1137: Chapters

by Zander Blakeslee and Keiran O’Sullivan
After A Heart Divided Against Itself

-=Ireland, Earth=-

“Go, Keiran.” Maggie insisted, backing slowly toward the house. “Before he sees you here.”

Keiran dropped his head into his hands and sighed. Maggie’s voice from the past still echoed in his ears, so loud that it took a firm hand on his shoulder to bring him back to the present.

“Keiran? Are you all right?”

O'Sullivan looked up, shifting in the pew and sitting straighter when he saw a young, familiar face.

“Zander, surprised to see ya here...”

Zander smiled weakly as he unzipped his duty coat halfway, now that he was out of the cold. Still he was dressed comparatively conservative compared to others that filed into and out of the church. Being a native of Alaska he found the weather in Cork to be somewhat refreshing today.

“I’m sorry to drop in unannounced.” He looked around at the church. “I can come back later,” he offered, thinking that he might have disturbed Keirann

"No, not'a'tall. I would...actually welcome the company." Keiran smiled, but Zander noted immediately the smile was thin, strained, not at all the normal manner of the man everyone on the ship knew they could turn to at any time for a kind, listening ear.

Keiran noted the concern in Zander's eyes and broke the lingering silence. "So. You've come a long way on a chilly morning. Is there somethin' I can help you with? Or," Keiran's expression changed again in response to Zander's, as the younger man now appeared even more uneasy. "Were you lookin' for the Captain? She's not in Ireland, presently."

“No, I’ve come to talk with you, actually…” Zander looked around. He had never been much of a religious person. Even with his experiences on Delta with his wife and the mystics that had help him find his way away from the path of vengeance and self-loathing, he never truly could find himself committing to the belief of a higher divinity. Even so, he found himself oddly uneasy talking to Keiran in the church, as if someone else was listening, and judging him. “Is there somewhere we can go to talk?”

"A walk, yeah?" Keiran rose slowly, as if testing whether his knees would actually stay beneath him. Satisfied they would, he took a step forward. "Crowded today."

"Are you sure you're ready to leave?" Zander worried he may have prevented Keiran from finishing whatever he'd come here to do today, but O'Sullivan nodded.

"Yeah. Am finished for today. Let's go."

The two men walked down the street a little ways, each lost in thought as they settled into a slightly more comfortable silence, one eased by the distraction of motion.

Keiran's mind kept drifting back to the church, to what he'd meant to do, but as each moment passed he became more certain that today, there were other things that had to take the place of those things.

"Commander," Zander began at last, running his hand up over his head and rubbing the back of his neck a minute. "Samthia and I, we've come to an important decision, and I wanted to tell you myself. After all you've done for me I…" he stopped walking, and Keiran did too. "I didn't want you to hear it from anyone else, not even the Captain."

"Is ev'ra'thin' alright, Zander?" Keiran immediately forgot his own troubles and focused intensely on his young friend. "Can I help you, at all?"

"That's just it, Sir, you already have." Zander shifted from foot to foot, and then remembering the words of his wife and his now former Captain, he stood taller, shoulders back, and looked O'Sullivan in the eyes. "I want to thank you, for all you've taught me. Not just as an officer, but helping me see things about myself as a father and a husband, too. Including being one of the voices in the back of my head that told me to say yes when Sam told me that it's time for us to put our family first. You see, she wants another child."

Keiran's eyes widened and his eyebrows flew upward. "I...see..."

Zander reddened a little. "That's not exactly what I came to tell you, though. I came to tell you that I've resigned, and so has Sam. We're going to settle on Seyalia and raise our family there. I'll take up my place as patriarch of the Wej family, at Samthia's side."

Keiran's hand elevated and he stroked his beard thoughtfully. A dozen thoughts collided in his head but it only took an instant for them to settle, and the contemplative look upon his face changed into the first true smile he'd had in days. His next words to Zander were direct, and sincere. "Good for you, lad. You're doin' the right thing."

"Am I?" The words were past Zander's lips before he could stop them. He knew in his heart he was, yet hearing O'Sullivan's validation caused that initial, knee-jerk reaction in him as when he'd first considered leaving Starfleet.

"Aye, I have no doubt of it at all. None at all." Keiran shivered in the cold once more, and he nodded to a small bar up the way. "C'mon. I happen to know that the Missus here keeps coffee goin' this time of day, for old friends. Let's go in."

Soon the two men were seated at a table with a pot of fresh coffee between them, and Keiran filled their mugs to capacity as Zander sat quietly, thoughtful once more. "Do you know, Zander Blakeslee, what I was thinkin' of, when you came upon me in that pew today at Christ the King?"

Zander shook his head and wrapped his hands around the steaming mug. "No, sir."

"Was thinkin' of my boy, Carrick. He had his first Communion in that very church. Due to one thing and another between his mother and I, I wasn't there. I mean, I thought I was going to be there, moved heaven and earth to be in Cork on the date she'd given me. Only upon arrivin' did I find out that it'd actually been the week before."

