_Devotion_ by Li Nalas Zachary Kabuki and Benjamin Sisko and featuring Korem Dinnia, Li Nalas, and Pel ResnysNo matter the faith, Zachan had always considered himself a religious man. He followed the Prophets of Bajor and he believed in the teachings of Christ from Earth. It was his Uncle Daniel who'd helped him realize that the two philosophies were not mutually exclusive, no matter what the stuffier academics of either faith thought. He had that faith and knew that his wife and children were blessed and protected by such immanence. The thought warmed his soul but it did precious little for a mortal man who was so personally warm and friendly.
The red haired half Bajoran paced the confines of his cabin, sleepless for missing the feel of Dinnia snuggled against his chest and the sticky jumja laced kisses from his four children. Running a hand through his hair, already mussed from sleep, he wondered if his beloved Bajoran grandfather had ever felt the same way during his captivity at Hutet.
"I'd say the answer to that was most definitely."Zachan was a decidedly gentle man. There wasn't anything handy that he could use as a weapon so the startled hand he raised as he spun around, wide eyed, was empty. Then, though it hardly seemed possible, those blue eyes widened even further as they caught sight of who had spoken.
"You...that isn't...Prophets..." Zachan sputtered. "If I'm dead, I'm not going to be happy."
The person in front of him laughed, a rich deep sound that reached his eyes. "You aren't dead, son."
As surreal as it was to see the man, relief flooded Zachan at the reply. It would have hurt Dinnia and the children so badly. "Good to hear. My wife would not be very happy about that either," he said, voicing his thoughts.
The visitor watched as the younger man rubbed his arms, as if he were cold. There was plenty of apprehension coming from him but not fear, definitely not fear. "Neither would your grandfather, son, since it isn't your time," he told Zachan, the smile still in place.
Zachan hmmphed, smiling slightly. Grandpa Nalas was still watching, still taking care. Li Nalas had had other grandchildren but Zachan had always been (and apparently still was) a bit special to him. "Alright," he said carefully, folding his arms across his chest as he considered his visitor, "then what earns me a visit from the Emissary?"
Sisko stepped closer, the warmth still in his eyes as he stood shoulder to shoulder with Zachan. "Call it sentiment, something the others still don't quite understand, even after all the time I've been with them. You've been a special consideration for them for a long time, you know."
Zachan grinned. "Well, let's see..." he said with mock speculation. "I'm forty years old so...yeah, forty counts as a while I guess. Blessed and Held by the Emissary was quite a hefty bit for little baby me to so under their eyes."
"It went with the name, son," Sisko chuckled, "but they are still curious about you even now, about devotion."
Zachan looked at him curiously. "That doesn't make sense. After thousands of years of worship, surely they understand why Bajorans love them. I'm not special in that regard," he protested, shaking his head. "There are plenty of people who are much more profoundly religious than I am."
"Not that sort of devotion, son," Sisko replied. He reached to pick up Zachan's left hand. A thin gold band sat on the fourth finger. "This kind, Zachan. The kind that made you think of your wife when you thought you were dead. The kind that makes both of you smile when you speak the other's name."
Zachan realized he was doing just as Sisko said, smiling because he had simply heard Dinnia's name. The smile widened even further.
"It's the kind of devotion," Sisko concluded, "that has her name in your prayers no matter the occasion."
A flush of humility warmed Zachan's face. He felt enough at ease with Sisko that he could pace, he stepped away to do just that. "What can I say? Dinnia may not have been my first love but she is certainly my last." He offered the other man an embarrassed chuckle. "That won't make much sense to them, though, will it? I'm grateful for your blessing, sir, and for my grandpa's return but I love Dinnia just like my dad loves my mom and like Grandpa loved Grandma..."
Sisko shrugged and dropped to sit on the low sofa there in the bedroom. "Humor them, son. Maybe if you told us how you met her?" At the quizzical look on the younger man's face, he added, "The know the events, kid. You voicing them will allow to feel your words."
"Hmm...alright, that I can do because, as a very dear friend pointed out, I love talking about my family." It was the relative middle of the night for him and Zachan was only half dressed. If the Emissary hadn't mentioned it then he supposed it didn't bother him but Zachan did need some tea. He moved to the replicator then turned around. "I was going to get some mint tea. Do you want something? Or do you even..well..."
Sisko laughed that warm bright laugh again. "You're funny, Zachan. No, I'm good. Just get your tea and then tell us the story of Zachan and Dinnia."
