USS VINDEX - NCC-2474-A
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Like an Avalanche Coming Down the Mountain

Posted on Fri Sep 8th, 2017 @ 6:45am by Commander Akiva ben-Avram & Major Storr Garlake

Mission: S2E1 - Secrets
Location: MCO Office
Timeline: MD 101; 1200

It had been a long night. And an early morning. Less than 2 weeks of marriage, and already Akiva worried if the fire was fading. Counselor Maera had given him some great advice, but it wasn't the sort that had an immediate effect. He knew it would take time. And, as it happened, he had developed a recent friendship with her husband. They'd agreed to meet together for drinks, and despite the early hour, Akiva figured he would take the man up on his offer.

Akiva wandered through the Marine barracks, dismissing one corporal after another with an at-ease gesture, until he made it to the Major's office. He chimed at the door and then stood back to wait.

Storr's eyebrow raised as he finished the last sentence on the PADD. He wasn't expecting visitors and while he had an open-door policy, the mornings were usually reserved for PT and administrative work. He hoped that it wasn't Shadi asking for a rematch, the series of pops emanating from a rolling of his neck reminding him of the vigorous bout they had shared the other day.

Setting the tablet down onto the small desk, he looked up to the door in anticipation and subconsciously adjusted his uniform. "Come."

"Good morning, Major... Storr." Akiva flinched slightly as he crossed the threshold, but once he'd entered, he regained his normal posture.

The Marine's face eased as he recognized the familiar figure, standing and offering his hand, the two shaking in casual familiarity before sitting in the two lone seats. "Glad to see you, sir, though unexpected. To what do I owe the pleasure?"

Akiva averted the other man's face with aimless examination of the office decor. "Well, the other day you suggested another drink together." Akiva turned his sheepish gaze upon Storr, though not without great effort. "It seemed as good of a time as any to take you up on it."

Storr chuckled. "Well, Akiva," he said, calling the XO by his first name now that the door was closed...this was obviously far more of a social call than an official one. "You have impeccable timing." Bending down, he retrieved a bottle and two glasses from the bottom drawer, setting them on the desk between the two men. He smiled inwardly, the set having been used more in the last two days than in as many months previously. This week was truly shaping up to be an interesting one.

Uncorking the spirit, the MCO poured two fingers into each and raised a glass. "Never too early," he said with a wink and quaffed the drink in a single pull. A subtle "ahh" escaped his lips with satisfaction.

Akiva, on the other hand, gave his glass a wary sniff before taking a moderate sip. The burn didn't seem so bad, so he tossed the rest back with a single gulp imitation of Storr. He shuddered at the aftertaste, but otherwise held his composure.

"Thank you."

Examining the glass in the light, Major Garlake watched as the cut crystal shattered the light that entered, sending starbursts into his vision. "Now, again, to what do I owe the pleasure? To say that you're the last man I would expect to join me in a drink at noontime would be an understatement, though a welcome one."

Akiva let his eyes sink low once again, though their scanning of the MCO's desktop failed to find anything to justify their wandering. He eventually turned his head down to face his folded hands.

"How is marriage treating you?" He risked a glance upward to gauge Storr's response.

A smile played at the edges of Storr's mouth. "A question like that deserves another drink," he replied, pouring the two a refill though simply circling the glass in his hand.

"It's treating me...quite well, thank you. I'm sorry, but I didn't know; you're married as well? We haven't really caught up since my return."

Akiva readily accepted the refill and threw it back with reckless abandon. "After a fashion," he said. "I'll never be married in the eyes of my people. Laena and I will likely remain forever betrothed. But..."

The words clung to his throat. For all the friendship they had developed, how well did he really know Storr? Was he really going to bare his soul to the man?

"I don't know if Laena would have it any other way." Realizing how little that actually conveyed, he stumbled over his words in a rapid exhalation. "That is, she loves me, and sees herself growing old with me... but... not marrying? Whatever marriage means to her. Still haven't nailed that down. And, then, there's this stubborn streak she has about being independent of me, but whatever is that supposed to mean?"

He ended the diatribe with a deep gasp. And horror at the possibility that he had said too much.

"Women," Storr said before chuckling, then gazed into his glass in thought before downing it and looking back up into his friend's eyes. "Marriage...did you go and pick out a younger alien girl with marriage issues to join the club? Because if you did, membership isn't all it's cracked up to be."

