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Lt. Cmdr. Yogan Yalu - We Always Find Our Way Back Home

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(( Verso family home, Grodor Regional Municipality, Trill ))

Yogan stamped the accumulated snow and ice from his boots, then gingerly stepped out of them and crossed the threshold into his childhood home. Instinctively, he wiped his socked feet on the mat beside the door, just in case. Outside, the sky was clear and the sun shone brightly, but the ever-present wind blew weeks-old snow around in frenzied mini-cyclones, giving the pastoral landscape the look and feel of a blizzard. Winter in the foothills of Trill’s highest mountain peak always arrived suddenly and overstayed its welcome. Just a few towns away, at about a hundred meters’ lower elevation, the spring thaw had already set in.

K. Verso: Thanks again, both of you, for everything.

The corners of Yogan’s mouth turned slightly upward when he spun around and saw his younger brother and sister doing the same complicated maneuver with their shoes as they entered. His sister Kejana had spent the last several years at home caring for their mother during her slow decline. Kej, unlike Yogan and their brother Nedal, had never lived far from home. Also unlike her brothers, Kejana had no memories of living off-world; she was only three years old when their parents decided to resettle back on the homeworld.

N. Verso: Don’t mention it. I’m just sorry we didn’t get here sooner.

Ever since the boys left their exciting, cosmopolitan adolescence on Earth for the sedate, provincial life of Grodor Regional Municipality, Nedal and Yogan both dreamt of bigger things. For Yogan, this desire manifested in learning to pilot spacecraft, while Nedal developed his artistic talents and dazzled art institutes across the Federation with his poetry. They both had ambitions to be Joined, but while Yogan succeeded and became the eighth host of the Yalu symbiont, Nedal had washed out of the Initiate Program. He later found his voice and left home to follow his own path.

Kejana, however, was another story. Eight years Yogan’s junior, Kejana possessed a wit that was both cutting and comforting. Her warmth shone through even when her sarcasm eviscerated you. She never complained about the burden of caring for their aging mother, even as Yogan and Nedal moved farther away from home. Yogan used to wonder what Kej would do when she no longer had the commitment of being a caretaker, but he knew his sister well enough now that he hadn’t the slightest doubt.

K. Verso: You got here as soon as you could. ::beat:: I don’t think you would have felt any better if you’d seen her before she went.

Nedal had missed her passing by only a few hours. Yogan arrived early the following morning, after her body had already been taken from the house. The family matriarch, Haned, was only 73 when she died. For the last decade, she suffered from a degenerative condition that slowly, heartbreakingly, took her mind away long before her body gave out. Three years ago, when Yogan last visited, Haned didn’t recognize him, and he left feeling guilty for having squandered too much precious time.

A few days later, when he was in his hotel in the capital, packing his bags to leave, he received an urgent call from Kejana, beckoning him home.


(( Flashback — Verso family home — 2397 ))

Yogan entered the house sweaty and breathing heavily, but none of that mattered.  His long legs closed the distance to the dining table in what felt like two paces, and he sat down across from his mother, who cradled a mug of tea between her small, frail hands.  She smiled slightly, as if the movement required more energy than she could summon.

H. Jurea:  Hello, Yogan.  It is so good to see you.

Yogan struggled to blink back tears, his already pounding heart going into overtime from the emotion he was feeling.

Yalu:  It’s good to see you too, Mother.

Kejana entered and draped a thick grey blanket over her mother’s shoulders, then whispered to Yogan.

K. Verso:  I’ll give you two some time alone.

Yogan nodded his thanks, then looked back at his mother, attempting to etch her features and her charming expression permanently into his memory.

H. Jurea:  I am sorry about the other day.  I… wasn’t myself.

Yalu:  Mother, you have nothing to apologize for.

With one hand, the woman reached out to the center of the table, wiggling her fingers slightly.  Yogan took her hand, cold to the touch, and squeezed it gently.

H. Jurea:  Kejana told me you completed your zhian’tara.  How was it, Son?

Yogan struggled to find the right words, not because the question was difficult to answer, but because there were so many other things he wanted to say.  His voice cracked as he spoke, and swallowed against the lump in his throat.

Yalu:  It was amazing.  ::beat::  Mother, I want to tell you something.  I am so sorry I haven’t been here.  I shouldn’t have stayed away so long.

Haned set her mug of tea on the table and held Yogan’s hand in both of hers.  She looked him in the eye, and unlike last time, her gaze was fixed and lucid.

