Following Second Chance
Soundtrack: You'll Be In My Heart by Phil Collins
-=Transporter Room One, USS Serendipity=-
As activity swirled around him, Keiran was a man very much in suspended animation.
He hovered over the gurney where Zanh Liis lay, watching her chest rise and fall with every breath.
*She's alive,* he kept telling himself, *No matter what else has to happen, I can face it, as long as she is here and not...*
His thoughts came to a grinding halt the moment he saw her stirring.
His breath deserted him, and he thought inexplicably of fairy tales as he watched Snow White open her eyes.
It was only then he realized that he wished he could have collected on the kiss that usually preceded such awakenings...
She opened her eyes and the moment she remembered where she was, her expression reflected her profound confusion.
Before she could speak he leaned down, resting his forehead against hers.
There were no words sufficient to say what he wanted to say to her; and there were none she needed to hear to make her feel any more than seeing him standing there already did.
Years of time and memories collided in each of their heads. He leaned back and sighed slowly, still holding her gaze. Too stunned to cry, Liis could only stare back.
It was then that she spoke, managing three short words as the medical support staff prepared to take her to Sickbay.
-Three words that made him love her even more than he ever had before.
"Go to him."
He lifted her hand to his lips, and gently placed a kiss upon it.
They needed to talk, that much he was certain of, but right now the only thing that mattered to her was making sure that he was reunited with his son, because she knew how much it mattered to him.
"Thank you," he whispered, "for everything."
Reluctantly, he left her side for the time being and approached the Sera's current Commanding Officer.
"I'd like to go to the Alchemy bay," Keiran asked Salvek, "If I may."
"If you feel you are well enough to walk there," Salvek was not certain that he should let O'Sullivan wander far without being checked over as well. But as a father himself, he knew that there was one thing on the man's mind, and that was finding his lost child.
"Walk? I've been waiting twelve years for this," Keiran replied softly, "If you asked me to, I could fly."
"I will notify you when the team from the Planck arrives."
Without another moment's hesitation, Keiran exited the transporter room, and tread the familiar halls of the Serendipity in the direction of the Alchemy's bay.
As soon as he walked up the boarding ramp to the Alchemy, his heart began to pound.
The closer he got to Sickbay, the more shallow his breathing became.
All at once panic gripped him, as he realized he didn't know how to begin making up for all the years that he and Carrick had lost.
This was, he remembered vividly, not the first time that he'd been left wondering if he had what it took to be the father his son needed.
That was something he had worried about from the very beginning.
"He won't stop cryin'. I don't know what to do but I swear I'm gonna go out of my mind!"
The baby's wailing nearly drown out the frustrated words of his sleep-deprived, still recovering from the blessed-event, young mother. Tears streamed down her face as she shrugged helplessly.
"I tried everything your mother told me to try. He's fed, he's dry, he's warm. I don't know why he won't stop." She frowned deeply. "Maybe there's something wrong with him, no?"
"No. He just saw the doctor this morning, right? He's fine," He tried to gently reassure his wife, but his attempt to calm her backfired, producing the exact opposite effect.
"He's fine, is he? He's SO fine? LISTEN TO HIM!" Maggie threw her hands into the air and stormed out of the nursery. "I can't do this. Maybe I'm not meant to be a mother. I can't take that sound another minute!"
She slammed the door behind her, leaving Keiran standing over the cradle, looking down at the tiny, red-faced, screaming being it contained.
He contemplated picking the baby up, but when he prepared to do so, his gigantic hands began to shake.
"I'll have you know that Starfleet training does not cover this, young man." He rumbled softly, comparing the size of a single one of his fingertips to the baby's entire hand.
By way of reply, the baby screamed even louder.
"KEIRAN!" Maggie shouted, banging on the wall between the nursery and the bedroom next door with her fist. "DO SOMETHIN'! I have GOT to get some SLEEP!"
"I'm workin' on it, yeah? Give me a minute!" Keiran shouted back, shaking his head. How in the world had his mother, tiny powerhouse though she was, managed to do the job of parent seven times over?
Yesterday, Keiran O'Sullivan thought he was a man quite on top of the world.
His career was going well, he had saved up his shore leave to be here for the birth of his son. He had a beautiful wife, a wonderful family, and a lovely home in God's Country.
He was a professional; a Starfleet Officer. An Officer of the law. He could handle any situation, he had thought. He knew it all.
He realized now as he contemplated his first full day and night of fatherhood that he knew absolutely nothing.
Keiran had held his son only once briefly in the twenty-four hours since he'd been born. Anxious sisters, two sets of grandparents and seemingly everyone from the local parish had pushed their way past him, demanding their moment to size up the latest, and littlest, member of the O'Sullivan family.
*He's so tiny. What if I break him?* He fretted as finally, he took a breath and tried to remember what his sisters had told him.
He took a receiving blanket and put it down onto the changing table. Nervously, he repeated their instructions which somehow seemed far too simple and straightforward to actually be the correct ones for handling such a fragile, flailing little creature.
"One hand under his head, one under his bottom." Keiran intoned. "Always support the head." He stroked the baby's cheek gently once before proceeding. "All right boy, here we go."
He managed to lift the baby up and transfer him onto the changing table without causing any apparent injury, that was a relief. Unfortunately, the act had failed to stop the baby's crying.
He frowned, and gently unsnapped the baby's sleeper. With the delicacy of a Spec Ops expert trying to diffuse a bomb with mere seconds left on the timer, he tugged at the elastic on the leg of the baby's diaper to determine if a new one was needed.
Much to his surprise and delight, it was not.
