802: The Parting Glass

by -=/\=- Zanh Liis
During and after To Curse the Darkness

Soundtrack: The Parting Glass by Shaun Davey


-=Bridge, USS Serendipity=-

TC Blane sat in the command chair of the USS Serendipity, half staring at a PADD with the latest repair status reports and half lost in thought.

It was an uncommon thing for him to be so. Usually when he was working, he was working, and nothing else was much allowed to interrupt his deep, nearly trance-like state of concentration.

He found himself replaying scenes from his visit to Temporal Investigations over and over in his mind. The thoughts nagged at him like a splinter just under your skin; something you know is there but try to forget and the more you try to ignore it, the more aware of it you become.

It was time to pull the splinter out.

To do that, he needed to go somewhere.


Paxton looked up from across the bridge, and nodded, approaching. "You need something Commander Blane?"

"Yes. I need you to take the bridge." TC rose from his chair and headed to the turbolift, offering no further explanation. He stepped into the lift, Briggs, and the rest of the staff present giving him questioning glances.

"Are you ill, Sir?" Sue Tenney blurted, never having seen Blane once leave the bridge before his shift ended unless specifically ordered to do so.

"No." Blane replied, more for the benefit of Briggs than anyone else. "I'm taking the day off." The doors closed, and Micah Samson and Tenney gaped at each other, then at Briggs.

"What's so strange about that?" Briggs asked. "From what I understand, the whole senior staff was allowed to take the repair downtime as shore leave if they wanted to. He hasn't even had a day."

"That's just it." Micah answered. "TC Blane never takes a day off."


A short time later TC was dressed in civilian clothing; heavy, dark brown pants, a white shirt and a well-weathered leather bomber jacket. He pulled on his boots and sighed.

He stopped at the desk on his way out, reached into the top drawer, and retrieved an item to take with him. He placed it into the breast pocket of his jacket and headed for the door.

Wasting no time, he startled Andrew Parrish, who stood half-asleep at the transporter controls. TC reached around him and input a set of exact coordinates into the terminal.

"Down to Earth, Sir?"

"Aye. I mean, yeah." Blane replied without thinking, his mind already very much in the location to which he was headed. He stepped onto the transporter. "Whenever you're ready, crewman."

"Do you want me to put you inside a building instead?" Drew asked, as a local weather alert scrolled across his screen. "It's raining cats and dogs down there, Sir."

"Perfect." Blane replied, staring beyond Parrish. Saying nothing more, he simply waited.

"Energizing." Parrish shrugged, and he sent Blane to the destination of his choosing.


Blane materialized on the sidewalk in front of a large, imposing structure.

The instant he was fully formed, the rain began to sink into him. He closed his eyes, tilting his face up toward the sky and feeling it as it fell. He was glad, for some reason, that the sun was not shining today.

He paced around the building in a circle; considering going inside but in the end deciding against it.

He hated this.

He hated remembering. He hated even more being forced to remember by people asking stupid questions about events that had absolutely no bearing on the life he was living in the here and now.

He hated those events even more when he realized that they did.

The things he'd experienced in the paradox were weighing heavily upon his Captain and those of his crew who had also seen them, and so they weighed heavily upon TC as well.

He saw himself, always, as a man to make things happen. Or more to the point, to make problems go away. He handled things. He managed them and he took action, and then afterward whatever he'd done he always managed to live with it, because he had always done his best.

This time he worried that he wouldn't be able to take any action that could serve the purpose of eradicating the memories in question- other than to face them, one last time.

To look them in the eye and in so doing, take their power and dispel them, once and for all.

In order to do that, there were places he needed to visit. Land he needed to stand upon, in this state of mind and what was more, in the pouring rain. Then, he hoped, he could leave them behind him for good.

To his surprise he soon discovered that he was not the only person trying to win a staring match against Memory today.

As he came back around the front of the massive church, he heard an instantly disturbing sound. It was one that he also remembered from those dark times portrayed in the alternate reality.

