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An Indelible Smile
Posted on January 31st, 2018 by Kathryn Harper

by Kathryn Harper, with Alexis Wright

Her command of Atlantis had gotten off to a rocky start, but as she reflected on things while looking out the ready room window before the start of alpha shift, Captain Kathryn Harper found herself to be overjoyed with the recent trend. The Federation was slowly recovering from the Section 31 Crisis, and for the first time in months, the ship’s mission had nothing at all to do with Section 31. Instead, they were tasked with perhaps the most exciting mission of scientific exploration of the century; to directly study the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way. Even her personal life was unimaginably good; she had just recently become engaged, something that she’d never dreamed would ever happen to her except in girlhood fantasies. Given her tumultuous romantic history, Kate thought that nothing short of a miracle.

Kate regarded the diamond ring on her left hand with a curious smirk, tilting it back and forth to admire the gem’s sparkle. Engagement rings were not tradition on Risa, but she could not deny her attraction to the shiny stone. In all the excitement since Lexy had given it to her at the holiday party, Kate realized that she had yet to call her parents to tell them the good news. She sat down at her desk terminal and placed a request for the communication link to Risa, knowing that soon, Atlantis would be out of range of the standard subspace relay network, so her remaining time to easily call home was limited. While she waited for the link to connect across the incredible distance between Atlantis and Risa, her gaze wandered back to the ring on her finger and the scintillating light it seemed to contain.

The viewscreen finally cut away from the Federation logo after several long minutes of waiting, giving way to the image of her smiling parents, as they always were when they got a call from their only child. “Kathryn!” roared her father, Rolik, his face erupting into delight at the sight of her. He pulled his wife close as he continued in their native language, “It is so good to see you, my girl!”

“Papá, Mamá!” Kate answered, also in the Risan tongue. “How have you been?”

“We are well, Kathryn,” Jhnal replied, smiling warmly at her daughter across the vast expanse, “As we are always well. And you? What adventure is our Starfleet captain daughter on today?”

“The greatest yet; a voyage to the center of the galaxy. But that is not even the reason I called!” Each word faded to a smile, the soft expression seeming indelibly carved on Kate’s face.

Jhnal’s eyes betrayed the faintest moment of excitement, but it was masked so quickly that Kate wasn’t certain it had been there at all. “Oh? You do not look worried, so maybe it is something good, yes?”

Raising her hand to show off the sparkling diamond ring, Kate excitedly announced, “Lexy asked me to marry her!”

Jhnal barked a laugh, bringing her hands together in a triumphant clap. “I knew that strange little human would do it sooner or later! And that ring you wear means that you accepted, yes? Your father had begun to worry,” she added, grinning and nudging her husband in the ribs as he grinned sheepishly. “Ha! We are so happy for you, daughter!”

Rolik wrapped his other arm around Jhnal and pulled her into a bearhug, since Kate was out of reach, and his daughter remained respectfully quiet while her father was overwhelmed with emotion. When he finally let his wife breathe again, Rolik wiped a tear from the corner of his eye. “Yes, Kathryn, that you have finally found such happiness in her brings us pure joy.”

“Thank you both. I still can hardly believe it,” Kate gushed, the smile still her resting expression.

“And your Lexy, we worried at first that maybe she was too shy, but when she came to us… she loves you, Kathryn. This is wonderful! Now we will have two daughters!” Jhnal’s excitement was nearly palpable, even through the screen.

“She does love me, yes. Me, of all people! I mean, you two are obviously biased in my favor,” Kate gestured at the viewscreen, “but I had given up on finding actual love years ago. But here… well, here she is.” Kate finished the thought quietly, now having to wipe a tear from the corner of her own eye though her smile remained intact. “I never imagined being as lucky as you two are, in that regard.”

Rolik leaned toward the camera, and although he spoke softly, he still maintained an air of gregariousness. “Kathryn… you were never like the other girls. Always with the playing of the sports, and the studying, and the music… but look what you have done with your life as a result. The first woman of our people to command a Federation starship, who negotiated a historic peace treaty with the Romulans—you have made all of Risa proud, not just us. To do all of that takes someone truly special, since such ability and insight is quite rare, indeed. But when you are so different, it is harder to find the right person to settle down with, though the one you eventually find is likely to be as special as you are. We always knew that you would succeed at this, just like most anything else you have tried.”

“Yes,” Jhnal added, nodding, “You and your Lexy are both special people. It is lucky that you found one another, just as Rolik was to find me, yes?” She favored him with a mischievous smirk before turning back to the screen. “But finding your match is only the first challenge. Marriage is hard, sometimes, and it takes work… so do not think that the hard part is over. The building of the life together is not easy, but if you are both willing to sacrifice for love, then it will be worth the trouble.” Her hand found Rolik’s, and gave it an affectionate squeeze.

“I will remember that. Already, I have learned a few difficult lessons about successfully living with a lover.” Kate snickered, remembering her previous, wholly disastrous attempts at cohabitation. “Another first!”

“We are so glad to see you finally with love in your life. You look so happy, Kathryn! We are proud of all of your accomplishments, but it is your happiness that has always been most important.” The love that filled Jhnal’s smile almost glowed through the viewscreen. “So, tell me,” she continued, looking innocent, “where and when will be the wedding?”

With a hint of red suddenly coloring her cheeks, Kate slowly shrank into her chair as her face slid down into her palm. An exasperated laugh found its way through her unfaltering smile as she lightly reproached, “Mamá!” The joyful sound of her parents’ mirth from the other end of the connection only made her heart feel even warmer.

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