second try. "Kanril."
"Captain," Esplin says, "C-in-C Starfleet is on the line for you. I'm patching him through from DS9."
"Geh, phekk. Put him through." I push Gaarra off me and get up, pull my tank top back down, readjust my ponytail, then flick the call from my desk to my wall screen and stand, coming to attention as gray-haired Fleet Admiral Riker appears on it. "Sir!"
"At ease, Captain Kanril. Uh, is this a bad time?" he asks, I'm hoping just from seeing me out of uniform. I really hope it's not sex flush he's seeing.
"I'm on shore leave but I can talk."
"How's your head? Heard you got a little banged up."
"Doc says I'm fine. He's even letting me go back to full duty tomorrow. What do you need, sir?"
"I have good news, bad news, and … indifferent news. Which do you want to hear first?"
"Well, I'm a strong proponent of facing the music. What's the bad news?"
"You're not getting the Pike Medal."
"Okay." I give him a questioning look.
"As you know, the Pike has to be authorized by the President, and to be perfectly frank after what you pulled at Admiral Tuvok's conference you're on Okeg's and Secretary Maz's shit-lists. However, Starfleet Command has control over everything else and Secretary Shad supports your actions, so you're staying on active service."
"Is that the good news?"
"No, and I'm not finished with the bad news yet. At Tuvok's order you're also getting an official reprimand for gross insubordination. I hope you know that is a serious black mark on your service record. You'll probably never make admiral now."
I let out a breath. "Respectfully, sir, can you see me stuck behind a desk directing fleets or running a research office?"
"Mm, no, I can't," he admits.
"Then I think I'll survive. Sir."
"Fair enough." He clears his throat. "The good news is you're getting another Purple Heart for that Undine thing a couple weeks ago, and the Karagite Order of Heroism for what you did at Spacedock and Qo'noS."
I blush. The Karagite's as high as you can go before you need the president's signature. "Thank you, sir."
"Tuvok also ordered this."
Gaarra goes "What?" behind me as I say, "Wait, he gave me a black mark and a medal?"
"He said something along the lines of it being logical to reward heroism and punish transgressions."
"How very Vulcan of him."
"Finally, we've got some new orders for you. We're detaching the Bajor temporarily from Marconi's command. Did you hear about the Terran Empire attacking Vauthil Station in December?"
"I think I was on a run to New Romulus when that happened, but I heard about it, yeah."
"We've been investigating that and the various incursions they made last year, but there's been another raid. Two cloak-capable Defiant-class ships with Terran markings hit a convoy out of Oradhe II forty hours ago."
"Four freighters and one Ferasan mercenary escort damaged or destroyed, 123 dead, and they got away with a whole shipment of reactor parts. Wait, hold on." He gets up and walks out of the frame. I hear him talking to someone, female, but I can't make out the words. Then he comes back. "Sorry, that was Admiral La Forge. The Jadzia Dax potted them with an antiproton sweep and Gul Antos from the Fifth Order tracked them to the Arawath system."
"Did he get 'em?"
"No, the Terrans have a fortified base and a stable transdimensional portal in the Kuiper belt. The Cardassians asked for help and Marconi's marshaling an assault force to take it out. The local Klingon forces are pitching in, too."
"First joint op since the armistice. You want me on it?"
"No. We've got something different in mind for the Bajor."
Author's Notes: Yes, apparently The Fifth Element and Mass Effect exist in the Star Trek universe. Don't ask about Adrian's Curse, though; I made that one up for flavor.
I'm making a few chronology changes to the official storyline. I'm telling the same story as "The Other Side" but I'm setting it after "Surface Tension" and Reality Is Fluid. The part where Eleya tells her parents she's basically been reassigned to Antarctica is in reference to a "Surface Tension" fix fic I'm developing.
And of course, Eleya's one of those officers who never really wanted to be an admiral anyway. In the immortal words of James T. Kirk, "Don't let them promote you. Don't let them transfer you, don't let them do anything that takes you off the bridge of that ship, because while you're there, you can make a difference."
Gul Antos turned up in the diplo mission "Standoff", and Riker's "good news, bad news, indifferent news" line is a reference to a Rowan Atkinson sketch titled "Pink Tights and Plenty of Props".