1122: Like a Bucket of Cold Water

by Rada Dengar and Lair Kellyn
Time: Current

-=USS Serendipity: Quarters of the First Officer=-

"Why can I not go with you?" Arie watched as her mother ran a brush through her hair, moving it carefully so as not to snag the dangling chain of her earring. "Am I being punished?"

"No, Arie, you're not being punished." Kellyn sighed and set down the brush. She straightened the collar on her red silk blouse but somehow, it just didn't look right. She wished this was just a standard, wear-your-uniform staff meeting. But no. O'Sullivan had to go informal on everyone and invite them down to the countryside for a bonfire and simple dinner over which to catch up with each other. Not a party, he stressed, knowing that few who had gone through the ordeal involving the Poseidon would be in any such a mood. It was supposed to be 'a staff meeting, with scenery', which in the mood she was in sounded about as appealing as a funeral, with party hats.

"Then why can I not accompany you?"

"Because this meeting is only for senior and bridge staff." Kellyn explained, tilting her shoulder down a little on the left to see if that helped her appearance any. Something was off, she just couldn't put her finger on it. "Spouses and children aren't included this time."

The child offered no response, apparently simply accepting what she’d said without a further question. Though it should have been no surprise given recent events, out of habit Kellyn was expecting to be pressed by a young lady wanting to go to a party anyway. So she turned automatically as if to check what were wrong. It was then she became aware that Arie was carrying a storage bin that held within it some very familiar items. Suddenly she grew alarmed.

"What are you doing?" she asked, fearing she knew the answer all too well.

Arie’s response was even more flat in tone than she had taken to being recently, and intentionally matter-of-fact. It was like she was trying to assert just how meaningless the task was to her.

"I am recycling these items. I do not require them anymore."

Without even really thinking about it, Kellyn span around and grabbed the bin away from her daughter's hands. Her eyes widened and her heart sank as she took in the contents. There were an assortment of items; mostly toys and books. Some were decorative items; including a small sea shell Arie insisted on keeping in her hand the entire trip back from a far off beach out of fear it’d be damaged in her pocket. They were so varied and hard to classify, that the only collective noun one could have given them, was a childhood.

Kellyn’s fingers began to sort through some of the books so she could read the titles.

"Arie, these were your favorite storybooks," she objected, her voice seeming almost incredulous as if part of her believed Arie had simply forgotten them.

"I have outgrown them."

While Kellyn had to admit this may be true; maybe Arie would have decided to recycle them eventually anyway, there was one item on top of the box, destined for recycling, that had once meant so much to Arie that it brought a lump to Kellyn’s throat that no amount of swallowing could remove. "But, Raffe was a gift from Dabin. Arie, you can't-"

"I am not a child now, Mother. I am a student of logic. I have no need of. . ." Arie paused for just a flicker of an instant and her eyes darted away, almost guiltily, as in her still childish manner, she couldn't bring herself to insult the toy to its small, worn out face. "...comfort items."

"Well maybe you don't." Kellyn said with a stern yet unreadable expression as she took the bin and set it down on her bed. "But I do. I'll take care of this."

Kellyn had been intentionally brisk in the way she’d spoken. She had hoped for some kind of reaction- indignation, irritation, anything. Instead, Arie merely folded her hands in that maddeningly calm way her father often did and turned away. "Very well. Thank you."

Kellyn's heart instantly fell a little farther, and she had to turn away herself to hide it. She drew in a slight breath, trying not to think of how with each step Arie took, and each gathering moment of silence between them, she seemed to be slipping further away from her.

Finally a little bit more centred again, Kellyn peered around the corner after her.

"What will you do while we're gone?" Kellyn called.


"Wonderful." Kellyn sighed. It seemed like that was all her daughter did these days.

Once again, Kellyn stared at herself in the mirror and gave up trying to figure out what was wrong with her appearance. She took the bin and put it into the closet behind her, and then, in an uncharacteristic move, she activated the lock and secured the closet door. "She's good, but not that good yet." Kellyn muttered under her breath. "You'll still be there when I get back, Raffe. No recycling for you."

When she moved into the living room she found Arie was already seated, eyes closed, on a cushion in the middle of the room. Kellyn said nothing. She wanted to avert her eyes, as though that would somehow make this new reality less real, but she couldn’t really turn away. Instead she merely sighed as she grabbed a black cloak from a hook on the wall and threw it over her shoulders.

Then without delay, she trudged through the halls, anxious to get this evening over with, though she wasn't sure why. After all, nothing would really change in the morning.

-=/\=- O'Sullivan Residence: County Cork, Ireland, Earth=-

Kellyn materialised on a familiar green hilltop. Perhaps it was a beautiful place but she certainly didn’t notice as she immediately began the begrudging walk down. In fact, her eyes just found the ground as she watched the indentations her boots made in the lush grass beneath her feet as she moved. Again and again the blades of grass fell, unable to do anything to stop her and with her unable to avoid them. She wondered if they felt as crushed by the blows as she felt by recent events.

She tried for just a moment out of thinking like this.

Damn it, she hated feeling this way.

She didn’t take too much notice of time but it wasn’t long before she was about to reach the perimeter of the gathering. She stopped to survey what would be her destination for the minimum amount of time she could take before she could get away without drawing undue attention.

She could see a bonfire burning close by, throwing a gentle orange glow over the world. Maybe she was just too far away but she felt no warmth coming from it, merely tasting the burn of the smoke on damaged lungs as the light wind swept it continually in her direction.

It wasn’t that it was cold, not really. It was twilight but the weather was fair and altogether pleasant for this time of year. It could be the perfect atmosphere for a quiet evening. She was however far too preoccupied to properly enjoy it.

Looking around, she debated her options. A few people were up on the porch on a swing, talking. O'Sullivan was fussing with a table piled high with food, and Salvek was standing by the fire, speaking to someone but from this angle, Kellyn couldn't tell who it was. None of these really provided much of an option anyway.

She wasn't ready to join the group, not just yet. She turned back, moving away toward a gathering of trees at the back of the garden.

How long she just stood there, she wasn’t sure. All she knew was that she was deep in personal consideration, staring upward at the sky as the last of the day set on the dimming blue when a voice broke the silence and her train of thought.

"I won the bet. Remember?"

Kellyn startled. It wasn't the soft voice itself that was so unexpected; it was a voice she had known very well. It was the tone of that voice which came as a genuine, and welcome surprise. For all she’d been thinking of a moment before, to be even hearing that voice sounding happy again was like a spark that hid the darkness from you for a fortunate instant. She actually felt her mouth turning up at the edge into a smirk as she turned toward him.

"You did not."

Rada Dengar laughed softly, and without thinking, he happily embraced his friend. Kellyn’s mind however had quickly returned to acknowledging all the darkness there was in the world. So he found that to his surprise instead of returning the hug that she stayed still, limp as a rag doll in his arms, and twice as sad looking. He released her, and she took a step backwards.

He watched as she tried to immediately banish the sorrow from her face. He looked happy to her for the first time in far too long, and no matter what was going on in her own life she was determined that she wouldn't be the one to change that. Rada however had been on the other side of this act far too often to buy it, and Kellyn could see that he wasn’t.

She quickly tried to change the topic to one aside from her personal struggles. In spite of how hard it was to hide how she felt while looking him in the eye, she made herself watch his response.

"How are you, Rada?" She wrung her hands, nervous to ask even though he looked so much better than the last time she'd seen him. "How are you really?"

"I’m fine…" Rada said, the words sounding far more like a question of her own condition than an appraisal of his.

She turned her head just slightly and the unchanging expression in her eyes seemed to ask him once again ‘really?’

"Really, I am," Rada added, able to tell that she was looking for more of an indication that he even knew what okay was. Though surely it would be no secret, he seemed to drop his tone before he continued, as if he didn’t want anyone to overhear. "I remember, Kellyn."

Something in her countenance said she still wasn’t quite ready to believe it.

"I remember what I did," he admitted quickly, clearly having things he didn’t want to think about of his own. "I also remember Wren and Tam. I remember that I love her."

Rada was really worried with the emotion that seemed to pass over Kellyn’s face when he mentioned that word ‘love’. He had no way of knowing that she was wondering just what love meant for an emotionless ‘student of logic’. She knew Salvek loved her, but it was almost a rebellion on his part. In any case it was something that had grown over time, not something that had needed to be pushed down and out of the way in order to make your heart fit into a more limited philosophy.

"That’s wonderful, Rada. Really," she said, the genuine meaning in the emotion more covered by and not cancelled out through the sadness she felt at her own situations. "Where is she now?"

"She’s already back on the ship in her quarters," he replied, thinking of how amazing it’d felt to have transported up to the ship and walked the entire journey there with her hand in his. "I’m going to help move everything back into my quarters tomorrow. She and I spent a lot of quality time together while waiting for the Sera to return."

Kellyn’s eyebrow raised and he smiled a little shyly in a way to say he hadn’t meant ‘quality time’ in the way she may have been thinking it, but he also wouldn’t be disclosing a full list of his activities. It was a warming sort of smile to see him giving but it didn’t last long enough to have any permanent effect on her mood.

"Right now she’s happy to spend some time with Tam. We hear he had quite an adventure while we were gone."

Kellyn knew it would be common for a young boy to talk for days about the big adventure, though she also had gotten the impression from their talks that Tam wasn’t a common young boy and the events that had transpired were less than an adventure for him.

"How is he?"

"He’s…clingy. Wren doesn’t mind. After hearing what he went through though she doesn’t want to let him go far anyway." Only to a friend as close as Kellyn would Rada have felt alright about confiding what he did next. "I think she’s regretting that she didn’t check in with him more while she was gone."

Kellyn nodded slightly, sadly. She could relate all too well to looking back and wishing you’d spent more effort checking for signs that something might be wrong.

"Are you really okay?" she asked him again, and it was all too clear at this point that she was willing to talk about the condition of everyone but herself.

"Yes, I still, am. What about you?" he asked, gently but with concern.

"I’m okay," she answered softly, and Rada felt like insisting ‘No, you’re not’. "It is very good to see you looking so well again, Rada."

Rada wished he could have said the same. Yet, even though physically she’d clearly recovered more from her time under the ice on Sibalt, it was like there were just something in her that was missing this time. No, missing was the wrong word. It was like they’d taken the fire around which many of their crew were gathered, and dumped a bucket of water on top of it.

