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Fleet Captain Quinn Reynolds - A Walk On the Shore


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((Temtibi Lagoon Resort, Risa))
 
::Stars were beginning to peek through the darkening sky, while one of Risa's two moons crept above the horizon. The beach party was beginning its transition from family fun to wild night out, and the bonfire in the centre had been coaxed into life. The scent of grilled food was creeping through the air, enough to tempt even her dampened appetite.
 
::Her attention drifted from the antics in front of her, out towards the sea. It was as though there was a lead weight attached to her mood, dragging her down despite the buoyancy of the party around her. The healing wounds scattered across her middle were crossing the line from aches to pains, and it was increasingly hard to steer her mind away from the events that had left her with them.
 
::It would be easier if she could be angry at the two men who'd tried to murder her. But how could she? They were hardly wrong for hating her -- she *had* killed Væbn's brother, and Volkov's son *had* died because of her orders. 
 
Brunsig: A word.
 
::She startled, so lost in her own thoughts she hadn't noticed his approach. Tall and broad, with a short crop of white-blond hair and startling blue eyes, Walter Brunsig was usually hard to miss.::
 
Reynolds: Now?
 
Brunsig: Well gee, Cupcake, only if there's a gap in your busy schedule of staring vacantly into the middle distance. Shall I wait here while you check your diary? 
 
::He scowled at her,  and she replied with a roll of her eyes and a heavy sigh. How often had they danced this dance? She'd lost track over the years, but there was odd kind of comfort in its familiarity. 
 
::Lifting her hand, she gestured for him to lead on. He peeled away, at a gentler pace than his usual, which allowed her to walk alongside him without any difficulty as they put some distance between themselves and the party. It was particularly appreciated, given how sore her midriff still was. Perhaps that was why he was taking it easy.:: 
 
Brunsig: Spit it out.
 
::But not too easy.::
 
Reynolds: What are you talking about?
 
::He scowled at her again. Maybe he thought she was being deliberately obtuse, but she had genuinely no idea what he was talking about.::
 
Brunsig: You look like hell, Quinn, and I'm not talking about the fact you checked out of sickbay before you should've done. 
 
::Their footfalls were soft on the white sands as they walked, her feet clad in sandals, his in a pair of tan espadrilles. The beach was quiet at this time of day, the setting sun sending revellers toward Risa's many restaurants, bars and clubs, and so the empty sands afforded the two some privacy.::
 
Reynolds: I've had a long day, that's all.
 
Brunsig: Orrey?
 
::How did he know? He must have seen them talking earlier. She nodded, slow and thoughtful, her gaze on the sand in front of her. Whatever else there was to be said about him, Walter Brunsig could keep a confidence.::
 
Reynolds: He's sick. ::She paused.:: Dying. The doctors don't think he'll see next year.
 
::A long silence followed. The only sounds that of the nearby sea, lapping gently against the golden shores, and the muted music of Millis' party in the distance. There was a gentle breeze, cool but not cold, and Walter's loose, light blue shirt fluttered in its grasp.:: 
 
Brunsig: You sure can pick 'em, Cupcake.
 
::::He shook his head in a show of vague despair, while her answer was a weak ghost of a smile, gone as quickly as it appeared. He wasn't wrong. She really did seem to have knack for picking broken men to grow fond of: Tildaen, Pedro, Alleran, Kael, Harry...
 
::And of course, there was Walter himself.::
 
Reynolds: What would you do? If you knew you had just a few months left?
 
Brunsig: Get drunk and stay drunk.
 
::An answer that would surprise no one who knew him. That was to say, as much as Walter allowed anyone to know him.::
 
Brunsig: You wouldn't?
 
Reynolds: ::She shook her head.:: I have my kids to think of. And I don't drink anymore. 
 
Brunsig: You're going to tell me that story some day.
 
Reynolds: ::Quietly,:: Some day.
 
::Maybe. She wasn't sure how to tell the tale. Least of all to him, who was unknowingly at the centre of it. Perhaps that particular story was best kept between the counsellor and herself.:: 
 
Brunsig: When are you shipping him home?
 
Reynolds: He wants to keep working until he can't anymore. We're probably already at that point, but… ::she shook her head.:: I've given him one more mission. ::She shot him a sidelong glance, anticipating his response.:: I know, I know; that's one mission too many, he should already be at home with his family, he should already be under the care of specialist doctors, he's--
 
Brunsig: --being indulged by a commanding officer who should know better.
 
::He had her there, and she heaved a heavy sigh of defeat.::
 
Reynolds: Yeah.
 
Brunsig: Then why are you doing it? 
 
Reynolds: Because… ::She looked down at the sand, a guilty frown pulling at her brow.:: I can't decide if I want him home for his own good, or for mine. I don't want to watch another friend die. 
 
::Ever since Jansen had told her about his condition, she'd often found herself remembering Alleran. The Trill had been betrayed by his own body, unable to sustain the connection between host and symbiont. She sat with him through his final days, watching him fade away, holding his hand until he'd passed. The idea of living through that again with Jansen was terrifying.:: 
 
Brunsig: We're all cowards when it comes to that kind of crap. 
 
Reynolds: Thanks. ::She paused, squinting at him.:: I think?
 
::He answered with a non-committal grunt, and they were both content to leave it at that. They walked together in an almost comfortable silence, though she found herself increasingly distracted by his physical presence at her side. 
 
::A bright flash of light and a thundering crack sent her heart hammering against the inside of her chest. She whipped around, trying to locate the source of the explosion, stilled only by a warm hand on her shoulder and the sound of his voice.::
 
Brunsig: Quinn. 
 
::He jerked his head up, toward the sky. She followed the gesture, her heartbeat as loud in her ears as the colourful fireworks booming and crackling overhead.::
 
Reynolds: Oh. 
 
::She cleared her throat, cheeks beginning to burn, embarrassed at her own panic. Her heart was still hammering inside her chest, and she was mortified to find that she was shaking a little. Walter gave her long look, his hand sliding off her shoulder.::
 
Reynolds: I'm fine. ::She paused.:: I will be. I'm just… a little jumpy.
 
Brunsig: A little.
 
Reynolds: I'm fine.
 
::It didn't sound any more believable the second time around, and the look on his face said exactly that.::
 
Brunsig: You'd better be making your counsellor earn her paycheck.
 
::It was also her turn to scowl. She was, but that was hardly the point. Walter was every bit as bad as she was when it came to counsellors. Both of them had spent far too much of their lives avoiding the help the profession could offer, rather than embracing it.::
 
Reynolds: Pot, kettle..?
 
::His grin was a flash of lightning; electric, sudden and brilliant. It changed his face and she found herself smiling back, her fears ebbing. He held her gaze for a moment, and then the smile fell away, turning away as an expression much harder to identify crossed his face. His eyes settled on the flickering lights at the far end of the beach, providing a convenient subject to change to.::
 
Brunsig: So is there booze at this party?
 
::She almost laughed. In light of who organised it -- and the fact the Gorkon was a dry ship -- it was a foregone conclusion.::
 
Reynolds: Well, it's Millis' brainchild, so short of a dramatic personality change on his part… yes?
 
::That was all the answer that was needed, and he turned back to retrace his steps, Quinn falling in alongside. She could see their footsteps trailing away, and some had already been washed away by the encroaching tide. Would that the past could so easily be cleansed, and regrets so easily made right.::
 
 
--
Fleet Captain Quinn Reynolds
Commanding Officer
USS Gorkon
T238401QR0
 
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