((OOC- Backsim to before the mission briefing.))
((First Officer DeVeau’s Quarters))
DeVeau: After the explosion, before they were able to put me into status, I lost three years. Usually, the episodes come at regular intervals. Last week, it came early, I was blindsided and had another. Someone somehow knew and found me, then took me to sickbay. I found out I’d lost another two years.
Ashley leaned there against the couch, sat on the floor and listened as she spoke. To have one's life shortened was one thing. To have it carved away piece by piece, that was another.
DeVeau: So in the last nine or ten months, I’ve lost five years. If the condition continues, if I keep having these episodes, and lose time at this rate, I’ve got about four or five years left.
He wanted to ask if there was truly nothing to be done. No treatment, no work toward a cure, but he’d read the report front to back, as it were, and knew the answer already. He *almost* reached out to her… but his hand paused, waiting in the air before retreating. He didn’t want to *feel* like that anymore, and he already had drying blood under his fingernails.
Alora watched his attempt, schooling her expression carefully. If only he knew how much she wanted to be touched. To be held. But he couldn’t, and she didn’t have anyone else. Her throat tightened and she looked away.
Yael: ::accepting it for what it was:: I’ll be here with you the whole way.
It took a moment, the tightness of her throat wrestling for control. Eventually, she managed a small smile and a half-choked -
There was another quiet moment, then Ashley set a flat hand to the floor and pushed himself up to his feet.
Yael: Do you mind if I…?
He motioned to the restroom, lifting a hand to his neck where the singular long drop of blood was drying. He was feeling more steady and didn’t want to be walking around the station bloodied up.
It only took him a moment to clean up after he got the okay, then stepped back into the sitting room, prepared to leave her for the night.
Yael: If *anything* happens, you comm me. I don’t care what it is, when it is.
She almost told him to stop. She almost told him to not go. Except the words wouldn’t form and they lodged themselves in her chest, the desire strong, but their stubbornness stronger. She was able to conjure a flickering smile, then nodded slightly before some other words were spoken instead.
DeVeau: Okay. ::She managed, then quietly added another.:: Thank you.
What she needed, he couldn’t give. He’d hugged her, but doing so had literally caused him to attempt to claw away his skin. She wasn’t about to ask him to do that again, no matter how much she wanted or needed the physical comfort she so greatly craved.
There was hesitation in her tone, so he didn’t make for the door right away.
Yael: … Are you sure? I can stay longer…?
She hesitated, then answered softly.
DeVeau: I wouldn’t mind if you stayed.
There was a silent pause, and he made his decision easily.
Yael: Well… then that’s that.
((The Next Morning))
The pair of friends had spent the late hours remaining of the evening talking, about important things and silly things alike. There was a bit more on the lighter side, thankfully, before they were both yawning.
Alora was the first to go down, and Ashley insisted she tuck into her bed and get some sleep. He procured a data pad with some reading material and sat next to her, leaning against the headboard, his legs stretched out and crossed at the ankles. It wasn’t long before he thought she was asleep, so he tried not to move about, not wanting to wake her after having kept her up already. For a while, he kept reading.
He just stayed there with her, not letting her be alone. He pursued some library material until he felt the need to sleep himself, several quiet hours later. Laying back on the opposite side of the bed, he didn’t move to get beneath any of the blankets… it was plenty warm already, so he just lay on top of them, intent on shutting his eyes for a while.
By morning, without realizing as he was deeply asleep, he’d instinctively moved to snuggle in close to her warmth, an arm draped over her middle and hand set lazily on her shoulder, a leg crossed even closer over one of hers. He breathed slowly, evenly, his forehead very near hers. An arm was tucked up under his head as a pillow. It was his face she awoke to, the shadows darkening his violet to gray. She blinked in the darkness, met with the visage of her dear friend, a gentle smile slipping over her lips. A moment later, she shifted, attempting to slip out of bed without awakening him.
When she moved, it made the deeply sleeping Denobulan stir… but he didn’t move away. Rather, he moved to pull her in closer, lifting his jaw above her forehead as he wrapped her up tighter. His lower arm slid beneath her, wrapping her in a great, close embrace, the sheets trapped up between them. There was no sign at all of his emotional hang-up to touch while he slept, and he sighed contentedly.
For a moment, Alora tensed, ready to flee if Ashley gave any indication that he was going to go manic at their closeness. Eventually, however, she realised that he was still deeply asleep and slowly, she began to relax. A few moments later, she dared to draw a little closer to him, basking in the warmth he offered and reveling in the touch of someone she cared about, and just enjoyed being held as she drifted back to sleep.
The pair slept another half hour or so, comfortably wrapped up together. Ashley began to stir, slowly. Gradually he started to wonder why his alarm wasn’t going off. Then about how *warm* it was. Everything felt a little different, in ways he wasn’t awake enough to describe. Shifting his leg slightly, he realized it was stuck… there was a weight on top if it. There was also a weight on his arm, which was tingling from having fallen asleep. And there was a floral scent he knew, but didn’t understand where it was coming from.
Finally he took a deeper breath, arched his back to stretch somewhat, and amethyst eyes cracked open.