It wouldn't have done for a fresh green ensign to show such outright glee so Zachan had waited until he returned to his quarters to giggle like a ten-year-old. "Yes!" he cheered gleefully as he fairly bounced through the main room to his shared bedroom. The ship's quick run to Bajor had turned from a quick drive by into at least a two week layover so that their captain could take another captain's place at the scheduled conference. That was neither here nor there for Zachan, the newest ensign assigned to the Science department. What was of import to him and what had him so keyed up was what that captain said to him. He'd been summoned to the captain's ready room. That was unusual enough for a lowly ensign but he hadn't been worried. He'd done nothing wrong or anything to call attention to himself so he'd been filled with curiosity and not apprehension as he pressed the door chime. Receiving permission to enter, he stood at attention. "Ensign Li reporting as ordered, Captain."
"At ease, Ensign," the captain, a wiry but tired looking man, said easily. "Have a seat. I'm sure you're curious as to why you're here."
"Just a bit, sir," Zachan admitted"As I'm sure Lieutenant Boq has made you aware, we've extended our stay at Bajor."
"Ah, no, sir, I didn't know that," Zachan said carefully. He was trying to keep his face neutral since the aforementioned lieutenant once told him he had no poker face whatsoever.
"I've been asked to take Captain Leeson's place at the conference so we're here for at least another two weeks. Now, what I'm about to do is probably going to make you fairly popular among the crew in general," Cafler began, as an amused smile creased that weary face. From all reports, Li was a fine officer in addition to being well liked. Hadn't heard a bad thing about him. 'He's a nice kid' was how Boq had described him.
"Errr...why is that, sir?""Because, while I was speaking to Colonel Kira about arranging leave for the crew, she very specifically asked about you, that I relax time allotments for junior personnel. For you."
"Oh." Bright blue eyes blinked. "That's very kind of her but it isn't fair to everyone else."
"I'm glad you said that, Mr. Li," Cafler said, nodding with approval. "A good officer doesn't necessarily think of himself first. Now, I pointed out just what you mentioned to the good colonel and the lady did not seem pleased at all. It seems she wanted to give your grandfather a surprise."
"He probably would have been fairly pleased," Zachan mused before he regrouped and realized that he was sitting with his CO. "I didn't know she was going to do that, sir. I'm sorry she put you on the spot."
Cafler muttered something under his then nodded. The kid was an astute judge of the situation. He hadn't liked being put on the spot but the ensign's honest reaction mollified his irritated sensibilities. "I appreciate that, Ensign, I really do. That considered, I'll be approving more generalized shore leave for all personnel." He almost snorted in amusement at the grin that spread across Zachan's face. Boq was right about the lack of a poker face. Li was definitely an open book. "I have just one question for you before you're dismissed, Ensign."
"What's that, sir?" Zachan asked curiously."Why didn't I, or anyone else for that matter, know just who your grandfather is? Li Nalas is no one to sneeze at, especially here on Bajor."
"Sir, no disrespect intended but to me he's my grandfather before his the Narvach. He's just as normal a man as I am," came the explanation.
"I see," Cafler said, even though he really didn't. "And this bit about you being called Blessed of the Emissary?"
Zachan shrugged. "All true and, again, sir, I've lived with it for so long that I've learned to not let it go to my head. I'm blessed in so many ways and I'm still grateful for it."
Cafler hmmphed softly. "When you see him, give him my regards. I heard him speak once at HQ and he's rather unforgettable."
"I will, sir, though I'm fairly sure he won't mind if you stop by. He lives in Iponu" Zachan said brightly. He stood slowly, the grin still on his face. "You know I remember when he came to make that speech. Afterwards, we went to Hawaii and went deep sea fishing with our friends."
Cafler was still shaking his head when the doors closed behind Zachan. There went an open and honest person, a genuinely nice guy. He hoped the Fleet didn't eat him alive.
Zachan's first stop was a quick run to Militia HQ, quick only because the target of his visit was quite busy. Kira did have enough time to allow him to kiss her cheek to thank her for her interference and to accept a gift sent from his parents. Then, it was to be public transport to Iponu, where his grandparents lived. He was in civilian dress, his earring tinkling brightly on his ear and a backpack slung over his shoulder as he dropped onto an empty bench on the air tram. As the tram went along its way toward Iponu, more and more people got on. It got to the point that there were no more seats left so that, when an elderly vedek got on, Zachan didn't hesitate.
"Here, ma'am," he said as he scrambled to his feet. "This one's not taken.""Oh you're a good boy. Thank you, child," the vedek said with a grateful smile. Zachan edged into the aisle to give someone else room then heard a voice at his shoulder. "That was very kind of you."
