Posted by Lieutenant Nathan Harland (Assistant CNS/ Child Psychiatry) in Between The Buried And Me - Nathan’s Quarters
Posted by Ensign Chloe Kendrick (Nurse) in Between The Buried And Me - Nathan’s Quarters
Spartan was most likely what anyone would call Nathan’s quarters as he entered them. He hadn’t arrived more than two hours onto the Outpost, but it had already become one of his top ten worst days of his life. Irony was that almost all of the top ten days had only happened in the past year, to the day in fact. Taking a large breath Nathan looked around as he nodded silently to himself. He had a large family quarters, four bedrooms of empty space that seemed like haunted memories as he looked around at his new surroundings.
To the right of the entrance the few things he had brought had been stacked up, three boxes and a duffel bag. Seeing as the Loki had never been to him home, he never brought a lot with him. For Nathan his childhood home he had grown to hate as a child became a beacon of love as he shared his life with Chloe. That world though had been shattered in the past year, or longer if Chloe had a chance to tell her side. Choices made that set worlds aflame created a chasm that neither seemed to be able to cross. No life between Nathan and Chloe now felt more like living ghosts passing and fading as the world moved on around them.
“Computer… dim the lights 40%…” came Nathan’s request as he moved the bag from the top of the boxes as he began opening up the boxes as he searched for the treasure he needed most in this moment. The clink of glass on glass was the sign he had gotten to what he needed, as he pulled out the bottle of Grecken 72, far less in than there was a few months ago as he grabbed the soul glass he had brought with him as he walked over to the couch as he flopped in. This time the springs felt firm and new, time would change that as the bottle got more and more empty.
Seconds turned to minutes, minutes to hours, hours to eternities. That is what it felt at least to Nathan as he stared at the dark empty walls, the scars of his past seemed to follow him everywhere and the barrenness of the room seemed to fuel his sorrow as every burning drop he drank seemed to force away all emotions he kept, bottled inside like his own dark secret that would never be opened. To open that bottle might shatter everything else around Nathan, and he could only shatter so much before nothing was left and a husk was all that remained.
Two days later.......
A home was made up of two things: scents and sounds. When one arrived home from an extended trip, you knew it based on inhaling the air when you stepped into the room. Things like the occupant’s perfume or cologne often soaked into the fabrics on a couch, chair, or bedding. The air might carry traces of lavender, vanilla or spices from candles burned to change the ambiance of the room. Foods enjoyed by the individuals often left their scents to seep into the walls and counters of the eating area. All of this combined to make the individuals entering feel like a soft blanket was draped over their shoulders. Sounds were the second part of knowing you were home. For families, it allowed the individual entering to know whether they were walking into a war zone or the idyllic dream they signed up for. Still crying toddlers, laughing children, or rambunctious preteens screaming pew pew as they ran through the house all signified life in a home. Nathan’s quarters contained none of this.
As Chloe entered the quarters she stood in the doorway letting her eyes adjust to the lighting and the deafening silence contained between the four walls. It was so low the room seemed almost black. Not having the ability to see however did not mean Chloe was unable to gauge what was going on in the room. Inhaling deeply she knew exactly who lived here and for how long. The cloying scent of bleach and a gym locker room vied for the top position in her senses. The bleach and antiseptic scent came from the cleaning crews who prepared the room for its next occupants scrubbing all remanents of those peoples lives from the space. The locker room fragrance came from someone who had not showered due to either a sporting event or from someone on a bender that simply did not care. Choe knew it was the latter and scanned the room until she found what she was looking for. Sprawled on the couch was Nathan with one hand slung over the back cushions and one leg half falling off the couch. On the floor beside him was an empty bottle. Chloe knew there would be no stain on the carpet because it was drained long before it left his hand.
A knot filled her throat seeing him like that but she did not have the strength to fix him even if she wanted to, not today of all days. Raising a hand to her nose she closed her eyes focusing all her energy on remaining standing. If she gave in and joined her husband by lying in a crumpled pile on the floor of the dark representation of hell he had created here, Chloe would never be able to get up. Sniffing back her nose she ran her fingers through her hair and headed to the kitchen area. She did not care about the tears that slipped from her eyes. Her cheeks had been stained with them since she had awoken that day. More would fall: there was no reason to wipe them away.
Her hands shook as she replicated all the foods she needed. She had to get through this simple task but the simplicity of it was what tore at her soul the most. One year ago today the day started the same with breakfast. Only the end was what had changed. From that moment forward in her life, there were no giggles of roughhousing as Saturday holotoons played with Nate announcing it was time for breakfast and to get to the table. Using the knife she began to dice and chop all the things she needed into bite-sized pieces. She could have replicated this but it was good to stay busy and complete tasks that had beginnings and ends. At least that is what every counselor had told her since January of last year. The chopping of the onion echoed like a heartbeat in the room cutting through the silence with a dull clack clack as it left the soft flesh of the vegetable and encountered the hard surface of the counter. As the tears fell down her cheeks Chloe felt a small sick smile cross her lips as she realized she had no idea if it was from the syn-ropanethial-S-oxide of the onion or the memories that refused to leave her head causing her to cry. Peppers, onions, tomatoes, and mushrooms were tossed in a pan and as they began to sautee among hunks of crumbled up sausage to add flavor. Chloe whipped up three eggs, began to toast the bread, and started several slices of thick-cut bacon to cook. The more she prepared the more she wanted to cook. What was supposed to be a simple meal was turning out to be something far grander than she planned.
