772: Clocks: One

by Salvek and Zanh Liis
After The Inquiry

-=The Headquarters of Temporal Investigations:Location: Classified=-

Keiran let out a slow, deliberate exhale as the conference room doors slid shut behind him.

He turned to address Salvek and TC Blane, but the two of them, having beamed directly into the conference room, were only just now seeing the Grand Lobby of Temporal Investigations for the first time.

Each stood with their necks craned towards the ceiling, taking in the great mural of the Milky Way that covered the room, dome above them included.

“Rookies,” Liis shook her head slightly to Keiran in jest.

He took her free hand into both of his and squeezed it, taking advantage of the distraction to their companions.

The tension that had been building up in her spine for the last hour just seemed to unwind suddenly as his warm hands held hers tight.

His face tilted down. He rested his chin for a moment on top of her hair as he deeply inhaled the scent of it, and then placed a gentle kiss upon the crown of her head. She looked down at their entwined fingers, staring at them intently.

Her eyes seemed drawn to their wedding rings, and her gaze lingered.

The diamonds in the band beneath her signet ring her threw sparks of color in all directions; glimmering streaks seeming to add even more stars to the galaxy painted on the wall behind them. Her face lit up at the sight.

"Look," she whispered, gasping softly. Keiran marveled that though she'd seen sights the galaxy over that most couldn't begin to imagine that she was continuously, and curiously amused by the simple ability of a few gemstones in the ring he'd given her to refract light. "Looks just like the Perseids."

The wonder in her eyes grasped hold of the very heart of the man.

There were so many memories he had of her in this building.

Most of them, painful.

This vision of her was new, and welcome.

The expression of sadness that was always on her face in this place was gone now, replaced by the secret smile of a woman in love.

Despite all these headquarters meant to them; for years of broken dreams, today it all seemed a little better, because they were here with each other.

He lifted her chin with his finger and she grinned, somewhat mischievously and somewhat shyly out from under her bangs as she raised her eyes slowly up to him.

“Do ya remember that one time we were...introduced…in Vox’ office?” Keiran asked. He blushed slightly as he spoke, wondering if she remembered specifically just how ill he had become when he ‘met’ her in that location in this very building, supposedly for the first time.

He wasn't meant to remember her, yet recalled just how much he loved her the instant that she turned to him, smiled, and offered her hand in greeting.

Of course she, at the time, did not remember him.

It was the combination of those two heart-stopping realizations colliding in that instant that had made him feel so desperately sick.

“I remember it like it just happened." She frowned deeply, reaching up to brush her fingertips lightly through the whiskers of his bearded cheek. Her eyes took on a certain sadness as she recalled what that experience was like for him. "God, Keiran.”

“I was green as the hills of Cork that day.” He tried to make her smile, but she found that she could not.

She felt she had to struggle to take in breath past the lump in her throat. Forcing words beyond it was simply impossible when she also recalled that he'd been so desperate to escape the pain of losing her that the very next day, he'd submitted to the experimental procedure which could have ended his life.

"All I wanted to do that day," Keiran murmured in her ear, "all I've ever wanted to do, was."

He stopped speaking, lowered his chin even more and took her face into his hands without finishing his sentence.

Not caring if the entire world was watching (and knowing full well that thanks to security measures in this place, they were) he kissed her; right where they stood in the Grand Lobby of the Department of Temporal Investigations.

*After all,* he reasoned, *...am not on the payroll anymore.*

Salvek cleared his throat, letting the couple know he was done taking in his surroundings.

Blane, on the other hand, had wandered off to intensely study another section of mural, in lieu of interrupting Keiran and Liis.

"I believe there are rules against fraternization between Temporal Investigations agents." Salvek announced.

"And they say Vulcans have no sense of humor." Liis shook her head, causing her earring to jingle.

It seemed though, that Keiran didn't find anything much funny about that particular attempt at humor from the supposedly emotionless man.

There was something different now in his eyes when he looked at Salvek, and it worried Liis.

For a moment she dismissed it, hoping that if it was some sort of late-blooming anger in Keiran over the fact she'd almost died on Taris' ship, that it would burn itself out more with every passing moment he saw that she was very much alive and well. Still, the more focused that stare became, the harder it was to ignore.

