Chapter 16

(Author's notes at the end)

The evening had gone well and Marissa had never felt happier. She'd had Jim by her side, Abby running around their rooms and her best friend sitting right across from her after months apart. Life was good. She wanted to continue catching up with Janine, but she could tell from the side-ways glances and the shifting that Len was doing that he was more than ready to get on with the evening; an evening that did not include Jim, Marissa or Abby.

Watching the doctor check his watch for the third time in fifteen minutes while he pretended to be paying attention to Jim's monologue about the upgrades being done to the Enterprise, Marissa smiled to herself. The man was so obvious.

"Wow," she yawned, sitting up in her chair and stretching her arms over her head, Marissa winked at Janine who stopped talking about colors and flowers and the need for the punch to somehow match them. "I'm getting really sleepy."

"You are?" McCoy asked, actually perking up in seat his and looking at her hopefully, though he disguised it pretty quickly.

Jim looked disconcerted by her declaration, like he had plans and she wasn't playing along with them. "You are?"

"You are?" Janine said flatly, a wry look on her face. Janine didn't miss anything and she knew Marissa wasn't really tired.

"I am," Marissa nodded emphatically. "Swimming always wears me out and I guess I'm still not caught up with my sleep…"

Jim frowned and shifted Abby to his other arm so that he could actually see her. "But you took a nap," he said. "And it's not even 2000 yet."

Marissa patted his arm. "I know sweetie." She pretended to yawn again, covering her mouth prettily with her hand. "But with all the excitement of Janine being here and all." She shrugged and gave him a wistful smile. "It's not easy being pregnant sometimes."

"Well then," McCoy stood up and brushed off his pants. "We shouldn't keep you up any longer. You need your rest." He held out a hand to Janine who took it. She kept her eyes on Marissa as she stood gracefully, a knowing smile on her face. She mouthed a quick 'thank you.'

"But…" Jim protested weakly from where he still sat, Abby heavy in his arms. "Abby…and Bones…Don't you want to spend more time with Abby, Janine?" he asked.

Marissa shook her head at her soon-to-be husband. "Abby's out for the night, Jim. I'm sure Len and Janine have better things to do." She gave him a look that told him he was being obtuse and then rolled her eyes towards the couple that was holding hands next to her. Janine had an amused grin on her face and McCoy looked about ready to drag her out of the room.

Jim's lips shaped into an 'O', but no sound came out as he took in their expressions and body language. "But…I was hoping they'd watch Abby for us. Just for a bit."

McCoy frowned, but before he could say anything, Marissa chimed in. "Abby's asleep and I'm tired, so we don't need them tonight. Maybe tomorrow." She had no idea what Jim wanted to do. It wasn't like they couldn't make love while Abby was asleep in the next room, and she highly doubted he wanted to go clubbing right now.

"Tomorrow, Jim," McCoy said, already starting to pull Janine towards the door. "We'll watch Abby for you tomorrow." He was almost looking apologetically at Jim, which really peaked Marissa's interest. He was obviously in on whatever had been on Jim's mind all evening. He had hid it well, but then Marissa knew him better than most. She'd known he was anxious or worried about something almost since he'd woken her up from her nap, but he'd played it cool all evening and she'd let him, too happy to be with her friend.

"But…" Jim stood up, but Marissa didn't let him say anything more.

Following the couple to the door, Marissa pulled Janine into a hug, not at all surprised when McCoy didn't let go of her hand. "I'm so happy to see you," she whispered to her friend, holding her just a little tighter for the moment. "Have fun tonight."

Janine's ringing laugh caused both men to look at them curiously. "We'll talk more tomorrow," she said.

"You bet your ass we will," Marissa chuckled in return. She backed up so she stood next to Jim, taking his free arm and leaning against him. "Say good night to Janine and Len, Jim," she prodded him.

He looked like he wanted to protest, but instead said, "'Night Bones. 'Night Janine."

The two said their good nights quickly and were out the door in seconds.

"Jesus, where's the fire?" Jim commented sounding put out.

"In Len's pants," Marissa replied, shaking her head and smiling. "You really didn't expect them to stay here and watch Abby sleep, did you?"

Jim shrugged. He looked uncomfortable and Marissa's smile faded slightly when he didn't make some quip about Bones and his well known lack of partners, or how little use Bones' bone got put to use. It was standard banter between the two men by now. "Okay, what's up? You have big plans tonight or something?"

"Yeah, kinda," he admitted. He shook his head and straightened, quickly deciding on another course of action. "Look, can you put Abby to bed while I make a few calls?"