Stirrings of life could be heard from the couch as Nathan’s slumber began to be broken from the sounds and smells of life that began to permeate throughout his home. Slow and carefully eyes began to blink into awareness as he moved like a bear coming up from their hibernation. The smell seemed to startle Nathan more than the sounds, as it was a scent he had smelt more than once in his life, from countless mornings as he woke to Chloe and her hangover treatments. The reality was had little to do with any true treatment, the grease soothed the soul as the mind processed the absence of everything the alcohol drained from you. Cause in the end that was all a hangover was, your body’s reaction to a loss and making sure you knew just how angry it was that you took away from it what it needed most.
Still, smells aside as Nathan got erect he couldn’t help but feel a sense of confusion wash over him. His eyes blurred, but the smell wasn’t the only oddity before him as the silhouette of Chloe shaped and grew in front of him as he tried to wipe away the regret and guilt from his eyes. The truth was despite all these sights and smells of his paste Nathan was acutely aware this wasn’t how it should be. Never had he lived with Chloe in a Starfleet home, sterile and gray as if the Federation was afraid to have a personality or an opinion.
The sounds of cushions crunching indicated life in some form was returning to the couch. It would have been absorbed in the abyss of darkness if Chloe wasn’t listening for it. Her body tensed. Every instinct told her to stop what she was doing and leave. They had spent so many days in this position: staring at the others back or locking gazes as cruel actions and heartless words were slung like arrows between them like to enemies on a battlefield destined to never die. Opening and closing her fist several times helped her focus her energy in not running away. Tomorrow she could run to the farthest reaches of the universe but not today. “I made breakfast,” was the first thing she said shattering the silence between them. Her voice echoed in the room like it came from an amplifier causing her to wince slightly. The mundaneness of her words caused her eyes to well up. The lids filling in an unstoppable rush she would never contain so Chloe did not try. Calvin’s words to her blared in her mind like a klaxon. No one really cares if it doesn’t affect them so give them something to believe that will ease their discomfort in the situation.
“Hmmmm.” came a low grunt of acknowledgement as Nathan felt more of the world come back to him as his eyelids began to feel less and less heavy.
Living as a wife and mother had taught her to do this effortlessly. Nathan might be able to pick apart anyone across the desk opening them up raw yet she was not his patient. She was his soon to be ex-wife. Like all husband’s this meant Nathan was just a mere mortal and only saw what he wanted to most of the time. “How are…you feeling?” These four words had to be forced out of her throat like a splinter lodged deeply under the skin. It was painful causing Chloe to bit her lip hard to stop the shaking in her voice. “Think you…can eat…something?” Five words this time and it was becoming easier. At least the physical act of forming words. Nathan would know how hard the day was but he would accept her causal lie.
“I.. . I am perfectly fine doll face.” Nathan said with a small forced smile, a lie and deceit if there ever was one, but one he had grown so used to over the years. The truth was Nathan had grown to have a strictly professional relationship with deceit over the years, with benefits. It was deceit that forced him to see patients and smile as he felt it all crumble around him, it was the deceit that forced him to live with the lie this big, cause the truth could obliterate them. No Nathan had grown to learn to love the deceit, cause it let the guilt become more bearable as he found ways to live and told lies so big that Congress was in the corner taking notes.
“I hate cooking with onions. Nasty things.” Six words carefully chosen to appear as if they were having a conversation and to explain why she was wiping her face as she turned to face him and set the table.
Nathan said nothing as he pushed off the couch, grabbing the bottle as he placed it back on the table before slowly making his way to the table.
As Nathan approached the table, Chloe saw nothing but emptiness in his eyes. It was not unsurprising or unexpected but nonetheless it was shocking to see him this way. “Liar,” she said setting the plate piled high with an omelet, bacon, toast, and hashbrowns at the table. “So when,” she cleared her throat from the ball of phlegm lodged there, “did you start lying…to the rest of the world,” she asked turning to make coffee and get him some juice. The last part was a veiled attempt at civility. It was so hard not to slip into the pattern of the last year.
“What do you want from me Chlo Bell?” Nathan asked as he looked down at the plate, smiling ever so slightly as the sight brought so many memories to them. “Did you wanna see me as a mess?” he added as he looked up, whatever sentiment the food had giving him seemed to quickly vanish. “Come to remind me of all the horrible things I did? Not that I really need help remembering… though I do try so very hard to forget.” he said with a slight nod in the direction of the empty bottle that stood on this table.
“Stop it. You’re drunk,” she said focusing her sadness and guilt into anger like she always did. “And if you are able to forget you are the lucky one because I can’t. I remember everything,” she leaned against the counter holding her cup of coffee sipping it. Coming here was a bad idea only where can you go to escape your own nightmares. She had to go back to single word responses. Anything else would break her.
“I know…” he said softly, she didn’t have to ever remind him, she was well aware he knew what day it was. He could never forget, God’s little accursed creature he was. “And no, you didn’t make this that day… there was grits not hash browns… semantics I know…” Nathan said as he took a bite as he all the memories came flooded, it was in fact exactly one year ago today, and in thirteen minutes everything Chloe and Nathan held dear would be crushed and torn.
“Grits,” she snapped as all the memories flooded back. Leaving the house, the winter picnic of hot chocolate and marshmallows that laid in the same spot they were set down until the spring thaw release it from its frozen grip. The flowers. Chloe’s stomach tied into knots as the image of yellow and purple pansies scattered on the ice-filled her mind. For a second she couldn’t remember anything but those two colors. A lifetime of memories and she could only see two things: yellow and purple. The air sucked from her lungs and her heart began to pound so that the sound of her blood rushed into her ears. A dull buzz filled her ears as Chloe looked around the room with an expression of pure panic on her face. How could she forget her?
“Yeah… they were…” Nathan took a large gulp as he put the fork down as he pushed the plate aside. “She really liked them.” Nathan said in a half truth, they were her favorite, the one part of the meal she got to pick out.
“Lights 100%,” Chloe ordered filling the room in swaths of harsh light. She moved with a stumbling gait towards the stack of boxes at the door.
