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Long Overdue Conversation

Posted on Sun May 5th, 2024 @ 5:04pm by Lieutenant JG René Rouen & Lieutenant JG Toareth Rouen (née Darqa)

3,928 words; about a 20 minute read

Mission: Fortuna
Location: Rouen Family Quarters
Timeline: TBD

René was finishing up the dinner set up for Toareth and himself. He had debated just serving water, but with the long conversation the couple was going to have, wine would probably make it easier to get through the discussion. He glanced at the bathroom door and considered checking if Toareth was ready. He had never pressured Toareth about anything, ever. He knew she would exit when she was ready.

And ready she was; dressed and all at least. Having the day off shift this day, she was dressed casually. Black cargo pants, bardot top, navel stud with her usual onyx hanging therefrom, frazzled hair, eye liner...perfection. Her eyes were a bit redder than normal however as she had been crying; suppressing the tears more like. Never had she surrendered herself to be so open to someone. Now that she was married, the truth needed to out and she battled frequently with her fear of letting out these facts out. What others would think of her. Yet she committed herself to push forth and out the truths René needed to know.

Why else were they having dinner in their quarters? Why else did he sent Gabrielle away to spend the night with Sabine? This dinner was to be another conversation. But what?

Nokron? Kadan? Runaite?

Toareth shrugged at herself in the mirror. Runaite and Nokron were one in the same story. She could not tell one without the other.

The U.S.S. Canyon?

'No. No one knows about that. I mean, Lynch knows. But he made sure no one else knows and all that served aboard the Canyon were reassigned elsewhere. Besides," Toareth went to touching up her face. "...That was too long ago," she whispered to herself. All the personnel from the Canyon were too old by this point, possibly retired.

Toareth performed an awkward crossing of herself and looked up, "if I am looking up...that René's deity," she said softly aloud, "give me whatever strength you can talk about whatever it is I am about to talk about. Yeah."

Toareth turned toward the door and stopped as though she hit a wall. There came a sudden emergence of loneliness as well as a desire to be back on Earth, with her emo friends in that circle she was kicked out of. And then she remembered they kicked her out. She was married now. She had a husband, and a child.

She stared loneliness in the eye for a long second and it went away. Stepping forward, the door to the lavatory slid open and Toareth emerged, seeing René seated at the table, waiting patiently. She grabbed the hypospray from the stand next to the door and hit herself with it on the back of her neck. "Just in case," was all she said, but her thoughts continued with ...'in case I have a migraine and you possibly think I am feigning it to cut the conversation short.'

She stepped forward. The sights and smells of dinner really eased her mood. She could tell René took great care and she was confident he would listen all the same.

She went to her chair.

René poured the wine as Toareth took a seat. He gestured at one of the lidded pots with a soft smile on his face. "I know how much you enjoy French onion soup. Would you like to start with that?"

"Yes," she said. "I do love the way you make it." And as he was dipping her a bowl full, she eyed the wine. "Another from your vineyard. Good choice." She was still listing off the conversations she needed to have with him in her head and still forgetting which one she was going to talk on. She had so many experiences over the past 80 years that she might not be able to detail them all in René's lifetime. Or was there one she told him to remind her of? Yes. There was. The name 'Runaite' sprang to the forefront of her thoughts. "Yes. Very good choice," she regarded the wine once again.

As Toareth grabbed a napkin and draped it on her lap, "How was your shift today?"

René let out a sigh. It had been a busy watch. "Tactical held several torpedo drills and the force protection division was working with medical on a mass casualties drill. It kind of felt like a never ending day of team evaluations." He paused to take a spoonful of soup and let out a second, much happier sigh. "How was your off day? You sleep in?"

"No," she said. "Didn't really. I took in a real tour of the ship complete with all the medical pods, dropped Gabrielle off at day care, continued some of my own medical research, got Gabrielle from day care...oh that reminds me...Faith, the Chief Engineer, has requested we all get together for a family dinner some time. I think that would be fun." Toareth took a spoonful of her soup, a sip of her wine. Through her empathy, she knew René had something on his mind for her to talk about. She could feel his 'pain' of wanting to know and also not knowing. Toareth rarely wished herself to be a telepath, and this was one of those rare times as she wanted to know his thoughts and get into that conversation.

René contented himself with small talk over dinner. When they'd had their fill, he had cleared the table and recycled plates into the replicator, he brought the wine and glasses to the sitting area. He poured each of them a second glass and settled into the couch, Toareth resting her head on his shoulder. "So, are you ready to tell me about what kept us separated for...all of our daughter's life?"

