STAR BLAZERS, SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO, and all related names and elements are copyright by Voyager Entertainment and Leiji Matsumoto. Star Blazers is a registered trademark of Jupiter Films, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Huge shout-out to Annie and Eva, who gave me the courage to let strangers read my writing!
April 8, 2202
On the Thursday before Easter, Carina prepared for her regular hospital shift. The weeks had passed quickly – Mark was as fast a learner as Carina had suspected he would be, and had easily picked up on the tricks of the fleet interface. She saw where his reputation for being serious-minded had come from: when Mark worked, he was all business and didn’t allow anything to distract him. It was an admirable quality, one which had earned him the position of chief navigator when the Star Force was formed and had gained him the respect of the senior brass at EDF; it also meant that while their conversation was friendly enough when they were in the office, it was only when they left the office that she felt their usual intimacy.
But they did have plenty of time together outside of the office. True to his word, Mark joined her several times a week when she walked or ran in the park. He had also begun sparring with her in the EDFHQ training area, which helped to diffuse Carina’s growing frustration with their “No Touching Rule.” It was maddening, working beside him all day without being able to even reach out and take his hand or kiss his cheek at the end of the night, and more than once they’d had brief but heated arguments for no reason.
Making things worse was the secretary who had been assigned to Mark’s office. Chrissie was competent enough, but she obviously had her eye on Mark, and she was less than friendly toward Carina. To top it off, with her long blonde hair and pale, narrow face, the girl bore enough of a resemblance to Trelaina to make Carina uneasy.
Not that Mark noticed – he always treated the girl professionally, but he rarely talked about her outside of the office. In her rational mind Carina didn’t believe that he gave her a second thought at the end of the day. Still, her insecurities ran deeply enough for her to worry about the girl’s effect on Mark. Chrissie made subtle comments about Carina and Mark’s relationship when Carina was in the room, implying that Carina was getting much more out of it than Mark was – she could only imagine what the girl said when she wasn’t there. Again, not that Mark noticed. When Carina brought the comments up to him, he never knew what she was talking about.
But the No Touching Rule had its benefits, too. Carina and Mark had been photographed together several times since they started working together, always with a respectable distance between them. Nothing appeared in the papers that would raise anyone’s eyebrows, and the photographers were losing interest, making it easier for them to relax when they were out together.
Mark’s mother, on the other hand, had not lost interest. Whenever she saw them, Maria Venture’s eyes followed every interaction between Carina and her son closely. This much Mark did notice, and he was horrified by his mother’s behavior. Carina, however, was amused by it and privately found the fact that Mrs. Venture was still clearly hoping for a match something between encouraging and disquieting. She was sure Mark had never told his family that she couldn’t have children, and she wasn’t certain how his mother would react.
Still, thinking about the Venture family made Carina
smile. She had been to their home twice
for dinner, and Mrs. Venture had even taken her shopping one day when Mark had
been busy. She couldn’t remember the
last time she’d felt so at ease with someone else’s family. Daniel’s parents lived in
After today she would be off until Tuesday, but it wouldn’t be a restful few days. She was handling the music for the Holy Week services in the hospital chapel, including one service Sunday morning; in addition, Katie was arriving on Saturday for her vacation and they had been invited to spend Easter at the Ventures’ house. Mark’s mother had graciously offered to babysit Kate during the week while Carina was at work, since Jordy was on vacation next week as well. All-in-all they were the very picture of domestic bliss, she thought, except for the part where she and Mark weren’t allowed to admit their feelings for each other.
She was ready, finally, and surely he was too. Their conversations were frequently flirtatious, and when they talked seriously, the spark in his eyes while he looked at her made her melt. He had hinted several times that her infertility wasn’t an issue for him, and she was prepared to believe it. The training phase of their work relationship would end soon; although they would have to play it down for a while, she believed it was time for them to move forward together.
These thoughts put a spring in her step as she reported for duty at the hospital. She smiled at Dr. Sane as she checked in at the nurses’ station, but the serious look he gave her made her smile falter. “Carina, I want to talk to you before you get started here, OK?”
“Of course, Doctor.” Carina shot a questioning look at Cindy, but the duty nurse shrugged at her. Following the doctor into his office, she closed the door. “What is it, Doc?”
