Disclaimer: DeeDee, Sandoval, Liam Kincaid and other characters in this fic belong to Roddenberry-Kirshner among others. Terri, other neighbours of DeeDee's, and any incidental extras are mine.

Spoilers: "Thicker than Blood"

Author's Notes: This is a sequel to "The Solemn Dance", where Sandoval discovered DeeDee was alive. It was posted to PhilSphere.

In memory of Rosemarie Montgomery.

A Happy Family
by Estirose (Angel Island)
copyright 2000

Christina Barnett, once known as DeeDee Sandoval, carried the roses in from where the florist had delivered them. She looked them over carefully, knowing that her usual 'mysterous source', her former, and possibly someday again husband Ron, was in the hospital, and had other things on his mind than sending her roses.

She still remembered the message that he'd given her, sent through the usual anonymous channels that protected both of them:

"My dearest,

I'm sorry I haven't contacted you as of late. I am, at the moment, in the hospital, after I collapsed.

I don't know any easy way to tell you this. My doctor has given me the news that I am ill due to a genetic problem that is only correctable if I have a parent or child's blood. Since I have neither, I presume that I am going to die eventually, and painfully, from an otherwise curable problem.

I probably won't ever be able to leave the hospital to see you one last time, and I wish to God that you could come and visit me one last time, but it's not safe for either of us. Let me say now that I wish things had been different, and that the Companions had not come to show me the folly of my arrogance. I will find some way to send you your remaining possessions after I'm gone. Let me know by the usual route if you want anything.

Love,
Ron"

That had been a day or two ago, and she'd been glad it had been Friday evening when the message had arrived. She'd needed to rest, and to pray. She'd even gone to church Sunday morning, to the Methodist church down on Freeport. All the time, she'd been trying to find some way to get to Ron. If there was only some way to get to him before he died!

Christina had hoped that at this point that she and Ron would no need for the secrecy that cloaked their love lives, giving her a mysterious lover and him a tendency to disappear off to an unknown location every so often. But instead of getting better, the martial law had been declared, and the Taelons had gotten a stronger, not a weaker, grip on humanity. That had necessitated his visits becoming even more sparse, and his gifts more prevalent.

She still wished she had him instead of the gifts, but it didn't seem like the Taelons were going to give either of them much choice. She knew Ron hated his Taelon masters with a passion; no matter how hard he tried to hide that, she knew him too well. She didn't mind, since she hated them probably just as much.

But it looks like her hopes of revenge were going to go away, just like Ron was going to do. Just like Boone had, the brave man who had saved her life. Ron still didn't know that Boone had been other than a loyal Companion Agent.

Now, she was left with one question: who had sent the flowers? Who was, clearly and plainly, in love with her?

She hoped she wouldn't have to break someone's heart after having her own broken.

* * *

Sandoval paused outside the half of the duplex that his once and future wife, DeeDee, lived. It was tucked away in the southern suburbs of Sacramento, a few blocks off the Greenhaven lightrail line, in a small, affluent but not extremely rich neighborhood. From what he'd been able to gather in their rare conversations, the duplex was a rental, since DeeDee had been so afraid of having her identity discovered and having to move on one step ahead of the Companions and their agents.

Despite everything he had done, she still lived in that fear. He would have gladly killed anybody to keep her safe, but it had turned out he didn't need to. Nobody else had seen her, or at least not recognized her. Major Kincaid had completely missed the connection between himself and the brown-haired woman, from what Sandoval could tell.

But that was not what had caused him to pause. As far as DeeDee knew, he was still in the hospital, dying. She was certainly not going to expect him to show up on her doorstep. Unfortunately, there was no safe way to warn her before he showed up at her doorstep.

In addition, he had another problem. How was he going to explain how he was still alive?

He had no idea who his son's mother was, and preliminary sources had not turned his child up. But there was no denying that he was a father, and that DeeDee had not been the mother. He didn't know her to be sure of how she'd take things. He had been faithful to DeeDee, and as far as she knew she'd been faithful to him. But that would be cast in doubt if DeeDee thought that he'd been unfaithful to her.

Knocking on the door, he hoped things would turn out well.

* * *

The knock on the door startled Christina, who stared at the light beige clad piece of wood and steel before wondering if she should answer it. Would this be yet another delivery person wanting to give her yet another set of flowers from her unknown suitor? Hardly anyone knocked on a stranger's doorway anymore. It was too dangerous.

