A bit of character-exploration that I wrote forever and a half ago to fill in that horrifying blank space between seasons two and three.

Disclaimer: I own nothing and I never shall, for I am naught but a lowly college student.

"Tiger Lily"

Cochise was not a scholar. He was a warrior, as most of his people were, but he was still educated, and he had great appreciation for those who dedicated their lives to knowledge (the garnering, the teaching, or the discovering, it made no difference to him). Sometimes, he envied those people. He was not unsatisfied in his own work, but he enjoyed the very different satisfaction that came with learning. He enjoyed the peace and quiet, and the rest. He needed the rest. After so many years, even though he was still young, he felt very tired. And being tired… it wore down on his motivation to move forward. All of this was worse with the humans. They were so full of energy, so bright and passionate like a raging flame. They wore him down. First, their inability to accept the Volm, and then the gusto in which they included his people in their efforts. It was exhausting, how they moved in a whirlwind to adapt and change. Maybe that was how they had survived for so long. The Espheni certainly weren't prepared for the fierceness of a race so seemingly frail as humans.

"If you're here to help," said the one called Weaver, "then darn well do it."

It had taken a while for Cochise to translate that into something he understood. English was difficult enough, but the way humans spoke was so odd. Cochise had learned what could be considered proper English, devoid of slang or jargon, but each human spoke the language differently. The militant Weaver did not bother to explain, but there was one human who stopped to truly talk to Cochise. That in itself struck Cochise as peculiar, seeing as most humans talked at him instead of to him, but then the human introduced himself. Professor Tom Mason. They had met multiple times before, but had not had time for formalities. Professor Mason seemed to genuinely be interested in what Cochise had to offer, and that too took Cochise by surprise. But then he remembered something. While studying humans, he had not learned very much of what their titles meant. He understood the intricacies of the military rankings (there were so many different kinds and standards that his father had even stated that a race so militant must be at least somewhat reasonable), and a few of their everyday terms like Mr. and Mrs., but he had forgotten about the term professor. It hadn't seemed relevant when he was studying, but here, right in front of him, was a professor. A scholar.

"Don't mind Weaver," the Professor said. "He doesn't trust easy."

There was some polite thing that Cochise could say, some words of understanding to confirm that he wasn't offended, but somewhere between his mind and his mouth those words rearranged themselves into, "Why do you all speak so differently?"

Professor Mason laughed. Or, he chuckled. Close enough. Cochise's question had amused him either way, and Cochise instantly felt bashful, which was ridiculous. He was Chichauk Il'sichninch Cha'tichol, a warrior of great standing, and he would not be bashful because a man of learning (and an alien one at that), laughed at his ignorance.

But then the Professor surprised him by saying, "Oh, wow. I'm sorry, I didn't even think of that confusing you. Your English is just so perfect."

Cochise knew the feathery, soothing words of a peace-keeping diplomat when he heard them, but he also recognized sincerity. Tom Mason had both.

"We all have accents," Professor Mason explained to him as they walked together. "We learn to speak the way our parents speak, and the way the people around us speak. As we grow, and interact with different people, we take on new ways of speaking, and… well, by time we're adults, we each have a unique speech pattern. A lot of the people here are local, so they speak similarly, but we've got folks all the way from Texas. That's a long ways with transportation as inhibited as it is. I should introduce you to Cathy. She had come from New Zealand to visit family here when the Fi– er, Espheni came. I can barely keep up with her when she talks."

What was Cochise supposed to say to that?

Apparently nothing, because Professor Mason kept talking. "I'm from not that far away myself, but some of the locals say things here that confuse me sometimes. My kids all get it though. They catch on faster when they're young."

As far as Cochise knew, "kids" were infant goats (he had seen goats in Charleston and decided that they belonged somewhere on the list of strangest creatures he had ever seen in the galaxy), but he realized that this probably wasn't what Professor Mason meant. Thankfully, Cochise had a quick mind.

"You have… offspring?" Cochise asked. He could only hope that he wasn't completely mistaken in his comprehension of what Professor Mason had said, and mildly cursed himself for not having taken more time to study humans.

"Offsp-huh, yeah. Three boys. You've met Hal and Ben. I don't think you met Matt."

Hal and Ben. Hal and Ben… ah. Cochise did know them. Hal was around quite often, and he had fought beside Ben in the liberation of harnessed children. Ben had been a fierce fighter, and Cochise actually admired him, but he knew better to approach someone who rode the highs of battle with such fury as Ben did. Hal had not been forward, but he had not been unfriendly, and Cochise appreciated that.

"Yes, I know them," Cochise acknowledged. "They are… good boys."

Professor Mason smiled. "Yeah, they are."

Cochise felt a twist of envy when he saw that smile. Volm did not smile as readily as humans did, but this was an expression of pride and affection that Cochise should have been familiar with from his own father. That very thought, though, was met with derision in his mind. Waschak-cha'ab did not smile, and he certainly did not smile at Cochise. Not since Cochise's brother had died, and that had been very long ago.

