Note: This story is a combination of two written by a good friend, whom I knew as Kahless of Vulcan, under the titles “Hunting Grounds” and “Among Friends”.
Deep Space Nine
Deep Space Nine
Kell Tymir stopped and looked out of the first viewport she could find, an old habit of hers on boarding a new ship or station. The black tranquility of space was calm and serene, and always served to steady Kell’s nerves. After a moment, that dark serenity was interrupted by the unmistakable vortex of the Bajoran wormhole, a majestic display still far beyond current scientific understanding. Kell was lost for a moment in the beauty of the Bajoran enigma, until the wormhole collapsed and space returned to normal.
Julian’s smile grew wider. “Oh, I very much doubt that.”
“I believe you already know my husband, Commander.” T’Nel said, looking between Carson and Perim. Shivan looked at his First Officer, expecting to see happy recognition. Instead he saw pain and anger, and found himself wondering what Carson had done to her.
Vasik had never been a sentimental man, but occasionally even the most stoic and emotionless man caught a glimpse of such beauty that they couldn’t help but stare slack-jawed while their heart flitted about like a Terran butterfly. Vasik experienced this in no small measure as Selana entered the room, grace and beauty in abundance with strength and ferocity simmering just under the surface. For the briefest of moments, Vasik missed Romulus. Alas, the spell was broken and reality returned as the shuttle landed and Commander Kathor’s gruff voice interrupted Vasik’s reverie.
Jason couldn’t help feeling that he had failed. His friend had gotten hurt because Jason had been distracted with the animals within their cages, too busy to notice what was already out of the cages. He tried to struggle, but it was useless against such a strong opponent. In human terms, Jason wasn’t small, but compared to the Gorn who held him in a crushing embrace, he was puny.
Arisu laughed. “No, it certainly isn’t. My husband is at our home, and he doesn’t even know I’ve been captured. The poor man is probably terrified for me. Ssarak and I are merely colleagues. We were experimenting with warp mechanics when our vessel was damaged in this system. The Hirogen easily picked us up.”
“Attention Hirogen vessels! This is Captain KulShivan ch’Tao-Mey of the Federation starship Wolfsong. If you do not call off this attack, you will be fired upon and I will destroy the prey you’ve collected on the planet below.”
A few minutes of silence passed, and then Ensign Locksley cursed out loud, drawing a bemused glare from Kathor. “I beg your pardon, Ensign?”
“Well…” Doctor Sarrana mused, placing her hands on her hips. The small Orion looked them up and down and shook her head with amusement. “It seems your story checks out.”
“Naturally,” T’Nel replied with an arched eyebrow. Beside her, Ethan laughed.
“I told you we had nothing to hide,” Ethan said nonchalantly. “We appreciate what you’ve done for us, Doctor.”
“You’re welcome,” Sarrana answered. “Any friend of Kel’s…”
Ethan scoffed a little at that, and shook his head slowly. “I hope so.”
“Don’t be stupid,” Sarrana said bluntly. “It was just a misunderstanding. The two…no, the three of you need to talk it out.”
“It would be the wise course of action,” T’Nel acknowledged, glancing at her husband.
“I know she’ll understand,” Sarrana said. “Now go on, get out of here. I’ve got things to do.”
“Yes, Ma’am,” Ethan replied happily and put an arm around T’Nel’s shoulders, gently guiding her towards the door.
She wasn’t sure how she ended up outside his quarters, and hesitated for just a moment before activating the chime, wondering if she should go through with it. Kell finally pressed the button and Alex Locksley cheerfully invited her in. She smiled upon hearing his voice, momentarily reassured that she had made the right choice. Kell needed someone to talk to, someone who would listen and really understand. Someone who wasn’t Zuna. Someone like Nodan…but he wasn’t here right now. Content with the friend she had, she stepped into his quarters.
“Hi, Kell,” Alex welcomed her happily. “Or is it Commander Tymir?”
“It’s Kell at the moment, Alex,” she replied, accepting his friendly embrace. “What was that for?”
“You looked like you needed it,” Alex replied. “Please, sit down. What can I do for you?”
Kell gratefully accepted his offer and sat on the couch beside him. “I just…I wondered if you…” Suddenly unsure of what to say, she looked at him plaintively and sighed.
“It’s okay,” Alex said consolingly. “Take your time, I’m not going anywhere.”
You really are like Nodan, Kel thought. Aloud, she said, “Thanks, Alex. This whole situation with Ethan is just… I don’t know what to think.”
“So you came to the one person you know who has…experience with that sort of thing?”