He didn’t want to push her though, any more than she’d pushed him when he was so conflicted. He wasn’t even sure what he should say. Maybe she’d talk when she was ready to talk and the best he could do would be to give her that chance to find the words on her own.

He looked up to the sky where Kellyn’s eyes seemed to have found their way again.

"It’s a beautiful evening, isn’t it?" he asked her, so much more appreciative of sights like this now that he remembered the woman that gave them meaning.

Kellyn wrapped her arms around her middle, subconsciously betraying the gnawing ache she felt inside. Still, she told herself that no matter what her own personal issues were at the moment, there was no way she was going to steal a second of this quietly triumphant return of her friend to the crew who loved him. She pasted on her best false smile, though fearing the Angosian's ability to judge it as the fragile mask that it was.

As his eyes settled upon her again, they took on a depth of concern she'd rarely seen directed toward her, and she shivered, trying to shrug the feeling off like the sudden dampness of the Earth below her feet which seemed to be climbing through her veins steadily upward, clawing and grasping for her heart.

"Yeah." She said softly, adding a second later, "beautiful." She seemed almost to choke on the word as it rattled around in the back of her throat.


"A'right ev'ry'one, food's ready as it's gonna be." Keiran's voice called from the distance.

"Aren't we waiting for the Captain?" Zander Blakeslee asked.

"Captain's been detained. She'll be joinin' us shortly." Keiran replied.

"Kellyn," Rada repeated, but as he turned back from the voices that had momentarily drawn away his attention, he discovered that his friend and fellow engineer had already walked away.

Commander Lair Kellyn
Engineering Research and Development
The Alchemy Project


Lt. Commander Rada Dengar
Chief Engineering Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

1121: How Easy We Forget

by William Lindsay
A Few Days After The Ultimate Risk

-=USS Serendipity=-

Like a sore animal after a very long and painful day, the Serendipity had finally limped home. Finally once more in orbit of the Earth, the TI ship having dropped her off some distance away to let her travel back on her own power, officers and civilians alike breathed a sigh of relief.

For some the Earth was either a first or second home. For others it was just a nice place to visit. For all though it was solid ground; a safe place to which they could return to stock up on supplies and to enact their well-needed repairs.

For William Lindsay though, this time, it was something more. When he last left he did so in the knowledge that he would not be returning to his post as Director of Temporal Investigations. He hadn’t much time left in his scheduled six months anyway, but he was certain that no one got to lock down the entire department and then let a ship as dangerous as the Poseidon get away without being at the very least asked to step very far to the side during the ensuing investigation.

Frankly, Will couldn’t give a damn about the position anyway. There was too much responsibility, too many restrictions, far too much paperwork, and very few ways an honest man could have any fun with it. The quicker he could get back to being Captain William Lindsay: Jumper Extraordinaire, the better.

Besides, there were far more important things to be concerned about. By his actions, the man he respected most in the worlds could so nearly have been killed, and more importantly to the man himself he almost lost his wife in the process. As much as William Lindsay may have seemed to some as the type of man to embody the saying; ‘out of sight, out of mind’, some things he simply didn’t forget and this was definitely one of them. He knew it’d likely be a while, if ever, before Keiran forgave him fully for what had happened.

As they walked together towards the Serendipity’s transporter room, the silence from the Irishman was a different kind than just his naturally quiet manner. It wasn’t angry; it was just an unusual brew of personal worries about the woman he loved, and all the completely usual questions they brought.

Will could surely think of many things to say to give him a reason to speak up; at least three of them each involving one of the more voluptuous female saints, and one of them involving all three, but for all the good it could do to get the man to relax once in a while, it just wasn’t the time for that now.

“I’ll bet Liis’ll be glad ta be gettin’ her crew back in ta one piece again,” Will suggested, merely making conversation.

“Mostly one piece,” Keiran replied; explaining the remark though his mind was clearly still on his wife. “Lieutenant Ryn has been offered a chance at what she’s callin’ the ‘dig of a lifetime’ on Trill. So she’s already on her way there. We’re also losin’ Mellice from security. We’d barely pulled into orbit before we got an Admiral by the name of Harris on subspace. He didn’t say what but apparently he’s got some important top secret mission, and Mellice’s the only man who’ll do.”

Will nodded, suspecting the two of them would not be the last to want to take the chance to transfer off ship while they were here at the Earth. The truth was that for all but the truly fortunate, life in Starfleet rarely involved standing still.

“At least the Alchemy’s back in her bay,” Will added, again trying to make some attempt at small talk.

Keiran nodded his agreement but said nothing, leaving them with another moment of silence as they arrived at the transporter room door. Suddenly Keiran stopped in his tracks and Will turned to see what was wrong.

“William, this won’t take long, yeah?” he asked eyeing the door. Even though Tucker Brody was no longer on board, and she’d officially returned to duty this morning, Keiran was clearly still not happy about the idea of being apart from Liis.

She’d asked him to come along here to ‘keep William from making any more trouble’. In truth she had to know that once the Sera broke orbit it could be a while before Keiran and Will saw each other again, and so if there were some things that still needed to be said it was better they be said now.

“Not long,” Will replied. “I best just run meh eye over the place. See how much progress Andrews made ta getting her up and runnin’ before he left.”

“I’ve studied the preliminary reports. Accordin’ to them the lockdown’s been basically completely undone.”

“Aye, but one thing they didn’t mention was the state of the bottle of Romulan ale I left in meh desk. They’re a bloody valuable item nowadays, ya know?”

Keiran offered no real response to the remark, and Will once again considered whether bringing up those saints wouldn’t be the worst thing. Of course, he knew enough of the Catholic faith to understand that there was one woman for whom he’d only need to so much as question her virginity to get a response.

Will was in fact entirely prepared to do just that, a marked irritation entering his features that Keiran was so much in his own head, before something inside him once more told him this just wasn’t the time for it. He breathed a slight sigh; apparently one in frustration, yet that irritation was nowhere to be found in his tone when next he spoke.

“How’s she doing?” Will finally asked, softly so as to make sure no one overheard him.

This was followed by a long pause on Keiran’s part, leading Will to question whether he’d even be getting an answer. He soon found though that Keiran was just carefully considering what he should and for that matter could say.

“She’s makin’ progress,” he finally responded, knowing it was the best thing you could say after an ordeal like Liis went through. She had made progress to the point where the trio of judges; Liis, Keiran and Doctor McKay, all felt she was ready to be back on her bridge. There was still a long way to go though.

Will nodded that he understood, and then sighed, realising that his friend had things he needed to be doing right now, even if that just meant staying nearby just in case, instead of spending the time with him.

“Wish her well for me,” Will finally added. “Tell, her I hope to get back to see ya before you break orbit.”

“Aye, I will,” Keiran replied, nodding to his friend. A sudden uneasiness overtook him, and he ran his hand over his beard in a thoughtful gesture. “Tread lightly, William.”

Will grinned. “What fun is that? You know me, O’Sullivan. Where angels fear to tread, I dance.” Will’s voice faded as he continued down the hall on his way, still talking. “And dance, well too. With the most beautiful woman in the room in my arms.”

Keiran couldn’t help but smile as much as his current mood allowed. Some things never did change.

-=Transporter Room Three=-

Will stepped alone through the transporter room door.

Looking up and seeing him Crewman Parrish quickly began to work the console.

“I have your coordinates already loaded, sir.”

A slight grin curled at the corner of Will’s lips.

“That eager to get rid of me, are ya?”

“No, sir,” Parrish answered, hoping his actions hadn’t been misunderstood. “I’ve just received the correction, sir.”

A look of confusion passed over Will’s face, indicating that he’d made no such request.

“What sort of correction would that be?”

“Just a small one, sir. Approximately seven metres from the previous coordinates.”

By Will’s reckoning, that’d be just enough to place him outside of his office instead of in. Apparently someone in TI, likely whoever had been left in his chair, had decided that his travel plans needed a little bit of a tweak.

While he could have gotten himself beamed to the original coordinates anyway, ‘unauthorised’ transports into Temporal Investigations had a way of causing people to overreact. For seven metres it really wasn’t worth it.

Moving to take his place on the transporter pad, Will nodded to Parrish.


-=Headquarters of Temporal Investigations, Earth=-

Soon he found himself rematerialising in the office of the Assistant of the Director of the department of Temporal Investigations. Though he’d not really thought of it before he’d arrived, Will now spared a thought for what had happened to the woman who’d last occupied this office. It was funny how quickly so much anger you have for a person when you’re looking at them can just turn to sadness when they were gone.

His thoughts were quickly, or at least outwardly, replaced as he realised she’d been replaced as well. Behind her desk now sat a far younger woman. Will immediately observed that she was the type of woman who’d have made doing his job a hell of a lot harder and so smiled at her accordingly as he approached.

“Captain Lindsay,” she said, though it almost sounded like it’d been meant to be a question. How she said it wasn’t disrespectful. Her tone however was purely and unenthusiastically one of business, suggesting to Will that she might not have been as much fun as an assistant as he thought. His smile diminished slightly with the realisation, then even more as she lifted a box from under the desk and placed it in front of them. Sticking out the top, there was the unmistakable neck of his bottle of Romulan Ale.

“What’s all this?” Will asked as he pulled the box towards himself, and started rummaging through it. It appeared that the entire personal contents of his desk had been emptied into here.

“Of all the bloody cheek…” he complained under his breath.

Evidently whoever had been selected to run the place in his absence had made themselves right at home already. He’d expected they’d at least wait until he’d officially been unofficially asked to step aside before they started redecorating.

Were he here Will knew Keiran would have seen the plan forming in Will’s head to give the new man a piece of his mind, and given this person was, even if just temporarily, the new department head, he’s also have suggested that was a bad idea.

*Y’ve got yer things. We’ll get back to the ship now, yeah?* he could almost hear Keiran’s voice prompting him.

“The Director specifically asked that I invite you and Commander O’Sullivan to see him while you’re here,” the young woman said, her tone giving no indication as to why. “Is the Commander not with you, sir?”

“He specifically asked to see both of us?” Will asked curiously. He understood why the new man might have wanted to see himself but what he’d want with Keiran was less certain.

“Yes, sir, the Director’s instructions were quite clear.”

“Aye, well I’m afraid I’m all he’ll get. O’Sullivan’s not comin’.”

The young woman looked a little worried, evidently not too happy about the idea of her new boss not getting what he wanted. It gave Will pause to wonder just what type of man he was, and fear as he knew one man who could inspire just that type of fear in an assistant.

