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How Many Ways Can We Say We're Sorry?

Posted on Wed Feb 17, 2021 @ 9:07pm by Commodore Michael Aravan & Captain Madelina Weisz & Master Chief Petty Officer Thomas Barnes & Spencer Aravan

Mission: The Nanjing

Maddy made her way toward Michael's and Spencer's quarters feeling more nerves now than she ever had in her entire life. "Is it too late to turn around and go back?" She asked her future husband softly. "Or make a quick trip to the promenade for a few gifts so we're not empty handed?"

"It's never too late," Tom assured Maddy. "Neither of our resignations are official, though I have no intention of backing down at this point. We can certainly grab a couple gifts on the way. In fact, I might still have that bonsai program..."

"You're right... there's no turning back. We owe them this. While we're here, we can find out what they might want or need, then have it sent up from the promenade," she stated.

He nodded and smiled. "And I'm sure they'll understand. The Commodore especially."

"Either way... there's no turning back now," Maddy said as she came to a stop in front of the Captain's quarters. Her nerves kicked up a notch, and she fought with herself to keep from running. "Can you... can you?" She nodded her head toward the panel.

Tom understood her reluctance. It was only just a few hours ago that he felt the same way, though that time he was the one standing outside the door. Not wanting her to suffer, he immediately reached over and tapped the top button with the Starfleet delta emblazoned on it.

It had been three days since the event had gone down and Michael Aravan was tired. Not just because of having new twins to care for with his wife and their other two children, though. He had spent the majority of the time with Admiral Breckenridge and had been relieved of command pending the investigation and the Triumphant was being towed back to spacedock.

The reports he had poured through were long and filled him with guilt, remorse and a host of other emotions. There were so many dead personnel, so much damage had been done. Including to his Executive Officer, Maddy, whom he hadn't seen in those three days. He knew he would never command a ship again, but he had to keep his chin up so the Admiralty would be able to hit it properly.

"Come," he said a bit listlessly.

Maddy took a deep breath and slipped her hand into Tom's. She stepped forward and activated the sensors that allowed the door to open. She still didn't make her way inside yet, at least not entirely. As a matter of fact, it looked as though she was contemplating running.

Michael sat in a chair with two tiny bundles in his arms, but he wasn't wearing a uniform. He wore a brown shirt with black pants and no shoes. He looked a bit unshaven and there was a hint of shadow under his green eyes and he looked half the man he used to be in one way, and twice what he used to be in another.

"Maddy..." He nodded before he spied someone with her. "Is that Chief Barnes with you?"

Maddy swallowed back a lump in her throat. "Yes," she answered softly. "Tom is here with me. We... we came to apologize to you and Spencer."

"Come in, come in," Michael said.

Tom followed Maddy into the room. "Commodore," Tom greeted, bearing no smile or frown. His expression did carry a hint of shame and embarrassment for what havoc he had wrought on the man's command.

Maddy stuck close to Tom as they made their way inside. She opened her mouth to greet Michael properly, only her eyes fell on the two tiny bundles he was holding. "Spencer had the babies?" She asked softly.

The Commodore nodded. "She did. Meet Stephie Michelle and Alex Charles Aravan. She had them on the planet while things were...being handled."

"While we, under the influence of the Nanjing, attempted to Borgify the Triumphant and its crew," Tom stated out of turn. "That's one of the reasons why we are here, Commodore, to atone for our sins. Words cannot express the sorrow we feel for what transpired."

More guilt. Was it possible for guilt to cause physical pain? Or was that coming from her still healing body? Maddy didn't really know, but either way, she felt she deserved it. "Tom is right," she said softly, swallowing. "So much damage has been done, and I hope that you, Spencer and the rest of the crew can forgive us for everything."

Spencer made her way out of the bedroom where she was watching a movie with Ava and Little Mikey. She moved to her husband's side and took a seat on the arm of the chair. "I thought I heard voices," she said, smiling down at Michael before looking to their guests. "And, I thought I also heard an apology."

She rose to her feet and moved toward Maddy and Tom, leaning in to hug them both, one arm going around each of them. "Neither of you were truly in control of yourselves. Not really. And, it's because of that, that I'm able to forgive you both," she said, pulling back to look at them with a smile. "That being said, I can only speak for myself."

"Drop the Commodore," their former commanding officer said. "It's just Michael. I've been relieved of command pending the investigation. I've already given my disposition that it was not the fault of the away team and accepted full responsibility. If anyone owes anyone an apology, I owe it to both of you. I owe you far more than that and I can never ask for your forgiveness. "

There was that pain again. He felt he had to apologize to them? Yes, he did send the away team over to the cube, but sensor scans didn't pick anything up that would have caused concern. "Michael... no. You don't have anything to apologize for. Not to me. I went onto that cube because there was no reason to be concerned."