She got up and walked slowly towards the door, wondering if the person had gone away, or if she'd still have to deal with someone on her doorstep when she got there. As her bare feet padded softly on the carpeted floor, she wished that the person would just leave. One batch of flowers from a mysterious suitor was enough and with Ron dying in a hospital hundred of miles away, she was not interested in some stranger asking her if she read her Bible every day.

"Who is it?" she called through the door as she looked out the peephole. A dark-haired, semi-dark-skinned person stood before her. It looked like Ron, but Ron, as far as she knew, was stuck at the hospital.

"It's your amato," came the reply, in what was unescapably Ron's voice. Her beloved. He and she had picked that word up from DeeDee's multilinguistic roommate, an international studies major, and neither of them had ever bothered to find out where the word had come from.

She somehow managed to open the door, but afterwords she could not remember turning the lock and opening the door. Then Ron was somehow standing in the room. Christina closed the door and turned into DeeDee once again.

* * *

Ron looked tired, as tired as she felt, no doubt. Was he still dying? Had he found some way to come back to her one last time? Maybe he had designated her as the one to carry out the revenge he thought she didn't know about. After all, she wasn't without her own resources.

Admittedly, she hadn't made use of those resources too much. She'd planned to major in English with a minor in history, and then go into teaching. Of course, that had been before she'd met the intense pre-Law student that Ron had been during a meeting of the dance club on campus, and before Ron had swept her away. She had finished her degree, they'd gotten married, and then she was trapped working to help support Ron and his ambition to become a lawyer. She'd reminded herself that she'd get her teaching credential, or maybe even go into Library School after Ron got out and could support both of them in his Law practice.

It had taken so long that her more feminist friends had wondered about her sanity. After all, she should have her own career, not work on drudge jobs to support her husband. But DeeDee had never been one to particularly desire a bold career. And she and Ron were happy. Ron had someone to be there for him, and she had someone that she could care for. After all, she had wanted to become a teacher so that she could help kids. As one of her friends had observed, it hurt her when she couldn't help someone.

When he'd been recruited by the FBI, she'd been less than happy, but she wasn't one to argue unless the situation had really demanded it. As Ron had told her, she was slow to anger, but she'd probably argue until the end of the world if she thought something was wrong.

Things had taken a turn for the worse when the Companions had come and Ron had become one of the first CVI recipients. DeeDee remembered that she'd done a search after Ron had been implanted to see if there was some kind of global support group for spouses of Implants. But the only other person that had been implanted was an unmarried soldier from Ireland.

And then the arguments had started. They'd started when he'd first decided, and the arguments continued after he'd been implanted, although those arguments had frequently ended with her going off to a private spot to cry. She'd seriously considered divorce several times, each time calling it off in the hopes that the Companions could see what was wrong with husband and bring her Ron back to her instead of the monster she had to live with then. And then Ron, under the influence of the CVI, had put her in the mental hospital.

She thankfully couldn't remember much of it, since the days were just this blur of images. At least she hadn't been there forever.

Ron had broken her out when he'd come to his senses. That, alone, had convinced her that she'd gotten her Ron back, though for a short time. He'd known he was dying, and he had known what he'd done. And, being the person she'd married, he was genuinely sorry for what he'd done. His entire impulse was to save her so that her life would be better.

And then he'd been taken away from her. It had been her choice to save his life, given the choice. He hadn't wanted her to save him, but he'd have to forgive her for that choice. She'd as stubbornly refused to accept his inevitable death as she had been to accept that Agent Sandoval was the real him.

Stubbornly enough, she'd never given up hope that she'd get Ron back again. And, eventually, she had. Now, for her patience, she had her Ron back. They were together again for now and would someday be together again permanently.

She was very good at forgiveness.

* * *

Sandoval stared uncertainly into the opening that gave entrance to DeeDee's small kitchen. He knew that there was a door out of there... what if she had left, unable to take his reappearance?

He still wasn't sure if he could explain his child to her. He still was working the discovery through his brain that he was a father. Somewhere, out there, he'd fallen into bed with someone. Someone who clearly remembered who he was and still had some fondness for him.

DeeDee bustled at that moment through her doorway, holding his coffee in one hand and her Ribena in the other. The drink, through the transparent glass, was dark, which meant that she'd put a minimum of the required water in it. She'd always liked it overly sweet, though even she hadn't been so daring as to drink it undiluted. What was that television show that had been responsible for her discovering it? Oh, yes. "Forever Knight".