Curious, but with a bad feeling about what he’d get when that curiosity was satisfied, he placed down his belongings and moved in quickly the direction of his former office. Will didn’t bother to knock as he pulled open the door.

It was then that is bad feeling was turned quickly from disgust to outright rage with what, or rather who, he saw sitting behind his desk.

It was none other than the slight smile, distinctive nose and shining bald head of Admiral Jonas Vox; a pile of paperwork having already formed in front of him.

The last time anyone had seen Jonas Vox it was Keiran when he was being led away in handcuffs for his actions which had caused the Cascade that, until recently, Tucker Brody had been using to torment his wife. Were he here, Keiran would have done his best to hold his tongue because he knew if he let it loose it’d say something he’d regret. He’d have clenched his fists for much the same reason.

Will however often fell a little short of Keiran’s level of restraint.

“What the bloody hell are you doing here?!” He unceremoniously demanded, marching his way towards his old desk and almost knocking off the African violet plant that’d now taken its place there.

Vox pretended not to notice Will’s shock or frustration, just leaning back into his chair comfortably.

“Time off for good behaviour. So they tell me,” Vox answered as close to cheerfully as he could manage. The man looked a little older but sounded almost rested after his time away. “I don’t remember any of it, of course.”

The last time Keiran had looked upon this face he’d described him as a defeated man, but now most cuttingly of all Vox was actually smiling. Evidently the resequencing that followed his six- month sentence, now cut short, had been completely successful; likely in removing not just the memory of the sentence but even the crime.

“So, that’s it, is it?” Will scoffed. “Yer little vacation’s just over and yer back the same place ya always were.”

“That’s right,” Vox answered smugly, sounding as though six months away from the demands of power, and the headaches of Zanh Liis, had if anything just relaxed him. “I was told you helped out around here in my absence, Captain.” His tone was juts mildly disapproving; as if to say Will wouldn’t have been his first choice for the position but he seemed not to work out too badly. “I just thought you’d like to know that the department’s in good hands.”

Will scoffed, knowing exactly what happened to the agency in Jonas Vox’s hands. That was when the corruption ran wild; the same corruption that he’d been brought in here to stop, and which he wondered how long it’d take before Vox began to build up again. Thinking of this was when Will remembered something which he’d hoped would have put if not Jonas himself then many of his comrades still unexposed under lock and key for a very long while.

“What about the file?” Will asked, his tone indicating he didn’t expect he was going to like the answer.

Jonas raised an eyebrow, feigning confusion.

“What file is that?”

Will’s eyes did not move from Vox as he slowly and firmly spoke each word, so Vox could have no chance to later claim to have misunderstood this.

“It was taken from a PADD a man by the name of Jamieson gave ta me. It was locked but it contained a hell of a lot on the corruption in this department.” Will made a point of ensuring Jonas was really listening to what he said next, leaning in a little closer over the desk. “I already launched a formal investigation to crack it open when I was sitting in that chair.”

He’d also kept a copy, backed up to the Sera’s computer, though he thought it best to keep that little bit of information to himself.

Vox’s expression did not alter with the news.

“Oh, that file,” Jonas replied, clearing his throat and pretending just to have remembered. “Don’t worry about that. We’re certainly working on it. I’ve chosen just the people for the job.”

*I’ll bet you did,* Will thought, certain that by the time they got to see it no one Jonas wanted protected would have their name showing up anywhere on that file.

Will was now prepared to turn away and storm out in disgust but there was another question he needed to have answered.

A look of curiosity crossed Vox’s face as he was counting all the differences in Will’s demeanour to the last time he remembered seeing him. He wondered if the reason for his time away hadn’t been something to do with him. More likely though it’d been something to do with Zanh Liis; very little trouble in his life had ever not been related somehow to Zanh Liis.

“Ya said you wanted to see Keiran too,” he mumbled, his words unusually stilted, as inside he was thinking not just of all the pain this man had caused to Keiran and Liis but, on Keiran’s behalf, remembering what he’d done to the entire crew of the USS Perseids.

“Yes, I did,” Vox answered, contemplating the way Will was addressing him. “Actually I was looking through his file before after I heard his name come up. I was curious. There doesn’t appear to be any record of his current assignment…”

Then in an instant Will’s anger seemed to slip away and in spite of himself he was smiling. The speed with which it happened was quite disarming to Vox and it showed.

Vox didn’t know, but now Will did, that all his knowledge of the Alchemy Project really had been resequenced away, just as they’d promised it would be. The entire first year of its operation would be gone from his memory. Maybe in time he’d figure it out, but this meant right now he wouldn’t even know which ship Liis and Keiran were on, let alone that she and O’Sullivan had married. For once the mighty Jonas Vox couldn’t interfere in their lives. For once he was the one in the dark.

“He retired,” Will answered still smiling, and in terms of Temporal Investigations it really was accurate.

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Vox said in surprise that Will would even say it; believing that no one ever really retired from Temporal Investigations.

“Ya shouldn’t be. He’s never been happier.”

“Yes…” Vox was clearly confused, not liking this feeling that Will knew something important that he didn’t. “Well I’ve got a lot of paperwork to catch up on. Tell O’Sullivan though that if he ever wants to return to active duty, he knows where to find me.”

“Aye,” Will answered in a way that made Vox firmly believe Will knew Keiran had no intention of ever seeing him again. “I do.”

Captain William Lindsay
Jumper Extraordinaire
Temporal Investigations

NRPG: Bravo, Captain Lindsay- and thank you again for keeping the ship afloat while I’ve been so sick this year. We couldn’t have made it through without your hard work and dedication. Thank you. ~ZL

1120:Three Days Grace

by Keiran O'Sullivan
Stardate 101020.20
Soundtrack: The Island by Celtic Thunder, featuring Keith Harkin
Concurrent with, and following, The Ultimate Risk

-=The Captain's Quarters, USS Serendipity=-

Personal Log of Keiran O'Sullivan: Stardate:101020

Most people who have met her would tell you that Zanh Liis never cries.

Even, or should I say especially, those who work most closely with her are well aware of her loathing for tears. Her stubborn refusal to give in to her own held out through years of service, except under the most extreme circumstances and even then if she did cry, she did it alone.

That's not the end of it, though. Her awkward discomfort with similar emotional displays on the part of others is also well documented, whether tears of joy or sorrow. I believe the reason at the heart of this reaction was the fact that for so many years of her life she was, effectively, frozen. It could have been said of her, I suppose, that of all things, the only thing she was really afraid of was of breaking down and letting anyone see it.

Most would say that she just takes everything as it comes, lets it roll off of her shoulders and keeps right on going, roaring on into the next new day anxious and eager to seize all the opportunity that it holds.

Nothing fazes the tenacious, pernicious Zanh Liis- that's what most people have said. Love her or hate her, nothing could stop her or even knock her off stride: that was what everyone believed.

In times past, one of those people would even have been me.

No more.

It's not just the change in her since I married her in this current, so-called proper timeline in which we find ourselves living. The one I dreamed of more nights than I want to remember, and feared would never come because I knew I could never forget her.

The change came before that, or so she tells me, in the time she thought she'd really lost me, after only just recalling all that we had been and catching a glimpse of what we were still meant to be and would assuredly become, if only given the chance.

No longer do I believe what I once did about her limits, because mine are the shoulders onto which Zanh Liis' tears now fall.

I'll do my best to catch and dry every single one before the world at large should ever discover her secrets.

I'll hold her to my heart and keep her safe there. It's the only thing she's ever asked of me, truly, and something that I am only too eager to give her. Not once do my arms enclose her that I don't remember in that instant what it felt like to feel so removed from her- by light years of physical distance, by time and History itself, or held at bay by her own resequenced mind, which could not quite grasp just what it was at the time that was so familiar about me that, as she tells me now, looking into my eyes was "like staring directly into the sun- tempting, dangerous, and if done unprotected, destructive."

She's had to protect herself from so many things over the years. Fight so many uphill battles in wars she never would have personally waged. She's had to sacrifice, she's had to lie awake at night dreading the coming of the dawn when she'd have to face the consequences of her willful actions or worse, what she called her "stupid mistakes".

She always, however, did face them. Then, she kept doing what she'd always done: her best.

This is why it seems so intolerably cruel to me that she's had to suffer what she has, at the hands of a man who blamed her for things completely out of her control. Even still, when she was faced with not only the chance for revenge upon him but also to watch him literally destroy himself, after all the pain he'd caused her, she still couldn't accept it. Her conscience simply wouldn't let her allow it.

I'd tell her that she was showing the true meaning of righteous mercy in that moment, only if I did, she'd probably throw something at me, or at least remind me again that she's a rarity among her people: she's an atheist.

When we got back aboard the Sera two days ago...well, it was the middle of the night, but that's not the point. All she wanted to do was stand in the hot water, trying to wash away pain and misery that only really seemed to fully hit her the moment she stepped into our quarters.

The ship was so still, so absolutely lifeless in that hour. All who could sleep, slept. The rest tried to shake off the phantoms and nagging, unanswered questions and go about their duties. Those who have them on board, took their first chance to reconnect with their families. Some tried to contact members of crew still on Earth, to which we'd set course.

But Liis just stood there in the shower, until the skin of her fingertips wrinkled to match the ridges in that nose that make me absolutely weak in the knees. Until finally I gathered her into a towel, into my arms, and carried her to our bed.

I set her down upon it and to my surprise she grabbed hold of the headboard. She rattled it soundly, as if trying to make sure it was real and still bolted to the floor, as she remembered it. She mumbled something about it 'feeling real enough in her hand', and then, I saw the threads begin to unravel.

The blank stare she'd worn on her face since the moment they'd taken Brody away began to melt, withering away in the heat of a conflagration of tears. They fell silently at first, and I put my hand to her cheek and brushed them away, one by one. Then she dropped her face into her hands and her chest began to rise and fall so fast. She heaved in desperate gasps of air as her shoulders began to shake.

As gently as I could, I took her hands from her face and again turned her toward me. At last she fell into me, her head against my chest, and she sobbed.

I leaned my back up against that wooden headboard, the one I had crafted in every detail with my own two hands, and I held my wife to my heart and I promised her that I wouldn't let go.

She asked me how long we could stay that way, at once both hating and accepting of the fact we couldn't forever.

I told her we'd stay as long as she needed.

Then I told the computer to lower the lights, and as her tears trailed down my skin I tilted my head backwards, eyes toward the ceiling, trying to conceal from her the tears there that I could no longer fight.

Finally, she slept.