“Lord no lights please.” Nathan said as he watched his wife move to the front where his boxes stood still and untouched as he couldn’t help but wonder just what was so important in his items. “What are you looking for?” Nathan asked as he got up from the table and made his way as he stood behind her as she began to open the first box she found.
She may not know her husband like she once did but Chloe Harland knew he would have this item she needed tucked someone in this purgatory they were stuck in. Reaching the boxes she ripped open the lid of the first and began to pull out item after item in it discarding them haphazardly around her. A shoe, shirts, books, and trinkets began to build a wall around her. The longer she looked the more desperate she was becoming. “I can’t remember,” she said in a half yell half sob. Chloe wasn’t certain Nate had asked or if she was answering an inner thought.
“Remember?” Nathan said softly as he couldn’t see the pieces just yet as watched her pull everything out in a frantic, almost terrified fashion. Kneeling down next to her he took the stuff she had tossed and put it into a corner, never once trying to stop her as he placed his hand on her back as he rubbed her gently. He knew whenever she felt stressed or panicked she got stress knots in her upper back. It was especially true when she was pregnant, Nate’s Magic Fingers were often the only cure she would tell others.
She did not move or flinch finding Nate behind her. His touch was vaguely soothing. It was enough to slow her down from the manic state Chloe was slipping into to something more akin to panicked or frantic.
Reaching the bottom of the box she moved it aside and opened the next one. On the top was a single image in a frame. Picking it up she slowly she traced a finger over the image. For a second a smile covered her face looking at the stolen moment in time. It was the image of a picture-perfect family standing in front of a Christmas tree. Nate was holding Mara on his hip with Maddie in a matching dress next to Chloe with Logan standing between them. Chloe’s legs buckled out from under her as she fell towards the ground. “I hate you,” she said softly as she started to cry. Her tears began to splash the glass smearing the image in a large wet puddle. Holding the image to her chest she looked at Nathan, “because I can’t remember her,” Chloe’s chest heaved in and out.
“I can’t remember how her lashes curled on her cheeks when she slept or remember her voice. My God Nathan I can’t hear her voice. I don’t remember her laugh,” Chloe placed an open palm to her chest patting it softly like she was patting a small baby or child that she once held there. The action was soft and gently making it stand out from the jerky and rapid motions she completedly finding it. Looking up at her husband, Chloe’s face bore the look of someone seeking forgiveness for a sin so terrible there was no way to be redeemed. “I am her mommy. How can I not remember my baby?” Her eyes filled looking at him. Her mouth hung open slightly as if words were about to come out yet only silence slipped from her lips. She was strangely calm for a second, staring at him for an answer.
“I am so sorry Maddie,” she apologized in a tone begging forgiveness staring at the ceiling of the quarters, waiting for an answer to a question that never could be given on.
Crumpling against the boxes piled up at the door, Chloe Harland began to cry rocking the picture to her chest. “And you can and I hate you for it. You can remember every single thing about her but I can’t. You will always have her but I don’t. God, I need my baby back,” Chloe began to sob so hard her shoulders shook. “Nathan I need her back.” The request was so unfair. She was asking him to do the impossible. In the entire universe, only Nathan Harland could take the pain away and yet he was powerless to do anything but hold her.
Nate felt the air leave his stomach as he saw the picture. It was the one item he never left without, it was the only part of his life on Earth he ever took with him. Sitting down Indian style next to her as wrapped his arm around her as he pulled her Chloe in tight as she cried. He might have cried along with her if there was in any form hydrated enough for the tears to flow. “You don’t want every memory…” Nathan said softly as his mind went back to the moment, pulling Maddie from those cold waters had sapped his strength as he began to perform CPR on those cold blue lips. Everything became gray as her body grew limp as her life left in his arms as he tried for far longer than was needed to get breath back into her lungs.
“That is all I have left of her,” Chloe sobbed into his chest. It wasn’t hysterical like before but the deep unending cascade of loss.
“I should have been faster… every second counts they say… but I wasn’t. The one time she needed me most…” Nate stopped speaking as he felt his own tears finally finding his ducts as the all to familiar stinging sensation hit him as his cheeks began to grow wet as he felt himself lost in his mind. It took awhile as he stood to get back to where he was as he looked over at Chloe, her own tears becoming a mess torrent as leaned over as he kissed the top of her head.
She hadn’t meant to do this to him today. He suffered almost as much as she had only silently for the past year. Nathan was the one who for two months after pulled her from the bed, slapped some clothes on her and made her join the world of living acting as the strong one untouched by the devastation one day in January had brought them. Chloe knew he had cried but again couldn’t remember a single time she had seen her husband break down. He bore the pain for both of them accepting condolences when she was too stoned at the funeral to do anything but walk and sit. He made excuses for friends and family afterward to stop the unending calls of ‘what can we do’ or ‘how are you guys holding up’ from people that didn’t know how to act or react to them. Amidst all the pain and sorrow that Chloe could not bear, he fulfilled his duty as a father and husband to care for and protect the shattered remains of what was left of the Harland family presenting to the world a bent but not a broken family that would survive this because as a family they could survive anything. Chloe knew he carried this weight which was why she was here today. Breakfast was her feeble attempt to say thank you for an act no one could ever be given enough accolades for and still was forcing him into that role on today of all days.
Chloe wanted to reply to give him comfort only she knew anything said would be hollow. They were both capable of doing what their daughter needed only on that day Nate had reacted first. He had jumped in the water, pulled her out, and gave her to Chloe. Like a true tirage situation, Chloe had performed her role as a nurse and Nathan as a doctor. The result was only life taking its natural course when events slipped past mortal control. They had both experienced this type of loss in their careers before but they never had been on the opposite side of the table until that day in January feeling the raw anguish of hearing the words, Mrs. Harland, I’m sorry. Even that moment, the way the doctor emerged into the waiting room to deliver the news about their daughter, had been about Chloe. Lying perpendicular in his arms, Chloe let him crush her in his grasp. She could not find words to help him but maybe her physical presence near him could impart an iota of the understanding she felt for all the Nathan had gone through.
