744: The Stroll

by **Will Lindsay and *Keiran O’Sullivan
After Nothing Short of Miraculous

-=Deck 5, USS Serendipity=-

Lindsay was unsteady on his feet as he moved through the corridor just outside Sickbay. He’d been fortunate to have for the most part avoided outward physical injury, which was his least favourite kind of injury. Still, between the smoke inhalation, the hot air in his lungs and the dehydration from being so close to the flame he was not moving quite as easily as he’d have liked. His hands were cut from where he’d stripped the wires with them; they’d been healed with the dermal regenerator but still stung more that he’d care to admit.

Keiran walked beside him with his arms raised at the ready to take hold of Will should he start to fall. Keiran’s normally long strides were forced to be cut to a third of their standard length in order that he didn’t overtake his friend. That wasn’t to say that Will wasn’t trying his hardest to move faster than he should be right now, just that he was only barely succeeding in it.

“Will ya slow down? I know ya want to get back and try yer luck again with Ensign T’Dara but if you collapse on a short walk then I doubt she’ll be particularly impressed with your stamina,” Keiran objected, taking hold of Will’s arm to steady him, his soft almost nagging tone reflecting the true concern he had for Will’s health at the moment.

The two men owed each other a lot but as far as Keiran was concerned, the fact that Will had helped bring Liis back safe trumped anything he’d ever done for the man.

“I’ll be fine. ’Tis mostly just dehydration.” Will replied dismissively, not the type to let a lot of physical discomfort bother him “I’ve had hangovers worse than this.”

Keiran knew Will was a proud man. At times he was a showy and even arrogant one, but at his core it was always pride that had defined him. Knowing Will as he did he cared enough not to make him admit how much he was hurting, but considering he seemed to be somehow limping with both legs he knew he had to slow him down.

“D’ya recall the doctor sayin’ that ya could be up and about on yer own within a couple of days if you take it easy?” Keiran asked casually, almost absently. “How long do ya reckon he’ll want to keep ya if ya don’t?”

Will couldn’t deny his reasoning and would not be happy about having to spend any more time confined to Sickbay than he had to “Aye, alright.” He conceded stopping where he was, adding with a very deliberate sigh and mock exasperation, “I mean, if it really bothers ya that much.”

Keiran nodded that he approved and released his hold of Will’s arm, a satisfied smile forming. The two continued to walk down the corridor at a more acceptable pace. No words were spoken between them for a while until Keiran decided there was something he definitely had to say.

He put a hand on Will’s shoulder stopping him in place. He spoke softly and there was nothing except honesty in his voice “I really appreciate what ya did over there, Will. Ya know that, right?”

“Say nothin’ of it. What’s a mate for?” Lindsay replied dismissively, not one to turn down gratitude under general circumstances but thinking that in this regard he’d only done what was right.

“Nah, I’m not going to let ya get off like that.” Keiran said with a shake of his head “This wasn’t your fight but ya risked yer life all the same.”

“Not my fight.” Will said slowly, so soft Keiran could only tell that he was speaking, but could not make out the words.

“Maybe we could rest just a minute,” He spoke loud enough for Keiran to hear, but not so loud the female science officers travelling the corridor in the opposite direction could.

Lindsay slowly turned his back to the wall when they were out of sight, and eased up against it with a groan.

“I think they went into Sickbay,” Keiran said, and Lindsay let out a deep breath, as his head fell forward in pain. “Are ya goin’ ta make it?”

“Yeah, just catching my breath.”

“So, while ya catch yer breath, William. Were ya ever goin’ ta mention to me that you had Liis’s compass in yer possession? I know no one on the Sera had it, and yer the only one she’s been with between Ireland and here.”

Lindsay lolled his head back up so he could meet his eyes with Keiran’s. It made a thud against the panelling as he moved too quickly to stop it. Lindsay actually laughed. The sort of laugh one makes when the seemingly infinite amount of pain one is in is eclipsed by something as silly as bumping one’s head against the wall.

“It never came up.”

“Aye, why do ya think I’m so curious? If it made little difference to ya whether I knew she had it or not, you would have presented it to her straight when you came to our home. The only reason to wait was so you could give it to her when I was not around.”

“After all this, yer mind is still turning like a constable’s.” Lindsay replied. “Are ya ever off duty Keiran?”

“You answer my question, and then I’ll answer yours.”

Keiran stood fast with his hands behind his back. Will had a propensity to beat around the bush before delivering news Keiran did not want to hear. The only way to get it out of the man was to just stop talking to him until he realized you wouldn’t say a thing until he told you what you wanted to know.

