He had witnessed a great many wondrous things in his long Starfleet career and yet seeing his brother again, alive and well, in the very same room he now stood, was difficult to fully grasp.
Even if this wasn’t the first time Matthew Owens had returned from the dead since he had died ten years earlier, killed by his own colleague Westren Frobisher in a pointless act of madness during a failed experiment.
Five years earlier Michael had been given the unexpected chance to save his brother from his fate thanks to Frobisher’s crazed meddling with the timeline. Back then he had been unable to prevent his death a second time when he was faced with the decision to stop Frobisher and prevent the deaths of potentially thousands of lives or protect his brother.
It had taken him a while to get over reliving Matthew’s death and he had made peace with the fact that he would never get another chance at seeing him alive.
But, of course, that was not how the universe works, he mused wordlessly as he considered the man he intellectually understood wasn’t his flesh and blood, at least not really, and whom he had never truly met before that moment.
And yet he looked almost exactly how he remembered him. A little older but not so much that he couldn’t still pass for being around his own age--Matthew had been his older brother by four years--he wore his chestnut hair a little longer but he had the same kind eyes he had always admired so much in him and that had rarely failed to remind him of their departed mother and that same chiseled chin that made him noticeably related to him and his father.
At the present moment, he seemed furious, however, dividing his apparent scorn between Jon Owens and the armed contingent that had burst through the doors. “What is this? Who are you?”
Even filled with anger, his voice was unmistakably Matthew’s and it took Michael back for a moment.
“I want you out of my house. All of you.”
Michael holstered his weapon and indicated for the rest of the away team to follow suit. “Matt,” he said as no other words immediately came to mind. He had since accepted the possibility that there was a chance he’d encounter versions of the people he knew in his universe and after encountering a much more conflicted version of his friend and former first officer Gene Edison, two separate versions of very different Amayas, not to mention a Michael Owens who may as well have walked right out of his nightmares, he had considered himself prepared for whatever other crazy twist the multi-verse had in store for him.
He realized now that he had been sorely mistaken.
“Damn it, Michael, why did you have to come down here like this,” Jon Owens said, his voice doing little to mask his anger. However, it quickly vanished when he turned back to consider his other son. Or at least the man who looked like him. “I’m sorry, Matthew. I didn’t want it to be like this. I understand that this is a lot to take in at once. But I am your father, you have to believe that.”
“My father died years ago,” Matthew said, still agitated, taking a few steps away from Jon Owens. “I don’t know who you are but you are not my father.” He looked past Jon and at Michael. “And you.”
Michael took a careful step toward Matt. “You’re my brother.”
Matthew shook his head emphatically. “No, I’m not.”
“This will be difficult to absorb fully,” Jon Owens said. “But we are from another universe. A universe where I--where your father lived.”
“It’s true, Matt,” Michael said.
“And what? You came here to see me?” Matthew said, clearly still unable to fully understand what was happening. “Why would you do that? Why would you cross universes to find me? I haven’t seen either one of you in decades and I never truly had a relationship with my father,” he said while glaring at Jon. “As for you,” he continued, glancing toward Michael and then shaking his head. “The less said about that, the better.”
Michael was tempted to ask what he meant but understood that nothing good could come from knowing too much about his fate in this universe. And he wasn’t surprised to hear that Matthew had not gotten along with his father in this reality either. There appeared to be a few constants that didn’t change no matter where they ended up.
“But don’t you see,” Jon said. “In a strange and twisted way, we’re all connected. We are part of you and you are part of us. What we have here,” he said and Michael didn’t miss the rare sight of a large smile plastered on his father’s face, “is a unique opportunity of a perfect family reunion without all the pain and hurt that usually comes with these things. A chance to start over. What we have been given here is a true, cosmic gift.”
It was only now that Michael noticed how reinvigorated his father sounded, his growing fragility of recent days, perhaps even months, suddenly cast aside, enlivened by an encounter that should not have been possible.