Time stopped for the couple as they held each other remembering the one moment of their lives they both wished they could forget.
“This won’t help…” Nathan said as he stood up as he pulled her by her arm to follow him as she clutched to the picture so fiercely. Guiding her to the couch he let her fall softly as he grabbed the picture from her, her hand not wanting to let go at first.
Chloe held the object of metal, paper, and glass like it was a living thing. Her knuckles were white as she begged him over and over to not take it from her. The pleadings spilling from her lips matched the words she said that day when she had nothing in her hands.
“I will give it right back doll face.” Nathan said. Subconsciously she knew it was just an inanimate object and not the real thing. For the first time in a year, she fought the urge to lash out in anger as a way of dealing with her grief. Somewhere deep inside Chloe knew he was trying to help her. She had to trust him if only for a second. If she didn’t, they would never recover. As her grip lessened as he took the picture, tearing the back off a small data chip, it fell as he palmed it before handing back the picture to Chloe.
Moving over to his desk, he placed the chip in as the computer began to upload the files. “Computer access new files, lower viewing screen and play the clip with the earliest creation date.” Nathan said as he came back to the couch as he sat next to Chloe as he wrapped his arm around her before letting her place her head on his chest.
“Nate, I can’t do this,” she said curling up into his arms. Whatever he had planned was not going to fill the void. Drugs and alcohol in her current state could not be her crutch. Only silence and darkness would temper the grief she felt. Chloe began to count words again. There would be no conversations today. She would manage basic phrases to get her through. Four words seemed to be her limit before her throat closed up and hysteria threatened to re-emerge.
“Just watch…” Nathan said as he looked over at Chloe, using his hand to wipe the large tears from her face as he kissed the top of her forehead. “Computer play clip.” as the video began Nathan’s face came on the screen, holding a camera with what looked like a hospital in the back.
4 Years Ago - Sacred Heart Hospital
“Okay little one, you are being a pain… your mom is angry… Daddy just needs you to come out already. I love you… but…” Nathan turned the camera which showed a Chloe in mid push screaming at Nathan to turn off the camera.
“Nathan you are not Steven Spielberg,” she snapped breathing heavy. For medical professionals, neither of them had gotten it right that day. Sipping coffee at the breakfast table, Chloe had assured him she knew what a contraction was and the ache in her back was not labor. Ignoring it was her due date, they both had shrugged it off knowing that since they worked in the hospital and that is where she would go when the time came they cleaned the kitchen and went to work. They had gotten as far as the driveway before her water broke. The frenzied trip to the hospital resulted in not a baby in the seats of his Corvette Galaxy-class S-Edition but the endless waiting known to all parents looking for the stork to drop off its bundle.
“She will kill one of us if you don’t hurry… love you Maddie doll.” Nathan said as he kissed the camera before turning it back to Chloe as he came by her said. “What do you need love?”
“I need you to get Halston’s fat butt off the golf course and in her to deliver our baby,” she snapped as he came next to her. “What are we…in the twentieth century with the mamby pamby witchraft of breathing exercises and vision boards? How long have I been at this,” she panted looking at Nathan between contractions. It was up to Nathan to deliver the unwanted knew she had only been in hard labor for twenty minutes.
“Nate and Chloe,” George Halston breezed in looking calm, relaxed, and rather tanned. “Looks like you are ready to become a mommy and daddy again,” he said taking a seat to deliver the baby.
Ten minutes later.....
“We make beautiful babies,” Chloe said stroking a soft cheek with her index finger. Laying her head on his shoulder Chloe could not stop smiling looking at how perfect the little girl was in her arms.
“Yeah… we do.” Nate said softly in awe of the little bundle before them as he couldn’t help but feel a swelling pride at the little girl before him. “I love you…” Nathan said softly to Chloe as he kissed the top of her forehead before gently caressing the baby’s as well.
3 Years Ago - Martha’s Vineyard
“Nate we need more hot dogs,” Chloe yelled from somewhere in the background as the camera zoomed in on Nathan standing at a grill. Balloons and crepe paper bounced in the crisp November breeze as children of all ages ran about the yard.
“God she is lucky to have you instead of me,” Roger Callahan remarked taking a swig of his beer looking at the chaos ensuing around him. Nathan’s long-time college friend polished off his beer and grabbed another passing it to Nathan. Callahan and Nathan had gone through the academy together but Roger ended his Starfleet career almost before it started signing onto the Sol Suncatchers. A mere two weeks ago they had taken the Galaxy Series in a four to three-game win over the Kronos Kavaliers. Both men had remained close despite their separate career paths. “I wouldn’t have done this two weekends in a row. I mean the kids are a week apart. Couldn’t you just have mashed the two parties together?”
“And miss all this fun? I wouldn’t dream of it… besides studies show children develop better when they have separate parties than forced combined ones, plus Chloe would never give up a chance to force the kids to wear cute outfits at get photos.” Nate said with a small wink at his wife.
“Hmm good answer,” Chloe replied sneaking up behind Nathan and wrapping her arms around his waist. “Hey pass the spatula to Roger. Give him an honest day’s living. It is time to cut the cake,” she kissed his back while stealing the beer from her husband’s hand.
