375: By Default

by Jariel Camen
About an hour after Bursting the Bubble

-=Medical Conference Room Outside Sickbay=-

Salvek looked around the room, from O'Sullivan, to Tryst, to Blane, Breaux, the LMH and Jariel.

These men comprised the collective of everyone who had detailed knowledge of what had happened to the Captain over the last few days, and what she may or may not remember when she awakened.

The Vedek chose to lean against the wall and stare out into space.

"Gentlemen." Salvek began. "We need to discuss options and be prepared for whatever may happen when the Captain regains consciousness."

Blane shifted nervously in his seat. "What if she remembers everything?"

"Then we have a problem." Salvek said. "There is no denying the profound confusion and conflict her memories have already caused in her. If she retains them, it will take her a great deal of introspection to process them."

"What the XO is trying to say, diplomatically, is that the Captain may not be able to carry out her duties effectively until she has had emotional support in dealing with these events." Vol interjected.

"You're saying she may need to be relieved of duty? Temporarily I hope?" Jariel asked, never turning towards the group. Even in his own melancholy state of wondering what the future may hold, he was still aware that Liis loved being captain of this ship, and was willing to defend her right to continue serving as such.

"For the shortest time possible until she is deemed emotionally fit by the Counselor." Salvek replied to the Vedek. "I am merely discussing the possibility, I hope that course of action will not be necessary."

O'Sullivan listened to the conversation, hoping that her memories would have been lost along with the Luminary during the events in Sickbay. She was never meant to carry any memories of the alternate timelines.

He knew the sudden bombardment of visions by the Healers had brought her suffering to the point she almost had perished. If she did remember, that pain would go on, and he feared what long-term effects it would have upon her life.

The heartbreak was supposed to be his and his alone.

Still a part of him in the corner of his conscious mind played a dangerous what if game. *What if she remembered, and feelings of love inside of her were awakened, and the damned Vedek just went back to Bajor and the Prophets already. He could take the little French girl with him, they could be happy together...*

He did his best to push the thought aside as soon as it cropped up.

"No matter what she does or does not remember, she will need to be evaluated when she awakens. That is assured." Vol said.

"If she has any memory loss we need to be sure it is not of events or facts she would need to have to Command the ship," Avery offered. "She may not even remember her own Command codes, or The Alchemy Project for that matter."

"In short, she's going to have issues and she's going to need some tender loving care above all else. So if there is any hash to be settled between y'all you best do it here without dragging her down with ya." The LMH chimed in.

"And what if all she forgets is the other timelines?" O'Sullivan asked. "Will she just step back into her life where she was before these Healers came?"

"If that is the case, we consider ourselves fortunate, and never speak of these events with her again." Salvek said.

"No." Jariel turned towards the group now. "You can't do that, she must be told."

"No she must not." O'Sullivan countered.

"I know how hard she fought to remember when TI kept resequencing her." Camen said, his anger building. "She doesn't deserve to have things hidden form her, that's what they want." He spat with frustration.

"She fought for you." O'Sullivan said, recoiling at his own words. "For the knowledge of who she is and why she was willing to put up with the likes of Vox for so long." Keiran looked down at the floor. "Not for the memories of why everything went wrong and she ended up dead."

Camen felt his face flush and returned to the window.

"There's no sense in bringing pain into her life for recalling things that were never meant to happen. Even in that life she still loved you, and she'll love you here whether she remembers or not, so why should she have to live with the suffering as well?" Keiran paused, as everyone waited for the next person to speak. "You always win, isn't that enough?"

Camen resisted arguing the point further because he knew the logic was sound. If she would be better off not knowing, why should he argue for her being worse off? He felt the bitterness in Keiran's words but let them roll off his shoulder for now.

"Then we agree gentlemen. If she does not retain her memories, then they end here, in this room. For the sake of clarity I am issuing this to all of you as a direct order. Once you leave this room, you will never discuss your knowledge of these events ever again. Is that perfectly clear to everyone?"

Everyone nodded.

