Ensign Maria Alvarez - Of Cake and Collins

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Aug 5, 2021, 2:55:49 AM8/5/21
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(( USS Arrow, Deck 5 - “Living History Annex” ))


Getting the paperwork done to designate a tiny little section of Arrow as a shipboard museum was no mean feat, but Maria had done it.  It really wasn’t much more than a couple full height climate-controlled display cases, a little round table, and a couple comfy couch-chairs in front of an aft-facing window at the tail end of a hall that went nowhere besides machinery spaces.  The cases displayed a variety of discoveries she and the crew had made in the process of cleaning out the cargo bays.


Most prominent was the fully-functioning moonshine stil safely locked away with the words “break in case of emergency” written on the glass protecting it.  It seemed only sensible to permit certain allowances should an unfortunate crewmember find themselves the last person on a dying ship.  Other than that, it would only be retrieved on special “Experiencing History” days, according to the regulations.


The stil, however, was not why Maria was down on deck five.  Her head hurt enough after the insane ploy to pull off a dance while in someone else’s body using a neural collar, so she had no desire to inflict a hangover of even greater magnitude mere weeks later.  Instead, it was a lovely, quiet little spot to escape from the rest of the ship and eat an unhealthy amount of carrot cake.  Docked to Deep Space 3, it made for the perfect vantage to watch ships and shuttles come and go.


Combadge and uniform safely back in her quarters, she was as off-duty as could be in a white top and tailored, baby blue blazer-like covering made of a soft, comfortable fabric textured enough to make it look more sophisticated than it was.  Still, she had little doubt about who the heavy footsteps coming down the hall belonged to, or why they were coming in her direction.  A bearded reflection appearing in the spaceward window confirmed what she already guessed.


Alvarez: Commander…


She turned to him, and offered a slight smile as if that would distract from her use of his rank.  She motioned for him to take the other couch seat with a fork full of cake.

Collins: Response


Alvarez: Nah, I was expecting you eventually.  Might as well choose my ground.


She chuckled, realizing she did sound a little like a bad holonovel villain making a last stand for just a second.  She unceremoniously shoved a piece of cake in her mouth.


Collins: Response


Alvarez: Well, I’m eating cake alone, but otherwise?  Pretty good actually.  Replicate you a piece?


She asked as if he had much choice.  She had already keyed the buttons before she was done asking.


Collins: Response


Alvarez: I bet Regan would say carrot cake’s a sacrilege :: She laughed. :: But I like it.


Having passed a piece, she settled back into the slightly oversized chair, tucking in her legs rather like a cat.  A quiet moment settled in that Maria knew Quentin wouldn’t be able to let pass.  She saw his inner wheels working away, figuring out what to say, and all she could do was grin ever more.


Collins: Response


She laughed and held up a hand, stopping him from what was doubtlessly going to turn into a long and winding apology which she had no desire to sit through.  She had a good notion of how deeply held and difficult to express his feelings were.  However adorable, even amusing, she found the apologies, they were equally tiresome.  Especially when he couldn’t have been much more wrong about how she felt.  She’d accepted the risk whole-heartedly.  Sure, she couldn’t have known something quite so gonzo was going to happen, but neither could he. 


Alvarez: Oh, Quentin.  :: She shook her head. ::  Don’t you dare apologize, unless you wanna get smacked.  You were in my body.  In my head.  Do you seriously think I hold you even remotely responsible?


Collins: Response


Alvarez: Who are we kidding?  :: She suddenly grinned. ::  It was awesome!  It’s not everyday you get to literally face down your demons.  Sure, I could have gone without the disturbing imagery and uncomfortable truths, but that’s what therapy’s for, right?  I should be thanking you.  Heck, maybe next time I’ll dream up some heavy weapons so I can rip and tear my way through that hellish mindscape.  Y’know, really work some stuff out!


She laughed a vibrant, healing laugh.  It was probably that reckless humor that earned her the reputation for almost manic insanity in the face of danger, but it was how she genuinely felt and operated - the stories and challenges were something to be relished.  But it was also partly a coping mechanism, designed to put on a brave face while she worked through what she knew, deep down, would be a long and difficult process.  There was no avoiding the work.  She knew that now better than ever, but she also needed to be able to not just survive but thrive while she took those steps.  She had a sense Quentin would understand that quirk of hers better than anyone else aboard.


Collins: Response


She finally settled from her jokes, turning quietly and patiently serious.  She knew they needed to have a real conversation.  Suddenly, she smiled again, but this time in the genuine way of a close friend.


Alvarez: Before I forget - I have something for you!


She pulled out a long red-and-gold feather.  The fine, iridescent threads gleamed and glittered beautifully, painting Maria’s hand in its light.  It was the prop she’d used for her performance of the Firebird, which she hoped Collins recognized from the Bairiri.  Though for use on stage, up close it was immaculately detailed and marvelously crafted.  She reached across and passed it to Quentin.


Alvarez: It won’t magically summon me, but it represents something important.  Whether we like it or not, we share a very unusual bond now.  You need to know I’m not afraid of whatever curse you think you might have.  In fact, I defy it.  Fernandez, my version of Faraday, he called me something that’s stuck with me - “lady of wind and fire.”  :: She caught his gaze. :: Apt, don’t you think?


She took a breath, letting the connection between the gift and the name and their shared experiences sink in.


Alvarez: At first I thought he was using my mind to tear me down, but now I think something of how you see me creeped in there too.  I thought it was a name to deride my flaws, but now I realize it’s also part of my strength.  I was afraid of him at first, but now I think he’s afraid of me.  Or at least he should be.  :: A beat. ::  I don’t know what strength I have to help you fight whatever is coming, but I want you to have this as a reminder that every last bit of it is yours whenever you need it.


Collins: Response


Tag/TBC...


Ensign Maria Alvarez
Ops Officer, USS Arrow
A239710MA0
Wiki Operator
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