The camera cut briefly before zooming in on Nathan, Chloe, and Logan standing around a little girl in a high chair wearing a large bow in her hair and a shirt saying Birthday Diva The first notes of the classic song began as the crowd began to sing. It would have been picture perfect if someone’s attention was on a small two-year-old boy instead of a one-year-old girl. Being only two, an just having his birthday past weekend, Logan Harland was more concerned about the cake than his sister. With each note sung, a chubby little hand-pulled the cake closer and closer to him until the edge dipped past the balancing point. With an unceremonious plop off when the cake from the tray exploding into vaniila pound cake bits and pink frosting in all directions. A silence fell on the crowd until Maddie gasped wide-eyed sucking in air making it sound like she said a breathy ‘oh’ followed by Logan’s much clearer expletive of ‘shoot’. As memories went Nate and Chloe would have preferred to have shoot be registered in the annals of birthday footage only the word was anything but. Laughter erupted from the crowd as they looked at Logan’s and Maddie’s surprise at the turn of events.
“Really,” Chloe looked at him with a half-smirk. “You said you dubbed that out,” she elbowed him playfully. Her eyes were still red-rimmed and her cheeks wet but for a brief moment, the universe was back in alignment. They were whole. They were happy.
“Nah… what’s the fun in that.” Nathan said said with the tinniest of laughs as gently rubbed her shoulder as the film kept going.
Three years week one
“Nate..Nate she is walking. Are you getting this,” Chloe cried out happily sitting on the floor as Maddie took her first steps from the couch to her mom.
Two years week 18
“The bunny is not going to hurt you,” Chloe encouraged her daughter as she filmed Nathan desperately trying to control a small girl who was climbing him like a cat post from a large white rabbit bounding across the church lawn with a basket full of Easter eggs. “Nathan, get her closer,” she motioned her husband with a hand off-camera.
Two years week 48
“An da puppy did this,” Maddie got on all fours shaking her head back and forth with a sock in her mouth. “Mommy says we should get her.”
“Madeline Anne Harland I said maybe and we needed to talk to Daddy,” Chloe laughed drinking her cup of coffee.
Scampering up the couch she crawled up Nathan’s shirt looking back at her mom as she whispered, “tell her you want the fuzzy wuzzy puppy baby.” Whisper was not the act Maddie was doing. It was more talking directly into Nathan’s ear but that was typical for children of her age. “Mommy listens to you. Oh pease, oh pease, oh pease,” she clasped her hands together begging.
“A fuzzy wuzzy you say… well mommy is very pregnant, how about once the new baby comes we think more on it. Okay little one? January is always going to be the best day to talk about big choices.” Nathan said as he grabbed his daughter and began holding her close as he kissed her over and over.
“Logan we are buying mommy a fuzzy wuzzy for her berf day,” Maddie wiggled down from Nate’s lap running from view to find her brother.
“I was thinking something less four-legged and more sun and sand related,” Chloe strolled into the scene bringing Nate a cup of coffee. Leaning down she kissed him before breaking out laughing. “Push me up,” she laughed not able to gain her balance upright this pregnant and this bent over.
The images and clips of the Harland life played for what felt like an instant and eternity. So many perfect memories Chloe lost herself drowning not in sorrow but the happiness of years past. The moments blurred one into another of cuddles and kisses, of tears and temper tantrums, of laughter and smiles: Each one a snapshot of life being lived and not a still shot placed on a mantle to be guessed at.
Raising her head from Nathan’s chest, Chloe leaning back into the cushions of the couch staring at the now blank screen. Her moment of respite gone. She was back to reality and the harsh things it contained. “I don’t want to be your wife,” she announced cutting the silence in the room like a knife through butter. The piercing quality of it was jarring even to her.
“Well that’s not hurtful at all…” Nathan said as he shook his head as he felt the lurching halt of reality set in. Today of all days he had to be reminded of all the things wrong, not just the fact Maddie died but it sparked the beginning of the end in almost every way that day. The ground work had been paved long before that cold dreary day, both of them making choices that were set to hurt the other in ways only people who truly loved each other could achieve.
An unexpected bubble of laughter erupted from her lips. The sentence could have been taken as one of anger or sarcasm. Someone passing his quarters might have thought a fight would ensue after such a comment yet they did not know Nathan Harland. Typical therapist, he was not. His slightly salty advice at times was just what some people needed and Nathan was so good at knowing what most people needed.
Moistening her lips with the tip of her tongue, Chloe turned to face her husband on the couch. “I don’t know how to be your wife,” she amended her initial statement to him. The two additional words changed the meaning of her statement entirely. The time for anger was over. She had to move on with her life in some fashion yet how did one ever move on from something like this.
“We made so many choices to tear each other apart… leaving each other out of major events, the lies… the cheating…” Nathan stopped as he took a deep breath, that one was still sore but the truth was in many ways he had long forgiving her for it all. He had pushed her away, made her feel unwanted like some forgotten puppy you send back to the pound you no longer wanted. Being consumed with his work took such a toll, that it was hard to see his own family slipping from him.
Nathan was always pragmatic, but he was also an idealist in some ways. He wanted to fix the galaxy, but he knew he couldn’t be done with sunshine and lolipops and thoughts and prayers. You needed to see the people, talk to them, work with them. Coddling seldom worked to solve the issues that people struggled with most, and seeing the pain and anguish in other people’s lives as well as his own fueled that needs to just get fix what little pieces you could.
“Between the two of us we could write one helluva Hallmark card. Maybe there is a market for divorce, break ups, and the general flip off,” she took a deep breath. They would never get over the loss of their child and it seemed they would never get rid of all the events before it either.
“God you must hate me,” Chloe leaned forward ready to stand up and walk out. Tomorrow they could play the board game of How to end your marriage. Today she would not add more sorrow to a day that was filled to the brim.
