I’ll Stand by You
By Margaret Noel
Featuring artwork by Holly Bennett
Tale © 2014 by Margaret Noel-Whitten
Artwork © 2014 by Holly Bennett
All Rights Reserved.
Artwork: “Derek” © 2014 by Holly Bennett
It had been another horrendous day, in what, of late, had been a series of horrendous days. That thought crossed Derek Wildstar’s mind as he softly closed the hatch to his quarters. He paused for a moment, opening the bond he shared with Nova. He’d held her in his arms until she’d drifted off to sleep and wanted to be sure he had not disturbed her when he had slipped off their bunk, laying her back against the pillows. He was reluctant to leave her, given what she had just been through but as the ship’s commanding officer he had no choice. He had to confirm the status of repairs. Having no idea when the Argo might be attacked again, he needed the vessel battle ready as soon as possible. Satisfied she was still sleeping, Derek headed down the corridor. Turning the corner he saw Nova’s mother, Teri Forrester heading toward him, a thunderous look on her face.
“Oh lord.” He cringed. “She looks pissed. On top of everything else this is just what I need right now.”
His relationship with his mother-in-law could be described as tumultuous at best and he had learned quickly to give her a wide berth when she was in a mood. Instinctively Derek knew this encounter was not going to be pleasant as she stormed up to him but he was unprepared for the full extent of her wrath. Teri Forrester struck him across the face with such force that his head snapped back, the sound echoing along the empty corridor. The metallic taste of blood in his mouth told him his lip was split and for a moment, Derek was too stunned to speak. All he could do was stare, open mouthed, at the small hysterical woman before him.
“Attacked! Almost raped!” She screeched at him raising her hand, determined to strike him a second time. “How could you let that happen?”
Derek was livid. He grabbed his mother-in law’s wrist. “Because you are my wife’s mother, and you are clearly upset, I am going to let this incident slide but if you EVER strike me again, or any member of this crew for that matter, I will forget who you are and you will find yourself in the brig. Are we clear?”
Having worked herself into a rage, Teri failed to heed the note of warning in her son-in-law’s voice. She continued her assault.
“What were you thinking? She’s your wife and she’s pregnant! How could you send her into danger like that?” She spat the words at him, her tone venomous. “She’s already lost one baby, do you care so little for the ones she’s still carrying?”
“Wow!” Derek was completely taken aback by the cruelty of her words; stunned disbelief on his face. “I cannot believe you would actually say something like that to me. I know we have had our differences but that is a new low, even for you.” His expression icy, he continued. “As for my children, since you asked, I love them more than my life and that includes the twins Nova is carrying. I would gladly die to keep them safe or kill anyone who tried to harm them. Never doubt that.”
“Keep them safe!” she snorted “None of us are safe, not on this ship.”
“What we do is dangerous.” He replied, taking a deep breath in an attempt to get his temper under control “Under normal circumstances there would be no civilians on board this vessel. The Argo is a battleship, Mrs. Forrester, not a cruise ship; I am sorry if that fact causes you distress.”
She looked as if she was about to respond but Derek cut her off. “Nova is my wife and I am well aware that she is pregnant; I do not need you to remind me. There is something you don’t seem to understand. She is also a member of this crew, one of my finest officers, as well as a newly appointed emissary for New Pellias and as such is expected to carry out those duties. Every member of this crew understands the dangers they face on any mission, Nova included. Never think for a moment, have I ever made the decision lightly to send any member of my crew into danger, especially my wife!”
“I want to see my daughter.” Teri demanded.
Folding his arms across his chest Derek shook his head. “No.”
Teri could not believe what she was hearing. She scowled at him. “What do you mean no!”
“Just exactly what I said, NO!” Derek felt as if he was dealing with a petulant child, unaccustomed to being told no. “Nova is sleeping right now, as are the twins, and if you think for one moment I am going to let you wake her up and upset her you are sadly mistaken.”
“But I’m her mother. She needs me.” She shrieked, jabbing Derek in the chest with her finger. “To be violated like that! Do you have any idea how she must be feeling?”
Derek glared at his mother-in-law “Yes Mrs. Forrester, as a matter of fact, given my own recent experiences, I know EXACTLY how she is feeling.” With that, he turned on his heal and walked away leaving his mother-in-law staring daggers into his retreating back.
The encounter with Nova’s mother had really touched a nerve. Teri Forrester’s angry accusations had brought all the doubt, anger and guilt Derek had been struggling with rushing to the surface. Her words stung as much as when she had slapped him. She had no way of knowing she had given voice to the very questions he had been asking himself and that he did, in fact, blame himself for many of the incidents that had recently occurred.
When Derek had left his quarters, his intention had been to go directly to the bridge, he found himself instead in the makeshift music room Nova and Deke Wakefield had set up as a rehearsal space for their band Infinity. When they were at home Nova often played the piano as a way to relax especially if she was stressed or needed to clear her head. Derek couldn’t help but wonder if subconsciously she had directed him here, knowing he needed a few minutes alone to get his warring emotions back under control.
“What else could possibly happen on this mission?” he wondered as he sat down at Nova’s keyboard, running his fingers over the keys.
