by -=/\=- Zanh Liis
Evening, the same day as Used
-=County Cork, Ireland; Earth=-
Evening, the same day as Used
-=County Cork, Ireland; Earth=-
His day of wandering had ended just as Jonas Vox suggested it would.
While that bothered Keiran a little, it really didn't surprise him much. He really had no choice but to come here, and face this place again.
He stood in silence beneath the tree in the meadow he remembered so well, and for so many reasons.
He had so much on his mind, he didn't know if he could ever process it all. So much on his heart, he didn't know how he could survive it all.
As he watched the sunlight fade at the dimming of this dark day, he knew that he had no other choice but to try.
He had no idea that even as he was asking himself for the hundredth time how he was going to begin again without Zanh Liis in his life, that she was about to materialize less than a meter away from his current location.
"Captain." He shifted from his leaning position and stood respectfully tall. "I thought you'd returned to the Sera hours ago."
"How did ya find me?"
"Educated guess." Liis gave a dismissive wave of her hand as she took a step toward him.
In response, Keiran took an equal step back.
"Pretty damned good one, I'd say." He wasn't sure he believed her, but decided not to press the issue. He folded his arms defensively as he realized that there was a much more important question he should ask, as she really had no reason to be here.
"Can I ask why you've come?"
"Curiosity. Vox wouldn't answer a question and I thought perhaps you might."
He nodded slowly. "Sure enough. If I can."
"Well, it's not in my nature to go sending my former officers out there into the Universe with no idea what's to become of them," she explained. "Where do you go from here?"
"I have to find my son," Keiran confided sadly, "What's more, there is a dangerous man on the loose out there who has a hell of a lot more information about the Sera and her crew in his head than I'd like."
*Breaux.* She thought angrily, before purposely suppressing the emotion and casually clapping her hands together once.
"Well, they tell me that Officer O'Sullivan always gets his man. I'm sure that the future is in good hands with you looking after it."
*If only O'Sullivan had half as much luck at getting his woman,* thought Keiran.
"Thanks. 'Tis kind of ya to say it, Captain."
Liis clasped her hands behind her back and squeezed them tightly, digging her short, unmanicured fingernails into her palms to keep herself present in the moment.
She only had to keep herself together a little bit longer.
Long enough to get through the overwhelming awkwardness of this situation. To offer the proper goodbye she hoped would bring the man closure to a part of his past that so clearly haunted him.
"They also tell me that we were friends once, you and I. Is that correct?"
"Aye." Keiran smiled wistfully, thinking back to better days. "We were that."
"Then let me offer you some friendly advice, O'Sullivan. Something tells me that there is one other man you need to find while you're running around out there." She advanced by two more steps, backing him up against the tree and leaving him nowhere to run.
"Who would that be, then?" Keiran shifted nervously, totally missing the meaning of her statement at first. He watched as her expression darkened like a threatening sky. She tilted her head sadly, her eyes speaking for her once again.
Only then did he understand that she meant for him to find himself.
"Bit late for that." She was standing so close to him. He stretched out his hand toward her. *I only want to touch her hair, one last time.*
Realizing what he was about to do, Keiran drew his arm back to his chest.
"No." Liis insisted, "Never too late to set things right."
*Is what I've always hoped for us, Zanh Liis. If only you could understand that.*
Liis knew that the time left for talking was short. This was the way it had to be; they both had their jobs to do. The moment had come to shake his hand, turn around, and walk away.
Frantic words screamed through her mind as she contemplated following through on that plan.
*I can't. I just can't do this to him.*
She felt the tremor rising in her from the soles of her feet upward, and she began to shake as she was forced to face reality.
She stood in silence for several seconds, thinking. Making a deal with herself- giving herself one last chance to stop the momentum at work here.
*If he doesn't look up at me now when I speak...if he avoids my eyes or if there is no discernable response in his at hearing me say his given name, then I will keep to the plan I've rehearsed since the moment I left Vox' office. *
*Yes. If he looks away, I will leave well enough alone.*
Finally, she spoke.
Though it was obvious that it hurt him to do so, he looked up and into her eyes, questioning.
In that instant, the sorrow she saw in him made her final decision for her. She knew for certain what she had to do to set things right.
She drew a long, slow breath inward.
"Sixteen, and three."
She glanced up, away into the foliage of the tree that sheltered them. She allowed the palm of her left hand to rest against the rough bark of the trunk for support.
The leaves overhead rustled softly in the early evening breeze, in their own way gasping in response to her remark.
Keiran O'Sullivan's heart seemed to beat backward.
"What did you say?"