I watched her for the longest time, my hand just stroking through her hair as I kept her close beside me. Eventually I fell asleep too, and before I knew it, it was late afternoon the next day.

I managed to get out of bed without waking her and as I moved toward the replicator I heard my combadge sound, on the table beside the door right where I'd left it. It was McKay, and he would wait no longer to go over Liis with a fine-toothed comb. I warned him that she swore she wasn't leaving quarters or seeing anyone until we were in orbit of Earth or damn close to it, and he reminded me this wasn't a problem: he makes house calls.

So I asked him for fifteen minutes lead time and I returned to the bedroom with a tray. Coffee and toast, only, but something I hoped that she'd at least try.

When I woke her with a gentle kiss to the forehead she groaned, and responded by putting my pillow over her face.

When I told her I'd brought coffee she emerged, and actually allowed me to hand her the cup before she put it to her lips, tilted it back, and then stopped.

She set it aside without drinking a single sip, and I knew then that the road ahead of us was going to be longer and rougher than I had ever wanted to imagine.

After the doctor left--which he did only after we agreed he'd be back in the morning-- she sat on the edge of the bed, unmoving, for the longest time. She was still wearing my bathrobe, she realized, but she didn't care. I'd gotten cleaned up during her time with the doctor and asked if she'd let me take her to dinner in the lounge, she said no, she only wanted one thing, and that one thing was me.

What could I say to that?

She didn't cry anymore, that second evening, instead she seemed emotionless as she spoke of the things that Brody had done, and said. Of the beating she'd taken at the hands of his crew, of the memories of the place he'd replicated to imprison her mind and soul even more effectively than her body.

I told her how we'd been locked up, too, and how I had wanted so badly to get to her sooner. She said that it was all right, but part of me still wished that somehow, I could have prevented this ever happening to her.

God, I wish I could save her all the pain that life can bring. Were it in my power, I would, and she'd never know anything but happiness again.

Sure as God's in His Heaven if she agreed to it tonight I would take her back to Ireland for as long as she wanted. Forever, if that was what it took to put the light back into her eyes that I love so well.

Sometimes, I really don't think that woman will ever understand just how much it is that I truly love her.

We talked all night and into the small hours. Even as it was, with the things we discussed being so dark and filled with sadness, the hours still seemed somehow to tick by so quickly. The passage of time goes unnoticed, even to those of us who have lived and died by it, when it's spent with those we hold most dear.

Every time I've asked her the question, "What can I do for you?" she's only ever given me a singular answer. Two words of request, sometimes whispered, sometimes sighed. Sometimes she doesn't say the words at all, she just looks at me, with those eyes so deep and blue and complicated that I can't begin to fathom how a man could ever resist them.

The only thing she ever asks is for me to hold her.

Finally, this morning, we were informed that we're nearly to Earth, and Liis knew that it was time she had to go back out and face our world and all who populate it. This ship is a small world all its own, inhabited by a menagerie who have become more family than crew. Every family has its troubled children, and we've got a few of them that will have to be dealt with, one way or another. If they recognize they've strayed, then they'll likely do all right in the end. If they can't see the error in their ways, then their chances of continuing on aboard this ship, and in Starfleet itself, are questionable at best.

We've another whole world of trouble, dark and deep, waiting for us back at TI. No, that's wrong-not a world, more like a swamp: stagnant, swarming, murky waters difficult to navigate and populated by animals who will grab you by the throat and pull you under for the kill, given the slightest opportunity.

All the while, I will be watching over her.

She's gone to Sickbay, now. She's been there awhile, perhaps she decided to go straight to the bridge, afterward.

Or maybe she--

Keiran heard a noise below and immediately stopped tapping away on the PADD in his hands. With one final keystroke he closed the log and then set the device aside.

He rose from the large chair on the landing of the staircase between the loft and the ground floor of their quarters, resting his hands on the railing and staring downward. He'd first heard the door, now her unmistakable, inimitable footfalls.


Without a word she raced up the stairs toward him. The moment she reached him she took hold of him and pulled him fiercely near to her, so close he could feel her heart beating against his chest.

"Liis, I thought," his voice changed tones when he realized she was shaking. He pressed his lips to the top of her head before he moved them next to her ear. "Hey now, what’s all this, then? Are ya alright?"

"I can't," she whispered, clasping on to him as if her life itself depended upon it. "I'm not ready yet. One day more, here, like this. Just us. Please."

"'Course, it's all right. Here, I'll..." he pulled away for just a moment, activating his badge. "O'Sullivan to Blane."

A tired version of a familiar voice returned his call. [Blane here.]

"The Captain and I will be returning to duty tomorrow morning, first thing." Keiran said. His eyes questioned Liis, and she nodded once in agreement.

[Very well. Anything you need?]

"Time, Thomas," Keiran whispered, pulling her closer to him again. "Nothin' else, just need a little more time."

-=/\=- Keiran O’Sullivan
Security Liaison
The Alchemy Project

1119: Monsters Under The Bed

by Dalton McKay
Stardate: 102023
Following The Ultimate Risk

-=Sickbay, USS Serendipity=-

”It’s a good dang thing I ain’t made of flesh and blood today,” Dalton McKay muttered to himself, as he pulled the curtain closed and left TC Blane to dress in peace. “I’d be so plum tuckered out I couldn’t best a worm in an arm wrestlin’ match.”

“That would be an impossibility no matter how rested you were, Doctor.” A small, logical voice said from nearby. Dalton lowered the PADD in his hands and looked down upon the pointed ears and wrinkled nose of Lair Arie.

“Oh? And why’s that, ‘lil Missy?”

“Such a contest could never take place.” Arie replied, blinking serenely. “Worms do not have arms.”

“Well, now that you mention it…” Dalton looked at her and realized that, with no one here to visit today, the sight of Arie in Sickbay was cause for concern. “Everything okay? You feelin’ alright?”

“Actually,” Arie bit her lip slightly but instantly released it, and once again she squared her shoulders and stood as tall as she could. “I was wondering if I might have a moment of your time. I have a question.”

“A medical question? Somethin’ for school, maybe?”

TC Blane emerged from the curtained-off area, the slightest of smirks upon his face as he passed by. Arie looked up at him, one eyebrow raised quizzically. “Worms don’t have arms.” Blane repeated, shaking his head once before giving Arie a small salute and continuing on his way.

“Perhaps we could discuss this in your office?” Arie asked, forcing her voice to stay level and calm though her stomach was doing flips and rolls greater than any amusement park thrill ride.

“Of course.” Dalton gestured for her to lead the way. Once the door was closed behind them he sat down at his desk, set his PADD aside, and folded his hands. “Now, what is your question?”

“Is there…some kind of medication that you could give me that would…” She felt her resolve to ask him faltering, and hesitated.

“That would what, Arie?” McKay was now seriously alarmed. “Are you sick?”

“No.” Arie answered, almost too quickly. She looked around the room, more specifically at his desk. She stared at it, unable to take her eyes away no matter how much she wished to.

The sight brought back another memory she didn’t want to be having and stirred up sickening, familiar emotions that she did not want to experience again. Fears so big and dark and deep that they were keeping her up at night or worse, replaying horrific moments as if they were happening all over again in her nightmares. Some were things she’d actually seen; others, things she’d only been told of but still, they felt as real as if she’d witnessed them with her own eyes. “I was just wondering if there was something you could give me to prevent nightmares.”

McKay reached for a nearby tricorder, and he saw Arie flinch. For the moment, he did not activate it. “Havin’ trouble gettin’ enough shut-eye?”

Arie shrugged.

“We should get your mother down here, Arie. We should give you a good lookin’ over, nose to toes.”

“No!” Arie immediately stepped backwards, towards the door. “Please,” she added, forcing her voice once again to at least try to sound as grown up as she wanted to seem. “Mother is not aware that I’ve been having these difficulties. I do not wish to worry her. She’s…” Her voice faded away and became as small as she felt. “She’s been through too much already.”

“Well, I’m afraid there isn’t anything I can give you to evict the monsters from under the bed, little lady, at least, not without knocking you out so far past REM that it can’t be considered sleep anymore. Even then, I can’t give it to you at your age. I’m sorry.”

Arie tried not to frown, and mostly succeeded.

“I understand.”

“You know, if there’s somethin’ bothering you, it’s always best to talk about it,” Dalton urged gently, pointing toward the chair across from him. “Counselor Tryst ain’t back yet, that leaves me. So here I am. At your service.” He smiled gently. “Do you wanna talk about it?”

Arie blinked. “No.”

“I can’t help you if I don’t know what the trouble is.” McKay ran his hand over his hairless dome, clasped it at the back of his neck, and sighed. Arie marveled at the gesture a moment; he seemed at times, so completely human even though she herself knew how to reprogram his matrix to portray him as a much younger man with a much higher-maintenance hairdo.

“The trouble is that I am recalling unpleasant experiences when I sleep and I had hoped to avoid doing it in future.”

“I see. Would those experiences have anything to do with what happened to your mother? Or about you and Tam being in danger on the ship when things went wrong?”

What happened to my mother when? Arie thought, as she turned another shade paler. I’ve almost lost her too many times.

In her mind she imagined her mother’s limp, lifeless form, trapped in a body of water beneath an unnatural sheet of ice on a far off and unforgiving planet. She next saw her mother lying on the deck of this very Sickbay at her feet, her hair surrounded by a pool of her own blood…


The child did not move or answer, and the remaining color drained from her face. She looked as though she was faltering and might lose consciousness. Dalton leapt out of his chair and steadied her.

“Hey, now, don’t go getting’ all woozy on me. You Bajoran women, always giving me grief no matter your size or rank. C’mon now. Sit.” He pulled out the chair and set her down upon it, and Arie sighed. Her head hurt, so did her stomach. It was her heart that hurt the most though, and that was the one sensation that she could no longer stand to cope with.

“Did you eat breakfast?” The doctor asked now, as he began to scan her with his tricorder.

“No, I did not.”

“Dinner last night?”

Her silence answered the question for her.

“I thought you said you didn’t feel sick,” McKay said, as he kept scanning.

“I am not ill, not exactly, I,” Arie started to become irritated. Her cheeks flushed as she suddenly reached up and pushed the Doctor’s hand, and the tricorder in it, away in an uncharacteristic display of frustration. “I cannot meditate efficiently due to lack of sleep. I cannot sleep because of the nightmares. I had hoped that you could give me something to prevent them but since you cannot, I will not trouble you further. Thank you for your time, Doctor. Good day.”