Unwilling to go where that train of thought would inevitably lead, Derek instead began to play letting the music carry him away. Unknown to Nova, he had actually learned to play the piano as a child, his mother, an accomplished pianist in her own right, had insisted. The first serious piece he had learned to play was his mother’s favourite, Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. After she had been killed he had never played again. The memory of her sitting with him, listening while he practiced, was just too painful. Arriving home one afternoon, several months ago, he entered his living room to the sound of Nova playing that very piece. It had brought him to tears. Even then he had not been able to tell her why that piece had such an impact on him. He did tell her it had been his mother’s favourite piece of music.
A few weeks ago, while flipping through one of the many music books that Paul Rosstowski had left in the rehearsal room, he had found a song that summed up everything he wanted to say to Nova. With the help of Wakefield and Rosstowski he had been planning to surprise Nova by performing it for her. Dusting off his rusty skills, he had been relearning to play the piano, and had actually gotten pretty good. (Better then good according to Sasha) Thinking about the lyrics he felt they were even more appropriate now than when he had first read them.
Playing the opening notes of “I’ll Stand by You” by 20th century band The Pretenders, Derek began to sing.
Oh, why you look so sad?
Tears are in your eyes
Come on and come to me now
Don’t be ashamed to cry
Let me see you through
‘Cause I’ve seen the dark side too
When the night falls on you
You don’t know what to do
Nothing you confess
Could make me love you less
I’ll stand by you
I’ll stand by you
Won’t let nobody hurt you
I’ll stand by you
“Won’t let nobody hurt you” came out as a broken sob as the lyrics really hit him... “Oh God Nova, how I wish that was true.” Bitter tears rolled down his cheeks.
Derek felt as if he owed the entire crew an apology. This was not the mission they had signed up for. Nothing had gone as expected. It should have been a simple diplomatic trip to Gamilon and Iscandar for trade negotiations. Since leaving Earth the Argo had found itself embroiled in serious battles with the Bolar Federation, the R’Khells and even Ekogaru himself. Derek held himself personally accountable for the members of his crew who had been wounded and killed. He viewed every death of a crew member as a failure of his command ability. The Argo was currently undergoing repairs from the damage sustained during its most recent battle with the Bolars. The presence of civilians on board, including children, his own among them added an additional layer of stress. So far he felt fortunate that no harm had come to any of them.
“Nova’s mother is right.” Derek thought “I can’t keep them safe. They should not even be here.” The entire situation was ludicrous. He was not sure whether to laugh or cry and he could not help but wonder how much longer their luck would hold out. Taking a deep breath he got up from the keyboard and walked out of the music room. Duty called.
A few minutes later, Derek arrived on the bridge. To all outward appearances he was the picture of calm authority. In reality he was anything but. Through the bond he shared with Nova he knew she was not sleeping well, plagued by nightmares, reliving the assault she had suffered at the hands of the Bolars. Horrifying, graphic images, he could not shut out, had flashed through his mind, shaking him to the core.
Mark Venture looked up in surprise from his post at navigation, “Wildstar I thought you were planning to stay with Nova.”
“I was but she’s sleeping right now.” He replied “With the way this mission has been going we need to be ready for anything. I want status reports on all systems and a progress report on the repair work.”
“Yes sir.” Getting up from his post Venture walked over to Wildstar, who was standing next to the Captain’s chair, handing him the reports he had been looking at moments before. “Derek is everything all right?” He asked “You seem a little distracted.”
“I’m sorry Mark, you’re right, I am distracted” he answered unconsciously rubbing his swollen lower lip “I had a rather unpleasant encounter with Nova’s mother.”
Venture’s eyes widened as he noticed Derek’s lip for the first time. “She did that?” At Wildstar’s nod he continued “I gather she is unhappy with you right now.”
Derek flung himself into the Captain’s chair and sighed. “Venture that woman has been unhappy with me since the day Nova brought me home to meet her. Apparently an EDF Officer is not her idea of an ideal husband for her daughter and now she really believes it.”
Venture was appalled. “She cannot actually be blaming you for what happened. That’s ridiculous.”
“Oh she’s blaming me three ways to Sunday. Maybe she’s right.”
“Wildstar you don’t mean that” Mark said, placing a supportive hand on his friend’s shoulder. “And you know Nova would never think that.”
“That’s easy for you to say Mark but ask yourself how you’d feel if Holly had almost been raped and while it was happening you could hear her screaming inside your head for your help but there was nothing you could do.” Derek looked at his best friend, unshed tears in his eyes. “What if she could share her nightmares with you; images of what they had done to her. Can you honestly tell me you wouldn’t blame yourself?”
“I don’t know.” Mark replied truthfully. “I really don’t know.”
The strain he was feeling was clearly evident on Derek’s face. Recent events had taken their toll. To Mark it appeared that his Captain was close to his breaking point. “Wildstar you look like hell. When was the last time you slept?”
He shrugged in response.
“Commodore, I am assuming command, consider yourself relieved.”
For a moment he just stared at his First Officer. “What, no…”
“Derek get some rest. You said it yourself, we have no idea what could be coming next and the Argo needs to be ready for anything; same goes for her skipper.” That said another thought occurred to him. “Where are the twins?”
