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Chapter Notes:

On January first of 2176, Susan Cheshire makes a decision in both universes.


 

On the USS Zefram Cochrane, a naked woman stared at her reflection in a mirror and then took a pull from a bottle. Where once her skin had been a lovely shade of mahogany, it was now ashy grey. She took another pull.

The lump in the bed nearby stirred. “What’re you doing up?” he asked. 

“It’s nothin’, Aidan,” she drawled, her voice the honey of Titania, where everyone sounds like they’re from the Carolinas. “Go back to sleep.” She hastily put the bottle into a drawer and did her best to quietly shut it. 

He got up and approached her. He, too, was naked. “I can make it worth your while, Susan.” He stood behind her and leaned over to kiss her neck. 

She didn’t turn, just stared at her own reflection. “I am sixty-six years old,” she sighed. “But I look like I’m eighty-six, I swear.” 

“No, no, you don’t,” Aidan insisted. He then sniffed her breath. “It’s oh three hundred hours.” He sighed. “I guess I know why you’re up at this hour. Gotta get one last snort in before bedtime, is that it?” 

=/=

On the ISS Defiant, a naked woman stared at her reflection in a mirror and then took a pull from a bottle. Where once her skin had been a lovely shade of mahogany, it was now ashy grey. She took another pull. 

The lump in the bed nearby stirred. “What’re you doing up?” he asked. 

“It’s nothin’, Aidan,” she drawled, her voice the honey of Titania, where everyone sounds like they’re from the Carolinas. “Go back to sleep.” She hastily put the bottle into a drawer and did her best to quietly shut it. 

He got up and approached her. He, too, was naked. “I can make it worth your while, Susan.” He stood behind her and leaned over to kiss her neck. 

She didn’t turn, just stared at her own reflection. “I am sixty-six years old,” she sighed. “But I look like I’m eighty-six, I swear.” 

“Aw, don’t worry about it,” Aidan said. He then sniffed her breath. “The Empress doesn’t like it when you’re hammered all the time.” 

“It’ll be fine. Her kids are older,” Susan said. A display on the wall slid to the date – January first of 2176 – and then the time – oh three hundred four hours. “Jun is almost twenty; Izo is nearly fifteen. They don’t need much more teaching, ya’ll know this, and they don’t need real care anymore.”

 “Yeah, I know,” he confirmed. “And what’ll happen, do ya think, when they stop needing a babysitter like me, and a teacher like you? What’ll the Empress Hoshi do to us then?” 

=/=

“I’m sorry,” Susan said; her head down. “I just, you know, it’s the first of the year. Ya’ll ever do new year’s resolutions?” 

“Sure. Usually it was to lose a few kilos,” he admitted. He looked at himself in the mirror. “Yeah, I could use that, m’self. Think Commander Reed and Captain Archer would give me time off, to work out more?” 

“Probably not,” Susan stated, “but you can always ask. Aidan, I, uh, do you know why I do what I do?” 

“Tell me.” He turned her to face him.

“I just, life’s overwhelming sometimes. I like being the Ship’s Teacher. I do. Don’t misunderstand me. And I love you.” 

“Well, I love you, yanno.” They kissed. 

She smiled up at him – he was quite a bit taller than she was – and explained, “But it’s stressful. I, I don’t love this about myself. I am; I am not proud of it.” 

=/= 

“I’m sure I don’t know,” Susan said. “Maybe they’d leave us on some rock somewhere. The Empress threatens that all the time. You should, I dunno, maybe you could convince her not to. For Kira’s sake.” 

“I swear, half the time she forgets that her second-born is my boy, too. And I don’t think I can convince her of anything anymore.” 

“She used to like you, Aidan. She used to, you know.” 

“Sleep with me? Yeah, she’s slept with every guy on her senior staff, and a lot that are further down the totem pole. Hell, she’d dance around that totem pole if she could, I guess. But no, I can’t do much. I wouldn’t even be able to convince her if I gave her a good –” He stopped in mid-sentence as she was frowning at him. “It’s not like I’d want to do her again. Believe me, I don’t.” 

“She doesn’t look eighty-something.” 

“And neither do you. Stop worrying about that. I’ll talk to Kira. Maybe he can put in a word so we can stay on the ship. I don’t love it here, but it’s better than any rock out there, am I right?” 

“Maybe you could train the royal children. You were in Tactical. They’re gonna be the Bridge crew when they’re old enough. Why not get ‘em ready early?” Susan suggested. 

“Miller still runs Tactical,” Aidan informed her, “and he is still Hoshi’s toy. No one’s gonna take kindly to me training anyone to succeed him, particularly seeing as none of her six kids are his, not even the two that are missing.” 

“Still, maybe Kira would do it, or maybe Jun or Izo. I can’t see Arashi going for that.” 

“Nah,” Aidan said, “he’s too busy counting money.” 

=/= 

“What do you wanna do, Susan?” Aidan asked. 

She thought for just a moment. “I, I can’t do this anymore. Aidan, I want to stop.”

“Are you sure?” 

She nodded. She opened up the drawer and took out the bottle. “This has gotta go, then.” She dumped its remaining contents into the sink in the little bathroom in their shared quarters. She opened up a cargo container on the floor and took out another bottle. “This one, too.” Its contents met a similar fate. 

“Any others?” he asked, knowing fully well that she had another bottle stashed in the vanity under the bathroom sink and another in the back of the closet. 

“Yeah,” Susan said. “There are three more.” She removed bottles from the closet, the vanity and a small storage area above their bed. 

“I didn’t know about that last one,” Aidan admitted. “I guess you got creative.” 

“Well, I should be creative with other things. I,” she looked at her naked reflection again, “I think, ya’ll know, there’s some days, there’s just some days, when your life can, it can turn on a dime. It can, it can kinda pivot, and it can change.” 

“It’s the first of the year. I can see that.” 

“It’s not just that. It’s, it can happen any day, I think. But I just, I took a few swigs now, in the middle of the night, on account that I wanted to have a fighting chance of sobering up by morning. And, and it’s awful that I’m thinking that way, and feeling that way. I’m, I’m planning my drinking, like I plan lessons!  And I’ve been standin’ here, starin’ at myself for over an hour, trying to figure out what to do. And, and decide who I wanted to be. Aidan, I don’t wanna be just lurching through my life anymore. I get stress, sure, but everybody does. I wanna be able to handle it without drowning it. And I wanna be remembering what I love about teaching. And, and remembering what I love about, about you.” 

“I haven’t forgotten,” Aidan assured her. “C’mere.” They kissed. “Come back to bed. And in the morning, let’s talk to Doctor Morgan, and to Captain Archer and Commander Reed, okay? And you’ll work on your recovery. And I will be with you. I swear it, Susan, I swear it. Whether it can happen on the Cochrane or somewhere else, I will be there. I vow it to you, Susan. I vow it.” 

=/=

“So in the morning we’ll do that, okay?” Aidan asked. “I’ll go to Kira and ask him to put in a word. And we’ll figure this thing out. We’ll say that Miller needs someone to shadow him, or something. Maybe Izo will wanna do it. I don’t trust him, but it would be a good pretext. And, and we’ll convince the Empress to keep you on because maybe her sons will start having kids soon, too.”

“Some days are like a pivot; they’re important,” Susan said, “Your life can change on a dime. Maybe this is one of those days.”

“Maybe,” Aidan said, walking into the bathroom. Once the door was shut, she removed a bottle from its hiding place – a storage area under their bed – and took a pull. Nothing else mattered or made sense, and she let the pivotal moment slip away.

 



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