"Sixteen and three." Liis droned, finally allowing her eyes to meet his again. "The number of rules and sub-sections of the code of conduct we broke under this tree."
Keiran's throat constricted as his mind and heart railed against the meaning of her words.
*God, no. It is not possible-*
"This is where the arbor was." She pushed off from the tree, taking several paces forward and to the West before stopping at the appropriate location.
She looked back at him sadly, over her shoulder. "It was warm, just like it is now, the night we were married here in that variant of 2380."
She felt gutted by the sight of the shock, horror, and finally the heartache that was etched across his handsome face.
"The house was just over there." She gestured into the distance with an open palm. "The wall facing the garden, that was where our bedroom window was." She had tears in her eyes. Her hand elevated and began twisting the chain of her earring.
"You set it facing that direction on purpose. So I could watch the sun set every night." Her voice dropped to a mere whisper. "The rising of the moon as the stars came out."
"Oh my God. Liis." Keiran staggered forward, his hands taking hold of her shoulders. His eyes flashed at first confusion and then desperation as he began to grasp that she remembered so much more than she had allowed anyone to believe up until this point.
"Do you think he bought it?" She asked softly, gracefully wrapping her arms around herself to try to stop the shaking. Her hands came to rest on opposite shoulders, atop his as they remained where he'd placed them.
"God, yes. You gave a consummate performance, I..." he paused, "Even I believed you."
"Good." Her jaw set defiantly as she stared through him for a moment, to some unknown, unseen point in the distance. "These things belong to us, Keiran. You and I and no one else."
Keiran extricated his hands and turned away, leaning an arm against the tree and his head down upon it. "I'm so sorry, Liis. I didn't want you to know."
"The truth. Speak it to me, if no one else." Quickly, she ducked under his arm. She lifted his face, demanding to not only be looked upon but truly seen by this man. "Would you really rather I'd forgotten?"
Silence stood between them for a long time before he finally answered her question.
Only now could he admit this, even to himself.
"The fact that you didn't know, after all that we'd," he stumbled over the words as he tried to speak them. "It was killin' me, Liis, but I-" he stuttered once more. "I didn't want you to have to carry it. I wanted to do it for you. For us both."
"If recovering these memories has taught me anything, it's that contrary to what you believe, the burden is not yours alone, Keiran. The blame for what went wrong is not yours alone."
He couldn't begin to fathom what she meant.
"It's like I told you, all those years ago. I was there. I had a choice in the matter each time. While you've been putting yourself through hell in all the ages in between those times and this- that was the one thing you never allowed yourself to accept. The truth that I was just as responsible for everything that happened, and the outcome, as you were. I want you to believe it now, even if you believe nothing else I have ever said to you."
She swallowed deeply, the last of her composure melting away. "I don't even know if it matters to you anymore,"
She trembled still as she reached for his forearms and took hold. Her hands slid down his wrists and over his palms, catching his fingers and entwining them with her own.
"But if it does mean anything at all to you, then it's worth it to me. It hurts," she paused, the same pain he was suffering evident in her as well now. "So badly. But it is worth it."
He stared at her in disbelief as she answered his next unspoken question.
"Yes, Keiran. Even the burden of remembering how happy we were, during the one year that was ours alone." Tears rolled silently down her face.
"You've been through so much to protect me. Before, and since. Given up everything you wanted so I could have the life that was meant for me." She shook her head, "If the only thing I can do for you in the now that we're living is to carry the memories of what we were, then I will hold on to them for all I'm worth. I promise, I will remember you." She closed her eyes. "I will remember everything."
He was silent a long time, not knowing what to do or say. He couldn't begin to tell her how much it meant that she could remember.
That she wanted to remember.
Again his mind and heart dared to beg the question- *What if this time, later down the road, I might be the one who wins History's favor?*
Then, he began to wonder about something else.
"Are you going to tell him?" Keiran didn't need to specify the 'him' he was referring to.
"I don't know." Liis opened her eyes again and sighed, replying with complete honesty. "For once, I haven't thought that far ahead."
The sun was setting on the horizon, and as he watched the first of the evening's stars appear above, Keiran felt his heart would break in his very chest if he had to be in this place with her a moment longer.
Knowing that she knew what she knew- and that she was determined to hold on to that knowledge, consequences be damned...
He needed to physically remove himself from this situation before he did something that would cost them both dearly.
"Tis gettin' late, Zanh Liis. You'd best not keep the Sera waiting any longer."
Liis stared at him, still grasping his hands, unwilling to release them just yet.
"I'll go. First, do something for me, Keiran," she asked softly. "Please."
Captain of the Serendipity
Captain of the Serendipity