Bren and his twin brother, Brin, strolled in comfortable silence along the road that led back to their parents' manor. The road was lined with tall owak trees that intertwined their slender branches in the canopy high overhead, providing shelter from the sun to whomever travelled beneath it. Bren relished the feeling of the warm sun caressing his skin as it shone in patches through canopy. It felt so good to see the sun and breath real fresh air again. A warm breeze blew in from the northern mountain range, rustling in the branches overhead, and disturbing the leaves that paved the road. Bren glanced up at the sky to see the Southern Moon rising just above the horizon, casting a shadow on the planet's ring system.
"I can't believe how much I missed this place," Bren said as he took in the beauty of his home planet. The last time he had visited home was when he was on leave from Starfleet to recover after his accident from Xonnel.
"Me neither," added Brin. "It's been a long time since we've been here, and it seems like a lot has changed since then. Dad is now the new Governor; Mom is head of research; you've explored deep space; Hermione has started her Starfleet career..."
"And you're getting married tomorrow," Bren said, smiling at his brother's words. "It felt like yesterday that you left to study music on Tarima, and now you're a concert pianist famous throughout the Federation."
"Oh, I wouldn't go that far," Brin laughed. As they approached the gates to the manor, he waved at the guards, and they opened the gates to let the two inside. Since their father had been elected Governor of Kayama, security had been stepped up considerably, even though the colony of 6 million inhabitants had one of the lowest crime rates in the sector.
When they walked up the avenue that led towards the manor, they saw a personal shuttle unloading its cargo into the house's adjoining shuttlebay.
"I wonder who that could be," Brin asked as they got closer, and then a young woman with short blonde hair walked out of the shuttlebay and spoke to one of the attendants. At first the brothers didn't recognise her, but when she turned around they realised it was their cousin, Hermione Zeta.
"Bren! Brin!" she exclaimed as soon as she saw them, and rushed over the landing pad to greet them.
"I love your hair," Bren said as she hugged them. "It really suits you."
Brin was about to say something, when his communicator beeped. He took out the small device, and flipped it open. "Please excuse me, I have a call waiting." He rushed up the front steps and disappeared into the house.
"Let's go have some lunch," Bren suggested, walking towards the steps.
"Yeah, I'm starving," Hermione replied, following after him.
The late afternoon found Bren sitting outside his room on the balcony, overlooking the city with the sea in the distance. Below in the garden, the wind scattered the purple flowers of the Risean jasmine tree all over the grass, and carried their scent up towards the balcony. A few dark clouds were beginning to roll in from the sea, bringing with it the spring's midafternoon rains. After lunch he had decided to retire to his room to rest, but he couldn't sleep; instead he looked around his room at all the different memories there. Far in the opposite corner stood his baby grand piano, and next to it his cello and the beli clavian in its box; on the wall, a painting he had made while in high school, and a graduation certificate from the Betazoid Royal House of Music; on his desk photos of his family, friends...and an old lover. There were too many things on his mind. He thought about Starfleet, and his decision in leaving the Archer; glancing at his desk, he saw the padd lying there with Starfleet's offer to become Research & Development Liaison to Kayama. That was supposed to be the main reason why he had left the Archer, but still he hesitated in formally accepting the offer. Something kept him back, and he wondered if he shouldn't pay more attention to it; maybe it was just fear of change, but maybe it was something more.
As he stood up to get himself a glass of water, the chime to his door sounded. "Enter," he said, and the door opened to reveal Hermione with two pieces of his mother's famous blueberry cheesecake. "Oh, hi there. Please come inside. Excuse the mess; I've been sorting through some of my old stuff, and I still have to unpack my boxes from the Archer."
"It doesn't matter. My room is still all boxes," Hermione laughed. Bren motioned for her to sit down next to him on he bed. "Computer, play 21st Century Terran composer Jeanne Reneirre, the complete Réves Dans La Clé De La Nuit piano suite," she said
"That's my favourite Neo-Romantic piece of music." Bren took a bite of the delicious cake and smiled at her. "I forgot how heavenly this is!" he said, closing his eyes and listening to the haunting piano music.
"I don't know how your mother does it. She has a full time job, but she still had time to cook and take care of us while we were at school." Hermione looked at the holoimage of her with Bren and Brin while they were in high school together that stood on the nightstand. Even though she had grown up on Betazed, her father had decided to send her to school with her cousins. She had stayed with them in the manor for that time, and the three had become very close. "Oh my god, look at my hair! I can't believe I used to look like this!" She put down the plate with the piece of cake and picked up holoimage.
"Those were the good old days," Bren said. "Before life became so damn complicated."
