672: Given the Choice

by *William Lindsay
(as told by Rada Dengar)
and -=/\=- Zanh Liis
Concurrent with Barleycove Beach



The sound that interrupted his slumber was shrill, familiar, and bloody annoying.

"The world better be coming to an effing end."

Rolling over in bed, Will fought to open his burning, puffy eyes.

He didn't know if it was all the fresh air, or if it was emotional exhaustion from the talking that he'd done with Zanh Liis that had left him so worn out.

Or, he considered, it could be the fact that after they'd finished talking, he'd gone out and gotten absolutely polluted trying to forget half of the things they'd talked about.

Regardless, it seemed that he had slept an entire day away. The curtain was open a crack and through the breach he could see the sun was already setting.

Had it really been twenty-four hours since he'd said goodbye to her at the trans hub?

He had wanted to deliver her directly back to her husband just as he had promised, but she insisted that she needed the time for the walk home alone. To compose herself and gather her thoughts before she looked Keiran in the eyes again.

He'd respected her wishes, not realizing until after she'd gone just how much he needed the walk back with her to help sort out the years of mangled history that their conversation had dredged up and the accompanying emotions that he hadn't expected to surface along with them.

All he could wonder as he heard that sound and groped around for the source of it on his bedside table was what the hell the problem was with the Universe now.

If he believed in God, he would have prayed that it whatever it was it didn't have anything to do with Keiran, or Liis.

He retrieved his compass, slowly managed to sit upright, and finally dropped his legs over the side of the bed. Rubbing his stubbled chin he sighed deeply, pried open the lid, and swore a blue streak.

"I'll be damned," he whispered, when his more explicit profanity had subsided. "It is."

He scrambled out of bed and stumbled toward the computer panel. Opening a secured channel, he sent an urgent message to Gemini Lassiter.

[William, I am very busy at the moment,] the Admiral barked in response a few moments later.

As much as she adored the man, she didn't like that he often overrode her other incoming calls by hailing her waving the 'high priority' incoming message flag when all he wanted to do was complain that he didn't like his new orders, or some other nonsense that he should have waited his turn for. [World better be coming to an end.]

"Be careful what you wish for," he held up his compass on display, and the woman's expression immediately changed from one of irritation to one of stark terror.

[I'm going to have very explicit orders for you, William.]

He sighed dejectedly, running his hand through his hair. "Aye. I thought you might."

[Get here. Now.]

As he hurried to find his clothes, Will's thoughts rewound, back to the conversation he'd had with Zanh Liis as they drove through the countryside, without a present care in the world.

-=The Day Before: Somewhere in Scotland=-

Liis once again took the wheel and Will took the passenger’s seat. Liis had opted to continue once again on the road they’d been traveling before they’d entered Will’s property.

She drove somewhat slower now; not slow enough that a person without exceptional reflexes could have easily navigated the winding roads but slow enough that the small, graceful and perfectly timed adjustments she made to the wheels didn’t look like she was showing off.

There was so much beauty in the simple green Scottish countryside that Liis could have just driven for hours more without saying a word and not grown tired of it.

That and she was expecting a question from Lindsay soon and these few minutes of silence were allowing her a chance to consider potential answers. She didn’t know what that question would be but she had placed no restrictions on what it could be and had promised to answer it whatever.

Will intentionally didn’t say anything or even look directly at Liis during this time. He had decided on his question and it was not the type of thing that should not be asked too bluntly or of a person far out of their element lest it be answered without due consideration.

This was why he’d chosen to wait just until he was certain Liis was comfortable on the road, not long enough that the question would have to snap her out of it but long enough that she’d be in the mindset he’d seen her in before, as she drove without any idea where they were going. So he just sat there with his arm resting on the door and watched the scenery flashing past.

As she drove, Liis considered the type of man Will Lindsay was. She was an excellent judge of character, and could often surmise a person’s intentions. It followed that if she knew what they wanted she’d know what they wanted to know and therefore what they’d ask of her given the chance.

Lindsay was an honourable and clearly honest man. Liis didn’t doubt that it was these qualities which had led Keiran to such respect for him.