"Anyway," the Professor continued, "I think it's okay for you to call me Tom. I mean, we're all calling you Cochise, so I think it's fair for you to call me by my first name. There's no reason for you to be so formal with me."

Air huffed from Cochise's nostrils. Professor may not have been a rank, but the soldiers and officers all seemed to take their ranking system very seriously, and unless Cochise had misinterpreted, the Professor was of standing amongst them, so– "Are you not a member of the military?"

"Not exactly. I'm Weaver's Second-in-Command, but I've never been in the military. That's a long story, if you have the time for it."

There were a hundred other things that Cochise could be getting done (alright, twenty-six, but who was counting?), but those were mostly matters of supervising. Nothing needed his presence, and his team had settled in well. They would be fine on their own.

"I believe I do have the time… Tom."

oooOOOooo

It was Tom who introduced Cochise to books. Other species had books, of course, but Cochise had never had the time to indulge in them. Tom offered Cochise one to borrow, and Cochise found himself pulling it out of his pocket in every spare moment. Reading English was one thing, but reading English that was written by a human being was different. The woman who wrote this book was not one influenced by aliens or apocalypse. She was simply writing as a human in a human world, and Cochise vigorously drank in the completely foreign concepts that world presented.

Nonfiction, Tom Mason had called it, because "Fiction might be a bit much. I don't want you getting confused. Most people prefer fiction, but as far as nonfiction goes, I think that this one is pretty interesting."

Tom had not been lying. Cochise finished the book, and is head was so filled with humanity that he wanted for nothing else.

"Do you have another?" Cochise forced his tone to remain steady and not reveal that he was actually pleading for more.

"You finished that fast," Tom observed, examining the book that Cochise handed back to him. "Did you like it?"

"Very much."

"Good. Um…" Tom turned to examine the shelves that held the books. It was called a library, or so Cochise was told, which was the human equivalent of archives. "Uh… Angela's Ashes is definitely too much this early, we'll save that one for later. Oh, here, this'll do."

The book Tom handed over was twice as thick as the last one. Cochise was satisfied with its weight and texture. He flipped the pages experimentally, detecting the smell that seemed to specifically come from only books. Tom's pleased smile did not evade Cochise's notice, but he ignored it in favor of taking in another whiff of bookish scent. If he was making a fool of himself, he didn't care. Tom had proved himself to be an understanding person, and Cochise was sure that Tom could understand how attractive this smell was. Human noses were not as sensitive as a Volm's, but this scent was too strong to be missed by even them.

"Yeah, I like that smell, too."

Cochise offered Tom a small smile. "Volm do not have books. I was unfamiliar with the scent."

"No books?" Tom only looked mildly surprised. He seemed more affronted by the idea than anything else. "That's too bad. Books have always been friends of mine."

"It is too bad," Cochise agreed, still snuffling the pages. He caught a not-book smell, the tangy smell of something sweet gone old, but not rotten. It smelt dry.

Violet-tinged fingers flipped each page until a flash of orange caught Cochise's eye. It was flat, and looked stuck to the paper, so Cochise held the book wide open for Tom to examine.

"Huh!" Tom exclaimed, brushing a fingertip across the orange. "Whoever owned this book before must have pressed flowers."

"A flower?" Cochise questioned. It was obviously that, now that he looked at it, but the first thing that came to his mind when he looked at it was not flower. It was a nagging familiarity, as though he had seen it before, but it was mid-winter and no flowers were blooming on the surface.

"A Tiger Lily. My wife loved these." Cochise felt a flush of embarrassment for not having previously realized that Tom, having offspring, must also have had a mate at some point. Then again, maybe it was better that he didn't bring it up before, if Tom referred to her in past tense. "Dunno if they grow here without people planting them."

Catarius. Cochise blinked in surprise as the word came to mind unbidden. Yes, this looked exactly like a Catarius (flattened appearance aside). The color was a bit off, but other than that, it was perfect.

For as long as he could remember, Cochise had associated the Catarius with his homeworld. It was an untouchable symbol of a home he would never see. Maybe he children would see it, or his children's children, if he ever had offspring at all. That had been his driving hope for so long, but it suddenly seemed like a cold, distant hope. He would die before he ever found out if that hope would be fulfilled.

Earth, though, Earth was a closer hope. It was diverse, and alive, and holding its own against the war being raged all around it. Its people were bright and shining, unlike any that Cochise had ever encountered in the galaxy, and they… well, Cochise would be halfway to death before he would admit it, but he thought that they were beautiful in their strangeness. Tom had told him of so many amazing things that were all on one planet, more miracles and wonders than he could ever hope to see in a single lifetime. The war was practically on top of his head, and he had already seen a few for himself. The humans were so used their world that they didn't seem to realize how amazing it was. But Cochise did. He saw so much that, sometimes, he could barely take it in.

He would tell no one until he had to, but in that moment, Cochise made a decision.

Earth was home.

Thank you for reading. This was a one-shot, so there will be not be another chapter unless there's screaming and crying for it (which I doubt will happen), or something happens in the final season that demands an additional chapter.