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[BACKLOG] Lt. Sha'mer, Lt. MacLeod | "Whiskey"

Posted on 242002.22 @ 21:13 by Lieutenant Craig MacLeod & Lieutenant Ra'lin Sha'mer

Mission: Genesis
Timeline: before shuttle wreck was retrieved

"A shuttle crash. I thought shuttles wur suppose tae be safe!" Craig had almost been reduced to swearing more than once throughout the day. His words were to no one in particular, jostled from his mind and through his lips by the element of sheer surprise and disbelief that had rocked him since the news had initially landed. It had been so simple too, so dry that it seemed almost callous. 'Following the death of Commodore Ivanova, all essential personnel are to return to the USS Vindicator by 0100, 242012.25 to await further orders' had been the line that stuck out and rubbed him the most raw.

The PADD clattered to the floor, propelled to momentary flight by one of his hands.

"Lik' thay dinnae even realize she mattered tae someone. She wis a..." That same hand now raked through his hair, pausing on the back of his head when he realized he wasn't alone. Slowly he turned to face the energy he recognized to be a heavy gaze and his expression softened considerably when the bright green of his eyes met the rich familiar umber of Ra'lin's. The burly Scot's hand dropped into his lap and he was quick to find his feet, shaking his head, "I'm sorry, Ra'lin, I'm sae damn sorry. I ken whit she meant tae ye." To all of us...

Ra'lin walked over to him with the thrown PADD in her hand and handed it back. "Which is precisely why you're so upset," she said calmly. She sat down in one of the chairs, wrapped her arms around her leg so that she formed a compact package, folded in on herself. But her head remained raised and her eyes never wandered far from Craig's face. "I don't believe she is dead," she said, for the second time this day. That odd certainty was still there, as well as that sense of urgency. I need to go down there. I need to examine the place where she crashed. No chance, now that they were all ordered to remain on the Vindicator. She felt so frustrated that she wanted to scream and rage. Instead, she turned that energy inward, contained it until the moment it could be used.

"She 'n' I didnae ever see totally eye tae eye, but I... Aye I respected her." Craig started to explain himself and the rashness of tossing the PADD, feeling more ignorant that vindicated given the gentle nature of the woman taking up one of his seats. "I owe th' twa o' ye mah leef. I wouldn't be 'ere if it wasn't fur ye." It was truth, it was the raw truth and it ended with a heavy sigh and his body being deposited into the chair closest to hers. In it, his shoulders slumped and his head tipped back until his eyes saw nothing but ceiling panels and the shadows that half-cast upon them.

And there was silence. Aside from the thrumming of engines there was nothing, unless you resided in Craig's head and then there was everything. Ra'lin's words buzzed about his brain at about warp eight, maybe a little faster, but they continued to ping and resonate and couple roughly with his own thoughts. "Ye think she's doon thare 'n' they've missed her sae far?" The Scotsman's head rolled limply in her direction until he could make out the features of her face in earnest. He'd certainly heard crazier things in the past and believed them with his whole heart, knowing that the fact he was now living among the stars hundreds upon hundreds of years after the death of his entire civilization being chief of that particular tribe of thought. A hand extended, allowing his index finger to connect with and stroke her knuckles, "Ye kin feel it..."

"I don't know…" Ra'lin shook her head and clasped her hands tighter to stop herself from bringing one to her face and gnawing a knuckle. The pent-up tension made her all but vibrate on the chair. "It's just that part of me seems to know, seems to be certain. I don't see how she could've survived the crash, and not be found. It's just… I know it doesn't make sense, but-" she cut herself off with another curt headshake. "You know, yes. I just have the feeling that if only I could get down there, even if all of Starfleet Intel has gone over the site with a comb and a pair of tweezers, that maybe, I might be able to pick something up."

