((Starbase 118 - Deck 830 North, Apartment 49C.))
Alora didn’t say a word, just sat there. It wasn’t that she was speechless. Oh no, there were a million things she could say to him. A million ways she could relate. A million offerings she could give. It didn’t matter though. Nothing she could say or do would have helped. He had been holding it in for so long without anyone to confide in, and now someone was there, he was letting loose. She wouldn’t interfere with that. She knew he needed it.
The words ‘it’s okay’ wanted to spring forth from her lips, but Alora clamped down on them before they had the chance to escape. She knew good and well it wasn’t okay. It never would be okay. His father was gone, and that was something that could never be changed. Arturo had lost someone he loved, and that was a fact that could never be changed. Arturo’s life had this gaping hole, and that was a fact that could never be changed. All she could do was sit there, one hand resting gently on his back so that he knew he wasn’t alone, so that he knew she shared in his sorrow, so that he knew what was okay was to allow himself to actually /feel/ something.
He had no idea how long he was sat there like that, his face a waterfall of tears and snot as he ugly-cried into his hands. He could feel a hand on his back, pretty much the only thing grounding him to the room as his mask didn’t just slide, but collapsed utterly. Shattered into a million pieces as he unexpectedly let his guard down.
Maxwell: I’m sorry
His voice had lost it’s usual warm edge, replaced by an audible tremor as spoke.
DeVeau: Don’t say that. Don’t be sorry. There’s no reason to be sorry.
If anything, Alora wished she could let loose like that, especially with someone she hardly knew. Their interaction had been minimal and brief, but she was glad he was able to open himself to letting it go. She hoped he would go see a counselor, be able to open himself more. Now if only she could follow her own advice.
He kept his face buried in hands as Alora spoke. Was he too embarrassed or ashamed to show her his face? He didn’t know. He did know that now he had pulled the cork from the bottle, he just wanted to curl up and empty the whole thing out. He sat for a few moments, calming his breathing as best as he could.
He reached out, fumbling on the coffee table. Beer bottle. Nope. Magazine. No, not that either. There it was. He gripped his PADD and picked it up, thumbing the screen to life as he did so. The screen's background picture was of Milly and he sniffled as he looked at it. He indulged in a selfish moment, glad she wasn’t here to see her father in such a state.
He pulled up some pictures, flicking through until he found what he was looking for.
The picture wasn’t all that old, less than a year and a half,
It was the rather stately lounge at home, complete with roaring fire, bookcases and fine leather furniture. His Mama was sat in her armchair, William stood at her side with a loving hand upon her shoulder. Beside William was Max’s hellish sister Rosetta, and on the other side of the armchair was Henry. Max stood beside Henry, who also had a hand resting upon Abrielle’s other shoulder. He held a beaming Milly in his other arm. For his part, Max had an arm across his brother's shoulders, and his other arm around that evening's surprise visitor. Erin had an arm around Max, her head resting lightly against his. And finally, beside Rosetta was Max’s deliberate visitor that evening, good old Rustyy.
Maxwell: The last picture that has all ae us in it.
DeVeau: You have a lovely family.
Alora loved looking at other people’s pictures. Pictures told a story. Sometimes, it was a false story. Sometimes it was a true one. She hoped in this case, with the warmth of the positions, the way the family leaned in close, the smiles upon their faces, that it was a true story. She hoped that the love presented in that photo was real. It seemed to be, with the way Max mourned.
DeVeau: You were visiting?
He nodded slowly.
Maxwell: Aye, Erin knew I was headed home and brought Henry and Milly along separately tae me. And on the sly. ::He sniffled.:: I invited Rustyy tae stay at mine as he hadn’t made any plans himself.
Alora didn’t know any Rustyy, but she figured he must be someone on the base. She’d have to look him up.
DeVeau: Tell me more about your family. About your father.
Maxwell: Da was a science officer. Wanted tae be an engineer, but somehow science found him instead. ::Sniffle.:: First one ae the family tae make Lieutenant-Commander too.
