((Deck 1, Bridge, USS Arrow))
…no, that wasn’t where he was.
The deck oughtn’t be sandy. There shouldn’t be a breeze on a starship- if there was it was tantamount to death, but here it was calm. There needn’t be a comforting, moon-like glow, filtering through leaves of palms and all manner of alien and yet familiar plant life.
There was only one explanation. He wasn’t on the ship.
He was on Casperia Prime.
And thus, he should act like it.
((Beach, Casperia Prime))
So as he stepped off the podium, intent on returning to the business of running a ship, and spotted the approach of someone he would trust with everything he was, he resolved that the ship- in all its meaning and import- could wait one more hour. One more day.
He didn’t want to look right at her. Part of him feared he’d see the shimmering edges of a hologram, or the fading details of a dream. Months- years, at this point- they’d been together, and Shayne, grumpy, uncertain and maladjusted tyrant that he was, still couldn’t quite believe it.
The waves were lapping, and he was meeting the dying day with the only company that would help him see the new opportunities in its passing.
MacKenna: Walk with me?
He knew it was more than a simple invitation. The path before them was flowing and soft, punctuated by shale and shells, and the foamy beachfroth that so often cleansed seas of detritus. But their legs would carry them where the wind refused, and their hands… well, their hands would have other things to be occupied with.
Shayne: Of course.
She held her hand in his, and he felt her wrap his fingers up in hers. Years of lone operating left him wondering- why? Why was this not a burden? Something to run from? Something to fear? Why was this different? Why was she different? And the answer was very plain- he wanted to run to her, not away. He looked at her, not at the scenery. Her.
Shayne: You know… I may have figured it out.
It seemed vulgar to talk about professionalism, jobs, roles, here on this beach, on this beatific oasis. But like so much on their lips and minds, it was more than it seemed.
Shayne: We… I… have great power, to do what needs to be done in the Isles. I have great responsibility, to intercede and act and uphold and prevent. And for the longest time, I was looking for the third ingredient. The last piece of the puzzle. The thing that would make the equation reasonable. And there isn’t one.
One side of the triangle had been missing, inscrutable. Without it, he’d been making decisions and determinations without a guiding star. The training he’d had, the experience he’d taken unto himself… all of it felt utterly worthless in the face of such newness, such devastation and blistering wonder. But there was no third side. Not beyond him. There was no perfect integer that would give the answers he needed, or the correct solution to every problem. And it made so much sense, at that moment. Dougherty. Maxwell. Pressman. Jameson. Leyton. Commanding figures in Starfleet’s history that, like Shayne, had sought that third side, and finding nothing to fill the void, elected to create it in their own image. Shayne had always wondered what set those men- decent, hard-working, successful people- apart from those that still had Starfleet careers.
Now he knew.
The revelation that he’d been laboring under for all of shore leave, that had been percolating since their last engagements, and had been unraveling slowly and carefully under his internal scrutiny, now came into full focus.
Shayne: I am the third side.
He wasn’t sure if he could explain it better, even to MacKenna. Perhaps she understood already. She knew to lead. She knew to guide others, bring them to their best. And she, unlike him, knew how to make families work. It didn’t come naturally to his chaffed, calloused self, yet she would hold and help him all the same.
Here he was, rambling about himself. And yet… he wasn’t regretful. He wasn’t afraid he’d given too much away. And he knew that she’d share if something painful or frustrating was on her mind. He knew she would.
Shayne: We… really need to do this more often. I will make it a priority.
He turned to face her, stopping for a moment against the waves.
Shayne: As you are. As you will be.
Captain Randal Shayne