“No… I don’t hate you… I will never hate you love. I love you, still to this day.” Nathan replied to her question as he looked at her as he shifted his arm away from her shoulder as he let his hands take hers in his as he looked directly in her eyes. He wanted her to know right now she had his full attention, and that despite everything he wasn’t angry with her, hurt at times yes, but never angry.
Chloe looked down at her hands in his. She couldn’t see her own hands because his covered hers.
“I pushed you to many of the things you did, I was unhappy so I forced you to play a sick game. I made you play the ‘How much do I love Nate’ game when I reenlisted. That wasn’t fair at all to you and the kids, we had our lives but the truth of it all was I was never unhappy with you. That’s why I thought I found the perfect idea… and I never really sat down to explain any of it to you, I expected happy little soldiers and not my wife and kids.” Nathan said, his tone low and somber as he felt a few tears stinging the sides of his eyes as he tried hard to keep himself focused.
“How far back should we go debating on who made the worst choices and why,” she asked sincerely. This thing between us started long before,” she stopped not wanting for a second to blame her daughter’s death on the end of their marriage, “well somewhere between moving to Connecticut and now?” At least using the pronouns we and us was a step in the right direction. Before that, it had always been you indicating personal faults or individual actions.
“You made some wrong choices, but they were the choices I left you sadly. Maybe if I had come to you, explained the goal of Starfleet… cause you know I have never had the most love for the uniform, neither of us have. The work, the work is what I loved… to help people not worried about how well their dog will do in the next kennel club show, or how their son only got into Yale and Columbia but not Harvard and that’s a travesty…” pausing Nathan took a second to wipe a few of the tears from his face before he began once more, gently rubbing the top of her hands as he tried to use the methods he knew to keep someone calm.
“Were we ever happy or just doing what was expeccted of us?” Her question was not meant to sting or accuse. To the world Nathan Harland and Chloe Kendrick followed the set path to adulthood: college, romance, engagement, wedding, and children. Had they been going about the motions that far in the past. She never thought about why it took so long to marry but once you got into your head, it could make you doubt even the core truths you knew about yourself.
“The last place I truly remember everything perfect was when we were both in Starfleet back in San Francisco when you were my nurse, before we stepped into this life with all the fake people we mocked so often. Your family may not be perfect, but they tried harder than many in Connecticut to be normal. It just didn’t matter though, they were just a stones throw away and my father and my aunts and uncles and cousins all around us. Everyone having plans for us but we… we never got to have our plans… our life. It was always theirs… and I didn’t want to live their live anymore, I wanted to live ours… I still do doll face.” Nathan said as he looked at her, gauging just how this was effecting her as he opened up his heart for the first time in two years to her. All of these words should have been said so long ago, but now it was at least better than never.
She could feel the warmth of his touch craving a deeper contact. It was purely a physical need. To be lost in the embrace of someone else. Since March no one had held her. She had held her parents when they departed Earth for the Outpost. Chloe held her two children assuring them they were loved more than they knew. She had hugged and told so many people things were going to be okay yet not one person held her like Nathan was doing now. There was something stronger than booze or pharmaceuticals to ease pain. It was the primal connection of two people lost in a moment as old as time. Chloe needed this rush. Whether she needed it because she loved Nathan or whether is was meeting some base need, Chloe would not be able to share. All she knew was this one act could numb the pain even if just for fifteen minutes. Leaning forward she pressed her lips to his. The action did not feel familiar or spark a rush of warmth that coursed through her body. Other actions would and that is what Chloe would focus on.
Pressing deeper into the kiss she moved her body towards his chest struggling to lose her self to him. It was just that Chloe was numb inside and Nathan was the only person in the world who could heal that.
Nathan’s thoughts seemed to pause like a film on pause, the image twisted in mid scene as her lips touched his. It had been since nearly six months since he had any real touch from her, but it wasn’t like he had many chances. Being stationed on the Loki far from her and the kids left little chances of physical intimacy, but emotional intimacy had been far from reach just as much between fights, arguments, and lawyers as their live began to get separated into 1’s and 0’s of his and hers.
She was not surprised feeling his reaction to her kiss. Chloe had zero intention of ever coming to his quarters nor interacting like this with Nathan. It was hard though. Yes, there was pain and heartache between them but there was also an endless chasm of love and devotion. It took her being in his arms to realize this. If she had wanted the marriage to end and for her to start over, it could have been done in a month. If she hadn’t felt anything for Nathan Harland she would not have cared how the assets were divided. Her parents were not rich but they had enough to help Chloe start over in a new life. The truth was more complex. The endless battles occurring between the law offices of That’s Mine That’s Yours were because Chloe loved Nathan so much she couldn’t part with a single element of her life with him. As her body melted into his she was surprised to feel a modicum of resistance.
“Cloe…” he said softly as he broke the kiss as he looked deep in her brown eyes, red and wet from the tears that may never fully stop due to the hole that had been formed in the death of their child. Still as he stood there, feeling even the smallest sign of life from the embers of their failed marriage he couldn’t help but feel a little cautious. “I can’t go back from this… I can’t have a new false start…” he said softly as he gently rubbed her cheek with his hand as he brushed back a few tears.
“Neither of us can,” she said placing her lips on his yet Nathan did return her kiss. She knew what he needed and the response she gave was not it. Choe swallowed hard. She wanted the life they had had but no clue how to regain it. Looking into his eyes she tried again. “You said once that the girl that followed a stranger into a deserted baseball stadium was dead. I think she has just gotten lost but she has never stopped loving her South Paw Bazooka.” Chloe hoped the answer was enough. Nathan didn’t want false starts but Chloe couldn’t handle false promises.