Handing off Abby, Jim pressed a kiss to Marissa's forehead. "Not big plans," he told her, "but something we need to…talk about."

"And we need to be alone for this?" Marissa asked bewilderingly, standing in the middle of the living area with Abby now draped over her shoulder snoring softly as Jim walked over to the in suite comm. unit.

Jim sat down and began typing. "Uh, yeah. Look," he turned back to face her. "I'll explain everything once Abby's settled and I've located a babysitter, okay?"

Narrowing her eyes, Marissa frowned. "Am I going to like this?" Jim seemed rather nervous, but not in an I-am-about-to-jump-out-of-my-skin-I'm-so-excited kind of way. It was more like his I-have-to-go-to-this-meeting-so-I-might-as-well-get-this-over-with.

Jim scrunched up his face, his expression hesitant. "Maybe?"


"I promise, it's not really bad," he interrupted her. "At least I don't think so. Not after you get used to…get over the…" He sighed. "Just put Abby to bed and I'll explain. Trust me."

Marissa gave him a long, hard look, but didn't say anything more as she turned to take Abby to bed. By the time she was done changing Abby into her pajamas and getting the almost comatose toddler to go potty, Chris Pike was sitting in their living area flipping through the channels on the vid screen.

"Hello Admiral," Marissa said, not at all surprised about who Jim had contacted, but still confused. Jim was nowhere in sight. "I don't suppose you know why you're here and where Jim's dragging me off to?"

"It's Chris," Pike admonished her. "And yes, I know and no I'm not telling you. It's not that bad. Might even be good."

Marissa crossed her arms and sighed. "Why is that not the least bit comforting?" she asked wryly.

Pike grinned, but turned back to the vid screen. "Is Abby asleep?"

"Like a rock," Marissa told him with a small smile. "I don't think you'll have much to do – unless we'll be gone all night."

"We won't be gone that long," Jim commented, coming down the short hallway from the bathroom. "Maybe an hour or two. You good?" he looked over at Pike, who waved. "Well, make yourself at home and we'll be back."

"I'll be here," Pike told them. He offered them an encouraging smile as Jim hustled them out the door.

"Jim, I'm really starting to feel nervous," Marissa said as she followed him down the hallway to the bank of lifts. "Are you going to tell me what's going on?"

Jim didn't say anything, just led her down the hallway to the elevator. His lips were pursed tightly and his expression was determined. "Look Mariss," he began, but then the elevator arrived, already occupied by a couple and their teenage son and daughter. Jim's mouth snapped shut.

"What floor?" the man asked politely.

"Four please," Jim replied.

Marissa continued to stare at him curiously. They knew no one staying on the fourth floor. Glancing over at the buttons, she realized that the fourth floor also contained the skyway bridge to the other tower, but that didn't make sense either. Everyone they knew that was staying at this particular hotel was in the Crystal tower, not the Diamond tower.

There was whispering behind them, and Marissa caught the words 'captain' and 'Enterprise.' Jim's hand tightened on hers, but he kept his eyes focused on the descending numbers above the doors.

"Tomas, hush!" the mother scolded, exchanging an embarrassed glance with Marissa.

"But mom, I think that's…" the young boy replied, a definite whine in his voice. There were glares exchanged between mother and son. Marissa did her best to suppress her amusement. She glanced over at Jim. Usually he too was amused by the response he engendered from people and while he wasn't always comfortable, he always made an effort to be polite – introduce himself, answer any questions – especially if there were children involved.

Marissa leaned over toward the teen leaning against the side wall. "Captain Kirk," she whispered out of the side of her mouth.

She felt Jim sigh, but he looked over at smiled at the kid whose mouth had dropped open. His younger sister was silently laughing at him and poking him in the side.

"Hello," Jim said, nodding at the kid's parents who seemed almost as awe struck.

"Wow." Tomas was momentarily speechless. "Captain Kirk. Are you staying in this hotel? And Commander Spock? I told you that was the Enterprise, dad! How long will you be here?" The kid went from silence to a thousand questions in the blink of an eye.

The boy's father put a hand on Tomas' shoulder. "Slow down, son. Give the captain a chance to answer. Sorry, Captain," he smiled apologetically to Jim.

"No problem," Jim replied with a wave of his hand. "Yes, the Enterprise is here. There's a…conference for the next couple days. We're having an abbreviated shore leave, so, yes, Mr. Spock is here, as well as most of my command crew and a bunch of Admirals and their staff."

