Jeff sat outside the courtroom wondering how long Bogg's disciplinary hearing would go on. He had wanted to be with Bogg and Susan, but Bogg had insisted he keep his regularly scheduled appointment with Voyager Mayhew instead. "You've seen this before, kid," Bogg had said. "They'll throw around a bunch of legal terms, then argue about a decision. After a couple of hours in there, banishment on a desert island might start looking good." At Jeff's startled glance, Bogg smiled gently. "I'm kidding. It was a joke. Look, Oliver's going to wonder where you are and blame me if you're late, so get moving. I'll see you in a bit."
In the end Jeff's appointment was cut short anyway when the counselor was summoned by the council to give testimony. Jeff followed Mayhew down the twisting corridors and took a seat on one of the benches to wait. Since being released from Medical, Jeff had spent a good part of each morning talking with Mayhew. He could tell it was helping; he felt more in control of his emotions than he had in a long time. The counselor's questions made him sit back and consider his reactions to his last mission and and think about why he had chosen to leave even though he had known it wasn't what he really wanted.
"Adolescents need separation and independence, Jeffrey," Mayhew had told him. "You're in a more difficult position than most. As a Voyager-elect, you have a job to do; you can't just go wandering off on your own. You don't really have the freedom to make mistakes and learn from them. If I had to guess, I'd say this is what you were reacting to when you made your choice. The tricky bit for you going forward will be finding a balance; working on gaining independence while maintaining what you currently have." A beat. "If that's what you want." Mayhew tilted his head to the side. "You know, Jeffrey, you're getting of age to attend the academy. It may not be something you're ready to think about right now, but that could fill both needs. It's something you and Phineas should talk about."
"You're right," Jeff had quickly agreed, "I'm not ready. I still... I don't know. I still feel like I should have done something different. Like I shouldn't have quit. All I did was hurt people." He stood and started pacing. "Bogg tried to work himself to death, and I don't want to think about what happened to Detective Flannery. Even Aunt Elizabeth must be going crazy. I know she didn't want me around, but still..."
Lost in the memory of the discussion, Jeff didn't notice when the courtroom doors finally opened, and Bogg limped out. Bogg waited for a moment, then put out a hand and tapped Jeff's shoulder. "Kid, you all right?"
Jeff started, looking up with wide eyes. "Huh? Sorry. What's the verdict?"
Bogg shrugged. "They decided to recess until tomorrow. Oliver said I'd find you out here." He examined Jeffrey's face. "You didn't answer my question. Are you all right?"
Jeff nodded. "Just thinking." He let out a noisy breath. "Bogg," he finally said, "I'm really sorry."
"Everything," Jeff answered. "For causing so much trouble on our last voyage. For hitting you. For leaving. For causing you to get hurt. Just everything."
Bogg eased himself onto the bench. "You have nothing to apologize for," he said. "Well, okay, the elbow in the stomach I'll give you, but you took care of that one already. This?" he gestured to his leg. "You didn't cause this," he said. "I did."
"But if I hadn't left..." Jeff started.
"There still would have been shrapnel exploding at Louisburg," Bogg said firmly. "I just would've had to worry about you getting hit, too." He looked Jeff directly in the eyes. "Look, Jeff, I got injured through my own recklessness. You had nothing to do with it." He put an arm around Jeff's shoulders. "What's really bothering you?"
"Bogg, I made a mess of everything." Jeff sighed. "I was selfish and stupid, and it feels like everyone else is having to pay for my mistakes."
"Everyone?" Bogg asked.
"You, Detective Flannery, Aunt Elizabeth." Jeff shook his head. "Even Oliver got hurt, and no matter what you say, I feel responsible."
Bogg thought for a moment. "Would it help if we could find out what happened back there?"
Jeff nodded. "I think so. At least then I'd know. Right now, my imagination's running wild, and it's all bad."
"Then let's go see how we do that," Bogg said, standing up. "I didn't have anything else planned for today."
Kevin Flannery cautiously approached the bar in search of a cup of strong, black coffee. The noise coming from the table behind him let him know the others hadn't missed him. Yet. He fervently hoped they wouldn't realize he was gone as he was pretty sure he'd had more than enough to drink at this point. This was driven home when he misjudged the distance between his right hand and the edge of the bar and crashed into the two men sitting there talking.
"Hey there, mister," the blond one said, "I'd say you've had enough for one night. Maybe more than one night."
Flannery stammered out what he hoped was a coherent apology. "Just need some coffee," he muttered, "then I'll be right as rain."
