„ Allah gümüş kapıyı kaparsa altın kapıyı açar." -
(If God closes the silver door, he will open the golden door)
- Turkish proverb -
We'll be fine…
And they were. It took some time, obviously; time to adjust, time to get used to a whole new way of life and to settle down.
Time for Joana to gradually grow less sad and accept that even though she'd always miss her mother, life went on and still held plenty of pleasant surprises and happy endings in store.
Time for Chris, who had always been a lone wolf by choice to grow accustomed to having a child in the house and a lover by his side, of being part of a real family, his own family.
Time for Leonard to grow re-acquainted with his daughter, to stop checking his ears and rubbing his eyes to make sure he wasn't dreaming or having hallucinations every time Chris told him I love you and to get used to working in a hospital instead of the Enterprise's sickbay.
Chris had been right, though – as soon as word got around in the medical community that Leonard was back on Earth and planning to stay there, he was positively flooded with job offers. He finally opted for joining Leila Maliki's special case team at Starfleet Medical, and he didn't regret his choice.
Before assuming their new positions, though, both Chris and Leonard made sure to spend several weeks together and with Joana. Laurel, Balder and their daughters frequently joined them for lunch, dinner or day-trips and Leonard found that he liked both Chris' sister and her husband exceedingly. Balder Rasmussen was a quiet, thoughtful man, several years older than Chris. Even though he seemed to worry a lot, he was a pleasant companion and gifted with a dry sense of humor – probably the only thing that helped him to preserve his sanity, being married to Laurel.
"I do admire your patience," Leonard told him jokingly one evening, after Chris had already threatened to put his sister over his shoulder and dump her in the garden pond.
Balder smiled wryly and touched a hand to his silvery gray hair. "She keeps me young," he replied, "With Laurel at your side, there's at least one new surprise each day." He turned to look at Chris and Laurel, arguing over some unimportant fact. "It's good to see them together again. They are polar opposites, but they need each other. He's a calming influence on her, and she's the only person alive who loves him unconditionally, but can still see his flaws and has the guts to point them out."
And then, glancing back at Leonard he thoughtfully added: "Well… maybe not anymore. It took Chris more than twenty years to get over Thore's death, but apparently he's made good use of them. He was a good man when I first met him; he's a remarkable man now. But moreover, he's found his peace. He knows what he wants and it's making him happy. Isn't that the highest goal anyone could achieve?"
"Isn't it awkward?" Leonard asked. "Seeing me and remembering your brother in my place?"
Balder studied him for a moment before replying: "Thore has never been in your place, because Chris was a different person back then. There's no need to feel anxious about it, Leonard. I miss him, but I could hardly justify holding a grudge against you simply because you're in a relationship with Chris. Quite the opposite, actually. Besides – much as I loved my brother, I was never blind to his flaws. This may surprise you, but even if I were to compare you against each other – which I'd never do – I'm convinced you would turn out to be the better choice for Chris. I want you to know that and live by it."
He had spoken calmly and with a quiet conviction that told something about how much thought and consideration he had given to the matter. Leonard was seriously impressed and even slightly awed. Such a vote of confidence from a man like Balder really meant something.
Suddenly, Balder smiled again. "You know, apart from all the reasonable explanations… I haven't seen a picture of Thore in Chris' house or ship quarters for ten years, but I've heard more about you during the last three years than I ever wanted to know. It doesn't take very good eyesight to see that he is absolutely smitten with you."
And Leonard's heart did a quiet little somersault at that.
Leonard was trying to concentrate on the particulars of Joana's school enrollment form when Chris walked into the room grinning broadly. "Jim sends his regards… and an assortment of sly comments."
"Wonderful," Leonard huffed, "he'll be on my nerves forever. What's he doing?"
"He said something about Lieutenant Lafayette, Spock and a whirlpool…"
Chris sat down on the bed next to him, chuckling. "Relax. From what I've gathered, the three of them went skiing and Spock wasn't quite up to the cold. There's not much snow on Vulcan, come to think of it, and a Vulcan's body temperature is higher than a human's, so poor Spock was probably freezing out there. Anyway, it appears that Lieutenant Lafayette – pragmatic as she is – suggested that he get into the whirlpool to warm up. Jim of course had a lot of fun at his expense and threatened to join him there and according to him, Spock turned emerald green at the thought…"
"Imagine that," Leonard muttered dryly.
"He'll be leaving two days from now," Chris mused, "Shoreleave's almost over."
Leonard looked up from the PADD to meet his gaze. "I'll miss them all, if that's what you're wondering about. I'm still convinced I made the right choice, though."
"Well, good." Chris took his hand. "It's okay to have some regrets, though."
"The only thing I regret is not being able to keep a wary eye on Jim anymore," Leonard replied gruffly, "But I'll leave that to Spock now. Let's see how the green-blooded hobgoblin deals with that one."
"He'll have his work cut out, trying to keep Jim in check," Chris agreed, "But then, they were probably made for each other. Destiny's got a strange sense of humor sometimes."