He looked about in confusion until he looked down at his side to see the prettiest, sweetest faced woman he'd ever seen in his life. She had, he told himself, the most amazing grayish blue eyes and a great smile. "Ah, it's nothing," he said with a shrug. "Somebody else would have done it."
"It was still very nice," the blonde insisted. "Especially since you looked so comfortable."
"Hmm? Were you watching me?" Zachan asked."Well, when somebody sleeps through five tram stops without even budging, then I have to think that they're comfortable," she said with a giggle.
"Are you kidding me?" Zachan clapped his free hand over his mouth in embarrassment. "Oh that's bad, that's very bad." He peered around her back, at a pack that was even more full than his was. "You should have kicked my ankle and told me to move. I'm sorry about that---really."
"I'm not about to kick a total stranger and, in any case, I'm capable of standing." She offered him a shy smile then added, "and maybe I liked watching you."
"Gee, thanks," he chuckled. "Ah, my name's ridiculously long and complicated but friends and family call me Zachan or Z."
"I'm Dinnia."Zachan looked at her, trying to not make it obvious that he wanted to stare. She was absolutely stunning, her blue gray eyes set in a flawless fair complexion and her blonde hair done up in ornate curls. He found her smile adorable as she looked up at him and then he realized that he was staring, despite his desire not to. "Hi, pleased to meet you then. I'm still sorry about the seat thing but it's been a long trip and a bit boring. I've never come out by myself so I've always had someone to talk to."
"Oh, you don't live out this way?" she asked and he imagined she sounded a bit disappointed.
"Mmm, no, I'm visiting my grandparents. I haven't had the chance to in a while." He offered Dinnia a smile. "I hope they're home. They don't know I'm coming."
"That's sweet of you but what happens if they aren't home?""I haven't thought that far ahead actually but hopefully my door key still works." He gave a one-shouldered shrug. "Otherwise, I go back to the capital to pester my aunt."
"You don't look like a pest to me," Dinnia teased."I can be," Zachan replied with a devilish grin. "I'm the one who made my mother's stare famous. You know, the kind of stare from a mom that says 'sit still and be quiet' without using a single word?"
Dinnia laughed and the sound of it made something flutter in Zachan's chest. "Oh that's terrible," she said, her eyes twinkling.
"Ah but it was well deserved so it's all good. My pack's full of stuff she sent out for my grandparents, all very neatly done so I don't get the look for misplacing or breaking things."
The air tram was slowing to a stop. As much as he wanted to see his grandparents, Zachan was a bit dismayed. He wouldn't be able to talk to the beautiful and, in his opinion, charming Dinnia much longer. With some reluctance, he followed her off the tram, completely ignoring the huge throng around them. "It was nice meeting you, Dinnia. Thanks for keeping me company," he began. People were starting to move about purposefully, getting between the two of them. "Maybe I..."
In the noise of the crowd, Dinnia couldn't hear him She was disappointed at that. He'd been so funny, so polite and kind, and she had no idea who his grandparents were or how she could find out. "Bye," she called weakly before trudging away.
It was too crowded to push through people so Zachan lost sight of Dinnia. With a disappointed sigh, he turned to head toward his grandparents' home. He could find his way there blindfolded which was just as well because he was completely distracted by thoughts of soft blonde hair and pretty eyes. Though as he got within sight of the house, he felt his spirits lifting and then, when he saw his grandmother out front, tending her plants, he outright grinned.
"Grandma!" he called and then laughed at the expression on her face when she realized it was him. Before she could say anything, he took a few running steps to grab her in a gentle bear hug. "Hi, Grandma, miss me?" he asked after kissing her soundly on the cheek.
"Always, my boy, always. Now look at you, so tall and handsome," Resnys beamed as she looked up at him. "Why didn't you call, Zachan? I would have planned your favorite hasperat."
"I didn't know the ship was staying so I didn't want to promise anything," he explained, happily allowing her to caress his cheeks. "Is Grandpa home too?"
"Come inside, little one, come inside. You know how he is," Resnys grumbled good-naturedly. "He's arguing on the comm with some crony or another and he's been at it all morning, too. It's not good for him to sit still so long. It's bad for his back."
Zachan nodded as he allowed himself to be pulled along. His grandfather was, thank the Prophets, actually quite healthy but ten years in the Hutet labor camp had left him with the Bajoran equivalent of arthritis. "Mom sent me off with a lot of Dr. Maluhia's herbal preps, Grandma. I'll get them on him later."
With that, he fairly bounced into his grandfather's office. He supposed it was a good thing that the old man was done with his call because Zachan dropped to the floor behind him, rested his chin on his shoulder and then put his arms around him. "Hi, Grandpa, miss me?" he asked brightly.
