Part of USS Lafayette: Old Dog, Same Tricks

One Last Time…

Upper Scaffolding - Observation Deck - Starbase 86
MD01
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Pete laid back on a rolled up mat, wedged against a scaffolding support on the observation deck of Starbase 86. In the crook of his arm rested his daughter. For a moment, he had 20 years of his life shaved off and she was only 10 again, staring up at the stars in wonder as he told her his adventures in space, fighting bad guys. At that point in his career many of those stories were exaggerated, if not outright made up, but she hung on every word like Gospel.

The missions were hard. He tried – as hard as he could – to be an ever present part of his daughters life. His wife, Grace, had been on the ships with him for a while, but as Meg got older, the need for stability became greater… but he couldn’t leave his passion. Meg was five… then she was ten… fifteen. It was like he was traveling through time, but no one else was.

Now, still afloat on the synthol drinks they’d had at a local bar, he held his little girl – his 30 year old little girl – in his arms again, staring up at the stars on a Starbase. Her eyes weren’t full of wonder this time, though… they were full of tears. She sniffled with her head on his chest, her arms wrapped around his body and holding him tightly as though to make sure her father never left her side again.

“I’m sorry… I wasn’t there,” Pete said, quietly. “I’m sorry I didn’t stay home with you… teach at the academy or something,” He said, guilt starting to fill his gut.

Meg let out a choked laugh and shook her head against his chest, “I’m not. You wouldn’t have been you if you had,” She said, earnestly. She sat up and looked at him, a tear rolling down her cheek, “Monday, Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday. At 1900, on the nose. No matter where you were or what you were doing, my communicator chimed. And you talked to me for hours. And every shoreleave, you read me to sleep and snuggled me. You checked my bed for monsters well after I didn’t believe in them anymore. You told me every amazing adventure you ever had,” She said. “You were there. You were there in the way you could be, daddy. I never once doubted that you were there,” She said, looking him dead in the eye.

“I missed so much,” He replied, his voice catching in his throat. “I missed so many things.”

“You weren’t there, but you watched every video, no matter how silly it was, and you told me I was wonderful, and that you loved me. Daddy, you were there,” She said.

He knew her heart was broken. She never called him “Daddy” anymore unless it hurt. Bad.

“I need this,” He told her. “One last run.”

“I know,” She told him, smiling. “It’s your farewell tour around the galaxy,” She said. “I understand. I don’t have to like it to understand it.”

“I’ll come back, Megs. I promise. You’re not going to lose me,” He said again, taking her hand in his. “I’ll come back and I’ll sit at a desk and grow old and cranky. I’ll be the best cranky old man you’ve ever seen,” He said, grinning at her.

She laughed, but her demeanor changed and she looked lost in contemplation.

“What is it?” He asked her after a moment.

“Samuel and I are … we’re trying to have a baby. My baby needs their grampa, daddy. They need their grampa,” She told him, earnestly.

Pete smiled warmly at her, “Then they’ll have ‘em. I’ll reach out every chance I have until I’m done with this mission, and then… every day if they want, I’ll be there. To do all of the grampa things. I just… I just need this one last run,” He said.

“You better,” Meghan replied.

Pete looked at her and smiled, wiping away a stray tear that was making its way down her face, “I’m so proud of you, Megs. Everything you’ve done, the woman you’ve grown into. I am so damn proud,” He told her, earnestly.

She smiled proudly at her father, “I’ve always just tried to be like you,” She said, then chuckled and rolled her eyes playfully, “Mom helped a little, I guess,” She teased.

Pete laughed, “Your mom helped a lot,” He told her. “If in no other area than your fashion sense. Why do you think I like the Starfleet uniforms so much? I can’t match socks, much less a whole outfit,” He said.

They both laughed for a moment, then Meg grew serious again, “Daddy,” She said, placing her hand on his chest, “Come back, okay? You come back. In one piece.”

Pete rested his hand on hers, “I will. I promise,” He told her, earnestly.

“Okay,” She said, nodding and blinking away tears. “Then you go have you adventure… But right now… Right now I get my daddy, okay?” She asked, her voice cracking a little as tears welled up in her eyes again.

“Wouldn’t have it any other way,” Pete replied, leaning forward to kiss is daughter on her forehead. “I love you, princess.”

“I love you too, daddy,” She said back, before laying back down in the cook of his arm and staring back up at the stars.

Pete took a deep breath and adjusted against the mat behind his back, then let out a long, heavy sigh. As much as Starfleet had given him, as much as his time in the center chair had given him… It had taken from him, too. His wife had spent so many years following him around, taking what time they could get together. She’s never left him once, but she’d grown old largely alone. His daughter had spent her childhood with a father on a screen. Oh, he’d been there when he could, but that was so few and far between. Starfleet had taken so much from him.

And yet… Here he was, crawling and begging for one last adventure. One last chance to be a hero. To be an explorer. To see the things no one else would see. Stop the bad guys no one else would stop. Here he was offering up another five years – willingly – to the organization who’d already had 35.

A part of his mind kept screaming not to do it. His heart hurt for his daughter and the sacrifice he was asking of her yet again. His heart hurt for his wife, who’d once again put on a brave smile said, “I knew it was too good to be true, love… Once more into the breach,” and kindly sent him on his way, sacrificing another five years without him.

But that part just couldn’t drown out the fear – the terror – that the idea of sitting behind a desk in Starfleet command gave him. That was… certain death. So one last time. One last time he’d boldly go. One last time, he’d risk life and limb for the Federation. One last time he’d lose years with the people he loved most of all. One last time. One last adventure.

But for now… for now, time stood still as he laid on a scaffolding with his daughter and looked at the stars. His one last adventure could start tomorrow. Tonight, he was a father and she was his daughter and if he pretended hard enough…

Maybe she could be ten years old and full of wonder one last time.