by Jariel Camen
After Then and Now
After Then and Now
*Grab her and kiss her.*
The first thought in Camen’s mind was quieted as soon as it had evolved. Fleur was right, she was far too proud of a woman to be treated as a first loser, and he was far too honorable a man to ever let her believe she was only that to him.
The hour was late but he was far too exhausted emotionally to sleep. Instead he chose to walk the empty streets alone.
His wanderings brought him back to the transporter hub, and from there, to Altaan.
He tiptoed into his room at the orphanage, and began stuffing his belongings into his duffle. The creaking of the old wooden floors told him Timal was nearby. Jariel had expected this, so it was no surprise to him.
“It is time for me to go, my friend.”
“Are you returning to Starfleet?” Timal asked.
“No, not at this time.”
“To the Takesian Plains, Timal.” Camen said. “I came here to embrace the past and hope it would guide me to the future, and it has. If there is any destiny for Jariel Camen, it lies in the Plains.”
“Do you have any messages for anyone?” Timal asked.
“Yes,” Camen said, after pausing a moment to consider it. “Tell Milea she may write me any time she wishes, and I will always write her back. She’s welcome to visit me at the Plains too if she desires. When and if I leave Bajor, I will personally see to it that the orphanage is outfitted with a subspace transmitter so that she can reach me.”
Timal opened his mouth to protest, but Camen silenced him. “Not this time.”
“Well, the child is actually attending classes these days, so it will not be difficult to tell her.”
“I have things I need to do with my life, but it is important she know I am not walking out on her. She is only now finding some sort of acceptance. I mean it Timal. You will tell her exactly where I am, and how to find me, if she ever wishes to talk.”
“Be well, Camen.” Timal said, as Jariel completed packing his duffle. They shook hands, and parted once again, knowing they would see each other sooner rather than later.
Camen wondered if he was making all the wrong choices as he strolled into the night air.
Perhaps he was being unfair to Fleur. As she had said, she came here to build as peaceful a life as she could without him in it. Maybe his presence was doomed to do nothing more than torment her. Perhaps she was already too far gone to believe she could ever truly hold his heart.
He knew the answer was simple, as he materialized back in the Plains. He could vanish from her life, and let her believe she was right about him, or he could stand up, refuse to simply walk away, and make her believe she was the only one he wished to love.
Convincing her would be a challenge, but it was one he was eager to take on. Not to make her love him, that much he was already assured of. Rather, to make her believe in how much he loved her.
If anything, this Fleur held even more sincerity in her love than the one he had known in the other timeline. It was that innocent and pure love, without any conditions or trappings that he craved so desperately, and wanted only her soul to give.
No one else would do.
Camen had never pursued a woman in such a fashion, he realized. To be honest, he was not sure how to go about making his feelings clear to her. There was only one thing he could try, and that was to do exactly what had made her fall in love with him; he would be himself.
Be the gentle, genuine and loving man whose soft demeanor caught her eye years ago on the station. The only difference this time was that he intended to make it known exactly how much of an impression the woman she was had made on him.
How had he been blind for so long?
He had known the other Fleur, his wife, in the other timeline, and drew on all those memories to understand what about her made him feel so in love.
However, the woman she was here was different.
She was the leader of the rebuilding efforts on Bajor, the gentle motherly hand to Tress, the one who always provided him with a warm bowl of soup and sensitive ear to speak to and expected nothing back in return.
She was the woman who baked heart shaped cookies for Dabin and February, even though her own heart was breaking for wishing Camen would ever feel for her the way Dabin felt towards Bru.
This was the true Fleur, and the sincerity of that love did nothing less than set his soul ablaze.
If she could only understand how much he needed to give that unconditional love to her, as well as receive it.
He would make her understand. He had to.
She was not simply a rebound relationship to him; she was the relationship. The love that is based on nothing more than wanting to be with someone who completes you, understands you, and appreciates who you are.
That was what drove his heart into the evening air.
The stars above were simply too beautiful to ignore this night. Camen had intended to seek out Tress and Delle to ask for boarding for the night, but it was far too late to call on them, and he wished to sleep outdoors. He set his bag down beside a bench, and stretched out to lay flat upon it. He watched the stars shine, and slowly drifted off to sleep.
“Come on. Come on now, get up.”
Camen felt a hand poking him, and awoke to see a security officer holding a phaser above him.
“No sleeping on the benches, you have to go to the shelter like everyone else.”
“Sorry,” Camen said, not entirely anxious to explain that he was not a homeless man, and that even if he was, the officer should not care about him sleeping on a bench no one else was using.
He gathered up his things and sought out Fleur’s kitchen. Dawn was just breaking, which meant the ever-vigilant woman would already be preparing food.
As the building progressed, and more and more homes, kitchens and even a few eateries were opened, the crowds of hungry workers faded away. This made Camen happy in one sense, that the Plains became more independent with each passing day, but also saddened him in a way, knowing how much Fleur did enjoy feeding a horde of hard working people. He thought back to their Patisserie in Paris and promised himself that if he did convince her that his heart was hers, and they did end up together, that he would build her the proper kitchen she deserved.
Perhaps even in Paris, they would once again share the business, and the quaint simple apartment overhead where no concerns or troubles ever existed.
The soft voice of a woman singing in French could be heard as Camen approached Fleur’s residence. A freshly planted flowerbed caught his eye, and he considered picking a bunch to adorn Fleur’s table. Far too cliché, and patronizing, he concluded. Instead he simply stepped through the door.