“I wanted to catch you before you go on duty, to give you the story on our newest patient. She’s going to be a tough one for you and I want you to be prepared.”
“OK…” A knot formed in Carina’s stomach. This could only be related to one thing.
“Her name is Jackie Davis. She’s a corporal in the Communication group, a couple of years younger than you. Her sister called a friend to check on her when she wasn’t answering her phone, and the friend found her unconscious. She had taken an entire bottle of sleeping pills.”
She blinked. “Why, Doc?” She had a pretty good idea already.
The doctor sighed. “It seems Cpl. Davis’ husband walked out on her because she can’t provide him with a child. I’d like you to make an extra effort with her.”
Carina felt sick. “Doc –“
“I know it will be difficult for you,” he interrupted, “I wouldn’t ask you to do it if it weren’t important. We’re getting the girl professional help, but I want you to let her know that you understand what she’s going through. Just listen to her if she wants to talk to you. That’s all I’m asking.”
Carina nodded. “Of course, Doc. Whatever you say.”
“Good. Thank you, Carina. I knew I could count on you.” He studied her face for a minute. “And you listen to me. Just because this girl’s husband was a bastard with no sense of honor doesn’t mean all men are like that. You understand that, right?”
She hung her head. “Sure. I know.” But how can you tell before it’s too late?
Corporal Davis slept most of the day. When she awoke in the afternoon, Carina alerted the doctor, following him into the girl’s room. “How are you feeling?”
The girl looked at Dr. Sane. “How do you think I’m feeling? Why didn’t they just leave me alone?”
The doctor spoke softly as he looked in her eyes and ears. “I know it feels like it’s not true now, but Corporal, you’ve got a lot to live for. We received worried phone calls today not only from your family and friends, but from your superior officers. There are a lot of people who love you, and you have a bright future ahead of you with Earth Defense.”
“Corporal Davis, I
understand what you’re feeling.”
“You were married?” The girl was looking at her cautiously.
Carina shook her head. “No… I was engaged, and lost my fiancée to the radiation sickness. But I’ve spent my whole life dealing with the prejudice and hiding the truth from people. Corporal, you know that what your husband did is not your fault. It was a dishonorable act from a dishonorable man. You were married – you could have adopted a child. His ego got in the way.” Mark wasn’t like that. She was sure of that, wasn’t she? “You’ll find someone else someday. Someone who loves you for who you are.”
Corporal Davis was crying. “Jason told me he loved me for who I am. He told me he would love me forever. I trusted him. I didn’t hide the truth from him and he told me it didn’t matter. But the names he called me – I never thought I’d hear things like that coming from his mouth. I don’t think I’ll ever trust another man.”
The girl went on venting to Carina until the hospital psychologist came in to see her. “Thank you, Lieutenant,” Dr. Sane said, dismissing Carina. “I’ll speak to you later.”
“Yes, sir.” Carina checked in with Nova, who had arrived to work the evening shift.
“Are you OK?” Nova looked closely at her.
“Yeah. Just a bad day.”
“Well, now you have a few days off. Maybe celebrating Easter will help you to relax. Plus you’re spending the holiday with Mark and his family, right?” Nova raised a sly eyebrow at her and Carina sighed. Normally she was amused by Nova’s interference in her and Mark’s relationship, but now wasn’t the time.
“Nova, it doesn’t mean anything.”
“Of course it does. You two are maddening, you know. There’s no reason –“
“Nova. Drop it. You’re starting to sound like your mother.” That was hitting below the belt, but Carina didn’t care. She would apologize later, and anyway, Nova had hit a sore spot.
After a pause, her friend nodded. “All right. Consider it dropped. I’ll call you Saturday morning, OK?”
“Sure. See you later.” Ignoring Nova’s eyes as they followed her, Carina found her way to the empty hospital chapel. There were several hours before Holy Thursday services began; she sank into a pew and put her head down in a combination of prayer and thought. Corporal Davis had known her husband since they were in high school. He had known all along about her situation, and had promised her that it didn’t matter to him. She had taken her marriage vows very seriously, and her husband told her that he did as well. After a few years, however, he had gotten frustrated and had walked out on her. Carina had only known Mark for six months. She trusted him and she felt like their relationship was something special, but how could she be sure? He would never break his vows, would he? Did she really know him as well as she thought she did? Tears stung her eyes.
