USS VINDEX - NCC-2474-A
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An Unlikely Companion

Posted on Thu Mar 9th, 2017 @ 6:44am by Commander Akiva ben-Avram & Major Storr Garlake

Mission: S1E4 - Remnants Of A Lost Cause
Location: USS Vindex (Deck 5)- Officer's Mess
Timeline: Mission Day 68: 2100

Storr sat silently in the front row of the seating that faced the floor to ceiling windows, the scotch in the glass beside him barely lapping at the bottom edged of four stray remaining ice cubes. Grasping the glass, the MCO drained the last of the burning amber liquid and placed the now-empty glass on the side table, quickly to be replaced by Paul who was silently patrolling his domain. So many had perished in the mutiny that anyone in the Officer's Mess was cause for a miniature celebration...one, because of survival and two, because there was so little room for time-off between double and triple-shifts that it had to be taken quickly.

"Worried about the upcoming mission?" Paul asked over his shoulder, the empty glass on his tray en route for a refill. How did the man know about his plan? Or was it just generalized idle banter? Either way, Garlake knew that the chef was one of the most connected and in-tune men on the ship...Starfleet Intelligence could learn a thing or two from the Englishman.

"I wouldn't say worried, Paul. A Marine is trained not to dwell on difficulty or trouble but I would be lying if I didn't say I had my...legitimate concerns." As the MCO began touching on a few general points, he stopped and smiled as the door opened to reveal a lithe, shapely figure silhouetted by the far corridor's lights.

"I thought I might find you here." Jaya caressed his shoulder with a gentle touch. Soothing calm ran from her face through her fingers into her man. "May I join you?" Her voice was low and alluring.

Storr immediately relaxed and smiled, not even realizing how tense he had been before. He felt a warmth enveloping his body unlike that which had come from the glass and which, honestly, he highly preferred. Standing (because his mother raised him right), Major Garlake gestured to the seat beside him. "A pleasure, Jaya," he said with a smile. While he hadn't invited her, the relative calm before the proverbial storm had him thinking of the beautiful and graceful Ensign, to which he wasn't surprised she felt his emotional "pull". He wasn't about to spurn the company, regardless of how she came to be here with him.

Once Jaya took a seat, she pretended to sit alone for a moment. Storr didn't immediately respond, so she shot him a winking sidelong glance before returning to her nonchalant study of the bar. It was juvenile of her, but she had come to enjoy his flirting a little too much. And, she told herself, it was a means of inspiration. Even strong men needed a little help remembering who they are in the midst of adversity. The smug satisfaction of baiting him was only a minor incentive. Or so she liked to tell herself.

"Can I get the lady a drink? Perhaps a light snack?" Paul asked sincerely, though not without...desperation? Lacking his full "audience", the Vindex's chef was operating far below capacity and desperately looked for some semblance of normalcy, even if that meant an overly-enthusiastic hors d'oeuvres.

"I'll take a cocktail and anything nutty," she said. "Thank you, Paul."

With Paul whisking away to fill her order, Jaya turned to stare directly at Storr. She crossed her wrists together with her fingers entangled.
"Storr." Her head cocked to the side nearly to her shoulder. "Look at me."

The MCO grinned as he turned, their fingers intertwining. Her flirtatious behavior thus far had been absolutely ingratiating to him and he reveled in it.

"Do you love me?" She blinked seductively and grinned.

Garlake's grin expanded into a cocksure smile as he disentangled his right hand and gently cupped her cheek in it, his world swirling for a moment at their touch. Blossoming bursts of light careened over his vision before lessening to only mildly distracting pops and exploding to nearly disorienting waves and a kaleidoscope of colors as he brought their foreheads together.

"More than I ever thought possible," he replied, his eyes closed as he both reveled in and attempted to hold himself to reality from their touch.

Jaya lazily spread her lips wide into a thin smile. "Mmmm. That's what I like to hear." She reached her hand along his arm and clutched the back of his hand that rested against her cheek. "I love you too. So much that it surprises me. I first entered into this with goals that are no longer tenable to me. Now I want more. I want the same as you." Before going forward, she took his hand and held it in her lap. "That's why I'm coming with you."