He looked up and saw her leaning against a tall tree. Even from this distance he could tell she was shaking and what was worse, she was crying.

He wondered for a split second if it was wrong of him to approach her. He looked up at the building again and noticed Keiran's sister, the little nun, staring out the window at Zanh Liis. A moment later she moved away, and it was then that TC finally knew what he had to do.


Liis jumped. TC Blane was the very last person she expected to see here today. As much as she wanted to be alone right now, the sight of him standing there was remarkably, if mystifyingly, welcome.


She made no effort to hide her tears, knowing any attempt would be useless.

She didn't ask him why he was here, she only wondered if he wished to continue on the journey he'd come to make on his own.

She knew that as much as he tried to live his life in the present moment and denied the existence of any other time that mattered, that he would need in his own way to work through what he'd seen and experienced in the paradox.

Until now, he simply hadn't the time. There were rescues to attempt, and there were injuries of the physical body to heal first. Now that those things were all over and done with the darker, more shadowy and smoky spectres of the mind returned with unrelenting force- insisting to be dealt with one way or another- refusing to be ignored.

"You're soaked, Captain."

"So are you." She wiped at her eyes with the back of her hand. She nodded up the street, in the direction of a pub that she intended to visit as her next stop. Just to see it in the light of day, and filled with regular patrons and not the crew of the USS Perseids, as she recalled it.

"Buy you a drink, Thomas?"

"Hell, yes."

They tried valiantly but failed miserably in their endeavor to avoid showering water down upon the floor as they entered O'Halloran's, but no one inside much seemed to care. Everyone here was wet with rain today, and seeking warmth any way they could find it.

Couples in corner booths sought it in each other's embrace. Women holding untouched goblets of wine as they sat by the fireplace sought it in the heat of the flames, and men clutching glasses of the Irish with trembling, uncertain hands sought it in the biting sting of drink.

Liis led the way to the bar, and she took the stool at the end with one empty beside it for Blane. She asked for a cup of black coffee, raising the eyebrows of the bartender. Still, he said nothing as she added, "...and whatever my friend cares to drink."

"Whiskey, straight." Blane requested.

When their drinks arrived, Liis raised her cup and held it out to him. "A health," she said, watching as Blane slowly regarded the alcohol in his glass before raising it toward her as well.

"Sláinte," he rumbled softly.

She sipped her coffee.

He drained his whiskey dry in one quick toss.

Liis nodded to the bartender, and he filled Blane's glass again. This time, TC stared into it a long time, as Liis waited to see if the usually quiet man would break tradition by volunteering any of the thoughts in his head.

They continued on awhile in silence, side by side until her coffee cup was empty even as Blane's glass remained full. She put some money down onto the counter and then picked up Blane's drink, tilting her head in the direction of a now-vacant booth in the corner.

He slowly followed without a word, and Liis took position up across the table from him. He sat down heavily- a man with a clear amount of worry upon his shoulders.

"What's that thing I've heard Keiran say?" She ventured at last, "I think it's 'a penny fer yer thoughts,' she imitated Keiran's pronunciation exactly, almost but not quite eliciting a change in expression from Blane. "But I know how your mind works and your going rate should be much higher."

"You know how my mind works." TC repeated, sounding somewhat amused by the thought.

"Yes. As you do mine. We've worked together for quite a long time now, Thomas. But what's more..." Her words died out and she shrugged her shoulders. Her hair still dripped down onto her jacket, the ends running small and jagged rivers that eventually made their way down onto the top of the table.

"Hell, man, you stood up in my wedding. You've 'pulled my fat from the fire' on more occasions than I can recall." She used the exact phrasing intentionally, invoking the toast he'd given at the reception. Her eyes were deadly serious as she reached across the table. She was going to touch his arm to reassure him but he jolted, picked up his glass and drew back. It seemed he was somehow anticipating the gesture, and in his current state of mind needed to pull away from it.

