Disclaimer: The universe in question belongs to Tribune and Roddenberry-Kirschner, among others. Ang, her family, Ri'alit, and anybody appearing or mentioned in this fic belong to me.

Rating: PG, maybe PG-13. Some adult themes.

Author's note: This was written as a gift for a friend. It follows up the story "To Fly, Alone", continuing Ang's adventures. It is one of several possible sequences of events that could have happened to Ang, and one far more pleasant that what originally occurred.

Reading the Fine Print
by Estirose
copyright 2000

It had been several years since I had seen the Kimera, but I instinctively knew that the being in front of me was Ri'alit, the medical doctor that had briefly taken care of me when I'd been injured several years ago. The last glimpse I'd had of him was right after I'd woken up, for I had departed as soon as possible from the hospital I'd been in, fleeing towards my family and away from the Kimera society which would happily absorb me.

I'd found my family, found their new home, and my family had continued to live happily, or as happily as we could knowing the Kimera had discovered us. Then I'd become adult, at least by human standards, and become part of an exchange and teaching program on another planet. I'd been enjoying my new home, or at least until I'd run into Ri'alit.

If I'd only seen him coming! But it was too late now. "Angharad," the Kimera greeted me, calmly, as if I'd never fled the hospital. "I had never thought to see you again. Would you perhaps like something to drink?"

"No, thank you," I replied, hoping that the Kimera in question would catch the hint.

He tilted his head. "Food then, perhaps? I promise you no obligation; I would just like to talk with you and understand you."

I sighed. "Thank you, Ri'alit. But, no."

The Kimera made a regretful gesture and left.

* * *

I should have known better than to expect Ri'alit to give up. The next time I saw him, I was grading tests in my classroom. He came in with a basket full of food, clearly intended for me, which he put down in front of me before fetching a chair and settling to one side of my desk.

"You don't give up easily, do you?" I asked.

"No. But then, you fascinate me; it's not every day that one of my patients sneaks out of the hospital. I don't often run into hybrids who seem to reject their heritage."

I shook my head. "I'm not ashamed of being Kimera; it's Kimera culture that I don't want to be a part of, thank you very much."

"Then I might have a solution for you," Ri'alit responded. "It is a bit of a compromise, but I think that you would find it an acceptable one."

I eyed him warily. "And what is that?"

"We mate."

He said this so matter-of-factly that it took me a moment to get my thoughts together. "No," I responded, as firmly as I could, considering his idea had come as a total surprise. "I'm not interested in you, Ri'alit. I don't have much interest in spending the rest of my life mate-bonded to you."

"Mate-bondings are not like human marriages. We would be under no obligation to each other after the mating. If you wished, we would never see each other again. You would be a properly-mated adult in the eyes of the Kimera and would not have to fear them ever again."

Trying to gauge Ri'alit's expression was impossible. I put my ungraded tests away and looked at him fully. "And what do you get out of this?" I asked.

"Adulthood," Ri'alit responded. "Like you, I am a legal minor in Kimera society. If I could go back with a child in tow, I would be able to take on much greater responsibility. I long to be chief surgeon on a ship, but they won't let a *child* do it. Understand, I would take the child with me when I part, and I will not reveal where you are if you are concerned about that."

"So, what you're basically saying is that you want a child to advance in the world," I responded angrily. "And me as a one-night stand, with the currency being my freedom."

"I do admit that my motives may be viewed unfavorably in some lights. But I have been attracted to you since I saw you in the hospital. I had hoped to transfer up to the ship you were on and get to know you, but your departure got in the way."

So, they *had* intended to make me ship-bound when a ship arrived! I felt a wave of relief pass through me as I knew what fate had been intended if I hadn't gotten away. "So, you want a trophy-child."

"I want a *child*," Ri'alit responded. "Surely, you feel it too, the need to reproduce that we all have? Tell me that you have not felt like mating before with some individual of some species."

To tell the truth, I *was* getting kinda chummy with Jezzy before I left. But, unknown to Ri'alit, I take medication to keep those urges in control. Yes, we have our own pipeline in Kimera space that the Kimera don't know about. "Kimera can't help reproducing at sexual maturity. If we don't, we get sick," I responded with confidence.

"And I reached sexual maturity shortly after my arrival at the hospital that you and I met at. I tried to tell myself that my attraction was because you were the first unattatched female Kimera I'd come across since then, but it didn't work."

"Great," I responded.

"I live on the other side of this world currently, and the next ship is not due for at least another half a year. The pregnancy would only take the usual time, and I am a skilled doctor who can assist in your delivery. After that, I and the child would be out of your life. Is this not worth a few days of me, a little bit of pain, and your freedom?"

Well, he was right. I did want to stop running. But that was impossible. If I stopped running, and my family didn't, then I'd lose them possibly forever. Of course, it was past time for me to leave the nest, and besides, the Kimera were looking for six, not five. If I could get my family to arrange me a new identity, maybe I could live relatively anonymously, maybe even fall in love, marry, and have a normal family. Then my family could move on as often as it needed to, and I'd never have to move on again.

Ri'alit raised his palm. "If this is what it takes for you to recognize that I mean no harm to you, and only good for the child," he said, clearly expecting me to do something. I realized that this was probably a sharing, though I wasn't quite sure. I'd never shared before.

But, instead of revealing that to Ri'alit, I raised my hand cautiously. "This will be sending only," he said, almost in reassurance. "I have no intention of invading your privacy here. I just want to convince you of my sincerity."