“Well, that and you’re a good friend, Alex,” She didn’t really need advice, per se, just someone to listen to her and assure her she was doing the right thing…or, conversely, to tell her she was being an idiot. She knew Alex would do all of those things if asked.
“I try, Kell. So what is it that’s bothering you so much?”
“I just wish he had told me!” she finally said, exasperated.
“Really?” Alex asked. “What was he supposed to say? ‘Oh, by the way, did I ever tell you about the time I was cloned?’”
Kell laughed in agreement. “I know… I guess it’s kind of an awkward subject. What bothers me even more, though, is that he tried to and I shut him down.”
“I’m sure you had a good reason for that.”
“It seemed that way at the time, yes,” Kell agreed. “I could tell it had hurt him, too. I didn’t know what else to do.”
“Then don’t feel bad,” Alex admonished. She smiled and stared out his window into the darkness of space, chewing her lower lip in contemplation. “Now what is it?” He asked gently.
“Let me guess,” Alex said when she started stumbling. “You don’t know how you’re supposed to feel about two identical people and don’t know if you can be just friends with one and be more with the other. Am I right?”
“Wow, Alex, you are good.” Kell replied. He was absolutely right.
“Well, how do you think he feels? How do you think T’Nel feels?”
“I hadn’t really thought about that. I guess they’ve made it work somehow. I know you and Alok have.”
“Yeah…well, the situation is slightly different but the same principle applies. I think of Alok as more of a brother than anything. I guess it would be like dating a twin…sort of. Remember, Ethan and…Ethan two-point-oh aren’t exactly the same. They look the same, but they’ve had enough different experiences that they aren’t identical anymore.”
“So, you’ve pretty much got two options.”
“And what are those, Doctor Locksley?” she teased.
“Well, you can stay here and tell me about your problems (which I wouldn’t mind, by the way), or you can go and talk to T’Nel and Ethan right now, while you’re thinking about them. If you need to stay here and relax, that’s fine too.”
“You really are a good friend, Alex.”
“So are you, Kell.”
“You know, you should meet my brother some day. You’d like him.”
“Well, next time we go to Trill, you can introduce us.”
“I will, Alex. Thanks for listening.”
“Anytime, Kell. Anytime,” he said, smiling and they stood up. He reached for another hug, which she gladly accepted. She kissed him on the cheek and stepped away.
The chime rang outside Ethan’s quarters a few moments after he and T’Nel had finished their daily meld.
“Come in,” Ethan said, fully expecting the person outside. Sure enough, Kell Tymir stepped inside and smiled hesitantly.
“Good evening, Commander Tymir,” T’Nel said kindly.
“How are you, Kell?” Ethan asked.
“I’m good, thank you,” Kel replied. “I wanted to apologize for my behavior earlier.”
“Oh, don’t worry about it,” Ethan laughed.
“You were acting under logical, though mistaken assumptions,” T’Nel said, not exactly gently but clear enough for a Vulcan. “It was not your fault.”
“I was still out of line.”
“I don’t really think so, Kell,” Ethan disagreed. “If you had been right about me, I would have deserved all that.”
“I suppose,” Kell answered, laughing just a little. “Still, I’m glad I was wrong. I’m glad you’re…”
“Not a… how did Doctor Sarrana put it, T’Nel? She said something quite good.”
“I believe the words she used were ‘a lying, manipulative, adulterous, backstabbing chameleon.’”
“Ah. Quite eloquent, if you ask me,” Ethan laughed. “Oh, I’m sorry, please sit down.” Remembering himself, he gestured to the couches and the three of them took a seat. “My mind was…elsewhere,” He said, trying not to sound too vague.
“It’s often difficult to focus on things in the real world after a mind-meld, especially an intense one,” T’Nel explained.
“Zuna did say you had to meld more than usual,” Kel replied. “Why is that?”
“When I was duplicated, my mind was telepathically linked with the other Ethan as a result of the accident. But the link was…unstable, and quite painful. Basically, we were two bodies, and two minds that kept thinking almost exactly the same thing. We both had the exact same memories, but it was very confusing for us.”
“It was also dangerous,” T’Nel added. “Human brains are not built for such a link with another human brain. Serious damage would have occurred without intervention.”
“And you were the intervention,” Kel guessed.
“Exactly,” T’Nel and Ethan said in unison.
“I initiated a mind-meld with him and severed the link. However, the contact was so intense that I created a permanent link with this Ethan. It would be possible to separate, but he likely wouldn’t survive the stresses involved.”