"Thomas." Liis now slumped back against her side of the booth as well. "I know you. I know you won't talk to the Counselor and I know that you won't talk to anyone else about it either. So please, talk to me." She paused. "We both came to Turner's Cross today for a reason. Tell me yours."

"To remember." Blane replied evenly. "Which is funny, really, Zanh Liis, because I've done nothing since the last time I remember being at that damned church but try to forget it."

She understood, and her expression told him so without a word needing to be said.

"How did you do it?" His hand moved up and back through his cropped hair before his piercing blue eyes focused on hers. "How have you moved through all those different places and times and not gone..."

"Completely mad?" Liis laughed softly. "Haven't I?"

"Not in my estimation."

"Well, you know what that means." Liis leaned forward and whispered conspiratorially. "It means that you're either as crazy, or as sane, as I am. Take your pick."

Blane allowed his head to fall into his hands; something that Zanh had never seen him do before. She was, truly, worried about him.

"Every time I look in the mirror the past few days," he began, exhaling heavily, "I keep looking for it. I keep expecting to see it, but it's never there."

"What's not there?"

"The tattoo. The one that said O'Sullivan and had the date of his death on it."

Liis turned stark white.

"Then, I go to the computer, and I check the status of Captain Keiran O'Sullivan. I look at his profile and I see that it says he is Security Liaison to The Alchemy Project and that he is serving aboard the USS Serendipity under one Captain Zanh Liis." Blane continued, "His wife."

Liis wanted to look away and break the intense stare held between them, but found that she could not.

"We've lost so many people, Thomas." Liis whispered, folding her hands together upon the tabletop and twisting her wedding rings as she spoke.

"We almost lost you." Blane slammed down the glass he had been holding, sloshing its contents over the side as it made contact with the wooden table. "I know that you're all right. That he's all right. But as hard as I've tried to deny that it ever happened, I can't forget the time when he wasn't all right, and neither were you."

She waited for him to fill in the final words, and Blane now directed his eyes across the room, toward the distant glow of the fireplace. "When I wasn't."

"Thomas," Liis began, reaching out again and this time seizing hold of his sleeve.

A raucous cheer rose from the assembly inside the pub, as the piano player apparently returned from his break and sat down at the keys.

"An'a'one be havin' any requests then?" He plunked down upon the bench, laced his fingers and cracked his knuckles, drawing both groans and laughter from his audience.

"If nobody has an'a'thin' ta suggest, then yis leave meh no choice but ta choose a song on me own an' ya get wha'cha get, la."

"Just play the damned piano, Seamus!" Shouted a man at the bar, hunched over his pint of Guinness.

"Aye, aye, will at that." Seamus set his hands down upon the keys and began to play a melody.

It was instantly recognized by almost all present- but by none as quickly as the Bajoran woman who happened to be married to an Irish man.

"No, no." Liis stammered. Blane grew alarmed by the terror in her eyes.

"What's wrong?"

"I don't. I can't." She released her hold of his arm. "Thomas, they sang this song, here. That night. While I sat at that table and watched Will Lindsay drink. I...can't." She stood and bolted for the door.

The man at the piano continued singing.

"Liis," Blane called, stopping her just before she made it outside. "We can't run from this. Not anymore. If we try, it's going to be there every single time we look at Keiran. We have to let it be, and let it go." He was advising himself as much as he was his friend and captain.

She grasped the front of his jacket and yanked hard.

"I can't let it go!" She shouted. The crowd was beginning to sing along with the piano player's song and so mostly drowned her out. "I'll never forget the way it felt, watching them bury him. Watching them sing to his life in this room."

The gathering sang on.

"Zanh Liis, you have to-"

"I can't!" She shook ferociously. Her cries were loud enough even over the music to draw the attention of the bartender. He glanced at her sympathetically, eyes asking if she needed any help with the situation.

She waved him off and then looked back at Blane, who remained motionless.

"I've lost everything, Thomas. Everything and everyone I've ever loved, eventually. How long until I lose him too? For good?" She was crumbling, but she had no tears left in the moment to cry. The look in her eye that took their place was far more difficult for Blane to bear. Her chest rose and fell in rapid, shallow breaths.

