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[JP] Rear Admiral Quinn Reynolds & Ensign Serren Tan - Have We Met Before? (Part I & II)


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((Captain’s Ready Room, USS Gorkon))

 

Index finger hovering over the chime outside Quinn’s ready room, Serren Tan felt suddenly nervous, an awkward tight feeling in his pouch. He had wanted to find the time to talk to Quinn on their trip, and... well, within a few hours they were fighting for their lives.

 

It was only now, in the days after, that it really sank in how close to disaster they all had come. If Quinn had just been slightly more injured. If Cayne hadn’t been there. If the Triumphant had not shown up exactly when it did...

 

Would have, could have, should have. Questions for the counsellors, questions for the days and weeks between ends of long warp flights. Questions for shore leave... which would slowly get unpacked like the luggage sitting in his quarters, unopened.

 

Slowly it would leak out, like coffee from a cracked mug, but for now, his desire to see his long-time friend overrode every other concern. He pressed his finger to the chime.

 

Reynolds: Come in.

 

Tan slipped through the door as it opened, stepping inside. He had a formal posture, but his face belied a casual, friendly smile. Standing beside her desk, Quinn glanced up from the PADD she was reading. She looked nothing like the Admiral she was; hair in a messy bun, shirt half-tucked into jeans, battered sneakers instead of polished boots. There was no sign of a uniform anywhere in the room, though she had pinned her communicator to her belt.

 

Tan: Good morning, Admiral. Since I don’t think we actually formally got around to it... Ensign Serren Tan, reporting for duty.

 

Reynolds: Aren't you supposed to be on shore leave? ::She raised her eyebrows, with a small, wry smile and placed the PADD down on the table.:: I know I am.

 

It showed, but in a good way. She perched on the edge of her desk and gestured to the chair in front of it. He relaxed and sat, resting his arms on the armrest, taking just a moment to take in a deep breath, hold it, and let it out.

 

Tan: Well, I kinda have a lot of unpacking to do, but don’t worry. I have plans. ::he paused:: It’s good to be back on the Gorkon. Or... as I’d prefer to call it, home.

 

Reynolds: Already?

 

He couldn’t help but flash a broad, lopsided smile and it echoed back to him on her lips — albeit much smaller and more reserved. She never was one for big shows of expression.

 

Tan: It’s... well. I know this might sound like a whole bunch of Trill nonsense, but I feel connected to this place. I don’t know why, but I just do. On a related note, I am digging this new host. Everyone I meet is so much shorter than they used to be, and everything is lighter. Corridors are more cramped, which is a downside, and everything is more fragile, but... yeah. It’s good to finally be joined properly. It feels good.

 

The hybrid nodded, quiet for a moment while questions tumbled through her head. Was it disorientating to wake up one day with that perspective? It had been normal for Serren's entire life, then with a surgical procedure and an implanted symbiont it wasn't normal anymore. She wondered how that aligned with how some Trill found their coordination increased after joining. 

 

Perhaps it was like those memories of the Skarbek, often there, haunting the edges of memory. Knowing that Walter was devoted to Starfleet, yet seeing the ghost of a Maquis cell leader when she looked at him. Glancing toward Sevo and hearing the whine of a phaser cannon, wondering when she would be subject to the woman's violent, unbridled temper. Knowing Genkos as a dedicated healer, yet feeling a twist in her gut at the memories of what he was capable of, in another life.

 

Reynolds: I'm glad it's settling well for you. We had an emergency symbiont transplant a little while back and... while the Commission had already approved him as a host, he had difficulty adjusting.

 

That comment caused a pair of raised eyebrows. He hadn’t heard of that at all.

 

Tan: That’s not unheard of. Sometimes hosts just don’t sit well with the hosts. Best analogy I can think of is... it’s kinda like a blind-ish date. Sometimes you hit it off, sometimes you really, really don’t. I’m sorry to hear that. How’re they doing now?

 

Reynolds: I'm not sure. He went home to Trill on an extended leave of absence and tried to return to active duty a little while ago. But I think he needed some more time.

 

Quinn had kept an eye on Ferier after he left the Gorkon, as much as she could without intruding on his privacy. She felt a sense of responsibility toward him, and she had never been entirely comfortable with what had happened. He wanted to be a host, he'd even gone through the process and been approved by the Commission... but the situation had been so desperate, so last minute, it had left a bad taste in her mouth. 

 

One that had only got worse once the initial rush had worn off, and the Trill began to struggle. Ferier had been reassigned to the Juneau after his return to active duty, but the next time she'd checked in to see how he was doing, he was marked as on a leave of absence, and that talon of guilt had carved through her innards once again.

 

Tan just nodded. Things were always going to be difficult on that front. Having one of your brains ripped out and shoved into someone else was going to cause... problems. No matter how much training you had.

 

More time would help.

 

Tan: Regardless, it’s good to be back. I... ::he sheepishly adjusted his collar:: It’s good to see you again, Quinn. I just wanted to, uhh, say...

 

 

He inhaled, held it, then let it out. She didn't interrupt, giving him the chance to compose himself and find the words he needed. 

 

Tan: I’m sorry the asteroid didn’t go well. I know I didn’t handle things perfectly, but I’m going to improve. Obviously I still have a lot to learn. It’s just... you know. Dylan was in danger, and... I probably should have done a better job.

 

Quinn dwelt in a brief silence again, picking her response carefully. So many thoughts had gone through her mind in the aftermath, turning a troublesome question over in her mind. Would Eddy have made a run for it, if he hadn't received that beating? It was easy to imagine a scenario where the young man had been more frightened of the Starfleet officers than Lladre — after all, they had beaten him to a pulp, while she had promised to get him off the planet. 

