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JL | Com Ivanova, Capt Neyes | "Kairos" pt 1

Posted on 241809.22 @ 15:46 by Commodore Rochelle Ivanova & Captain Landon Neyes

Mission: Lacuna

The world is made of colors. They’re all around us, circulating, undulating, offering reason and rhyme to the prolific manifesto that is life. The desert, aptly named ‘painted’, was no exception to that rule. Often viewed as harsh and inhospitable with it’s bright rust rocks and mauve and tan sands - it was more alive than some green and golden prairies. The desert was no different than an ocean in many ways; life was often concealed and hidden from the eyes of all but the most astute and observant creatures.

That may have been why Rochelle had once again chosen to return there when Tristan had made his suggestion that the next session be conducted over a field trip. He hadn’t used those exact words - field trip - that wasn’t his style, but the suggestion that they converse while doing something physical and reaching towards a common goal could only be described as a Gods damned field trip.

Hot. Inhospitable. A polar opposite climate to the sterile coolness of their usual holoprogram, she couldn’t help but feel a hell of a lot more comfortable. Hair up in a knot, makeup forgotten, shorts and boots - she was far more free to move and react and think than she would have been had she allowed Tristan to stuff them back into chairs beneath his ever watchful eye. The safeties were on. He’d insisted.

“Yeah… Because I’m going to manage to throw Landon off a cliff, right?” She’d scoffed, shaking her head and stuffing her toothbrush back in her mouth, ignoring the face on the other side of the view screen.

“The fact you immediately went there is reason enough to keep the safeties on.” Tristan had retorted, though she could have sworn there was a hint of amusement coloring the corners of his words. She couldn’t be sure. Didn’t care enough to push the point given that it was universally unimportant.

“Safeties won’t save anyone from anything but death and mortal injury, Tristan. You’re asking me to take a broken person on a strenuous hike through hell.”

“Why does it have to be a strenuous hike through hell? Why can’t it just be a nice stroll along a beach?”

She’d paused then, leveling a gaze both dark and foreboding, and shook her head, removing the toothbrush for the last time. “I’m going to pretend you didn’t ask that question. We’ll both be happier for that. I’ll see him at seventeen-hundred.”

Truth was, Rochelle wasn't blind to the multitude of reasons behind sending Landon, broken as he was, through a rigorous routine filled with dirt and sweat. There was hope that it would challenge his integrity enough to kick start that inner drive to take better care of himself - rebuild his physique and with it, his psyche.

Saying no... She could have... Would have... But she'd done what she'd done to make him better, not condemn him to life as a husk of what he once had been.

The sun wasn’t quite as high in the sky as it could have been, in fact it was beginning to think about dipping beneath the sawtooth tips of the mountains looming high above them. It was a genuine miracle that some of them were still tipped white with snow, standing out boldly against an impossibly blue sky. Color… So many of them… And yet there wasn’t a single one that quite fit the mood that had fallen over woman. At least she was in her element; a world of fire and ice both unforgiving and fair to those who dwelled within it.

Her thumbs hooked into the pockets of her shorts when his shadow fell to mingle with hers, obscuring the lines between them. “I've been told it'd be good for us to go on a walkabout.” Rochelle sighed, “We’re headed down this ridge and up that one.” A nod was given to the rock and cactus infested rise of land a mile or two to the East, away from the sun. Another small favor she’d allowed for, keeping the burning hot star out of their eyes for the duration of their journey, “Somewhere on the other side is a little mining town called Tortilla Flats. That’s our goal.” If we don’t kill one another went without saying as she briefly toyed with a stone with her toe, “There’s a dirt road. We won’t be using it. Oh and Tristan says I’m obligated to remind you that you’re welcome to check out at any time you feel too pressured or whatever and we’re supposed to talk. Shall we?”

And with that as fanfare, she was in motion and beginning to pick her way along some hidden path through the painted desert.

The feeling of boots on his feet was a welcome change and a familiar sensation he had probably forgotten to miss. There was a sense of power to be had while conquering steps of jagged stone and prickly weeds. Under less sterile conditions he'd have to be concerned with insects and the like, but here in the holodeck, there was as freedom. Freedom to appreciate the environment in a more direct way. While Rochelle trodded ahead of him, the silence between them wasn't so much awkward as it was necessarily mutual. He'd watch her footfalls, making note of her method of traversing the terrain, and then proceed to follow suit, or take his own path a few steps to the side. A lizard darted off into the brush as they passed a seam of large boulders, and Landon finally decided to pipe up.

"How's our son?" He asked, tracing his hand along a stone wall as they walked.

Making one of these treks was often a solo walk, or ride, and left Rochelle feeling a sense of achievement and clarity. The desert was her nirvana, each step a tactical form of meditation. Most often the safeties would be off for a sense of realism, keeping her from becoming complacent - but she'd promised Tristan she'd tone it down, keep Landon from falling off a cliff in his less than stellar condition. It was his condition she'd first noticed that day. There was a hint of ruggedness and a promise of renewed muscle etched along his forearms until they disappeared under the fabric off his shirt. All that said, Rochelle was distracted by the thought and sound of him behind her. There'd be no relaxing.