Lindsay sighed and turned away. He’d seen this tactic before, and knew O’Sullivan had the patience of hawk waiting for its prey to emerge from its burrow far below.

“Lassiter believed if the compass could in any way help assure the safe return of Lair Arie, that Zanh Liis should have hers.”

Keiran nodded, processed the seemingly innocuous piece of information, and leaned his weight against the wall. It still didn’t make sense. Keiran would have gladly presented the compass to Liis himself if he believed it could turn the tide against Taris. Will still wasn’t telling him everything.

“But?” Keiran prodded.

“But, I knew it was entirely possible that the both of you being together on the Romulan ship may produce the worst outcome possible. I’d consulted my own compass and seen what may happen, and the results with the two of you over there were hazy at best. The closer we got to the battle, the more unpredictable the results became.”

Will shifted his weight around, and cleared his throat slowly, affording him time to carefully assemble his next words for Keiran.

“So, for the good of the mission, I decided to remove one of you from the equation.”

You decided?” Keiran said, eyes widening.

“Just listen to me. I knew you would be on your way somehow, so I wanted Zanh Liis out of it. So…” Will paused, knowing he was about to admit to something Keiran did not want to hear. “So I sabotaged her compass, and mine, to try and convince her to stop the Sera. I was hoping that without a clear path before her, Liis would delay the battle to consider her actions, which would allow me time to leave on the Vanguard to complete the mission. But I overlooked something.”

“What was that?” Keiran asked. He was already preparing a litany of questions for Will, not the least of which was to ask whether he had lost his mind. But he held his tongue until will finished his side of the story.

“I overlooked that Zanh Liis is Zanh Liis. Rather then pause even for a moment to consider what her compass was not telling her, she just closed the damn thing and barrelled straight on ahead towards Taris.”

“Did ya not listen to a single word I ever told you about the woman, William?” Keiran asked. Once again Lindsay had failed to look before he leapt.

“Do ya have any idea,” Keiran began, shaking his hands with growing anger as he spoke, “How much more dangerous this battle was without the proper compass readin’s?”

“Not for her it wasn’t.” Will replied, keeping his cool. A million questions rushed to the tip of Keiran’s tongue, before a single word Will had used that Keiran had overlooked suddenly came back to him.

“What mission?” He asked Will.

Now Will realised that he didn’t assemble his words at all carefully enough. He groaned, partly from the physical pain in his side and partly from what he realised he’d now have to do. “Didn’t ya wonder why I was the one chosen to deliver Liis to the Sera?” Will spoke quickly, trying to get the words out with as little breath used as possible. He knew Keiran wouldn’t have wondered, knowing that of all people Keiran would have believed the reasons he claimed to be there were the real ones.

Given that Lindsay was on Earth at the time and knew the people involved, Keiran had thought nothing of it at the time. Knowing the number of agents that could have done it, it did seem unlikely now that not one of those forty temporal theorists would have thought that sending in his old partner would complicate matters and suggested someone else.

Keiran didn’t even bother asking why, just stared with those pained eyes that demanded to know. Will groaned again, bringing his arm awkwardly to the middle of his back. “My mission was to make sure Lair Arie survived this.”

“You’re her Guardian.” Keiran said, it was a statement not a question, he knew TI would have assigned someone to Arie but just never knew who. Now he did.

“That I am,” Will confirmed, not quite able to meet Keiran’s eyes at the moment.

“Ya lied to me,” Keiran said coldly, with a deep-seated anger rumbling beneath his softly spoken words. Going into a battle like that with out knowing all the facts could have gotten them all killed. After all these years and all he’d tried to teach the man he didn’t know how Will could be so stupid.

Will wouldn’t say he’d lied to Keiran, really just mislead him, but he was not about to argue over semantics now. Whatever the correct description of what he’d done he felt awful about it, he could justify doing it but that didn’t make it any easier now. His words were truly quiet, for a man who’d normally like to be the loudest in a room this meant a lot.

“I couldn’t tell ya, Keiran.”

“Why not?” Keiran demanded, taking no care of Lindsay’s injuries at the moment as his position forced Will against the wall. Keiran eyes looked angry but really they were just scared of what could have happened, he realised that he didn’t have all the people over there he could trust that he thought he did.

“Because you’d never have let me go. If ye’d thought for a moment that Liis wouldn’t have had my full attention on this mission then we’d still be back on Earth arguing about which one of ya got to go,” Lindsay said with determination. He was trying to be frank with O’Sullivan, just like he always had, that’s what made his actions so hard to justify.

