754: Welcome Home

by Vol Tryst and Zanh Liis
Hours after Safe and Warm
Soundtrack: Coming Up Close by 'Til Tuesday


-=Transporter Room Three, USS Serendipity=-

"Why am I here again, exactly?" Dabin Reece fidgeted like an anxious child.

"Because. Vol is coming home and we're going to welcome him properly." Zanh Liis chided, reaching out to try to straighten the crooked pips on Reece's collar. Not an easy task, given she was still working with one
functional hand.

He shooed her away with a cluck of his tongue.

"What are you now, my mommy?"

"Some days, I would swear..."

"Oh come on, you swear every day." Reece teased, before stomping his foot in mock protest.

"Couldn't I welcome Vol tomorrow? I'm anxious to get home and fix dinner for Bru."

"I think Bru can still replicate her own chicken noodle soup, Dabin. She's expecting. She's not comatose."

"I have to be sure that she eats her steamed asna."

"Bru hates asna. Steamed or otherwise."

"Exactly why I have to stand over her and make sure she eats it. It's good for her and the baby."

Zanh smiled at him, shaking her head. Fatherhood had already changed him and the baby hadn't even arrived yet. "By the way, Spot," she added, letting her voice trail off to make him nervous.

Reece cocked his head to the side, suddenly feeling nervous.

"You did not screw up."

"Aww, shucks." He grinned back at her, knowing that was likely the highest praise he'd hear directly from her concerning his recent stint in the command chair. "Thanks."

The doors opened and they were unexpectedly joined by his wife, who was appearing, it seemed, more pregnant by the hour.

"Speak of the Trill. How are you and the next generation doing today, Bru?"

"We're fine Capta-"

"What are you doing up?" Reece inturrupted, frowning and again tapping his toe. Liis raised an eyebrow in a silent plea for him to stop, and he sighed. "You've had quite a week, February. You're supposed to be in bed."

"I still get to take my daily walk. So today I came here instead of the Arboretum." Bru explained. "Vol's coming home. I'm so glad. I've really missed him."

"Likewise." Liis had wonderered, ever since Lassiter announced Tryst was returning, just how things had all played out with him. He was coming back to them when they needed him most, and that didn't surprise her. What did surprise her was that he had not requested to bring anyone back aboard with him.

Zanh had missed Vol so much, in fact, that she was here in direct violation of Doctor's orders and husband's request that she stay in her quarters to rest until the moment the Admiral arrived.

Keiran had only agreed to leave her side at her request that he check on Lindsay and Blane, and was due to join her here at any moment.

The doors hissed open again, and Salvek and Kellyn appeared. "Did we miss Vol's arrival?" Kellyn asked. "I'm still moving pretty slowly, it's my fault we're late. I apologize, Captain." Kellyn too, had only just been discharged from Sickbay.

"No need. We're still waiting."

Finally the doors opened again and Liis smiled broadly.

"Afternoon, ev'ra'one." Keiran strode up beside Zanh, allowing his hand to just barely brush against hers by way of greeting as he took up position beside her. "Did I miss it?"

"No, he's not-"

"Captain, the Gauntlet reports they're ready to energize." Andrew Parrish declared from behind the transporter control panel.

"By all means, Drew. Bring him home."

It was moments later when the molecule stream poured onto the telepad, before slowly taking on the familiar shape of a man. Vol was dressed in uniform, and once he was fully materialized he scanned the room. He smiled, and began to move to take a step off the transporter, but immediately recoiled and composed himself. He straightened his back, cleared his throat and gazed back up to Zanh.

"Permission to come aboard Captain." Vol asked.

Zanh smiled and approached the youthful Counselor. A look of concern crossed his face when he noticed that her left arm and hand were bandaged and secured by a sling.

"Temporarily denied, but only because I want to do this first." Zanh wrapped her good arm around the Ensign's shoulders. He gently returned the hug being offered, taking care not to cause her healing injuries any damage.

Vol's smile had widened now, being elated at the familar thoughts and images in the mind of this woman. He knew that such an affectionte gesture was uncommon for her, and understood it was because they'd been through such a great deal together in such a short amount of time that she felt moved to make it.

It was strange, he'd been away only a short time as well, but it felt so good to come back to this ship and these people.

"My turn!" Bru was impatient.

"Sweetie, the baby!" Dabin was concerned.

"Dabin, if you 'The baby' me one more time, I swear I'll jettison you so far into space this baby will be the least of your worries." Bru warned while keeping her calm.

"Actually, I highly doubt that--" Dabin never finished.

"The least of your worries!" This time, less calm was in her voice.

Dabin was silenced, as Bru's face lit up with a smile, as she gave Vol her own hug.

"It's so good to see you."

"Likewise. Testy much?" Vol smiled knowingly.

"You walk around with this guy yanking your leash back for awhile and see how you feel."

"We'll talk later."

"Lookin' forward to it."