“Good morning,” He said. At the table were Fleur, Tress, Pace, and Prylar Delle. Obviously Tress had awoken early and been hungry, as the bleary eyed Delle could surely attest to.
A pan of hard-boiled eggs sat on the stove, and Camen helped himself to a few. Fleur was still silent as the others greeted him, and he wondered if she just wanted him to leave.
He was determined to make his intentions known regardless of what she thought, on the belief that deep inside she couldn’t possibly wish him to walk out of her life.
“What is on the agenda this morning?” Camen asked, as he tapped an egg on the side of the bowl to crack the shell.
“Everyone is gathering in the center of town. We are putting up a stands and courts there for a new Springball facility today. The people need a place for recreation, no?” Fleur answered.
“I’ll be there.” Camen said, confidently. He sprinkled a little salt on the egg and ate it in four bites. Tress clamored to be released from her brother’s grip to sit with Camen. “Come on little one.” He encouraged. Tress climbed up on his leg, and Camen boosted her the rest of the way.
“Eggie.” She said, pointing to Camen’s bowl.
“Now slow down, I think you’ve already had breakfast.”
“Yes she has, Vedek.” Pace said. “Quite a bit as a matter of fact.”
Camen pushed his bowl away so she could not reach, and Tress’s impression that Jariel could do no wrong was suddenly shattered. Her face dissolved into tears, at the very thought of the word no.
Fleur managed a grin, though it was touched with sadness. Seeing him take to a fatherly role so easily despite having never had a child of his own made it no easier to resist the urge to simply give herself to him.
But resist she did, for she could not accept any of him if she ever believed she did not have all of him.
Call it selfish, call it greedy, call it what you will, but having loved him for so long, she simply could not bear to live with anything less.
“Now there is no need for a fuss young lady. My sources tell me you are not hungry, and Jariel Camen knows all.” Tress stopped complaining and giggled, knowing full well Camen had exposed her.
“We must be cleaning this up my friends, the work awaits.
“Go on, Fleur.” Camen said. “I’ll take care of cleaning up here. You all get started.”
“As you wish,” She said, without an argument.
The group stepped out, and Camen cleared the table. He washed out the pots, cleaned the dishes, and wiped down the counter till it was spotless. It was a simple gesture to ease her work for the day. He wished he could offer her so much more.
How could he offer her something no one else had ever seen?
“Pace? I thought you went off to help?”
“I sent Tress off with Delle, I was wondering if I can have the Vedek’s ear for a moment?”
“Of course, you asked me last night…”
“To be honest and straightforward Vedek, I have been strongly considering taking a place in the religious order.”
Camen sat once again at the kitchen table, after pulling out a chair for Pace. “Are you sure you want my counsel on this? The Prophets and I are not exactly on the best of terms.” Jariel admitted.
“You believe in their teachings, don’t you?”
“The teachings? Yes.” Camen was not sure how to phrase his answers. Of course the teachings were sound and true, it was the beings in the wormhole and their apparent hypocrisy regarding their own teachings that he had a moral conflict with. Still it was not his place to dissuade Pace from the path of his own choosing.
“Can you offer me advice? On what I should do?”
“Be prepared for a lot of hard work. There will be many hours of studying, long oral exams before the presiding Vedeks and Prylars, and much meditation and soul searching for you to perform on your own.”
Pace straightened up, showing his pride in what he was about to say. “I’m not afraid of hard work.”
“Indeed you are not. Raising Tress, helping to rebuild the Plains, all while you are carrying a burden no child your age should have to. Not many have the strength of character to handle what you have.”
“Then you believe I am ready for the studies?” Pace asked.
“I believe you are ready, but ask yourself if this is really what you want. This must be your decision alone. I have made mistakes by making decisions based on what I felt others wanted. I’m happy to say I believe those days are behind me at last.”
If anything the order needed more people like Pace. People with a good appreciation for having nothing, and needing to work for every scrap of food you eat, and the roof over your head. That taught character and grace in a way no prophecies from the ancient texts ever could. Perhaps one day Pace, and all of Bajor, would learn what Jariel knew now. That being a good man is something you should aspire to because it is the right thing to do, not because you believe your deity wishes it.
“And what of Tress?” Camen asked.
“I, I’m not sure yet. Can she live with me at the monastery?”
“It depends. Some in the Order are more understanding than others. Some would see it as a sign you are a loving brother and consider it a strength, others will see it as diverting your attention from the Prophets, and consider it a weakness. Do you still intend to raise her on your own?”
Pace was silent, and cast his eyes down at the table.
“You are still so young, Pace. My advice to you is to gain some more wisdom in this life before you make such an important decision. Especially regarding Tress. She is in such good hands with you and a woman like Fleur looking over her. The Prophets will still be there later.”
“And they are in good hands with you as well.”
“I’m sorry?” Camen asked.
“Tress and Fleur, they are in good hands with you watching over them, I have no doubt of that.”
Camen actually blushed, and now he looked down at the table.
“I am young but I am not blind, Vedek Jariel. My parents,” He began and then stopped, recalling the way they used to look at each other so lovingly.
“Your powers of observation will serve you well if you eventually join the Order.” Camen said. “But bear in mind the need for leaders in the Order to exercise tact.”
“Of course, Vedek. Perhaps we should join the others now.”
Camen nodded, and led the way out into the streets.