He was very pleased about this, considering he had just passed his first test with flying colors in lifting the baby up, he didn't want to have to try for a repeat performance on the diaper changing lesson just yet.
He remembered how his mother had told him that new babies miss the womb and like to be wrapped up securely, so after snapping the baby's sleeper back up, he folded the corners of the blanket inward, and snugged Carrick inside of it.
He made sure that tiny hands and feet still had room to move, and nodded with satisfaction as for the first time, the baby's crying dropped a small amount in volume.
"All right, lad, let's see what we can do for you, yeah?"
He picked the tiny bundle up and moved toward the large wooden rocking chair that his brothers had built in anticipation of the baby's arrival.
Two of them were already fathers themselves, and as such they had the foresight to make the chair large enough to accommodate Keiran's hulking frame.
He told them it wasn't necessary, but his brothers had both smiled at him wistfully and told him that he'd be logging hours in that chair before he knew it, rocking in place as he watched his world change overnight.
He'd had no idea how right they were.
"Let's see now, there's a boy," Keiran slowly settled into the chair. He planted his bare feet on the ground, and held the baby against his chest.
It was three o'clock in the morning, and Keiran had forgotten to grab a shirt as he'd followed Maggie out of the bedroom.
The second that the baby came into contact with his skin, the infant began to calm. The warmth he felt with his father's arms around him seemed to be working some kind of magic that Keiran couldn't possibly begin to understand, but he was amazed by it just the same.
As he rocked to and fro in the chair, he began to remember a lullaby that his own mother used to sing to him when he was but a boy.
Now, it was his turn to sing.
The baby stopped crying and tried to focus blurry, newborn vision upon his father's face. Keiran could only wonder what, if anything, he was thinking as he blinked large, inquisitive blue eyes and sniffed the air like a curious puppy.
At that instant, Keiran felt something he had never imagined he would in his life. It was a mystical, Divine connection that he couldn't possibly have believed in a day, an hour, or even a moment ago. He leaned down and kissed the top of Carrick's head, overwhelmed with the sweet scent of it.
The baby was content and calm now, and Keiran was glad that he was alone, and so didn't have to try to conceal the tears that were filling his eyes.
"It's going to be different for us, Carrick, I promise you," he whispered into the baby's ear, as the infant puckered and unpuckered his lips, making the most adorable sound that Keiran had ever heard in his life.
"It won't be like it was... like it is for me and my father."
His tears fell down onto the blanket as he again kissed Carrick's head. "I promise you."
The stone battlements that he'd built up around his heart over his lifetime thus far crumbled. The fearless, unstoppable giant was felled with one blow in the form of the overwhelming honor, responsibility, and love that accompanied parenthood.
"I love you, Carrick," he whispered, continuing to rock in the chair. "No matter what happens, I will always, always love you."
"You can go in now," The Emergency Nursing Hologram informed Keiran with a pleasant smile. "He's awake."
"Aye," Keiran was as terrified by the thought as he'd been by the idea of holding Carrick that first night after he was born. "Thank you."
On the other side of the curtain, Carrick O'Sullivan propped himself up and shifted his blanket.
He ran his hand through his hair and over the stubble on his unshaven chin.
He wondered what kind of impression he'd make upon his father, in the state he must certainly be in. After considering it an instant, anger welled within him.
*What the hell do I care what he thinks of me,* Carrick thought bitterly. *He's the one who walked away.*
But even as he heard his mother's voice echoing in his head with every unkind remark she had ever made about the man who had fathered him, Carrick had another vision appear in his mind, one just as strong.
It was the memory of Zanh Liis, standing so silently beside his father's grave.
Whatever manner of dream or vision that had been, it sure felt real to him, and he remembered the way that he felt when she spoke of how good a man his father was. Of how hard the elder O'Sullivan had tried to reach out to him.
He didn't know what to think of the man, who was honestly a stranger to him. But he realized that if he didn't at least try to give him a chance, he may someday regret it just as he had when he thought that Keiran had died.
"He's been through a lot," Dalton McKay warned Keiran, "They took an awful lot of blood out of him, and injected an awful lot of things into him."
"But he's going to be all right?"
"He's young." Dalton replied. "He'll bounce back." He put a hand on O'Sullivan's broad shoulder. "We should move him to the Sera's sickbay as soon as we can. But I'll give you two a minute alone first."
"Aye, thanks Doc." Keiran nodded gratefully.
"Don't mention it." The LMH paused as he headed out. "Good to see you again."
"Thanks. Good to be here." He couldn't stop his hands from shaking as he pulled the curtain back, and for the first time in more than twelve years, laid eyes on his son.
He tried to greet the lad by name, but couldn't find his voice.
Carrick, for his part, did not know what could possibly be said. "Hello," he ventured, his hands fidgeting nervously. *God, I'd love a cigarette about now...*
As soon as Keiran's eyes locked on Carrick's, it was as if all the years were but an instant and in that face, as different as it was, he saw the boy that he had read to every night at bedtime.
The child he sang to sleep, to scare the monsters away.
Keiran took his son into his arms and gathered him to his chest, saying what he'd wanted to say to him for twelve long years.
Words that in all his years of life, Keiran had never heard his own father say to him.
"I love you, son," he placed a kiss on top of the young man's head.
Carrick found, much to his dismay, that instead of wanting to run from the embrace, it felt like home. He missed his mother so much he could barely stand it, and he rested his head against his father's shoulder and closed his eyes.
As Keiran hugged his boy, his mind returned to that tiny, powder blue nursery where he had sat in the rocking chair, holding Carrick all night so soon after he had been born into this life.
Captain Keiran O'Sullivan