His wife handed him the coffee and he took a moment to savor the aroma, while she sipped at her own drink. "Are you all right?" he asked when she didn't start up the conversation as usual.

DeeDee, who had taken another sip, spewed sweetened blackcurrant juice all over them. "Am I all right?" she exclaimed.

"Yes, you," he responded. "I mean, there's nobody been stalking you?" he asked.

DeeDee shook her head. "Nobody," she answered, although he thought he detected a note of hesitance in her voice. Somebody no doubt suspected her of being who she truly was.

"Really?" he asked, in a tone that left little to guess that he didn't believe her. She reached over to a flowerpot and handed it to him without a word. He looked at the unsigned florist's card.

"I've been getting those the last few weeks... I thought at first they were yours, as they came from Washington, D.C."

He frowned, calculating who he could call to get his wife out of there and get as many clues as possible to who was responsible. If it was one of those who accompanied Da'an and Zo'or several months ago, then he'd have to be careful in taking care of them, but it would be done.

"I thought I might just get it out in the open," she said in a small voice.

"I'll find who's been sending you the flowers," Sandoval told her, trying to sound reassuring. "In the meantime, it might become necissary for you to move again. I'll arrange things for you."

"Actually," DeeDee answered, "I really like it here."

He affixed her with what he hoped was a stone-cold gaze. "You won't enjoy it if you're dead, which will happen if someone tells Da'an or Zo'or that you're still alive."

"I have a feeling about this one, Ron. I don't think they mean me harm."

Sandoval gazed at his wife. "If they know who you are, then the Taelons can find out as well," he told her, as if explaining things to a child.

"Then I'll just have to take that risk, won't I?" she responded. "I like it here. I don't want to move. I've already started my life over once already. I'm not like the family in Running on Empty, Ron, I don't want to have to keep moving every time someone gets close."

* * *

DeeDee stared silently at her husband, hoping to get the message through to him. He was afraid of his reaction; Ron was sometimes too over-protective for his own good.

"And you haven't explained to me why you're still here to yell at me, Ron."

"I am not yelling at you," he responded firmly, and she was glad he still responded to that tactic. She smiled inwardly as he continued. "And as to why I am still alive... that is what I came here to talk to you about, not this mysterious admirer of yours."

"So, why are you still alive?" she asked.

"I am still alive... because, apparently, I have a son."

DeeDee somehow narrowly avoided getting juice all over her lap, sofa, herself, and Ron. She blinked, thinking she hadn't heard him right. Maybe her hearing was going; she was overdue to have her hearing checked. Maybe she needed glasses as well. "You have a son? What do you mean, you have a son? You didn't just say you had a son."

"In fact, DeeDee, I just did. Don't ask me where he came from; I have no idea. I can't find him. All I can say is that I know he isn't ours and I didn't sleep with anyone else that I know of; I checked. And whoever my son is, his parents apparently don't want him found. I wanted to know where he came from before I talked to you, but I couldn't pass up the opportunity to come here and ease your mind."

"Ease my mind!" DeeDee exclaimed, although Ron's voice had sounded tired and exasperated.

"You knew I wasn't a virgin when we met," Ron told her softly, as if he wanted to stay away from the fact that she had been a virgin until they married. "I could have had a child out of one of those relationships. However, I checked the records, and I have no record of anyone I slept with having children during that time. And I know that I didn't sleep with anyone during any of my operations. The only way I could see that I had a child is if someone used me as a donor without me knowing about it. I've been true to you, DeeDee, and if I have to find this child and his mother, I'll prove to you that he wasn't concieved or born when we were married."

She nodded, suddenly tired herself. She'd just gotten her husband back a few months ago; why should she be surprised that something strange was going on in his life? After all, she was supposed to be dead, not sitting in a duplex in a quiet section of Sacramento. So, why should she blame him for something that he had no control over?

Because the child is not yours, some part of her whispered, the same part of her that wanted to go with Ron to find his mysterious child.

* * *

Ronald Sandoval left his wife's home early the next morning, after having spent some more time with her discussing the situation. DeeDee seemed to accept the fact that there was a child in his life, or, more accurately, there would be a child in his life. He wondered if he could get custody of his child, and if so, if DeeDee would take it. So far, they hadn't had much luck conceiving. He slept with her whenever he was there, just for the chance to give DeeDee a part of himself. Last night had been particularly feverish, with DeeDee contributing as much as he did. Maybe she'd had to work out her frustrations about being childless.