"Wow. And you're staying in this hotel?"

Jim nodded. "We are."

"Have you been to the arcade or the pool? We haven't had a chance yet, but we only got in last night."

"Tomas!" his mother scolded. "I'm sure the captain has more important things to do than lie around the pool or play games in the arcade."

Jim smiled wryly. "Actually, my part in the…conference…is basically done, so yes, I've been to the pool. It's nice. I haven't been to the arcade yet, but my navigator and helmsman say it's pretty awesome. Some top notch flying simulators if you like that kind of thing."

"Really?" Tomas was practically bouncing on his toes – whether at the idea of flying simulators or because he might see Jim out and about in the hotel, Marissa couldn't tell. She chuckled at his enthusiasm.

"They may be Starfleet officers, but give them downtime and they're just a bunch of over grown kids," she told Tomas, sharing a knowing look with his mother.

Tomas seemed to notice her for the first time, taking in her hand clasped in Jim's. "Who are you? Are you a member of his crew?" he asked just as they reached the fourth floor and the doors to the elevator opened.

"Tomas!" his mother hissed in exasperation and embarrassment. She probably thought Marissa was someone Jim had picked up and didn't want her son to embarrass him.

Marissa found herself momentarily at a loss for words as four sets of eyes focused on her.

"Yes, she is," Jim responded for her, tugging her off the elevator. "She's the best xenohistorian in the fleet. Marissa O'Donnell, soon-to-be Kirk, my fiancée."

The family stared at them in shock as the doors started to slide shut. The mother recovered first. "Congratulations!" she called just before the doors closed.

Marissa chuckled. "I think you might have disappointed Tomas. Marrying a girl. Everyone know girls have space cooties."

"Eh," Jim shrugged. "He'll learn. Space cooties are pretty awesome."

Tugging her along, Jim started walking down the long corridor leading to the Diamond tower. They passed several people, some of which seemed to recognize Jim.

"You going to tell me what's going on?" Marissa finally asked when they passed a Talosian couple and were finally able to talk without being overheard.

Jim ran a hand through his hair and kept walking. He looked uncertain as he pressed the call button for another set of elevators. "Yeah, I guess. I just…Do you trust me?"

"Of course I do," Marissa immediately responded.

The elevator arrived and they stepped on, Jim pressing the button for the seventeenth floor. "There's someone I want you to see. Someone you need to see."

Marissa looked at him again, taking in the stubborn set of his jaw, the determined look in his eyes, the thin line of his lips. "Oh my god," Marissa gasped as an idea came to her. "We're going to meet your mother?"

"My…what?" Jim asked in surprise. "My mother? No, no. Not my mother. Damn," he shuddered at the thought. "Trust me, I would not be dragging you to see her. I don't know if I even want to see her, let alone subject you to that."

Marissa pressed into his side, placing a comforting hand on his chest. "Jim, she's your mom. You have to talk to her eventually. We could send a wedding announcement. Maybe that might open something up; get her to contact you. I know you know where she is."

"We can send her an announcement if you want," Jim conceded, wrapping his arm around Marissa and kissing her head. "But that's all I'm willing to do, okay? As far as I'm concerned, the ball is in her court now. I'm perfectly fine without her."

"Jim…" Marissa began as the doors slid open and Jim stepped off the elevator, looking at the directional signs before moving off to the left.

"Mariss, this is not about my mother," he told her over his shoulder, his eyes focused on the room numbers. "This is about you and…" He stopped in front of room 1735. Taking a deep breath he pressed the chime to signal for entry.

There were sounds of a deep bass rumbling and footsteps and then the door slid open. Marissa gasped at the sight of her father standing in front of them glaring. His eyes seemed to pass right over her and then focus on Jim, his eyes narrowing and his lip curling in disgust.

"Mr. O'Donnell," Jim began politely. "Can we…"

"What the hell, Kirk?" the older man barked. "I don't want to see you or your new tramp! I…"

"Mr. O'Donnell!" Jim interrupted, his voice now with a hint of steel in it.

"Dad?" Marissa barely whispered, one hand coming up to reach for her father while her other squeezed Jim's as hard as she could.

Matthew O'Donnell's face was red. He had a finger pointed at Jim's chest and was just beginning to snarl at him, when Marissa's softly spoken word seemed to get his attention and he turned towards her, his eyes wide. Right before their eyes, he paled and seemed to deflate.

"Marissa?" he asked disbelievingly, his eyes raking her up and down, taking in everything, drinking her in with awe and relief. It was when he reached their clasped hands that his eyes narrowed again, flickering from Jim to Marissa, a small frown appearing on his face.