"No, my friend," said the other man. He had darker hair, a pronounced British accent, and a lighter air than his companion. "Then you'll be caffeinated and inebriated. What you need is a tall glass of water. If you don't get some of that out of your system, you'll be in danger of being harrassed by a member of the local constabulary on your way home." He called to a passing bartender and requested three glasses of water.
Flannery looked at the glass and waved a hand airily in front of him. "Nah. 'S okay. I am the local confabu... constab... I'm a police detective."
The dark haired man's eyes narrowed. "I'm not sure I find that terribly reassuring," he said, looking at his associate. He then turned back to Flannery. "Is this how you celebrate the completion of every shift, Detective?"
"Bachelor party," Flannery explained, laughing and gesturing to the noisy table behind them. "I'm getting married on Monday."
"Monday," the Brit repeated, puzzled. "Not very romantic."
"My fiancée's nothing if not practical." Flannery smiled ruefully. "City Hall wedding at eleven, lunch, then back to work. She's good at tangibles." He smiled, remembering the last time he had used that word regarding her.
"Have you known her for long?" the blond man asked. Flannery eyed him speculatively. He seemed more subdued than the British guy, and for a moment Flannery wondered why the guy was even in a bar. Then he shook his head, figuring the alcohol was messing with his brain, and concentrated on the question.
"Funny story, that," he answered. "Funny, ironic, I mean. I met her on a case about five years ago. She came off as self-involved, kinda cold. I didn't think it mattered; I was never gonna see her again. Except I did." He leaned forward and dropped his voice to a whisper, forcing the two men to move closer to him. "You've heard of the Jones case?"
The dark-haired man whistled and said, "The one where the missing boy reappeared then ran off a few months later? Messy business, that."
Flannery nodded feelingly. "I was the lead investigator. I was the last one to see him for any length of time. Got dragged over the coals for letting him walk off with evidence, then losing him." He took a drink of his water. "Newspapers, Internal Affairs investigation, the whole nine yards. The worst part, though? I felt like I let the kid down. He needed help, and I completely missed it." He shuddered, reliving the feeling of that time in his head.
The blond man looked up. "I'm sure he knew you tried."
Flannery continued, not having heard the comment. "Day of my hearing, in she walks, demanding to see my captain, wanting to testify on my behalf. Said she didn't blame me for him running away, and even had letters from the school counselor and his psychiatrist about his mental state." He shook his head. "I couldn't believe it."
"She." The blond man stared at him in disbelief. "You mean his aunt? You're kidding."
"After the hearing, I asked her out for coffee. I hadn't been all that cordial to her in the past, and I wanted to thank her," Flannery said. "She told me she'd been terrified when Jeffrey ended up with her the first time. He was traumatized from losing his parents, and she couldn't deal with his emotions. The second time was worse. For both of them. He had no memory of where he'd been or what happened to him, and she didn't know what he needed. We both failed him." He took a deep breath, his eyes lost in the memory. "It was like group therapy. We took turns blaming ourselves for not doing... something, anything and then trying to reassure the other they'd done all they could. She completely fell apart. I'd never seen her so emotional. Or emotional at all – she's a real stoic. I didn't know what to do, so I hugged her. The next thing I know, we're kissing." He leaned back against the bar and laughed softly. "And now, here I am getting drunk in a bar I've never been to before, telling my life story to a pair of strangers, and what I really want is to be home with her."
The blond man raised his glass, his hand shaking slightly. "You see kids in your future, Detective?" He took a sip and slowly put the glass back on the bar.
"Not really," Flannery said. "We're both pretty tied to our careers, and frankly, Liz really isn't good with kids. My nieces and nephews can attest to that." He chuckled. "Kids aren't logical enough for her. Maybe someday. Right now, I'm working up to a nice, aloof cat."
"I never thought they were for me, either," the blond man said, with a wry smile. "Now..." He shrugged his shoulders. "I thought I lost mine for a while. I didn't do so good without him." He raised his glass as if he were making a toast. "Congratulations. I hope you'll both be very happy."
"And good luck with the cat," the dark-haired man added. "Lovely animals, cats."
"Hey, Kev!" someone called from across the room. "Abandoning us already? It's too early!"
"Go soak your head, Murphy!" Flannery turned toward the voice. "I'm just saying good-bye to my new friends here. Then I'm heading home. I'm done," he yelled back.
"You've had too much to drink, Detective," another voice called out. "What friends?"
Flannery turned back towards the bar. The stools next to him were empty.
Jeff sat open-mouthed in Susan's office. "They got married?" he said for the third time. Bogg nodded. "To each other?" Bogg nodded again. "You're not just saying this to make me feel better, are you?"
Bogg shook his head, an odd expression on his face. "Does it help?" he asked, the deep voice quieter than usual, "Knowing?"