And maybe he'd worked out his frustrations about his child too. DeeDee probably wouldn't be too happy if he went off in pursuit of his child and his child's mother, but he wasn't sure he could explain to her the importance of being a father to him without upsetting her. DeeDee had a slight fertility problem.

They'd skirted around it a lot after the discovery, but he knew that DeeDee would never be less than satisfied unless they shared a child of their own. She probably wouldn't want to adopt this one, unless maybe his son became part of her life after a child was born.

He went through the portal, arrived in Washington, and once he was settled in his car, removed the disguise he'd worn at the Sacramento and Washington portal terminals. Once he freshened up and changed into his suit at his apartment, he'd be ready to face another day. One more day in the long line of days until the Taelons paid for what they did.

He was already undermining them, and they didn't know it. He felt like a malicious genie, twisting his owner's wishes into a curse. How better to make the Taelons pay? DeeDee would be avenged, and then they could settle down and be a happy family.

* * *

DeeDee got out of bed, noting with no surprise that Ron had already left to continue his masquerade in Washington. Actually, she was glad that he had gone; if he hadn't, she would have continued to obsess over Ron's mysterious child.

Holding her hand over her womb, she wished that she had had good news for him this time around. He still didn't know that she'd been pregnant for a while, and she still didn't want to discuss it with him. Best to avoid the subject until Ron found this child that he'd fathered or she didn't have to worry about another miscarriage. Hopefully, next time she got pregnant, he wouldn't learn until later that she was in that state. She didn't want him worrying about two children at once.

Ron had enough on his hands.

She slipped her clothes on and ate breakfast, preparing for yet another happy day reconciling spreadsheets. It wasn't the most interesting thing in the world, but it brought in the rent, and besides, her supervisor was nice. And state jobs tended to be pretty steady, anyway.

No worries about being able to afford a child, not on what they paid her. She wondered if the people she paid rent to minded her having a baby. Well, if they did, they'd have to survive. The duplex was nice, but there were other places she could go.

In the meantime, she had to find out who her mystery rose-buyer was before Ronald became more paranoid. She didn't have Ron's investigative skills, but she did have a hacker in the neighborhood who owed her a favor. She dialed up her friend's number.

"Hello, Rosemarie's Psychic Readings, how may I help you?"

"Hey, Terri, glad I caught you," DeeDee told the teenager. "I've come to call my favor in."

"Okay, let me get off my mom's business line and call you right back."

The phone rang. "Hello?"

"This is Terri. So, what do you want me to do?"

"Hopefully nothing big. You see, I've been getting roses for a while now from a mysterious admirer, and I just confirmed that it's not that guy you saw me with once. Could you see if you could find out who it is?"

"Those were coming by FTD, right?" Terri asked.

"Yep."

"See what I can do," Terri responded. "But then it's quits, okay?"

"Okay, Terri, thanks," DeeDee responded, hanging up the phone. It certainly was handy, sometimes, to bail a teenage hacker out of trouble. Soon, she would know, and then her conscience would be clear.

 

* * *

"Good morning, Sandoval," Major Kincaid greeted him. He gritted his teeth at the major's cheerful tone. "I'm about to fetch Da'an from the Mothership; do you need a ride up?"

"Thank you, Major," he managed, somehow remaining civil. He hated leaving DeeDee before she had a chance to say goodbye, but he had to keep up appearances. He didn't want to make Zo'or any more suspicious than he was.

Major Kincaid grinned further. "You're welcome. Ready to go?" he asked, indicating the way to the shuttle. Sandoval followed him to the shuttle, clasping the restraints as the Major ran pre-flight checks. Maybe the Major would keep his mouth shut the whole trip.

Unfortuantely, the Major did not have that in mind. "Did you sleep well, Sandoval?" he asked.

"It's none of your business," Sandoval half-snapped.

Major Kincaid seemed to nod. "Sandoval, have you ever been in love?" he asked.

"If you are familiar with my file," Sandoval said, trying not to lose his temper over the Major's inability to catch subtle hints, "then you know that I was married. She died several years ago."

"I know that, but marriage doesn't always mean love. I was just wondering if you ever sent her flowers."

"Yes, I did," Sandoval told him. "Major, what is this about?"

He couldn't see the Major's face, and the Major's inquiry was light. It was as if the Major was trying to cheer him up, or something. "Well, I've been trying to send a woman flowers, and I don't know what's appropriate. I was wondering if you could tell me what kind of flowers that you sent your wife."

