USS VINDEX - NCC-2474-A
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Everybody's Fool

Posted on Thu May 4th, 2017 @ 2:26am by

Mission: S1E5 - Unknown Territory
Location: D15 Bar
Timeline: MD 80; 1930

"Oh, come on now!"

Ryland had just won another round of pool. He half-heartedly called out after the young ensign from Ops who had lost two consecutive games--and as many bars of gold-pressed latinum he had managed to squirrel away from the Alpha Quadrant.

He racked the balls back into the triangle and then leaned against the side to await the next challenger. Beer in hand, he surveyed the bar and found few were willing to go up against him. Apparently he had garnered a bit of a reputation as a shark. Maybe he'd throw the next game or two. He could always chalk it up to his recent stint in the Brig.

As he put the glass bottle to his lips, he saw a newbie to D15 approach him and nearly spewed the drink out. Ryland had not hoped not to see her again for awhile. This one had hit him a little too close to home. And he was on good behavior with Mrs Lawman.

"Shit." Ryland wiped the foam from his mouth and turned away to collect his thoughts. Ms Laena had brought his jacket.

"Thought you might want this," Laena said, holding out the jacket as she walked towards the man.

Ryland looked around to see who was watching. D15's other patrons all turned away to nurse their drinks or engage in idle smalltalk. His keen instincts said he was still being watched, though, so he had to play this carefully.

"I did," he said, giving her a longful stare before accepting the jacket. He clenched it in his fists for a moment before putting it on. "Thank you. I... didn't think I'd see it again."

"Why's that?" Laena asked as she tucked a lock of hair behind her ear. She walked around the side of the pool table, running her fingers along the soft green felt.

"You're kidding me, right?" Ryland lowered his chin to swig from his beer while still being able to keep eyes on Laena. "Last time we ran into each other, I wasn't long for this world."

"And you think I'm capable of destroying your personal items because we had an unpleasant interaction?" Laena lifted herself up onto the side of the pool table and slid one leg over the other, her skirt revealing smooth mint green legs.

Ryland took one look at Laena and shook his head. "No," he said, his finger pointed at her with bottle still in hand. "Burn me once, shame on you. Burn me twice, shame on me. I ain't bitin' again."

"Biting what?" Laena asked, a look of pure confusion on her face.

"You're in here, flashin' a lotta' leg like you got something to give," Ryland said with a dismissive wave. He ran the chalk over his cue and leaned in for a breaking shot. "I already been down that road and seen its dead end."

The balls scattered in an even break with the blue 2 ball ricocheting into the corner pocket.

"And I done promised to change my ways."

Laena rolled her eyes, "See, this is part of your problem," she said to him. "You think that just because I'm here and wearing this outfit that I've somehow signaled to you that I want to change the nature of our relationship."

"You didn't come here for nothin'." Ryland took another shot, this time sinking the orange 5 ball. He circled the table to line up the next one. It missed.

"Dammit."

"I came here to give you your jacket back," Laena said, grabbing the man's cue as he walked past. "A thank you is customary."

"You know, a starfighter pilot has to observe everything," Ryland said, turning to face Laena who held the other end of the pool cue. "Every blur in the viewport, every blip on the screen, every gut feeling. It creates a sixth sense if you will, when locked in conflict. You survive because you learn to anticipate what's going to happen before it does."

Ryland pulled on the cue to bring the two of them closer. Leaning toward her face, he said,

"Now I already said thank you, so you stickin' around askin' for more says you're really lookin' for something else. Maybe something more." Ryland's left eye half closed in a wink.
"And here's the part where you go on denyin' it--where you try to convince me as well as yourself that you aren't here to flash some leg and get some creature comfort on this cold, lonesome night--but let me tell you the benefit of being everybody's fool."

He polished off the rest of his beer and planted the bottle on the corner table.

"Back in the king's day, everybody had to bow and scrape before his shiny crown... except for the royal fool." Ryland's face spread in a wild grin. "Nobody respects the fool, but he always has the last laugh. When we end up in each other's arms, I'm going to be laughing it up. Just you wait."

"You're a pig," Laena said, giving the man's shoulder a shove. "Why is it that everything has to be about sex? I don't understand that."

"Because that's how we separate the boys from the men," Ryland countered. He looked down to watch Laena's hand pull away from his shoulder. "Sigmund Freud. Brilliant man. If we don't grab the bull by the horns, so to speak, then all we do is move our 'frustration' from one thing to another."

The scowl on Laena's face evoked a chuckle from the man.

"All right, all right, let me put it like this." Ryland turned to one side and splayed his hands out in front to frame an invisible box in the air. "You've got this whole, big universe out there filled with worlds and people and stories, and it's enough to make a body feel small and insignificant. When shit hits the fan in a big way, it makes all the sense in the world to cash in your chips and end it all with a bang."

Ryland risked a glance toward Laena to make sure she was still listening. He quickly turned back to his invisible panorama, lest he reveal more than he intended.

"When you got nothing to live for, then you find solace where you can."

Ryland reached for his beer only to remember it was empty. His eyes darted about to avoid Laena's for a moment. When they returned to hers, the sparkle was gone, replaced by bitter pain.

"Enough about me, though. Let's talk about you. Lil' Miss Starlight locked away in your tall tower away from the big, scary world." Ryland tried to smile, but it fell short of any resemblance to one. "Only there ain't no knight in shinin' armor out here. Just dirty, ol' survivors tryin' to make it, just like you. Take what you can get when it comes your way, because that's all there's ever going to be."

"You have a very pessimistic view on life," Laena said, walking around to the other side of the pool table. She picked up one of the balls and started to roll it over in her hands. "Have you considered that perhaps a change in your attitude would change how life is going for you?" she asked.

"'Life is suffering,' Ms Starlight," Ryland said with a smirk. "The sooner you understand that, the sooner you begin to appreciate the finer things." He leaned in closer. "Don't believe me?" His hand snatched the ball out of hers and held it between them with a flourish. "I'll prove it."

He stared at her with a teasing, challenging look over the ball.

"Walk away."

"That's an unfair test," Laena said, trying to grab the ball from his hand. But the man's grip was too firm and she failed. She smiled and rolled her eyes, "Walking away would indicate that you are worthless for me to stay, but staying would indicate that I desire a sexual relationship with you." She crossed her arms and leaned her hip against the pool table. "Neither of which is true. So what course of action would you suggest?"

"Rise above it all," Ryland said. "Free yourself. Whether with me or anyone else. Nobody is going to get you out of your tower, Starlight Princess, except you."

"You know nothing about me, Ryland," Laena said, her voice betraying a slight sting. "Stop making assumptions that you know nothing about."

"Tsk, tsk. Now who's being pessimistic?" Ryland tossed the ball up in the air for Laena to catch. "Look at how you caught that on instinct. You didn't want to," he said with his tone turned playful, "but you did it anyway."

Ryland cocked his head back while his voice took a condescending tone. "That's life, princess. You're compelled to do things you think you don't want to do, but in the end you just couldn't help yourself." He punctuated his words with a wide grin.

Laena's face turned from confusion to absolute disgust. "And you think that sleeping with you is something that, despite me not wanting to do, I'm going to do it anyway?"

Shaking her head, Laena let the ball fall from her hand and it hit the ground with a loud thud. She turned and walked towards the exit, "You're honestly the worst person I've ever met, Ryland Dedeker, and you're vile."

Ryland shrugged. "Can't win them all," he said, loudly enough for her to overhear. When he gave her his back, he breathed a sigh of relief.
"That was a close one, Dedeker," he muttered to himself. Cue in hand, he leaned forward to take another shot. "Too close."

 

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