Jeff thought for a moment. "Yeah," he said, certainty in his voice, "it does." The tight knot residing in his chest since his return loosened, allowing him to breathe fully for the first time. His deepest fear, unacknowledged even to Bogg, was that he had damaged the time line so badly it could only be repaired by sending him back to 1986. Now he knew for sure that things would be all right. He smiled at Bogg, noticing for the first time the pirate's eyes were troubled. "Bogg?" he said tentatively, reaching a hand out to his guardian. "Thank you." He let his hand fall back down by his side. "That can't have been easy for you. I want you to know how much I appreciate it, especially after all I put you through."
Bogg sat heavily in the chair next to Jeff. "It was strange, hearing that detective talk about your aunt that way. I've gotten used to thinking of her as some kind of ogre. It never occurred to me she actually had emotions, that she may have felt badly about how she treated you, that she just couldn't cope. I always felt she deserved whatever she got." He sighed. "Now I just feel sorry for her."
"Sorry for her?" Jeff asked. "How come?"
"She missed out on knowing you," Bogg replied simply. "That was the hardest part of your leaving, knowing you wouldn't remember me. At least I knew you; I had those memories. She couldn't allow herself to get that close to you. She'll never know what she missed."
Jeff gulped. "You're wrong," he said through the lump forming in his throat. "I did remember you. I forgot everything else, but I remembered you."
The door flew open, making Jeff jump in his seat. He hastily wiped his eyes with the back of his hand and smiled when he saw Bogg mirror his movements. Susan walked in holding a rolled-up piece of parchment in her hand. She looked apprehensively at Bogg.
"Are you all right, Phineas?" she asked him. "You look..."
"Something in my eye," he responded. He gestured to the paper. "Is that my punishment?"
She nodded. "You're lucky Mayhew testified on your behalf," she said, "although it was a little strange having him as a witness for both the defense and prosecution."
"I thought it was just a disciplinary hearing," Jeff protested, "not a trial."
Susan smiled. "Old habits die hard," she said, "and legal jargon." She unrolled the paper. "Anyway, do you want to hear the council's decision? Or do you want to argue semantics? I'm happy to do either."
"Am I to be keel-hauled, then?" Bogg asked.
Susan raised her eyebrows. "You might prefer that," she said. "You're being sent back to school."
"What?" Bogg spluttered. "Back to what?"
"School," Susan repeated. "You and Jeffrey have been assigned to a two-week refresher course in omni functionality and Code basics."
Jeff's eyes lit up. "Wait, you mean I get to learn stuff?"
Bogg groaned. "You learn 'stuff' with me all the time." He turned to Susan. "Two weeks in a classroom?"
"Consider yourself fortunate it wasn't more, Phineas," Susan told him. "Councilor Garth was arguing for a month. I think Voyager Mayhew convinced him that keeping you here too much longer might result in more 'infractions' and mean losing one of our best field workers." She smiled. "Come on, we need to go get you enrolled. The sooner you complete the course, the sooner you get back in the field." She turned back towards the door.
Jeff jumped up from his chair. "You mean I'll get to learn how to do maintenance and recalibration? This is great!" He followed Susan as she left the office. "Come on, Bogg!"
"Smart kids give me a pain," Bogg muttered. Then he shook his head, stood, and followed his kid out of the office.
The idea for this story literally woke me up at three in the morning as I was writing the last chapter of Green Means Go. I knew Jeffrey was going to choose to stay with Bogg in that story, but I couldn't help but wonder what would happen if he chose to quit. Then the lines from N2N stuck in my head, and that was that.
Chapter 2: Thanks to Bookworm41 for sending me to my neighbor the firefighter/EMT for additional information on how they fight car fires. Be very glad I didn't take her advice on the injuries Jeffrey could have sustained. She waxed eloquently on the mistakes police officers can make getting accident victims out of cars instead of waiting for her to do her job. Ick. Oh, and Route 22 really is a small highway that goes through Carmel.
Chapter 3: The Library Director in Carmel, NY was extremely helpful in giving me the 1986 name of the local hospital.
Chapter 5: The Fortress at Louisbourg became Bogg's destination as I had been rereading one of my professor's novels while writing this story. If you haven't read it, Another Shore by Nancy Bond is a lyrical and haunting time travel story with extensive historical research.
Chapter 7: It is a sad but true fact that there aren't enough psychiatrists that treat children. The two month wait Jeff had to see Dr. Langford would be considered short in some places.
Thank you to all who read and to all who reviewed! The next story is being plotted out. Now I just need to find a way to drag Mayhew from this alternate universe to the regular universe.