AN: I know they said that everyone on the crew was going to die virgins, but still. Plot bunny attacks cannot be stopped, lol. Enjoy!
Disclaimer: I do not own Starship.
The ship was silent as it gently coasted along, the stars glittering in the black as it continued on its journey. For one of them, this was an adventure, their first chance to see the world that they had heard so much about over the last couple of months. But for the rest of the crew of the Starship A15II, this return voyage from Bug world meant only one thing: home. They were finally going home.
For Up, it had almost been three years since he had set foot on his native soil, his injury and following mission keeping him in space, first at the orbiting hospital to receive the best in alien medical care, followed by the time spent on his ship. Standing in the bridge, watching as the little blue dot they were pointed towards slowly began to grow larger and larger with each passing hour, though it would still be another day before they could land, a feeling of trepidation grew within him.
In the time since he had last stood on Earth, how much had the world changed without him?
Glancing over at his Lieutenant, it was with a slightly raised eyebrow that he saw her fiddling with the phaser at her side, a habit that she only tended to let show when she was nervous about the situation she was going to find herself in. For a moment, he considered asking her what was wrong, hoping that she might actually allow him by responding to the personal nature of his question. A moment later, however, it was with a shake of his head that Up asked something different, deciding that, if Taz wished to talk, she would.
Things had gotten much better between them after the events on Bug World, but there was still lingering feelings about the past that separated them, boundaries that Up respected even if she didn't know that they were there.
"When was the last time you were home, Taz?"
Although the question was polite, softly spoken considering that they were standing right next to each other, Taz's startled reaction had him jumping back a few paces as her hand flew towards the trigger of her gun, her eyes widening as she turned to look at him. A myriad of emotions met his gaze as he stared at her in surprise, though they quickly disappeared as she realized that it was he who had made the noise. Forcing her hand to uncurl its grip from the phaser, it was with considerable effort that Taz reformed her calm, cool, tough exterior, the look she sent him telling him to forget that that had ever happened. Waiting until he could see that he had her full attention, it was with a shrug and half laugh that he repeated his question.
"Just over two years," was Taz's reply, her eyes returning to the blankness of space as they talked. "Two years and a month. It will be nice to return." The sudden softness in her voice caught his attention more than the words, but just like her reaction earlier, he shrugged them off, once again following the logic that, if Taz had something she wanted to say, she would say it.
"We'll have about a month to ourselves while the ship is being repaired, updated, and restocked with supplies. Do you have any plans?" This Up said with the slightest hint of hope in his voice, for any time that he was able to spend with the tough female Ranger was time, in his mind, well spent. This hope diminished slightly as she nodded her head, but he forced it off to the side in favor of listening to her, deciding that, even if they had no specific plans together, they would always have movie night each week to look forward to.
"Some old family friends live in the city that we're going to be landing in, so I have made plans to see them. I'll be able to return to the ship for check in each night, but for the most part I will be spending my time with them. You?"
"I'm just gonna look around, see how things have changed topside," Up said with a shrug, carefully masking his suspicions behind his words. As far as he knew, Taz had been the only member of her village to survive, thus making it unlikely that these friends she talked about were ones that she had known for long. That, combined with the flicker of her eyes towards his face when she had said that, was a sure sign that she was hiding something. Even if her words weren't an outright lie, that told him all that he needed to know. Perhaps she was telling the truth and he was just being paranoid, but when Taz left the room a moment later for her bunk, claiming a restless night as her desire for a midafternoon nap, Up just couldn't help shake his feeling.
Taz was up to something, and Up wanted to know what it was.
"You, Up, are a very brave, very dead man walking. If she ever finds out that you've been following her, she really is going to slit open your belly and fill it with jelly. And because she's Taz, she'll use the blue kind, just because you don't like it. Whatever possessed you to follow her?" Even as he mumbled these words under his breath, ducking below the dashboard of his car as Taz looked around to cross the street, Up knew exactly why he was following his Lieutenant across the city on their third day of leave.
He was a curious old man, and anything that had to do with the young woman instantly had his attention. So, any old friends of hers were ones that he wanted to meet, even if it was only through the medium of stalking and spying.