After about 20 minutes, she heard the door to the chapel open. Familiar footsteps approached and a hand dropped to her shoulder. “Carina? What’s wrong? You were supposed to meet me after your shift.”
“Oh.” She sniffled. “I’m sorry Mark – I guess I forgot. I had a rough day and came in here to think.”
He nodded. “Nova told me you were upset. I thought I might find you here. What’s the matter, love?”
She looked at him for a long moment. He would know if she was holding something back from him. That much she knew. She might as well tell him the truth. “They admitted a new patient today – a corporal, a few years younger than us. She tried to commit suicide when her husband walked out on her. He decided he didn’t want to be married to a woman who is sterile.”
It was all she needed to say. She could see in Mark's face that he understood exactly what she was feeling: her sympathy for the girl, her sadness, her fear. And he understood that the fear had more to do with him than with anything else. “Oh.” He slid closer, putting his arm around her. “Honey, I’m so sorry. That must have been hard for you.”
It was the first real physical contact they’d had since they had begun working together. Carina thought foolishly that she had been looking forward to it, but his touch now made her uneasy. She felt herself pulling back from him both physically and emotionally. “Mark, there are people around.”
“I don’t care,” he said softly, pulling her closer. “My best friend needs a shoulder to cry on. Is General Stone going to demote me for sitting in the chapel comforting you?”
His kindness made her tears overflow, even as she steeled herself against her feelings for him. “Thanks, Mark.”
They sat silently for a few minutes while she cried herself out. When he spoke again, his words sounded carefully measured. “Carina… A lot of men will say things, promise things, to get what they want from a woman. But not all men are like that. You know that not all men feel the way that girl’s husband feels, don’t you? What that guy did was dishonorable and wrong.”
When she pulled back this time he let her go. “But what if it wasn’t? She knew him for years before they got married. What if he went into his marriage with honorable intentions, but couldn’t handle it as time went on? And anyway, how can you tell whether a man is honorable or whether he’s just making empty promises?”
“I guess, if you love someone, you also have to decide to trust him.” OK, that stung a little. He looked into her eyes. “As for the other part, I don’t really know what to tell you. But if she’s younger than us, and she knew him for years before they married, they must have been awfully young, weren’t they? People who are older know their own minds better. No one should get married at eighteen.”
She hung her head. “Carina, I know you feel for that girl. But she’s not you. Her situation is not your situation. Don’t identify too closely with her.” He tipped her chin up and looked meaningfully at her.
How could she help but love this man? “Mark? Promise me we’ll always be friends, no matter what.”
“Of course we will. Nothing could ever change the way I feel about you.” He kissed her on the nose. “Now why don’t you let me take you home? You need to eat something and get cleaned up before Mass tonight. Are you going to be OK?”
She nodded and he took her hand, pulling her from the pew into the aisle. As they walked toward the exit the door opened. They dropped each other’s hands and stepped apart before seeing that it was Doctor Sane. “Carina, good. Nova said Venture thought you might be here.” The doctor greeted Mark, who nodded back. “I want to thank you for talking to Corporal Davis. I know it was hard for you, but I figured she’d be more likely to open up if you were there. I also want to give you this.” He handed her a pamphlet. “The staff psychologist, Dr. Nakamura, hosts a weekly support group for young women who can’t have children. I’d like you to think about attending.” She looked at the pamphlet blankly. “You don’t need to decide now, but think about it. Now I’m heading home. I’ll see you young folks next week. Enjoy your Easter.”
The doctor walked out, leaving Mark and Carina looking after him.
Kate arrived on Saturday morning, full of excitement and ready for the week ahead. She was a welcome distraction for Carina, whose mind had been preoccupied since Thursday afternoon. Although she normally enjoyed Holy Thursday and Good Friday services, she hadn’t been able to focus this year. It had been years since she’d felt doubt like this over her infertility; she was plagued by dreams of Mark deserting her, leaving her alone and devastated, and on Friday she had been less successful than she cared to admit in not taking it out on him. Fortunately, although she knew he was facing his own uncertainties, Mark was very patient and understanding with her, and Katie’s presence cheered her and took her mind off things.