Some things in life weren't meant to make sense, things like what the guy who discovered cow's milk was tasty was thinking when he tried it or how words became a thing, but Craig knew better than to ask for explanations about them. Same way he knew not to ask for an explanation as to how Ra'lin's sixth sense had come to the conclusion that the Commodore was somehow still alive. It could easily just be glossed over by his knowledge that she had a gift that allowed her into people's mindspace, and he'd accept that for what it was. A gift. If Ra'lin said she thought the Commodore was alive, then he'd allow himself to bank a bit of hope on it.

The finger on he'd placed on her knuckles stilled its motion and his brows furrowed in a most puzzled expression, "Bit howfur kin ye git doon thare? we're bein' babysat by orders fae some blowhard up tap." He rumbled, lifting his other hand to his chin as he tried to wrack his brain for thoughts and ideas, "I dae hae tae ask... Is it mibbie her soul that ye'r picking up oan? dae they exist?"

"That's a question only philosophers and people who follow certain faiths dare to answer," Ra'lin said. Despite her best efforts, one of her hands strayed to her mouth. She forced it down again. "I don't know. I think, but I have no basis for that belief, that if someone dies, their soul or whatever makes a person more than living, breathing meat gradually dissolves and becomes one with the energies of the universe. Maybe something lingers for awhile, but I think it would feel different than a living soul, one still connected to the body. So I don't think that's it. But-" she spread her hands briefly, then clasped them together again, "all I have are guesses. And that odd feeling in here. That despite any evidence to the contrary, she's still alive. I guess a counselor would say it's simple denial." She shrugged. "For all I know, it is."

She bent her head until it rested on her knees, blinked away tears. Then she looked up again, her eyes blazing fiercely. "But I don't know for *sure*, so the only way I will know is if I go down there myself." And now she did jump up and bounced to the window. She pressed both hands against it as if she wanted to push herself through the hull and jump down into the vacuum beyond.

Leaving his chair came naturally, it felt right and it felt easy no matter how weary his 'soul' was or tired his bones were. He could feel the emotion radiating off of Ra'lin and it was threatening to drown him with its intensity, dragging him beneath the waves of her undertow of frustration and sadness.

"Whit if I tellt ye I belie'e in yer feelin`s 'n' that I ainlie quaistion whit we dae aboot them?"

Craig paused a foot or two behind her, not wanting to crowd or confine her. "Whit if I tellt ye I always belie'e in ye, Ra'lin?" He all but whispered, watching as she pressed herself to the cool glass. "That those feelin`s are whit kept me alive 'n' I ken thay kin keep her alive?"

She felt his presence behind her, strong and steady like a rock. "I doubt it's my feelings which keep her alive… I think if anything it's her own strength of mind, her will to live." She stepped back from the window to lean against him. His was a touch she never avoided, she had seen inside him and she had shown herself in turn, and his presence calmed, soothed her. It didn't take away the sense of urgency she felt. "But how long can that last? How long can *she* last? Time is ticking and I'm just sitting here, about to explode."

Their height difference was extraordinary, leaving him lucky to be able to wrap is arms around her slight shoulders in a careful and gentle embrace. Having her nestle back against him was a reminder of all things that mattered most at the end of the day, and those things didn't include a Starfleet commission. It was family and sharing experiences with someone that genuinely cared about every part of one's life, from soup to nuts. "Dinnae doubt yersel'. If she's doon thare 'n' alive then she's stronger than we thought 'n' she's hingin onto hape that someone kens." He heard himself reply as he dipped to brush his lips over the top of her head, "That someone is ye. Hope keeps fowk alive even thro' unspeakable odds. Si'a 'n' anaxar are proof. Ye yersel are proof."

"True," Ra'lin said softly, snuggling into his embrace. "Nothing I can do about it unless I plan to go rogue… And even so, what'd I do? Find someone who would be willing to beam me down? Steal a shuttle and hope it won't crash?" She shook her head, but the fierce energy had left her for the moment, calmed by his touch. "I guess I, we, will just have to hope for the best. Maybe I'll get my chance tomorrow." Ra'lin closed her eyes. Here she felt warm and safe, and now all her emotions caught up with her, leaving her drained. She stifled a yawn. "You wouldn't happen to have some real whisky here, would you?" she said softly. "No synthale, the real stuff. For, ah, medicinal purposes?"

