A word of warning on this Act: It involves strong language
, but keeps within the guidelines of PG-13 as set forth by the Motion Picture Association of America.
As was their habit on Valdemar
, Abbie and Kincaid got together at least two or three times a week for dinner on Farragut
. Given the scuttlebutt in most of the public mess areas of the ship, they had mutually agreed that it would be better to eat in the privacy of Kincaid's quarters, if only so they wouldn't have to deal with overhearing any whispers.
"Are you seriously going to eat that?" Kincaid asked doubtfully, eyeing her chosen meal with distaste. He had opted for a simple meal of baked salmon, asparagus and rice.
"I didn't order it just to look at it, Jess," Abbie replied with a snort. She lifted her spoon in preparation for another sip of her plomeek soup.
"It smells bad."
"Some people don't like fish either for the same reason. Are we really having this conversation again? Every time I eat something Vulcan..."
"All right, all right," Kincaid relented, but still seemed discomforted by her choice of dinner.
"I heard that the child is being brought aboard tomorrow so Sovera can run the gene scan," Abbie mentioned after a few moments of silence while they both ate. "Are you going to be there for that?"
"I think so. I should probably meet him, either way. We have some genes in common, after all," Kincaid allowed, though he spoke as if he was choosing his words carefully.
"Do you want me to come with you?" Abbie offered. "You know, for moral support?"
"Uh, actually, I was thinking of asking Isira to go with me. No offense, but I think she's actually been trained to deal with children and family situations, so it makes sense that she'd be there."
Abbie paused in spooning up some more of her soup to give him a surprised look. "You're already that comfortable with her? It usually takes you months to warm up to someone completely."
"You know what I mean."
"She's a full Betazoid. She's been probably rifling through my head enough times by now it's ridiculous to think she doesn't know me."
"Uh, point of fact, I'm pretty sure she doesn't do that."
"You know what I mean. You're always saying that you know exactly what I'm thinking by the look on my face."
"Yes, I don't recommend you play poker again."
"Right. So if you know me by my looks, I'm pretty sure she knows me by my actual thoughts."
Abbie shrugged a shoulder, conceding the point. "Logical," she teased him.
"Anyway," Kincaid said pointedly. "She knows me, and she's at the very least had training with children. Whereas you.."
"Had trouble relating to children when I was a child. I take your point."
"It's not your fault, Abbie."
Abbie waved that away to show she wasn't hurt. "Yes, I know it's my father's fault. But you are right; Isira's a better choice."
"If he is mine," Kincaid began slowly, stressing the first word. "She'll probably have a good idea of what the best steps are for me to get to know him. I don't want to make this any harder for him than necessary."
"And if he isn't?" Abbie asked.
"She'll still know how best to deal with the fallout. I don't know what they've been telling him about what's going to happen. For all I know, he could've already been told that his father's coming to get him by some overzealous social worker."
"You don't think someone's actually done that, do you?"
"I don't know. I looked into it, and civilians on starbases don't have the full social services available to them on most planets. There's probably one, maybe two social workers for the whole base. I'm sure they look for the simplest solutions because they don't have the resources to really do what's best for the child."
"You looked into it? As in researched the situation?"
"Of course." Kincaid gave her a questioning look. "Why?"
"It's just a much more rational response than yesterday, when you were just... I don't know, upset that someone could think that about you. You don't usually turn away from an implied insult so quickly."
Kincaid nodded slowly, in agreement, while he cut into the fish on his plate. "I think that's accurate, but Isira helped me see that the primary issue is the child. Is Jacob," he corrected himself. "He's a four year old boy who just lost his mother and the only parent he's ever known. Mine or not, it's his life we're talking about, not just my reputation."
Abbie smiled in response. "That's...great, Jess."
"Yeah, well. Just eat your stinky soup, please. The smell is getting to me," he teased her.
Kincaid walked down the corridor, on his way to the turbolift with Isira by his side. "Has Jacob already been tested?" he asked her.
"Yes. He came aboard about an hour ago. The father of the family with whom he is staying on the starbase is with him. Right now, they're in a room off Sickbay with Lieutenant Commander Okugo, the station's JAG officer."
Kincaid nodded slowly, reaching for the button to call for the lift. "Can I meet him?"
Isira inclined her head in contemplation. "Jacob? Before the test?"
"Yes. I want to see him."
"Even though you're positive you're not his father?"
"Well, yes. But he's probably related to me somehow, so I should meet him anyway."
Isira shook her head slowly as she stepped into the turbolift. "Unless you're definitely going to become a part of the child's life, it's not a good idea to introduce yourself to him. He needs to be eased into a transition to the new parental figures in his life."
"Oh. I didn't think about that," Kincaid admitted as he joined her. "Sickbay," he ordered the computer.
"Having to deal with children is new for you. You aren't expected to know everything right away," Isira assured him with a slight smile.
"Right," he answered, his expression settling into a thoughtful frown.
Isira considered the silent executive officer beside her for a long moment but did not speak until the lift arrived at deck eight. "You could still see him, without meeting him," she noted. "He's in the observation room. You could see him through the window."
Kincaid nodded quickly. "I'll take that."
Isira led the way towards Sickbay, where they were greeted by an expectant Doctor Sovera. "Commander, Lieutenant," she greeted them. "If you would please step to one of the biobeds for a scan, sir," she began.
