(( Corridor, USS Gorkon ))
::Hiding away in his quarters for the space of their QSD jump had only seemed to get Bear so far and now was the time the man needed to do what he’d feared. Each controlled step from the turbolift down the corridor peppered his thoughts with buckshot of what ifs and he was quite sure his brain bore a resemblance to raw dough.
::He tried to reason with himself as he combed his fingers through his blond beard. When he’d fled the ship with Valesha, when the Admiral had asked him to do what she’d asked him to do, he hadn’t believed he would be coming back to the Gorkon. Even if they succeeded in their task, which they did if only by the skin of their teeth, returning to the Sovereign-class had seemed a complex imagination at best.
::Yet, there he was, and here Sami was, and so much had changed in the time between leaving and coming back. Like sand pouring from a broken hourglass, Bear’s emotions had been slowly leaking for a while and it was time to reel them back in. He squared his shoulders, set his jaw, and pressed the button beside Samira’s door.::
(( Security Office - USS Gorkon ))
::Having tossed her gloves on her desk, Samira was standing near the small viewscreen, reading an incident report. Seems a couple of the crew managed to get into a brawl with one another at the Gym. One of them being having been a team member on her last mission. At least the hybrid had managed to win the fight, it was the only positive thing she could think off. She turned and placed the PADD on her desk when there was someone at the door.::
Neathler: Come in.
::Frowning, she felt her heart skipped a beat when she saw who walked in. Briefly Samira looked into his blue eyes before she looked away. She'd fallen once for those eyes, she didn't need to be trapped again.::
::As if he hadn’t been planning his opening sentence since the moment he’d stepped off the turbolift, his words stumbled and caught in his throat as he saw her again. Barring the award ceremony, the last time he’d seen her face she’d been a lot closer, and in such different circumstances.::
O. Marshall: Can we talk?
::Talk? Now he wanted to talk? After four or five days travelling? She wanted to yell the words into his face, but after helping Meg cleaning up Tem's quarters she was too tired to raise her voice.::
Neathler: A bit late for that, ain't it Bear? ::She shrugged.:: It was all in the reports, at least the info we were allowed to read. It was all a setup, you delivered your package, or Romulan rather, and you returned with a package for the Admiral. oOAnd another someone, if rumors are true.Oo ::She shook her head.:: And it even got you a promotion so congratulations Lieutenant.
::She returned to the viewscreen, leaning against the bulkhead, staring to the stars outside. Why did she find it so difficult just to look at him?::
::The sheer bloody indifference in her voice irked at the few soft spots so recently under the hammer from the Romulan’s unexpected condition, invoking a flare of shame he had anticipated to feel but not so soon out of the gate. As easily as Samira had slid beneath his skin and touched parts of him he hadn’t felt in a long time, she was so simply dragging across said skin with the sharpened fingernails of the betrayed.
::He stepped inside, allowing the door to close behind him before the rest of security got an unexpected earful of nothing to do with them. One, two, three steps he took into her office, enough to stand on the other side of the desk, as physical a barrier between the two as they could get.::
O. Marshall: You think you know what happened over there because you read a report?
::The reports were the only thing she had to go on. Did he expect her to run to the Admiral to ask for an explanation? She’d never have the chance to ask her question. She kept quiet, taking a deep breath. She turned around and observed him for a moment. His blue eyes, remembering the scar, not visible from where she stood, mostly hidden behind his blond beard.::
::He did have a point, even if it took him half a week to come to that conclusion. Hadn’t he warned her from the start about him, that evening on the beach? She owed it to him to let him explain things and it might be her only chance to gain some answers. She nodded towards the chairs on his side of the desk, a silent invitation for him to sit down, speaking softly.::
Neathler: I’m listening.