"Hmm?" She asked, briefly looking back over her shoulder at him before dropping to slide down a particularly rough patch of stone she simply didn't have the length of leg necessary to traverse any other way. "He's getting bigger every day, obsessed with things that fly. We should have named him Landon two point oh." The conversation wasn't as strained as she thought it would have been, at least not at that particular point. It was better that way. Safeties or not, the Hell's Hip Pocket Canyon wasn't exactly a cake walk.

A smile managed to slowly rise on his face, thinking to what Vaan would be like once everything settled down again. There was an uncomfortable part of him, something that nibbled and nagged in the back of his mind. He was missing time with his son. Regardless of what happened between Rochelle and himself, there was a longing to be a part of his family again. To hold Vaan and take him on shuttle trips to different worlds. The boy would grow up knowing space, this much was at least certain enough. Landon though, wanted to make sure he grew up knowing his father and knowing his father loved him.

"Well he certainly has good taste then," Landon started, quietly catching up to her. His height towered above hers, but even with longer legs, he had to push harder than he'd expected to gain on her.

He vocalized this in as passive a tone he could, "Hey you in a hurry or something?"

The quicker they got down to Tortilla Flats, the quicker the 'session' would be over. It hadn't exactly been a mantra, repeatedly going off inside her mind in every language feasible, but it was a sub-conscious bit of knowledge that his question quickly reminded her of. With the sun behind them, their shadows bled together in an abstract bit of art that acted as a guide out in front of them. The longer they grew, the closer he was, until her head disappeared somewhere into the bulk of his chest and he was all that remained against the red, twisted earth.

Rochelle's forward motion stalled in hesitation, hovering above a more technical bit of rock and sand. "Something like that," she admitted, surprisingly without rancor. "Be careful through here. Ground's not stable." Her voice fell away into a distracted mutter about box canyons and floods and erosion or something. Anything to ignore proximity. "And watch the cholla. It chases people." Her fingers raised in a gesture to the rather unintimidating looking cactus. She didn't bother looking or doing much more, it was better to concentrate on the next step to be taken while working. Anything else, mid-balancing act across a loose rock and a steep drop, and she could be in a lot deeper trouble than worrying about him having a run in with the teddy bear plant from hell. Then again, pulling savage spines from his flesh wasn't exactly the best way to keep distance between them. She grunted and lept the last few feet to the safety of softer sand below.

"... or something like that," he muttered quietly. It was less in mockery of her dispassionate tone and more his annoyance that she seemed distant despite everything they'd been through together. She was walling herself off from him, and it was driving him crazy. He watched her hip-hop and carefully navigate the fragile-looking rocks, "I've flown through asteroids with the Vindicator-D, Roc. I think I can handle this."

He gracefully maneuvered himself and balanced his weight while making the way across, "And while we're out here, maybe you could say more than just the cursory guidelines for hiking? I've been hiking before. In deserts." He stopped midway across, "And come on. We're supposed to be doing... counsel-y things so Tristan can feel good in his brainy little heart."

Brushing an unruly, dusty bit of hair back behind her ear, Rochelle looked up at him. It was half in consideration of his words and half in consideration of his agile technique. She did know that he could hike and that he had an amazing predelection for solving puzzles and sorting through issues that took an exaboradent amount of acute spacial awareness to navigate. It just became easier for her to pretend he wasn't Landon, that he was some shadow she'd been assigned while moseying on through the desert.

More than just his general physique had changed since their little verbal skirmish, she noted, he'd come crawling out of his shell and - as her eyes narrowed with a degree of scrutiny and interest best suited to appraising horseflesh - something had most definitely clicked. There was a new light there, small and perhaps fragile, but promising to build into the cocksure spotlight she'd once known so very well... And, admittedly, fallen in love with.

"Well, he'll be pleased to know that I resisted the temptation to throw you off a cliff... So far." Her fingers fumbled with a carabiner on her belt. While she wouldn't be needing them, or using them, on this particular adventure it became a sort of anchor for her frustrations to hold to. A reminder that whispered Steady on, stay the course, each time he spoke and tried to curry from her... What? Affection? Attention? Forgiveness? She couldn't be sure. Rochelle's eyes closed momentarily as she realized the spite work she'd thrown at him and with a shake of her head, she hauled out a proverbial olive branch. "Look, I'm sorry. You're right. About everything you just said," That tasted sour to admit, but it was the truth and he deserved nothing less than that.

The branch hung, invisible, in the charged air between them.

"So..." She sighed, choosing to wait for him to finish descending, watching him loom ever nearer. The sun, even in holoformat, had already blessed his faded spots and paler skin with a kiss of color in a reminder of how real such technology could be. It dappled through the canyon to bring out the richness of his short-cropped hair and amplified the barest hint of stubble along his jaw. More than anything, it was a reminder, another one, that he was healing and growing and promising... A shake of her head killed her thoughts, "You choose the topic this time. Didn't go so well the last time that honor fell in my lap."