She rose from the chair but as dizzy as she was, her knees went weak and she started to fall.

“Okay, that’s it.” Dalton scooped her up in one arm and carried her out of his office, toward a biobed. “We’re not goin’ to say a single thing more until your Mama gets here and we find out what’s really happenin’ here.”

Arie sighed as she let her head thump back onto the pillow. The room continued spinning around her and she closed her eyes. “Please, do not call my mother.”

“Look, Arie, your Mama programmed me into this life and she sure as shootin’ can delete me right back out again.” He wagged a finger at her. “And she will surely do it if I have you here, in this state, and don’t notify her immediately. Not to mention what Daddy will do to me when he gets home.”

Knowing she was defeated, Arie offered no further objections. McKay hailed her mother, already at work in her lab, and she responded by saying she was on her way.

While they waited, McKay continued his initial examination. “No fever. Nothing too far out of whack, well your blood sugar’s a mite low but a muffin and some chocolate milk will put that right.” He nodded to a passing nurse. She smiled and then left to procure both items.

“I just need to get back to my meditation.” Arie said at last. “That is what will help me.”

There was something different about her, McKay noted, ever since things had gotten really bad on the ship. Instead of offering to help and sticking by the adults as she always had- and as her young friend Tam had- this time Arie had retreated, physically and emotionally, and had done nothing but meditate in his office until the crisis was finally over.

Moments passed in silence as McKay made notes. When he finally returned his full attention to the child, he had no idea that her mother had arrived and was now standing just a few feet away. “Why is it so important for you to be able to concentrate so hard on your meditation, Arie?”

“Because I want to purge myself of all my Bajoran emotions.” Arie announced. “I want to rid myself of them, and live, to the best of my ability, as Vulcan.”

“What?” Lair Kellyn’s voice startled her daughter, and the child jumped on the table. She didn’t sound angry. She didn’t sound sad. She sounded a way that Arie had never heard before, and so was at a loss to put a name to.

“Mother, I- I did not know you were there. I did not intend to-“

“Kellyn…” McKay put up his hands, his eyes urging Kellyn to show restraint and calm here.

“You…you want to…” Kellyn stammered, unable to find words to try to repeat what Arie had suggested she wanted.

Knowing her child as she did, Kellyn knew that she would never make such a statement lightly. She would only say such a thing if she truly meant it.

Arie’s eyes pleaded with her mother to understand, even as the rest of her face remained emotionless.

“Mother, I was going to speak with Father before I told you…but now, it is too late. So I must tell you, in all honesty that it is my intention to study much more deeply the ways of my Father’s people. I do not want to live by my emotions anymore. I…” she sat up and looked her mother straight in the eyes, entirely certain of what she was saying. “I will learn control. I will learn to live a life that is free of all emotion.”

Kellyn blinked, speechless, until finally McKay patted her on the shoulder and urged her to step back a little so he could continue his examination. “We can sort all that out later on.” He insisted. “Right now, somebody needs to eat breakfast.”

Dr. Dalton McKay
Long Term Medical Hologram
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

1118: The Ultimate Risk

by TC Blane and -=/\=-Zanh Liis
Following How Are The Mighty Fallen
Stardate 1018.23

Sountrack: Desperado by the Eagles


-= USS Serendipity=-

Liis hadn't even made it halfway down the hall toward the lift after exiting Sickbay before her mind registered an image that she had seen, but up until this point, not processed.

She immediately reversed course, heading back to the location she'd just left and seeking out the berth in Sickbay currently occupied by her Second Officer.


TC sat on the end of the bio-bed with his shirt off as the holographic Doctor McKay looked at the healing phaser wound on his shoulder. It was a stubborn injury, taking longer to mend than it should have because of the length of time initial treatment had been delayed.

It wasn't like he'd had a choice in the matter, still that didn't prevent McKay from clucking his tongue in irritation that the 'mess had been allowed to go on longer than a sermon on Sunday'.

TC was only half listening, his mind on too many other things to count. His damaged uniform tunic remained on a tray next to the bed, a scorched and tattered testament to the fight that occurred on the Sera’s bridge. It was in several pieces as a result of having been cut off of his body.

“Ya’ know Mr. Blane I don’t think that I have had anyone sit on a bed in front of me that has had the consistent trauma to their mortal shell that you’ve had.” McKay touched the open wound causing TC to flinch slightly.

“That’s still a little tender.” TC glanced back.

McKay nodded. “I imagine it would be. Ya’ got third degree burns plus serious lacerations, luckily the heat cauterized them shut. Otherwise ya’ probably would have bled to death.” McKay picked up a hypo and pressed it to TC’s arm with a hiss. “For the pain,” he explained. “You are in great physical shape but your fleshy overcoat has seen better days. Pretty bad for a man your age.” He poked at the numerous scars that littered TC’s frame.

TC nodded his agreement. “Well Doc, it’s not the years but the mileage.”

“Wish I could'a helped you sooner.” The doctor chided. “There are a lot of fibers from your uniform mixed into the burn. It’s gonna have to be cleaned out before I can fix this so we’ll let that pain killer set in for a spell.” He turned around walked away.

TC could already feel the constant throbbing in his shoulder begin to ease. He took a moment to close his eyes for the first time in what seemed like weeks. He let the pain fade as he listened to the unique symphony of Sickbay, allowing it to envelop him. The semi-rhythmic beeps and hums of the equipment were oddly relaxing.

Or it could just be the drugs kicking in, he thought.

"Sleeping Beauty, you've changed."

Blane opened his eyes again to find his captain standing in front of him, leaning against a wall with her arms folded over each other in front of her torso.

The two officers and friends stared at each other for a moment in silent contemplation. TC slowly looked her up and down. “You look like crap.”

"Yeah, well, you know me. I like to elevate everything I do to an art form." She stepped closer, and he gestured for her to take a seat beside him. As tired as she was, she didn't refuse. Slowly, and with obvious effort, she lowered herself into a sitting position. "I've really got the looking-like-you-feel thing down." She slowly raised her still-bruised eyes up to his face. All joking aside, he could plainly see her concern. "You okay?"

“Aside from being Kentucky fried, I’m fine.” He flashed a rare smile. “Believe me I gave far worse then I received.”

"So I’ve heard.” Liis paused. “You did a hell of a job, you know. Any lesser man would've handed over the ship. You, however, have never been a 'lesser' man."

TC nodded. “Bah!” He shrugged his shoulders. The action caused him to grimace from the shooting pain. “It’s nothing less that any other member of this crew would have done.” He glanced back at her. “I just have the indelible habit of using a sledgehammer when a simple ballpoint hammer would have sufficed. But at least I do it with flair.”

Zanh's mouth curled up in the slightest amount, just at one corner. "That's what makes you a legend, Thomas." She widened her eyes mischievously, repeating, "a legend."

TC's eyes flashed, but the embers of amusement they conveyed quickly faded, doused by his concern for her health.

“How about you?” He'd not had the chance to speak to Zanh up until this point, nor her husband. With Salvek off the ship and the Captain indisposed the responsibility of ship and crew was still his.

He had only the report that the Doctor had given him about her abuse at the hands of Brody to go on. It was knowledge that was considered 'need to know', not only for the sake of the Captain's recovery, but for her dignity as well.

As Acting Captain until the moment she retook the chair, TC did need to know and so, as difficult as it had been to scroll through the screens, page after page, he had done so without missing a single word.

The doctor went into great detail of the trauma and possible mental scars that the Captain might walk away with from the ordeal. However TC’s lack of faith in the holographic doctor's abilities to know and relate to true life experience combined with his own personal experience and friendship with Zanh Liis prompted the question.

At first, Liis only shrugged in reply. An uncharacteristic response, and TC would not be so easily deterred.

“Are all of your marbles in one place?”

She hopped down from the table and paced a little before him, tugging on the sleeves of her brown suede, civilian jacket. "You'd have to ask Keiran. It's his job, keeping count of them these days. Poor bastard."

TC shifted on the edge of the biobed. "You could have just let Brody-"

"No." Liis interrupted. "I couldn't."

"If you had, then he'd never-"

"He will never." Her jaw in that way that told him she'd firmly made up her mind about something and only a fool would attempt to change it. "Never again."

"From the sounds of it, he'll be a guest of Medical for the rest of his life." Blane attempted to put on a fresh tunic and realized that doing so was going to take great effort and likely cause a lot more pain. He stopped for the moment, tossing the shirt aside and muttering in frustration, "He should rot in prison."


"What he did to you..." Blane now stood as well, and he looked her directly in the eyes. "The pain he's caused so many-"

"He's paying, Thomas. Believe me. He'll be paying for the rest of his life, in ways you can't even begin to-" Liis thought back to her own time in those dark and empty rooms at Medical, so cold they made you shiver no matter how you tried to stay warm. Her eyes drifted toward the door now, and she lowered her head. "He's not the only one, either. Lots of people got hurt here. Fortunately, we avoided a major catastrophe. Who am I to judge him for just wanting..." her voice trailed off.

"For wanting to manipulate and decide the fates of countless others just to get what he wanted? For absolute power?" Blane's face took on a rare, reddish hue as his temper flared.

"This wasn't about power, not really." Liis whispered, twisting the rings on her finger. "You know there were times, Thomas, if there had been any way I could have gotten back to Keiran, I'd have-"

"No, that's not true." TC objected. "I remember quite clearly a specific time, not so long ago, in fact, when you and Keiran were both told that if you tried to hold on to each other, that the consequences for others could be incomprehensible. So you both did what you had to do at the time. You walked away."

"We waited, you mean." Liis rubbed her aching temples. "We may have walked away but I don't know that either of us ever could have truly given up waiting."

"You did what was right for the greater good. You held your course." He sighed. "You know how I feel about all this TI bullshit. I hate it. I like time to go in a straight line- a line in which we just do the best we can and deal with the mistakes we've made and try to keep going. Not going back again and again trying to second guess ourselves and maybe making worse mistakes in the attempt to fix things."

"Yes, Thomas, I know how you feel about the work I used to do. That's why you were Spec Ops, not TI."

TC shook his head, a sharp, swift motion powered by fierce resolve. "I won't ever believe that the reason that Brody did what he did was over-" he stopped, realizing how it would sound if he finished the sentence.

Liis raised a brow and stepped closer, lowering her voice. "For a woman?" She shook her own head now. "Look at Moreno. Look at her motivations here, too. I bet if you asked every single one of those agents who went off the grid and broke the rules, the reason that they did it had something to do with something or someone they desperately wanted to get back to." She paused, inhaling and exhaling slowly."Maybe not always someone they'd loved that way. Maybe a child, or a parent. Maybe simply a life that made them so much happier than anything since."