"I tried to tell you this afternoon," Jim said quietly, "but I don't think you would have believed me."

Matthew cleared his throat, his eyes locked on Marissa. "You should have tried harder," he said, his tone dismissive.

"Dad," Marissa warned, her elated expression dampening.

"It's good to see you baby," Matthew gave her a wobbly smile. Reaching out a shaky hand, he cupped her cheek, letting his thumb gently caress her.

Leaning into his touch, Marissa placed her hand over his, squeezing it as a tear streaked down her face.

The sound of the elevator opening and people chattering caused the three of them to startle.

"Can we come in?" Jim asked, looking over Marissa to see a group of five walking down the hallway towards them. Not waiting for a response, Jim pushed Marissa in front of him and into the room, forcing Matthew to back up. The door slid shut and they stood in the small entryway, Jim's back to the door as father and daughter stared at each other.

Marissa inhaled shakily. "What are you doing here?" she finally asked when no one else seemed ready to speak.

That seemed to startle her father a bit and he stepped away, motioning into the small bedroom towards a dining table. "Come in, baby, come in. Have a seat. You thirsty? I can get you some water, or something to eat from the replicator. Hasn't he been feeding you?"

"I'm fine," she replied, still looking bewildered at seeing her father here on Galdonterre.

They watched as Matthew picked up his suit jacket and shirt that were laying over one of the chairs and threw them onto the bed, before sitting down and motioning Marissa to the other.

Marissa shook her head, her expression strangely hard to read as Jim followed her in and watched her sit on the proffered chair. There was no where else to sit besides the bed, so he moved around her to lean on the desk, the only other flat space in the small room.

"Kirk, you can…" Matthew was waving back towards the door to the hallway.

"Jim stays," Marissa interrupted, easily reading her father's intentions. His glare was something fierce as he stared at Jim, waiting for him to take the hint and leave. Jim said nothing, simply crossing his arms and leaning against the desk, his legs stretched out and brushing against Marissa's.

"Baby," Matthew turned his gaze back to her, his expression morphing into a pleasant mask. "I'm so happy to see you, you don't know what it was like while you were missing. Starfleet told us you were dead, which was obviously a lie. Why he didn't…" he trailed off and shook his head. "I want to see you. I missed you. He doesn't need to be here. He's not…"

"He stays if I say he stays," Marissa snapped, then her face softened. "It's good to see you, too, dad," she told him honestly, her voice hitching. "I'm sure my…disappearance…was hard on you. I was worried when we contacted Nancy and Nana and they didn't know where you were."

"Wha…huh…why…?" he spluttered, his face reddening as he looked away. "You contacted them?"

"Of course I did," Marissa frowned. "As soon as I was able. I thought I was contacting you too," she pointed out. "What are you doing all the way out here when you should be back home?"

Rubbing his hands over his thighs, Matthew looked like he wanted to stand up and move, but the room was just too small. "I'm glad," he nodded. "I'm glad you contacted them. It wasn't…we didn't…the news…it nearly killed Rose. I thought she was going to have a heart attack or stroke. And to hear it from some nameless bureaucrat, not even from someone who should have cared…" he glared at Jim once more.

"I contacted you as soon…as soon as I was sure," Jim said, trying not to sound defensive.

"Well you were wrong!" Matthew snapped back.

"I didn't know!" Jim argued back, shoving off the desk to stand. He'd meant for this to be between father and daughter; to be only an observer and to support Marissa, but he couldn't stand the look on the other man's face. It was obvious he blamed Jim for everything and Jim was tired of it. "Do you think I wanted to make that call? That I wanted to believe that Marissa was dead? I stayed and searched for her until they had to pull me off the bridge, put a notation in my file of insubordination and relieve me of duty. I didn't…"

"Oh," Matthew scoffed, snarling in disdain. "The sainted Captain Kirk gets a notation in his file. How will your career survive?" He launched himself off of his chair and took a step towards Jim, his face an angry red. "She is my daughter. My child. Don't even pretend that you cared enough to risk yourself or your career to…"

Jim's eyes widened and he took another step closer, now towering over Matthew. "Don't even finish that sentence, you pompous asshole," he snarled. "She's the woman I love, the mother of my child, and my future wife! So you can take all your hurt feelings and whatever the fuck resentment you have towards me and stuff it! I did what I had to do, what I thought was right. There was no evidence…" his voice cracked and he looked away. Marissa slipped her hand into his and he squeezed it. Jim took a breath and backed off, if only a little. This wasn't about his feelings, after all.