Li Nalas, the Hero of Bajor, former prisoner of war, and the Narvach once had the choice of remaining in the Celestial Temple or returning to the mortal world. The strong arms wrapped around him, coupled with their owner's broadly grinning face, were, and always had been, proof enough that he'd made the right decision. Although...""It's not good to startle an old man, child," he grumbled though the grumble was belied but his own grin. He stood slowly, mindful of aching joints, to return the embrace at to look at his grandson. He had five other grandchildren but this one was special. "The answer's yes, Zachan. Now, to what do we owe this pleasure?"
Zachan gave him the explanation then shrugged. "At least everyone else got the time, too. Now, come on. Quit needling people with politics and come to the kitchen with me."
"Your grandmother worries too much," Nalas hmmphed fondly as he clapped Zachan on the arm. "I could do with some tea though."
Even as a much younger man, Zachan had had the mother hen streak in him but, as he and Nalas entered the kitchen, two things became clear. The first was that he got that streak from his grandmother and the second was that the grandson had nothing on Pel Resnys in that regard. That left the two men with time to chat while Resnys fixed tea and lunch. "You look good, Zachan," Nalas observed. "Everyone else who takes the tram here usually manages to look tired and rumpled. Please tell me you haven't let Starfleet fill you full of starch."
At that, Zachan shook his head and laughed. "Perish the thought, Grandpa. One of the other passengers told me I slept through five stops," he explained, "and then I gave up my seat and talked to her the rest of the way."
That caught the attention of both Resnys and Nalas, the grandparents sharing a knowing look. For whatever reason, their daughter's eldest was no longer dating that cute little Human girl Victoria. Resnys had always thought that a shame but things happened as the Prophets allowed. At least the two were still friends. This, however, was the first time in a few years that Zachan had mentioned another girl.
"Guess she didn't look very rumpled either, eh?" Nalas asked casually."Nah, very pretty," Zachan said, shaking his head. "He rested his chin on an upturned palm, blue eyes pensive. "She lives here in Iponu but I didn't get her family name. I'm an idiot."
Again the grandparents shared a look without seeming to, the product of being together for so long, but it was Nalas who said, "Child, the Prophets have allowed for stranger things. After all, you'll be here two weeks right?"
Zachan took a sip of his mint tea and offered the man sitting next to him a wistful smile. "And don't you know, the next day Grandma and I went to the market and ran into Dinnia and her mother? They were doing the weekly food shopping."
"How'd that go over?" Sisko asked indulgently."I followed her around like a lost puppy the entire time I was there," Zachan admitted with only a tinge of chagrin. "Her parents got all flustered when they realized who Grandpa was but then they got to see that we just saw him as Grandpa."
"Dinnia didn't mind that you were in Starfleet?" Sisko asked."No, she understood but after this..." Zachan waved a hand at the room. "Now if she says something, then I'll definitely understand. I have four children and I was only home for the first one and what would have been the third." It still grieved him, even then, to recall the child who might have been. "And we named our eldest for you, sir."
Sisko patted Zachan on the shoulder, a warm fatherly touch. "I know, Zachan, though I don't know that I deserve the honor. Thank you, though."
"You're the Emissary, sir---of course you deserve it," the younger man protested. Then he smiled over his tea again. "Dinnia's a wonderful mother. All of our four are good people. Nice kids, you know? They've been raised mostly on Earth but she made sure that they'd have no trouble fitting in on Bajor, too." His eyes took on a far away look. When he spoke again, his voice was much softer and more thoughtful. "I was awake when you showed up because I have trouble sleeping when she's not by my side. Silly, I know but it's always that way. If I had to be lost, I'm glad Andy's here and the Macs, especially Victoria and James, but Dinnia ad the children are what make my life whole."
Sisko was quiet for a moment then, after gripping Zachan's shoulder, he stood up. "I've got to go, Zachan. Go to bed, man. You need the sleep."
"If I can I will," Zachan said with a shrug. "and, in the morning, I'll drive Gareth, Coaimhe, and the others with my hyperactivity and mother henning."
Sisko didn't so much as disappear as fade into a glow that reminded Zachan of the light that emanated from the Celestial Temple. He lay back on the sofa, slowly closing his eyes in the comforting aura of the Prophets. "Keep an eye on Dinnia and my four, sir," he murmured sleepily.
"Five, my friend, but I will. Go to sleep, Zachan."Five? If he hadn't been so tired, Zachan would have corrected him but he was asleep, asleep and dreaming of home.
-- `Onipa`a (Stand firm.)--Motto of Queen Lili`uokalani.