The doctor's nose wrinkled at the mention of shuttle crashes and rogue missions. Neither tended to end well and neither would be anything he'd wish upon her. Instead it would be his job to both comfort her and be supportive of her wishes, working to find a way that she could contribute to what he prayed would be the recovery of a very much alive Rochelle Ivanova, "Tak' it up wi' Dahe'el, mibbie he feels as ye dae aboot th' issue." He suggested, content to rest on those laurels for the moment, Bit fur noo, ye'r in luck." Craig managed a small smile, releasing the little fae of a woman for sake of retrieving a bottle of fine amber liquid from one of the drawers of his private desk, "I dae indeed hae th' real thing 'n' I will prescribe it tae ye straecht or oan th' rocks, whitevur it's you'd prefer." He shook the bottle briefly before bringing it to her like some sort of loyal retriever.

Alcohol wouldn't solve a damn thing, it never did, but it helped ease anxieties and allowed the drinker to momentarily escape whatever it was that plagued them. This was something Craig could speak from experience about, having found himself at the bottom of many a bottle in his time. "Lass' choice." If this was meant to be her elixir, he'd be there to see her through it in the safety he could provide far away from prying eyes and pitfalls knowing she'd do the same for him.

"Straight, please." Ra'lin rarely indulged in any kind of alcohol, precisely because it had the effect of lowering mental barriers, but right now she felt the benefits would outweigh the drawbacks. Besides, she would need to consume more than a single glass to feel a substantial effect. "How is Commander Dahe'el doing? Last thing I heard was that he collapsed and was taken to sickbay. After that, the rumour mill went… well, not silent," Ra'lin smirked, "but the rumours are too varied to have any meaning."

Removing the bottle's stopper, Craig simply handed it to her. No glasses, no preamble and no conclusion by offer of a chaser. It would be raw, straight, and no need for any extra garnish or flourish, not unlike the swirl of emotions that had seen fit to ensnare them, "Thare ye go, lassie. Dinnae be bashful." He nodded and folded his arms, resting against the arm of a chair, "Dahe'el wull survive. Stress 'n' anguish will dae yer head in e'era single time. He reckons he's lost her, bit I think he's determined tae fin' th' reason how come th' shuttle failed. Micht be yer perfect wey in, tae help him dae just that." His eyes lifted back to her face, "I'ament worried aboot Dahe'el, though."

"That's good to hear." Ra'lin looked at the bottle, smiled faintly. Without really thinking about it, she raised her free hand and held it out towards the replicator. The machine hummed and an empty glass appeared, vanished again and was now in her hand. Then she blinked, looking at the glass with a puzzled expression. "Huh? Oh, well…" She gave a little shrug, poured some whisky in the glass and set the bottle down. "Thanks. I'll go see him tomorrow, then. Or…" she looked up at him. "What are you worried about?"

One of the Scot's eyebrows twitched in response to the party trick he'd observed. At least he was going to write it off as a party trick, and somewhere in a far corner of his brain he was remarkably impressed with just how much he accepted as 'normal' and failed to question. Very few things were questionable after finding out that aliens exist and they streak among the stars to protect and serve utopian societies. After that? Glasses magically flickering into someone's hand without being ordered truly seemed like child's play.

A hand reached towards her glass and graced it with a single finger, a gesture towards the uncharacteristic behavior she was about to engage in. Drinking whiskey was his crutch, and a bad one. "Ye." He replied softly, "I always worry aboot ye."

Ra'lin looked sheepish. "I'm sorry about that," she said. "It kinda happens when I'm not really thinking… when I'm nervous or stressed or something. I've been trying to practice with it but it doesn't really work yet. Sometimes I wish I could do more, have it under better control… Maybe if I were stronger I would just be able to go down there by myself, with nobody the wiser…" She took a careful sip of the whisky and shrugged. "But I'm not, so that's a pretty foolish thought."