“I love you, today and forever… no matter how hard we try to destroy that… it’s never going to fade from me.” Nathan said in a simple quiet silence as he closed his eyes as he felt her lips find his once more, this time though no more words could fill the air as he kissed back with just as equal hunger and desire. Chloe had always been the one person who could fill his void. Life without her became nothing more than a black hole devouring all light and goodness from his path. Scientists knew there was no way to stop a black hole once it was formed, but Chloe could certainly find a way as her kisses began to awake every fractured broken spirit inside Nathan.
Hours past and so did the location. No longer were they sprawled on the couch in the living room. The meal on the table had grown cold with the cheese hardening like spilled yellow blood from its egg cast. White smears of grease on the bacon and sausage indicated the food had not been touched in hours. The lights were now off in the main living area as they were throughout the quarters. Somewhere over the hours, Nate and Chloe found themselves in a place neither of them would have bet credits on today of all days.
The bed had never been touched until today. For two days, Nathan had lived moving like a zombie between the couch and bathroom. Perhaps that was why the quarters had felt so foreign. In the late hours of the afternoon however, this room was different than the rest of the apartment. The silence was broken by the sound of deep breathing. It was slow and steady indicating the person was calm and relaxed. It was hypnotic like a metronome lulling those hearing into a peaceful state. The air in the room no longer smelled like bleach and antiseptic. It smelled vaguely of summer and the ocean. The summery smell was due to sweat clinging to the sheets and bodies of the two individuals. The ocean was due to the fruity-lime scent of Chloe’s perfume mixed with the cedar musk of Nathan’s cologne. These two scents together would invoke memories of home. For years these scents had blended into the sheets and bedding making it familiar to Nathan on a primal level. He never would have noticed it before yet months from being away from it would snap Nathan into a time long ago when things were peaceful and happy.
Sleep had been a at a premium the last few days, or at least good sleep. Drunken slumbers didn’t give you any real rejuvenation, instead it just forced you to blackout and wake up in various rooms in the house unsure of how you ever got there. This time though as his eyes began to open was different, this time Nathan remembered where he was and who he was with. Rolling over he found Chloe snoring loudly as he often had for many years. It had only been in fact the last eighteen months that things had changed drastically.
Moving over Nathan kissed the top of Chloe’s head before sliding to the edge, running his hands through his hair as felt the first real smile form over his lips as he grabbed the pants laying at the edge as he began to start their day. Nathan could have never guessed the outcomes of last night, but he couldn’t deny the joy that had returned as he walked from the bedroom to the replicator that stood on the wall as he began to order blueberry waffles with sausage and bacon along with blonde brew coffee and orange juice for the pair.
Hearing a small shuffle Nathan turned and saw Chloe yawning as she stretched her arms as he walked back with the platter as he slid onto the bed as he placed the platter between the two. “Good morning doll face.” Nathan said softly as he placed his hand in the back of her head as he pulled her close as he kissed her deeply.
“Hey you,” Chloe laid back on the pillows watching him enter the room. As he kissed her, however, Chloe pulled back sharply shaking her head. Putting a hand over her mouth she looked at him over her fingertips. “Oh Oh Nate I love you but you could not have forgotten we don’t kiss before we brush,” she looked at him with a silly but serious expression. This had been her cardinal rule, or quirk, as Nathan called it over the years. “Hard pause. One…sec,” she moved with all the grace of someone stuck in a barrel to the edge of the bed. Reaching the edge she pulled the top blanket off wrapping it around her. It was bunched like a bizare toga only showing her barefeet and calves as she tiptoed to the bathroom. Rooting around the bathroom Chloe did not find what she needed. The sounds of Nate’s elecctric toothbrush began to swirl as Chloe called out. “Wha ek ond,” she announced before the brush clicked off. The sound of running water, swishing and spitting echoed in the room before she emerged from the bathroom. She walked on her tiptoes to the bed before sliding back under the covers.
“Now unpause,” she said pressing her lips to his.
“Di ew se muh oothbrsh?” could be all that was heard as she kissed him as the words escaped muffled from him.
“Ewww Nathan,” she corkscrewed her face into a disgusted expression. “Okay, I said I loved you. I said I would bear your children and I promised to be faithful....yeah let’s skip that part for the next hours,” she silently changed her sentence mid-thought. Chloe was not under any delusion that this tryst fixed the problems between them or would make her forget the day. This was just a step in the right direction. “Always to respect morning breath. You brushed. I didn’t. So you made breakfast,” she looked at the tray ladden with food.
“I figured you might be hungry, and I know this was always one of your favorite’s.” he said as he moved one of the plates to her side of the bed platter and moved the other over to his side. In the middle sat butter and two syrups for their choosing along with extra blueberries to pour over as needed.
“I am always hungry,” she said softly picking a piece of the waffle off with her fingers. “It’s good,” she nodded with a smile. Chewing it slowly, she mulled over what to do next.
“Nathan, I don’t know what happened here but I don’t regret it,” she picked up her coffee taking a long sip. It was just hot enough to warm her mouth and throat as she swallowed it but not so hot as to need to blow on it. “I needed this. Needed you,” she spoke looking off at the blank walls. “I feel like we are in your academy room,” she changed the topic to something less heavy. “Remember you were leaving so the only thing in your room was bedsheets and that duffle bag. Not much different than what you have here. You always did travel light,” she cleared her throat. The next part was bringing goosebumps to her arms. Nathan said the key to helping any of his patients was honesty. With so many lies and mismemories, all she could do was be honest from this point forward.
“I have never been more scared of you than right now,” she confessed. Her body trembled some like a cold chill had rippled through her body. “What are we going to after we eat breakfast?” The question was far more loaded than simply curl up and ride the day out. She would have to leave soon. Nathan would expect to see his kids. The second they knew Daddy was on the station, it would present a new variety of problems and questions Chloe did not know if she had the strength to answer especially today. Both of them confessing love was one thing. Both of them apologizing for the sins of the past was another. Deciding to slip into the same old routine was a third. The choices made her head hurt.