H. Jurea:  Let’s not talk about that.  We don’t know how much time we have.  ::beat, smiling:: In fact, come over here.

Yogan looked at his mother curiously, and she repeated herself more forcefully.

H. Jurea:  Come on.  Come over and sit here next to me.

Yogan brought his chair over to the opposite side of the table and sat next to his mother, dropping his broad shoulders so she could wrap one arm around him.  He held her free hand again and they sat together, mother cradling her adult child, without saying a word.  Finally, Haned broke the silence.

H. Jurea:  I love you, Yogan.  Remember that for me.

(( End Flashback ))


Yogan promised himself he would put more effort into his relationships with his siblings. Starfleet and ship life made it tough, but he kept in touch with Neddo and Kej as often as possible. They had embodied Yogan's past hosts during his zhian’tara, and through the experience, he felt he understood both of them better.

K. Verso: When do you have to leave?

N. Verso: I ought to be getting back over the hill in the morning.

Going over the hill was the phrase locals used to describe visiting the Trill capital, which was situated on the other side of Bes Manev and the cordillera of mountains that flanked it. When Yogan and Neddo first arrived in Grodor, they laughed at the local vernacular, but quickly adapted when their schoolmates teased the Verso boys’ foreign accents.

Yalu: I can stay a couple more days. Only if you want. ::bites lip, beat:: This is your house now, Kej.

Kejana looked around the large living room. A glaze of ice covered the skylights, casting the interior space in grey-blue semidarkness. Only after a moment did the meaning of Yogan’s words land, and she eyed her brothers curiously.

K. Verso: Really? You mean it? I thought we’d need to discuss what to do with the place. I’m no lawyer, but Mother left everything to the three of us.

N. Verso: ::shakes head:: No. Yogan and I talked about it. You’ve been here. Through everything with Father and Mother. ::laughs:: And us. It’s home. It’s your home.

Kejana turned and looked around again, seeing the place with new eyes. For years, their mother’s decline had been mirrored in the state of the house. Kejana had ministered to both of them. In the last few years, the big old homestead had regained much of its former glory. The youngest Verso sibling hugged her brothers in turn, and Yogan felt his heart swell with the emotion of a thousand memories when Kejana stood on her tiptoes to wrap her arms around his neck.

Yogan had long mistaken Kej’s strengths for weaknesses. He wrongly thought she lacked ambition because she didn’t possess her brothers’ obsessive desire to chase adventure. He felt no compulsion to be validated by institutions and audiences and rank pips. In many ways, she was the strongest member of the family, possessing qualities that neither Nedal nor Yogan had.

K. Verso: Thank you. You can come stay here anytime.

N. Verso: You can always come visit us, too, you know. Earth is a great place. I’d love to show you where we grew up.

Yalu: ::grins:: Deep Space 224 isn’t nearly as exciting as Old Sarajevo, but you’re welcome to come see me there. ::beat:: We just got a Burger Nagus.

Kejana laughed and nodded. It was a polite gesture, but Yogan knew the odds of her traveling halfway across the quadrant to visit were as good as Kirky winning a quiz. She had little interest in living among the stars, and that was okay. With their mother gone and their father enjoying his new life, Yogan felt a new responsibility for his siblings. None of them had partners or children of their own, so the duty fell on his shoulders to keep their small family unit together. But how he would do that from The Borderlands, he didn’t know.

K. Verso: ::wry smile:: And some guy who likes you, or so Nedal tells me.

Yalu: Neddo, you told her about Chippy? ::to Kejana:: He’s just a guy I’m kind-of-seeing.

K. Verso: Wait, hang on. ::long beat:: His name’s… Chippy?

And so the tables turned. Yogan, the oldest, the one with all the responsibility to look after his younger siblings, was instantly on the back foot in the face of Kejana’s playful questioning.

The three Verso siblings descended upon the kitchen and cracked open one of their mother’s old recipe books, determined to recreate some of their favorite childhood dishes. As the evening sky clouded over and fresh snow began to fall, they took turns sharing memories and retelling old stories, but nothing the entire night got a bigger laugh than “Chippy.”


Lieutenant Commander Yogan Yalu
Starfleet Strategic Operations Deputy Chief—Borderlands Sector
Deep Space 224

Justin / @Yalu reasserts himself as a tugger of heartstrings with this beautiful slice of family life.

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