"That's nae why I'm worried." Important, deep words had never come easily to Craig. They were almost always elusive and always blundered either by alcohol or his own inhibitions. It was rare he spoke his mind unless his hand was forced. His mind was a quiet haven where his thoughts were allowed to run free and without judgment, an escape for him when life became complicated. The case of Ra'lin, or rather his feelings as far as she was concerned, was complicated. On the one hand she had shown him every hint that she was as interested in him as he was of her. On the other, she held him at arm's length and had hardly lit any sort of signal beacon with his name on it. On more than one occasion she'd implied that his initial fascination with the Commodore was more than fleeting.

"I'm worried fur I care aboot ye." It felt a bit like waiting to be punched in the face, but he held to it, "Nae juist as a mukker or a crewmate, afore ye gae thare either." His hand raked through his hair again, a certain sign of his anxiety to say the least, "Sae if yi'll need whiskey, I will gi'e it tae ye. If yi'll need tae figure oot a wey tae git doon thare 'n' explore th' crash site, I will help ye figure that wey oot. If ye juist wantae sit 'n' blether, I will pull up a seat 'n' listen. Whitevur ye need whenever ye require it." It was entirely way too tempting to grab the whiskey bottle after that little overture, but the Scot found it within himself to deny the need to douse himself in the amber elixir.

"Thank you." Ra'lin was touched. This man was as alien as she herself was – even more, because she herself had grown up on a Federation colony, in a Starfleet family. Both her parents had been in command positions, both her mom and her stepmom had become Admirals. She might be of alien origin, but she knew next to nothing about those. Craig, on the other hand, had only been here a few years. And from the moment she met him, he had been a constant fixture of her life, one of her very few friends.

Though she had many acquaintances on the ship, there were very few people she actually counted as her friends. Michael, with whom she had grown up – but he was no longer on board, having joined an exchange program. Si'a, and to a lesser extent her husband Anaxar – but most of her time was taken up with her family and her son. Rochelle, of course, both her CO and her friend…

And Craig. The one person other than her family who had seen her true self, without her usual masks, who hadn't recoiled from her but had accepted her for what she was. And who now showed her so much loyalty. So much friendship. It was in moments such as these that she felt like the true alien here. "You're way nicer to me than I deserve," she muttered.

"Dia tròcair." Dear God, His breath was more of a squeak than a sigh, "Mo ghràidh, tha thu airidh air barrachd."My dear, you deserve more. The burly Scot pursed his lips for a moment, digging through what felt like a deficient brain for the words necessary to explain just what it was he was trying to get across the path to her. It was difficult as hell, him being so introverted and walled off to most for sake of survival and she just plain naïve and unwilling to accept the fortunes of life as they fell into her hands.

"I mean tae say that a love ye, Ra'lin."

It felt, for all intents and purposes, as if the air had been sucked from the room leaving Craig standing in limbo with his heart on his sleeve and his emotions completely upturned by everything that had transpired throughout those last two, awful days.

"Y-you do?" The glass, which Ra'lin had raised halfway to her lips, now lowered again without a single sip being taken. Her first impulse was to ask him why?, but a warning light somewhere deep inside told her that this would totally be the wrong reply.

Then again, what in the name of all the stars *was* she supposed to say to this? She was so used to keeping people at arm's length, only to carefully let a few of them within her walls, that she was used to a few safe friendships. Not to actual love.

She had seen it in others, though. (The one time spillover from the Commodore's readyroom still made her blush.) She had seen the growing, deepening love bloom between Si'a and Anaxar, and how only a disaster, the threat of imminent death, had really brought them together.

He was as unshielded now as she had once been to him, way back when. If she said the wrong thing, out of sheer awkwardness, she would really hurt him. The enormous weight of that realization strangled her vocal cords, so that she was reduced to just looking at him, really, truly looking at him, not avoiding eye contact as she usually did. Her hands trembled and made the amber liquid in the glass ripple.