The smile that began to creep across his face retreated as he read the very real anxiety and trepidation that crashed like waves across Akiva's countenance.

"Look, I..." the Afrikaner paused for a moment, checking himself and placing the glass back on the desk. "Marriage is an incredibly important thing to me, my family, heritage, and religion...I had to nearly get thrown out of my house and risk Jaya getting diplomatically censured and recalled to Delta IV before getting where we are today and, trust me, we're most definitely still figuring things out. I know that it is to you, too, and it seems that you're in a bobotie." Leaning back in his chair, the large Marine took a deep breath and let it out, slowly. "Why don't you start from the beginning."

"I don't really know where to begin," Akiva said with a sigh. "I suppose it began one day during the refit at DS9 when Laena came into my office with a transfer request. She... looked nervous. Normally I'm the nervous one, especially around a beautiful woman. I tried talking her out of it, and... well, she stopped by later that evening."

Akiva paused to chase away some lingering guilt. "After I had made dinner plans with Amber while at Quark's, that is." He dropped his head. "I am still not proud of how I led her on. But how could I be sure?"

A faraway look crossed his face. "But, then. During the away mission on Nova Mercia, I performed ablutions for Yom Kippur... what a sheygets like yourself would know as the Day of Atonement. And Laena was there on the seashore. Tevilah ablutions require living water, not stagnant, and so... one thing led to another: I invited her to join me, she accepted without thoroughly understanding, and we spent a chaste night together under the stars."

Akiva chuckled at the memory. "We awoke before dawn and sneaked back to the base camp before anyone noticed. And... then we barely escaped with our lives. It just..."

He looked up at Storr. "I realized I had to tell Amber the truth. That I could not live without Laena. She is a foreigner to my people in every sense of the word, and yet I have given myself to her body and soul. Am I fool, Storr? Have I pledged my life and my honor to someone who does not understand them?"

Storr took it all in, amazed at several of the details. "I think I remember a similar conversation in which a very wise man told me that there are 'but two judges in this life: Ha'Shem and the man in the mirror.' Given that, what do you think your options are?"

"I know what I must do." Akiva covered his face, lest his emotion show bare. "There is just so much doubt. Laena wants independence, as if that is something she cannot have with me. And then there's the baby."

Perhaps it was the alcohol. Or maybe Akiva was finding a deeper connection with Storr than he had anticipated. Most likely, he simply needed to tell somebody.

"Oh, Ha'Shem help me..." Akiva clenched his eyes shut lest they betray him with weeping. "Laena is with child, and does not know whether she wishes to keep it."

The MCO whistled low and stopped circling his glass. Looking into it, he eyed the still-swaying amber liquid lapping at the sides, hoping that it would give him insight. There was none there.

"'When God buildeth, he casteth all down first. He is no patcher.' William Tyndale." Storr finally said, stopping the glass' motion and downing the whiskey. He thought for a moment back to his impassioned plea to the Deltan Ambassador but that soliloquy and monologue wouldn't help here...his friend needed support, not a barrage of concepts that he knew the Hebron already was intimately familiar with.

Looking up, he saw Akiva nearly shaking, his eyes closed and puffy while his fingers curled against the table...Garlake's heart broke for the XO. Reaching out, he clasped the man's forearm in his hand and squeezed.

Akiva lurched at the sudden physical contact, but once he had acclimated, he did not pull away.

"You know what you need to do...the betrothal that you claim in Ha'Shem's name is an intimate one that can only be sealed with a lawful, covenant oath: marriage." He chuckled, looking down at his fingers intertwined around the glass. "Lord knows that I bucked hard enough to get mine."

"I suppose what I'm saying is that the independence that she's looking for can't really exist outside of proper boundaries. For all the claptrap about our egalitarian nature here in the Fleet, we are all created, individually and corporately, with differences and distinctions that we ignore at our peril. Men and women, humans and Orions; not the same. Revel in it, find glory in it, and help cultivate her loveliness through your thoughtful, self-sacrificial love from above. THAT is what will provide those boundaries, THAT is what will give her security and show that your relationship is more than a physical one. THAT is what you're called to do."

Akiva's jaw quivered, but he said nothing.