“I only came here for you, for what we built. You always told me you hated the roaming band of gypsies the Federation made it’s officers seem. Never one location as we bounce around the galaxy like mobile pariahs.” Nathan said as he took her hands in his as he kisses the top of her knuckles as her looked down for a moment as he gently rubbed his thumbs over her fingers before looking back up. “That is why this place has four bedrooms, I never gave up on fixing us, even between every letter telling me the next step in our divorce… I was always trying to buy time… get you alone and just… be.” Nathan said with a small shrug at the end. The part of just being in many ways was all he ever wanted, to be away from everything and just have her and their kids. It was all he ever wanted.
“Mobile pariahs,” Chloe raised an eyebrow at her husband. “They must still love you at staff meetings,” she let out a laugh as she chewed a piece of bacon. Nathan’s rapid disdain for Starfleet almost immediately upon graduation had never changed. He respected the ideology behind Starfleet’s goal but always detested the preening peacocks who strutted about making policies that benefitted no one or those that only spoke to hear how smart they sounded. This, however, was the reality of Starfleet when you rose high enough in the ranks. Nathan’s actual rank was not high enough, due to quitting and re-enlisting, to reflect someone this disgruntled at times with policy yet his years of experience in his field often had him in meetings with people far above his rank. Chloe stopped interrupting her husband to hear his actual thoughts on what should be occurring next. Sipping the juice, Chloe paused wondering if she was past the point of the food she swallowed fighting to resurface. She prayed the now occasional nausea would stay away. This conversation was too important.
“We don’t have to make solid firm commitments right now if you don’t want to, but I am not going anywhere… and I don’t want to keep fighting with the one person in the world who knows the void that I have. I don’t want to fight with the one person who can kiss the pain. We may have some concerns, trust has been fractured… but love if it was broken I would have never done any of this.” Nathan paused as he seemed to shift into a thinking expression, pondering every moment was something only the dead could do but right here in his bed Nathan felt clearer than ever.
“I am sorry I didn’t trust you more,” she admitted sighing. Now was the apology stage. So many things to say sorry for and so many ways to do it. If it took a lifetime, Chloe would work to scrub away the doubts some of her hurtful comments had created.
“Hearing our kids talk about you as you slept away the days and nights, my dad’s warnings of your drug use… I was not going to sit back and watch the rest of our live be turned to dust as everyone sat back and did nothing. My dad seemed to be the only one really concerned, maybe cause he is a doctor like myself.” Nathan knew this was all going to be hard but the words needed to be said, the past couldn’t be ignored any longer.
Chloe stiffened feeling the first flash of anger return to her body after hours of respite. “It was never that bad. I had it under control,” she spat in an icy tone. Not wanting to mar this day with ‘he said-she said’ or ‘who said that’ statements, Chloe looked down letting the flash of anger pass. There would be time later to correct Nathan about the misinformation he had received. That was the plan at least.
“They didn’t hear how horrifying the stories I was hearing was. He did though… and more… I began to see my dad maybe wasn’t as bad as I ever thought he was in the past few months. He fought for us more than anyone…” Nathan said softly as he let go over her hand as he placed it under her cheek as he brought her eyes fully to his as he placed his forehead against hers as they sat in the silence, yet it felt more easy than before.
“Your father,” she gasped in cutting off the words before they could be spoken. Focus on a task that has a beginning and end, she silently reminded herself. “Was a big help,” she left the response open ended. Nathan’s father had been both a godsend and town crier. She would worry about that later. Tracing the rim of her up with an index finger, Chloe took a long moment to mull over what she wanted to say to Nathan next.
“He seems to be doing that a lot lately…” Nathan said in a low tone. His father had never been one of his go to people, their relationship marred with missed games, failed parent teacher meetings and utter absence. That absence though left Nathan searching as he got older and his own life began to fall apart. There maybe healing left in the future, but at least a unburned bridge was still in tact.
“Would you…like to come…to dinner tonight,” she asked not looking at him as she waited for her answer. She didn’t need to hear it. It was clear Nathan wanted to come home and how much she needed him there. His answer would be yes. The rest they would figure out as time went on.
“Dinner… us? Meaning you and me and the kids?” Nathan said, knowing the kids had to a bit worried as he looked around for an alarm.
“Actually I was thinking of me, you, and Patel,” she said in a deadpan tone. Maybe this was what she had needed all along. Just relaxed intimate moments with someone who knew how to understand her. “Whats wrong,” she said noticing Nathan sit like the bed was suddenly on fire.
“How much did you pay the babysiter by the hour?” Nathan asked as he looked back at Chloe, he knew she had to have had someone watching them when she had come over yesterday. Still, they probably expected to have her back before the next morning. Nathan pushed aside the platter as he looked around for his shirt in a frantic state.
“I didn’t I handed them over to a billionaire playboy and his trophy wife. They have a nanny. They are fine,” Chloe took a sip of her coffee. To anyone else, this might have sounded flippantly sarcastic yet in reality, this was the truth. Chloe didn’t have that many friends being new here herself. Jessica seemed to immediately make friends with her and having daughters the same age created an instant connection.
“I will get dressed and… my first shift is today…” he said with a feeling of utter franticness as he tried to take a deep breath to calm himself as he looked over at Chloe. “I would love to come…” he added as he stopped as he put a knee firmly on the bed as he kissed her deeply before stealing one of her uneaten pieces of bacon. “I love you you… do you wanna dual shower to share time?” he asked her.
“Already do that,” she pointed at her belly, “and this is definitely your kid. They never like the water hot enough. ” Pulling the bacon he stole out of her plate, she ate the last piece. “If we are going to make this work never steal food from a pregnant lady,” she winked at him.
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