"Um," Kirk sputtered, "What did you say?"
I lowered my head, heaving a deep sigh. "Caiden is the son of James T. Kirk, captain of the starship Enterprise. He was conceived almost eight years ago."
Silence that crickets could be heard in—if they existed in space—followed.
"You mean to tell me that that kid I saw," Kirk waved his hand in the air, "He is," He looked like he was gasping for air and clarity, "he is-"
"Yes, he is James' son." I nodded in the face of Kirk's frantic motions. "But he isn't your son, if that makes sense. Technically speaking, from a genetic standpoint, he is your son. But in every other way he is not your son. There is no emotional connection or recognition between the two of you."
"How?" Kirk still seemed too stumped to form complex sentences. "I mean, why?"
"Well the how should be pretty obvious. As to the why," I ran a hand through my hair, "well that is a bit personal. People were different in that other reality, I was different, and younger, and so I don't see why it should be explained."
Kirk looked like a nauseated fish out of water, "Spock thought I needed to know this? That you had a fling with me…er…my counterpart and had a kid?"
I let that comment fall in the air like a rock into water. I felt my eyes water when images and ghost touches came back to haunt me and I tried to push past them. "I was there long enough and things just pushed us together and," I looked down at the table again, unwilling to meet his gaze, "okay seriously I don't see why I should discuss my personal attachment to James. The fact of the matter is that obviously I felt close enough to him to be intimate with him before I was taken away and I managed to get pregnant. Now I have a son, by James." I rubbed at my eyes in a quick manner, hoping he didn't notice the moisture I'd wiped away.
Kirk merely stared at me with a blank expression before he spoke again, "Does Caiden know who his father is?"
I nibbled my lip again. "Yes and no."
"Care to elaborate." Kirk got up to get another drink; clearly this wasn't the positive reinforcement Spock had been hoping for.
"Well he knows his father is a starship captain, that we cared for one another, and that it would never have worked out between the two of us due to the nature of my work with Q, as well as the nature of his father's work." I smiled. "Caiden is a bright kid. Maybe Q's managed to grant him the ability to understand and accept things better than even his own mother can. In any case, Caiden, as far as I know, is not aware of the fact that there are two men with the same DNA, with the same name and career, existing. Unless Q told him, which I wouldn't put it past Q to cause drama like that. Caiden has not made the connection between you here and the James I was involved with."
"It's James eh?" I heard Kirk mutter into his glass.
Before I could comment on this, he finally voiced more than a simple sentence, "And I thought that mind meld gave me a headache!" He pushed away from the table and took to pacing, his drink forgotten. "So let me get this all straight, and forgive me if I seem a little slow, I just found out that I'm father."
"Well actually you aren't the father, but continue."
Kirk nodded and raked a hand through his hair, causing it to spike up haphazardly. "In any case, you got pregnant by my counterpart in the other reality. Did I know about it, in the other reality I mean?"
"No," I shook my head, "Q took me almost immediately after you and I were…intimate."
"Right." Kirk nodded then went back to pacing. "So in any case my counterpart makes a kid with you. You are whisked away by this Q, raise the kid with Q's help, and now you're here and, as far as I can tell, sometimes your son comes to visit you."
Kirk sat down again, "So where do I fit in?"
"I don't expect you to suddenly feel the responsibility of a father, or feel inclined to act like one, especially to a son you didn't even have a hand at creating. You are as much a stranger to Caiden as Caiden is to you. That is why I didn't think it was necessary to tell any of you the truth about him."
"So were you ever going to tell us?" His voice was strained, I couldn't tell from what emotion though.
I grimaced, "If it appeared to be relevant information then maybe I would have."
"Well, you already mentioned that I probably wouldn't feel inclined to act fatherly towards a kid I had no part in making. Neither would it be logical for me to suddenly feel like a responsible father."
I frowned, "What are you getting at Kirk?"
"What I'm getting at is why in the hell did Spock feel it was necessary to tell me about a kid who is genetically my son but emotionally is not?" His voice was near shouting level by the end of his question.
I felt my own anger rise in response, "He must've felt that it would push you to act more like a captain and less like a sulking two year old. Hence the 'positive reinforcement' crap most counselors prattle on about!"
Kirk growled back at me, "What the hell is that supposed to mean?"
"It means, dear Jim, that you are not setting a good example by drinking away every night and walking around in your own bubble of misery."
Kirk scoffed, "And you're one to make judgment calls about bubbles of misery and drinking?"