* * *

Terri called her a few hours later, sounding a bit breathless. "Hey, Christina, got you your record."

"Who was it?"

"Don't know. They paid in cash. Sorry I couldn't help more."

"That's okay," she responded. "Thanks, Terri, we're clear now."

"Got that right. By the way, Mom just told me that our neighbor, Mrs. Johnson died last night. She says to tell you that the memorial is this Sunday at one at Klumpp's."

"Thanks, Terri. Tell your mom thanks, too," DeeDee said. "I'll plan to be there."

It was too bad. She'd liked Mrs. Johnson, though they hadn't been really close. It was part of the curse of not letting anyone know who she really was; she couldn't let anyone know her true self.

* * *

Funerals. I hate funerals.

The small funeral parlour was opposite a cemetery. Fitting, in a way. There was supposed to be a celebration afterwards, but she didn't feel like going. She had never been really close to anybody here, and she was really feeling like it at the moment. She would have felt like a third wheel at the celebration.

She could have done without feeling like a third wheel, but it couldn't be helped. She couldn't afford to get close. Nobody could come close to ever knowing that she was not who she said she was. Oh, she'd be welcome, her neighbours would make sure of that. But she wouldn't feel like a part of their world.

Sacramento was not where she belonged. This was not her life, and she knew it. She had left her life behind, been forced to do so if she wanted to live, and thought that she could never have it again. Of course, that was before Ron had come back and reminded her of why she had become Mrs. Ronald Sandoval.

She lived in the hope of being that again. Some would probably count her a hopeless romantic.

But none of what Ron had done had really been his fault. And she had always been a forgiving person. How would it have been if she hadn't gotten put into the mental institution? She would have been forced to play the part of a trophy wife.

She would rather have remained a librarian. Of course, she wasn't a librarian now, but maybe she could be one again. She wondered how one reestablished their identity if their death had been faked for the sake of their life? It wasn't exactly a typical scenario seen in the courts.

Better burn that bridge when she came to it.

* * *

Major Kincaid's question had hit too close to home, but Sandoval somehow managed to avoid biting the Major's head off. After all, the Major had no idea what he'd just asked provoked an internal response, and besides, as an Implant, Sandoval was supposed to be focusing on the Taelons, not on his supposedly dead wife. Give anybody enough clues, and they might guess DeeDee was alive. This time, Zo'or might take her away for good if he discovered her existance.

Of course, Major Kincaid might have seen DeeDee, passed the sighting off as somebody he'd seen during his life, and was only unconsciously associating her with Sandoval... and with love. Maybe the Major was just wanting advice with someone who he perceived as lucky. He hadn't been able to answer the Major's question, but the Major had been persistient, asking the question again as they waited for Zo'or and Da'an for yet another event.

"My wife loved roses, Major. But every woman is different, Major. You should find out what your... girlfriend likes, not my dead wife."

Kincaid's voice quieted as Da'an strode into the shuttle bay. "I know, but Renee's kind of stubborn. I thought maybe I just needed some inspiration."

"Major Kincaid, Agent Sandoval," Da'an greeted them.

"Good morning, Da'an," Kincaid greeted his Companion. "The shuttle is ready."

"I belive that Zo'or will be arriving shortly," Da'an said. "We shall soon be able to depart."

How Sandoval wished he could blow both Companions off, but that was most Implant-unlike behaviour, and so he had to wait patiently for the egotistic Zo'or to amble his way down to the shuttle bay, making them all wait. Zo'or was a petty tyrant and Sandoval would be glad to see him be gone. Ditto for Da'an, who was only slightly kinder by his standards.

Sandoval still hoped for the day that the Taelons would leave... or be destroyed. He hoped that the Jaridians would come to understand that humanity only wanted to be left alone, wanted the Taelons removed, wanted no part of their war. Surely somehow the Jaridians could be manipulated. Then humanity would be alone again. He would be a hero.

And he would have DeeDee back.

* * *

She loved watching Ron on TV. It was sometimes the only way to see him, especially when the Taelons kept him busy. Although she did wish that the Taelons would go away and leave the two of them in peace so that she could reclaim her name again and become who she had been.

Boy, that would be news for the tabloids: "Wife returns from dead, remarries former husband!"

Of course, it couldn't be any worse than some of the tabloids' more annoying takes on Ron's love life. She almost never went to the store if she could help it. Thanks to web-based home-delivery of groceries, she didn't have to. Of course, that meant she was isolated. It seemed the only outlets she had for a social life were work and whatever church she was attending that week.

