Disclaimer: I do not own the Reeds, but much of the family history is of my own design. I researched a good deal of Navy terminology for this fic, but some still may be wrong, so don't hesitate to correct me. Also please note that I am in no way putting down the Navy or anyone in it or any other branches of the military. The two people I know serving in the military are some of the nicest people you could ever hope to meet. This is just a plot device.
Summary: They warn you about marrying sailors, and I learned why the hard way. A story never-before-done (I think): the story of the love and downfall of Mary Carter and Stuart Reed.
AN: Definitely not my best piece of work, but I still had fun with it. And since it's becoming increasingly obvious that I'll never write professionally, fun is what it's all about, right? :)
Review, please! Also, if any of you are primarily Spanish-speaking and would like to review in Spanish, please do so. I'm trying my best to be bilingual by the time I leave for college in 2 ½ years, and I need all the practice I can get! :)
Paying the Devil
To whom it may concern…
They warn you about marrying sailors, men who care more for the sea than any mortal woman, and God knows I know why. Men like these are married foremost to the waves, and the water, and their duty, and the women who love them take second rank. It doesn't matter if you fall in love with a pirate, a sailor, or a Navy man. They're all the same in that respect.
I was eighteen years old when I met Stuart Walker Reed, stationed for duty by the town where I lived. I honestly didn't know what job the United Kingdom's Royal Navy actually served now, in the twenty-second century, but I didn't care. All I knew was that he was a handsome man in a crisp uniform, and every morning I could see him from the window of my family's seaside house.
All I ever wanted was a storybook romance, like the one my parents had shared. My mother left Ireland― left everything behind for my father, and though I watched them carefully for years, I never saw her once regret it. I wanted to fall in love like that, to love another person so much, like that, and that was exactly how it seemed with him, at first.
Stuart had a kind of aquiline handsomeness, with a hooked nose, a strong chin, and stormcloud-colored eyes. Seeing his hard, military face light up in a smile at the sight of me became the moments I lived for. He was twenty-five, a good deal older than me, and already a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy the summer that his crew stationed near me. he would jog past my window every day around 0700 hours, and it became ritual for me to sit by my window, combing my hair slowly and watching for him. I know that he noticed me, because every day his shoe lace seems to come untied while he was right under my room, and he'd kneel down to fix it. The entire time, though, his eyes were trained on my window.
It was a fairy tale, storybook romance. One day, when the summer was almost over, he kneeled down to fix his sneaker, as usual, but this time he straightened with a small rock in his hand. He tossed it gently at my shudders; it hit the paneling just beneath my window, and bounced off gently. When I opened my window he told me his name was Stuart and asked me for a date, and we were engaged before that Christmas.
We were married in a small chapel near his hometown, just outside London, on February 2, 2217, my 19th birthday. It was a modest ceremony with only family and close friends. He wore his dress uniform and I my mother's wedding dress, and everything went as perfectly as could be. We spent a week in Singapore for out honeymoon, and the only blemish on that trip was when Stuart took me out on a boat, and I was terribly seasick the whole time. maybe I should've realized then. But when I returned to Britain to move into the small house that we had selected, close to my parents and to his base, I began my life as a Navy wife, still not knowing what I had gotten myself into.
Our firstborn, Malcolm Stuart, was born two and a half years later on September 2, 2219. He seemed a flawless blend of both of us, with my dark wavy hair and Stuart's tough blue-grey eyes. It was strange to see that color in the eyes of a child, in the eyes of an innocent. Stuart was the only one I had ever known with eyes like these, cold always, even when he was happy, and now my son had them too. It was unsettling to see these eyes in the face of someone so frail and fragile.
It's not Malcolm's fault he was born a weakling. I went into labor almost seven weeks early, in a period when the baby's survival is basically assured but even now, with all the medical marvels they've concocted, its perfect health isn't. He was born small and weak looking, and though we took him home in just a few days, we went back to the hospital half a dozen times over the next year.
At first, Stuart was just as nervous a new parents as I was. The first two times Malcolm landed in the emergency room at four in the morning, Stuart was right there beside me, holding my hand in one of his, and Malcolm's tiny fingers in the other. He looked shaken, the first time I'd even seen that in him. But eventually he grew tired of his son's delicate health.