So she knew that he would not ask something trashy; that he would not be looking for some sordid piece of gossip from her past for a brief chance at laughter. As he was a good man she was also sure that he would not delve into some painful span of her life simply out of curiosity.

Still, whatever he asked she was certain it wasn’t going to be trivial. He would appreciate that this was a rare opportunity to ask her about something that she would almost never really talk about; herself. She tensed up at the concept.

The hills kept on passing by and the roads kept on winding. The atmosphere became very calm from his point of view but internally she was growing ever edgier. Finally Will decided she was as ready as she’d ever be.

Though his arm stayed casually draped over the door with his elbow hanging partially out of the vehicle, there was nothing casual about the tone he spoke in.

He turned to her as said, “Both you and K went through a hell of a lot of bullshit as a result of your time at Temporal Investigations.”

She didn’t say anything, didn’t even turn to face him which was a probably a good thing considering she seemed to be accelerating. She tightened her grip on the steering wheel and he his on the seat.

“That comes with a lot of bad memories. Not to mention you now have the memories from all those other timelines. These memories will have a lasting impact on how you live the rest of your lives. They may well cause you both a lot of pain for years to come. This made me wonder, given the choice; knowing that you’d meet again in this timeline…”He paused a moment as he studied her face for a reaction to where he was going with this.

It was obvious from her sudden change in posture and the fact that they seemed to be going ever faster that this was a tense topic for her. Liis was not prepared for this question. Knowing what he did he couldn’t blame her for that.

He’d expected this to be the case but not only did he need to know the answer himself but he also felt that as tough as it would be for her, it would also be good for Liis to come to one.

After a moment of further consideration and special attention paid to the strange look in her eyes, he asked it. "Would you rather have forgotten?"

Liis slammed on the brakes.

Not wearing his seat belt at this point Will lurched forward, bracing himself with his hands against the dashboard as best he could as the car screeched to a sudden stop.

She threw the gearshift into Park and abandoned the vehicle right where it was; in the middle of the deserted country lane. She bolted, not bothering to even push the door closed behind her.

"Answer the question!" Lindsay jumped out of the convertible without even opening the passenger side door and pursued her. "If you knew you'd fall in love with each other again in this timeline, would you rather not have remembered him at all?"

Liis folded her arms, turning her back to him as the very thought of the question pulled the air from her lungs. Conflicting feelings rose like a swell, threatening to crush her beneath the depths of a violent, angry tide.

"Everything would be simpler." He sought the right words, even as he continually placed himself directly in her path until she gave up trying to avoid him and held still. "That bit of innocence that you still held onto, before all this. Gone forever now." He waited a moment for her to consider his words. "Are you sorry?"

"Am I sorry...for my sake?" Liis gripped her hands together tightly as they began to vibrate.

She stammered as she tried to deconstruct his question clinically, though she doubted there was any way she could ever be logical or distant about her feelings for Keiran. "Hell, no."

She fought the urge to run, remembering she had promised to answer him as honestly as possible any question he asked her today.

"Innocence lost? Maybe. Would things have been simpler? Definitely. Better?" She shook her head forcefully from side to side, until her earring jingled. "Not for me." She ran her hands up and down the sleeves of her black leather jacket.

"Now, if you were asking me for his sake? Would I, if I had the power, go back and save him all the sorrow and anguish he suffered just for the few days of happiness between?" She stumbled a few paces forward, leaning against the nearest tree she could find for support.

"You're not asking because you've got a Jump ship hidden somewhere in this fairytale scenery, are you?" Her tone was sarcastic. The question itself was, however, entirely genuine.

She had learned that those in the employ of Temporal Investigations had the nasty habit of throwing things like that at you when you were momentarily off guard, and least suspicious of their intentions.

"No, Zanh Liis. I promise you, it's not that. I." He strode over to her, frustrated and worried he wouldn't be able to articulate his sincere need to know properly.

"Someday, I will be the one staring down the barrel of that final resequencing, if I'm ever to be free completely of this madness." He folded his own arms and sighed. "I really want to know, how much of who you are would you want to remember, if you had the choice, and the chance, to forget?"