The girl knew they would be spending Easter with the Ventures and had been asking Carina for weeks to let her help make something to bring to their hosts’ home. Carina had thought long and hard and had finally decided on a simple cake patterned to look like a bunny, which their mother had always made with her when she was young. Nova had loved the idea and asked if she could come over to watch in order to copy the pattern for her own family. “Kate, you remember my friend Nova, right?” Carina sold the idea to her sister. “You met her last summer. We’re going to make a fancy cake to bring to Easter dinner tomorrow, and she’s going to come over to see how we do it.”
“Really? That sounds like so much fun! I remember her. She’s really nice and pretty.” Katie was fascinated by Carina’s female friends, and Carina figured it was good for her to spend time with adult women, something which rarely happened when the girl was at home.
“Great. Let’s get your stuff put away, then you can help me bake. She’ll be here in a little while to help us decorate.”
The three girls had a good time transforming the two round cake layers into a bunny wearing a bow tie, but by the time they finished, Kate’s jet lag and her excitement over her trip combined to make her droop. Carina stroked her sister’s hair. “Why don’t you go take a nap, buddy? You can come to church with me tonight – it’s the long one with the candles and the incense – or you can go tomorrow morning and sit with Mark. It’s up to you.”
Katie nodded. “I guess I’ll go in the morning. I wanted to go tonight because I like the candle Mass, but I’m really tired.”
“You’ll feel better in the morning,” Nova told her, and then turned to Carina. “Do you want me to stay with her while you’re out?”
“Would you mind? She’ll be fine, but just in case she needs anything.”
Nova agreed, and the two women cleaned up while Katie had a sandwich. Carina helped her to bed in the spare room and washed and dressed for church before relaxing with Nova.
“So, what’s going on with you this week?” Nova asked, eyeing her sharply. “You were so upset on Thursday, and you still don’t quite seem like yourself. I saw Mark yesterday and he was unhappy, too. What’s up? It has something to do with one of the patients, doesn’t it?”
“What makes you think that?” Carina was startled.
Nova gave her a sympathetic smile. “Women’s intuition. Doctor Sane came looking for you a little while after Venture did on Thursday. You can tell me, Carina. You know it’s not good for you to hold it inside. Is it that new girl? Corporal Davis?” Her voice was soft, and Carina could see that she already suspected the truth. She sighed.
“Yeah, Nova, it is.” Nova nodded, and Carina knew that she didn’t need to explain further. “Nova, no one here knows about it except for Dr. Sane and Mark. Please don’t tell anyone.”
“I won’t. But I wish you had told me. I’m your friend, Carina. I’m not going to judge you, certainly not for something like this.”
“I know, and I didn’t mean to shut you out, but you don’t know what it’s like. People look at you differently, treat you differently. They don’t mean to, but it happens. It’s better to keep it to yourself.”
“OK, you’re right. I’m not going to argue with you when I haven’t been there. But tell me, is this the reason that you and Mark aren’t together? Because that I will argue with you. Carina, he loves you with all his heart. He doesn’t care whether you carry his babies or not.”
“I was ready to believe that until they brought
Nova shook her head.
“Look, I don’t know anything about
Carina smiled wryly. “You’re not really helping, Nova, making me feel like the available-girl-of-the-moment.”
“Sorry. But my point is that I’ve seen him when he believed he was in love, and I see him now. It’s not the same thing. When he and I first met, before we got to know each other, he put me on a pedestal. His tone of voice even changed when he spoke to me. It was the same thing with the other two: he idealized them. Sure, he loved Trelaina, and she loved him, but they barely knew each other. You two have seen the best and worst of each other – you know each other inside and out.” She took Carina’s hand. “His love for you is different. It’s real. You just have to trust me on that. And trust him.”
