I Have Loved You All My Life

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I'm young and I love to be young,

I'm free and I love to be free,

To live my life the way I want,

To say and do whatever I please.

– Lesley Gore (You Don't Own Me)

=/\=

"Well, well, well," the Empress said, looking at Rick. "You're none the worse for wear. It's been a good thirty-six years, yet you're still fresh as a daisy."

"It's time travel, Hoshi," he replied, "for me; it hasn't been over thirty years. It's been less than nine."

"That's convenient," she said, "so, how do you like how your son turned out?" she indicated Jun.

"I don't know how to answer that," Rick said, "Jun, I want to apologize. I wasn't able to go to the mirror universe, er, here. I'm not even supposed to be here now."

"He really is my Dad?"

"Yep," she said, "ran out on me and all."

Rick sighed. "Look, for everything that happened; I apologize. It was irresponsible of me to not use the protection that I should've used. But Jun, I want you to know that everything I have done for you, it's not much. I got it so you could live, but it was Aidan who really took the heavy hits. If there is anyone you should have ever called Dad, it was him."

"How did you get it so he could live?" Hoshi asked.

"You're a time traveler, right?" Jun asked. Rick nodded, so Jun continued, "So I bet I am a temporal paradox of some sort. I bet I can't have kids, then."

"That's right," Rick said, "it was one of the conditions. Otherwise, the Mirror government of my time would have just sent someone out to unravel everything. I did not want that to happen. You did not ask to be born but, once you existed, I never wanted them to snuff you out as if you were nothing. You were never nothing."

"Damn straight," Hoshi said, "none of my kids are."

"Then why did you just wipe the twins from history, Ma?"

"To protect you," Hoshi said, "despite how I act, despite what I do, you are still mine."

"She needs you," Rick said, "you and Kira, and Arashi and Izo. You need to stay. But the others there? They need to get out, and you need to let them go. There will be plenty of other worlds to conquer. There always are. But you need to change how you deal with this particular system. The Empire will last longer if you do. I can't say any more than that."

"Did you ever love me, Ritchie?" Hoshi asked.

Rick hesitated for a second before responding. "I'm sorry, but no, though I have never forgotten you, either of you. And I love my, my child," he said to Jun, although they were, chronologically, almost the same age, "but I know that I have never been a father to you. I wish I had been."

"Ma, let's get back to the Defiant," Jun said, "we gotta deal with stuff."

=/\=

On the surface of Lafa II, the shuttles discharged their passengers. Kira went over to Aidan and Susan. "Dad, will I ever see you again?"

"Whenever you trade here," Aidan said, with his arm around Susan's shoulders, "drop in and we'll make you dinner or something." He smiled; his eyes crinkly with age.

"Bring your wife, too," Susan said. The three of them hugged.

The Flux Capacitor landed, too, and Jennifer got out. Milton tried to join her. "I don't think so," Tom said.

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