"I didn't want to believe she was dead," he said, his voice softer, "but I had no choice. Not with the evidence we had. But I never stopped looking; trying to figure out why; who had done it."

"You wanted revenge," Matthew muttered, sitting back down. "Like that would bring her back."

"Not revenge," Jim countered. "Just the truth. I wanted to be able to tell Abby why her mother wasn't coming back. I wanted to have answers for her when she was old enough to ask. But, yes, I wanted to kill the fuckers who pushed the button; who set her up."

"You're not good enough for her," Matthew said huffily.

"Maybe not," Jim agreed with a nod, it was an old argument, after all. "But I'm the one she's going to marry."

Apparently Matthew had missed Jim's early comment about a future wife, because his face paled. "Marry…"

Marissa stood up. Her face was flushed red and set in a determined mask. "Yes. Marry, dad," she told him. "In three days." She took a shaky breath and squared her shoulders. Pulling Jim closer, she looked down at her father. "I know you never agreed with my decision to join Starfleet and to seek a posting on a ship. And I know that you don't…approve of Jim in my life. But he's my choice and there is nothing you can do to change that." She sniffed.

"Mariss," Jim said soothingly, letting go of her hand and putting his arm around her shoulder.

"No, Jim," she shook her head, still staring at her father. "He needs to hear and understand this once and for all. I love Jim. It shouldn't change anything between us. You're my father. He's going to be my husband."

"Baby," Matthew leaned forward. "Don't…don't act in haste. Marriage is a long term decision. It's not like…like Starfleet. You don't just give it five years and then you can leave. Marriage is…it's a big commitment. Don't make the biggest mistake of your life just because he got you pregnant."

Marissa laughed derisively, but it was more disbelieving than humorous. "He got me pregnant? Are you even listening to yourself? I'm twenty-five years old, dad, and fully capable of making my own decisions. Jim didn't seduce me. Jim didn't 'get' me anything. Abby was conceived. It was unexpected, but one of the best things to happen to me. And this one," she smoothed her shirt over her belly, outlining the bump that housed their unborn son, "was a mutual decision."

"You're pregnant again?" he asked in shock.

"Yes," she nodded. "But that's not what I wanted to tell you. What you need to understand is that when you hurt Jim, you hurt me. And I will not stand for that."

"I've never…."

"You never what? You sent pictures of a guy I used to date and job opportunities near him!" She threw her hands up in frustration. "You were so cold and rude to Jim after he brought you to Stratnon! You demanded all my things back – what the hell did you plan to do with them anyway? And you tried to take Abby away from him!" Her voice was louder than Jim had ever heard before and she looked pissed. "You tried to take a toddler away from her father and the only family she's ever known because you are mean and selfish and have never tried to understand anyone who disagreed with you. You were hurting so you had to hurt someone else. I understand that, but it's not good enough."

"Marissa," Jim tried to interrupt again, but she shook her head fiercely.

"You've always done that," she stated, her voice firm. "I decided to go away to school. Rather than be happy for me, you sold my dog. I didn't move back to Colorado after college so you barely talked to me. Even on my birthday! And when I came home for Christmas? You didn't say two words to me. I didn't even get a thank you for the present I picked out for you, spending way more than I could afford to try to get back into your good graces!"

Matthew open his mouth to speak, but Marissa just held up her hand. "Shut up!" she told him. His jaw snapped closed, though his face turned red.

"I joined Starfleet and you have never forgiven me." Her voice softened and she shook her head sadly. Jim could hear the pain underlying her words. "I'm not your puppet dad. I'm not your little girl anymore, willing to do anything to get you to pay attention to me. I have a PhD. I'm a Lieutenant Commander on board the flagship of the fleet, doing a job that I love.

"I'm the mother of a beautiful little girl and a baby boy who will be born soon, and I'm going to be the wife of this man in three days." She placed her hand over Jim's where it rested on her shoulder. "This man, who risked his career, fought his superiors, defied orders and searched through heaven and hell to find me." She blinked rapidly, trying to clear her eyes. "This man, who I love more than life itself. So dad, if you can't accept things the way they are, maybe…maybe…" her voice broke and she took a shaky breath and closed her eyes.

"I just can't," she whispered, her shoulders sagging as she turned her head and pressed her face against Jim's chest.

Matthew had been silent throughout Marissa's impassioned speech, his mouth agape. He swallowed convulsively as he saw her run out of steam and extended a hand palm up, in supplication. "I just want the best for you, baby. That's all I've ever wanted."