‘With Nova in our quarters,” Derek replied.
“No that won’t work,” Venture muttered to himself. Looking across the bridge a solution came to mind. “Lieutenant Wakefield, I’d like a word please.”
Sasha Wakefield got up from her post at the Cosmo Radar and approached the Captain’s station, saluting the two senior officers. ‘Yes Sirs”
“Sasha this is not an order but rather a request. Would you mind going with your Uncle to his quarters and taking Alex and Ariel back to your quarters so he can get some rest.”
Sasha smiled. “It would be my pleasure. Star will be thrilled to have them for company.”
Mark grinned in return. “I’ve got the bridge.”
Knowing he had been well and truly bested and that it was pointless to argue Wildstar left the 1st bridge in the capable hand of his First Officer.
As the hatch to her quarters opened and Derek and Sasha came in Nova Wildstar looked up from her position seated cross-legged on the floor. She had been building a tower with her son and daughter; blocks were strewn across the floor. Getting to her feet she kissed her husband’s cheek. “I was not expecting you back yet.”
Sasha grinned at Derek’s frown. “Captain Venture is currently in command,” she explained, “The Commodore has been ordered to get some rest.”
Nova was about to reply when a small hand tugging on her yoga pants took her attention.
“Mommy, we have not finished our tower.” Alex Wildstar looked up expectantly at his mother a block in his hand.
Before Nova could respond Sasha knelt down in front of him. “How would you and Ariel like to take your blocks to my quarters? I know Star would love to help you build a tower.”
Delighted squeals filled the room. Alex looked excitedly at his mother, “Can we Mommy?
Nova glanced at Derek, “If it’s okay with your father.”
Ariel walked over to her father and held up her arms. Derek stooped to pick up his daughter. Looking directly into his face, kissing his cheek as her mother had done, she asked, “Can we Daddy?”
Hugging his daughter and dropping a kiss on the top of her head, Derek smiled and nodded. “Of course you can. Go have fun.”
The decision made there was a rapid flurry of activity as the twins belongings were gathered for their stay with Sasha.
When they were finally alone Nova turned to her husband she could sense he was struggling with something but was unsure what. “Derek is anything wrong? Why is Mark in command?”
Derek was standing in front of his open locker, stripping off his uniform. He stopped what he was doing and looked at his wife. “Apparently he has determined that until I get some rest, I am not fit for command.” Pulling Nova into his arms, he grinned down into her concerned face. “I know he’s right, I do need some rest. Just don’t tell him I said so okay.”
“Not a word.” Nova laughed. A moment later she turned serious, running her finger across his lip. “What happened? Were you fighting? Did someone hit you?”
“Yes, as a matter of fact, your mother.”
Nova was horrified. “You can’t be serious.”
“I know she is your mother but that woman has a way of getting on my last nerve.” Derek turned back to his locker, stripping off the rest of his uniform and pulling out a pair of pajama pants. “That's enough about her. I am going to take a shower and then try to get some sleep.”
Nova opened her locker and took out her nightshirt. “I think I will take a nap with you, if you don’t mind, that is.” Pulling off the t-shirt and yoga pants she had been wearing. “And maybe I’ll be able to get you to tell me what’s really troubling you” she thought. Nova did not need their bond to tell her he was upset.
Derek looked at his wife, intending to reply. The sight of her standing there in nothing but her white bikini panties, her baby bump clearly visible above the waistband, he was struck by just how fragile she looked. The bruises she had sustained during her attack were clearly visible on her upper arms. The image of just how she had gotten those bruises flashed through his mind, making his heart twist.
Nova immediately felt his reaction, a wave of anger and guilt. Her eyes filled with tears. “They don’t hurt.” She said in an attempt to reassure him. “I’m okay.”
Feeling his control slipping and not wanting her to see just how upset he really was Derek headed directly into the bathroom and closed the door. After sliding the lock in place, something he never did, he leaned against the door, his heart hammering. The sight of bruises on Nova’s fragile form was his complete undoing. For the first time since she had been attacked he allowed himself to cry.
Standing in the shower hot water flowed over him mingling with the bitter tears that rolled down his cheeks. Memories of everything that had occurred during the past weeks assailed him. A slide show of horrors, the ship being attacked, crew members being killed, being attacked by Aliscea, Nova’s miscarriage; each image was more graphic than the last flashed through his mind.
How long he had stood there Derek did not know but when he finally stepped from the shower he was shaking. Drying himself quickly he pulled on his pajama pants. As the images of what Nova had endured at the hands of the Bolar’s again flashed through his mind Derek could stand it no more.
“NOOOOOOOOOOOOO! NO MORE!” he screamed. “OH GOD I AM SO SORRY! I’m so sorry!” Balling his hands into fits he smashed them into his reflection in the mirror on the wall, shattering it. Stumbling back against the wall he slid to the floor. Feelings of guilt and failure overwhelmed him. Oblivious to the blood flowing down his arms from the deep gashes in his hands Derek dropped his head into his hands and went completely to pieces.
To be continued in Part 2