"Excuse me? What is that supposed to mean? I only ever drink when I'm around you, Christine, or Mac, and even then I never get drunk like the rest of you." I rubbed at my temples before I spoke again. "He is right when he says that you should be the first to get out of your bubble of misery and force the others to do so. As captain you should already be well aware of the fact that your crew looks to you for guidance in behavior and morale. If all you're doing is wallowing in your own misery then they will continue to do so also."
"So having my kid gives you the right to talk to me like this?"
I stood up and slammed my fist onto the table, causing his glass to bounce then roll off onto the floor, "You know, I tried to keep this to myself. I knew this would only cause problems but no! Spock just had to go and open his mouth and you just had to go and trust his judgment. I knew this would only make us all feel awkward and doubtful and just even more like hell."
"So if you knew all that then why did you let me go on and on about trust and shit like that?"
"I don't know!" I nearly screamed. "I don't know a lot of things okay? I don't belong here and yet I'm here. I could be taken away from here at any time but I have to do what I can to act normal, and sane while I am here. But seriously, why should I be blamed here? Why should any of you pass judgment or be angry with me? That was another time and REALITY. Those were different people. Sure they have the same genetic makeup that you do but still they were completely different. Why should you punish me for how I felt then? Things are different now. You are all different."
He was silent in reply, and I got the feeling that he didn't really know what to say, or do, at the moment. With shoulders slumped in defeat, I took my seat again. Where were we all going to go from here I sure the hell didn't know; our situation was about as certain as my presence here.
After a few moments I spoke, "I don't expect you to act like a father to Caiden, nor do I expect you to use the fact that a genetic offspring is running around the universe to act as positive reinforcement to prompt you to pull yourself out of this slump that you're in." I growled through clenched teeth. "I do, however, expect you to start acting like a captain and less like a child, with or without Caiden's existence as a motivator. This crew depends upon you to act maturely."
Kirk growled, "You are borderline insubordinate Lieutenant."
"I'm not even Starfleet personnel so how the hell can I be insubordinate?" I yelled across the table.
Again silence so thick crickets could yell in followed my outburst. Damn! I'd just given away more information than I'd meant to. I knew there would be hell to pay for that comment, if he caught its full meaning. I was saved, perhaps, when the door chimed and almost immediately Mac walked in. Out of the frying pan and into the fire indeed.
"I don't mean to interrupt this lovely conversation, but we could hear you two decks below." His face looked weathered and beaten, his eyes reflecting the weariness. "So, what in the hell are you two arguing about anyway?"
Before I could stop him, if I'd wanted to but at this point I was too tired to fight anymore, Kirk spoke up, "Apparently Spock felt it was important that I should know about my son."
"Your what?" Mac helped himself to a drink, purposefully not looking at me or coming near me as he did so. "Spock's in his quarters right now; I don't see how he's involved in this spat."
Kirk bent over and picked up the glass I'd forgotten about and slammed it onto the table between us. I jumped at the sound and looked over to see Mac frowning even more. He watched the tension flowing between us for a moment longer before he heaved a heavy sigh and sat in the chair beside me.
"Brenna is the mother of my son; a son I didn't even know existed up until about ten minutes ago. Spock felt like playing mother hen and insisted that if I knew about him then I'd stop acting like, what did you call me Brenna, a child who is wallowing in his own misery?"
Out of the corner of my eye I saw Mac's fingers tighten around the glass, "I thought you were brought here by that Q creature?"
"I was. The son, Jim is so happily claiming is actually only his in genetics. It was in the other reality, eight years ago if I need remind you, and it was with his very different and older counterpart."
Before any of us could carry on the conversation, however, the door chimed again and this time Spock waltzed in as if he'd known we were talking about him.
"Speak of the devil…" I murmured under my breath, a migraine fierce and ugly beginning to rear its head.
"Did you really think that if I knew about my son that I'd magically be a different type of captain?" Kirk reared his anger on Spock.
I pitied Spock, only slightly, when a look of confusion crossed his face. It took only a matter of moments for Kirk to spew out his anger and frustration on Spock for the newcomer(s) to fully comprehend all that Kirk and I had said prior to their individual arrivals. In the time it took for Kirk to berate and argue with Spock I turned my eyes towards Mac. At first he refused to look at me but finally, when I thought he'd never look up, his eyes met mine and I felt a jolt of pain echo in my heart.
And, as it happens so often in times of trouble, the very last person I wanted to see decided to pop in for a visit.
"Well, well," Q smiled from where he leaned against the wall, "Looks like things just got a little more interesting."