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He had never been the brightest or the best. Richard Castillo had no parents - he was given up for adoption as a baby and bounced around foster homes as a kid. It wasn't bad, the people were nice, but he never had much in the way of things. He wasn't the most charming or charismatic, he wasn't ambitious at all, he just got along with everyone and everyone got along with him.

When it came time to decide what to do with his life, he followed his friends right to the Academy. Space was different, full of new and marvelous wonders. Part of him hoped that there he'd find out exactly what he was good for and why he was around in the first place.

His time at the Academy was filled with middling grades and unspectacular accomplishments. He was the "try hard" kid. He did decent, but that was all he could do, and when he graduated he didn't expect an exciting assignment. He guessed he'd get stuck on some space outpost for a year or two.

Instead, by some stroke of mad luck, he was sent to the Enterprise. A spot that was coveted by everyone in his class and, low and behold, he got it. To this day he had no idea why his captain had taken him; he'd never had the nerve to ask. But he went there and it became his home.

He didn't shoot through the ranks; on the contrary, he stayed an ensign for nearly a decade until his eventual promotion to chief helmsman and with it his bump up in rank. He spent four years like that until one battle sent him into a dark future, but it was a future that gave him a reason to fight, a reason to care, and a reason to love.

His thumb lovingly stroked the holo of her, his mind recalling how good her skin felt against his hand.

"I should have never let you stay." He was captain of a starship for only minutes, but it was a precious few minutes that history needed them to be there for. As much as he hated himself for saying it, he wasn't saddened by the deaths of his comrades; they all knew the price and they willingly met it.

But she survived, as did a handful of others.

And she was taken by the Romulans. Abused by them. Made to bear their children.

And murdered by them.

He felt his control slipping and, in the privacy of his own room, he let it.

They brought him back. They wouldn't bring her. But he'd find a way to undo it all. Somewhere out there was one reality where she stayed behind.

And if he could find her, he'd go to her, dark futures be damned. With her, he had a future.

Without her, he just was.

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