Realization began to rise within him that he wasn’t alone. He wasn’t in his quarters, and the floral scent was… Alora’s hair. His body went rigid and tense, his grip on her shoulder tightening... and he immediately tried rolling back and away to put a few inches between them. However, his limbs were wrapped beneath her and in the blankets… his breath began to catch in his throat… he didn’t want to shove her, or yank free, but…
She was warm. Pleasantly so, and in the depths of her dreams, there was someone beside her. His dark eyes turned to her, his smile, the type of smile given only to her, no one else, greeted her with the advent of the day. Shifting, she moved closer to the body that lay next to her, seeking his embrace.
Her arm wrapped closer around his chest, and his eyes hit the ceiling. She was still asleep, and he was completely stuck. The sensation from the pressure was starting to crawl through him, but… he tried to wrap his *rational* brain around the feeling. What was really happening? This was *just* in his head. It wasn’t real. Normal people did this without thinking… why couldn’t he? She wasn’t even *doing* anything. She was simply *present*.
Crawling flesh and embattled mind, he stiffened his posture, closed his eyes, and remained as he was… still. Regulate the breathing. He could *manage* this.
For about thirty seconds, he *did* manage it.
Then, he used his free hand to grip her shoulder, giving her a bit of a shake… perhaps a little stronger than one might call gently.
Yael: ::attempting to regulate his tone, but failing slightly:: Alora…?
She stirred, but only a little. The image was attempting to fade away, the dream escaping her. No. She didn’t want that. She wanted him to stay. In response, her arm tightened around him, drawing him closer to her.
Yael: ::restrained, but more sharply whispering:: Alora!
It receded further, fading into the shadows, his darkness melting into them, the last light of his smile dimming and her eyes finally opened. She blinked, noting there was a body there.
She murmured his name, still half asleep, still desperately attempting to cling to that last vestige of the dream.
Yael: No… not Kalin…
That was a stab to his heart, realizing she was dreaming about her beloved... but he couldn’t stay where he was much longer. His voice catching, his body tense and stomach clenching, his breathing was becoming more rapid.
Yael: Ash. It’s me… I might *implode* if you don’t move soon…
Her eyes fluttered, long dark lashes sweeping up and down briskly before she finally kept them open. Fog seemed to disperse slowly, for it was another moment before the green of her eyes drew some clarity and she sat up suddenly.
She was up and there were a few inches between them now, and the blood flow to his arm instantly began to improve. The numbness turning to prickling pain was preferable to how the *rest* of him felt, but he was trying to stay in that mind-space where his rational thoughts could trap the psychological effects, as if in a bubble.
It worked… relatively terribly. He knew he might do something unfortunate, so grasped the blanket beneath him in tight fists to hold his hands away from his skin. He didn’t get up, but drew up his knees as he tried to focus on his breathing. Not wanting Alora to be alarmed, he spoke before she could.
Yael: It’s fine! I’ve got it. It’s *fine.*
The death grip he had on the blanket and his ragged breathing proved it.
DeVeau: No, it’s not.
Alora sighed and inched further away from him, allowing a little more room between her and Ashley. It had been a lovely dream. With the realisation of who had been there, however, the bubble had burst. Immediately, tears threatened behind her eyes and she wrestled with them, attempting to keep them at bay.
It took a solid minute before he pushed up from the mattress, still puffing somewhat and looking distracted, the sheets still in a vice-like grip as he slid his legs off the side of her bed. He dragged a hand free of the grip and sent it against his face as he tried to really wake up.
Yael: Sorry. ::rubbing his eyes:: Sorry. I’m working on it.
DeVeau: I can see that.
Yael: I was… really comfortable and warm, actually. Until I realized…
Realised that she was there and he was being touched. As much as she knew it wasn’t his fault, Alora couldn’t help but feel a sting from it. Perhaps she’d let a little of her thoughts slip through her expression.
Yael: Believe me… I’d love to just be normal. ::pausing:: I haven’t really explained it to Ithri… I tried to, with Wyn. He seemed to understand… but acceptance and understanding are two entirely different animals.
He was still wrestling off the last of the crawling sensation, but it wasn’t as bad as it had been the night before. He was babbling sleepily, in need of some coffee. Glancing at the chronometer he sighed in relief, as he had another two hours before his walk-in block in counseling began.
DeVeau: Yeah. They are.
Alora knew she was struggling with that. While she had no romantic intentions toward Ashley by any stretch of the imagination, he’d become one of her closest friends. With others, she could easily sit and cuddle and just enjoy the closeness. With him? That just wasn’t possible. Even then...
Yael: ::trying to joke:: I wonder if this counts toward my immersion therapy?
That drew out a hint of a smile from the newly minted first officer.
DeVeau: Maybe. Um. I guess you should go. I should get up. Get started with the day.
Understanding and accepting that he was being kicked out.
Yael: Right. Duties and such.
He stood, stretching slightly. He would have to make the so-called march of shame back to his quarters still in his sleeping clothes. Not that it mattered that much to him, really. He made his way to the door.
Yael: ::stopping as the door opened:: Hmm?
DeVeau: You know I love you, right?
Yael: ::smiling at her:: And I love you. Now get to work, you slacker.
His smile turned into a humored grin, and he stepped out the door into the corridor.
Lt. Cmdr. Alora DeVeau
Starbase 118 Ops
Lieutenant JG Ashley Yael
Starbase 118 Ops