"Doctor McKay," Salvek said, "The memory files you have of these events will be restricted under my Command, and deleted if anyone tries to access them."

"Understood Commander."

"I know carrying out these orders will be more difficult on some of you than others."

*That's the understatement of the millennium.* Jariel and O'Sullivan both thought.

Salvek continued, "If she remembers, than you can consider these orders void, and we will proceed from there. Either way we must agree that the Captain's well being is more important than anything else in this matter."

Salvek waited for any more dissenting opinions. The room remained silent.

"Doctors, please keep us informed. Dismissed."

“Keiran, it’s back to Sickbay for you,” The LMH insisted.

As the room began to empty, Jariel caught O'Sullivan's attention. "A moment please Commander."

Salvek stopped his stride towards the exit.

"Vedek, this is not advisable."

"Leave us please, Salvek." Camen requested. The Vulcan looked at both men, and decided if anything needed to be settled, it needed to be now.

"I will be outside." Salvek said, as a warning. He stepped through the door, leaving Camen and Keiran alone.

"Where do you go from here, Keiran? Can you live like this?"

"This is what we do Vedek. We live like this so everyone else can go with their lives. It is my place to carry this, not hers. Just like it is her place to carry all the things she went through to get to you."

Camen wrapped his arms around his shoulders, and slumped back into a chair.

"What if it’s all wrong. What if none of this is right."

Keiran had asked himself that same question upon waking, and that was why he had requested that Vol Tryst retrieve his Temporal Compass from his quarters more than an hour ago.

"My compass is dark, things are proceeding as Time dictates."

O'Sullivan jumped back, startled as Jariel slammed the palms of his hands down on the table.

"Damn it, that's not good enough! I'm so sick of hearing the damned timeline is proceeding the way it’s supposed to. I want a life with Zanh Liis because that is where her heart lies, not because some drama played out over dozens of timelines with dozens of outcomes only for Jariel Camen to win in the end on a technicality."

He thought back to the way O'Sullivan looked as he held Liis in Sickbay, knowing that he was saving her life. "Who's to say you aren't her savior?"

Keiran laughed a small, bitter laugh at the thought. "I remember reading something a while back." He sat at the table, and tapped the computer, looking for a file. Keiran cleared his throat and read.

"That crazy bastard ran across the room, completely unarmed with weapons fire all around him. Then he leapt through the air like The Flash or something and landed next to the stasis chamber and placed the combadge on Zanh Liis. Next thing I saw, they disappeared. I think he's insane. But in a good way."

Keiran turned off the computer. "That's from the official Aertok Rescue Mission report submitted by one Commander Dabin Reece."

Jariel spun back and forth in his chair, considering his next words.

"Again I ask, where do you go from here? If I may speak up for myself, frankly, Commander, is it fair to expect me to keep looking over my shoulder wondering what you are thinking?"

"You can't just expect me to give up on the way I feel."

Jariel shook his head, knowing that that was certainly not an option.

"I won't fight you, Keiran."

O'Sullivan's eyes narrowed. "What do you mean by that?"

"If you want to stay here to be near her, I won't fight you. If she remembers everything, I'm willing to let her heart lead her where it will. If that means she falls in love with you, I'm willing to return to Bajor to stay out of your way. Should she remember nothing, I will follow Salvek's orders."

Keiran responded with another short, incredulous laugh. "You overestimate my chances. As I said, you always win."

"Her love is too important for me to simply have it because she supposedly can't have yours. I'm willing to take that chance, for her. As I said, I won't accept victory by default."

"Honestly Vedek, I don't know where to go from here. The one constant in everything, and I mean everything, is that she has loved you, and you her. I don't know that I have it in me to stand up to that."

Jariel appreciated his heartbreaking honestly, but still wondered if O'Sullivan would be able to stop himself if he ever felt there was an opportunity.

"Stay here, if you wish it. But..." Jariel lowered his voice. "Just know that if any harm ever comes to her..."

Keiran nodded in understanding.

Jariel Camen
Ship's Chaplain
USS Serendipity NCC-2012