"I'm sorry."

Keiran shrugged. "Can't be helped now. But my point is, that's not the only part of Carrick's childhood I missed." Regret enveloped the Irishman's features, and for a moment, he seemed much older than Zander could remember seeing him before. "I tried, God knows I tried. Maggie, she was nothin' if not iron willed."

"At least you've had a chance to reconnect with the boy recently."

"Aye, have, but it's not been easy. He's angry, and justly so. I only hope he realizes he's lucky to have the opportunities he's been given and doesn't squander them."

"Would he?"

"By last report, seems he might." Keiran sighed. "He was supposed to be with my sister, Mary Claire, but found out that instead of goin' to the family dinner before Mass Sunday last, my oldest brother finally tracked him down. In a pub. Guinness in one hand, a cigarette in the other. Will be havin' a talk with him soon."

"Good luck."

"Thanks, gonna need it." Keiran sipped his coffee and his voice dropped to barely audible levels. "Do you know how many times I've wished that I could convince Liis it was time to retire?"

Zander thought about what their life had been like in time since they'd married, and he could only imagine. He sat still, just listening.

"Many, would be the answer." Keiran continued. "But she's not ready. It's not time, she's still too much she feels she has to do. However..." Keiran shook his head now. "We do not have small children. If we did, Zander, you can bet that I'd be tryin to convince her every bit as much as Samthia did you."

Zander smiled. “That’s the funny thing. She really did not try very hard. It was only discussed once. It’s like she knew I would make this choice. Commander Blane acted the same when I approached him asking for advice. He was like…see ya!” He shook his head. “It was a little bit insulting actually.”

"Ah, it's just Thomas is wise enough to know the look of a man who's made up his mind." Keiran said. "You know, we all hate for the Sera to lose a man as fine as you. Still and again, though, I am not surprised at all you decided this way."

“It’s funny how everyone seems to think I am making the right choice here. They have the confidence that I was going to decide to leave even before I knew what I was going to do.” He took a sip from the mug. “They were right of course. It was an easier answer then I thought it would be. I know it is the right thing to do, that it is time to move on. It’s just hard to close this chapter, you know?”

He looked at Keiran more intently. “Maybe you should start one of your own.”

Keiran frowned. “One what?”

Zander smiled. “A new chapter. A new family…kids perhaps.” He took a sip from the mugs as he looked over the rim at the big Irishman. Zander’s eyes sparkled. Normally he would have never thought about suggesting such a thing, especially regarding the Captain but he was soon to be a civilian and thus protocol really did not apply anymore.

Keiran's smile faded, to an expression haunted by clear memory from an alternate past that at times still felt too real to escape. He recalled standing in a field, the ruins of the home he'd built for Liis' around him, nothing still standing after the storm but the small building which held the cradle he'd made with his own two hands but had yet to work up the nerve to ask her to help him fill.

The idea of having children with her was a wish he felt had died along with her in that history. Still, at moments like this, he was haunted by what might have been.

"I...have my hands full with the one the good Lord already gave me." Keiran finally answered, forcing another smile to curl his lip. "Still, believe me, if Liis decided that she was done with the 'fleet tomorrow and wanted to have half a dozen, I'd certainly have not one single objection."

Zander heard a beeping sound and pulled a small communications device from his pocket. "It's my wife," he smiled at Keiran broadly now. "She is asking my assistance in packing up the circus that is the traveling Blakeslees."

"Far be it from me to keep a man from making his wife happy." Keiran stood, and so did Zander, and the men grasped hands across the table. "Be well, Zander. Well, and happy."

“You too.” He smiled. “Don’t be strangers, you hear? Drag yourself and the Captain to Delta for a vacation. I’ll personally crack open a bottle or our finest and we’ll enjoy it over good meals and beautiful tropical weather.”

Keiran nodded. A lump rose in his throat, as he considered an evening that seemed lifetimes ago; at a party, where they'd shared a toast, and he'd asked Zander a question. His eyes glinted in the light as he repeated that inquiry now. "Tell me about your soul, Zander Blakeslee. What motivates you?"

Hearing the question, Zander remembered the first time he'd been asked, too, and answered by paraphrasing the most important of the choices Keiran had offered him that night. "The love of a good woman. My children." Zander smiled. "My family."

"A true Renaissance man." Keiran said, just as he had before. "I always knew it to be true. I'm proud of you, Zander."

Zander pulled his combadge out of his pocket and tilted it, watching the light reflect off of it for a moment before he showed it to Keiran. “Still not quite retired yet.” He smiled. “Blakeslee to Serendipity. One to beam up.”


Zander Blakeslee
Former Lt. Commander
Former Chief of Security/Tactical
USS Serendipity NCC-2012


Commander Keiran O’Sullivan
Security Liaison
to The Alchemy Project
USS Serendipity NCC-2012