The look on Blane's face told her that he couldn't fathom the idea.

"I've known you a long time now, Thomas, and do you know what strikes me about you?"

TC waited, saying nothing.

"In all the times we've shared stories of our pasts, the rare times we've celebrated our successes and the far too frequent times we've mourned our losses as friends, never once have I ever heard you talk about anyone that you'd be willing to break the rules of space and time to get back to."

TC blinked twice quickly, but otherwise registered no reaction..

"Is it that you don't think you could ever find your way back to her, or is it that you haven't met her yet?"

There was a long pause as TC contemplated her question.

“I just never really found the time to look.” He looked down. “Too many things that are bigger then me got in the way over the years I guess.”

Zanh caught a hint of loneliness in her friend’s voice. So slight, that only a friend as close as she was to the very private man would have noticed it and for a moment, just a fleeting moment he seemed show the worn, tired shoulders of Atlas. Then as quickly as it appeared, it was gone.

"Well, in a way, I envy you." Zanh said, heading for the door. "It's a terrifying thing, to love someone that much. You can't stay in complete control of everything when you do. You're giving away a part of yourself that you can't ever get back, no matter how things turn out. Love is the ultimate high risk operation."

The door opened quietly and as she stepped beyond it, she looked back at him over her shoulder. "If it ever finds you, though, a love like that, you're going to wake up in the middle of the night one night and realize something that you never would have believed about yourself."

"What's that?"

"That you don't have a damn bit of choice in the matter at all."

As the doors closed behind her, McKay returned with a tray of various medical doo-dads and a hypo.

“Alright then. Let’s get started shall we.” He picked up the hypo-spray. “Let’s give you a local anesthetic just to keep you comfortable.”

TC shook his head. “Skip it. Just do what you have to. I need to get back to the bridge.”

McKay paused. “Son, even with the pain medication I gave you earlier…what I need to do here ain’t gonna fell like be tickled with feathers.”

TC looked at the deck. “Just do it. I’ll be fine.”

McKay frowned, slowly put down the hypo and picked up another instrument. “You sure?” he asked, once more for confirmation.

TC slowly nodded as he continued to stare at the deck plates. “I’ll be fine,” he repeated quietly.

Commander TC Blane
Second Officer
Currently in Command of the USS Serendipity NCC-2012


-=/\=- Zanh Liis O’Sullivan
Captain of the Serendipity

1117: Forks in the River

by Denise Moreno
After Galatea’s Last Gift

-=The Temporal Investigations Ship Commanded by Paul Andrews=-

Misery should by all rights have been granted no physical form. It was an intangible quantity; that empty draining suffering that spilt upward from one’s heart to pool upon the curves of their face. Yet the pathetically sullen site of this one old woman, sitting silently in the darkness of her cell, with her head bowed low and her eyes half closed, could have been given no other name.

She was not crying. Sadness brought one to tears. True misery placed one on the other side of them. So instead Denise simply sat unmoving, attempting to draw in a breath so deep that it containing some spark of the life that had left her, but finding her lungs possessed no such strength right now.

She’d felt trapped for decades in this life, so perhaps she shouldn’t have felt so closed in between the four walls that now surrounded her. Yet there was one hint of freedom; that flickering flame of foolish hope, that had until the lock on her door had first clicked shut somehow kept her heart from freezing. That flame had been sustained in her dreams, the cruellest part of any human being that you can ever take away, which had for longer than she realised let her look up to imagine something more. Her eyes however were now directed to the floor, her body nearly too limp to ever stand again, as she asked herself how it’d possibly come to this.

It was a curious and destructive sensation when one realised that with all the wrong they’d done that even giving away their only chance at happiness; the very sacrifice of all they had just to do what was right, gave them no sense of pride. She’d sworn to herself that she’d stop feeling sorry for herself though, so she felt no pity for the woman she’d become.

She was alone here. That was only naturally how she’d always ended up. Whether out of fear for her safety, or some passing respect for her meaningless former station, they’d separated her from the rest of the crew into the smallest cell in the brig of this ship; from a far younger and more necessary generation, than the one she’d once commanded.

Her ship, the once great and mighty USS Poseidon, was dead.

Her engines were burnt out before he’d arrived and Paul Andrews hadn’t wanted to bother dragging her all the way back home. So after she’d been stripped of her crew one by one, some taken back to the Sera and others like Denise taken to Andrews’ ship itself, they’d simply decided to destroy her with a single blast of weapons far superior to her own design. Denise hadn’t even seen it. Had it not been for a casual comment in the conversation of her guards, coming to deliver her food while disregarding that she was even here, she wouldn’t have even known it now. It made her wonder if when she died alone, if anyone she’d once known in her former life would ever learn of it.

She didn’t know quite what the future entailed from here. She wasn’t quite crazy enough to think she’d escape imprisonment, which was a shame because if she’d been a little madder maybe they’d have treated her and let her go. She’d known exactly what she was doing and so she would surely live out her life in a cage; an exhibition for the observation to all those who would dare to dream of challenging the unbendable will of the Department of Temporal Investigations.

It wouldn’t be like this cell though. This cell was practically an anachronism through the crudeness of its design. There was no forcefield for those can so easily fail. This cell was designed for the enemies, but for their own agents who’d lost their way; even those of her very nearly treasonous ways, surely she’d be headed to be a prison with a more civilised guised. Depending on how important they thought she was, maybe she’d even pass the famous Jonas Vox; the man who’d played far more of a role in beginning this whole mess than her, as he headed for his freedom.

Four walls however were always four walls to the person stuck between them.

Finally raising her head, though it was a struggle against her neck to even try it, she tried once again to look around. She wanted to absorb some sense of this place; to know all she could because that was the only way she knew how to live. Before she had any such chance to learn, her head and her eyes snapped violently down to the ground, forced to fall against the overpowering horrific weight of what she saw.

There was not a lot to see. There was so very little furniture in this room. There was this unadorned bed, barely strong enough to support her weight, which doubled as her seat. The sheets were plain, the mattress uneven, and the pillow was sewn into the frame to ensure it stayed in its proper place.

On the uncarpeted floor sat her breakfast tray, the porridge like substance they’d served her left untouched and the plastic spoon remaining firmly plunged into its centre. Of course against the opposing grey wall, at most three steps away, were the minimum required facilities for such a potentially lengthy journey. Perhaps intentionally chosen for atmosphere they even included the requisite dripping sink, the solitary sound of individual drops of water slowly striking one after another, perhaps standing in place of her tears, reminding her each time her thoughts were silenced that this room was to be her dining room, her bedroom and her bathroom all in one.

None of that was what made looking up so hard to bear. It was the fact that over the sink, clearly visible in spite of how low she’d turned the lights, sat the most vindictive object she could have ever imagined them placing here with her. It was a mirror. The face she found there appeared to have aged to far older than should be possible within a single lifetime. Her eyes were red and baggy, though she swore once they had sparkled. Now wrinkles and imperfection wrapped like a lose net around her skin, trapping the woman she’d once known in somewhere very deep underneath.

She was so very tired.

She saw no point in trying to fight it anymore, and so she allowed her body to fall gracelessly onto its side. She didn’t bother to move up to her pillow. Simply closing her eyes where she was she found herself finally in real darkness. There were no more faces of the people she should save, or of those who’d hurt her. There was simply nothing there, and she felt like finally she could rest.

Her body did feel so heavy right now and before she was even aware it was happening, her mind began sweeping her away into sleep.

Then suddenly it was daylight and she felt the warm spring sun strike her skin and heat her back.

The grass beneath her feet was wet and felt strange as she moved. In fact, she realised, it was between her toes, and she couldn’t help but to think that it tickled.

There was a sound, one she hadn’t heard in years, the simple persistent buzzing of a bee as it moved past her ear. It was a bad sound on its own but since it spoke of the return of the kinder weather it was one she always loved to hear.

She was in the shade but only barely of a rake thin tree that towered above her, bearing no fruit. It appeared she was in a garden as she saw the a few sparsely placed flowers; common daisies that seemed quite a bit bigger than they should be, yet somehow she didn’t think of their size as her hand reached out to grab one.

Yet it wasn’t her hand. The skin was smooth and fair. The fingers were perhaps a little pudgy but they certainly weren’t arthritic anymore. This was the hand of a child of maybe six, and how oversized the flower appeared as she yanked it with all her might from the ground seemed to support that entirely.

Then she brought it to her nose and it tickled, much like the grass on her bare feet, and she couldn’t help but think how funny that was. It was then she heard another sound she hadn’t heard in even longer than the bee as she realised she was giggling at how it felt.

“What’s so funny?” a voice absolutely overwhelmed with affection asked her, as she felt a pair of loving arms wrapping around her.

“The flower,” she answered, still giggling as her nose still felt a little funny even now it was gone.

“Oh, so, you like flowers do you?” her mother asked as the child felt herself being lifted from the ground.

“I think it’s pretty,” she answered, now twirling the stalk around in her hand.

“Well you know what?” her mother asked with just about the biggest smile that child would ever see. “So, do I.”

She continued to twirl her flower, looking at it in complete fascination.

“When I grow up, I wanna be a gardener,” she added absently, completely forgetting her plan from last week to be a dancer.

“Well you can be anything you want to be,” her mother assured her with absolute faith, placing the sloppiest kiss on her cheek, which made her laugh again.

“Then I want to be just like you,” she said, finally turning from her flower to craning her little head up to examine her mother instead.

The woman looked so happy, in that way a child can’t quite understand is only because of how much they’re treasured, and as she swung her around the child laughed again.

She felt herself getting a little dizzy but she didn’t care, until the sun’s glare caught her eyes as she span and so she shut them tight, not needing to see the view to enjoy the experience. Then suddenly the spinning stopped with the sound of a thud and a creak, and she opened them, to find she was a very old woman again.

She didn’t turn or even sit up, but as she heard the deafening finality of the locks once again she knew that they must have just taken her breakfast tray away. Staring upward at the beautyless patterns where the ceiling was joined together, much as that child had stared at her flower, Denise was suddenly feeling more isolated than alone, as it really occurred to her all she wouldn’t be seeing or doing anymore.