Parking across the street from the house that she had paused at, it was with interest that he watched her hesitate, the look on her face unreadable. His eyes narrowing as she finally made up her mind, Up watched carefully as Taz walked up and knocked on the door, her back straight and rigid as she did so. For a long, almost agonizing moment, it seemed as if no one would be home, making her trip for the day a waste. Seeing by the slight slump that came over her that Taz had come to the same conclusion, it was just as she was turning away that the door opened, revealing an older man, one who would have aged in at just a few years older than Up himself.
Just by looking at him, Up knew that this must have been a 'friend' that Taz had made after she had joined the Rangers.
Wincing as the man swept Taz into a hug, their combined laughter reaching his ears even through the closed window, Up's grip on the steering wheel tightened until his knuckled turned white, the metal forming imprints under his right hand as he clenched his teeth to keep his tongue.
It was no secret, at least to himself and a few others, that he liked Taz as more than a friend. And seeing her in the arms of another man just pissed him off.
When, a moment later, a woman that was closer to the man's age appeared, peeling Taz from his grip to get her own hug from the small Hispanic woman, Up found himself relaxing, his eyes quickly taking in the matching wedding bands that the older couple was wearing, thus making it unlikely that Taz was having an affair with him. Perhaps, he couldn't help but muse as he watched the three stand under the warm sunlight and talk, he really was just an old, paranoid fool. For all he knew, the couple could have been friends from her childhood, people who hadn't lived in the village but who had been there enough times that she had become close to them. For all he knew, she had been telling the complete and utter truth, and he had just misread her. It had been years since they had worked together, and although the trust and faith in each other had been rebuilt, it would still take time before a single movement would speak conversations. Deciding that it was time to leave Taz to her friends and continue about with his own day, Up took the car out of park and turned the old fashion key that would start the engine.
Even the roar that filled his ears couldn't drown out the high pitched cry that kept him sitting there for the rest of the day, watching through the windows at the scene he never thought he would live to see.
"Momma, Momma! You came home!"
"Of course, Alejandro," Taz laughed as she lifted the tottering two year old into her arms, peppering his face with kisses as she did so. "I said I would, and has Mamá ever broken her promises to you?" Still laughing as the little boy started to explain exactly how she had kept all of her promises to him, never once giving him reason to think that she wouldn't, the four of them returned to the confines of the house, closing the door behind them as they did. Leaving a very confused Up outside to spend the rest of the time he sat there wondering just how this had all happened.
It was another week, a week full of sneaking around and spying on Taz and her son, before he was finally able to confront her on the issue.
His timing couldn't have been worse.
It was during their weekly movie night, Karate Kid- the good one with Jackie Chan-playing in the background as his thoughts consumed his attention. Taz, as was her habit, had just paused the movie before the final fight scene to refill their popcorn bowl, giving them a few minutes to do nothing but talk and relax as the microwave did its work. This time, however, instead of their playful, easy banter or the deep, in-depth conversations about work and life that they seemed to switch between each week, Up just had to open his mouth and let the words that he had wanted to ask for so long become real.
"Why didn't you ever tell me you had a son?"
"How did you find out," Taz asked after a few seconds of silence, her hand hovering over the popcorn flavoring that Up had purposefully moved so that it was out of her reach after their last movie night, when he had barely been able to feel his tongue for the spices covering it. Although her voice was light, he could sense the danger within her words, the ever present anger that seemed to simmer within her a tad bit more real than it had been a few minutes ago. Swallowing as he realized that he needed to come up with something quickly, it was with a forced shrug that he answered.
"I…I've been going through the crew's records, adding info about Bug World, making sure that everything's up to date like a good Commander should, and I sort of saw in your that you had one."
"Liar," was her only response as she finally continued to move, her fingers finding the seasoning she had been searching for. "Did you really think that you could follow me Up, and I wouldn't realized it was you?"
"You knew," Up asked cautiously, eyeing the plastic container of spices that she was upending over the popcorn, securely afraid in the knowledge that, if she wanted to, the Ranger could easily kill him with it. "Why didn't you say anything before now?"
"Because," Taz replied with a shrug as she shook the snack, her attention focused on her task of making sure that each piece was properly coated, "I wanted to know why you were following me, and I wanted you to bring it up. Do not get me wrong, for I will be killing you later, but only if I dislike what you have to say." Finally turning so that she was facing him, her arms crossed under her chest as she tried to make herself seem taller and more intimidating then she actually was, it was with a blank face that Taz waited for him to give her a reason to not finish the robot's job right then and there.