Salvek and Kellyn greeted Vol next, and Vol gave Salvek a knowing nod as he observed how much recovering from her injuries Lair still had to do.

"Myself, I will look forward as well to speaking with you later, Commanders," Vol said gently, indicating clearly that after their recent Romulan adventure he would be requiring some family counseling.

He had already made his intentions known that he expected to also speak with Arie separately to be sure she was handling the trauma of the event as well as possible.

"Thank you. Welcome back, Vol." Kellyn accepted Salvek's arm, nodded to the assembly and then the two made their way back to their quarters.

The last to greet Vol was the gigantic, sandy-haired and once-again scruffily-bearded Irishman.

His handshake was firm and his smile, completely genuine. "'Tis good to have ya back, Counselor. My wife is ever uneasy when one of her sheep wanders too far from the rest of the flock for long."

Vol was astounded at how different O'Sullivan was now from the desperate man on the verge of self-destruction that he'd gotten to know just a few short months ago, during their encounter with the Sylph.

He was certain that it had everything in the galaxy to do with the fact that Zanh Liis was now properly referred to by the man as his wife.

"Captain? Commander..." Vol began slowly. O'Sullivan was out of uniform and so without proper insignia to go by, Vol was not quite sure how the issue of rank had been settled in the end.

"Commander." Keiran stated, only for the record. "But please. No rank. Name's Keiran."

Vol blinked away the sense of deja-vu, recognizing the very same words O'Sullivan had spoken to him that fateful night when all had been revealed, and when O'Sullivan's life, and that of Zanh Liis, had changed forever.

It was a night that he and Zanh had spoken of directly only recently, the night before her wedding...

-=Flashback: Home of Eilish (O'Sullivan) Moore, County Cork Ireland, Earth=-

"Zanh Liis!"

Liis looked up from the cup of coffee she'd been staring into for half an hour as it went cold, anxiously waiting for Keiran to finish saying goodnight to his family so that they could end their pre-wedding dinner, and get home.

William Lindsay had left a good hour ago, and after he'd gone, her thoughts had turned to introspection in a way that she wished she could escape from tonight.

She wanted nothing more than for the day to end at this point, so that tomorrow could finally arrive.

"Yes, Eilish?"

"'Tis just, is a young man at the door, askin' for ya. Says his name is Tryst?"

Suddenly, Liis' eyes lit up. "Thank you. I'll be happy to speak to him."

Liis carefully wended her way through the throngs of O'Sullivans of various ages and genders and finally reached the front door.

She moved wordlessly past Vol and over to a wooden rocking chair. Its finish faded from exposure to the elements, the chair was still inviting as it beckoned her from the far end of the porch.

Sitting down, she gestured for Vol to sit down in the duplicate chair beside it, as she planted the soles of her boots against the porch and put her rocker into motion.

"Counselor," she gave him a gentle and sincere, if weary, smile. "Good to see you. I didn't know if you were going to be able to make it to town for the festivities."

"I almost didn't, and please Zanh Liis, no ranks whilst we're on shore leave." Vol sat down, returning Liis's smile affectionately. "My brother, and my lover, send their congratulations and apologize for not being able honor the invitation. I'm a little nervous about my own presence, seeing as how well the last wedding I was at went."

"Don't be ridiculous." Zanh laughed before proceeding to feign stupidity. "No one's going to be naked at this wedding."

Vol laughed softly as well, but the sound quickly faded into that of voices emanating from the house through the barely cracked open front window.

Vol turned his head back toward the glass and caught sight of Keiran inside, doing his level best to make an exit but being stopped time and again by yet another relative wanting to wish him, and his intended, well.

"This is quite a...sizable family you're taking on." Vol commented, attempting to draw Liis out. "Quite a change for you."

"No doubt. But to tell you the truth, I wouldn't care if Keiran was related to the entire population of the Alpha quadrant."

"Don't look now," Vol put his hand to his mouth and whispered conspiratorially. "...but I think he is."

Liis' musical laughter rang out again. "Might be so. But I'll take whomever comes along with him. Gladly."

"You would...wouldn't you?" Vol's smile changed to one of wonder.

"Ever since that night, Vol. That night in Sickbay," Liis knew that she didn't have to specify which night, to the man she was addressing. The Betazoid had experienced events there as no one else, save herself and Keiran, in that he could sense, he could feel the connection between them. He was certain that even though Zanh was unresponsive, that O'Sullivan was succeeding in his attempts to reach her.

If Vol hadn't spoken up and told the others to stand back and let O'Sullivan continue with what he was doing to try to intervene between her and the Sylph...things would have ended very differently.

"I knew that night, for a certainty," Vol confided now, "just how much you meant to him. I just didn't know," he stopped.

"If I'd wake up and realize it myself?"

Vol lowered his eyes.

"I could hear, I could feel, and recall everything. So vividly. I didn't want to believe the memories were real. But I knew it was truth, all of it."

Zanh sighed, reaching out to pat Vol on the arm. "Since it became clear that I retained my memories, I've spoken to some of the others who were there. Thought it all through."