Her mother’s garden was of course long since gone. Yet even when it was there, she hadn’t taken a walk in it since she’d been a child. It’d been outside her window all through her teenage years yet she couldn’t recall even stopping to feel the grass between her toes or to pick a single flower again. She just hadn’t taken the time.

She hadn’t even thought of that day in years. It was no surprise, now that she thought about that child with an adult’s retrospect, that she would have tried and failed to do so much. She did want to turn our just like her mother; that loving family woman who could handle anything. She’d also wanted to turn out just like her father; the powerful Starfleet overachiever, almost never around, who’d worked his way up from the bottom.

Now that she thought about it, he was exactly the reason she’d chosen to join TI. It was supposed to be the ultimate fast track; to give her plenty of time when the career was firmly in hand to deal with those far more difficult matters of love. The first dance she’d ever been invited to she’d turned down telling herself she had to study, when she was really just afraid of what would have happened if she’d said yes.

Now she looked on that moment longingly, she squeezed her eyes tightly for just a moment almost as if attempting to convince her younger self to take that risk that was no longer open. Only then did the tears finally come, beginning to flood her closed eyes and spill out.

She knew that even if she had gone to that dance and that nervous young man had found something in her to fall in love with, that she wouldn’t have had the son that she’d started all this for. She would have had her family though; some people to miss her if she ever made enough stupid mistakes to end up somewhere like this.

No one would miss her though. If you can disappear from the Earth without anyone even noticing, she wondered, did you ever really live there?

She couldn’t help but consider, as she found herself softly sobbing, if her life had all been a waste. Maybe it was more than just one bad decision; maybe she’d gotten them all wrong.

Many people believed that life was a path of your own creation, where every turn you added could lead you to a far different destination. Yet Temporal Investigations taught you that it was more like a river, with very few forks where you could choose to go another way, meaning that all the rest of the times when you’d fight to go left or right, were just a pointless and tyring struggle.

In the end it was still in the hands of others far more than your own. She had learnt from the protestations of Lieutenant Wilson as they had all been dragged down to the Poseidon’s brig that he’d ordered Stacey Geller, a Lieutenant Denise never really got to know, to bring a security team to main engineering; a team that never showed.

If they had they would have no doubt be able to stop her or at least to delay them all a good long time, and Brody would have gotten his wish. This was not some technical oversight; Geller must have made the decision to hold them back. It was like in that moment when someone finally had a chance to make it happen, Geller wanted Brody to fail. Maybe Denise would never learn why that was but it was the single difference that meant she was still alive.

More than that, she was scared.

Her sobs had suddenly turned to shakes, like the rushing waters of her sorrow were running so fast as to move the surrounding shores.

All the numbness she had felt in misery had abandoned her and she was now so very terrified of what was going to happen.

As much as it felt like the end of her journey, this was one of those forks in the river. To the left she had the chance to live out the rest of her life in four walls. To the right, there was a chance she’d get better.

William Lindsay had made her an offer that until this moment she hadn’t even been able to consider. Officially her role in what had happened was unclear. Under interrogation her crew had all said so far that they’d always believed she was nothing but Brody’s puppet.

So in benevolence she didn’t really understand, Will had been able to officially offer her the chance; if she cooperated and told them the logistical secrets that only she’d known, that she could have her time at Temporal Investigations resequenced away and then be set free. After all, she was an old woman and it probably wouldn’t be that long before she was more suited to a care home than a prison anyway.

Yet resequencing was never intended to be used on the scale of wiping away a career that had lasted so long. It was the difference between correcting a mistake with a fine brush and drenching the effected area with turpentine; more likely that not ruining the rest of the painting in the process as it dripped down.

She would be losing all she’d become, if not all she’d ever been, and as much as she was crying right now at the prospect of her future she still didn’t want to die.

Yet as she thought of that little girl she’d been, she considered that even if she’d never be her mother, her father or even a dancer, perhaps she could be a humble old woman with a garden. She knew what the right choice was.

As frightening as it was and even though she still didn’t really understand at all how it’d actually come to this, she was going to start anew.

Denise Moreno
Former Commanding Officer
USS Poseidon

1116: Galatea's Last Gift

by Landry Steele
Stardate: 101002.12
Following How Are The Mighty Fallen

-=Sickbay, USS Serendipity=-

Landry Steele had seen, in her twenty-eight linear years of living and then some, more dark and ugly things than she cared to count, even if she had the time and patience to try.

One by one she'd done her best to dismiss them completely or else, in the cases of the worst of all things, compartmentalize them as efficiently as possible. It was cruelly ironic that this was a trick that Tucker himself had taught her: to take the things that distressed her most and file them away inside a small corner of her mind, to be called upon in moments like this as a reminder that things can always be worse.

This time, as she tried to file through that catalog of disasters she’d locked up inside, she didn’t believe it was true. For him, there was no way things could possibly be worse.

She almost forgot to breathe as she contemplated what she was about to find on the other side of the door. She doubted any of the dark and ugly things she’d ever seen could prepare her for what she was going to see next.
"Aren't you going to go in?" The security guard asked, fidgeting his hands nervously. Her pacing was making him more anxious by the second for his long overnight shift to end.

"In a minute." Landry replied. Or three, she thought. The moment that you leave for breakfast.

"Well, my replacement will be here in,” the officer began, sounding slightly confused and only perking up when he spotted a figure in the distance. “Oh, look, here he is."

He looked up and gave an anxious nod to Dane Cristiane, wasting no time before he began to hurry down the hall, past him.

"Hey!" Dane called, "What about my start-of-shift briefing?"

"Captain said to let Steele into Brody's room. She can stay as long as she wants, but yank her out at the first sign of trouble!" The man called back over his shoulder. "Consider yourself briefed!"

"O'Sullivan would have his ass for that." Dane shook his head in contemplation. "Blakeslee, twice over. Sloppy." Dane stopped as he saw Landry looking at him with desperate, plaintive eyes. He groaned, unable to ignore them. "Why do I get the feeling you're about to ask me something that O'Sullivan will have my ass for later?"

"Because I am." Landry said. Then without warning she unbuttoned the top of her uniform and started to pull it up over her head.

"Hey, whoa, what do you...you can't get me to do anything by-" Dane protested, his hands flying up to cover his eyes. An instant later he felt her hand slap upside his head. "OW! What the hell was that for?"

"For thinking what you just thought." Landry replied. "I'm wearing something beneath it, genius. I don't want to go in there in uniform. It'll only upset him."

"He's been yelling your name for the better part of three days," Dane said softly. "Seeing you is going to upset him."

"Not if I do it right." Her eyes flashed up to him again as she straightened the shoulders of the simple sweater that she'd hid beneath her uniform. "Not if you help me."


"Turn off the video monitors."

"You're out of your mind! The room is soundproof. He could kill you and we wouldn't know it until it was too late."

"He won't hurt me," Landry insisted, pausing while a group of nurses walked past, ready to start their shift. When she was sure they were out of earshot she resumed. "I don't know what he may say, though, and I think that whatever it is, he deserves this last chance to say it to me without anyone watching."

"And I would do this for you why?" Dane folded his arms. He was still angry at her- at least he was trying to be. The way she'd looked the last few days gave him pause, but it was difficult for him to put aside how he felt about her withholding information at the start. Though he didn’t claim to be known for total honesty, this was information that could have made the difference between life and death for everyone if they'd had it at the right time.

"Because," Landry looked once more around to ensure no one was listening, then stood on her tiptoes and whispered in his ear. "At some future time in some future place, you are going to ask me to do something very dangerous and very over the line for you, or to look the other way while you do it," she explained, still whispering but returning her feet to the ground. "This is the favor you will hold over my head in order to get me to do it."

The sound of certainty in her voice, a foreknowledge of future events that Dane had only ever heard among TI agents who had experience in the field far beyond his own, chilled him through.

"Damn, I hate it when you people talk like that."

"You are one of us 'people', Cristiane. Don't you forget it."

"You're part of this crew," Dane countered, wondering just what trouble he was about to bring upon himself because he just couldn't say no. "Don't you forget that."

The expression on her face could at first glance have been called one of acknowledgement, but then he decided it seemed more correctly interpreted as a very sad sort of acceptance. "For how long?"

Dane said nothing and Landry moved to the panel. She quickly began the work of fooling the video capture system into thinking it was updating when it was not. It would record the first sixty seconds of her inside the cell with Tucker, then it would shut off and repeat that footage on a loop continuously until she changed it back. A simple trick for one of her experience: mere child’s play. "You know, it doesn't matter," she said, answering her own question. She finally turned to Dane and nodded; squaring her shoulders to assert her readiness for something she couldn’t possibly be ready for. "I'll remember."

"I'm going to burn in O'Sullivan's private Hell for this." Dane moaned as he reluctantly keyed in the access code to release the door.

"O'Sullivan's Catholic. His own private Hell is pretty much the same as everybody else's."

"Don't count on it," he said, as she began to step forward. The part of him that wasn’t at all angry made him grab hold of her arm as she passed him, and she stopped and looked back over her shoulder. "Hey, Landry. Be careful in there."

She nodded, and as the door finally opened, she tried to inhale. She found it felt like attempting to breathe at elevations approaching several thousand meters above sea level; dangerous, disorienting, and in the long term, lethal.

There was no satisfaction in the knowledge that she’d been right when she’d thought that nothing could prepare her for this.

As she stepped inward, the sight that met her seemed to sting her eyes just to behold. It brought with it an excruciating numbness, similar to that which overcomes you when you’re staring at a coffin and can’t quite believe someone you love is really inside.

Brody was sitting tucked away in the corner, his body shaking just a little, his eyes blankly staring off into distances far beyond these walls. He seemed to be whispering, but it was to someone only he could see. She couldn't be certain what he was actually saying for his secretive words were his alone.

Slowly she approached him. At first she crouched down and then finally she knelt beside him. He continued simply to stare; like she wasn’t there, but that was no surprise because it felt like he wasn’t either. Tilting her head towards him she whispered his name, but found he offered no reaction. She ticked down the seconds in her head until the live video feed cut out, and then she tried again.


Her eyes weighed heavily in their sockets and only seemed willing to move with the greatest possible effort. This all felt so futile. She forced herself to repeat his name again several times before finally, with no apparent difference to be found in how she’d spoke, her voice somehow registered.

He turned to her, though it seemed to be more towards the direction of her voice than as if he was truly seeing her there.

"Landry?" he whispered, confused that she was wherever he thought he was. He was barely audible, his voice still completely spent.