::Forgoing sitting in favour of standing, Bear braced his hands on the back of the chairs in front of the desk. A deep exhale fled from his lungs, his hand wound up through his hair, words coming slow and thick, like the gradual melting of glaciers into the ocean. He tried and failed to speak until he finally lifted his hands up in frustration, dropping them back down to the back of the chair.::
O. Marshall: To go undercover with the Syndicate, we were ordered to make it look like an escape. It was the only way they’d believe it if we got caught. ::His gaze dropped from the dark-eyed woman to her desk.:: I couldn’t tell you, I couldn’t tell anyone. You had to believe it, too.
::Why had it been so easy to be mad at him in the past days when she hadn't seen him. And now seeing him struggle, all that anger had disappeared like snow underneath a blazing sun, and her heart was reaching out for him. Yet his words didn’t answer what she really wanted to know.::
Neathler: That part I do believe Bear.
::Didn’t the Admiral hide the fact that the agent they had to retrieve on Nassau was her own brother. How many times hadn’t Marlon mentioned things would have gone different on that rock if it had been her in that team to begin with. Even though Samira’s presence in that team would have jeopardised everything. Didn’t she freeze when she had seen Marlon in the shuttle bay of the Triumphant after so many months? Or maybe the Admiral hadn’t known either. Who was she kidding, of course the Admiral had known. She nodded to Bear even though his eyes were focussed on the desk.::
Neathler: Go on.
O. Marshall: We ended up in Ma no Umi, at an old outpost haunt. We met the contact, he took us to Lena. From there…
::A frown took over his face and he swallowed, recalling the events of that evening. One drink in the Dungeon had turned into several, listening to the variety of conversations going on around him. Downstairs, Valesha had struggled against two Romulans as they’d tried unsuccessfully to kidnap her. If he hadn’t gone back downstairs then, if he hadn’t disrupted their attempts to do so, what would’ve happened? Would she be gone for good? He wiped his mouth with his hand and stood up, watching Samira standing at the window, the stars zipping past behind her. Sympathy caught on her expression.::
O. Marshall: From there, ::he rolled his shoulders back and stood up,:: we were on the Labyrinth’s Scream. Thertas was willing to defect to the Federation, given the right carrot.
::The ship the Gorkon encountered and helped to blow up. While some people on board that ship, Bear and Valesha included barely made it back to the Gorkon. For the first time since he'd entered her office Samira moved, rounded the desk and ended up on his side of the desk. She hopped on the table and sat down, picking up her gloves and tossed them a bit further on the desk. Even from her elevated position she still had to look up at him, to look him in the eyes. She finished softly.::
Neathler: Where lieutenant Sienelis got severly hurt and you both, with a few others, barely made it out alive. And all for something the Admiral wanted. ::Why was it always coming down to that? She studied his face for a moment.:: Bear... Why didn't you come by sooner? I can understand things were rough over there, but... ::She swallowed, thinking, trying to understand a few things.:: How can you let someone help you if you don't talk to them?
O. Marshall: I’m perfectly capable of dealing with this on my own.
::The response was a snap of words and eyes up to hers, as quick as a flash and gone. A flare of anger caused by the insinuation he wasn’t, that he needed anyone to process and deal with it all. He’d been a Ranger for a reason. Solitary missions, relying on himself and his wits alone, without the addition of someone else’s baggage to navigate around. He looked to each of her eyes in turn, the depth of brown and himself reflected in them.::
O. Marshall: Why didn’t you come to see me?
::Just as with his previous snappy answer Samira was somewhat taken aback by his question. So he was throwing the ball back in her camp. She inhaled deeply and exhaled slowly, trying to form an answer in her mind.::
::Her hand palms flat on the desktop, her fingers gripping the edge of the desk, she looked him straight in the eyes, gauging his reaction.::
Neathler: I didn't think I was welcome anymore... I… I heard you had female company in your quarters.
