((OOC- Backsim to before the mission briefing.))
((Starbase 118 Ops - Ensign Yael’s Quarters))
Ashley returned to his quarters after the day had ended. He’d gone to the Promenade with friends, done his days socializing after work, and was properly tired. Slipping into the sonic shower, he leaned against the glass wall and let the dirt lift from his skin, glad to be clean. Dressed in easy clothes… flannel dark purple checkered sleeping pants, and an equally dark solid purple v-neck shirt, he slipped his electro-stabilizing braces back on and was about to pick up the data padd with “Return of the King” on it…
When he saw the blinking on his computer's open screen. A message had come in. Scrubbing a hand through his hair… he realized how long it had gotten. It had been a long time since he’d last cut it, and it was scruffier, the purple tint more obvious now that it had grown out. He should have it touched up… but he kind of *liked* it scruffier. It wasn’t as severe as the buzz cut he normally sported… perhaps it suited him.
Clicking open the message, he was floored by the sudden deluge of files. Raymond! Alora’s old counselor, the one with the secret clearance. He’d talked to him *months* ago, and never expected to hear back. Asking for highly classified information didn’t usually get one very far.
But *this*... this was a true deluge.
He was already reading before he sat, turning the computer to face him properly as he took it all in. And it was *all* of it. Completely unredacted, unburnished, unedited.
Fascination and horror alike bloomed in him as he read it all. Every last aching word. About Alora. About Kalin. About the accident and the impact of it.
But that wasn’t everything. There was *ongoing* additional data included in the file, up into just the previous week… active data collection, and medical information, for the research going into a cure.
She had lost five *years* in just the past nine months, with a major regression just the past week.
While they had been ignoring and simmering at one another, she’d lost a huge chunk of time… she hadn’t come to him.
For several minutes he sat and mentally chewed over everything he now knew, glancing at the clock several times.
2136 hours. 2247 hours. 2326 hours.
At 2332 hours he realized it couldn’t wait and, without even changing or putting shoes on over his socks, he stepped out of his quarters doorway, leaving a sleeping lemur in its highest perch.
((First Officer DeVeau’s Quarters))
The door chimed. Then chimed again, and again, impatiently.
Then twice more, ignoring or ignorant of the hour on the chronometer.
Alora had been in bed. Alora had not been sleeping. Instead, Alora had been attempting to sleep but with little success. The chime had come and she had ignored it, figuring whoever it was could wait until the morning. While normally she wouldn’t go to bed until later, nightmares had prevented a good sleep the last few cycles, and so she had attempted to compensate by going early. Whomever had decided to come and ring her bell was just going to have to deal.
Except it rang again. And again. And again. Then it kept ringing, with fewer beats in between. Now Alora was just getting annoyed - until she realised that wait...she was first officer. What if it was important?
Except if it had been that important, whomever it was should have called first. Annoyed, Alora threw back the covers to her bed. Grabbing a robe of emerald green, she slipped into it and stuck her feet into the pair of white unicorn slippers, complete with silver horn - a Christmas gift from her brother, Aimé. Tying the robe around her, which hid the purple nightgown that sported a pair of purple and pink butterflies, Alora shuffled into the living room and called out -
When the door slid open there was hardly a nanosecond before the wide-eyed Denobulan hybrid pushed through it, wrapping both arms around her neck and upper body and pushing her backwards with his momentum.
It had been *years* since he’d hugged someone, thanks to his inability to touch freely. Years, and he broke the streak today.
Ashley wasn’t the biggest man on Ops. Under normal circumstances, Alora would have been able to stay upright despite his rather exuberant attack. That, however, was not a normal circumstance. She was exhausted. He was unexpected. Even more so, she could not foresee the rather aggressive manner with which he had approached and thrown his arms around her. He backed her up to the couch where they both fell into a rather convoluted contortion of bodies and limbs.
Yael: I’m sorry! I’m sorry, I was stupid. I’m sorry.
Apologies on rapid fire.
Yael: This was all my fault, and it was *stupid*, and I’m sorry!
DeVeau: I forgive you.
And there it was. What she wanted. What she had needed - no explanations. No details about whatever their argument was over. She had just wanted them to apologise for lying to her. That was it. And with that apology came the forgiveness. With that forgiveness, came the crash of the wall that had been fortified since that fateful meeting. Slowly, her arms came around him, wrapping him in her embrace. At first it was simply a light touch, as if she were fearful of hurting him. A moment later, however, it tightened, returning the gesture with as much force and enthusiasm, if with less vocalising.