“So we stayed together. We need to meld so often because the damage done to my brain was never truly undone. I am the duplicate, so I was the one who was really in danger. My brother just needed to have me removed, but I need someone to…support me.”
“That’s…that’s actually quite a sweet story, you know,” Kell noted. “The way you saved his life, T’Nel. That’s amazing.”
“Tell me about it,” Ethan said with a smile at T’Nel. “She is amazing.” Her telepathic response was something akin to Damn straight, Dear.
“You called… Ethan your brother,” Kell said hesitantly. “So that’s how you… reconciled things?”
“How else am I supposed to think about the other me?” Ethan asked rhetorically.
“I understand,” Kell said. “Actually, Alex Locksley has a similar situation. The details are different, but he has a ‘brother’ as well.”
“That’s a fascinating coincidence. I should talk to Locksley about it.”
“I’m sure you two will get along quite well,” Kel replied. “You’re similar in other ways, too.”
“Ensign Locksley does seem quite intelligent,” T’Nel answered.
“Sometimes, anyways,” Kell joked. Ethan laughed, and through their bond T’Nel teased that he and Locksley were similar in that respect too.
“He seems like a nice guy,” Ethan replied. “So, Kel, have you had dinner yet? We’d love for you to join us.”
“That would be wonderful.”
Three days later
Kell approached the airlock with a mixture of sadness and hope. She was sad to see her new friends go, but hopeful that the three…no, four…of them would remain friends for a long time.
“Hey, there you are,” Ethan said warmly. “I hoped you’d make it.”
“Of course I did. I wanted to say goodbye one last time.”
“I was confident you would be here,” T’Nel replied. “We will miss you, Kel Tymir.”
“I’ll miss you too. Both of you,” Kell said. “Do I get a hug goodbye?”
“Of course!” Ethan replied, squeezing her tightly. Kell responded in kind and even hugged T’Nel. The Vulcan didn’t return the gesture, but she didn’t pull away, either.
“I hope that was alright,” Kell said in afterthought.
“Not a problem,” T’Nel responded without a trace of resentment in her voice, raising her hand in the Vulcan salute. Kel did the same thing.
“Live long and prosper,” Kell said.
“Peace and long life, Kell,” Ethan returned. “Hey, I wanted to ask you…are you sure the other me didn’t say anything he shouldn’t have? Because if he did, I promise I will beat him black and blue.”
Kell laughed out loud and hugged the man again. “No, he’s just as kind as you are.”
“I don’t know about that…” Ethan joked. “Well, I hate to say it, but we have to go. Our flight leaves soon.”
“Goodbye, Ethan. Goodbye, T’Nel,” Kell said one last time as her friends turned and departed. She smiled after them even once they were gone, feeling alone and quickly becoming miserable. Two more friends changed that, however.
“Well, it was fun while it lasted, hey Kell?” Alex said with a brotherly arm around Kell’s shoulder.
“I told you they weren’t so bad,” Zuna agreed, almost hiding her jealous glare at the placement of Alex’s arm. Kell laughed and leaned against him, twisting the knife in Zuna’s heart just a little more before fixing things with her next words.
“Let’s go, little brother,” Kell said, pulling Alex along with her as she moved away from the airlock. Zuna stepped alongside them and stole Alex’s other arm. What’s taking these two so long? Enough already! Kell thought with exasperation.
“So where shall we go?” Alex wondered aloud. “That place, what’s it called? With the amazing Romulan mollusks?”
“You mean the ones you never shut up about?” Zuna said sharply. “They weren’t that good.”
“They were so!” Alex said with mock indignation. Pulling away from his friends, he turned a circle and gestured all around. “Don’t you love this place?”
“It’s not bad,” Kell answered. “It’s the company that makes it worthwhile, though.”
“Definitely,” Alex agreed. “Well, shall we? I’m starving.”
“Me too,” Zuna admitted. Together, the friends found a place at the restaurant and absorbed the sights and sounds of their new home. Sanctuary was more than just a waypoint for the Eleventh Fleet, more than just an old Cardassian mining facility. It was the common link in a chain of countless relationships – some friendly, others less so. It was a place to call home, a place to relax.
Some other faces from the Wolfsong arrived a few minutes later. T’Kor and K’Serryn argued about the menu. Vasik couldn’t make up his mind. Clarissa Mayborn and Jason Gray took turns staring at one another. Alex and Zuna didn’t bother taking turns.
Kel looked around at her crew, her friends, her family. They were all she would ever need, and she loved every one of them. Even Vasik.