“And she didn’t have yer full attention!” Keiran shouted so loud that everyone in the corridor could hear. His words had meant to sound so much angrier than they did. Keiran looked almost shaken by the experience.

In as much pain as Will was at the moment, he forced himself to meet Keiran’s eye line now. It hurt to breathe deeply enough to speak and it hurt to force his back to straight but seeing the look of betrayal on Keiran’s face hurt so much more.

“I gave you my word I’d watch out for her and I did. She was never out of my mind. Never even away from the front. Her safety was always the top priority. There was simply someone else at the top with her.”

Keiran could not fathom this, his tone reflecting his disbelief. “Ya cannot share top priority, William. You bloody well know that!”

Then Will did something Keiran had never expected. His cadence had taken on that distinctive tone he got when he was trying to justify an action he took without thinking but then he just stopped arguing. “Yer right. I do." Will said "We both do.”

Keiran found that he temporarily had nothing to say. He wasn’t even sure whether Will’s words were supposed to be an apology, which Keiran probably wouldn’t accept, or the start an explanation for what Will had done, which he definitely couldn’t accept. Will seized the opportunity.

“Liis was yer top priority over there and you were hers. Arie couldn’t share the position and that’s why I tried to get one of ya alone.” Lindsay tried to appeal using reason although he knew from the look on Keiran’s face that he was in no frame of mind for reason at the moment.

“I don’t expect ya to accept my reasons and I don’t blame ya. But ya can’t deny that if savin’ Arie’s life risked Liis’, ye’d at the very least have flinched.”

Keiran did not respond. Asking him to choose between Liis and Arie was simply a choice a man could not make. How can you make a decision that is specifically designed to break your heart so badly you can no longer live?

Will drew himself up to stand tall, and despite his anger, Keiran still offered a hand to steady him.
’Not for her it wasn’t’. That was what you said, Will, when I asked you if you knew how dangerous the mission was.”

“The compass readings were clear, Keiran. Arie would come home, and so would Zanh Liis and Salvek. I didn’t just want Liis out so Arie would be everyone’s priority, I wanted her out because I didn’t know if you would live or die.”

O’Sullivan suddenly felt very much like a spirit, detached from his corporeal vessel and hovering above the corridor below where he once stood with Will Lindsay. He knew all too well that when a compass was that imprecise with its readings, that the chances of either of two events occurring were fifty-fifty at best.

“If the worst happened, I didn’t want her ta be there ta see it.” Lindsay concluded.

“But she was the one that almost died.”

“I said she’d live. I never said she’d come out without a scratch.”

Will waited patiently while Keiran processed everything he had heard. He leaned back against the wall again, hoping at some point in the relatively near future Keiran would see fit to escort him back to Sickbay.

“You still should not ’ave sabotaged the compass, Will. I understand why ya did what ya did and I honestly don’t know if I should be furious or grateful.”

“I did what I did to help save my charge, and protect that wife of yours. I think if you knew how much she loves you, as I do, you would understand.”

“I may not agree with your means William but ya have to believe me when I tell ya that I truly believe your heart is in the right place. Its wonderin’ what yer mind will do next that puts the heart in me crossways.”

Keiran could tell Will was on his last legs, literally and figuratively, and it was time to return him to Sickbay.

Despite it all, Liis was alive and recovering, and Arie had been rescued as well. One could not argue with such results.

“Just tell me one thing before we go back, William. What were ya goin’ ta do if the choice ever came down to savin’ one or the other? Liis or Arie?”

It was a question meant not to look for a rational answer, but more to seek out an appreciation for the absolute terror that must have been in Lindsay’s mind as they fought for their lives.

“I would have done what she wanted.” Will answered.

Keiran knew full well what that would have been and neither of them needed to say it. Even without her vital role in time and history Arie was still far too important to Liis, to all of them, for her to have cared for her own life above saving the child’s.

If it had come down to making that choice, Liis wouldn't be here now.

As he supported Will's weight almost entirely on the slow walk back to Sickbay Keiran could think only one thought; how truly blessed they'd been that it didn't.


**Captain William Lindsay
Temporal Investigations


*Commander Keiran O’Sullivan
Security Liaison for The Alchemy Project
USS Serendipity NCC 2012

(as told by **Rada Dengar and *Commander Salvek)


NRPG: What would have happened if things had gone the other way?

Alternate Ending One

Alternate Ending Two


Bonus points to Salvek and Dengar for making the Captain cry.


Thank you both, gentleman, this is flawless.

This post should serve as concrete evidence to anyone in the RPG community at large that writers who did not invent a character can still write perfect dialogue for them, if only given the chance. These two do it all the time.