((Dekas’ Quarters, Floor 35, Anchorage))
((Definitely middle of the night on Denali, but an early afternoon on Aurelia))
((Interplanetary Timezones, am I right? Euf.))
Dekas paced his new quarters as he had some nights before this. This time, however, he had a reason to stay in the quarters. He occasionally glanced at his bed where there sat a PADD. He was starting to wish he’d told his family to initiate the communication instead of the other way around. After he’d flown, he excitedly calculated the time differences from the station to home, and finally messaged his parents about saying hello more often, as he regretted the sudden silence he’d left them in the past few months. And they had, of course, been delighted just to hear from him, and easily took to planning a time with him to talk over more than just messages.
The excitement in the moment didn’t account for the nerves he felt after the fact.
He knew they understood his distance, but hadn’t reached out since he’d gone back to the Juneau. Not even after the assimilation. He should have called them after that, but he hadn’t, he couldn’t. They didn’t know how close they’d come to losing him, and he wasn’t sure he wanted them to know. But they would recognize that something had changed. It wouldn’t matter if he was the happiest he could be, or if the tone he used was his most upbeat. They would see something. If he was unlucky enough, they wouldn’t realize it was an upsetting change, and they would say something or ask about it somehow.
He didn’t know what he’d say if they asked.
For a moment he froze up and his pacing stilled at the thought. Immediately thinking up every excuse he could to get out of this. He could tell them that he’d fallen asleep, it’d been a long day. That some minor emergency came up that required his presence. That he’d eaten something and got food poisoning somehow; he was certainly nauseous enough to feel like it’d be convincing in person. (Unfortunately, this wasn’t in person. They’d know he was lying, and they’d be far too understanding about it.)
It would also be an obvious tell, and they’d ask about it unquestionably when they finally actually talked. That meant he couldn’t avoid this. If he was lucky, they’d see it as a good change and he could easily stick to less awful thoughts. He wasn’t feeling very lucky. He was more than frustrated with the fact that he’d half-triggered himself already, and the fact that it was extremely likely he’d end up in a terrible state of mind if someone pushed just the wrong button. He didn’t want to deal with a full trigger. Not with them. Or anyone, preferably.
He’d been given a ribbon for recovering a few ceremonies back, after all. He was supposed to be Recovered™. It wouldn’t do to seem like he hadn’t, or like this was still affecting him at all. It felt like it shouldn’t still be affecting him. He’d talked to a counselor about it. He’d said all he needed to say, right? He shouldn’t need to say more.
Why would he need to say more?
(Maybe he needed to message the Station’s new counselor about this more than he liked to admit. Lilly, with two L’s. Technically 3-L’s. But you couldn’t say that because then people would start spelling it Lillly, Thorne.)
oO Stop stalling, Dekas. You can message Lillly later. Oo
He stepped toward his bed to sit cross-legged on it, took a deep breath in, and touched the screen to make the communication on the exhale.
In the seconds it took for it to properly connect he had to force his thoughts away from the nearly paralyzing anxiety and think about what he could actually tell them. The good things. There were many of those.
Of course, for all of his overthinking, he hadn’t considered his emotions about just seeing the visual of another Aurelian, especially his mother. The second he did he had to force himself not to tear up purely because he missed her.
Dekas: An shav’ii. (Aurelian for: “hello mom.”)
Zuka: ::with a gentle fondness:: An asche zjabi. (Aurelian for: “hello, heart-song.”)
The little petname wrecked him. Instant tears in his eyes.
Dekas: ::voice cracking:: How are you?
Zuka: I’m wonderful. My spirit is restored knowing you are safe. More importantly, how are you?
Dekas: ::emotional laughter:: Failing to be calm about any of this.
Zuka: Emotions are not indicative of failure. I missed you, too. I miss you still. My heart breaks that I can’t comfort you right now, but it is nice to see you.
He had to wipe his eyes and take a few deep breaths to try and calm down. He was trying to talk to his family, not end up a wreck before he could say anything.
Dekas: Ignoring the fact I’m in tears, you have no idea how comforting it is just to hear you say so.
Zuka: I understood tears were a possibility. You’ve always had such a tender soul. It’s why it’s only me right now. I thought it easier if you started with just one of us. Let you have a few minutes to feel it without feeling too overwhelmed. I’ll bring the rest in as soon as you give the word.
Dekas: Am I really that predictable?
Zuka: ::head tilt:: You’ve cried over a flower before.
Dekas: It was just so beautiful!