Yael: He was trying to protect me… the idiot won’t stop doing that!
He meant Meeks, of course, and he didn’t really think he was an idiot. His arms tightened around her, not caring that they had spilled over, and he grit his teeth against the horde of spiders crawling up his body from his limbs.
DeVeau: Protect you? Protect you from what?
Her voice was soft, the warmth of her breath stirring the hair that fell across his ear. She wasn’t quite sure what he was talking about, but if he wanted to get it off his chest, she would listen. Just like he would for her.
Yael: From my own stupidity… from myself… from my stupid decisions… he’s an *idiot*. He shouldn’t *do* that! He and Kherys fell out, and *you’re* mad, and it’s all because of what *I* did...
His grip tightened again, and though he very nearly lay atop her, if askew somewhat, he didn’t exactly have the strength to crush her. He hadn’t even seen what she’d been wearing, the unicorn slippers, the robe, not even as it had fluttered around her legs when they fell backwards. His skin crawled, but he refused to let go.
What he did? What did he do? Alora had asked, but he had said it was none of her business. That had been fine, it hadn’t been the fact he was hiding something from her…
No. No, that was a lie. The fact he was hiding something from her did bother her. It hurt. At the same time, she was more than willing to respect that privacy they had so craved rather than satisfy her curiosity if it had come down to it. Now, though, was he offering to tell her? She hesitated to ask, so she didn’t. She simply sat there, hugging him, though her hold upon him tightened just a little.
Yael: I kept it secret from him… the Theorons, I never told him. Because I knew he’d hold back… things would be different… they’re *always* different when people *know*. But I was wrong *again.* He dragged me out of that bar, and he didn’t care. I kept secrets from him, and he didn’t care. I smashed his face in, and he *didn’t* *CARE*.
It was turning into a bit of a diatribe by this point, about how he couldn’t push the Marine out of his life.
DeVeau: Ashley, I don’t understand.
She didn’t. Not one bit. Why had they fought? For a moment, it was as if he was going to spill it all, and spill Ashley did, but she was no closer to the reason. No reason for the sudden argument and fist fight with Tony, no reason for his unwilling to share with, no reason why he had actually lied. She was trying to understand, but she was missing some rather pertinent pieces of the puzzle.
Yael: ::his grip tightened again, barely:: Raymond got me your file. ALL of it. We’re both running out of time, and I’m *wasting* it.
Her arms didn’t unwrap from around him, she didn’t release his hold, but within his embrace, Alora stiffened. Raymond had passed along information about her, she had known that, but at the mention of him, she automatically reacted. Too much was wrapped up with that name, wrapped up in the memory of what had happened, and she couldn’t help the response. However, a moment later, she relaxed.
DeVeau: You already told me that.
Yael: You didn’t *come* to me last week… when it happened again, you didn’t even tell me…
He wasn’t making sense. Still clinging to her, Alora kept her own hold on him. He was upset, but she couldn’t make hide nor hair of what he was trying to tell her.
DeVeau: what are you talking about, Ashley? What happened last week?
Yael: It *stole* more from you… why didn’t you *come* to me?
His fingers clawed in tighter now where he held her as the spidery sensation ran through into his bones.
Alora’s mouth opened as she started to ask what he meant, but then it hit her. Last week. Something stolen from her.
Time. Time had been stolen from her.
She blinked, the sudden sting of tears driving their way forward, a couple even managing to escape and trickle down her cheek.
It was what? It was all right? Everything was fine? There was nothing to worry about? All of those were lies, lies that she tried to tell people so they wouldn’t know. She tried to hide behind them, hide the sorrow, hide the anger, hide the fear that continued to pace deep within, threatening to consume her if she let them. She couldn’t let them. She couldn’t…
The tears burned hotter, and her vision blurred. Soon, the trail of the original tears were followed by another. Then another. And another. On and on they fell until they became a torrent, and Alora’s body rocked with the echo of her sobs.
The Denobulan hybrid held her, fingers clawing possibly too hard in his grip on her, refusing to give in to the march of the crawling, internalized disgust formulating inside his body. He said nothing else for as long as she cried… he just grit his teeth and, by force of sheer will alone, held tightly onto her.
It had been a long time since she’d been held for so long. Max had been the last to hug her, and that had been far too fleeting, and she’d wanted it to continue, wanted him to keep her in his embrace, but he had cut it off, and she’d been left alone.