"I dunno Taz," Up admitted with a sigh, running one of his hands through his hair as he did so. "I was curious, so I followed you. I was only going to the one day, but then, seeing you with him, seeing you actually seem happy, I just wanted to keep seeing it. So I kept tailin' you." Blushing slightly as he realized that he had just said far too much, though by the look on her face Taz hadn't understood the hidden meaning behind his words that he himself was only just starting to completely realize were true, it was with a slight frown that he looked her in the eye, making his face seem as small and pathetic as he could. "Sorry?"
"Stop it. You are being pathetic," Taz said seriously as she walked back over towards the couch, the bowl of popcorn balanced on her hip. She was, Up couldn't help but notice, in a much better mood then he had ever seen her, seeming actually calm and content with the world instead of her usual frustrated and annoyed. Shifting himself so that she had enough room to sit down, it wasn't until after she had settled herself down and they were about to continue the movie that he asked the other question that had been bothering him for the past week.
"So, do you know who the father is?"
He really, really needed to learn how to keep his mouth shut.
"Did you…just imply…what I think you just implied?" A shiver ran down Up's spine as Taz spoke, her tone no longer trying to hide the fiery temper that she contained. If he had been in danger just minutes before, now he was all but dead, for even he would have a difficult time navigating the storm that was about to break if he didn't do something to calm it. Mentally backtracking as he realized just how wrong his sentence had come out, it was with eyes focused on the fist that was clenched around the edge of the bowl that he tried to smooth over the feathers he had just ruffled.
"N-no, Taz, you know I would never even think about-"
"Because," Taz said loudly, drowning out Up's voice as she rose to her full height, forcing Up to cower before her even though her head only came up an inch or two over his, even with him sitting down. "It seemed to me as if you were implying that I was some little puta." It was with a snarl that Taz spat out the final word, her usage of the curse striking another cord of fear in the Commander. His eyes continuously flickering between the large, thick, heavy plastic bowl and the pocket where she kept her knife, a small part of him couldn't help but wonder how, exactly, his Lieutenant was finally going to kill him: would she smash in his head with a bowl of overly flavored popcorn, or would she just stab him through the heart and be done with it?
Seeing as how neither option was preferable over the other, Up decided to take another step into his grave and try to explain himself. Some would think that he would have learned long ago that just letting Taz's anger run its course was the best way to stay alive, but Up was never one to take precautions when it came to his favorite Ranger.
"That came out wrong Taz, and if yah would just give me a chance to speak, you would know that," Up growled back, shoring up his courage and refusing to let himself be intimidated by the terrifying woman. At least on the outside, because on the inside, he was quivering more than the jelly she wanted to pour into his belly. "I meant 'if you know, have you told the poor man that he's a father or not.' And if you haven't, then why? The boy could be living with him instead of your friends. Like I said, I'm curious, and though I don't know the whole story, I do know enough to understand that it's been the three of you raisin' your boy. I wanna know what happened to the bastard that sired him."
Even as the words left his mouth, Up came to the startling conclusion that the rage behind them was not some mask that he had thrown on. Although it was technically none of his concern, for Taz had made it clear that her life was her own, the thought of her being with anyone in such a way that would produce a child, then have the father run off, leaving her alone, bothered him. Not just because of the feelings he tried too hard to deny for the woman, of course, it bothered him for other reasons too, though at that moment he would be hard pressed to think of them. If he had been able, he would have done nothing less than to hunt the son of a bitch down and kill him for her. Since he wasn't, she was the one who had to face him.
"What I do with my life is none of your business, Up," Taz said, biting her tongue to keep her from saying something she would later regret. If they had been anywhere other than Earth, she would have let him have it, but here, where there were actually people who cared about the chain of command and ceremonies rather than telling it like it was so that the job could get done, even something said in the privacy of their own ship had the potential to reach the wrong ears, doing damage to them both.
Gritting her teeth, it was with a huff that she pushed herself away from the couch, ready to leave the moment she had had her say. "I never told the father because he has no reason to know. And besides…" Here her voice wavered slightly, as if she was fighting back an emotion stronger then anger, though with her back turned towards him, he couldn't quite be sure. Letting out a frustrated sigh, Taz allowed her head to fall against the door with a soft thud, the tension running out of her body for the single moment that she revealed herself to him. A moment later, she was once again the furious Taz that he had seen come into being a minute before, stalking her way out of his room in preference of the gym, the movie remaining unwatched for the rest of the night as Up worked his way through her meaning loaded sentence.
