“I’m so, so sorry,” Benjamin said for likely the dozenth time as he settled the shuttle on the landing pad. They had arrived at Trill, finally, and were still there before the wedding was supposed to start, but they were supposed to have been there three hours ago. Traffic control for the Pioneer transwarp gate had kept them from departing on time and now rather than having time for them to go settle in their hotel rooms, Benjamin had to head straight to the venue. He was glad he’d packed his Class A and ditty bag separately from the rest of his gear.
Of course, that had been Cera’s idea.
He turned to her and smiled. “I know, I know, stop apologizing, there’s nothing I could have done about it, it’ll be okay, etc. etc. Still, I feel bad and wish we could have stuck to the original plan.” He got up and went to retrieve what he needed from the back. “Just get the hotel to beam my gear to my room; I’ll pay for it, and thank you.” He gave her another smile as the shuttle’s door hit the ground, and hurried out the door.
They had already gone over where to be and when to be there, considering they were stuck in the shuttle with nothing to do for three hours, so he wasn’t worried about her making it to the wedding on time. They’d also had plenty of time to talk about the service, about his family and the like. He did hope he’d given her enough of a primer so she wouldn’t feel too out of place, though he did have to admit that a lot of what he’d told her could be out of date by now.
It’s been way too long, he thought, though that was his own damn fault. He hoped to be able to fix that after this, if only because it would be difficult to do any worse. He’d finally started talking to his sister and brother again, though they hadn’t had much in the way of a conversation these past few weeks after the rogue planet debacle. They had all been so busy, there just hadn’t been time for any of them.
Quickly, though, he arrived at the venue and was ushered in to where the groomsmen were getting ready. “Ben!” David called and crossed the room, putting his older brother in a bear hug once he reached him. “We were getting worried; only an hour and a half left before the main event!” He stopped and looked Benjamin up and down for a second. “You gonna be ready?”
“Yeah, yeah,” he said with a smile and hefted the garment bag he had slung over his shoulder. “Won’t be a problem at all.”
Benjamin looked around the room as David waved him to a corner and went back to the other groomsmen. He didn’t recognize the three men; they were friends from his assignment on Pacifica, if he remembered correctly. A human, a Pacifican in his aqua-suit, and an Andorian, they made for an eclectic mix though David had always had a penchant for having odd friends. Like that little Ferengi boy that went to school with him, he thought with a chuckle as he moved over to the side of the room and hung up his bag.
He had gotten everything out and was washing up in the attached bathroom when he heard the door open and close again. “Sorry,” he called between splashes of water as he got the shaving cream off his face, “I’ll be back out in a minute.”
“Hello, son,” he heard softly, and Benjamin felt his heart sink. He kept his hands moving, cleaning off his razor and hands before grabbing a towel to dry his face, if only to keep him from panicking or breaking down.
He’d known this was coming. Other than a single letter he’d sent just before the Artemis left dock, he hadn’t talked to him since… Well, since Iris left me, he thought. There wasn’t any way to sugarcoat it. He’d screwed up, in multiple ways, for years on end.
And now it's time to pay for that.
“Hi, dad,” he said as he turned around. The older man looked… well, older than he remembered. Where before his hair had been lightly peppered with gray, now it was gray peppered with black, though his beard was simply gray. He seemed to have lost some weight, though it was hard to tell with the suit he had on. His eyes, though, were still that brilliant green he remembered. “It’s… its been a while, hasn’t it?” It sounded terrible even as it came out of his mouth, but it was all he could find to say.
“Yeah,” Peter Elias said. “It really has.” They both chuckled at the shared awkwardness, made even worse given Benjamin’s current state of dress, caught between his travelling clothes and his dress uniform. “I…” he started, before the voice caught in his throat. He leaned back against the door frame and tried again. “I tried to find you, y’know. While you were out on that Tzenkethi run.”
Benjamin’s heart sank again. He wasn’t surprised; his dad had always been a stubborn one, and wouldn’t have given up so easily. “I didn’t know that,” was all he could say.
“I knew that Iris had left you,” he continued. “Found that out third or fourth time I tried to call you, when she finally answered and yelled at me.” He laughed. “She always was a bit of a hothead, wasn’t she?”
Benjamin chuckled, playing with the ring still on his finger. “Yeah,” he said. “She can definitely be at times.”
He wasn’t sure if Peter noticed the ring or not, but he kept going either way. “I just… Why?” he asked simply. “I love you, Ben. We’ve always been close, so I just… I just want to know why?”
Benjamin felt his eye twitch, and then he fell heavily against the wall, shoulders sagging. “I wish I had a good answer, dad,” he said. “I was… not in a good place. Iris and I had been having problems, but I never imagined… I never thought she’d…” He stopped, tears in his eyes. He breathed for a second and kept going. “So when it happened I, I just fell into a bottle. And I never wanted to climb out.”
He looked at his dad through blurred vision, trying to wipe the tears away and failing. “And I didn’t want you to see me like that. Any of you,” he amended, thinking about his brother and sister. “And by the time I’d managed to get back to something like my old self, I just… it had been so long.”
He hated this, but knew it was what needed to happen. Benjamin felt like a child, and felt so useless and miserable. No excuse was right, no reasoning would make it okay that all of this had happened. But it was what it was. He looked up, ready to face the music.
Before he could do more than just raise his head, his father had closed the distance and embraced him. It wasn’t what he’d expected, but then he wasn’t sure why it wasn’t. You know dad, he thought. All he’s ever wanted was his family, ever since mom died.
They stood like that for a while, until they heard the door open. “Oh, sorry,” David said as they stood apart and tried to wipe their eyes. “I just… nevermind, I’ll find another bathroom.”
Benjamin started to chuckle as the door closed, which made Peter start to laugh. They laughed as long as they had cried, before Benjamin tossed his dad a towel. “Good thing you still need to put a jacket on,” he said, pointing to his tear-stained shoulder.
“Eh, it’ll dry in a minute,” he said. “I’m just glad that not only am I gaining a daughter today, but I also got my son back.” That threatened to break them both down again, but they managed to hold on. Time was ticking away, after all.
“We’ll talk more later,” Benjamin promised, and Peter nodded before leaving him to finish getting ready. They all had their parts to play in the day’s pageantry, after all, and time was running out.
Once Benjamin had gotten his dress uniform on, he remembered why he hated the thing. You’d think someone would have found a way to make this thing comfortable, he thought, but of course he was wrong. He took a bit of comfort as he watched David pull at his own collar. “You ready for this, David?” he asked.
The younger Elias grinned and punched Benjamin on the shoulder. “Ready as I’ll ever be, Ben,” he said. “I just hope that Mary found your date in time,” he said.
“What? Why would she need to find Cera?”
David looked at him confused for a moment, but then the coordinator came in. “Alright, everyone, its time. David, if you’ll head up to the front; everyone else, follow me.” Benjamin looked at David, but he’d either already forgotten what they were talking about, or simply was following directions easily as he had already turned to exit the far side of the room.
I hope everything’s okay, he thought as they brought the groomsmen up to the back of the auditorium. The bridesmaids were already coming up the other side to be paired for the walk down the aisle, and Benjamin smiled at his sister Mary as she caught his eye. He was so caught off-guard by the sight of her in a dress that it took him a second to realize she was gesturing with her head, trying to draw his attention to something behind her.
Or someone. Oh, crap, he thought, as he realized what David had meant.
Evidently, one of the bridesmaids must have gotten sick, because somehow, they had gotten Cera to fill in. I’m going to owe her big time for this one, he thought.