“Salvek,” Zanh spoke up as the silence turned awkward for everyone except the Vulcan, who never experienced such discomfort. “I’d like to have a word with you. If you’ll excuse us, Keiran.”

Liis moved to go, but found that Keiran still had hold of her hand. He seemed unwilling to release her, though he knew he would have to soon anyway, for the last round of questions that they each were going to have to answer concerning their experiences with the Paradox and the Sylph.

"I won't be gone long." Liis reassured, and at last O’Sullivan gave her hand a final squeeze and let go. He nodded to Salvek coolly, and left to offer Blane a tour of the facility, if he wanted one.

“So. You’ve never been here before. Congratulations. Here you are. This is it." Zanh held her hands out to the room around her. She knew every alcove and corner of this place, which surprisingly left it incredibly hard to describe.

That and, with Keiran no longer beside her, she was acutely aware again of just how uncomfortable this place made her.

For such a large room, she found every time she came here she found it more confining; threatening to swallow her whole or worse, feeling as if the walls were constantly about to come down around her.

“That’s Polaris,” she said, gesturing towards the clock. "Long story short without telling you things that if you knew, I'd have to kill you, it controls and coordinates the compasses." She pointed upward with an open palm. “You’ve seen the ceiling.”

“Your heart is not in this tour, Captain.”

“Nope, it’s not. Sorry.”

“An apology is not necessary. It is understandable.” Salvek said as they continued on, across the lobby to the other side.

"That's the dining hall, down there. They have great Chicken Parmesan, I'm told. If you're into that sort of thing."

“So, Captain Lindsay is now the Director.” Salvek interrupted her bored narrative with a question posing as a comment.

“Yes he is. Quite a turn of events.”

“A fortunate one, for my sake.”

The pair walked back across the center of Temporal Investigations as they spoke. Salvek, with his hands clasped behind him; Liis, with a speed in her step that told him she wished for this tour to be a brief one.

Every glance at the walls seemed to bring her to another time and place.

She hesitated outside an arched entryway, which led to another wing, seemingly a very important one. A plaque carved from stone hung over the arch, with a quote in Latin that Salvek easily translated.

"Ad vitam aeternam." He arched one brow. "For all time." A light of curiosity illuminated his dark eyes. "The Clock Room?”

"Yeah. And if you ask me, that motto is a bit pretentious. But you know, they change it every couple of decades. My last suggestion was rejected."

"What was your suggestion?"

"'Time is an illusion. Lunchtime, doubly so.'" Liis tried now to lighten the heaviness in her heart by making her own attempt at a joke. "Douglas Adams wrote it. I thought that, especially given the proximity to the dining hall, it was a sound recommendation."

Salvek would not be swayed from his curiosity about The Clock Room by her desire to change the subject. "What is it, exactly?"

She sighed. She could tell it was important that he understand, and so she tried her best to offer him an explanation.

“That’s where TI keeps a clock for every person under their watchful eye. Everyone who has a specifically important place in history.”

Liis asked herself internally, as she ever had when she repeated that damnable phrase she’d learned by rote, just who it was that decided which beings were important, and more to the point, unimportant, in the eyes of Time and History.

The idea that any living thing could be deemed unworthy of notice, somehow, had always bothered her if she allowed herself to stop moving long enough to think about it.

She tried very hard never to stop moving.

“A clock?”

“Well, it looks like a clock, but it's so much more than, I mean, you need to know how to read it.”

“I see,” Salvek said, in a manner that indicated clearly that he did not see. In fact, he definitely did not understand exactly how a simple clock was supposed to help TI keep track of a person. His eyes darted about the space, asking another question in their own way.

"Yes, Salvek. You're in there. Arie is in there. Jariel is..." Liis began to think, and to wonder, something about Jariel's clock. "You might as well see for yourself, You probably won't get this chance again."

Suddenly, the idea made Salvek nervous. The idea that his existence, or worse, that of his child, had at any point somehow depended on something as seemingly simple as the face and mechanical workings of a timepiece in this building defied Logic, and unnerved him.

Suddenly, he wished Lair Kellyn were here.

---------------Commander Salvek
Executive Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012


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