DeVeau: And you’ve made lieutenant commander. ::Alora pointed out.::
He looked up, a faint smile forming.
Maxwell: Aye, I’m the second one. ::He ran a thumb over the screen.:: He met my Mama at a promotion ball fae some Admiral or other. Henry’s pretty much a younger me. We wanted tae be Marines as kids.
DeVeau: Is Henry your brother? Is that your sister?
Alora gazed back down at the picture, trying to assign the titles to the people that he was talking about.
Maxwell: Rosetta? Aye, my sister. Biggest pain in the arse this side ae the Delta Quadrant. ::He pointed out the faces in the picture as he spoke.:: Rusty is chief engineer. Erin’s my best pal. ::He jerked a thumb at the wall.:: Lives next door, which is handy. Milly’s my wee girl.
A daughter. It must be nice to have children, but was his daughter there? Alora wanted to ask, but decided to refrain. If she wasn’t there in his quarters, it was likely she just wasn’t on the base.
DeVeau: How old is she?
Maxwell: She’s eight, going on eighteen ::He laughed despite himself.:
DeVeau: She’s lovely. I bet she does you proud.
Alora smiled, once more, her eyes returning to the picture. Her own family was close for the most part, and her childhood had been a happy one. Her parents had shown nothing but love and support for all their children. Adrien was the ‘black sheep’, the one who rebelled and ran off to do his own thing, but even he could not say that his parents and home life had been anything but loving. It sounded like Maxwell had a similar family life. Despite the sorrow that came with losing a family member, at least he had those fond memories.
He sat back slightly, blowing out a breath and wiping at his puffy red eyes. Always more interested in other people's smiles, he attempted one of his own.
Maxwell: Enough about me. What’s causing you tae hurt the now?
DeVeau: Me? Well, like I said, I’m just...upset over German.
That was true, very true. German had been the first recognizable face she’d met while at the Starbase. To have someone she knew among so many strangers after everything had happened, it had grounded in her in some strange way. Now he was gone. Since then, she’d made friends, but it was sad to lose her friend. She hoped he would be back sooner rather than later.
DeVeau: We had served on the Veritas a year and a half or so ago. So when I came here and didn’t know anybody, I found myself with someone I /did/ know. So...my first friend here.
Maxwell: So you’re feeling lost the now? With German gone?
DeVeau: He’ll be back, I know. Anyway, enough about me. Are you feeling better? Still hungry?
At his silent affirmation, Alora rose and made her way back over to the replicator.
DeVeau: I suggest something simple, not heavy, probably carby. How about some toast with butter?
He’d already eaten a bowl of spaghetti, Alora didn’t want him stuffing himself /too/ much, and toast with butter would go well with the meal he’d just partaken of. She herself had eaten that bratwurst and fries - or most of it - and she was quite full.
His stomach growled in response, causing Max to grin sheepishly.
Maxwell: That sounds good tae me.
He watched as Haggis charged after the new lady, stalking and pouncing at her feet as she moved. He would play forty-eight hours a day if was possible. Nessie however had made her way onto the back of the sofa and had flopped down right behind Max’s head.
The purring sounded much louder as she nuzzled into the back of his neck.
Maxwell: Plenty ae butter. You having something, aye?
While the replicator was doing its thing, Alora reached down to scritch the playful kitten. She grinned, then straightened up to take the plate of toast with extra butter. She had refrained from getting anything for herself.
Max was, to be fair, nearly always hungry. He got up and wandered over. Nessie trilled and scampered after him, her little paws making a gentle thump as she leapt from the sofa. Max bent down and scooped up the two bowls, allowing the replicator to reclaim them before keying up replacements which he placed down. The cats were on them in a flash.
DeVeau: They seem to have an appetite as well.
Maxwell: Oh, aye. Always like they’ve never been fed. So, with German gone for now…. ::He waved a finger in a circle to indicate the station.:: we need tae expand upon your circle ae friends a wee bit.
DeVeau: Oh that’s not a problem.