Stuart was a Navy man, born and raised, as were his brothers, his father, and his uncles. And all he truly wanted, I knew, was a clan of brave, sturdy sons to follow him in that path and take it over for him when he died. He was angry when he was in Malcolm that dream falling through. He was angry at me for baring him a weak son, and he was angry at Malcolm for not being as strong, or as fast, or as icy as the sons that his Navy friends were raising. I think somewhere deep inside he was angry at himself, too. This was a touch position for him to be in; he loved Malcolm. I know he truly did, but how could be deal with a frail son? How could he still raise him to be a man just like his father?
Malcolm wasn't walking until he was more than a year old, which was slow, but not horribly so. But he was talking a few months later, in near-full sentences, which the doctor informed us was incredible.
Malcolm was always going to be the small one, and I think Stuart could actually accept that. Even fully grown, Stuart isn't a giant himself. The blow he couldn't take was the blow that came when Malcolm was three.
Malcolm had been toddling after his father since he could, and had been raised around the ships that he father loved more than his son and me. He never wanted anything other than to make his father proud, and if that meant joining the Navy, that was what he planned to so, even at a very young age. By his third birthday, he almost knew how to handle a boat by himself, but still couldn't swim. Stuart wouldn't stand for that.
I didn't know what he was going to do; of course I would've done everything to stop him. But back then I didn't know what Stuart Reed was capable of, didn't know what lengths he would go to. I knew he was disappointed in Malcolm, but I didn't know to what extent. To this day, I still have nightmares about what could have happened.
Stuart was taking Malcolm to the lake, to practice his boating skills, he claimed. "If he keeps at the rate he's going," I remember him saying, "He'll be sailing solo by eight." I thought maybe, just maybe, Stuart was truly happy with his son, for once.
I didn't learn what he was done until that night, after it had already come to pass. He had driven to the lake, as he said he would, and rowed a canoe out to the middle of the water. Then, he had hefted out three-year-old son and thrown him in.
I can't imagine what it was like for our little boy. I can't imagine what Stuart was thinking, and I can't imagine what I would've done to him had I been there at that moment. As it was, Malcolm sunk under, and it took almost a minute before Stuart finally dove in and pulled him about the surface. Malcolm was shivering and sneezing for a week, and that's how long it took before I could look at Stuart without feeling dizzy and sick. But I could never look at him the same way again, after that. Nothing before had led me to think he could do something like that. I couldn't help feeling betrayed. And I couldn't help wondering if marrying a man like Stuart had been the worst mistake I could have made.
Malcolm was left with no physical scars from the ordeal, but it was sixty seconds of his childhood that would never face from memory. That night I drew Malcolm a hot bath to warm him up a bit, and when he saw the tub, he looked at me and burst into tears (something he never did in front of his father). He couldn't face the water. Stuart had tried to teach his son to swim by necessity, but all he mad managed to do was ingrain such severe aquaphobia in him that Malcolm would never look at water the same way again.
And still our son was handling a boat alone by six. Still he wanted nothing more than to join the Navy and please his father, and if that meant facing his fear of drowning, so be it.
Malcolm was seven when his sister Madeline was born. All smiles and pale gold curls, Maddy was everything Malcolm wasn't. She was healthy and strong, walking by nine months old and outrunning her older brother Mally by the age of three. She loved every sport she could try her hand at, and was four when she announced her intent to join the Navy like her papa.
I don't think the three of us― Stuart, Malcolm, and I― could have been more surprised. I couldn't picture my baby girl in the military; my old-fashioned husband couldn't picture any girl in the military. And Malcolm couldn't accept that his little sister was being everything that he, as the firstborn, was expected to be. I know he'd never admit to it, but he would always envy his baby sister, receptor of his father's pride.
Stuart grew ever more distant as the years passed. By the time Malcolm entered secondary school, I felt as though I no longer had a husband, just someone I lived with and ate with and shared a bed with and didn't really love. That was something I thought about a lot, then. Did I really love Stuart anymore? Had I ever? Or had it been the circumstance I had been in love with, the thought of a perfect husband that had clouded my eyes to the real Stuart Reed? And, most importantly of all: was this an irreversible error?