She pressed her feet to the ground and launched the chair into motion again. "I realized how hard it must've been for you, Vol. To be ordered not to tell me the truth, if I didn't remember. I know it's something that you would never have agreed with."

Vol smiled genuinely, and he gently rubbed Zanh's shoulder with the palm of his hand. For a moment, his gaze didn't meet hers, he looked away, only returning his eyes to her when she resumed talking.

"You were always right," Zanh concluded with a shake of her head, rattling her earring beneath her hair. "The thing that I had to do was let go of what I thought I was, and try to accept what I really am."

"Now that you have?" Vol smiled again, knowing the answer before he asked the questions. "Are you happy, Zanh Liis?"

"I never thought I could be," she whispered, looking up with an expression of pure amazement as she heard Keiran softly call her name from the doorway; his eyes gently asking if she was ready to go.

Every time she saw him standing there, she couldn't help but be taken off guard, simply by his presence. "But when he smiles at me, I am."

-=End Flashback=-

"Yes," Liis nudged Vol gently. "It's good when one of our own comes back to the fold."

"Well, 'tis gettin' late." Keiran clapped his hands together once. "I think, I'll get dinner started and hope we can fit it in before Gem Lassiter finally deigns to grace us with her royal presence. See you soon, Captain? You're still supposed to be takin' it easy." He made sure that he kept the habit referring to her by her rank in front of the crew.

"Soon." She promised, knowing if she didn't keep that pledge, he'd come looking for her.

The crowd dispersed, as Zanh and Vol lagged behind, now walking down the corridors of the ship towards Vol's quarters.

"I agree with your husband Captain, you should rest. I'm sure I'll find my way easily enough."

"Fed up with me already?" Zanh joked.

"No, not at all." Vol chuckled away what sounded like nervousness. He cleared his throat, smiling as he sensed Zanh's thoughts.

"Now what's the smile for?"

"Sensing your mind again is really quite a relief. The USS Gauntlet has a decidedly less interesting crew than the one under your command." Vol responded.

Zanh appreciated the kind words, but got the distinct impression that Vol was trying to convey something.

It would only be later in the evening, after a cup of coffee (against medical advice) that she burst out laughing when it all clicked into place.

Vol had been trying to tell her that, next to Admiral Lassiter, she was a freaking ray of sunshine.

"I've left an update covering what's gone on during your absence in your quarters." Zanh informed, turning for a moment to official business. She was no empath, but he seemed to be a little overwhelmed by all the emotions of those on the impromptu welcoming committee, and she thought work would serve as a good diversion as he processed it all. "Your first assignment is to perform that full crew evaluation. Only, of course, after you get settled in. You can start tomorrow, or even a day after, as you wish."

"You can just ask, Captain. Pondering over whether you should or not is only going to provide me with more amusement."

"I forgot for a moment just how little I'm able to keep from that keen mind of yours." Zanh began to twist the chain of her earring. "Where's Orynn? I thought for sure that you two would be..."

"Yes, Betazoid relationships can be quite difficult to grasp for other humanoid species to understand. Although, this coming from a man who can barely claim he comprehends them fully himself." Vol chuckled at his own self-correction. "I appreciate your concern, Captain, and I'm more than happy to discuss my romantic affairs with you. Orynn and I have simply run into a cross where our paths no longer run side by side. He will always be Imzadi to me, and vice versa, but we are still much too young to be exclusive. There still may be another better man for me in the universe somewhere, and until I'm sure there is not, I'll not be settling down for a while."

"I can't understand how you can sometimes be such a smart ass while sounding so wise simultaneously." Zanh remarked, without apprehension.

"Captain?" Vol exclaimed.

"Oh grow up Ensign."

Vol chuckled once more, it was good to be back.

"Anything else, Counselor?"

"The Doctor. His schedule today, is it--?"

"Doctor Hubbard departed the ship shortly after you did. We're currently awaiting assignment of a new, full time CMO."

"Oh, well then."

"Everything alright?"

"Absolutely, just wanted to ask his advice on something. But the LMH will do just fine."

"Good. If there's anything I can do to help you settle back in, just let me know." She reached out and gave his shoulder a last, gentle squeeze. "Welcome home, Vol."

As she walked away, Vol entered his quarters. He barely took a moment to absorb his surroundings before sitting at his desk and pushing the button to establish a comlink.

"Counselor to Sickbay."

"McKay here."

"Are you free now Doctor?"

"Uhh... yes... is it emergent?"

"See you soon, Vol out."

Vol breathed a huge sign of relief. His eye fell upon the PADD Zanh had referred to. He picked it up and began reading. After he finished, he knew that the Sera needed him now.

He had a lot of work to do, but he was more than happy to serve.

Ensign Vol Tryst
Ship's Counselor
USS Serendipity NCC-2012


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

NRPG: Welcome back from LOA, Counselor. We've truly missed you. ~ZL