"Until I lose you all?" she rasped.

Blane spun her around by the shoulders and pointed her gaze in the direction of the piano. He knew her, and he knew that music reached her as few other things did.

She needed to stand here, she needed to hear the same song they'd sung for Keiran in tribute after his funeral playing until its end, and she needed to face her fears head on if she was ever going to get past them.

"...'Goodnight and joy be to you all'."

"Let go!" She demanded, growing angry because she could not stand to feel sorrow.

Still, Blane kept her there.

He felt her body swaying and held her by the arms. If she should buckle completely, he wouldn't let her fall.

After a moment she wrenched free and turned around, dropping her head down onto his shoulder.

He allowed himself to give her a steadying embrace, relying in this moment on the strength of their friendship every bit as much as she was.

He felt a stinging sensation behind his eyes, even though his expression altered not a bit. He felt emotion rising in him just as she did, as the singers raised their voices ever higher for the final chorus.

Rain continued to fall hard upon the roof. Lightning struck near the tiny building, and the dim lights of the establishment flickered momentarily as thunder clapped loudly, just outside.

Liis finally broke free and ran out the door as the last line was sung, allowing the rain to soak into her once more.

This late afternoon was dark as night. The wind cried, and the icy drops of water stung her face. She stood motionless in the middle of the deserted stone street.

She stared upward, eyes wide, into the steel-gray sky.

She'd gone completely numb.

"Captain," Blane caught up to her seconds later. "Are you all right?"

She hesitated, unsure she could find the strength to tell him the truth and respecting him far too much to lie.

Her eyes flashed as they fixed upon something in the distance; a small sign hanging outside a building just up the block. "I might be." she replied, taking off at a good clip and leaving Blane to follow her once again.

She marched into the entrance to the shop, quiet except for the faint hum of an electrified needle being used in another room, A large man, with long dark hair pulled back into a ponytail, stood behind the counter. He greeted her with a warm smile, though the expression did diminish when his gaze settled on her wedding rings.

"Afternoon, darlin'. Can'a help ya?"

"Yes, you can." She took one of those rings from her hand and held it out to him. "If you can turn this symbol into artwork."

He examined the surface of the ring carefully, and grinned. "Aye, I can that, no doubt. Will do it up beautifully. Just pick yer colors."

Blane could do nothing but stand there with his mouth hanging open as Zanh turned back to him, the lopsided grin he knew so well suddenly dawning upon her face like sunrise.

"Anything I should know before I get my first tattoo, Thomas?"

"Yeah." He answered slowly. "They last forever."

Liis quickly removed her jacket and tossed it to him.

"How big do ya want it and where?" The tattoo artist asked, as he emerged from behind the counter and moved closer.

"The back of my right shoulder," Liis replied, reaching up to indicate the spot. "Small, but large enough to add a few letters beneath the crest."

"What letters would those be, lovely?"

"S, H, T, and V." Blane answered for her, a smile spreading across his face as well as he watched Zanh lower the shoulder of her shirt to expose the spot where she wanted the artwork to go.


A short time later, Liis nodded her approval and amazement as she looked over her shoulder and saw the completed image reflected in a mirror. It was, as she'd requested, a perfect replica of the image on her ring; slightly larger.

"It's gorgeous, Sean. My husband is going to love it." Liis paid the man for his work, and she accepted her jacket as Blane held it out to her. "Thanks so much."

"You come and visit me next time yer in town, Liis O'Sullivan." Sean replied, still grinning. "First Bajoran I ever got to give a tattoo. I'd like to hear just how your husband did think of it."

As Zanh and Blane stepped out into the street now, they saw that the rain had finally stopped. An eerie, clinging fog now hung low over the land, and Blane still found himself uncertain how he should end his day here.

Zanh, however, knew exactly what he needed to do.