Malcolm had to be perfect. Every little thing he did wrong, every day of his life, was recounted for him that night ad Stuart admonished him for it. Nothing was ever good enough. Malcolm was never strong or smart or brave enough. And he knew it. But he never stopped trying.
And poor Madeline did everything right. She was strong, beautiful and intelligent, and about as close to perfect as anyone could get. But Stuart never noticed. He was too obsessed with what a disappointment his son was to appreciate what a success his daughter promised to be. Madeline gave up trying to be noticed, eventually. She sunk into mediocrity, and was happy with it.
But Malcolm never stopped trying to earn his father's love. Every waking minute of his every living day was dedicated to pleasing his father. And Stuart was, by now, ever sterner and colder and harder to please than he had ever been. He sunk so far into his work that was out late every night, and working weekends and holidays, for duty and glory. And, just maybe, for escape.
The only thing Malcolm could do to get noticed, it seemed, was to rebel and prove himself in a rival field. Starfleet was negating the UK Royal Navy and the other individual-country militaries. And space― physics and mathematics and starship weaponry― was something that Malcolm was genuinely good at. So our son dropped a career bombshell of his own, one day a few months into his last year of secondary school. He would not be enlisting in the Navy. He would be leaving the following August for Starfleet Academy in San Francisco, USA. Malcolm never said it, but I know what he was thinking: his father had wanted him to succeed at everything. And if his ultimate achievement couldn't be on his father's playing field, Malcolm would forge his own way. That, of course, and San Francisco was half a world away.
Once Malcolm left, he didn't look back. As his legal guardians, we still received mail from Starfleet― grades, reports and such― and the occasional letter from Malcolm himself. But that was all we had become to him, a letter to write every month or so, and I think once Malcolm finally got away from his father, the last thing he wanted to do was face him again. I will never forgive Stuart for that. He pushed my baby boy away from himself and, at the same time, away from me. I don't know if Malcolm resented me for never speaking up for him like I should have. Or maybe he just couldn't come near me because I was too close to Stuart. It didn't matter. He faded from my life, too.
A few years later, Stuart and I moved to Malaysia to be closer to a heart disease treatment center in Kuala Lampur. Malcolm had gotten his fragility from me, it seemed. I was only in my early forties when I was diagnosed with a rare circulatory disease. Madeline was seventeen, and she stayed behind in Europe, enrolled in Dublin City University a year early. Malcolm never came to visit us in out new house, although he came by the hospital once, briefly, to see me when he knew that his father would not be there. He said nothing about Starfleet, or why he didn't visit more often.
A few years later we received a letter saying he had been posted to the new state-of-the-art spaceship, the Enterprise. That was over three years ago, and I still hope all the time that one day he'll just show up on our porch, ready to forgive us, ready to forgive me for making the choices I've made. He never has, of course, although I'll never stop praying. I haven't seen my son face-to-face in more than three years.
No matter how much I try to deny it, Malcolm will always have one thing in common with his father. For both of them, their work is never done, no matter what kind of work it is. There's an old saying: unless a marine is dead, he's still a marine. That applied literally to Stuart, who never stopped thinking like a Navy man even after his retirement four months ago. It applies to Malcolm too; he never ceased trying to earn his father's love and approval. They both throw themselves into their job, their duty, and they never look back, at least not that I know of.
But my baby boy is more than that. He had compassion; he has love. He has weakness. He had the things that make a person human, like fears and allergies, quirks and hidden talents. Sometimes, I think, those things are the most important of all.
I married a man without weakness, or compassion. And it might have been easier if I married a man without love as well.
For Stuart loves me. He loves Malcolm, in a peculiar way, and he loves Madeline too. I know he does, but more than us, he loves his duty. He loves the sea.
They warn you about marrying men like him, and it's true. I'm warning you against it now. They warn you about marrying men in love with something so cold, so fast as the ocean, or as honor. And I know why they say things like that; I know very well. I, Mary Morgaine Carter-Reed, learned the hard way, and now I'm paying the devil his due.
AN: Actually more please with this than I thought I'd be! But please, review and tell me how I could've made it better! 'Paying the devil his due' is Navy slang for doing something unpleasant; I used it here (not incorrectly, I think) to mean paying the price for something. Revieeeeeew!!!