Taking a breath, Storr dared to continue. "As for the baby, I can't congratulate you enough. Life! What a blessing from heaven! Now...look at me, Akiva," the MCO said, his voice dropping an octave as he stared into the Hebron's eyes with an intensity that crackled through the space between them. "Do whatever it takes for her to keep the child. Her child. Your child. Ha'Shem's gift. If you shy away from this, you'll be turning your back on everything you stand for when you wake up and put that uniform on in the morning. Clear?"

The admonishment made Akiva tense up. "I told her that I would not abandon my own flesh. Even if that means she abandons me with the child."

Storr nodded solemnly. "I can't imagine the position you're in, but know that I'm here for you. I want you both to be together to raise this child in a loving marriage relationship any if there's any way that I can help make that happen, just say the word." Retracting his hand from across the table, the sudden lack of contact caused the Marine to inwardly flinch.

"She wouldn't be carrying your child if she didn't want to be with you, nor have accepted your betrothal. Honestly, I think you have someone else you need to be talking to that's a lot better looking than me right now."

Akiva nodded, both in acknowledgment of his pledge and agreement with his observation. "You're right," he whispered, "on all counts. I just..."

In a flash of rage, Akiva pounded both fists on the desk. His shot glass jostled over the edge and shattered on the floor. "Everything I say is wrong! No matter what I do or how hard I try, she makes me out to be a villain! What am I supposed to do?!"

By the time Akiva settled his temper, he found himself up on his feet heaving deep gasps of breath. Broken glass crinkled under his shoe.

"Forgive me, Major." Akiva fell into formality and turned his face away.

For only a flash of a moment, the Afrikaner was caught up in the storm, anger burbling to the top of his brow like a raging tea kettle threatening to boil over. Flashing images, like a flip book of old...stilted images combining to produce a sickening, lurching motion; Jaya, a fight, a thrown statuary, a slap, curses, tears, a rapid exit, in the arms of another, the doctor. Then, her color shifted and phased, her visage changing to that of the resident Orion and the situation played in reverse, though this time at the end she was now in his arms. A kiss. Deeper. More.

As quickly as the bow wave overtook him, however, it departed. The retreating emotional tide forced him to squeeze his eyes shut for a moment before opening them so that he could concentrate first on Akiva's shoe, the glittering shards reflecting its blackness.

Standing, he faced the XO while placing both hands on the desk and leaning forward. "I can't tell you what to do, boet, but I can tell you that it's not me that you need to be asking forgiveness from. Broken glass is easy. Relationships, hearts, and the unborn? That's a whole other thing."

Akiva nodded but said nothing.

Storr held a hand up. "And yes, I said forgiveness for a reason. Forgiveness for not taking the manly lead in the relationship, not defining that relationship properly for either of you and for not giving her the benefit of the doubt. She needs a man with firm convictions and she's rebelling against your passivity." The MCO put his hand down as he looked the Commander in the eyes. "And that firm man is you."

Akiva toed the pile of glass with his foot. "I asked her to marry me. I invited her into my home. I pledged to raise our child whether she wants to be a mother or not. What else can I do?"

The question was borderline pitiful.

Major Garlake looked down at the desk and then back up. This was not going to be easy. "You're asking a former slave to willingly enter into a relationship that for all intents and purposes looks like something she's already escaped from. You've betrothed her, you've bedded her, and now you've bred her...why are you asking her to enter into something that she already is?" The MCO waited a moment before continuing. "No asking is necessary. Bring her into your room, envelope her into your life. Pursue your fathers as you should but she is yours already. And you both know it."

Akiva stared intently at the wall as he considered the Major's words. "All I can do is wait," he said at last. "The one thing no man can do easily. But I will do what I must." He cleared his throat and made his way toward the door.

"Thank you for your time, Major. And I apologize about the mess."

Storr nodded slowly, rising as his drinking partner did the same. "Never easy, but often required." Looking to the carpet at Akiva's comment, he looked back to the XO with a warm gaze. "Nevermind it, sir," he said, slipping back into formality as the Lieutenant Commander did in kind. "Much easier to clean up than some of the situations we find ourselves in. My door's always open and I appreciate the visit."

As his friend left, the Marine sighed heavily and eyed the sole empty glass. His heart broke for Akiva and just thinking about himself in a similar situation made the Afrikaner nearly dry-heave...how the man was dealing with it as well as he was was a testament to something outside himself, that was for sure. Taking a seat, the MCO splashed a last quick drink into the glass, his mind deep in thought and empathy.

Cleaning up could wait.

 

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