Damn! Right in the feels @Kali Nicholotti & @Randal Shayne
((Sickbay, USS Columbia))
(Time Index: Shortly After Returning from the Planet’s Surface)
::He was haggard, and miserable, and ill, and spaced out to degree he’d not experienced since the night he’d graduated the Academy, but there were duties to attend to. It was this that allowed him to proceed from hour to hour since his most timely return to the ship. A mission as hectic and fraught as the one he’d just undertaken (and failed, by most honest recountings) would have taken the spark out of anyone, and the radiation still had yet to leave his system entirely. But the subspace information packet he’d found in his quarters upon his return made him wonder if hallucinations were joining his growing list of symptoms.::
::Dear god, he was being transferred.::
::His focus on the orders was kept to an absolute, so that he might not have the mental freedom to consider their implications for him down the line. He liked it here. A good ship, with a good crew, on a good mission. He trusted these people, worked with them for years in some cases. His best friends were here- and it was that, more than anything, that left him absolutely gutted. But orders were not negotiable, and though it was not a habit conducive to maintaining relationships, Shayne had a habit of going where the fleet needed him, whether he was asked or not.::
::So, with his gear prepped, he steeled himself for the most crippling part of this effort- saying goodbye.::
::Quietly, he approached MacKenna’s bed. He’d heard of her actions on the planet below- nothing could quite describe just how painful the thought of not being there to defend her was. With a kind smile that belayed his unhappy news, at least for the moment, he spoke, in a voice just loud enough for them both to hear.::
Shayne: It is so good to see you. How are you feeling?
::Like her normal self, Ash hadn't been paying attention to anything or anyone approaching. When she heard him, she finally looked up with a smile the likes of which hadn't graced her face since, well, she didn't know how long.::
MacKenna: A little lopsided.
::It was a joke, though she was markedly horrible at humor. She rarely shared it with anyone around her, but for whatever reason, he was different. She looked up at him, reaching with her remaining hand, wanting to feel that he was actually there. So much was running through her mind, it was hard to just let it all settle, but when she caught a glimpse of his eyes it instantly faded into the background. There was something there.::
::But what was it...?::
::He’d heard of her injury, but had no idea her hand was mechanical before asking about her. It was common knowledge, so he wasn’t violating any level of privacy, but it still felt intrusive. Still, upon hearing that her hand had nearly been torn off, he’d been happy to hear it was a mechanical apparatus, and not a sudden amputation.::
Shayne: Will you be alright?
::It wasn’t a question he originally wanted to ask- for if she wasn’t alright, he’d be compelled by affection and care and decency to do everything he could to alleviate her suffering. But orders wouldn’t permit him to stay long.::
MacKenna: I will be okay. They are already working on a replacement for me.
::She still couldn't really handle looking at what used to be her hand, so she didn't. Instead, she tried to delve deeper into his eyes to figure out what was really going on. And maybe it was nothing, she hoped it was nothing, given her inability to read people. But something in the back of her mind told her it wasn't. No, he had the same look in his eyes then that Radi had given her...::
::It wasn’t fair to keep the truth from her. If he didn’t tell her now, he’d never get another chance. And from the way she was searching through him, rifling through the files of his mind with her eyes, she knew something was amiss already.::
Shayne: Ash. I’ve… been transferred.::
::He didn’t think he’d ever referred to her by her first name, and it felt right. But it also filled him with heaviness- when would he get the opportunity to do so again?::
::There is was. Ash was stunned, but not at the same time. Something deep inside knew that was what was coming, but the majority of her mental capacities were trying desperately to keep it from being thought of. Now that the words spilled out into the distance between them, there was no hiding from it. The worst part of it was that this was the life she had chosen.::
::Internally, her mind began its own meltdown. She did not give her feelings easily, and she did not grow close to many people. Somehow, this man had found a way in, and quickly. It had taken her by surprise in so many ways, on so many levels, but the current had been so strong, so determined that this was the correct path to take that she’d not been able to fight it for long.::
::A future she longed for, but would never have, flashed between thoughts of how inadequate she had to be. The universe had to see her as unworthy. Everyone left, and the changes that followed were impossible to deal with. It made her more than uncomfortable, it made her want to scream, cry, throw things, or just hide. She didn’t know how to cope. She didn’t want to cope. Her mind saw only impossibility and loss.::
::Internally the idea of the looming loneliness festered, the meltdown gathered momentum, her insides screamed with her inability to do anything about this. Behind her pools of emerald green, tears welled up and threatened to unleash a flood. Yet, outwardly, she barely managed to hold it all together.::
::She barely managed to get the word out and even then it sounded more like a squeak, like a forced question just to divert his attention away from the fact that she was falling apart.::
::Shayne quite nearly shattered at that single utterance. It was so filled with hurt, with disappointment and longing and pain that he simply couldn’t process it. His empathetic nature felt like it was dissolving him whole, and there was nothing he could do. His chest felt like it was collapsing in on itself. It took about ten seconds for him to force his lips and voice to provide an answer.::
Shayne: I just found out a few hours ago. I leave today. Soon.