She reached out a gentle hand and ran it along the stubble that had grown upon his normally smooth, meticulously groomed cheek. "Hiya, Tuck." She tried to smile, but the result was hollow, a mere curving of the corners of her mouth without any joy in her eyes to truly light up her face. "What do you say we get you a shower and shave? You'll feel so much better afterward."

She wanted, if nothing else, for him to arrive at his destination looking as he had when he'd last been seen by his colleagues; former equals who would now be the ones passing judgment on his actions. With the single initial glance they’d be deciding his entire future. If she had anything to do with it, he'd arrive properly dressed and looking presentable.

It was the very least she could do for him.

"Oh, I," he looked down at his standard Sickbay attire and frowned. "What happened?"

"You've been sick, Tuck. Really sick. But you're getting better and they're going to let you leave here soon."

"Oh, it was...it was that..." he tried to snap his fingers as if doing so would somehow prompt completion of the memory he couldn't quite catch. It seemed appropriate that his fingers didn’t quite make the sound correctly, and he was left to furrow his brow towards them in futility.

"That bug you picked up at the conference, remember?" Landry lied. It felt so wrong. She’d done it far too easily for her own good, and been much too convincing to congratulate herself on her efforts. What else was she to do? She refused to take from him what little peace he seemed to feel, just because she was finally near him. "Your fever spiked really high, we were all so worried."

"Is that why I can't remember?" he asked, reaching out and taking hold of her hand. "There's somethin', I know I'm supposed to remember."

"I’m sure it’s nothing you need to worry about now. Come on." She slowly rose to her feet, fighting to stay standing on ground that seemed to shake and crumble beneath her. "Let's get you cleaned up."

"Have to, right?" Tucker whispered. "We're goin' out tonight. aren't we?” His eyes actually flashed concern and he cursed himself, but it was not an angry curse. “Damn, that's what I was supposed to remember. It was a surprise."

"What was?" Landry offered both of her hands and Tucker managed to get up, wobbling a little as she put her arm around his waist to steady him. She led him over to a locked door and keyed in a security code, accessing the sonic shower unit.

"Impossible to surprise you, you know." He laughed, brushing his fingertip over her nose. "So I booked it early. For our anniversary."

"Our anniversary isn't for three weeks." Landry played along, though she had no idea exactly how long it was supposed to have been, since they lived a life that he now only remembered in delusions.

"Exactly." He truly smiled now, and he leaned forward and tried to kiss her. Suddenly Landry's heart plummeted to the floor and she turned her face away, causing his lips to only graze her cheek. Tucker laughed.

"I am sorry, Mrs. Brody, I know that you hate little more than gettin' whisker kissed." He allowed her to lead him forward into the shower. She stepped out and after the door was shut he began to disrobe, throwing his clothes over the top to her. Something clicked in the back of his mind and he activated the cleaning cycle, sighing as the heat warmed his bones and chased away some of the sadness that he suddenly didn't quite understand. "Did you bring me a razor?"

Landry froze; this all felt so crazy. Yet after a moment's contemplation she realized that she had to fully play along with the charade.

She unlocked the supply cabinet in the corner and pulled out a standard, Sickbay issue safety razor. "There you go." He reached out beyond the door of the enclosure and took the device, then automatically began putting it to its proper use.

"You okay in there?" she asked, wringing her hands with a mixture of nerves and near physical pain.

"Oh yeah. Forgot how good a shave can feel." he answered. Then he pursed his lips and whistled a few bars of a very familiar song. Her heart felt like it was slipping out of place before he stopped for no apparent reason and rasped, "Thank you, darlin'."

Landry sighed with equal measures of relief and uneasiness, as she moved towards the replicator. Without even thinking, she put in the access code to unlock it, and then produced some fresh clothing. It was civilian wear that would at least dignify the man that she still believed existed, somewhere deep inside the shell before her. Moments later she was handing them over the top of the shower to him, and he laughed again at the gesture.

"How many years do we have to be married before you finally quit doin' that?" he asked. "It's not like there's anything here you haven't seen before."

"There's such a thing as privacy, Doctor Brody and so it'll take more years than we ever will be married before I stop handing you your clothes over the top of the shower." Landry answered, attempting humor and failing. She cared too much to laugh just now. "Do you think I can get you to eat something? Soup, at least?"

"Oh, I don't know," he frowned as he emerged, still teetering uneasily and leaning against the wall for support. She wanted to rush to him but purposely held herself back. He hated being fussed over when he was sick. If she did too much now, she might give herself away. "I'm still not feelin' right. I think I'd best wait a little longer."

"All right," she said, with acceptance for what must be; a feeling she was rapidly becoming far too accustomed to.

By the time Tucker struggled into his clothing- which she let him do on his own so as not to risk violating his stubborn need for independence- she had put fresh linen on the biobed and turned up the air recirculation units to high, freshening the room up considerably from the state it was in when she first entered it. She looked up in alarm when she saw him stop moving toward her and drop his head into his hands.

"What's the matter?" She couldn’t stop herself from rushing up to him now.
"Spinning," he rumbled, clearly struggling for his balance. "Room won't stop spinning."

"That fever really took it out of you. Better get you into bed." She pulled back the fresh sheet and patted the mattress, again forcing the smile that chiseled away at her heart a little more every second she held it in place. It felt like the heaviest of death masks, and she just didn't know how much longer she would be able to bear its weight.

"Only if you come with me." Tucker whispered in her ear, as he wrapped his arms around her from behind. The sensation was entirely familiar to Landry in a way that nearly stopped her pounding heart, but she knew that she couldn't risk forgetting for even an instant just how different the man before her was from the man that she'd fallen in love with.

"Now, I thought you didn't feel up to eating. You can't possible feel up to anything else. One must respect their limits, isn't that what you're always telling me?"

He sighed as she fussed with the pillow behind his head and he smiled at her wearily. "You are correct, Ma'am. Still," he held his arms open wide to her. "No reason you can't help keep me warm, is there?" he shivered suddenly, appearing shocked and dismayed by processing his sense of the temperature. "It's damn cold in here."

Landry bit her lip, considering that she really shouldn’t risk this. Then she reminded herself that her whole purpose in being here was to give him memories of a few perfect, fleeting moments of peace and contentment to take with him where he was going. Even if the attempt turned out to be futile, at least later she'd be able to tell herself that she'd tried.

She nodded and he moved over, making as much room as he could for her. She had no choice, given the narrow measurements of the surface that supported them, but to put her arms around him and rest her head against his chest.

This was so much harder than she’d expected.

She sighed softly, dangerously close to becoming completely lost in the moment. The beating of his heart was hypnotic, and as he began to lazily run his fingers through her hair she could almost believe, for just awhile, that she really had her Tucker back in her arms.

"The boys didn't get it, did they?" he asked, the moment she pulled the sheet up over them and he felt she’d finally settled in.

"Hm?" She wasn't sure exactly what to say now; a clear reminder that none of this was real. She waited, and hoped he'd offer more information to help her pretend for him a little longer.

"The boys. They didn't catch the fever from me did they? It's awfully contagious the first two days."

"No," Landry assured him gently, closing her eyes and trying to hide the fact that tears were now streaming down her face. "The boys are fine. They're staying with my Dad this weekend, remember?"

"That's right. ‘Cause it's impossible to get time alone with their beautiful mother with two rowdy young cowboys in the house,” Tucker’s voice conveyed this all really felt completely natural and everyday to him. “Did Jake get his cast off this mornin’?"

"They rescheduled for Monday, remember?" She asked, feeling a strange contempt for how easily the words had come.

She fell silent again, suddenly deeply disturbed by how easy it was to just go along with him. It was so simple to help him believe that life he remembered, the one he insisted he still had, was the one she was living too. She could so easily forget what was real herself, and she wasn’t sure she didn’t want to.

It was only in that moment she fully accepted that she couldn’t just abandon reality as she knew it for his sake now, not for his sake, or that of her broken heart. She had to remain in it, no matter how far he drifted from it, in case he should finally one day return and look for her there.

"Gonna be a miracle if that boy sees twelve." Tucker sighed. "We have got to keep him out of the treetops. Luke keeps trying to go up after him but his legs are just too short."

"He's only four. He'll catch up." Landry said, her voice breaking. Suddenly she was unable to hide her tears any longer. Her shoulders shook, and she heaved a sob against his chest. Tucker put his hand beneath her chin and made her look up at him.

"Hey, now, what's all this?"

"I’ve been so worried about you," she said, speaking with complete truthfulness for the first time since she’d entered the room. "You scared me, Tuck. You really, really scared me."

"No, it's more than that. You never usually cry. Ever! Well, not unless..." he stopped, his eyes flashing. He tried to speak more clearly and muttered a curse when he found he still had no voice. "Damned sore throat. Worst part of this whole thing." Finally, he sat up and Landry sat up with him. He leaned his forehead against hers, and suddenly his mind seemed to jump tracks.

"That's right," he mumbled, "You only cry when you're pregnant. All those hormones. You cried a hell of a lot more with Lily than you ever did with either of the boys. You..."

He stopped abruptly, his mind now in a completely different place than had been, and all the light and all the happiness faded from his face. "Something bad happened to you, Landry. To us. I, I know it- I."

"Tucker," Landry tenderly placed her hands on either side of his face and gazed at him with adoration through her tears. "The boys are fine. You're going to get better. I'm right here, beside you. Where I was always supposed to be." She reached down and grasped hold of his fingers desperately. "For now, just let that be enough. Please."

Her heart raced as he seemed to scan her features, considering, trying to understand the conflict he saw so plainly written upon them.

"You've been so sick,” she whispered. “Please. Just rest now."

"Alright, alright. Don't you worry now," he finally relented, leaning back again against the mattress and gesturing for her to retake her place against his chest. "You need to rest too. Come on."

With her heart in her throat, Landry laid her head back down and held him tight. "Go to sleep now, Tuck, okay? I'll …wake you when it's time to go," she whispered. "Just rest. Everything will be okay."

He sighed, exhaustion overcoming him again. With her close by, all he knew was that he was tired, and falling asleep in her arms sounded like the best thing in all the worlds.

"My yellow rose of Texas," he stifled a yawn before pressing his lips to the top of her head. "I love you, Landry. I always will."

She closed her eyes, certain that the last shards of her heart were now broken and falling away, piece after piece showering effortlessly down onto the ground below them with the last few blows of Pygmalion's mallet and chisel.

"I love you too, Tuck. Always."

Landry Steele
Temporal Investigations Agent
Assigned to the USS Serendipity NCC-2012