"Everything about this screamed quarantine and calling in Starfleet. A Cube doesn't just die in space and be missing most of its Delta Quadrant components. Not a single shot fired. We didn't even stop to think what that meant," Michael responded. "It was my command that sent you all there."

"And if you hadn't, sir?" Tom countered, refusing to accept the fact that his Commanding Officer was nothing less of the man he'd always been. "What happened to us would have happened to anyone Starfleet would have sent to follow up on the cube. Any survey team would have been eaten alive, and the prodigal Nanjing would have had a small task group at its disposal instead of Triumphant. Your actions saved lives."

"My actions costed lives, Chief," the former commander said. "Some of the converted Marines weren't able to be saved. You're not the same. Maddy isn't the same. None of us will be after this and I'm the one that made the decision. You say a survey team would have encountered the same. I say that they would have had more skills than we possessed to handle this."

Spencer placed a hand on her husband's shoulder and gave it a gentle squeeze. "I've been trying to convince him none of this was his fault for days," she said. "Just like neither of you are at fault."

"You shouldn't blame yourself, Michael. If any of us felt we were truly in any danger, we would have spoken up and told you no," the redhead said, and in all the time he's known her both professionally and personally, she's never had any issues telling him no before.

"And what if we left the cube alone?" Tom countered. "The Borg and the Nanjing both targeted an unimportant Cardassian freighter. The Badlands are crawling with civilians. If we'd left the cube alone, there's no telling how or when one of them would find the cube and start trouble just by attempting salvage. Captain Picard lost half his crew alone in the 2373 Battle of Earth, and he's one of the most experienced with the Borg."

Tom sighed and shook his head. "My point is, Commodore, that you did what you thought was right in a difficult situation. No matter what any padd-pusher says, you have a couple thousand people who will back your decision in a heartbeat, including all of the people in this room."

"Whatever the case may be, there's also dozens of personnel who reported that I fired on them when we took the Victorious to escape," Michael said. "That was enough to get me relieved of command pending the investigation. It's enough for me to blame myself. The Captain goes down with the ship."

The Master Chief didn't press the issue further. Instead, he offered, "Regardless, sir, you're a top-grade Commodore in my book, and if you need a character witness for a Court Martial, I'll gladly answer the call."

"Bah, a Commodore is only a gofer for Admirals," Michael grunted. "The only reason I wasn't pulled to an office is because Starfleet has too many gofers at headquarters."

"No. You weren't pulled to an office because you were a damn fine Commanding Officer, and they knew it," Maddy stated. "They knew, as well as everyone else in this room, that chaining you to a desk would have been a huge mistake."

Spencer nodded her head. "I completely agree with that," she said, looking down to her husband. "Don't be so hard on yourself."

"At any rate, what plans do you two have?" Michael asked. He was going to blame himself for some time to come and he was certain he'd never command a starship again.

If things weren't uncomfortable before, they certainly were now. "We actually, sir, came by to wish you both luck. We're going to go wander the galaxy for a while, without commissions."

Maddy tucked a lock of hair behind her ear. She hadn't seen anyone over the last few days, but had a feeling the former CO had seen her resignation letter at some point. "But," she said, looking toward Tom, then back to the couple. "I think that maybe we should stick around for a few days or so. In the event we're needed to provide statements or speak in your behalf."

"WIthout comm..." Michael stopped. He had seen many PADDs, but he had rejected her resignation as a shock reaction. Not that he had the power to accept it. "Maddy...Tom, you both have more ahead of you than I do."

"And that's exactly why we're doing what we're doing," Tom explained. "There's a whole life right in front of us. Starfleet will always be there. It's time for someone else to save the galaxy for a while, and this is a guaranteed way to stay on the bench for a while."

"He's right," Maddy stated. "We all deserve a little time away from the uniform and everything that goes with it."

Michael looked at the two of them and saw the changes in Master Chief Barnes and that the redhead might still be a redhead, but her fire was gone. He sighed. "Perhaps you're right," he said, the fight gone out of him, too. "I have a family to raise and being in space isn't the place for it."

Spencer leaned down to press a kiss to the top of his head. "Maybe now is the time to finally take a step back and rethink what's most important."

"And there's no shame in doing so," Tom added. "It's time to stop and smell the roses, as they say." As he said that, he wrapped an arm around Maddy's waist and pulled her gently to his side.

"Are you going to have Admiral Breckenridge perform the ceremony, or go back to Earth?" Michael asked, deciding it was time to change the subject.

"We haven't actually discussed it," Tom replied, looking at Maddy for a moment. "There's really only one person in my mind though, but someone would have to agree on that."

Maddy slipped her own arm around Tom's waist. "We only decided we wanted to get married an hour or so ago, and as Tom said, there's only one person we'd want to perform the ceremony. You are that person, Michael."