::She wanted to say more, yet the words failed her.::
O. Marshall: She’s a friend. Convinced Thertas to defect, got us through all of that alive.
::And yet, that wasn’t what Sami had meant. It wasn’t the who, as much as the why. His hands dropped to his hips, his jaw looked as though it chewed on his tongue and he exhaled deeply through his nose. A manifestation of kindled guilt where it hadn’t kindled before. He hated it. Hated the curdling feeling as it crawled under his skin and festered there.::
O. Marshall: Sam, I like you. I do. ::He meant it, then stopped, rolled his lips between his teeth and continued.:: But I’m not… I can’t be who you want me to be. I’m not that guy.
::A mixed ray of emotions washed over her all at the same time, as she sat there quietly for some time, her gaze had shifted from his face to a fixed point on the floor in front of her. Anger, betrayal, but also acceptance, understanding and what else. For a split second she felt her eyes burning, next the feeling was gone as the anger flared up in her, followed by something else. So she had just been another score in his list, one of his victories, his words on the beach and elsewhere had meant nothing. Another lesson learned.::
::She swallowed as she slowly slipped off the desk, her teeth gritting together, as she slowly breathed in and out, trying to regain her control. She was tired, drained and this time the words flowed and she didn’t bother to stop them.::
Neathler: Like me? You've got a funny way of showing it Bear. :She shook her head.:: What man exactly did I want you to be Bear? Have I ever told you what I expected from you? Have I ever demanded something from you? Have I ever asked you to come rescue me? ::She shrugged and turned towards him, confusion etched on her features.:: Why put up this whole charade, ::Nothing he had said except those last words were new to her.: only because you needed to tell me you've already moved on and found someone else?
::She shook her head again, as she had rounded her desk, reaching the spot where she had tossed her gloves earlier, her left hand reaching out to grab them.::
::His arms folded over his chest as his jaw set, each round fired like torpedos from the launchers seeking out the fleshy bits of his human-shaped target, and they hurt as they hit square on. With a deep swallow, he stepped a foot back, as though he tried to deflect some of those blows from landing with such accuracy.::
O. Marshall: That’s not what I’m saying and this, ::he pointed to the two of them in turn,:: isn’t anything to do with her. I chased after you on the Njordr because I care about you. ::He wiped his hand over his mouth, considering whether or not to say what he wanted to.:: I left this ship and all I could think about was you. And it made me weak.
::Someone had told him once that if he made his heart into a weapon, he’d only use it on himself. That was his reality. Lies interspersed within lies. Space filled with stars of sorrow and heartache, pin[...]s of suffering used by lovers to navigate through the darkness. His jaw twitched and in that moment, his eyes looking at her as though she were the northern star in the sky, he felt pathetic and it wasn’t an emotion he cared for.::
O. Marshall: I warned you not to want me.
::It was the simple act of taking her gloves and shoving them in the backpocket of her black pants, while she focused on her breathing, that she was able to get her emotions and thoughts under control again. Something in his words, made her change her mind and she approached Bear, confused by his words. He no longer wanted to be with her because she made him weak? Silently she shook her head as she stepped in front of him. Why did he have to make things so complicated? She looked up and tortured herself by looking in those gorgeous blue eyes of his.::
Neather: I don’t understand Bear. You say you care and yet you’re pushing me away?
::Her gaze lowered towards the hidden scar on his cheek, raising her hand she gently touched it with the back of her fingers, tracing it underneath his blond beard, like she had done the last time they had been together, a faint smile with a touch of sadness or regret emerged at the memory, and she had to use all her willpower not to kiss him. Her gaze shifted back to his blue eyes as she swallowed softly.::
Neathler: I know what you said back then, but I’m still here, ain’t I? ::She paused as she lowered her hand, being fully aware of their proximity.:: So it’s okay for you to care for someone else but not the other way around? ::She paused a few milliseconds before she continued softly.:: It doesn’t work that way Bear and it doesn’t make you weak, if anything it only shows you’re human.