"I might be a tough son of a bitch, Up, but even I am scared to find out how the father might react if he knew he had a son."
It took two weeks of tension, beating each other up while sparring, and overly polite words that made their teeth ache, but when Taz waltzed into his room two weeks after their fight, Up knew that it was finally behind them. Neither of them had apologized and neither of them had been forgiven, but nonetheless the argument was over. And to be honest, Up was just happy that things had been resolved so easily, for even though he was doing everything he could to deny it on the outside, on the inside, he was just happy to have her near, no matter her past. He had always liked Taz, and even the fact that she had had a child with some unknown guy wasn't enough to change that.
However, in those two weeks, Up still hadn't learned that he should really just keep his mouth shut and enjoy the moment.
"Can I meet him?"
Once again, he had waited until the movie had been paused before the final battle, Taz once again reaching for the plastic container of spices that he had once again purposefully placed a bit too high for her to obtain easily. Perhaps part of him thought that it would eventually discourage her from making the popcorn completely inedible to anyone but her, but the rest of him knew that it was only because it gave them a few more minutes to talk before the movie consumed the rest of their night.
"Hmm," she asked distractedly, her eyes narrowing slightly as the tips of her fingers just missed the container she wanted. "What was that, Up?"
"Can I meet your son?"
"Why would you want to do that," Taz asked after a few moments, her hand still sneaking across the wooden shelve in an attempt to reach the spices. "I guess you could," she said a moment later with a shrug, "but why?"
"I dunno," he replied with a shrug, not truly sure himself. "From what I saw he seemed like a good kid, and I wanted to meet him."
"He is," Taz said with a nod as she finally found the spices, sighing happily as she began to pour a generous amount over the popcorn. "A good kid, I mean. I am going to take him to the park tomorrow, so, if you want, you could join us." All of this was said with a shrug as she finished doctoring the food, her last few words accompanied by the satisfying crush of corn between her teeth as she returned to the couch. "I think he would like that."
"Then it's a date," Up replied, smiling as he reached over to grab a handful. It would hurt his tongue something fierce, but at the moment he was too pleased with himself to really care.
He was going to meet Taz's son, and that worth it all.
When Taz had told him that she and Alejandro would arrive at the address she had written down for him by noon, Up had been excited. He was going to get to meet someone who had been a large part of Taz's life for the last three years, and he was glad that he was going to get the chance.
He was also terrified- terrified that he would screw up, that he would do something to make the kid, and thus Taz, hate his guts- but that he could control. Ever since he had proven he was still a killer on Bug World, he'd gotten better at that. Kind of. Not really, but he'd gotten good at faking it.
So, when Taz arrived, holding tight to Alejandro's hand, he was able to greet them with a smile and offer to pay for some ice cream, something the toddler quickly accepted in his mother's stead.
It ended up being a nice afternoon, the three of them wandering through the park, he and Taz casually chatting while Alejandro toddled off on his stumpy little kid legs, racing after butterflies and examining anything that caught his eye. They enjoyed their ice cream, played on the swings, and even managed to make the teeter-totter work (though it took Alejandro, Taz, and a couple of pocketful's of rocks to weight enough that Up didn't have to manually move them). It was, overall, quite a nice day.
Until he asked about the kid's age, and Taz, who had been uncharacteristically warm, clammed up.
"I don't need to know his exact birthday, if you don't want me to," Up finally said with a sigh, shaking his head, confused as to her sudden secrecy. "I'm just curious about a general age. "
He was curious about when she had gotten pregnant, had been wondering about it ever since he had found out her little secret. Mostly because part of him was wondering if she had been pregnant during the final battle.
She'd been sick about that time, he could remember, a little bit green around the gills. Nothing too bad, and it tended to clear up after a few hours each day, but it had been enough that he had tried to ground her for the final battle, make her stay behind and defend the med tents so many of their men would need. She had refused, threatening to kill him herself if he made her stay behind, and so he had given in, letting her have her way.
Part of him had always wondered if that was why Taz had managed to get surrounded- sick as she was, if a bout of the illness had struck in the middle of the battle, slowing her ever so slightly…
He always cut off that slippery train of thought, because that could easily turn into thoughts about how the outcome of the battle could have gone had she just stayed back, and Up refused to humor those thoughts. Refused to let them consume him, turn him against the woman he'd been in love with for the last four years, refused to do any of that.