‘The war,’ Toareth thought. And though that was partially true, it was too easy an answer. Besides, René's question made her recall what it was she asked him to remind her of.

She pressed in on him some; put an arm around him, holding him tight. "" She reached forward for her wine and downed about half of it. She went back to leaning against René, getting her fill of him because...she did not want to admit to it and every bit of her being told her it was a lie, but she feared he would want nothing more to do with her after this. "" Toareth decided to power through this one anyway. The worse that could happen would be that she would be reunited with her long time companion, loneliness, far sooner than she expected. “This one is probably the most complicated. So…bear with me please.”

She thought back to her final work on the project, then she went back to her pregnancy, further back to her initial work on the project, the beginning of the Dominion War, her final night with René, soon before meeting René for the first time, then, at long last, Toareth found a beginning point.

"30 years ago," she began, "give or take, but give I think, I was in Romulan space. I have to start here for it all to make sense. Of course you know that, during the Borg invasion of El-Auria, we vacated, but did not have a rendezvous in mind. We simply boarded our transports and went in a direction. Many of us who ended up in this quadrant ended up in the Gorn Hegemony. They are most likely dead. Many in Breen space, Klingon Empire, Cardassian territory, Romulan, you get the idea. We are a scattered people. The El-Aurians that ended up in Cardassian or Romulan territories were mostly likely conscripted into service or enslaved. Most of us were...and are still counselors during illegal brokerages, war councils, secret meetings, the like. It is easy to spot telepaths. Empaths, not so easy to spot. So, we El-Aurians are a premium for those who want to broker deals and ensure the other parties are not lying, hiding anything, etc. Outside of that role, we are reduced to manual labor."

René listened to Toareth begin her tale. He could not imagine what it must have been like for her as a refugee traveling through the Delta Quadrant. Her people scattered with many ending up settling in regions with interstellar powers that enslaved them almost immediately. "Were you part of the refugees that ended up in Romulan space or did you settle somewhere else first."

I was aboard one of the two transports that encountered that energy ribbon that the Enterprise-Bravo rescued us from; rescued only 47 of us that is. I, of course was one of the 47. We were 415; started out at around 600 when we fled El-Auria." She trailed off to let René do the math if he wanted.

She shrugged both her shoulders. "I guess I was a lucky one." She continued with, "After a few decades on Earth, I realized that there were many who were not so lucky; being enslaved by the Romulans, Cardassians, Breen, hunted, conscripted, on and on. I decided to take, upon myself, the operation of finding El-Aurian slaves and freeing them. I was not going to get any help from the Federation, seeing as there was, at that time, no diplomatic ties to Romulus. I went on my own. I first learned about an arms dealer named Nokron. You heard Lynch and I mention his name. Nokron operated out of a Romulan battle cruiser. He had no off-the-books starbase or outpost and was always on the move. He supplied arms to rebel Klingon factions that wanted to retake the empire so they could rekindle their war with the Federation. As you know, the Romulan Star Empire is a mafia state. There is a government but the thugs, and the warlords, and the tyrants, and the traffickers are all allowed to operate as they see fit as long as they make it worth the government's while. Once they prove to be an embarrassment, then they are shut down."

All this was easy to tell. None of it regarded Toareth...yet.

René had read many an intelligence summaries on the Romulan Star Empire, specifically the overreaching power of the Tal Shiar. He nodded. "I am not familiar with his name specifically, but I do know where your coming from in regards to life in the Empire."

"After learning he had about a dozen enslaved El-Aurians, I put myself in the path of Nokron's ship, allowed myself to be captured and enslaved by him. Yeah, there was some tension as we El-Aurians look human enough. They feared Federation spies, but one scan later proved to his team that I was...a valuable asset. I spent more than a year aboard his ship, illustrated my medical abilities, became the ship's physician, even the personal physician to Nokron himself and..." there Toareth paused slightly. "...and when I saw my chance, I had to act fast. Nokron was no stranger to having riots and rebellions and mutineers on his ship. During those instances, he would activate a pathogen contained inside the life support system that would make everyone sick and debilitated. That was how he put those incidents down; make everyone sick, take care of his adversaries, then activate a cure in the life support system once the crisis had abated. Well, I, after slowly learning how to access the life support system, activated the pathogen as powerful as I could make it. Nokron, though inoculated, was still affected and gave me the chance to knock him unconscious. I blew his operation wide open for even the Federation to see. By the time Romulan authorities arrived, I had taken all the El-Aurians I could, stole a transport, and put many light-years between us. We were long gone.”

