Commander Noel DelMonde was sitting in his office going over some paperwork when he was hit with a violent shudder of dread. He immediately checked his boards, seeing nothing amiss in any of the Lincoln's systems. He called Sickbay, got a "I'm not aware of any emergency on board, Mr. DelMonde," from the Chief Medical Officer. He then called up to the Bridge, and Commander Uhura assured him that as far as she knew, everything was fine; "Although there WAS a package addressed to you and Calaya in the mail call that arrived about half an hour ago," she informed him. "M'ress sent it to her office."
"Thanks, 'Hura," the engineer replied, and reached for the buttons that would call the Captain's Yeoman, only to have the intercom buzz at him first.
"Cher, what wrong?" he answered, knowing who was on the other end.
"Noel," came Calaya Wheal's soft, clearly worried voice, "I think you should come to our cabin. There's something you need to see right away."
"'Hura say we got a package?"
"Yes. From the D'Artagnan."
After giving his Caitian assistant, Mrraal, strict instructions not to 'tinker' while he was gone, Del hurried to his quarters. Upon entering, he saw Calaya sitting at the desk, cradling something in her arms, her tear-filled eyes staring at the small computer screen. Her emotions were a jumble; confusion, longing, revulsion, fear, surprise, wonder and dismay.
"What the hell...?" he began, and she gestured without looking up.
"Come, Noel," she managed. "See for yourself."
Del frowned, but pulled up the room's second desk chair beside her and hit the replay on the computer link.
The screen resolved into the face of Sakura Tamura. "This is being sent by request of Captain Sulu and Commander Majiir," her soft voice began. "In accordance with the traditions of Indiian culture, you are required to accept its provisions."
"What provisions?" Del asked.
"Watch," was Calaya's response.
The image on the screen blanked then returned. It showed the transporter room of the U.S.S. D'Artagnan, in which stood Sulu and Jilla, Jeremy Paget, Commander Jerel Courtland, Dr. Lian Rendell, Geoff Redford and a young Vulcan Del didn't know.
"Okay, let's do this, hon," Sulu said. He turned his face to the recording screen. "The situation is this. There has been a tragic accident that has resulted in the likely deaths of the zilos and zilama of our only child. It is possible our own vessel will be the victim of the same disaster, reference logs of this stardate. Should this prove to be the case, and should our child escape unharmed, we make the following provision for her."
Jilla took a deep breath and spoke in rapid Indiian, which Sulu then repeated in Anglo:
"As is our right under Indiian law, and with the knowledge that our daughter has been Accepted by Aema, we name Noel Christopher DelMonde and Calaya Wheal as zilos and zilama to continue in our stead, witnessed and attested to by the officers present. Under this circumstance, there is no right of refusal." Sulu bit his lip, took a breath, then flashed a rueful grin at the screen.
"Sorry to make you a father this way, Del."
"My apologies to you and to Miss Wheal," Jilla added, "But we both felt you would be the best choice..." Her voice broke, and Sulu put his arm around her.
"I hope you never have to see this," he said.
The screen again went dark and as Sakura's face reappeared, Del paused the replay.
"What the fuck?" he said. "There not no accident or disaster. We'd heard by now if..."
"Finish it," Calaya broke in.
Del scowled, but turned back to the screen.
"Well, as it turns out, we're all fine," Sakura's voice said. "And so is the Enterprise. Ask your Chief of Security if you want details. Technically, I have no need to send this at all, but.... Del.... Jenni's likely a lot like her Daddy, and... well, if they couldn't have the hot-shit keheil looking after her, I wanted you to know that they know you and Calaya are the next best thing." The pretty Asian face smiled. "And Jilla said she still wanted to send something to you both."
The screen darkened a final time, and Del sat, staring at it for a long while. Finally he turned to Calaya.
"Well, sheee-it," he breathed. He gave the Indiian a sideways glance. "We dodged us a phaser blast there, non?"
"Yes," she replied, but her voice was nearly inaudible.
"Not that I not want kids someday..." he added.
Her head jerked up. "Yes!" she exclaimed, then her skin brightened in a flush. "Someday, of course."
"An' jus' so we clear here," he continued, "it IS you I wantin' 'em wit'."
"Asi, I want them with you as well," she agreed.
"But not now."
"No, not now."
They were silent for a while, then Del asked, "What that you got, cher?"
Calaya gazed down at her hands as if she'd forgotten they were holding something. "It - it came with the tape from the D'Artagnan."
"I figure," Del replied. "Lemme see." He took the item gently from her arms. It was a carefully stitched pillow, oval in shape, with two crescent moons embroidered upon it like a doubled '(', one smaller and inside the other. Eyebrows lowering, he glanced at her. The tears that had been in her eyes were now sliding down her cheeks.
What this mean, cher? he asked
The answer came in rich pictures within her mind, her own mother, pregnant with her younger sister, carefully creating a pillow much like the one Del held. He saw in Calaya's memory how the pillow opened between the two crescents, becoming a swaddling cradle that kept a newborn warm and secured to its mother or father's body. And he saw a fleeting image of another such pillow, this one embroidered with two suns, made for her even younger brother.
She has given us a part of her, came in Calaya's voice in his mind. She is entrusting us with what is to the Indiian people a precious link between mother and daughter. She is telling us she believes we - you, I - can have such a link! It is one of the greatest displays of trust....
Like the pendant she give Sulu told him she wanted to give him babies, Del interrupted.
Calaya nodded, and Del enfolded her in his arms.
"So she not hold you bein' Aeman against you?" he joked softly.
"More than that," Calaya said, as serious as he hadn't been. "She's accepting that I have come to accept her."
Del thought about that, then said, "That why she send the pillow even though Jen's zilos an' zilama still among th' livin."
She nodded, and Del gave a lop-sided grin and hugged her hard.
"Maybe we rethink that 'not now' t'ing, non?"
She blushed a bright silver, and Noel DelMonde laughed.
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