"William," Liis’ voice shook just as her body did. "If I could go back and spare Keiran the pain of it all, the Dominion War, the death of his first marriage." Tears pooled in her eyes and finally spilled over as she gazed up overhead into the infinite blue.

"If I could give back all the years of his son's childhood that were lost to him and a simple, unbroken life with Maggie, with only my own sadness the price for it?"

She closed her eyes and held her hands to her chest, enclosing one over the other in the vicinity of her heart. "Hell, forget the price to be paid. If I could do that for him, I'd be willing to lay down my life for it."

She ran her fingertips over the rings Keiran had given her only two days ago, and felt overwhelmingly guilty for all the pain he'd had to go through just for the chance to put them there.

"I'd make that deal with History in an instant. Because he's been through too much, lost too much, just to end up with me as the consolation prize for his suffering."

*A consolation prize?* Will asked himself. She really had no idea just how much the man loved her.

Will had known Keiran for a long time. He’d seen many emotions from the man. He’d seen him furious. He’d seen him obsessed. He’d seen him so shattered without her that he wanted to crawl into a liquor bottle and die. He’d even seen this giant of a man with the strength a ten break down and cry before him.

He’d seen pretty much every emotional state imaginable from his very good friend, but never had he seen him happier than he was when Zanh Liis said those two simple words; ‘I do’. He didn’t understand how she could not see it.

He briefly met her gaze before she moved again. His eyes conveyed just how wrong he found her choice of words but he chose not to say anything, finding that the less he said the more it forced her to. Besides, the poetic Irishman could and would say it much better than he’d ever be able to and he didn’t doubt would keep saying it until he made Zanh Liis believe it too, even if it took a lifetime.

"But if you're asking me to tell you, from a selfish standpoint only, if I'm sorry I remember him? Would I go back to my old life if I had the choice?"

Again, she shook her head.

"Knowing what I know, knowing him...how could I choose any life that didn't have him in it? No matter how many painful memories come with it?" She tried continually to choke back the lump that had become firmly lodged in her throat.

Restraining himself now was one of the most difficult things Lindsay had ever had to do. He was the swoop in and save the day kind of a guy. So much of him wanted to stop this. The decent gentleman in him, even if he did bury it far below the surface sometimes, was naturally driven to try to comfort her.

She looked like she was very close to completely breaking down. She was shaking and seemed unable to stay still. He knew that Keiran may very well never forgive him for upsetting her like this. The only thing which let him keep holding himself back was the knowledge that Liis really did need to say this.

She paced around the tree, and around Lindsay in a full circle before continuing. "I believe, more than anything else, that we are the sum of our memories. Who are we, what are we, if we're only the fragments that others decide we should be?

TI took something from all of us, with the first resequencing and every one after. I knew something was missing, something that nothing else could replace. I just had no idea what they'd actually stolen from me." Her voice broke, her chest rose and fell in ragged, mournful gasps. "Until he came back to me.

"Jonas Vox and his sort, they've made us over in the image most convenient for them. I may have spent a lot of time in Hell, then and now to get to this point, but if that is what had to happen so that I could be where I'm standing now? I can't stay I'd do a damn thing differently."

Finally, she strode over to the car, started it up, and waited what seemed a very long time for Will to find his way back to it as well.

He said not a word as she drove them back the way they'd come, even after she'd finally parked the car one last time under the tree where their day had begun.

"I can't help but wonder." She whispered hoarsely, choking the wheel in a deathly tight grip.

"Wonder what?"

"If he would rather have forgotten me."

Will didn't say anything. What would be the point? If Liis didn't know just how crazy that sounded by now then he'd never be able to convince her. Hopefully, in time, she'd realise it on her own.

-=End Flashback=-

"Now what, Zanh Liis..." he whispered, as he clipped his compass to his belt, grabbed his travel bag and ran for the door. "What the hell do we do now?"


Captain William Lindsay
Temporal Investigations
(*As told by Rada Dengar)


-=/\=- Zanh Liis
Commanding Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012