Light a Single Candle

By Capn Frances

Rating: PG

Genres: angst family missing scene


This story has been read by 338 people.
This story has been read 597 times.

Disclaimer: I do not own Star Trek Enterprise or its characters.  No profit was made or will be made from the creation of this work.

Summary: missing scene for "The Expanse"


Mississippi:      May  2153

Kathy Tucker paused as she entered the old church to let her eyes adjust.  The light that filtered through the stained glass seemed dim compared to the relentless Gulf Coast sun.  The few flickering candles did little more to light her way.

St. Joseph’s had stood in this spot for over 350 years.  She hoped that long tradition would give her some sense of stability in a world spinning out of control.  She savored the quiet and the cool air.  Her eyes followed the Stations of the Cross as she looked for the confessional booth.  She was relieved to see it was vacant, except for the parish priest.  He was there, as he always was on Thursday afternoons, to offer the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  She took a deep breath to bolster her courage as she entered the booth.  She dropped down onto the kneeler and made the sign of the Cross.

“Bless me, Father, for I have sinned.  It has been five days since my last confession.”

She gazed at the crucifix above the wooden grille.  She had no illusions that the booth would keep her anonymous.  Only a handful of women on the planet could possibly be in this predicament.  She was the only one who might come to this tiny Mississippi church.  Still she was grateful Father O’Shaughnessy wouldn’t see her face as she told him how she had failed her husband and her son.

Father O’Shaughnessy.  She was sure he was a fine man and a good priest, but they had only met twice before.  Why couldn’t she be dealing with this with Mother Caroline?

She shook her head.  If St. Anthony’s still stood, if Mother Caroline and her family and all the others were still alive, none of this would be happening.  She had thought the worst was over.  Now she thought it was just beginning.

“My child, how can I help?” The slow cadence of Southern speech softened the accent of his native Boston.

She froze for a moment, unable to speak.  She reached into her pocket to hold her rosary, a gift from her grandmother so long ago.  “Father, it’s Kathy Tucker.  I’ve allowed a terrible thing to happen and I don’t know what to do.  My husband Charlie and I came here two weeks ago to stay with my aunt after our home was destroyed by the Xindi.  Our home, my husband’s business, my church, so many of our friends, all gone.  But worse than that, our baby daughter, Lizzie, is gone.  She shouldn’t have been there.  It should have been us.  We’d gone to New Orleans to celebrate our wedding anniversary.  Lizzie was house sitting for us.”  She paused, tears running down her face.

“There’s no way you could have known.  None of that is your fault.”

“I know, but it’s almost impossible to accept.  What’s my fault is what brought me to confession today.

“We came back from New Orleans as soon as we heard about the attack.  We were desperate to find Lizzie.  We couldn’t get through the police lines to get to the house.  We checked hospitals and shelters and talked to everyone we could.  We put up signs with her picture everywhere.  We did everything we could think of, but we couldn’t find her.  Finally, we had to accept she was gone.

“We have three other children: a daughter and two sons.  None of them were in the area of the attack.  My older son, Trip, is an engineer in Starfleet.  He’s chief engineer on the Enterprise.  That ship is still experimental.  He’s got a dangerous job at the best of times.  We haven’t seen him in over a year and haven’t been able to talk with him for a few months.  He hasn’t been writing as often lately.  I was worried about him even before this happened.

“When it happened, I knew he would be devastated.  He and Lizzie were so close.  He was always her protector.  All I wanted was for him to come home so I could see him and wrap my arms around him.  I sent him a Red Cross message as soon as we heard about the attack, letting him know we were OK, but Lizzie was missing.  Once we knew Lizzie was gone, we sent another message."

She stopped and stared at the floor.  I have to tell him the rest of this, but how can I?  She fingered her rosary beads with a silent prayer.

“Trip called last Sunday night.  Charlie got to the phone before I did.  I knew that would be trouble.

 “About 20 years ago, Charlie was in a bad accident and was laid up for months.  He got depressed and started drinking.  When he’s sober, he’s the kindest man and most loving father you’d ever want to meet.  But then, he was a completely different person - loud, angry, verbally abusive.  He never hit me or the kids, but he would break things."  She fumbled in her pocket for a handkerchief.

“I did everything I could to protect the kids.  I don’t think Trip ever knew how bad things were or what his dad’s problem was.  They were always so close.  I didn’t want that to come between them.

 “Finally, I told Charlie that it was me or the booze.  I loved him, but I had to protect the children.  That got his attention.  He sobered up and got help with his depression.  He’s been a fine father and husband ever since, at least until last week.”