“This is all wrong,” Matthew said, refusing to be infected by whatever zest Owens Senior had caught. “We are not a family. I don’t know you people. I didn’t even truly know my real family when they were still around.” He walked away from Jon and toward the far corner of the room, looking for physical distance as he was visibly grappling with these unexpected events that had befallen him so suddenly. “I need you all to get out of my home. Now.”
All the commotion and raised voices had not gone entirely unnoticed but Michael was still too distracted by the presence of his brother to realize that somebody else had entered the room.
It was Carlos who pointed out the new arrival. “Sir,” he said urgently, his phaser back in his hand in an instant and indicating toward the far side of the room.
Michael cursed himself for his inattentiveness and forgetting that sensors had indicated the presence of a third person within the building.
He recognized the man instantly and just as quickly as he had his own brother. Little wonder, since this was the man who had been responsible for his death. Twice.
There was no mistaking him at all, his tall and wiry frame, his unruly black hair that seemingly had seen no comb or brush in a decade, and his sharp, almost avian facial features.
That face was burned in his mind and made common appearances in his more disturbing nightmares. The last time he had seen it had been when he had plummeted to his death, falling off a cliff after he had tried his best to take Michael with him to his grave. It had been at the conclusion of a days-long quest to locate the man who Starfleet had long since declared dead and that had taken Michael across both time and space.
“Frobisher,” Michael seethed and jumped into action, his rational brain momentarily taking a back seat to pure, unadulterated emotion.
His target wasn’t quite prepared for the sudden assault and Michael drove him easily into the wall at speed and forcing Frobisher to gasp as the air was forcefully expelled from his lungs.
He pressed his forearm hard against the other man’s neck, applying more pressure than was necessary to keep him pinned there.
“Wes,” Matthew shouted and rushed to where Michael was holding him.
Frobisher for his part just considered his attacker curiously and managed a few words even while struggling for air. “Michael Owens?”
Carlos and McIntyre arrived a moment later, both with their weapons at the ready although clearly not entirely certain of the true threat. Their training told them to protect their captain and so their weapons covered Frobisher and Matt Owens.
“Are you insane?” Matthew shouted but was prevented from coming to Frobisher’s help by the phaser-wielding security team having taken position between him and Michael and Frobisher. “Let go of him.”
The logical side of his brain slowly reasserted itself again, although too slowly, Michael would later begrudgingly admit to himself and he freed Frobisher from his choke-like hold.
The other man sagged to the floor, holding his bruised neck while Michael and the security team stepped away to give him room and allow a clearly concerned Matthew to kneel next to Frobisher. “Wes, are you alright?”
He nodded slowly but hadn’t quite found his voice yet.
Jon Owens directed his anger at Michael. “What the hell do you think you’re doing? That was not necessary.”
“It’s Frobisher,” Michael said quietly through clenched teeth, already fully cognizant that it was no excuse at all.
“Not the one you know.”
Michael said nothing to that. He understood that, of course. And yet it didn’t stop the fact that his heart was still racing and he could feel a dark ball of anguish and rage deep in the pit of his gut, desperate to burst free. He was angry at Frobisher for having killed his brother all those years ago, he was angry at his father for having brought them to this twisted place but most of all he was angry at himself for his inability to control his own emotions and letting them dictate his actions.
Vulcans, he suddenly realized, might have had it right all along, perfectly suppressing their emotions in all circumstances. Oh, how he envied Vulcans at that moment.
Matthew looked up from where he knelt next to the still-recovering Frobisher and his wrath-filled eyes found Michael’s. “I want you out of here now, do you understand? All of you. Get out of my home and don’t ever come back.”
“Matthew, please,“ Jon Owens pleaded but was cut off.
“Just get out,” he said in a low, seething tone that packed the simmering intensity of a volcano ready to erupt.
Michael nodded slowly but when his father didn’t make any moves to leave, he reached out for his arm. “Dad, let’s go.”
It took Owens Senior a moment longer to tear himself away but Matthew was no longer paying him or the others any attention, his entire focus on the injured Frobisher.
Jon Owens allowed Michael to pull him out of the room but it was Michael who was the last one to leave, glancing back one final time at the man who was so much like his brother, and he couldn’t deny the pain he felt as he left him behind yet again.