A week before Chris reported to duty as Head of Tactical, Leonard set foot into Starfleet Medical and Joana started classes at her new school, they took her sailing.
As it turned out, Laurel and Chris had one hobby they were both passionate about and had shared since their childhood – their boats. What had started with sailing lessons and occasional trips in their youth had ended up in them each owning a yacht of their own. The slender boats lay side by side at the dock gently rocked by the incoming waves.
The slightly larger blue yacht to the left was Laurel's Seagull and to the right, gleaming white in the early morning sunlight was Chris' Beyond. Except for Elva, who had a tendency to get seasick and preferred to stay ashore, Laurel's daughters shared her love for sailing, and Balder, even though not particularly enthusiastic about it himself, enjoyed watching them amuse themselves.
Joana loved every minute of their trip. From the moment Chris helped her aboard she clung to him, bombarding him with questions and ready to try everything herself. The wind blew strands of her black hair into her face, and when she laughed; her eyes sparkled in the color of the water surrounding them.
Leonard, who had been a bit apprehensive at first, had to admit that this trip had been a really good idea and should evolve into a regular thing.
"You won't get seasick, will you?" Chris teased. "And if you do, please give me the same warning you gave Jim when you first met."
Leonard groaned, rolling his eyes. "You'll never forget that, will you? Neither of you. Well, no, Chris, I won't. I only hate things that fly, and I doubt that for all your skills, the two of you will manage to get this boat to grow wings."
Chris exchanged a wink and a grin with Joana. "Watch us."
That night, when Joana had fallen asleep as soon as her head had touched the pillow and was now dreaming of boats and the ocean and the yearning calls of seagulls in the distance; Chris stepped to his desk in the study just before going to bed. He took a moment to look at the screen, then, with a confident nod and a wistful smile he hid the "send" button and a file began to travel its way through subspace channels.
Chris turned around and walked to the bedroom, still smiling to himself.
Yes. It had been the right decision.
Now he just had to wait for the answer…
Around three o'clock local time Leonard sat up straight with a start. He blinked into the semi-darkness of the room just to find and equally startled Chris positively jumping out of bed, calling the lights and reaching for his phaser, reflexes drilled into him by years of combat training and personal experience.
"What the hell…?" Leonard groaned as a startlingly familiar beeping sound ruptured the silence. "Who calls you in the middle of the night?"
"It's not Starfleet Command, I can tell you that," Chris replied.
"Huh. Different ringtone, right?" Leonard muttered, remembering what Laurel had said as he followed Chris to the study barefooted.
When he saw the caller's face on the screen, though, he couldn't suppress a startled oath. "Jim…? Goddammit, kid!"
"It's three o'clock in the morning," Chris added mildly.
"Sorry," Jim apologized, "I just got off my shift. By the way, cute pajamas, Bones. I sincerely apologize for having woken you up, guys, but I just needed to see your face when you read this, Chris."
"Oh?" Chris returned.
"File should reach you any moment."
Chris bent forward to check. "Yes, it has."
"Well, go ahead and open it!"
"I don't get it. What are you talking about?" Leonard cut in, seriously confused now.
Chris opened the file, and slowly, a gentle smile crept on his face.
"Duh," Jim complained, "I was hoping for an enthusiastic shout of 'It's a boy!' or something similar at the very least."
"Have you been keeping any secrets I should know about?" Leonard asked sternly, fixing Chris with a dubious gaze.
"Congrats, you just got a stepson," Jim cheerfully told him.
Leonard looked from Chris to him and back, trying to comprehend, until it finally hit him. "You adopted him? You seriously adopted this brat?"
Chris nodded, still smiling. "I wasn't certain he'd sign the papers, though."
"You kidding me?" Jim protested. "Of course I did!"
"Well then everything's settled now, isn't it?"
"Let's have a party!" Jim suggested, beaming.
"I think I'm going to faint," Leonard muttered.
"I promise not to call you Mom. Ever," Jim said, trying to put on his most serious expression and failing miserably.
"Welcome to the family, Jim," Chris said warmly, catching a somewhat bedazzled Leonard, who was nearly choking on his reply to Jim's statement, in his arms.
I do hope I got the quote right, my Turkish really isn't that good (yet) and I recently had to give it up in favor of Arabic, since no matter how many petitions I already adressed to the higher powers, the day still only has twenty-four hours and I'd need at least thirty-six to fit in all my extra language classes. Oh well...
A word on Chris adopting Jim - yes I know adoption isn't that simple, probably not even in the 23rd century, but I thought that an extended discussion of adoption law might just bore you to death. After all, I wanted the last chapter to be fluffy and cute, not tedious.
Huh... so I guess that's it. THE END. At least for this story; as I already said, there'll be a sequel. At this point, though, I'd like to say thank you to everyone who's been following this story and especially to the people who regularly commented on it. Thank you so much, guys! You encouraged me to keep going and I hope you enjoyed this story and like the way it turned out.