"I would if I could, but I've been relieved of command," Michael said once again. "The next available person right now is Admiral Breckenridge until this is sorted."

"Well," Tom said, trying not to sound defeated, "consider yourselves invited to the wedding. We'll need witnesses to make it all official, you know."

Spencer offered the couple a genuine smile. "Of course, we'll be there. Just tell us when and where."

"As soon as we know, we will certainly pass along that information," Maddy stated, doing her best to hide her own disappointment.

"Give me some time," Michael requested. He knew his crew and how they hid things from him. It was - had been - his job to know these things, even if it was guesswork and intuition. "Then once it gets sorted out, I'd be honored to marry you."

"Deal," Tom quickly agreed, a half-smile forming on his face. "In the meantime, enjoy the family. Stop and smell the roses. Just think of it as a well-deserved vacation."

Vacation? Well-deserved? Michael questioned himself. He had been in command of the Triumphant and now some of the very crew he was responsible for were part cyborg after what the Borg Nanjing had done to him. Not to mention poor Ensign Rivers. Her people, the Lagashi had to extract her from the ship itself - or rather her memory core, due to her being nearly fused with the ship. "Yeah," he said simply.

"Tom is right. You deserve a vacation," Spencer said.

Maddy nodded her head. "We all do. We've all devoted quite a bit of our time to our careers, and now it's time to focus a little time on ourselves and the ones we love," she said, giving Tom a gentle squeeze.

Tom certainly agreed. A full change of subject was in order, but he was running out of ideas for what to change it too. All roads seemed to lead back to being grounded, court martials, and even parting ways. Maybe it was time to just do that and stop rubbing salt into fresh wounds. "Speaking of," he said, "I think our transport is due to leave in about an hour. We still have a few things we need to take care of before we go."

Michael came to his feet. "I want to wish you and Maddy the very best," he said and meant it. "You've both been two very fine officers who have came through for me more than once, and I've put those in your personnel files if you ever want to come back."

Maddy smiled as Spencer took the two tiny little bundles from their father. "When you decide to park it in the center chair again, let me know."

"And when you decide to park it in the center seat, I'll throw you a party," Michael countered.

The former Captain shook her head. "No chance of that happening. At least, not in the foreseeable future. I have something... rather someone... that requires my attention for the time being," Maddy stated, pressing a kiss to Tom's cheek.

Spencer smiled. There was genuine happiness on her face for her two friends. "I'm happy for both of you."

"As am I," Michael said. "I don't want to hold you up more than we have, in case you have a schedule to keep."

Tom simply nodded. "There are a couple things we do need to finish," he confirmed. He stepped forward and extended a hand. "Until we meet again, Commodore. It's been a pleasure."

Maddy could feel tears start to form behind her eyes, and could only hope that there was no proof of them otherwise, but she wasn't that lucky. It only took a matter of seconds before those tears began to roll down her cheeks. She was never one who was good at saying goodbye, especially when it came to saying it to someone who was one of her closest friends.

Without hesitation, she moved toward Michael and wrapped her arms around him. "Please, please, please," she pleaded. "Don't let this be goodbye forever. Keep in touch. Bombard me with pictures of you and the family as often as you possibly can. Promise me you will, and that we'll always keep in touch."

Michael returned the hug. "You won't get rid of me that fast, Red," he said with a smile. "And I expect pictures when the time comes for you and Tom."

Spencer could feel her own emotions getting the best of her. She moved over to the empty bassinet to settle her son and daughter inside, then moved over to Tom to give him a hug. "Take care of yourself, Tom."

Tom nodded to Spencer. He had only barely met her in all his time aboard Triumphant, and but he still had high respect for her. "Take good care of the Commodore," he said with a smile. "He's gonna need it." Tom then smiled and looked to Maddy. "Ready?"

"You'll get pictures, because you'll be there to take them yourself," Maddy said as she pressed a kiss to Michael's cheek, then moved to give Spencer a hug. After a few second, she stepped back and moved back to Tom's side. "I'm ready."

Tom smiled to Maddy before facing the Commodore. As a final demonstration of the respect he had for the man, Tom stood at attention and stated, "Until we meet again, Commodore Aravan."

"You two take care of yourselves and each other," Michael wished them warmly as he came to attention as well. "I mean that and we'll be in touch."

Maddy came to attention. "You and Spencer as well, Commodore," she said with the realization that was likely the last time she would ever refer to him as such. Still, he deserved that one last show of respect from her. "Until we meet again, Michael." With one final smile to him and his wife, the former Captain turned and made her way out the door.

Tom gave the Commodore and his wife a final nod. He then turned and followed his fiancée out the door.

"Until then," Michael said and as the door closed, he felt that a chapter on his life had closed. Maddy had resigned. Tom had resigned. He was facing potential charges, but he looked at Spencer with their new babies. "It's going to take some time," he told her. "But we can do it together."


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