"You have to stand there and relive it." She declared somberly, her eyes full of the kind of sympathy that only comes from experience. "You have to look at that tree and the ground below it. You have to remember how it felt, and you have to see what happens."

"I don't know."

"Do you trust me, Thomas?"

Blane nodded.

"Then trust me. You have to. Come on."

Neither said a word during the walk back to the house, and as the building came into view beyond the hill in the distance, Zanh stopped and stood with Blane beneath the Trembling Poplar.

She heard a voice immediately calling her from the doorstep, as Keiran rose from the swing on the porch where he'd been waiting, and worrying.

"Liis!" He repeated, about to rush up to her when he saw someone following a few steps behind her and stopped.

Her eyes met his and he understood; he should wait a moment. He stepped back, and said nothing more.

"If you...want to come in and have dinner with us after you're finished here, Thomas, you're more than welcome."

"Thank you, Captain, but no. You're still on your honeymoon, and time is running out. Enjoy the last of it, the two of you."

Liis nodded. "Stay as long as you need, and if you change your mind..."

She did not embrace him now, she simply held out her hand. He shook it firmly and then clasped his second hand closed upon it. He couldn't help but laugh a little as he remembered her standing motionless and unflinching as she'd gotten her tattoo.

"Mrs. O'Sullivan, you're a hell of a guy."

"Thomas, that's just about the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me." She didn't smile, but her eyes showed the warmth of feeling that came from her affection for the man. "Safe trip home. I'll see you in a day or so."

"Zanh Liis."

She turned back.

"It's an honor. To serve with you. Both."

She lowered her eyes thankfully, knowing that she didn't have to tell him that the feeling was mutual.

Thomas Cassius Blane stood beneath the Poplar tree on his Captain's land, listening to the whisper of the leaves as he stared intently at the solid ground beneath him.

He lifted one boot and stomped it down against the surface of the Earth; feeling for a certainty that it was untouched. It was whole, and it was alive. It had not been violated to create a six foot deep hole- and his friend had not been buried inside of it.

He caught sight of that friend now, in fact, with the light from the porch lamps behind him; illuminating the darkness as he stood at the edge of the steps but did not venture further.

Keiran O'Sullivan waited, instead, for his wife to join him where he stood. He nodded slowly, saluting the figure in the distance- the man he recognized well as his wife's Second Officer, and her friend.

Their friend.

TC nodded in return as he reached into his jacket, removing the flask within. How much better, he thought, it was to drink to this moment than to the one he remembered.

He watched as Zanh Liis rushed up the steps and into Keiran's arms, nearly tackling the man and taking him by surprise as she kissed him fiercely. Blane averted his eyes respectfully at first but then looked up again, feeling her eyes upon him once more.

They shared a long glance; a moment of understanding and, Blane hoped, one as healing for her as it felt for him.

He raised his flask in a silent toast to the pair of them, and he could see Zanh's eyes take on a shimmering haze as she lowered her head and then lifted it again.

Keiran waved a hand in welcome to Blane, inviting him in; but TC knew that he'd done what he'd come to do this day, and it was time for him to go home.

Blane shook his head, and O'Sullvan understood and accepted his choice.

Gently, the Irishman led his wife forward.

Liis clung to Keiran with both arms clasped tightly around his waist as they moved into the house.

TC watched until the door closed lightly behind them.

Then he lifted his flask once more, this time to his lips. Just before it touched them, he softly spoke.

"Goodnight, and joy be to you all."

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


NRPG: Special thanks to Im, who has proved that the kindness of strangers, in even the small and simple act of recommending a song, can truly impact your life. If not for him, I'd likely never have happened to hear of Shaun Davey, or this song. Thanks, man, wherever you are out there.

You can't get this version of The Parting Glass on iTunes currently, but Amazon has it and their files play in iTunes just fine.

You can also preview it on Youtube, but please, buy the song. Spend the ninety-nine cents.

Trust me. Just do it.
This post is meant as a tribute to two friendships- one fictional, and one factual.

Both two years old, but lifetimes deep, I hope and pray.