So instead he focused on the present, on the current, and asked about the past with only general curiosity.
That Taz saw through, because after a few minutes she looked up at him with slightly misted eyes and nodded.
"I was two months," she said softly, her gaze turning back to her child, watching as he stood staring at a particularly large rock. "When the final battle happened, when you were…" She trailed off, shaking her head to clear it. "I was two months along, by my best estimate."
Which just confirmed his suspicions. And also confirmed his suspicions that the father had to be one of their unit mates.
They had been a specialized team, six men, four women, who had been chosen to lead the last of humanity's armies into the final battle. All good soldiers, all good kids- Up had been the oldest by a long shot, somehow surviving to become almost everyone's superior by sheer luck alone. And most of them had died. Where ten had gone in, four had come out: himself, Taz, and two of the women (though that hadn't surprised him. He had married them himself the night before the battle started, and they had sworn to see the other side together. A promise they had kept. They still kept in contact, when deep space's shoddy Wi-Fi let them).
But Taz had been fond of all the men, in her own way, and the idea of her spending the night with any of them, which is made his teeth ache, was a possibility.
She had spent the night with him more than several times during their tours together, the remainder of their battle highs put to good use on the shitty bedrolls they were issued when they could gain a moment alone. But there had also been nights when she hadn't chosen him, when he hadn't chosen her, when both of them had found someone else to be by their side, as had been their right.
But now that he had narrowed it down…
"Taz," Up said softly, watching as Alejandro, who had come up with a rolly polly is his cubby baby hands to show them, wandered off again, "all the men in our unit are dead. And I know it was one of those glorious bastard's who're his father. Why won't you tell me who he is? It's not like they'll care."
Taz stiffened, a dangerous look coming over her face as she glanced at him out of the corner of her eye, the same look she always got when she was trying to figure out the best way to disembowel someone. Holding up his hands as a sign of peace, Up physically stood his ground, even if he backed down verbally.
"Alright, alright," he gave in- they had two more days left on the planet, and he didn't want to get back on the ship with stitches. "You don't have to say anything. Though I'll keep being a nosy old man and wondering." He gave her a smile, one of his award winning ones, before turning away towards the boy.
It was getting late, and he wanted to treat the two of them to dinner. If you were in love with a boy's mother, you were in love with the boy as well, and Up was hoping the kid would take after his Mom and that the fastest way to his heart would be through his stomach. Especially if he let the boy choose where they went to eat.
He paused, though, as he heard Taz speak.
"I wrote 'unknown' on his birth certificate, when they asked for his father's name," Taz finally said, her voice almost too low for him to hear- but only just almost. "Sexual fraternization between an upper officer and his subordinates can result in the officer being dismissed from duty, court marshaled, or blasted into space, as per G.L.E.E. regulations."
It almost seemed as if the two statements were unrelated, but hearing them both, Up could feel his heart jump in his chest, the rush of blood almost roaring through his veins, both organic and robotic. He wanted to turn around, wanted to say something, anything at all, but his tongue was frozen.
"As for the subordinate," Taz continued, "the general course of action is to dismiss them from service and return them to civilian status. Due to my… overly active participation in the direct downfall of the robots, I was given a choice. My friends- fourth cousins, twice removed, through marriage- can't have kids. They were willing to take him in and raise him while I continued my life. And since G.L.E.E. couldn't confirm who the father was, they had no other course then to accept it and suck it." Her voice was almost gleeful at the idea of flicking off the superior G.L.E.E. officers in any way possible, though Up couldn't confirm.
His body was still frozen, even if his tongue had found life.
"But you're sure?"
She walked past him after that, heading on over to Alejandro, lifting him into her arms and turning back to face him, an almost soft him on her normally hard face. A smile that Alejandro gave as well, his nose wrinkling, his eyes crinkling, his wide baby teeth showing brightly in the sun.
A familiar smile Up saw in the mirror, and one that he gave back as he watched the woman he loved and the child he couldn't claim as his own. Not yet, not until he was done being a Ranger- he wanted to, oh he wanted to, but to do so would be to mess it up for Taz, and he couldn't do that.
But one say he would claim his baby, one day hopefully soon.