Storr smiled. "Of course you will. I couldn't imagine you leaving for Delta IV after your short time here, and if you tried, it wouldn't be alone."

"I mean into battle." The smile faded from her face, yet she clutched his hand even tighter.

The veneer of Storr's warm facade fell like a curtain, his face turning to stone as Jaya's words created a sinking feeling in his stomach that refused to stop its fall into the aether. "You...what?" he asked in a harshly measured and clipped tone, sitting up and away from the counselor. Surely he had misheard. Surely...

"I'll be your combat medic," she said, her words falling out in a hurried frenzy. "You're going up against an enemy armed with more than phasers and explosives. You need me. And..." Her words slowed as she looked down for a moment. "I nearly died." When she looked up again, she peered deeply into his eyes with ardent determination. "I am not afraid to face that again, especially if I'm at your side."

The Marine wasn't sure if he wanted to scream, cry, or simply fall back into the chair that he was currently occupying in a rigidly straight manner. How could she do this? He loved her more than his own life yet here she wanted to accompany him on the away mission into...well, into an unknown hell. No, she couldn't. She wouldn't. He served to protect those things most precious to him and there was no way that he could put her in danger one moment if there was a way that he could shield her from it.

"It's done, Storr." The slackjaw expression on his face did not slow the disagreement blaring from his soul. Jaya heard every wordless protest resounding within him. "This is happening. Accept it."

Garlake tapped his commbadge. =/\=Garlake to Commander ben-Avram, =/\= he said, waiting just long enough to know that his request went through but before the acting Captain could reply.

=/\=Commander...Akiva...sir...please, please tell me that you didn't authorize this. =/\= Warning bells screamed inside the Marine's head concerning proper communication with superiors but so many conflicting thoughts were careening through his head that he could barely see straight.

=/\=Major, I presume you're referring to the counselor's temporary reassignment to your unit=/\= Akiva's words trailed on his clipped brogue through the comm. =/\=Counselor Maera made a compelling case. No doubt you are hearing it now, so I will leave you to it.=/\=

Jaya resisted a cringe at the reckless disregard of decorum between the two of them. She was trained to be a peacemaker, which made the situation very uncomfortable. But her objective was dear to her heart. She would keep Storr alive, and possibly bring relief to anyone they rescued. That was worth disturbing the calm.

"Storr..." Jaya whispered and shook her head in warning. No good would come from him voicing the thoughts and notions he was forming toward the commander.

The MCO felt like a pressure cooker, emotions boiling up inside him, threatening to explode at any moment. To add to his internal turbulence, Jaya's touch was pulsating with equal unease and determination at a thing that was anathema to him. He met her gaze and tapped his commbadge again, pushing down the well of passion he felt towards the situation.

=/\= Thank you, sir. Major Garlake, out. =/\=

Storr sighed and pulled away from Counselor Maera, closing his eyes and taking a long pull from the now half-empty glass before setting it down to rub his temples. "You're serious about this, aren't you? I..." he waited for half-a-moment before continuing with a sigh, already knowing her answer to the first question. "I don't even want to describe combat to you, let alone hand-to-hand, bloody melee combat. Do you know what it's like to be in a battle? In a war?

"I have healed the wounds and touched the scars it leaves behind," Jaya said. Her eyes deepened into pools of sympathetic horror at what she had shared with past patients. "I have carried the burdens of so many in my lifetime. No, I do not expect it to be an easy task, but it will not be a new one."