Oh, and knowing her neighbors well enough to befriend one overly-bright teenager with a knack for getting where she wasn't supposed to be. She had quite a few acquaintances, but Terri was one of the few people she could call friend. And Christina was well-acquainted with Terri's mom.

The doorbell rang and Christina's heart pounded. It was far too early for Ron to be making one of his unannounced visits. She looked through the hole to find that it was Terri. She opened the door, letting the teenager in. The girl slunk in in a way that almost made her laugh. Terri was on her mother's bad side again, apparently. "What's up?" she asked.

"Just wanted to hang," the teenager said.

"Mom being a nuisance again?" she asked.

A wry grin lighted up Terri's features. "Yeah, you could say that." She sat down on the couch, picking up the wedding ring that Christina had brought out. "Pretty ring."

"It was my mother's," Christina lied smoothly. In truth, it was hers, the one that Ron had given back to her when he found she wasn't dead quite yet.

"Oh," Terri said, immediately putting the ring down. "Any luck on your mystery giver?"

"Not yet," Christina told her. In fact, she hadn't even gotten any flowers on schedule. Her mystery person was slipping. She still wondered who in Washington wanted to send her flowers.

"So, what's on your mind? That guy that visits your place off and on?" Terri asked.

Christina sighed. "Yeah, long story."

"You're really in love with him, aren't you? Is that why you've got your mom's wedding ring out?"

"Yeah," Christina responded, hoping to fob Terri off with some of the truth. "It's complicated. He's an old boyfriend of mine that occasionally passes through town. We want to marry, but thing keep getting weird. Like this time, he just discovered that he's a father, so now he wants to find the child."

"Bummer," the teenager pronounced. "Bad luck, huh? Maybe you should find the mystery sender instead. Maybe I'll give you a hand. I love romances."

Christina had to smile at that. "I just hope that I have a happy ending."

* * *

Ronald Sandoval gritted his teeth once again and wished Major Kincaid had spotted and recognized DeeDee, just so that he could get rid of the irritating shuttle pilot. The guy must have been a boy scout in a prior life. Well, almost.

He wondered if his irritation had more to do with the fact that the Major was apparently and openly in love with someone. That could irritate anyone. The fact that Major Kincaid had apparently fallen for Renee Palmer, who Sandoval had doubts about, annoyed him only a slight bit more. Somebody should tell the Major to watch who he dated. After all "Loose Lips Sink Ships" was a good piece of advice.

Without regret, he let Kincaid drop him off at his apartment, watching as the man went off into a local florist's. Something made him stand and watch as Kincaid eventually left, looking happy. Only then did he permit himself to go upstairs. He had a disguise to don and a wife to visit.

* * *

DeeDee took the flowers into the house, wondering if they were from Ron or her phantom caller this time. Well, if nothing else, they were fragrant enough. Terri would have teased her about the grin on her face.

Putting the flowers in water and on the table, she allowed herself a bubble bath. She had barely finished when the doorbell rang. Rushing into a pair of sweats, she looked at the peephole. It was Ron again.

Hard to think that "Ron, again" has become routine, she mused. She opened the door, letting him in. "Thanks for the roses," she told him.

"Roses?" he asked in such a way that she suddenly realized that he had not been the sender. With a dark look, he added, "Your admirer has been giving you flowers again."

"I guess it was," DeeDee told him. "I'm sorry, Ron, I didn't know."

"You didn't know that I was coming," he said. "You still don't know who this person is, of course?"

"No, I don't. Ronald Sandoval, I want you in my life, so don't give me that look."

"Very well," Ron told her. "Anyway, Zo'or decided he didn't need me as a lapdog this evening, so I decided to spend it with you."

"Thanks, I appreciate it," she told him. "I wish you could come over more."

"I wish I could, too," Ron said, looking down and rubbing his ring. "I wish I could openly love you."

"Hey, one of the local teenagers thinks me having a mysterious lover is romantic. She thinks that you and the flower person are one and the same, though. And she doesn't recognize you as Ronald Sandoval - she thinks you live over in the Bay Area and work in QA."

Ron groaned, and a smile played over her features. "Could be worse, I suppose," Ron said finally.

"Yeah, could be really worse. Want some supper?"

* * *

Sandoval stumbled out of bed to use the bathroom, tripping over something in his way. Picking it up, he shuffled his way into the bathroom, closing the door behind him.