Alora carried the plate over to the table then motioned for Max to sit back down. She was surprised he was doing so well, but everyone was different, and some people handled hangovers better than others. Perhaps the spaghetti had helped whereas had it been her, she wouldn’t have been able to hold it down.
DeVeau: I like meeting people, and I am making friends. I just hate losing them.
And it was harder when she was still sort of adjusting to lose that link.
Maxwell: Aye, it’s no easy tae lose friends. :: He paused briefly, hoping that it was just grief of her partner's treason that had turned Erin away from him. It had been no secret that Max and Fredericksen had hated each other. He winced slightly at his own terrible cliche.:: But, tomorrow is a new day and all that.
DeVeau: Yeah, I suppose it is, but I have a feeling you have something specific in mind. What d you mean, exactly?
Maxwell: Well, me for a start.
He offered a smile. They barely knew each other, and yet Alora had done him a kindness by sitting, unjudging as a practical stranger bawled his heart out. That counted for something, and once you had befriended a Max, there was no getting rid of him.
DeVeau: You, for a start? As in, a new friend?
Alora smiled at that. She loved making new friends. She didn’t need to have everyone be a friend, but there was nothing wrong with wanting more. There was room in her heart and mind for many a new friend, and she would continue to make room for more.
DeVeau: Guess that means I’m stuck with yoU?
Maxwell: Worse than a bad penny. ::He took a chomp of toast.:: So, anybody else been gifted wi’ a violet?
DeVeau: Oh yes. I love giving out violets. They’re beautiful, and so joyful when they bloom. I like to spread that joy.
Alora leaned over and stretched out a finger to gently caress one of those furry leaves. They had a sensation of suede or velvet, depending on the variety, and they were just so cheerful. Who couldn’t do with another dose of cheerfulness in their lives? She knew she needed as much as she could possibly get her hands on.
DeVeau: And I continue to give them out, when I meet new people. And when I make new friends.
Alora cast a smile over to the man who, only an hour or two prior had been wallowing in his misery. If nothing else, she hoped the violet would remind him of the beauty and goodness to be found in the world. They were one of the things that helped her sometimes - though she could also understand how easy it was for that darkness to overshadow even the bright spots. She’d not get into that, though. The poor man had enough on his plate.
Maxwell: Well, new friend ::He grinned.:: I’d best make sure tae look after her.
DeVeau: Oh don’t worry, I’ve already thought of that. If you look, you’ll see I’ve sent detailed instructions, programs for soil and pots and what not. Everything you need. Plus, you know, I’m sort of stationed here, so you can always ask me personally.
Maxwell: Aye, that I can. Gives me an excuse tae get out of the office.
Was that a gentle tease? Yes, it was. All the best friendships had humour in them.
DeVeau: I’ll be glad to provide an excuse. ::Alora chuckled.::
As he eyed his new plant, a thought popped into his head. It was still thumping, but only mildly at this point. He looked up at Alora, a broad smile forming.
Maxwell: If you love plants and growing things, then I’m pretty sure I know a wee shop that you’re going tae love!
Alora hadn’t seen even half the shops available in the commercial sector, not to mention those that were in various places in the /other/ sectors, such as the Vulcan and Bajoran districts. Ops was so huge, she wondered if she ever /could/ visit it all.
Eating his last bite of toast, Max hauled himself to his feet with a grin.
Maxwell: I’m going tae grab a quick wash, and I’ll take you there. ::He paused, as he realised once again that it was evening.:: Um…
DeVeau: Um…::Alora repeating, giggling and shaking her head.:: Probably not the best timing.
Daft arse, Max. The place would have been closed for hours by now.
DeVeau: I tell you what, why don’t you and me have dinner tomorrow, and you can show me afterward. Deal?
Maxwell: Dinner? Aye, that sounds grand tae me. And I know just the place. ::He scooped up his PADD.:: I’ll send you the address. Mid-afternoon good for you, aye?
DeVeau: Sounds like a plan!
Lt-Commander Arturo Maxwell
Chief Tactical Officer.
Lt. Cmdr. Alora DeVeau
Starbase 118 Ops