And now? Now Ashley was there. Ashley, who hated to be touched. Hated it to the point where he visibly cringed if she lifted a hand even just to touch his shoulder. The man who couldn’t abide her fingers lightly brushing his hand. He was desperately clinging to her as if her life depended on it.
She wept, the tears wetting his hair, damping the collar of his shirt. Her body quaked with the utter horror and dread that she tried so hard to keep hidden, to shove into the deepest corners of the closet so she didn’t have to look at it. She wept, until the tears came no more, her body expunged of its energy.
He just held her, feeling she needed the moment to just let it out now that it had started. It was several long minutes before Ashley finally spoke, after she had seemed to run down.
Yael: ::through grit teeth, his clawed hands clawing harder:: … A… lora…
Alora buried her head against his shoulder, the last remnants of tears brushed off on her shirt. She sniffed, taking a moment, then asking softly.
Yael: … Let… *go!*
He shoved up from her, his back arching, and he *growled*. Actually growled. His eyes were screwed shut, and he pushed off without looking where he was going, stumbling. Keeping his feet he sent his arms around himself.
One hand came up high onto the back of his neck, the other up onto his bicep.
And he *clawed* down his skin with another growling, blind shout, leaving bright angry red marks on pale skin.
The gutteral sound had come so unexpectedly, and the harshness of what he said hit her like a slap in the face. Still steeped in her sorrow, Alora cringed, pressing against the back of the couch, the pillows folding in slightly around her, as if attempting to protect her from the animal that had suddenly turned on her.
Yael: I’m… sorry, I can’t… any longer…
He grit his teeth again and tried to get control of it. He stepped near the couch again, but instead of sitting on it, he went down on his knees and leaned against it near her. Close to her, but not touching her, his heart racing and the clawmarks on his skin burning. At least if it hurt, it didn’t feel like he should crawl out of his own skin.
Alora swallowed, but nodded. There had been no malice intended, no desire to hurt her feelings, but hurt it did anyway. Hands which had clutched at her chest fell to her lap. If he had simply held her, she would have stayed there, simply grateful for the embrace, for the touch she had longed for yet had been denied. He’d given it, but then withdrew and the warmth of him slowly seeped away, leaving her chilled. One hand reached up, rubbing once at each eye to rid them of any moisture.
DeVeau: I’m sorry. ::She whispered, wishing he would just hug her again, but she also knew what a struggle it was.::
He sat there for a long, long moment in silence, just breathing. His fingers slid up to claw at the back of his neck, and down on his stomach. Breathe. BREATHE. His hands clawed, leaving white streaks that turned red as he failed to convince himself to stop.
Yael: ::eyes on the floor:: … you okay? … I didn’t plan this… I just needed to *talk* to you.
Him launching at her, or her crying.
DeVeau: I’m okay. You’re not.
He was literally marking himself. Not drawing blood, but still. Waving her hand at him so she could get his attention without touching him, she wound it to the side, then back the other way so he would follow it toward her.
Looking up at her insistence, he saw her swollen red eyes.
Yael: You’re not okay.
She didn’t respond to that. Her tears had stained her face, her cheeks were red with the heightened emotions that had suddenly burst from the dam that had been holding them back. Even as they spoke, that dam was suddenly reinforced. He’d let out some of the tension, some of the pressure, but not all. Not all. It would return, it would build back up, and then?
And then she’d just deal again.
DeVeau: Are you okay?
He wasn’t. But she asked it anyway.
Yael: ::wanting it to be true so he could be here for her:: I’m fine...
Ugh, he was such a liar, but Alora let it go. This was one lie she was familiar with, the same dance they did back and forth. This one was expected. Her voice dropped, almost a whisper and she wondered if she should say anything, but he had brought it up.
DeVeau: You were telling me something.
Back to him. Not on her, but him. She needed to hear him - and, maybe, he needed her to listen.
Yael: I was telling you a *lot* of somethings.
DeVeau: Okay. Maybe you can tell me now that we’re both calmer?
When he spoke again, it no longer had the growl of discontent to it, but his nails continued to drag down the side of his neck and down onto his chest. The other hand left his stomach and reached for his ankle, clawing up the side of his leg. The motion was slower now, but he wasn’t being gentle.
Yael: … sorry I made you cry… I’m a dick… Anthony said so. You can too.
DeVeau: I...prefer not.
Yael: That’s what the fight was about. I made assumptions about him. He was pissed… he was right to be.
Lt. Cmdr. Alora DeVeau
Starbase 118 Ops
Lieutenant JG Ashley Yael
Starbase 118 Ops