She sighed and was silent for a moment.  “If there was anyone on this Earth who loved Lizzie more than me, it was Charlie.  The grief totally overwhelmed him for the first few days after we knew she was gone.  Then he got restless.  He needed something to do.  There wasn’t enough left of the house or the business to salvage anything, even if he could have gotten around the police line to get there. 

“When my Aunt Theresa invited us to stay with her, it was a huge relief.  Driving us out here gave Charlie something to do, but as soon as we unpacked the car, he was at loose ends again.  There’s a bar about half a mile from my aunt’s house that he started to go to.  He’d stagger home when the bar closed, loud and angry, and would keep drinking until he passed out.  It was even worse than 20 years ago.  I didn’t know what to do.  I was afraid Aunt Theresa would kick us out.  I just kept praying it would stop.”

“Kathy, it sounds like you’re trying to confess for Charlie.  It doesn’t work that way," he said in a gently chiding voice.

“I know, Father.  I’m getting to my own sins.  When Trip called, he was hardly able to say two words before his father started screaming and cursing, accusing him of murdering Lizzie.  Some old fool at the bar had filled his head with crazy notions that we were attacked because of Enterprise’s mission.  So Charlie decided since Trip is Enterprise’s chief engineer, he killed Lizzie.

“I knew Charlie wasn’t thinking right, but I had no idea he’d say anything like that.  He was always so proud of Trip.

 “Trip was stunned.  He tried to reason with his father, but Charlie just shouted over him.

 “I didn’t know what to do.  I tried to get Charlie to stop, but he wasn’t listening to me any more than he was listening to Trip.  I thought about cutting the connection, but I knew with comms the way they’ve been since the attack, it might be my only chance to talk to my son.

 “Before I could say anything to Trip, Charlie told him that he was the one who should have died.  Then he told him he was no longer our son and to never contact anyone in the family ever again.  Trip said, ‘Yes, sir, if that’s what you want.’  Charlie screamed, ‘It is!’ and cut the connection.

“He grabbed a fifth of bourbon that was almost full and drank it as fast as he could.  I was afraid he’d poison himself, but I couldn’t stop him.  When he passed out, I put him on the couch and rolled him on his side.  I was afraid to leave him.  I kept hoping Trip would call back so I could explain, but no one called.  I tried calling the number he’d used, but it was a main Starfleet exchange.  They didn’t know how to reach him.  Finally, I found a number for Enterprise.  I tried all night, but I couldn’t get through.

“When Charlie woke up the next mornin’, he had a helluva hangover.  He didn’t remember anything, didn’t even know Trip had called.  At first, I don’t think he believed me, but he knew I wouldn’t make something like that up. 

“While he was in the bathroom, I asked Aunt Theresa who her family doctor was.  I called and made an appointment for later that day.  Then I packed our things.  When he came out, I told him one of two things was gonna happen.  Either he was going to go to the doctor with me, explain what happened and get help for his depression and his drinking, or I was heading back to the refugee camp and he would have to find another place to stay.

“He made some feeble excuses about this just being his way of grieving and said he could handle it himself.  I told him he couldn’t blame what he did on grief and that things would have to change.  I wouldn’t let him tear apart what was left of our family.  He went with me to see Dr.  Wilson that afternoon.  He’s been sober since then and taking his medicine.  I hope that will be enough.  We don’t have the money for the counseling the doctor recommended. 

“Charlie’s real sorry about what he did, but it doesn’t make any difference.  We can’t get through to Trip.  I’ve tried over and over to call him.  I’ve tried to call Captain Archer.  I’ve tried everything I can think of, but I can’t get through.  I can’t even leave a message.”

Her head and shoulders sagged as her voice broke.  She fought back the tears so she could continue her confession.  “On the news this morning they said Enterprise left last night to find the Xindi.  Everyone says it's a one-way mission.  I’ve lost my son.  He’s going to go to his death thinking his father hates him and his mother doesn’t care, and it’s all my fault.”

“How is it your fault?”

“I’ve seen Charlie like this before.  I should have done something before Trip called.”

“Do you think Charlie would have listened to you?”

“Probably not.  But at least I could have stopped him when he started yelling at Trip.”

“How would you have done that?  Charlie was in a drunken rage and I’d bet he’s bigger and stronger than you are.”

“He is, but there must have been something I could have done, maybe tear the phone out of the wall.  Trip’s my son and I didn’t protect him.  Now I’ve lost him forever.”

“You don’t know that.  Enterprise may be successful in her mission and return home.”

“I think that’s what I’m most afraid of.” She paused, her voice broken by tears.  “Enterprise will come home without Trip.  I will have killed my son.”

He was silent for a long moment.  “You’re afraid he’s suicidal?”