"Just a moment, Doctor. If you would, please escort the Commander to the observation window to see the boy, Jacob Reardon. He wishes to see him," Isira explained. However, Kincaid did not wait to be escorted, but instead merely mumbled an, "Excuse me," and headed towards the window himself.
Isira could feel his startled reaction and hurried to the window herself to see what might have surprised him. Inside the room was the JAG officer, sitting in a chair, as well as a human man of about forty who was crouched down by a low table where a small, dark haired child of four was playing with a PADD. The older man was showing him how to play a game upon it and the child was frowning in concentration.
"What do you see, Commander?" Isira asked, unable to discern his thoughts clearly in the swirl of his emotions.
"Jacob. He...looks like I did when I was his age. I'd have trouble picking out the differences if I had a picture of me to show you," Kincaid replied, shaking his head in wonder.
"Jesse...," Isira began quickly, her eyes growing wide with realization.
"That child is definitely related to me, Isira. It doesn't matter what the tests show; he's my family. I know it."
By this time, the doctor had joined them and it was to the Vulcan that Kincaid directed his next question. "Is he healthy? Where is he staying on the station now?"
Sovera gave Isira a questioning look but responded succinctly. "The boy is completely healthy, within the top quartile for height for his age. He is currently residing with the Paxton family, with Michael Paxton, the man in there with him, and his wife and two children, one of whom is the child's age."
"I don't know how he came to be, but he looks like me. I can't deny what the test and my own eyes are telling me. He's family and I have to take care of him," Kincaid announced with finality.
Sovera raised an eyebrow but it was Isira who replied. "I know you're ready to take custody of him right now, Commander, but you'll need to establish paternity to do so," she pointed out.
He nodded again and turned towards the doctor. "Right. Let's get this done, then."
By the time Kincaid was on the biobed, they had been joined by the JAG officer. Now, they were all waiting in silence while Sovera completed her analysis.
Kincaid felt strangely at peace. Unlike the past twenty-four hours, he felt better knowing what was going to happen and how the future would play out. He knew he had enough leave time accrued to take a few weeks to get to know Jacob while Starfleet sorted out his next assignment. He briefly considered how to break the news his mother, but figured that a woman who had chosen to raise a son by herself wouldn't be so surprised at his decision.
He watched as Isira gave him a half-smile. He supposed she was tracking all his thoughts even now and could probably give him a few good recommendations about the next steps.
"I do have a few suggestions, yes, Commander, including the name of a colleague in Starfleet who specializes in families in the service," Isira noted dryly. "But perhaps you should wait before giving him a call."
"Oh, absolutely," Kincaid replied, giving her a grin.
"For a man who denied paternity earlier, Commander, you seem almost pleased at the thought now," Lieutenant Commander Okugo noted. "Can I ask what has changed?" he wondered.
"I... he looks like me, is all. And, well, once upon a time, I figured this was about the time I'd be having children anyway. Not quite in this manner, however it happened, but either way, this was once in the plan."
"Life has a way of intruding on plans," Isira mentioned.
"Absolutely," Kincaid agreed.
"I'm glad you're approaching this in a new frame of mind, Commander. It will make the whole process much easier. Our first recommendation will be for you to come aboard the station, so you can get to know Jacob before he lives with you."
Kincaid was nodding sagely at this when Sovera joined them. "Sirs, I have the results of the scan." Each of the officers turned to her.
"Jacob Reardon is not your son, Commander," Sovera announced without preamble.
"What?" Both Kincaid and Okugo asked in unison.
"Jacob Reardon is not the commander's son," the doctor repeated herself. She went to the display panel behind them and pulled up her analysis. "As you can see here, less than fifty percent of the child's genes match the commander's, far less than we would see if he was in fact the father."
"But there's quite a few genes that do match," the JAG officer stated.
"Yes, there is a familial relation, but it is not one of paternity. Or rather, not your paternity of the child. The commonality of the genes suggests a common parent. However, your mitochondrial DNA does not match, which indicates you have different mothers. Your Y-chromosomes, on the other hand are nearly a perfect match. You have the same father," Sovera pronounced her findings matter-of-factly.
Okugo and Isira were stunned into silence. Kincaid was not.
"Mother-fucking piece of shit."
Sovera raised an eyebrow. "Interesting colloquialism, Commander."
"You wouldn't say so if you met him, Doctor," Kincaid replied, his mouth setting in a grim line.
"Ah...," Okugo cleared his throat. "Your father, sir, is..."
"Master Chief Petty Officer Miguel Montoya. He lives in Petaluma, California. He's never told his wife about his indiscretions, and I don't expect that to change now."
"I can contact him and inform him of his son's existence," Sovera offered.
"No, I'll contact him," Kincaid declined, though he did nod his head in thanks to the Vulcan. He glanced at the JAG officer, noting, "I'll let you know the substance of the conversation." He slid off the biobed and started towards the doors.
Isira hurried to catch up with him but did not speak until they were in the corridor. "Behind all that anger, I know you're disappointed," she mentioned quietly. "You convinced yourself that he was yours despite never having met his mother. I was worried about that."
Kincaid gave her a questioning look as he signaled for the turbolift.
"You're an honorable man, Commander, and family is the most important thing to you. Even if you had no relation to him, I think you'd have a hard time walking away from a child in need," she explained.
"I..." Kincaid took a deep breath and looked back towards sickbay. "I really thought I was going to be a father," he admitted softly.
"I'm almost certainly that's still true. It's just not going to be today," Isira assured him.