"Yeah," Hermione agreed. "Before we fell in love. Although...Brin did meet Odette while we were in high school. You know, I never quite understood why the broke up in the first place. Who would've thought that seven years later they would be getting married. Can you believe they're getting married tomorrow?" She shook her head and then paused. "Bren, I never got around to telling you how sorry I am about you and Tiger breaking up. You seemed very happy together."
"Thank you," Bren replied. "But it's just one of those things. Tiger was at the right place at the right time for me, but not the right person. After a few months the relationship just began to take strain, and when we got to Aurora and decided to accept different assignments, I realised that I'm not in love with him, and that all along I was only pretending to be. Don't get me wrong - I deeply care for him, but I'm not in love with him."
Hermione had been paging through the holoimager and had come across a photo of Bren with a handsome Vulcan while he was in the Academy. "You're in love with him," she said, and showed him the photo.
Bren quietly nodded. "Yes, I'm still in love with Starik, even after four years. When the Archer docked at Aurora, I saw him on the promenade. He didn't see me, luckily, but I just realised then how I still feel. Out of sight, out of mind, but not out of heart." They sat quietly for a while and listened to the music. "You know my Bajoran friend Garion, right?" he asked then.
"Yeah, I do. I went with him and Jana to The Mindmelt when I was on leave on Betazed once."
"Yeah, that's right. So you know that Jana is half Deltan," Bren laughed merrily. "Well, when I told him back then that I had developed feelings for Starik, he told me never to get involved with a telepath. He and Jana always have these passionate arguments that end up involving everyone in the vicinity. I guess I should have listened to him."
"Yeah, but they always have passionate sex afterwards."
"How do you know that?"
"I'm Betazoid, remember. Besides, Jana is not the type to censors her thoughts before broadcasting them to the whole world." Hermione laughed. She lay back on the bed and made herself comfortable. "What's meant to be is meant to be," she said then. "What happened, happened for a reason. Just like with me and Peter. It's still hard, and I still love him so much, but we're not together anymore, and there's not a thing I can do to change that. Sometimes I wish that I wasn't a telepath, that I could be 'less attached' when it came to my relationship with Peter, but I'm not. Do you rememeber what Professor Emer said in our Interspecies Relations class? She said that no Starfleet rule and regulation can ever keep you from falling in love. And that's true. There are all those directives in place that prevents us from entering into any kind of relationship with another species without medical clearance, but not even they can stop our most primary urges."
Bren sighed long and deep. Even though the topic was somewhat depressing, just being able to talk with his old friend and cousin again made him feel so much better. "Sometimes I just feel like I keep making all the wrong choices. You know what the worst is? You and I are psychology graduates - the minds of Starfleet's brightest and best are supposed to come to us for help, but we can't even help ourselves. How pathetic is that!?"
Hermione laughed so hard that she almost fell off the bed. "I was telling Odette the exact same thing yesterday. I think you made a wise decision to go from Counseling to Science. Not that you don't make a brilliant Counselor; it's just that for a non-telepath, you are very sensitive, and I think all the problems of the world sometimes get you down. You seem so much happier in Science, being able to explore the unknown. Everyone thinks being a Counselor is the easiest job in Starfleet, but it's actually the hardest."
Bren nodded, agreeing with her, and once again wondered whether he made the right decision to leave the Archer. "So have you decided what you're going to do now?"
Hermione shook her head. "I'm not sure. I took an extended leave of absence, so Starfleet won't expect me back for a while. I'm thinking I might actually resign, but I don't want to do something rash. Your mother offered me a position on her research team, and I'm seriously considering it. I always loved archaeology at the Academy, and this a chance to actually get my hands dirty for a change. I think it could be very fulfilling. I guess I might end up going into Science like you after all. Strange how that works; we were born on the same day, went to the same high school, ended up at Starfleet Academy training to become Counselors, and then going into Science. And to think that if you're father's brother had never met my mother, we probably never would've known each other."
"Well, I'm really glad we ended up as family. I couldn't have asked for a better cousin."
"Aw," Hermione said and gave him a hug. "Hey, Mr Best Man, is your suit ready for tomorrow? And do you have the rings?"
"Yep," Bren replied. "And is your Bride's Maid dress ready? And do you have the bouquet?"
"Yes, all ready. The bouquet is in my room, made from beautiful chameleon roses."
"Great," Bren smiled. Outside the tiny raindrops started to fall softly, and the fresh smell of rain came through the open window. "Hey, do you want to watch one of those old holomovies? We still have a few hours before we need to meet Brin and Odette for dinner."
"Oh why not. It's not like we have anything better to do, right?"
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