Startled by that idea, she snapped erect and shook her head.  “No, no, he’d never do that.  He’s tough.  Once he accepts a mission, he’ll do whatever it takes to accomplish it.  But he’s lost so much.  His fiancée broke up with him a few weeks after Enterprise launched.  He’s lost his sister, his home and lots of the friends he grew up with.  And now he thinks he’s lost the rest of his family.  He’s going to look around Enterprise and see people he thinks have a lot more to live for.  I’m afraid he’ll sacrifice himself for them, even if he doesn’t have to.”

“It sounds like the most important thing is for you to get in touch with him.  For his sake and yours."

She shook her head.  What could he possibly suggest that she hadn’t already tried?

“One of my seminary classmates, Father Donahue, is the senior chaplain at Starfleet Headquarters.  If anyone can get through to Enterprise, he can.  With your permission, I’ll call him and ask for his help.”

She felt the tight lump in her chest dissolve.  “Of course, Father, that would be wonderful.”

“I don’t think you’ve done anything that requires penance, but just in case I’ve missed something, here’s what I want you to do.  I want you to go home and write a letter to Trip that tells him everything you wish you could say to him.  Then I want you to write the 30-second version, just the most important things.  Also, I want to see you tomorrow in my office for counseling.  Bring Charlie if he’ll come.  You’ve both been through a lot.  I want to do whatever I can to help.”

“But Father, Charlie isn’t Catholic.  He’s Baptist.”

“Don’t worry.  I won’t try to convert him.  Has he been going to Third Street Baptist?”

“He did once before his drinking got so bad.”

“I hope he’ll go back.  I’ve known Pastor Barton, the minister there for years.  I’m sure he wouldn’t mind Charlie coming here for counseling with you.”

“I’ll ask Charlie.  After everything that’s happened, he’ll probably be willing.”

“Good.  One more thing I want you to do.  I want you to say a novena for the success of Enterprise’s mission and the safety of her crew.”

“Thank you, Father.  I should have thought of that myself.”

“You’ve had a lot on your mind.  Are you ready for your prayer of contrition?”

She bowed her head.  “O, my God, I am heartily sorry for all my sins and for having offended you, my beloved Lord.  I ask your forgiveness and I firmly resolve, with the help of Your grace, to sin no more.”

He said, “God, the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son has reconciled the world to himself.  He has sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins.  Through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace.”  They made the sign of the Cross together as he said, “I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

Forgiveness and hope.  It was more than she had thought possible.

He said, “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good.”

She smiled.  "For His mercy endures forever."

He opened the door on his side of the booth and looked out into the church.  “No one else is waiting to confess.  Let’s go light a candle for Trip.”

Author's note - Many thanks to Eireann, my wonderful beta.  Reviews would be very much appreciated.


Cap'n Frances

Thanks, Weeble. I'm very happy to know that the story works for a practicing Catholic. I'm not Catholic, although I used to sing with a Catholic folk mass group and even took at inquirers' class. I was hoping those memories and my research would be enough.

Lt. Zoe Jebkanto

This was my second read, Cap'n, and I enjoyed it even more this time.  I remember reading a quote (can't remember where... I was maybe 15 at the time) "Better to light a single candle than to curse the darkness".  Even after the loss of her daughter, Kathy has shown the strength to do that, along with a compassionate priest who not only helps her find what she can do in her difficult circumstances, but joins her in doing a beautiful, positive thing for Trip and his crewmates. With all the controversy around the Church these days, it is an especially beautiful and hopeful candle this story writes for its future, along with that of the whole Tucker family.  I also will look forward to discovering what Trip's reaction will be when he comes home after the Xindi mission. Zoe


Powerful stuff Cap'n. As a serious practising Catholic, I can see why she went to see her priest. You quote the most wonderful words I have ever heard (even though many times) "...I absolve you.." The weight that comes off one is amazing. I also like the candle lighting, no doubt it helped! 

Cap'n Frances

Thanks, Transwarp. I'm thinking about doing a sequel and have the beginning of an outline. I may do it as an outline, but I want to also uae it as a way to address some unfinished business between Archer and Trip. That may take a couple of chapters.


Wow.  Very powerful story!  It looks like there's hope that Kathy and Charles can get things patched up between them, but Trip has to wait until he's back from the Xindi mission to learn the truth.

I think his reaction at that moment (when he first sees his parents) would make a very moving and emotional epilogue to this story.  (Should you feel up to a challenge...)


This is an interesting story and it fits in with at least one other author's descriptions about Trip's family being Catholic.  As a former catholic who got most of his religious training in Sunday School at Saint Joseph's in Hawthorne before Vatican II, I find the prayers somewhat different, but a lot of things can change in 200 years, even the Church. 

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