She let that image sink in a moment. Then Toareth continued. “Nokron was arrested, tried and convicted. Romulan trial system is…well you know how it goes. After serving his time, Nokron was exiled to some far-off planet in the remotest reaches of Romulan space. There he remained in exile and inactive…until…recently…when I went to Romulan space.”

Toareth recalled and could almost feel René likewise envisioning that moment some nights ago when Gabrielle was sorrowfully asking if she was going back to ‘Romlus.’

As difficult as all this was, Toareth found herself getting through it rather easily. Outing the truth was rather freeing. But she was quickly coming upon the difficult part.

“I said that, when I saw my chance, I had to act fast…to bring down Nokron. Well, the reason why I had to act fast was because…You see…” she whimpered, “Nokron took an interest in El-Aurian women. Me, above the rest, once I proved a valuable asset. Being his physician…I knew his anatomy…inside and out…and he…he would take me, on occassion, to his bed…where he would…” she dropped her head, “…take me. It was when I showed the first sign that I was pregnant that I needed to act to bring him down.”

Toareth's words rocked René to his core. He looked at the woman he loved and felt rage and hate for Nokron's rape and brutalization of his wife. He wanted to come around the table and hug her. "I...can't even imagine what it must have been like for you."

"But I allowed it; I allowed him to...I was there to find a way to free other El-Aurians. So...whatever I had to endure, I told myself it was worth it." Toareth felt ashamed, ugly even, having admitted to letting Nokron have his way with her. “After escaping,” she continued, “I showed the other El-Aurians the way to Federation space. I stayed behind. My pregnancy proved a typical El-Aurian one…two years as the Earth revolves. My baby appeared Romulan enough from all the scans. And, after experiencing all the Romulan resentfulness in the Federation, I felt I could not return at that time. I found and lived with a friendly Romulan couple. They were farmers. I gave birth to a baby girl…named her Runaite.”

Toareth paused there and shook her head. “I didn’t know what to do. I had never had a child before. I had no parental figures or guidance to tell me how to move forward. I…I gave Runa to that Romulan couple. She proved to be developing slower than the average Romulan; faster of course than El-Aurians. I made sure they would never tell Runa, or anyone for that matter, that I was the mother. And I never told anyone of the father. Not even Nokron knows. I told the couple to pass off Runa if/when others would start questioning Runa’s parentage, asking why she was aging so slowly. Runa thinks she is Romulan with a rare aging disorder, not an El-Aurian hybrid. Runa was only 1 Romulan year old when I left to return to Federation space. I would return every so often, find where Runa was, find her, sometimes interact, sometimes not. She called me Aunty Toary. Runa would be,” she calculated in her heard, “about 28 Earth years old by now, but only appear all of 7.”

René was mildly shocked at Runa's aging progression. He wasn't a physician like Toareth. If she couldn't figure it out, he was at a total loss for an explanation. It made him wonder about Gabrielle. "Gabrielle appears to be aging as a normal human child and Runa is aging somewhere between El-Aurian and Romulan standards. How is that possible? Don't you have any theories as to the cause?"

"Romulans, like Vulcans, already live far longer than humans, but not as long as El-Aurians. Runaite must have gotten Nokron's Romulan appearance mixed with El-Aurian longevity. As for Grabrielle...there have been too few human/El-Aurian hybrids to make a determination. It is possible she may have a human lifespan. The human brain finalizes its development around age 25. Between now and when she turns 25..." Toareth shrugged, "El-Aurian longevity or another trait can suddenly appear. We have to keep monitoring her for any change."

Toareth suddenly felt it was irresponsible of them to make love those years ago, possibly bringing into this world someone who might, one day, suddenly become and empath or, at a snap, start to age very slowly. But the thoughts still dominating her conscience were those to answer René's original question; what kept them apart, kept him apart from his child.

‘The war,’ she thought again, but continued where she had left off. “I was planning on returning to Romulan space when the assignment to the Stardancer came up. That, the Dominion War, that put a big dent on any plans of going again to find Runa. Not to mention finding out that I was pregnant again, this time with your child. I wanted to tell you…and tried. But subspace relays was often the target of Dominion forces and comms were always going down. Assignment records were often misleading. We could not find you. And Lynch gave me his word that he was trying. You may not believe him but please believe me. He did try. While we worked on the project, he worked to find you.”

“The project,” Toareth repeated that word and continued her tale, “was…well there is no easy way to say it…the project was to develop the morphogenic disease that made all the Founders sick.” Toareth paused briefly, feeling and reading René’s response and feelings.