Marissa laughed wetly, swiping brusquely under her eyes. "But you never understood what it was that I wanted," she told him, her tone resigned. "If I didn't want the same things you did, then my choices were wrong. Well dad, my choices are mine. And they are right for me." She spoke evenly, but by the determined set of her jaw it was obvious she meant everything she had said.

Neither father or daughter moved. Finally Marissa just shook her head and turned towards Jim, giving his hand a squeeze. "Come on, Jim. Let's go." She pulled him towards the door, walking briskly away from her father.

They were almost to the door when Matthew stood up. "Baby – Marissa. I'd like to…" he cleared his throat. "Can I come to your wedding? Please?"

Marissa stopped but didn't turn around. She nodded once. "Of course. We'll let you know when and where." Motioning the door to open, she continued out into the hallway, not even waiting for her father's response.

Jim trailed behind her, somewhat in awe of the temper he had just seen displayed. Janine had hinted at it, but he'd never seen it and hadn't quite believed it. "Mariss," he began tentatively.

She made a small noise in the back of her throat and shook her head, stopping to stab at the elevator button. When the doors finally opened, she dragged him in. He could see her pained expression in the reflection of the mirrored walls, her lips pursed tightly and her chin quivering.

The minute the doors slid closed she turned towards him and pounded a fist against his chest. "Damn it, Jim! What the hell were thinking?" she demanded. "How could you…"

"Mariss, I…" Jim floundered, as her anger quickly drained and she threw herself against his chest with a sob. "I thought you'd want to see your father," he said softly into her hair, wrapping his arms around her. "I thought…"

"You weren't thinking, you idiot," she told him, though there was no anger in her voice. "You could have at least warned me."

Jim sighed, pressing his cheek against the top of her head. "I didn't know how," he eventually admitted.

"Duh," she snorted. "What is he doing here?" she asked.

Shrugging, Jim glanced up at the descending numbers, realizing that the doors would be opening soon. He pulled back enough to be able to wipe the tears from her cheeks. "I imagine he was called here to present evidence against Franks and Dekker. I gathered from what I heard from Nancy that he might have been coerced into filing for custody of Abby."

"That still doesn't make it right," she countered.

"Maybe not," Jim agreed. "But, you have to admit that there are extenuating circumstances."

At the sound of the signal for the door to open, Marissa stepped away from Jim, shaking her head. "Maybe. But he should have known that it was wrong, no matter what some lawyer told him. And it doesn't change the way he's treated me and my decisions in the past."

"No, it doesn't," Jim nodded. Taking her hand and leading her down the hall towards the elevators that would take them to their room. "But he's still your father. And he does love you."

"I know," Marissa eventually whispered, just loud enough for Jim to hear. "And thank you," she continued. "Just next time…"

"Mariss," Jim interrupted her, stopping in the middle of the corridor to look down at her. "I don't think I can handle a 'next time,' so let's not talk about it, okay?"

She smiled wryly. "Yeah, okay."

Jim started walking again. "I just want to marry you so that there is never any doubt who you belong to."

"Or who you belong to," Marissa countered.

"Exactly," Jim smiled.

To be continued… I promise.

Author's note: Sorry this is so late. Summer, when I'm not working, is not a good time for me. I start out fine, but without a schedule and things to do (and money) I just…lose it. A mini-depression, if you will. But that is now all better. I got a new job! I'm back in a bookstore as a manager, doing what I love working with schools and businesses, as well as customers in the store. It's been a pretty steep learning curve, but I'm loving it!

Probably the biggest reason that this is so late, though, is because of writers block. I've written and worked on a handful of stories and one shots since chapter 15 was posted. There were a couple Jim/Bones one shots and one really long Gaila/Jim, Jim/Bones S&M extravaganza that isn't posted yet, but is finished. And I've been working on Marissa in the Mirror, a Jim/Bones/Marissa aliens-made-us-do-it story, and I have a couple Jim/OFC ideas floating around in half finished outlines or intro chapters. I have been writing, but Marissa's conversations with her father was just harder than I expected.

As usual Royalpinkdogs deserves a ton of thanks and credit for getting this chapter to completion (ha ha). She poked and prodded and sent ideas and beta'd my attempts and then sent more ideas and Marissa's rant is totally hers, with little tweaks made by me.

Here's hoping that I get Jim and Marissa down the aisle soon. Thanks to everyone who favorited and sent encouraging PMs. I appreciate it.