Landon rolled his eyes at her, outwardly showing his exhaustion with her incessant barbs. "Anyway, they started letting me eat sugar again," he half-laughed a little as if his limited diet was anything interesting enough to talk about with his slightly estranged ex-wife. In a lot of ways, the ability to receive 'treats' was an oddly-awakening low for him. Having one's ability to moderate themselves is taken away when you'd done the things Landon had, but the feeling of being patronized persisted nonetheless. Like a child or even his own son, Landon had to ask before doing almost anything. Even this particular excursion was not without an obligatory briefing dictating what he was allowed, and not allowed to do. It stunk of the rules Starfleet had inflicted on him since he signed on, and now he felt the starvation of his wanderlust. Being in the desert with Rochelle was the most that driving desire had been sated in months.

Then it struck him. He still had to tell her. Contenting their divorce was a thing he had committed to, and he was less than enthusiastic at the chances she'd take it well.

She's seen his eyes roll snd immediately she'd felt a rolling, rush of air pass through her nostrils in a rather undignified retaliatory snort. She deserved it. That much she'd grant him, but it did nothing to keep her from pivoting in the loose footing of the canyon floor and marching on towards Tortilla Flats. The feeling of him wandering along behind her was never going to get any easier to accept, either. She strained to listen to him, passing glances over her shoulders veiled to look like she was rubbing grit or sweat from her face. Landon had never once come second in her life. Not even as she tried to grant him freedom from the stress and strain of life among the stars, weaning them off one another cold turkey as she had.

"Been indulging in cupcakes, have you Mr. Neyes?" Her lips stubbornly curled into a smile that was well concealed from his eyes, but maybe not from his ears. Chiding herself was an option as she dipped beneath the remnants of a Palo Verde tree wedged in the rocks by a past flash flood, but it wouldn't have helped a damn thing. He was alive, sober, and cupcakes would always hold special meaning. A hint of sugar would never fail to conjure the memory of him fumbling to disappear one of the confections as if she'd caught him with some horribly embarrassing bit of contraband.

Sugar was one of those bits of temptation it was near impossible to ignore, and he was drawn to it like a moth to an open flame. Something of an addiction that couldn't ever quite be kicked. Another quick peek back as she rounded a corner and took a foothold to climb a pile of debris reminded her of the parallels drawn between them and sugar more than she'd have cared to admit. "You still owe me a mudslide, you know."

"Still no alcohol," Landon shrugged, "I'll have to stick to tea or some other bullshit."

He wanted to ask if a drink with her was something she wanted. The hesitation to engage in that conversation frustrated him further. Asking her meant communicating so much more than that particular question. It meant "showing his hand", as stupid as even that seemed. It meant putting her on the spot to answer regarding complicated emotions. This was the companion to his life once, and he'd thought that would be for a long time still. The exchange between them now seemed wrong, out of place, and like it should be happening to two other people than him and Rochelle.

He stopped, taking a shallow breath to quell the irritation and frustration, "Rochelle."

She could hear the dirt and gravel crunching beneath his boots as he came to a heavy halt and at the sound of her name, she herself paused. Mid-grip. In retrospect she'd be almost certain that she hung in time and space like some sort of desert horned lizard having been spotted by a hawk, frozen with her hand outreached and poised to grab hold of a rock outcropping, one leg anchored and the other barely balanced on the toe of her boot in preparation to hoist herself up and over the next obstacle. "Landon." She answered. Her name hadn't been a question, it was a statement. She returned it in kind and once certain she wasn't going to fall from her precarious perch, she tossed the hair out of her eyes and looked over her shoulder at him.

"I want you to hear me out right now." He could feel the fabric of his shirt ruffling beneath the tension of his left hand as he silently wrung it. "I don't want to let this go... us, I mean. I realized the mistake I've made. I can never apologize enough for it, but I will absolutely try.

"But, I need more before I give up on us. It's selfish I guess, and the last thing I want to do it take away your sense of what's right for you and Vaan... and if I can't prove that this is behind me, then I'll accept our divorce." His voice narrowly managed to maintain even a semblance of the strength he had before, "Until then, I want you to know I'm contesting the divorce." He locked eyes with her, waiting for her reply.

At first there was no indication that she'd even heard him. No movement. No noise. No indication at that the 'lizard' had become the 'hawk' - but there was something in that hot, arid air that shifted and became absolutely electrified. Then she swallowed the lump in her throat, tipping her nose down and bringing her eyes away from him as her jaw tensed and she took the time to carefully back track off the pile of rock and debris she'd been scaling. Safeties, or not, falling would leave a nasty set of bruises and scratches she'd rather not have to explain later.

Once grounded, she dusted off her palms against the thighs of her shorts. That was when her lips pursed and her head tilted off to the right, jaw tense and eyes narrowed in earnest consideration of him. "On what grounds are you contesting our divorce?" Rochelle's voice was calm, soft, easy and free, "I did what I did as much for you as I did for our son." She continued, letting her hands fall to her sides. They may have been prone, but her shoulders were square and filled with the promise that - while she wasn't interested in an all out fight - she wasn't exactly feeling warm and fuzzy.

Not at all.

to be continued...

Commodore Rochelle Ivanova
Commanding Officer

Captain Landon Neyes


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