Title:: Just

Author:: Lokaia

Summary, Rating, Disclaimer:: See Chapter 1


"I can think of very few things more unsettling than this," Ms. Davenport said quietly, looking quite pale.

"I can," Bova replied.

"Enlighten me," Randy demanded of him. The boy was leaning heavily against the helm, looking up every once in a while to glare at his sister.

Lex glared back. "Look, you're the one who had to be dramatic about it--"

"They never would have found out if you hadn't brought up Dad," her brother growled.

"Oh, well, *excuse me* for trying to get him back," she replied, eyes narrowing in anger.

"I *won't* excuse you for nearly destroying our existence!" Randy snapped.

"We're still here, aren't we?"

"Yeah, now for how long?"

"THAT'S ENOUGH!" Harlan had gotten up from the floor, still pale but now thoroughly annoyed. "Jeez, do you two *ever* stop fighting?"

Randy and Lex had froze, staring at him. Randy began to laugh. "If there was ever a doubt who you were, Harlan Band.."

"Yeah, I'm really amazing and dad-like," the human grumbled. "What I want to know is, how did you get here in the first place?"

"We already told you-it would be a paradox to say," Lex said.

"According to you, you've already caused a paradox," Goddard reminded her.

Randy shook his head, straightening and pushing away from the helm. "No, if we'd caused a paradox, Lex and I wouldn't be here."

"What do you mean?" Rosie asked.

Randy sighed. "It's like the Grandfather-Paradox, you know?" Blank faces surrounded him and he sighed. "The theory is, if you go back in time and kill your grandfather, then your grandfather wouldn't be around to meet your grandmother, have your parents, and have you. So you wouldn't exist to go back in time and kill him in the first place, you know?"

Harlan looked at him blankly. "Did you get any of that?" he asked Radu quietly.

"What's a grandfather?"

"So what you're saying," Bova began, "is that a paradox is basically impossible to achieve, because if you ever did it, you wouldn't exist to do it in the first place." He nodded. "Makes sense."

"But if a paradox is impossible, then what are you worried about?" Goddard wondered.

"We're worried that the *theory* of an impossible paradox isn't true, and that a paradox actually *can* happen," Randy replied. "I don't know about you guys, but when we started out, I didn't want to tempt fate."

"Then why did you board the Christa at all?" Ms. Davenport asked. "Surely our future selves would have told you about her."

Lex smiled. "You didn't have to. We grew up on the Christa."



The girl winced. "I'm sorry! Um.. to answer your question, the ship *was* damaged. And.. well.. I figured we *did* need the help.."

"So, you were the one who answered our message?" Goddard asked.

"Er, no, that was me," Randy said sheepishly. "Lex is, ah.. convincing." He cleared his throat. "So was the seventy-five percent damage on our ship."

"Speaking of which," Suzee began, "you only went through a white circle. There's no reason for all the damage that was done to your ship."

Lex turned to her brother slowly, glaring at him. Randy cleared his throat, his face darkening in a blush. "Er.. well.."

"Let's just say piloting doesn't exactly run in the family," Lex commented darkly.

Harlan laughed out loud, receiving a glare from Randy. "Yeah, yeah, laugh it up," the boy grumbled. "*You're* the one who taught me. What does that say about your teaching skills?"

"That still doesn't make any sense," Suzee said before Harlan could reply. "A white circle pulls you forward. You don't have to fly at all."

"Exactly," Lex said, still glaring at her brother. "So if you *did* try to pilot while a white circle has you.."

Suzee made a noise somewhere between a laugh and a groan.

Randy rolled his eyes. "Oh, like none of you have ever messed up.."

"But still," Davenport spoke up. "Whether you wanted to see a younger version of your father, or your ship was damaged, there were many more precautions you could have taken to avoid being caught."

"Well," Lex began, thoroughly ignoring the gaze of her brother. "I.. er.."

Randy sighed. "She *wanted* to get caught."

"You *wanted* to?" Bova repeated incredulously. "Why?"

Lex studied her shoes. "You don't understand.. I just.. I.."

"Lex?" Rosie's tone was quiet and kind. "How long has your dad been missing?"

Lex looked up sharply, her gaze softening as she looked at the Mercurian. "Six months," she whispered. Rosie came up beside her, putting a comforting arm around the girl's shoulders.

"So when you say Lex is 'persuasive'.." Suzee began.

"I mean 'good at guilting people'," Randy said smiling without humor. "The offer was.. tempting."

"Randy." The boy turned to meet Harlan's blank gaze. "Exactly where *am*.. er, *is* my future self?"

Randy's next smile was sad. "That's the thing. We have no idea."

