549: Easier Said

by Carrick O'Sullivan
Following A Bond Unbroken
Soundtrack: The Shadow of the Day by Linkin Park


-=Sickbay, USS Alchemy=-

After a moment, Carrick withdrew from Keiran's embrace.

Overwhelmed after years of trying to keep all emotions associated with his father tightly locked away, the teenager felt he was in way over his head with a millstone tied round his neck. Paddling hard, but sinking fast.

He hardly knew which feeling he should allow to come to the surface first. Anger? Bitterness?


He was certain if he didn't choose a dominant emotion soon and block out all others, he was surely done for.

His instincts told him to protect himself, as his mother had always warned him to. To refuse to trust that any emotion his father might display was genuine.

Yet, he wanted so much to start over. To cast aside all of the doubts and fears that years of conditioning had put into his head and his heart.

He just didn't know how.

"How are you feelin',then?" Keiran asked, taking the hint and backing off. He pulled up chair and took a seat beside the bed.

"Poorly," Carrick answered honestly, "But I'm lucky to be alive, and I know that's a fact. If not for your friends," he shrugged. "I still don't know how the hell they knew where to find me."

"They're good at what they do," Keiran looked down at his hands. He would normally fidget with the ring on his left hand at a time like this, but it wasn't there.

He felt empty without it for more than one reason, and wondered if he'd ever get it back. "I owe them a great debt."

Hearing this, one single emotion finally won out in battle with the others inside of Carrick. Fresh anger burned in the pit his stomach at the thought his life had only been spared due to the kindness of strangers.

"I had always thought," he blurted. His cheeks reddened as he reigned in his tongue.

Keiran sat forward, perched on the edge of his seat and listening intently. "You thought?"

"That despite what Ma said about you, that if I ever really got into trouble, you'd come rushing in and," he looked away.

"Stupid childhood fantasy." He muttered, berating himself between thoughts. "Didn't quite happen that way though, did it, Captain O'Sullivan?" He twisted the title into an insult. "Off on adventures to save the whole goddamn Universe, but to hell with those you claim to love, right? We're bloody well on our own."

Of course his son's misguided notions and misdirected anger hurt, but Keiran clearly understood his son's fury and freely forgave him for it.

"I'm sorry," his voice was heavy with regret. "I never intended to get so far away from you that I couldn't come after you if you needed me. Things just got a lot more complicated than I'd ever imagined they could."

Through recent experiences, Keiran had discovered the shocking truth about his so-called 'set point'.

It had never been Zanh Liis at all.

It had been Carrick, and now he considered the cruel irony of that with derision.

TI had used Carrick all those years as his set point to manipulate him, but in the end they failed to keep their promise that no lasting harm would ever come to the boy as long as Keiran did their bidding.

Sure the boy was alive, but Keiran had no doubt that the harm done was going to be long lasting, indeed, for them both.

"Duty calls, right?" Carrick rolled his eyes and scowled. "I understand. The Steady Hand had somewhere else he had to be that was more important than saving his own son."

"Hey now," Keiran rose and put a hand on the boy's shoulder, but Carrick quickly pushed it away.

"If I'd had any choice in the matter," he shook his head. "I wish I could make you understand that you have always been the thing that," he felt the words lodging in his throat and didn't know how to go on.

"Temporal Investigations, is it Da?" Carrick whispered. "That was the job that has been so important that you threw your life with us away? So you could go off and play God deciding who lives and who dies?"

Keiran sighed deeply. "That's not how it works, boy,"

"Tell me then, what good is all that power in the end if it costs you everything?" His eyes implored Keiran to help him understand. "If it cost you your family?" He sputtered every word through clenched jaws. "How could you walk away?"

"Walk away?" Keiran threw his hands up into the air, pacing back and forth. He began muttering in Gaelic, quickly and quietly, and Carrick could only make out his mother's name among the jumble of words.

"I never wanted to leave, Carrick. That was your mother's doing, not mine." He looked at his boots. "I suppose you never got them, then?"

"Got what?"

"The letters I sent. Hundreds of them."

Carrick's mind flashed as he tried to process the fragment of a memory.

He was still under the influence of the drugs that the Klaestron had injected into him, which made the visions he'd experienced of having been at his father's funeral and the events leading up to it all the more distressing. Nothing at all made sense to him anymore, and the confusion was only getting worse.

Yet, he remembered being in a similar bed, in a similar sickbay, and Captain Zanh Liis sitting beside him, speaking of letters that his father had written to him...

"I thought," Carrick rubbed his eyes, trying to hide the fact that they were tearing up. "That was all a dream. I don't know anymore what's real and what's not."

Keiran quickly came to the understanding that this was more than the Sylph simply manipulating the boy by planting fictional ideas in his head. Carrick had clearly experienced another time and place so real that it had to be part of a paradox.

*We have all suffered the effects of a paradox.*

"Carrick William Riley O'Sullivan," Keiran sat down on the edge of the bed, and pulled the hesitant young man toward him again.

"I know it's hard to understand. That is the nature of the work that I have done in my life. It strips you bare. Drives you mad. It leaves you at times questioning everything you've ever said, ever done," he pulled Carrick closer and placed a kiss upon his forehead.

"But I promise you, there has never been a day, or a night, that you weren't with me, and that I have not prayed for this day to come. I'm sorry, that I wasn't there for you all those years. I know that I can't expect you to forget that. I'm not askin' you to."

He leaned back, and raised the boy's chin until he looked him in the eye. "But you're only sixteen, Carrick. We've got so many years ahead of us, if we don't let the past damn the future. Please," Keiran's eyes shone with unshed tears.

"Just, give me a chance to show you who I am. If you decide that you want nothin' to do with me afterward, I'll respect that, and you can go your own way. I give you my word."

Carrick considered the idea carefully. "Is...going to take some time. To get used to the idea of havin' a father."

"I know. Is all right." He looked at the boy with sincere sadness. "I know you must miss your mother to, so."

Carrick looked up at him, the battle between hope and anguish apparent on his face as he spoke again.

"There's nothing you can do, you and your time traveling lot, about that. Is there?" Part of him wished that maybe since his father was alive, he'd go home and find his mother still was, as well.

Keiran shook his head sadly. "I'm sorry."

"Yeah." Carrick mumbled, leaning back into his pillow and closing his eyes. "Makes two of us."

Doctor McKay stuck his head into the room and interrupted. "Sorry boys, visiting hours are over. We have to get this youngin' up to Sickbay proper."

"Understood. Thanks, Doc." Keiran turned to go, merely nodding to Carrick in parting so as to respect his need for space.


Keiran waited.

"I want to go home."

Keiran reassured him with a glance. "As soon as I can get you there. Promise. I'll...see you in the morning." He reached out, and Carrick watched as his father's enormous hand nearly swallowed up his own. "I love you, Carrick."

As the elder O'Sullivan departed, Dalton McKay watched Carrick shift uncomfortably. McKay considered his words carefully as he pulled the railings up on the sides of the bed and set about unhooking the monitors from the boy, preparing to move him to the Sera's Sickbay.

"Anything you want to talk about?"

"Thank you..." Carrick's voice was barely existent, as he continued staring down at his own hands and marveling how much they looked like his father's. "...no."

He closed his eyes and tears spilled down his cheeks.

Exhaustion overtook him as he heard familiar words from The King's Procession ringing in his head, recited in his father's low, resonating voice.

Carrick O'Sullivan
Civilian Passenger
USS Serendipity/Alchemy