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Cptn Swain



Author's Note, this log takes place during Excalibur's time on Risa. Apologies for the delayed posting. 

Elethor, the larger of the twin suns of Risa, had already dipped below the horizon of the Regent’s Lagoon while Hjae, the smaller of the pair followed close behind.  It had been a long time since Asher had been on Risa. Arden had spent several years stationed at nearby Starbase 12 and came often, but that had been when Asher was in command of the Cassini and rarely had a chance to spend time with him.  He took a drink. That was a choice, he considered. It was always a choice.  They had known each other for half a lifetime. They’d been through virtually every major life event together. There had been their graduation from the academy, their first posting together, each’s first promotion. Arden had been the second call Asher made when he learned he’d been given the opportunity to command a starship. The first was his mother. They hadn’t even been together then. They were on one of the many breaks that Asher had come to feel were mostly his doing, but still there wasn’t anyone else he wanted to talk to about it more.  

“Of course you’re going to take it,”  Arden had said, almost in disbelief. “If you turn down this command, who knows when another will come around -- and you can’t stay as the ex-oh of the Idrissi.” Arden had, as usual, been correct and he’d eventually accepted the offer to take over. There was always some doubt for Asher though. He’d never wanted to be in command. He certainly never wanted to be in command during a war. He was an explorer, a scientist, a cartographer.

The war had changed everyone, everything. After it ended he’d considered leaving the fleet -- he’d done his bit for king and country; but as always, the allure of the unknown pulled him back and, at Arden’s urging, he accepted command of the Cassini. For the next ten years he journeyed into beyond. H was an explorer again. There had been a price to that, of course. Arden had always wanted to be with Asher, even before the Cassini but the distance strained their relationship even more. They went weeks, months without talking. Longer than during any other time in their lives.  Still, Arden had always been there when Asher did call.

Asher rubbed at his nose. Maryse had been kind enough to patch up his broken nose, off the record. He didn’t want to make anything official, regarding Miranda losing her temper in his ready room. He’d deserved that punch.

Retiring was a serious consideration. Though it was unlikely Admiral Tersan would find cause for his long-term removal, the investigation and subsequent administrative leave had given Asher ample time to once again consider the matter.   Not that it had really left his mind since being given command of Excalibur. Arden’s posting to Camelot had complicated matters.

Their relationship had almost completely fallen apart when he’d surprised Asher by requesting an assignment to Camelot. Asher hated the Gamma Quadrant and, outside of the crew who he cared deeply for, the entire assignment to Excalibur. Nothing about it had ever felt right. He wanted the Cassini back, but then there was Arden who made it all seem less terrible. When they’d returned to the Alpha Quadrant, and Arden asked him to marry him it seemed like the right time to leave his career behind for Arden, who’d done the same for Asher multiple times -- but Arden wouldn’t hear it.

“Absolutely not,” he said when Asher brought it up the first time on the long shuttle ride from Deep Space 9 to Asher’s family home on the distant colony of Kynareth. “It’s not an option. You’re keeping the Excalibur.”

“And what are you going to do?”

“I could join you.”

Asher had frowned. “I love you, but...”

“I know.” He kissed Asher on the cheek. “I know. We’ll figure something out that works for both us. People owe both of us favors.”

Behind Asher, as the suns settled lower and stars began to sparkle through the purple-pink sky, he heard Miranda and Arden laughing in the kitchen of their bungalow and sighed. He’d been so selfish. Miranda had said it without saying it, but retirement was selfish. It was an easy way to solve a problem. No, solve his problem.  

Pushing off the railing, Asher finished his wine and headed inside. Dinner was a civil affair.  Arden had prepared a fantastic meal, as he always did. Miranda seemed more at ease with him than she’d been a few days before, or even at the reception.  She had every right and reason to be upset, Asher knew. Still, they both knew such tension was untenable aboard a starship. When they’d finished with dinner, Arden excused himself to the kitchen to make coffee leaving them alone.

“He can cook,” Miranda said as she put her napkin on the table. “One of his many endearing qualities, but we were going to talk about you and Excalibur, weren’t we?”

Asher nodded. In the three years they’d known each other, Miranda had quickly grown from first-officer to a valued friend and colleague. “In some ways it’d be easier for me, maybe even for them, if I asked for a transfer. A new captain could bring a lot to the table but... that’d be a little too easy for me, wouldn’t it?”

She only nodded as he continued. “I should have brought you all into everything. I shouldn’t have hid it but... I did. There’s no real reason to go through that whole thought process, other than just... it won’t happen again.”

“You’re right.  It won’t,” she said firmly.  “Because if it ever does, you’re on your own.  No backup, no covering. We put our own careers on the line for you this time.  I won’t do that again. I won’t let the crew do that again.” Her wine swirled in her glass.  “You could take the easy way, but if you did, you’d probably hate yourself for it. Retirement wouldn’t suit you, and you know it.”

“No... Arden said the same thing, and he’s right. I’d have to find something to do.”

“I’m not sure why you’d even be considering the change.  We work well together, don’t we?”  She couldn’t quite keep the hurt from her voice.  

He heard it and drew back from his wine for a second.  “Of course. You’re an excellent first officer and...” he paused, swallowing. “A better friend than I deserve. It’s just ... since the war the uniform hasn’t always felt right and I don’t know...”

Taking a long drink of his wine, he sighed again.  “And part of me feels like, I’ve made Arden make so many sacrifices. He’s always been the one giving something up for me, never the other way around. I thought -- I thought maybe leaving fleet and just being there for him would change things, but then I’d just be being selfish again.

“It would just be about my own guilty feelings, and not how Arden feels.”

"And how does he feel,"  Miranda said, pointedly. 

"He thinks I am being silly," Asher said as he emptied his wine glass and refilled it. "I know in his heart he wants us to be on the same assignment again but --"

"But?" Miranda had softened some, but only some. "He's a good officer and the crew likes him. I am sure we could find a place for him."

"It's not that. He'd fit in fine with the crew and he's one of the best officers in the sector. I just can't have someone that close to me under my command -- for a billion reasons. I know I am not exactly the type of commanding officer who keeps my officers at arms length, but there's got to be some limits and..."

"And you couldn't give the order." Miranda was sympathetic now, as her own thoughts wandered. "I can understand that."

"I just can't make decisions for the crew with him around. I could never send him on a dangerous away mission. I would second guess every command decision."

"So, have you told him that?"

"I didn't for a long time. Well, not directly. The old, 'it's not you' stuff," he tipped the wine glass back again. "But we've talked a lot since I came back. He's different, you know? Always has been. I've dated plenty of people over the years. Even someone like Kai, who meant a lot to me --I could, I think, have had him under my command. But Arden? I can't be rational. I wish I could. It would be easier, for everyone. I just can't."

"Good. I am glad you're finally being honest with yourself. " 

Arden returned at that point with coffee, leaving unsaid how much of the conversation he'd listened to through the sliding doors. "So Miranda, what are you going to do for the remaining few days on Risa..."

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