Harlan's brow furrowed in confusion. "I thought you said that I-er, *future* me was on a mission for.. for whatever."

"You are," Lex put in. "But.. you stopped calling. And you didn't show up at the right place when you were supposed to. And.." She stopped and focused on the floor again. "And every time someone tries to contact the ship.. it's a dead signal."

Harlan took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "You think I'm dead."

"Maybe," Randy replied. "We don't know. But.. it's a good guess."

"It's almost kind of lucky that you ended up here!" Rosie said cheerfully, still trying to comfort Lex. "I mean, your father's missing and you end up seeing a younger version of him! Isn't that nice?"

Randy and Lex's glance could not have lasted more than a split second, and a fraction of that split second was spent looking guilty.

There was a pause as the Christa's crew contemplated the meaning of such a glance.

Goddard was the first to speak. "It's not an accident that you ended up here, is it?" he asked quietly.

Randy shook his head. "Oh, it's *definitely* an accident that we're here. It's just.. not an accident that we're *here*."

Bova raised an eyebrow. "You could at least *try* to make that make sense."

Lex chewed on a fingernail nervously. "Well.. we didn't exactly.. we didn't go through a random white circle. Exactly."

A collective chill went up the crew's spines. "What does that mean?" Suzee demanded. "You can generate white circles?"

"No," Randy answered calmly. "*You* can."

"You're saying Suzee's figured out how to generate white circles," Harlan said, tone laced with disbelief, "but she *still* hasn't figured out a way to get back to Yensid?"

Lex rolled her eyes. "Of course she has! How do you think Mom got back?"

"But.. how could Suzee be around to generate white circles if she's on Yensid?" Radu wondered.

"Well, we didn't say she *stayed* on Yensid," Randy informed him. He turned to Suzee with a smile. "Ironically, you wouldn't have come back if Dad hadn't been missing."

Suzee, who had surprisingly been stunned speechless, regained her composure. "Why not?"

"No reason for you to," Randy told her. "But after Dad left.. you wanted to be around. For comfort and everything."

Suzee rolled her eyes. "I don't need to be in the same dimension as Catalina to comfort her."

"Not Mom," Lex told her. "Leeam."

"Who's Leeam?" the Yensidian asked, annoyed by the massive amount of new information that had been constantly coming her way.

"Who's Leeam?" Randy repeated with a smile. "He's your son."

Suzee was quite sure the room wasn't supposed to spin that way. "W- what do you mean, 'my son'?"

"Well, when two people love each other very much.."

"Or, in your case, have been arguing for a long time but claim to love each other very much.."

"Suzee gets MARRIED?" Harlan demanded, shocked.

Suzee glared daggers at the human. "Yensidians don't *get* married," she snapped. "You're just *together*."

Lex nodded. "Right. You and T-"

Randy clapped a hand over her mother. "Uh-uh. She can't know about the one's she has control over."

"Well, she doesn't really have control over how they meet, does she?" Lex asked, pushing Randy's hand away and smiling. Randy chuckled in response.

"This isn't funny," Suzee informed them. "This is my *life* we're talking about here, and according to your fun and eventful theory, you can't create a paradox. So what's his name?"

Both Randy and Lex stayed silent. Suzee had an intense urge to pitch her consciousness and use their experiences as blackmail, but stayed firm. "All right. Fine. So what does 'Leeam' have to do with why I came back to your dimension?"

"You came for him," Lex explained. "You don't have a link with him like you do with Mom."

"But why wasn't I there to begin with?" the Yensidian demanded impatiently.

"Because he doesn't live with you," Randy answered. "He lives with us. You and T-your.. partner travel around uncharted space for a living. You didn't think it would be safe for him, so Leeam lives with us."

Suzee frowned uncomfortably. "I don't even live with him?"

"Oh, he understands," Lex said quickly. "He isn't bitter or anything. Actually, he wants to be an engineer, too. I mean, he still loves you and his dad. And you visit him whenever you can."

"But this still doesn't explain why you're here," Goddard reminded them. He felt remorse for cutting off Suzee's conversation with the two, but they had other things to worry about right now.

Both Lex and Randy's already-dark complexions grew darker as they blushed. Lex studied her shoes as Randy refused to meet anyone's eyes. "W- well," the boy began, "see, what we were supposed to do was find Dad.. and Suzee had a theory that she could use Lex's DNA, and mine, as a sort of.. focus. For generating a circle. Theoretically, it was supposed to take us right to him." He smiled sheepishly at Harlan. "And, well.. it did."

"Just not the way you had hoped," Davenport reminded him.

"Er.. right."