::A million thoughts raced through her head and she fought them all. What was the right thing to say?::
oO Don’t leave. Don’t go. Stay here, stay with me. What about the things you’ve said? The look in your eyes? The feel of your touch? What if I loved you? What if I wanted you? What will I do without you? Oo
::It wasn’t fair. He, more than anyone else, had made this feel like home. She’d not been aboard long, but his words, his actions, they had all made her feel as if she belonged right where she was.::
::Now that would be gone.::
MacKenna: But…::The fight against her tears turned in favor of the tears. A single one escaped and rolled down her pale face.:: What about…?
::The sight of the single tear unraveled him. If his body followed the example of his mind and his heart, he would have collapsed into a puddle of sorrow and misery. He’d often seen people saying goodbye in films, in holodeck programs, and had wondered why each had been so consistently overacted. Now he knew- they weren’t overacting at all. This is how it felt to leave a soul mate, a partner, a friend. A dream. The will to get over the pain quickly faded, and he let it wash over him, years of repression leaking forth as his own tear began a downward trend.::
::She couldn’t get the words out. Yet, at the same time, she needed to know. Had they been headed on the path she had been imagining in her mind? What would happen now? She didn’t know about them, but she wasn’t able to just turn off the feelings and the needs and the wants.::
Shayne: I have to.
::He’d wanted to say so much more, but his throat was tightening like he was suffering an allergic reaction. If he had any sort of choice, he wouldn’t be taking off now. He was happy here! Columbia was a home- his home! He knew the crew, knew the ship, saw a future to be sought after within these walls. Now all he saw was dust and broken promises, both of his making, spread eternally before him.::
::Reaching out, with her remaining hand, she pulled herself up and to the edge of the bed. As soon as she’d gotten his hand in hers she gripped it harder than she probably should have.::
MacKenna: I don’t want to give this up.
::Whatever this was. Oh how hard it was to keep from wrapping herself up in his arms in some grand attempt to physically keep him there. It would be impossible, given her size versus his, but she certainly wanted to try. Her mind was screaming all of the reasons he should stay, but she didn’t dare want to say any of them for fear that he would either take them as her being too much, or in speaking of them they would become real.::
::And the only other time she’d fallen for anyone, he’d been transferred and killed in combat.::
::A shiver ran down her spine. It was like history repeating itself, only this time she had been given a small opportunity to say what she felt.::
::But could she…?::
::He gave a slight gasp, and he wanted to believe it was the strength of her grasp, but he knew it was the sensation of finally being wanted, and knowing that, in a few hours, he’d likely lose that sensation permanently.::
Shayne: I don’t want to either.
::Truer words had never been spoken. He had touched the face of peace, of hope, of sanity and of kindness, and it was hers, locked behind a curtain of flame red hair, held back by bright, shy eyes. He genuinely didn’t know if he had the strength to go. At this point, it almost seemed like the battle was being lost.::
MacKenna: I think… ::squeezing his hand more tightly, her voice shook enough to show how difficult all of this was for her. Still, she had to get it out.:: I think I’ve fallen for you. You can’t leave.