I put my hand against his own, and the sharing began. -Young, I am too young. I need something to make me stand out. A child, a child is the answer! That will show them I am worth paying attention to! And a child, it is time for me to be a father. Long past time. If she will only accept me, let me take me....-

I was aware of the world again as Ri'alit lowered his palm. "You see? I am willing to let you go, just to have a part of you with me. I wish it could be more, but if this is what I must content myself with, I will. And you, they will pity your background but you are mated. You will be assumed a competent adult. Is this not worth the price?"

"Let me think about it," I responded.

* * *

Ri'alit seemed in no hurry to leave the settlement and anxious to hear my answer, but I took several days figuring the consequences. I even sent a message to me mother, through the roundabout route that I always used. My mother's reply came back "Ang, angel, we've always held that the most important thing is not to be limited by species. I trust you to make the right decision regarding this Ri'alit. He has some very good points, honey, not the least of which is that you won't have to take the il'isani'ch anymore. But I'd say run as soon as you can; we're putting an identity together for you, as well as getting ready to move ourselves, just in case. I trust your one-night stand (as much as any of us can have a one-night stand) will go well. You know how to get in touch with your physician if something goes wrong. Good luck, honey. Maybe we'll be seeing each other someday."

I know my mom was working under the assumption that Ri'alit had picked up some things from me during the sharing, and it was simply too dangerous to even let me know where they were going. But, really, I didn't mind. I was making a new life here. Besides, mom sent up the most important thing with her message, an encoded file containing as complete a family tree as we have of our family, both human and Kimera. It was marked, appropriately enough, 'do not open until you refuse him or after he's gone.'

After that, I felt like the risk was worth it. I waited for Ri'alit, waiting to give him the news.

Ri'alit passed by shortly, stopping to greet me as had become his habit to do. "Have you made a choice yet?" he asked.

"Yes," I responded. "Yes, I'll mate with you."

Thankfully, Kimera don't bounce. But you could *tell* that Ri'alit was really happy; I got the impression that he thought he'd have to impress me further. "Then, if you will give me a schedule, I will find us a good place and time to mate, and an isolated place for you to birth. Do not worry about a thing; I will take care of everything for you."

* * *

True to Ri'alit's word, he did. He secured us a relatively isolated cabin (I insisted on something within a two-mile distance from the renting office), with a nice clearing nearby. Not a bad place, especially if you were as embarrassed as I was to be doing this. Ri'alit settled me in, though it was obvious what he wanted to do really badly was join with me and generate the child.

I wouldn't mind just getting this over with, either. Everybody in my family knows about fast-growers, the products of Kimera-hybrid matings. Three-day pregnancies, three days of physical childhood, and very, very different from us. And, if I guessed right, I would only have to put up with Ri'alit up until the child was born and he was satisfied that I was healthy. Then I wouldn't have to see him again.

Ri'alit led me to the clearing, stopping at the center and raising his hands up, palm outwards, and looking expectantly. I stood there, wondering what to do, when he gave the equivalent to a sigh, dropped his hands, came around me, and gently manipulated my hands and arms until my stance was a mirror image of his initial stance. Then he walked around and touched his palms to mine.

What does it feel like to join with another Kimera? Well, the first thing that happened was that my body converted to pure energy, the pure energy that inescapably makes up part of my being because of my Kimera heritage. With that, I knew that I could go to full energy anytime for a short while if I wanted to, it was just mostly useful during a joining.

The second thing I noticed was the additional thoughts. When a Kimera joins with another being, another Kimera or not, there is always an element of being merged together, the merge being needed to create the spark which is the resulting child. We become, literally, a part of each other, knowing each other intimately.

It was during this phase of the joining that I became aware of Ri'alit's plans for me. He had told the truth, at least mostly. It's what he left out that damned him.

Oh, he wasn't lying at all about his attraction to me, or his minor status in Kimera society. He wasn't lying to me about his desires, or that I'd be essentially free if I mated with him.

He didn't mention, however, that he intended to bond me so close to him that I could never even get interested in another being again. That if I had an urge to produce more children (and he thought I was Kimera enough to have that happen) that I'd be forced to turn to him for them.

And, worst of all, he wanted me away from the child for a reason. He had intended to raise the child with the belief that they would be the saviour of their wayward family. A person who would know how my family worked and could track them wherever they may go. I could feel his need become more urgent as he discovered the secret I never intended to reveal: that there were more of us than the Kimera thought.

Somewhere along the way the child came into being, and I somehow knew, through my own ancestral abilities or the link with Ri'alit, that the child would be female. The little spark nuzzled me and remained there until Ri'alit seperated from me and I regained a solid form.

I must have stood there aghast for a good half a minute until I regained my senses and ran. I think Ri'alit chased after me. I'm not too sure.

* * *

And now, a day and a half later, I huddle in the woods, getting more and more pregnant every time I look. I don't dare go into civilization, for fear of the questions that will inevitably be raised in the likely event that the child will inevitably look quite a bit more Kimera than I do.

I don't have a large amount of medical skill myself; I rely on what I gained from my joining with Ri'alit. Fortunately, at least two of my ancestors were physicians. But it is what I have, what I am stuck with, until my child is born and I can continue on.

And Jennifer and I *will* continue on, no matter what. No matter what obstacles are in our way, we will find our way out. Thanks to Ri'alit, I have my own, new family. But next time, I will read the fine print.


Earth: Final Conflict fics