::Human, with a human heart and mind, wrapped up within human limitations. He took hold of her hand as it lowered between them, without the gloves her palm soft and tender beneath his fingertips. Dark-eyes greeted him as his gaze looked up and his lips rolled between his teeth, trying to find some anchor in all of it to attach himself to. One of them would end up with their heart broken.::
O. Marshall: Samira. ::His voice gravelled through his throat, walking the lines of deep and quiet.:: I’ve spent most of my life alone. If I need to leave here tomorrow, I need to do so with no regrets and nothing left behind. What we had, ::he took a breath, ribs sore with the exhale,:: was a way of passing the time.
::There he was; that callous-hearted stone bristled man, arisen from the burning ashes of his bridges. He felt it wash over his skin like a storm. It would be easier this way; easier for her to find someone to build a castle with strong foundations, rather than shifting sand beneath torrid scorched earth. He tilted his head to the side; the [...]y, self-assured arrogance swelled like a tide, sweeping out the affection and left the sharp shale in its wake.::
O. Marshall: And you liked being distracted as much as I did.
::His words cut through her heart like a knife, her hand, first feeling the warmth of his skin, now felt ice cold in his grasp.::
Neathler: I guess I was wrong to believe that knowing someone was waiting for you to return, would give you that extra incentive to keep going. That it gave you that extra bit of courage and strength that you needed, when things were rough. Like when you did the unimaginable to bring lieutenant Sienelis back home again 'cause you knew there was someone back home that cares for you.
::She swallowed as she raised her hand, still holding his.::
Neathler: You were more than a distraction Bear, but if…
::She swallowed again, looking up, noticing he didn't even dare to look her in the eyes anymore. His roguish look, his blond beard. Her voice grasped in her throat and she merely whispered as she continued.::
Neathler: If this is what you want, if you never allow someone to care for you, you'll end up a very lonely man Bear and I'm not really sure that's the kind of man you truly are deep down. And don't tell me you don't care for people. We've both seen and know otherwise.
::Had his recent actions not shown that? If he didn't care, Valesha would no longer be among them, the Vulcan he nursed on the USS Njörðr after he rescued her. Why was he denying a bit of warmth into his life? She had nothing more to say, instead she gripped his hand a bit tighter, holding it between them, a last bit of support as she rose on her toes and gave him a final, soft, gentle kiss on his cheek, before she let go.::
::A numbness travelled the length of his spine as she kissed him, accompanied by a cavalcade of questions he had shoddy answers to. If whomever he’d been working for could threaten his family, could threaten his sister, had ways and means of getting to them all, they could do the same for her. The mission with Valesha had only raised more doubt, more problems, assuaged some, and prompted others. A life he couldn’t let her sink herself any deeper into, for fear of her feet never reaching the bottom.
::He felt her heat disappear from his skin as she let go of him, replaced by a cold crawl slipped across each part of his flesh where her hands had traced in privacy. He hadn’t lied when he said he’d wished he’d known her earlier, and if he had, the sequence of events might have been altered, played out differently. In all those infinite possibilities, there had to be one where he took her in his arms, kissed her; a desperate promise amidst the risk of losing one another.
::However, this wasn’t that universe, and he wasn’t that man.::
O. Marshall: Then you really don’t know me as well I thought you did.
::Bear stepped back, his jaw tightened to stop the quiver of his chin, legs made of lead. Forcing himself to move, he let his hand slip out of hers. The two parted, the door slid into the recesses, and he was gone.::
::Silently Samira watched him leave, a feeling of loneliness and helplessness engulfed her, as their conversation still milled around in her head, over and over again. She stood there motionless for quite some time before her hand slowly reached for her gloves and she put them on. She needed a strong drink, several. Moving, her eye caught the PADD laying on her desk. Or a good brawl, in the holodeck. Or maybe both. As she headed through the door she still had no idea which option to go for.
::Although she was sure from one thing: this was the first time but also the last time she got involved with someone from the crew. She was certain never to make that mistake again.::
Lieutenant Samira Neathler
Assistant Chief Security/Tactical
Lieutenant Orson Marshall
Logistics and Communications Officer