I was not having a good day. The phone was ringing when I stepped into the office at 0700 hours this morning. It was now 1430 and the fax had just disgorged another message, the phone was ringing yet again, and my email box was flashing another incoming message. It was days like this that made me really hate technology. Welcome to my Monday.
I poured the last dregs of the coffee out and knocked half of it back, grimacing. Cold coffee was nasty stuff. I gave my ‘in’ box another glance. Too many reports, too many forms to file. And I was hungry. On a whim, I dialed Angie’s extension and waited.
"Angie, you wouldn’t happen to know if either Lee or Chip are in at the moment, would you?" I asked, fingers crossed. I needed a distraction and those two could be plenty distracting at times. There was a pause and I could hear the keyboard clicking as she checked the schedule with my senior officers’ secretaries.
"Chip is in a meeting with IT for the next couple of hours and Lee is on the dock, overseeing the installation of the new lighting system on Seaview. Did you need either of them for something?"
"No, I was just wandering if either were up for lunch."
"Would you like me to have something delivered for you, sir?" Angie asked.
Angie Watson would move heaven and earth for me if I asked it of her. I considered it for a second then decided against it. "No, I just need some air. I’ll go down and grab something from the cafeteria. Thank you anyway, Angie." I had just hung up the phone when it rang again, the caller ID blinking Angie’s extension. I picked up the receiver, curious. "Yes?"
"Um, you asked to be told if Doctor Harrison came in. She just checked in with security. They say she’s on her way—check that—she just walked in the door."
"Does she look upset?"
"No, she looks, well, resigned?"
"I’d imagine so. If she asks to see me, would you send her in?"
I wandered around my office for a few moments, too restless to sit or stay still. There was a lot at stake at the moment. There were a lot of misconceptions that really needed to be cleared up. Thirty-two years of misconceptions, if I had done the math correctly. This is not the way I had wanted to do this. Of course, I hadn’t counted on her forcing the issue with Liz. After thirty-two years of silence Liz Stanton had finally relented and given her daughter the one thing she had always wanted: the name of her father.
The office door opened a crack and the petite form of the Institute's newest member, so far the only Marine Archaeologist on the payroll, entered. She shut the door behind her and stood there, her hands jammed in the pockets of her denim jacket. For not the first time I found myself studying her, looking for Liz and seeing more and more of myself. It was unnerving to say the least.
"I think we need to talk," Serena said finally. I couldn’t help but notice she was in turn studying me, no doubt looking for those same similarities.
"Shall I call you Serena or would you prefer Doctor Harrison?" I asked. Tread carefully, I reminded myself. This could get ugly. I already knew she carried years of anger with her mother. Until now, Liz had never seen any real reason to tell Serena who her real father was. The trick was convincing her of the truth; that I never knew she existed until I saw her in Sickbay following the incident that brought us together. I suspected who she was then and had arranged for the San Isabella expedition. Confirmation had come when the background check on her turned up the very familiar name of Elizabeth Stanton, a lovely journalist whom I’d had the immense pleasure of knowing thirty-two years ago.
"First names would be best I think. Might be better to keep this casual for now, at least till we work this out," she said in a low voice. Serena moved slowly into the office. She was still studying me.
“I’d like it if you called me Harry," I told her.
"At least in private," Serena added.
"Alright." I sat the glass down and perched myself on the edge of my desk. I would have liked to have had a cigarette, but decided against it. Serena was asthmatic and I didn’t want her gasping for breath when we needed to come to grips with our past.
"I’ve had a chat with Mom."
"So have I. Liz was surprised to see me. "
Serena sank down into one of the leather-covered chairs in front of my monstrosity of a desk. She took a deep breath before continuing. "You never knew?" she asked.
Liz’s green eyes stared up at me. I remembered her eyes so well. I considered my answer carefully before continuing. "If I had known you were my daughter, I’d have been there for you. I swear it. Nothing would have stopped me."
"I believe you. I thought . . . I . . . well . . . I thought . . . oh hell . . . I thought I would hate you. I thought you didn’t want to be there for me as a child. It never occurred to me that she never told you. But after meeting you, now knowing who you are, I can’t find it in myself to stay angry. Knowing how Mom is. She never wanted me to know about you. It’s not your fault and I know that now.”
My daughter. I had accepted that I had a son, even if he wasn’t mine by birth or name but a daughter…there was just something surreal about the whole thing. Serena was watching me, those eyes so like her mother’s taking in everything and missing nothing. “She wanted me to not tell you. As if I could walk away now…” It hurt to force those words out. I was making Elizabeth out to be some kind of villain. But Serena only nodded.
“Figures. Nothing she does surprises me,” she said. “Mom thinks you’re a bad influence, that you’ll encourage me to stay in marine work. I don’t want anything else. I can’t make her understand that. She’s fixated on the idea of me taking over the company when she’s ready to retire. I don’t want it. Give it to my cousins. I am happy where I am.”
The last sentence had a double meaning, I know it did. “Am I a bad influence?”
My daughter smiled. “One of the worst.”
I returned the grin but had to be serious. "The question now is do you want to continue to keep this a secret? We could, you know. The crew would never say a word if they figured things out." I knew Seaview's crew. They would carry this to the grave if need be.”
"That captain of yours already suspects something. I’ve caught him watching us. You’re not going to be able to fool him for very long," Serena said. I had noticed the same thing. Lee was already forming his own conclusions. At some point he would no doubt corner me about it if I gave him the chance.
"What Lee suspects, Chip will ferret out," I said. At the mention of Chip’s name she was suddenly very fidgety. She certainly avoided my gaze. Interesting. She stood and wandered over to the windows overlooking the docks. It was Lee’s habit to stand there, watching his Gray Lady. I found the scene a little amusing, the son of my soul and daughter of my body, enjoying the same view, or should I have said Seaview? Sometimes I was too clever for my own good.
"This is going to take some getting used to. I don’t know how to be an admiral’s daughter. I’m not sure I know how to be anybody’s daughter. I’m assuming you think this is something better keep under wraps?”
“I have a lot of enemies. You would be a tempting target. I think just a handful of people can be trusted with this. Liz won’t tell.”
Serena snorted. “That’s one secret she’s used to keeping. Are we square then?" she asked turning to face me. I crossed the distance between her and myself. Without thinking, without even realizing either of us had made the move, we were caught in an embrace, me holding my daughter close to my heart, Serena holding on to me like I was a lifeline. The move had surprised me. I wasn’t one for emotional displays. We stood that way for a long time before either broke away. I held her by the shoulders and she looked up at me, her green eyes glittering suspiciously.
"Think you can handle this?" I asked her. "I know it’s a lot to deal with on such short notice. Do you need some time before I tell my officers?"
Serena Leigh Harrison—Nelson, I added mentally—favored me with a crooked smile and wiggled an eyebrow. I should have seen it then, the first hint that my daughter attracted more than her fair share of trouble. Like father like daughter I suppose.