Rene was shocked again. The official stance of the Federation on biological weapons was a definitive ban on all developmental research in regards to weaponization. He also knew that said research was practiced by off-the-books intelligence agencies throughout the Alpha and Beta Quadrants. His feelings were mixed. He personally abhorred the idea of biological WMDs, but realized that if Toareth had not been instrumental in development of the morphogenic virus, the Dominion War would still be raging and the Alpha Quadrant powers would be losing. He also realized that Toareth, Gabrielle and he would most likely still be separated. He felt a twinge of guilt for being selfish, but having Toareth back in his life, not to mention Gabrielle, was the single most important thing to him now. "You did what you had to do and because of that, we're back together again. I love you and Gabrielle. That's what matters...most."

Toareth understood, and felt René's own understanding as well as his forgiveness. But Toareth was not yet able to forgive herself. There was still more she had to confess.

“I admit that I have used my medical knowledge many times as a result to an end. This includes making people sick, injuring someone, sometimes crippling them, using their confidence in me against them. I always acted against thugs and tyrants and criminals,” she quickly added all that in her defense, “but I never killed anyone. At least I don’t think I did. Aboard Nokron’s ship, I set the cure in the life support system to autoactivate once I was several hours gone.” She thought of Kadan. “Sometimes I left people for death to easily find, but I never killed anyone. And never,” she whimpered again, wiped a tear from her eye, “never did I seek to make an entire species extinct just to end a war. Once I realized what we were working on, once I figured out the end result of our project, I wanted to quit, was going to tell Lynch the very next day, but…but I found out I was pregnant with Gabrielle and…and that she was developing as quickly as an average human. I was scared René. We could not find you, we were a month, at best, away from the nearest outpost or space station. I had to birth Gabrielle there with Lynch and the team. I was in good hands but…” and there was always a ‘but’, “but, afterward…I got back to work on the project.”

René wasn't sure what to think. Perhaps Toareth had felt coerced into developing the virus due to the unspoken threat of having Gabrielle taken away from her. He kept silent and just listened.

Toareth found going further even more difficult than previous. She was quickly coming upon something she never admitted to anyone. Not Lynch, not her team, not Gabrielle, not any other El-Aurian. This was something she even denied to herself until this very moment.

“I did not want to believe it. I researched, read papers, did the study, administered tests to myself. I showed all the signs, but I continually refused to believe it.”

René was concerned. He felt as if Toareth was going to say something he couldn't possibly suspect. There had been a lot of that in this conversation already. "What?"

“Post-partum depression. Me. I watched my planet get destroyed, my people die and become scattered, abandoned by my own people upon reaching Earth. If I can defeat bouts of depression after all that, I can defeat depression after having a child. But I was wrong. Once I was well enough to get back to work, I got back on the project. I…” Toareth’s voice cracked with a sob, “I gave up looking for you. I want…” sniff, “I wanted to die.” She did not try to stop her tears. She did rest her hand upon his, removed it, feeling herself unworthy even to touch her husband. “I knew what we were working on, knew that we were working without researching a cure. I finished my work, hit send, it was late at night, and I stole a runabout. I did not even look in on Gabrielle. By the time anyone tracked me, I was deep inside Romulan space.” She took a few deep breaths trying to compose herself enough to finish. “I wanted to die,” she said again. “Either allow myself to be shot down or…” and though Toareth felt she would never speak the following words, she found them quite easy to say, “…or end it all myself. But I swore I would not allow myself to die before seeing Runaite again.”

"Mon Dieu!" René did rise from the table quickly, coming around and embracing her. He felt her micro shivers as overwhelming emotions raged through her. He felt inadequate in his ability to comfort her. He couldn't find the words that would comfort her, all he could do was hold her close, feeling her tears on his own cheek. It was nearly ten minutes before either one of them could speak.

Toareth felt unworthy to be in his embrace. And she let her tears run freely. She sobbed openly; without even an attempt to hold anything back. "I am only here," she said after several moments, "because I could not find Runa. I searched," sniff, "and I searched. Could not find her. And now I know my presence reached Nokron's attention." She paused and sobbed briefly. "I heard the news that the Founders were getting sick and I left to return to Federation space, to the team, to Gabrielle." She sobbed and sniffed again. "I felt so lost René," she said as she looked up at him, her eyes bloodshot and tear-filled. "Never before did I feel so lost."

René kissed Toareth gently. "We will figure things out, together. Do what is necessary to bring find and bring Runa home. You are not alone in this."


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