::As the statement was made her voice trailed off into almost a whisper. Had he heard her? And how would he take it? And where would they go from here…?::
::It was as simple as that. One moment, he was a man, a Starfleet officer, a proud cog in the finest machine ever devised, and a lonely, disheartened figure, kept warm by the glow of his love for the Federation. The next moment, that man was replaced. The most important thing in his life was no longer to be found behind the helm of a starship. It was here, on this biobed, clutching his arm like a drowning angel. How could he leave this? For the first time in his entire life, he just didn’t give a damn about orders.::
::Almost as if he was in a trance, with his free hand, he slowly reached up past his torso, up to his chest. His clammy palm gently caressed the sigil that had defined him for his entire life.::
::He clenched it.::
::And with one final, mighty effort, removed it from his chest.::
::He was free. He was free now, to love this woman the way she deserved, the way they deserved. He’d not wanted to say anything, for fear of jumping the gun. But they were too close not to care for each other, to similarly handicapped to not cling to each other. Orders be damned! The scrawl of some ancient, withered admiral was all that was preventing Shayne from staying, and sharing with MacKenna the care and affection he showed to the people who mattered. The badge was off. For this moment, he was not an officer. Now he could stay with her, happily and joyfully, perhaps as a civilian, watching her increase in rank and supporting her on her journey to greatness, all the while adoring her.::
::And then the vacuum swallowed him.::
::Even as he watched MacKenna’s gorgeous, vulnerable, deep green eyes, he felt… wrong. Almost as if he was taking advantage of her. He knew what it was, but didn’t want to admit it. The combadge, still clutched firmly in his hand. It gave him purpose, direction, drive. Without it, he was a shell- hardly the man MacKenna had come to know.::
::If he stayed now, he’d be a broken man- emptied and spiritless, even with such beauty by his side. Ash deserved better. She deserved someone with life!::
::Bracing himself, and digging deep for whatever strength he had remaining, Shayne grimaced, and shoved the combadge back on, almost like he was driving a stake through his own soul. Another tear rolled down his contorted features.::
Shayne: I have to.
::He righted himself, and overshadowed her, and placed an adoring, affectionate kiss on her forehead.::
Shayne: Because I love you too.
::He gave a sharp exhale, and prayed that no one was watching them- he’d never been so vulnerable.::
Shayne: This is not the end. I promise you that.
::He could almost feel the universe itself capitulate to his decree, and he wouldn’t have accepted anything less. Now that’d he’d found joy again, nothing short of Judgement Day would keep him from the other part of his spirit.::
::The sheer ferocity of the emotions struck her deeper than anything ever had before. She could feel it shoot through her like lightning. Words, feelings, nothing was left unsaid. Nothing was left unknown. And when the smoke had cleared it became apparent that even now, even as protocol stole him away, maybe she wasn’t alone in the wide and all encompassing darkness that was.::
::Knowing that these moments would be all that she would have for the time until they met again, she stood in his shadow and drank it all in, committing each and every detail to memory. The feeling of strength that came from a connection deeper than words could possibly define was not something she would soon forget, or let go of.::
::No, this would not be the end.::
MacKenna: I refuse to say goodbye.
::Her voice trembled slightly. She would not say it. No. The universe had brought them together once. The distance would only be temporary. It had to be.::
Shayne: We will see one another again. BE with one another again. If I have to swim the Empty myself, then so be it.
::Taking in the warmth of his proximity, the overly shy and normally silent red-head looked up and for a moment lost herself in his gaze. Putting every little bit of resolve behind her next words, Ash knew he would believe her. He’d have to, as she’d never been so sure of anything else in her life.::
MacKenna: I’ll be waiting for you.
::Then, she pulled him closer and kissed him, letting her actions tell him all that her words could not.::
Lieutenant Commander Ash MacKenna
Chief Science Officer
Lieutenant Commander Randal Shayne
Chief Engineering Officer