 

Reynolds: Yes. ::She nodded, rarely one to beat around the bush.:: But it was a difficult situation, and for all you've done this before... you haven't done this before. We're all on a learning curve, even the ones who wore the uniform in a past life.

 

Tan: Ain’t that the truth. There’s a reason why joined Trills who have served before don’t get to keep their ranks. Relearning everything takes time, and a massive adjustment like being rejoined will really mess with your ability to make judgement calls. ::he considered a moment:: I’ve always thought it was a bit unfair, really. We get to discharge whatever debts we don’t like when we’re rejoined. Sometimes a debt should be kept.

 

Reynolds: I don't know. You share some memories and traits, but you're different people. It would be like passing a debt to a child, I suppose. There's a reason we eliminated that practice centuries ago.

 

He couldn’t help but smirk.

 

Tan: Hey, that’s the rules of Trill. Guess who makes the rules of Trill? Disproportionately joined Trills. Turns out they slip-a-rooney’d in one there that said, hey, if they get rejoined, all sins are forgiven. How convenient for us, huh?

 

She raised her eyebrows, not daring to comment. Quinn worked hard to keep an open mind, remind herself that practices that seemed strange to her were not inherently wrong, just different. Still, there were things about the nature of joining and the Symbiont Commission that made her uneasy. He chuckled, but the laughter faded after a moment.

 

Tan: I mean... speaking of debt. I’m, uh... sorry about Safine. I barely remember anything about her, just brief flashes, but I know this isn’t the first time I’ve failed you. I’m aware of it, and I’m aware that I can discharge that debt if I want to... but I don’t want to.

 

Reynolds: Safine didn't fail anyone, Serren. ::She frowned.:: If anything, she was the one who was failed.

 

He had fully anticipated something like this, but still, guilt was a funny thing. It was like a weed that could take root in the most inhospitable soil.

 

Tan: Not by you, of course. You’ve always had my back. Watched out for me. As Alleran, as Safine, and now again. I feel like you give me so much, and I give you so little. That’s not fair. I want to give something back.

 

Reynolds: I wouldn't say that. ::She paused, clasping her hands together in her lap and dropping her gaze toward them with a faint frown.:: It meant a lot to me, to have Alleran as a friend. He was there at a very lonely time.

 

The words hit him pretty hard. Words from another life. Serren leaned back in the chair.

 

Tan: He... was also lonely. In a different way, I think, but it ate at him a bit. He lost a lot when the Avandar was decommissioned. It was good to have you there. And he appreciated every second of your company. I don’t think he ever really told you that. But he did. You were a quiet source of strength for him, right up until the very end.

 

Quinn pressed her lips together, controlling her expression as an ache spread its wings from underneath her breastbone, unfurling to the tips of her fingers. She'd thought about Alleran often in the intervening years, another friend lost to the march of time and disaster, missed dearly. Knowing she'd been a comfort in his last days and hours was an answer to a question normally unanswerable. Clearing her throat, she nodded.

 

Reynolds: I'm glad I could be there for him.

 

Serren felt as though some great weight had been discharged from him. A few words taken from the grave into the world of the living once more, and delivered where they needed to go. A spotty courier from the afterlife. His message delivered, he suddenly felt a surge of crushing nervousness. Serren fidgeted, managing to keep them still after a moment’s restlessness.

 

He almost didn’t ask it, but the words escaped anyway.

 

Tan: Uh. Actually, I had... one more thing to ask. You were with him at the end, right? After... ::he patted his pouch:: And I don’t have that memory, so it feels strange to ask, but...

 

It was hard to ask the question without asking it. She raised her eyebrows, waiting for him to complete the sentence.

 

Tan: I know it’s private, between you two, but I just have to ask: did he say anything weird to you? ::he grimaced slightly:: Anything I should know?

 

Reynolds: Yes, it was private.

 

Her voice was mild, absent accusation or rebuke, but it was firm. Whatever had passed between the two, when it had just been Quinn and Alleran, she would not share it.

 

Of course it was. And he knew, clearly, it was wrong to ask. It was embarrassing that he had.

 

But whatever part of him was Alleran had to at least try to find out.

 

Tan: Of course. I... yeah.

 

It was an uncomfortable, unusual feeling for him — not because of anything the good Admiral had done or not done, but to have a piece of Alleran’s history missing was not something that was common. He was content with it, curious but content.

 

After everything that had happened, Al’ had earned a few minutes of privacy.

 

Tan: Anyway. I just wanted to say... it is good to be back, and I’m looking forward to doing what I can to serve the ship. And, uhh, it is wonderful to see you again.

 

Finding a bittersweet smile, she looked back up at him. He was easier for her to like than Tan's previous host. Maybe that was just who Serren was, or maybe the complete joining meant there was more of Alleran in him than there had been in Safine. Quinn didn't know, and she wasn't sure she wanted to go delving into the complicated mess of history and emotion that understanding demanded.

 

Reynolds: And I'm pleased you meet you again.

 

Tan awkwardly slid out of the chair, that sheepish smile still on his face, and then he waggled his fingers. Likewise, Quinn slipped off the edge of the desk, her hand unconsciously wandering to the PADD she'd put down a short while ago. 

 

Tan: Enjoy shore leave.

 

Reynolds: I do my best. ::She smiled, a little wider than before.:: And if you need anything... Well, you know how to find me.


 

fin

 

--

Ensign Serren Tan

Security & Tactical Officer

USS Gorkon

O238704AT0

 

&

 

Rear Admiral Quinn Reynolds

Commanding Officer

USS Gorkon

T238401QR0

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