After using the facilities, he looked at what he'd picked up. It was some kind of file. DeeDee's medical records. Recent doctor visits. Sitting down on the toilet seat, he scanned through the documents. Making a decision, he washed his hands once more and made his way back to the bedroom. "DeeDee, wake up."

DeeDee eventually woke up, her eyes slitted from the light. "What's the emergency, Ron?" she asked.

"Why didn't you tell me that you had been pregnant?" he demanded.

Her mouth worked, and after a minute, intelligible sound came out. "Because I knew it would only hurt. I wanted you to see me in my glory, not yet another failure. I... guess I'm just not destined to have children."

"The doctor said it was possible," he told her stubbornly. "We will make it happen, DeeDee. I promise you."

DeeDee was attempting a smile. "I'm sorry I didn't tell you earlier. I just wanted happy things between us. I wanted the bad times to go away. I wanted something good to happen in our lives."

"I know," Sandoval said, looking at her. "But it's not your fault."

His wife looked up at him. "I know, but especially with the knowledge that you have a son, I'm feeling terribly inadequate right now."

"Do you want me to give up the search? He doesn't have to be a part of our life, if you don't want him to be," Sandoval offered, hoping that she'd take the peace offering at hand. "I haven't been able to find him; whoever hid him obviously doesn't want me to be part of his life."

"Then let's make ourselves and his caretakers happier and get on with our lives," DeeDee offered. "You tried. Maybe you can see him someday. But I couldn't take him now."

"I understand," Sandoval said.

What he didn't tell her, though, was that he had a passive probe out searching for his child. If he found the child, he'd have to introduce the subject later. Of course, maybe if DeeDee went through her pregnancy successfully this time, maybe she'd be more open to him. Time would tell.

He smiled. "Let's try again, shall we?"

* * *

DeeDee luxuriated in the bed, too lazy to get up on the fine Saturday afternoon. Ron was long gone, of course, but she'd been sleeping alone long enough now to survive without him.

Of course, that was until the doorbell rang. Groaning, she pulled a dressing gown on around her and walked towards the front door, hoping that her 'caller' was no more than someone from UPS. She looked through the peephole to find Terri on her doorstep. "Terri, be a few," she called, grumbling as she went back to her bedroom for decent clothing.

After a few minutes, she got back and opened the door. "Terri. What brings you here on this nice Saturday morning?"

The teenager, she could see, was bouncing up and down in barely-repressed excitement. "I think I found your mystery flower-guy."

"You did?" DeeDee asked.

"Yep. Gonna cost you, though. You're going to have to feed me at Shari's."

The teenager's bounciness increased, if that was possible, and DeeDee couldn't quite repress a grin. "Okay, you've got a deal. Just tell me who my mystery man or woman is and I'll be sure to take you out."

"Sure, just lead me to the couch. Trust me, you'll want to sit down for this!"

DeeDee smiled wider, closed the door, and let Terri walk over to the couch, where Terri produced her laptop. The teenager powered the computer up, looking expectantly at DeeDee, who sighed melodramatically and came to sit beside her.

"Okay, I'll admit that I was curious," Terri told her, "So, I went to see if there were any more flowers to be sent along to your address. Thankfully, the particular florist that your mystery guy used is one of those that likes to cover their rear end. They have a security camera shot linked to the record. So I have the thing in progress. You're never going to believe who your secret beau is!"

Terri brought up the picture, a black and white one that clearly was from the security camera. "Well, he's not bad looking, if you go for that kind of guy," DeeDee said, frowning. The guy looked vaguely familiar, but she couldn't place him.

"Chris, that's Major Liam Kincaid. You know, Da'an's protector? I ran the phone number he gave the florist's and it's the same one that's registered to him. I mean, I'm rooting for you and the guy who's been visiting you, but a Companion Protector! Wow."

DeeDee stared at the screen. The festival. When the Taelons came. He saw me. But why the flowers? "Yeah, wow. Terri, do you happen to have the guy's number?"

"Oh, sure! I thought you'd want to know." Terri typed on her computer some more. "Here you go."

DeeDee fetched out her own global and typed in the number, after putting her finger to her lips in the "sssh!" gesture. Soon, a young man's face appeared, with Taelon bioslurry behind him. "Good afternoon, Ms. Barnett. Can I call you right back?"

