A Five-Point Tour Of The Alpha Quadrant
by Mosca

1. San Francisco, California, Earth

Miles reads Yoshi a story and kisses him good night. Molly says she's too old for stories, but what she means is that she'll turn the light back on once he's gone and read until midnight. This worries Keiko, but it doesn't bother him. Molly never seems tired.

Miles is tired all the time. He doesn't have a hard job: the lesson plans are more or less set, and all he has to do is show up and talk at a classroom full of cadets for a few hours a day. He's got some research going on, but he mostly supervises that; the graduate students want to do all the work, so why not let them? And then he comes home and spends time with his family. Yoshi is at that boring monomaniacal stage of childhood, and he talks about nothing but dinosaurs and starships. Molly spends most of her time in her room, drawing pictures of dragons and reading about places more interesting than Earth. Keiko comes home late from the arboretum and asks him questions that she doesn't want to know the answers to.

He remembers when there was something else to do. He used to have hobbies: Alamo on the holodeck, racquetball, the cello gathering dust in the upstairs closet. He remembers having people to do these things with. He left them all on the other side of the galaxy.

When he gets into bed with her, she is already asleep. She holds the covers tighter than she's held him in years. He wanks mechanically into a handkerchief before he tells the computer to turn out the lights. He doesn't get a good night's sleep, but then, he never does. At least Molly chooses to stay up all night, lost in her fantasy worlds.

He reminds himself that this is what he wanted. He took the job at the Academy so his kids could grow up normal, so he could save his marriage. He wanted to succeed where his parents failed, and here he is, repeating their cold history. He wishes that he still loved her. He wishes she would give back his share of the covers and let him rest.


2. Starbase 336, Tervarus System

He likes a place where nothing works. That's why Starfleet transferred him here: they've figured out that a run-down space station needs him more than a classroom full of unappreciative cadets does. He gets up early to crawl into those Jeffries Tubes and see what's the matter. He tosses a uniform a week into the recycler, covered in coolant or torn on a loose screw. He is black under the fingernails. This is so much better than teaching.

He's been dating a few different people, happy not to be exclusive or committed. A bubbly civilian who works in the beauty shop, dumb as a sack of rocks, but good for an evening out. A quiet cargo-ship engineer who docks once a month to talk shop and give him head. The deputy chief of security, an old enlisted man, separated from his wife, veteran of three wars-- too much like Miles himself to consider falling in love with. They serve different purposes, like parts of a machine.

He didn't want to leave Keiko. When he got his orders, he begged her to come with him. She said she couldn't stand to live in deep space anymore. The kids needed to grow up in a stable environment. Miles knows that Starfleet life is some of the most stable to be found: Starbase schools and Starfleet brats are the same anywhere. Molly calls him on subspace once a week and asks when she gets to visit him. She hates Keiko's new boyfriend, and Miles gets the impression that it's not just on principle.

He tells himself that these things get easier. He's not supposed to move on this quickly. But despite his crowded social calendar and ten hours a day of satisfying work, he sleeps alone.


3. Neral City, Teala Province, Bajor

What was there to do but go back? Keiko left a note stuck to the frame of the replicator and fucked off. She'd decorated the entire goddamn house, and even using the furniture made him feel like she was slapping him in the face all the way from the third moon of wherever she went. He asked Molly where she would live if she could live anywhere in the galaxy, and she said Bajor. He packed up what was left of his family. They bought a sunny little house with a bright green garden in the back. It was easy for him to get a job managing the city's power systems. It's mostly paper-pushing, but he's almost always home by the time Molly's done with school.

Nerys got appointed interim senator of Dakhur Province when the previous holder of the office passed away. She doesn't want to be a politician, but she wants to save Bajor. She found the two not to be mutually exclusive.

The capital city is only an hour away from Neral by antigrav train. At first, she only drops by to see the kids, to spend time with a friend who isn't going to ask her to slip something into the next piece of legislation. But her home in Dakhur is farther away than Miles's house, and she starts spending the night when she has early-morning votes. One evening, she brings two bottles of fine vintage spring wine she received from a lobbyist, and they share it after the kids are asleep. Her kiss is terribly familiar, and her touch is comfortable as old clothing.

She's worried that her constituents won't like her shacking up with an alien, but she's not all that interested in getting reelected. Besides, the kids love her.


4. Robinson Memorial Psychiatric Hospital, Kilatxayi, Adialu Prefecture, Betazed

Sometimes it's a Cardassian prison, but mostly it's the Argathi who are holding him. He tells himself that these walls are pale pink, that there is light and good food. And still, the walls are gray, the light waning-moon dim or brilliant artificial day from directly above, his one meal a day thin and unsatisfying.

The nurses are patient with him. Keiko visits less and less. He saw Molly once, but he screamed when she touched his arm.

The hallucinations started when he was on Earth, in the middle of a class. He knows, when he's not having them, what's real. Just before Starfleet sent him here, he was in prison so often that he thought his life on Earth with Keiko and the kids was the life that wasn't real. He became convinced that it was a coping mechanism to keep him emotionally afloat. He started to lash out at them, shouting that they were figments of his imagination.

Every day, right after he takes his medication, he writes down the facts of his existence: one wife, two kids, unlimited institutionalization while Starfleet's third-finest psychiatrists try to undo the atrophy of his real memories. He writes down what is real. He's not getting any better.


5. Space Station Deep Space Nine, Bajor System

They only called him back after they'd gone through five different Chiefs of Operations, none of whom could make sense of the hybrid inner workings of the station. He can't blame them for giving up: there are bits of six different cultures' technology mixed in there, not to mention a few things held together with plywood, chewing gum, and old bartending equipment. Rom was more or less running the place, and that was no acceptable state of affairs. He had no choice but to come back.

He's not divorced yet, but it's a matter of weeks before the documents go through. A judge with aspirations to King Solomon's throne granted him custody of Molly, and Keiko custody of Yoshi. Molly speaks Bajoran better than Federation Standard, and she says she's happy to be home. Miles feels like the transporter only rematerialized half of him.

Command of the station has made Nerys old and heavy-eyed; rumor has it, she's going to resign the position soon and let Starfleet assign someone. Julian is the only familiar thing left. He seems old, too, like he's going through the motions. At first, Miles thought he was still stinging from his rough breakup with Ezri. But Miles has eyes.

He barges into the infirmary and corrals Julian into the quiet office at the back. "I'm sorry," he says.

"Did you do something horrible that I missed?" Julian says. Miles almost forgot about that smile, the one that looks all the more innocent for being utterly corrupt with overanalysis and cynicism.

"I thought I couldn't love you," Miles says. Julian's smile fades into that other look that Miles forgot about: the smoldering one.


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