“I’ll try.” Carina hung her head. It wasn’t that she didn’t trust Mark; the problem was that she couldn’t see the future and it scared her. But maybe that was the same thing. Maybe she did need to trust him more. “Thank you, Nova. You’ve helped a lot, really.” She looked at the clock. “I’ve got to head out. Thanks for staying with Katie – I’ll see you in a few hours.” She walked to the hospital chapel, her mind swimming.
After Mass on Sunday, Carina and Kate climbed into Mark’s aircar so he could drive them to his parents’ home. Carina had introduced the two when Mark picked them up for church, and they were now fast friends. She had always loved Easter, and talking to Nova last night had made her feel a little better. She smiled as she listened to her sister’s chatter and Mark’s responses. Katie was going on about the cake they were bringing to the Ventures.
“We made some pink coconut for the ears and some blue coconut for the tie, and Cricket let me make the face with the jelly beans.”
“It looks great, Katie. Cricket knows talent when she sees it.” He shot Carina a glance and she rolled her eyes at him with a smirk. She had gotten used to him calling her by her family nickname, but still he did it to tease her.
When they entered the Ventures’ apartment, Jordy came running. “Carina!”
“Jor-dyyy!” She saluted him and then rubbed his hair as he flung his arms around her. “Come here and meet my sister. You guys are going to play together this week.” Carina steered him toward Kate, who was carrying the cake carefully. “Katie, this is Mark’s brother Jordy. Jordy, this is Kate.”
The kids said hello and looked at each other for a moment, then Jordy said, “That’s a neat cake.”
That broke the ice. Kate thanked him and began to tell him how it was made, as Mr. and Mrs. Venture entered the hall from the kitchen. “Hello dear, good to see you,” Maria Venture kissed Carina on the cheek. “And this must be Kate. What a beautiful cake!”
“Thank you. It’s nice to meet you,” Katie said shyly as Mrs. Venture took the cake from her and put it on the table.
“It’s nice to meet you, too. I’m looking forward to having you visit with us this week. Jordy, why don’t you show Katie your toys and games? Make sure we have some things that will entertain our guest.”
“OK. Come on, I’ll show you my room.” The two headed off down the hall while the adults returned to the kitchen to finish dinner preparations. Mark and Carina helped as much as they could without getting in the way; when Mr. Venture began carving the ham, Mrs. Venture asked Carina to get the children. “They’ve been awfully quiet,” she said. “I guess they hit it off.”
Jordy’s bedroom door was half-open, and Carina could hear that they were playing a game. Just before she knocked on the door, Katie spoke to Jordy. “My sister talks about your brother all the time.”
Mortified, Carina froze. “I know,” Jordy answered. “They spend all their time together. They say they’re not going to get married, but I know they are. He never thinks about anything else.”
“Neither does she. She gets embarrassed when I ask her about it, but your brother is really nice. She loves him a lot.”
“He loves her, too. He just won’t tell her. It’s so dumb!”
“I know!” The kids laughed and changed the subject. After a few seconds, figuring she was safe, Carina took a calming breath and knocked on the door.
“Hey guys, time to eat. Let’s go!”
After dinner, the families went to the park, where Mark and Jordy beat Carina and Kate handily in a game of soccer. At the end of the day, Mark drove the sisters home, exhausted and happy. They stopped at Carina’s door. She wanted to thank Mark – she had barely thought about her concerns all day.
“Kate, go on inside, OK? I’ll be there in a minute.”
Katie made doe eyes at Carina but went inside without comment. “Thanks for everything, Mark. Really. It was a wonderful holiday – your family made us feel so welcome. And it felt so good to relax and have a good time. See you on Tuesday?”
“First thing. Have fun with Katie tomorrow.” He hesitated awkwardly. “Carina, have you decided whether you’re going to go to that psychologist’s group for the women who can’t have children?”
The question caught her off-guard. “Uh… I guess I haven’t decided yet, no. Why?”
Mark looked embarrassed. “I think it might not be a bad idea, that’s all. It might be good for you to have someone to talk to. Help you work through everything so you feel better.”
“Yeah,” she sighed. “Maybe you’re right. I’ll give it a try.” She wouldn’t be comfortable hugging him, but she put her hand on his arm. “Good night, Mark. Thank you.” He nodded and squeezed her hand, and she felt his eyes follow her as she went inside to her sister.