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Part of USS Mackenzie: Mission 14 – Echoes of the Past

EOTP 007 – The Open Wound

USS Mackenzie
8.05.2401
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“You said it was your fault.”  He placed her plate down in front of her and slid into the set next to her, his plate in his other hand.  “What did you mean?”  They were in his quarters on the Mackenzie; she’d arrived a few minutes ago.  He looked at her with a gentle look.

Riandri was about to thank Peter for the food when his comment caught her off guard, though she knew it was coming. She looked over at him, the pain she felt displayed across her face, and sighed, “What else would you call it? I left both of you because I let my obsession get the better of me.” As she spoke, her voice cracked, and a sob escaped her lips as tears began to well up. “I…I…” she choked as she tried to continue, “I had tried for a decade to get past it, but when Voyager returned, it all came back. The memories of El-Auria falling, watching Wolf 359, the destruction of the Firebrand and James, and then the second incursion. The fear, the questions, the Borg. I let it consume me.”

She stopped as she put her head in her hands, unable to hold back the tears, “I left as if the life I had built meant nothing at all. Why don’t you hate me? I hate myself for what I did.”

Crawford stood and dragged his chair to sit beside her, putting his right arm over her shoulder.  She had to carry so much alone for so long; he couldn’t imagine the grief and sadness that it had bred in her heart and soul over the years.  The weight would have been unbearable.  Yet, here she was, wondering why he didn’t hate her.  He replied, “I won’t lie – there was plenty of time and space to hate you for your decision…but that time is past, Ri.  I had a long time to think about it…and I had to accept that you did what you thought was right at the time.”  He shrugged, “We all make mistakes….and we’ve all regretted decisions.  It’s been a long road getting from there to here.  Carrying hate weighed me down.  I travel light these days, Ri.  I forgave you a long time ago.  You might want to give it a try for yourself.”  He smiled, “It won’t happen overnight…but maybe starting will help you get there.”

Peter’s words hit Riandri like a sledgehammer and she struggled to catch her breath for a moment while they sunk in. After a minute, she looked up and haphazardly brushed her hair from her red eyes. Though tears still ran down her cheeks, she took a deep breath, “I, I don’t think I am ready to forgive myself yet, Peter. I missed so much.”

She sighed and shifted in her seat, “I recorded messages for both of you so many times. Every time I was in range to send them, I couldn’t bring myself to do it. They are all just collecting dust. Then, when I got back, I came so close to reaching out but figured you wouldn’t want to hear from me. I should have.”

Peter remained at her side, his voice soft, “You take it your pace, Ri.”  He gave her a knowing look, “I did the same.  Wondered about reaching out and almost did…then didn’t.”  A moment passed between them, “Regret and shame are powerful things, aren’t they?”

Riandri let out a little laugh followed by a sad smile, “Yeah, you could say that again.” His words, as they had always done, helped her to find her centre and calm the turmoil, on the surface, that she had been struggling with for the last two decades. She stopped for a moment and looked a the table, “I seem to have derailed dinner a bit. It does look lovely, maybe we could speak on more pleasant things? Could you tell me about her?”

He leaned back in his chair, “Carolyn?  She’s the optimist of the family.”  He felt his smile of pride cut across his lips, “She’s never been a girly girl.  Hates dresses.  Takes everything apart, wipes her nose on her sleeve when she thinks I’m not looking…she’s got a brightness in her that didn’t come from me.  She’s got your smile…which she has wears most of the time.”

Riandri let out a little laugh. “My smile was always the nicer of the two of us,” she said with a bit of levity. “She sounds like a wonderful person, and very accomplished given her record. I would love to meet her, if you think that is ok?”

Crawford chewed on his bottom lip.  It was inevitable.  “I think it’s more than ok, Ri.  I think you should meet her.”  He stared into her eyes and felt his heart jump into his throat.  Even after all these years, all the days, all the wondering…she could still shake his soul.  He pulled his plate from his seat at the table and took a bite.  It was as good as he remembered. “We’ll have some time tomorrow.  How do you want to handle it?”

Riandri made an audible gulp, “Tomorrow? That soon? I, well, that works, yeah.”  She took a sip of the water in front of her before continuing, “I have thought about meeting her every day, but I have no idea how to go about it. How do you think she will react? What does she know about me?”

Peter replied, “You can choose the date and time, Ri. I sometimes will get ahead of the shuttle in the shuttle bay.”  He took another, “She knows she has a mother…and that life was complicated…and that you are beautiful, kind, and a little crazy.”  He shared a smile with her at the last mention.  “I never lied to her about you – she’s spent more time recently asking about you and what makes you…well, you.”  He kept his eyes on hers, “About a year ago, she started saying that she loved you, even as mysterious as you were…I didn’t correct her.  She’s a young woman…and I think she’ll welcome you with open arms…she may not let you out of her embrace for a long time.”

Riandri felt tears starting to well in her eyes as she blinked them away; the thought of seeing Carolyn after all these years was almost too much. “I would really like that, Peter.” 

He smiled, “I think she will too.”  He leaned back in the chair, returning to the food in front of them, “Now, maybe you get to eat, and I get to talk about all the life updates.”  He began to tell his story over the last twenty or so years as the evening faded into night, they continued to share pieces of their past with each other.