705: No Kind of Life

by -=/\=- Zanh Liis
Immediately after One Step Behind
Soundtrack: Run, by Snow Patrol


-=USS Vanguard=-

"I sincerely hope that you're right about that, Thomas." Zanh Liis inhaled and exhaled slowly. "I am...rather attached to the idea of him standing just over my shoulder. The thought of anything less is enough to put the heart in me crossways."

"Pardon?" Blane had never heard the expression.

"Oh, sorry. Colloquial Cork strikes again."

His small smile faded as he observed the terror in her eyes. He thought back to the teasing he'd given her before her walk down the aisle, how he'd physically pinched her to convince her that she wasn't dreaming and that the happy event was actually about to happen.

How quickly they'd gone from where they were then to where they were now was nothing short of astonishing. He wished that this was only a nightmare from which she could easily wake.

"Another?" he asked, retrieving the empty coffee cup she'd set down beside her. She shook her head.

"Thanks, no. You go ahead. I'll join you out there in a moment."

"Understood." He took a step, his eyes staying focused upon her. "He's going to be all right, Zanh Liis. Soon you'll be back in Ireland, finishing out that vacation and picking up more of the local vernacular with which to confound me."

"Promise?" She wasn't serious, of course, in asking for his word on it. He knew her well enough to know that.

But there was just enough of a genuine plea for reassurance in her tone that it gave him pause. She sounded so tired, and there was a hint of desperation in her choice of that one word reply. She seemed like a little girl begging their father to promise that the monster under the bed had really been chased away, and that it was now safe for them to close their eyes and go to sleep.

He blinked slowly, unsure just what he should say, and not wanting to make a promise to her that he had no personal ability to keep.

"We'll do our best."

"I know you will," she replied, only after the doors slid shut behind him. "You always do. Believe me, so will I." The fingertips of her right hand clutched the rings on her left. "I promise you, Keiran, this ends now. I may well breathe my last on this trip but I if I do, I plan on taking that lunatic with me."

She closed her eyes, so sick and tired of the thought and threat of Taris after all these years that she could hardly wait for the chance to see her finished off; once and for all time.

Whatever Liis had to do to accomplish the task, and finally complete the work that they'd started so long ago, she was going to do.

She would never allow Taris another chance to harm Salvek, his family, or Keiran, ever again.

-=Flashback 2380, Alternate Timeline=-

Liis dove to avoid being seared by the widely dispersed volley of weapons fire.

She flew through the air, crashing up against the sharp corner of a large cargo container before falling like a rag doll to the deck.

She landed with a sickening thud upon her side and at a very odd angle.

She felt something snap and intense pain immediately following as her ribs collapsed from the impact. Which impact, the first or the second, she couldn't be sure.

A nauseating twinge enveloped her lower spine and her legs throbbed with wracking spasms; a sensation that told her that one of the tritanium vertebral implants situated there had slid out of proper alignment. Again.

She shouted an extremely profane Bajoran expression, feeling her stomach lurch in protest as stabbing sensations coursed through her, radiating from deep within and intensifying every time she tried to draw a breath.

She was in danger of passing out, and knew she could not let that happen. If she did he didn't have a chance in hell of getting out of this alive, and neither did she.

"O'SULLIVAN!" She channeled her physical agony into a scream that reverberated through the hold of the Romulan ship. "Anytime!"

Keiran, for his part, was also broken and bloodied. He'd taken the butt of a plasma rifle to the face and chest repeatedly and bore the bruises and shattered ribs to prove it. He didn't even want to think about what his body looked like internally after the working over he'd taken by the two young Centurions who had made the mistake of indulging their desire to torture him before killing him, as they'd been instructed to, without delay.

"Can't." He was trying to pull himself along the deck to get to her, but there was just no way that he was going to make it past the weapons fire raining down upon them like some sort of depraved laser-light exhibition. "Liis. Go!"

"NO!" She wouldn't leave him behind. She was simply incapable of it, especially now.

Not only was he her partner and she knew he'd never leave her if roles were reversed, but she'd only just told him that she loved him too, after all the time he'd spent faithfully waiting on her to make up her mind.
This was their last job. After this Jump, they were going to tell Vox what he could do with his bloody compasses and retire.

They were going home to Ireland, and they were going to get married.

Keiran was not going to die today.

She pulled the last small explosive charge she carried from her belt, and hoped it would be enough to knock the Romulans off their feet long enough to allow her to retrieve the phaser rifle that had clattered away from her as she fell, and then get them the hell out of here.

"GO!" He shouted again. "NOW! Leave me!"

She screamed, a deep, raging growl unlike anything he had ever heard.

He was dizzy and struggled to keep his leaden eyelids open. He coughed and suffered for it as smoke from the charge enveloped the room and invaded his lungs. He heard the familiar sound of Federation phaser fire answering the renewed bursts of Romulan disruptors, and then suddenly, she had hold of him by the shoulders. "Zanh to Sine Qua Non! Two to beam up! ENERGIZE!"

They materialized aboard their tiny Jump ship, and Liis, now on an adrenaline rush that far surpassed the level of her physical agony, initialized the engines and took the ship back to their proper, previous location and point in time.

As soon as they were out of immediate danger, she engaged the autopilot and sank to her knees beside Keiran, who had finally succumbed to unconsciousness.

"O'Sullivan, look at me." She wrestled with his dead weight, but he didn't respond. She grabbed the med-kit and began to administer stimulants and painkillers, and after several eternally tense moments, he groaned.

He looked at her and the pain in her eyes, with regret. They'd failed to save Salvek this time, but there was nothing more that they could do at this point. They'd have to go back, get patched up, and then they would discuss once again whether this had really been their last Jump.

"Liis," he tried to sound angry but didn't have the strength. "Ya should'a left me."

"Why?" she teased affectionately, as she ripped what was left of his shirt away from his chest and began to run a regenerator over his painfully concave ribcage. "So you could get out of that offer you made me before we left? I don't think so."

He winced as she continued to work as fast as she could to stabilize his condition.

"Nope. Sorry. You made a good faith promise to marry me, O'Sullivan, and I intend to see to it that you keep your end of that bargain."

"But you could...have died."

She leaned down and brushed her lips softly against his.

"I love you, Keiran." Her cadence expressed the sentiment more clearly than even the words did.

She fought to keep her composure as she analyzed the tricorder readings and saw how close he had come to leaving her for good this time.

She kissed him again to reinforce her declaration before repeating it aloud as well.

"I love you. A life lived without you wouldn't be any kind of life at all."

-=End Flashback=-

She looked up and realized suddenly how quickly time had slipped past while she was lost, wandering a far-removed location somewhere inside her own head.

Without the luxury of time to waste on further such self-indulgence, she struggled purposefully to wrestle herself free of her darker thoughts.

She fought even harder to resist the weakening pull of additional memories of times long past.

If she allowed the spectres of lives left behind to dominate her psyche as fully formed images now they would only hurt her, whatever their content.

If the memories were bad, she would be forced to re-live the times that most sapped her of strength. Strength she sorely needed for the battle soon to come.

If they were happy memories, she would lose her focus to the joy that they contained, wishing that she could just be where he was; content at his side as she was just a day ago that seemed ages since and was light years away.

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