The Major listened to his intended and nodded ever so slightly. "I'll give you a very short run down...I've seen cowardice; I've seen heroism; I've seen fear; I've seen relief. I've seen blood and brains all over the back of a charred shuttle, and I've seen men bleed to death surrounded by their comrades. I've seen people throw up when it's all over, and I've seen the same shell-shocked look in 35-year-old experienced sergeants as in 19-year-old privates. I've heard the screams - `Medic! Medic!'. I've hauled dead civilians out of buildings, and I've looked down at my hands and seen them covered in blood after putting some poor sod in the wrong place at the wrong time into teleporter booster. I've seen kids with phaser burns, and I've seen kids who've tried to kill me. I've run for cover as fast as I've ever run - I'll hear the bass percussion thump of photon mortar rounds and quantum rockets exploding as long as I live...I've heard the shrapnel from their explosions as it shredded through the cover my men have huddled under. I've stood, gasping for breath, as I helped drag into a bunker a man so pale and badly bloodied I didn't even recognize him as a Marine I've known for months. I've run across open ground to find my Marines and make sure I had everyone. I've raided houses, and shot off locks, and broken in windows. I've grabbed prisoners and guarded them. I've prayed for a man to make a move toward the wire, so I could flip my weapon off safe and put two bursts at kill in his chest - if I could beat my platoon sergeant's phaser rifle to the punch. I've been wanted dead, and I've wanted to kill."

Taking Jaya's hand in his, he opened his eyes and looked deeply into hers. "The Klingon ship and the base beyond are complete unknowns...I don't know if I'll be able to bring everyone back alive, let alone myself." Finally, the admission. While he wasn't scared, he understood the odds against what they faced and the reality of the situation. "How can I expose you to all this? Especially when he sought you out to try and kill you, personally? I could never live with the knowledge that something happened to you while you were with me."

Jaya let her hands be cradled in his much bigger and stronger ones. She kissed his knuckles, one at a time, listening to him pour out his heart.

"I hear you, Storr." Jaya squeezed his thumbs in the palms of her small hands. "I know that my counseling experience is no substitute for personal experience and that no amount of training can mitigate the danger of what I have done." She closed her eyes, breathed deeply, and released the pain that she had packed away with deliberate repression for the last couple days.

"Let me ask you this, though. In all of your battles..." she paused in order to wrestle with her next words. "Have you ever touched the heart of evil itself? I know that courage fails, and I don't mean that. You have seen death in its many forms, but have you touched its mind? Has it invaded your thoughts? Have you watched its demented incarnation deliberately and methodically subvert the free will of another person?"
Jaya stared at him, eyes wide and ablaze. "I have. Medical science can grow back organs and reconstruct limbs, but I know of no cure for what I saw that... that abomination, that walking plague do to Lieutenant Snowdon. I can stop him, Storr." Her words came out in brusque adamance. "Saalkan could not overwhelm me. Do you understand? He had to render me unconscious because he could not take me like he did... her."

Her next words were side to the side, as she could not look at him as she spoke them. "Against that? Head on? You would not stand a chance. I can't let him touch you. I won't!"

The sparkplug of a Marine's eyes burned brightly at her comments. He both could not deny them nor allow them to pass...She was correct and wrong; strong yet weak; protective yet vulnerable. He couldn't square her circle and it both enraged and endeared him to her on a primal level. Letting go of her hands, he took her face in his and kissed Jaya deeply and passionately, his world immediately bursting into color, heat, and sound, a profound desire of physical passion and shielding passing from his lips to hers before releasing her.

"I love you without knowing how, why, or even from where. Stay with me, we'll make it through this, together, and you'll be mine forever and always. Deal?" It wasn't the most romantic or planned proposal, but the Afrikaner bent to one knee and produced a tired red velvet ring box with a simple golden band. It was his great grand mother's wedding ring and it had passed to the eldest unwed child in the family. Opening it, he smiled at the memory of his family and turned it to the beautiful counselor. "Be the future Misses Jaya Garlake?"

Jaya shook her head back and forth for just a moment, then broke into an incandescent smile. "Yes." She nodded and wiped her eyes dry before they could shed. "A hundred times, yes."

Paul coughed politely with a beaming smile, as he set the White Russian on the side table along with a small plate of olive oil toasts with greens, pine nuts, and raisins. "Congratulations," he said with a cheerful nod to the happy couple. "I wasn't overhearing, of course, but you two better bloody-well make it bake because I'm hosting an engagement party whether you want one or not...we'll be needing something to celebrate here!"

Storr chuckled at the Englishman's enthusiasm and nodded. "Well, if it's coming from the cook, it's as good as done."

 

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