Zuka: ::soft chuckling:: I know. I remember. Deep purple hibiscus type, with a shimmer that looked like stardust in sunlight and had dew sliding off it just such a way. To some, it would just have been a flower. Maybe even to me. Mm, if only people could just once see through your eyes and appreciate the beauty in small details down to the dewdrop the way you can. I miss having you here for such reasons among many others. ::pause:: But the universe you explore deserves you, and is better for your presence within it. You are meant to shine wherever you are. Because you are you, and you are marvelous, as you so enjoy saying.
How deeply he’d missed the Aurelian tendency to speak love like poetry. It felt like being wrapped in a hug. He laughed quietly and wiped a few more tears from his face, but found himself much more at ease.
Dekas: I love you.
He hadn’t said it out loud to anyone in too long and it felt freeing to finally say it again.
Zuka: I love you, too, Dekas. More than words can say.
Dekas: You can tell whoever is around that I’m okay to talk now.
Zuka gave a two-tone whistle over her shoulder, and in came his dad, four of his sisters, one of his brothers, and one of his sibling’s kids who happened to be visiting with excellent timing. Somewhere deep down he’d hoped to see Koori, but he found himself unsurprised that she wasn’t there this time. Perhaps next time.
There was a wave of emotion seeing those who were there and the very casual affection between everyone. Things like that made him feel something between loneliness that he didn’t have it currently and happiness that he would always have it if he went back. But he managed to steel himself enough to tell them about many of the things he’d experienced since he’d been gone.
About the friends he’d made, Sera, Kettick, Tomas, Han, others… even the Captain whether or not she knew he held her in his mind as both an inspiring leader and a friend as such. He mentioned the things he’d accomplished without realizing he would. Promotions, job changes, location changes. He told them about some of the fact that he could fly places now, which was not something he’d been able to do much with before.
In return, his family told him they were proud of him and filled him in on things he’d missed on the Homefront. At least one more niece or nephew hatched. He’d started losing count of how many of those he had now. And they told him about their days. Their ups, and their downs.
He didn’t avoid the talk of stress when it came back to his turn. The pirates, the shaking ships. The confidence, followed by the occasional moments of insecurity about changes in role, how competent he really was, or how people saw him. A little about the disconnect within himself. He pointedly tried his best to skirt around the part where he’d nearly died a few months back. But somewhere in the process, he’d begun to stammer as his hand went to the side of his neck while he looked for words he could say instead.
After an hour it ended back with only himself and his mother.
Just before he could almost reluctantly utter his goodbyes she mirrored the neck touch while looking right at him. And he wasn’t sure whether or not he hated the fact that she recognized it as an anxious tick, and that it was more than anxiety about reaching out.
Zuka: How are you, really?
Stupidly, his hand went right to his neck again.
Dekas: I… I am not ready to talk about it. It hurts so much sometimes I can hardly stand it.
She tilted her head, thinking, then looked sad for him. And he had to fight his guilt about that sadness.
Zuka: You took on lightning*. I don’t know in what way, and I respect that you need time. But I am sorry all the same that it was an aspect you had to take upon yourself.
Dekas: It’s okay. Or it’s not. But I am safe.
Zuka: Know that I am always here when you are ready, and I am here even if you never feel ready. I will listen either way.
Dekas: Thank you.
His mom nodded.
Zuka: Mm, I can tell you are tired. So I believe it is time I let you go to bed. When you wake up, remember that the steps you take might be painful, and the thunder that follows you might seem deafening at times. But the thunder is just a sound behind you, and you are the powerful source ahead of it. So strike the ground and blaze the forward path.**
Dekas: I’ll do my best.
Zuka: That is all I can ask for. Rest well, Dekas. I love you.
Dekas: Love you. If you see her… tell Koori I said hello. And have a good rest of your day.
The communication ended, and he wished it didn’t hurt for it to end. But he also felt a weight off his shoulders knowing that the initial conversation was handled, and next time would be better.
[End / NT. Some Dekas & Bird Mom for y’all. Because Bird Mom is the ultimate motivational speaker, and hype woman.]
* “To take on lightning” Aurelian idiom that means to go through something and come into a new aspect of self in the aftermath. Usually through something painful. Relates to one of their more popular Phoenix mythos stories in which the Phoenix reforms for the first time and takes on/becomes the aspect of lightning in a very dramatic fashion.
** “Strike the ground and blaze the forward path.” Also related to the lightning myth. It means something like, “Kick its ass, you’ve got this.” The Aurelians live for such phrases and colorful metaphors, and I clearly have too much free time if I’m coming up with mythos to create these weird, but strangely coherent, idioms with.
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