The Companion-Protector's face disappeared off the screen, leaving DeeDee startled. Of course, she mentally chided herself, He's been sending me flowers, he would know my name.

A few minutes later, her global beeped, Major Kincaid's face appearing on the screen again. "Sorry about that, but I didn't think you wanted Da'an to recognize your voice. What's up? Are you in danger of being found?"

"Oh, no, nothing like that. I just wanted to talk to you about the flowers," she said, striving to drive the obvious worry off the man's face.

"The flowers. You know?"

She smiled at that. "I have a good friend with a knack for digging up that kind of information. In fact, she's sitting right beside me."

"Ah. How much does she know?"

"Not much," she responded.

"Um, is that my cue to go away?" Terri asked.

"Just help yourself to the fridge," DeeDee told her, and Terri left. Turning back to Major Kincaid, after making sure Terri was out of the room, she said, "I assume you have a reason for doing so?"

"Well," he said, looking slightly abashed, "I'm Boone's successor in more ways than one, you know. Lili told me about you."

"And?" she prompted, when the Major stopped.

"When I saw you at the festival, and I saw Sandoval leave, I knew he'd seen you. He started leaving the mothership a lot, too. So, when Zo'or got testy about it and he got stuck up there, I felt bad for the two of you. I assume, of course, that he's been visiting you on the sly. Anyway, I didn't feel comfortable sending him flowers, so I decided I'd keep your romance alive by sending you flowers. I hoped you would think they were from him."

"I did, until he was in the hospital."

Major Kincaid looked embarrassed by the fact. "I hope I haven't hurt things instead of helped them."

She had to smile at that. "Thanks for the flowers, Major, and the attempt... but I think Ron and I are fine. Besides, I think Ron might have problems if he found out that you were the sender."

"I got the message," Major Kincaid told her, smiling in return. "I'm glad you two are together. I don't get along with Sandoval most of the time, but he deserves the happiness... as do you. Good luck."

With that, the Major's call ended.

Terri came back in from the kitchen with a glass of Ribena. DeeDee could only hope that the teenager had put water in it. She looked as abashed as the Major did earlier. "Um, Chris? I gotta tell you something."

"Tell me what?" DeeDee asked staring up at the teenager. "Terri, did you eavesdrop on my conversation?" "Well, I kinda heard the end of it, but... well, it didn't surprise me. Um, I don't know how to say this, so I'll spit it out and hope you forgive me. I know your real name. I've known for a while."

DeeDee put her face in her hands. "Ohh, great."

"Sorry about that," Terri apologized, sitting down beside her. "I'm just kindof a trivia buff, and the fact that Ronald Sandoval was married was one of the facts I had in my head. You kinda looked familiar from the day I met you. You're supposed to be dead, you know. I guess whatever Major Kincaid's involved with is the folks which saved your life."

"Ter, you know how dangerous your knowledge is? Ron's right, I'll have to move on now."

"Chris," the teenager said, "You don't have to move on. Who's going to know? You're an obscure factoid. And besides, you're nice, and you're sweet, and you're in love with your husband! I wouldn't do anything to wreck it."

"It's not that you know," DeeDee said, in an effort to comfort the distraught teen. "It's just that if you can figure it out, others can as well. I'll need to move and do better at disguising myself."

The teenager looked terrified. "I'm so sorry, Chris! I didn't mean to pry!"

With that, Terri sprung up, spilling the Ribena all over the table, and dashed out, leaving a frantic DeeDee behind.

* * *

"Dear Ron,

I found my mystery man. Turns out that it was a colleague that was pretty good at covering his tracks. I've had a talk with him, and he understands my heart is taken, though not by who. We don't have to worry about him anymore. He meant well, please forgive him.

I'm having some help hiding my identity by a local teen. She's the one who found out about my mystery flower guy. Anyway, she discovered who I was, and I kind of reacted badly. She knows she's a risk to me, so she's doing all she can to make up for it. I've got a hacker in my employ, would you believe it?

Hope to see you soon,
Chris."

Ronald Sandoval smiled as he read the short note. He could have told his wife that having people of unusual talents could be a help, although she was sensible enough to know the risk. In the meantime, the fact that the flowers had stopped placed a great weight off his mind.

So much had happened to him and DeeDee that he didn't want anything more to happen to her. While he couldn't save her frome everything, he would do what he could to make her happy. He resolved to visit her the next chance he got. Someday they would be parents, he swore.

Until then, they had their dreams.

-end


Earth: Final Conflict fanfics