Craig nodded gently, finding it hard to break the silence that had grown between them after his little confession. It was agonizing, but it had liberated him from the weight of that particular little feeling that had first started as a fragile seedling when he'd learnt the truth of her and grown, evergreen, ever since. His hand found her shaking glass, gently guiding it to the surface of his desk before it could spill down her front or leave both the woman and his office smelling like an old pub. "I dae." He replied finally, testing the new water, "I ha'e for awhile noo 'n' felt it proper tae tell ye. I kin bide wi' knowing tis one sided, that pairt will suit me juist braw ifn tis whit's meant tae be, bit I coudnae keep on pretending lik' th' feeling didnae exist. That'd be daein' us baith a disservice." lest one of them should perish in such an unexpectant and sudden manner without being given the chance to know such important information.

A lopsided attempt at a smile made for a fleeting moment of change to the chiseled features of his face, his proof to her that all was well and he would survive one way or another. Endurance may well have been suited to become his middle name by that point.

Again, a warning light stopped her mouth before it could drop something as foolish as an 'Are you certain?'. Eventually, she just stammered: "I, I think… I never really thought… Allowed myself to think that you… I…" She gave a helpless shrug. Finally she looked away, breaking eye contact before it could lead to another mental surge such as had happened once on a planet which no longer existed. And somehow, by looking away, she found the words. Maybe not all the right ones, but not the wrong ones either. "You are the one who knows all of me," she said, staring out into space without seeing the stars. "You are the one who let me in, who didn't shy away from me, who accepts the whole of me. You are the steady force when everything around me feels like it's falling apart, you're the star to set my course by. Is that love? All I know is that I wouldn't be complete if you were gone."

It was as tough a question as 'do souls exist?' and for nearly the same philosophical reasons. Like souls, love was a construct based on emotional attachment. Some scientists had apparently tried to define love as a reaction to chemical and hormonal releases and imbalances that triggered attachment. Craig, for what it was worth, refused to believe the science in that regard. It was a bunk hypothesis that, to him, failed to reason why love lasted as long as it did between some and for a fleeting moment between others. Why some species were entirely monogamous and why some weren't. Why some people were devotedly monogamous and some weren't. What truly defined what one felt as love? Was it the same for everyone?

He shifted his weight where he stood, considering her words and his answer as carefully as could be. It was a tender moment in time that shivered, frail and fragile, in the balance between happiness and hurt. His admission beckoned his heart rate to increase, there was no doubt, but the very last thing he wanted to do was spook her by suddenly enveloping her in his arms or something equally as corny. Instead he found himself daring to touch her anyway, reaching to cup the side of her small face with his hand. "If those reasons aren't good enough tae be considered love, then we're baith wrong 'n' I dinnae feel wrong aboot this."

Ra'lin leaned into his touch, felt his warm, comforting hand on her cheek, felt the mind behind it quivering like a candle flame. She closed her eyes. The strange tension and sense of urgency she'd felt the moment she had heard of the shuttle crash was wholly forgotten for the moment, it was replaced by a different tension, the sense that something momentous was happening. It was not much in the grand scale of things. No mountains would shatter, no planets collide, no suns would explode. But her own core shifted and changed, inner walls collapsed. "And if this is a dream," she said, her voice so soft that it barely made the air vibrate, "then let me never wake up."

Craig was wordless after absorbing her words and the meaning of them. He didn't need a voice to respond or shed further light on the subject, all he needed to say had already been said and he knew his tongue was bound to turn to clay sooner rather than later, especially with how tight his throat had felt before she spoke. Instead he did was came naturally and killed the distance between them with a careful half-step forward before he guided her face up towards his. The kiss itself was feather soft, though hardly hesitant. It was a question. A request for permission as much as it was a declaration that he hadn't been speaking just to speak. It was also reassurance that he hadn't been dreaming, the petal soft texture of her lips was real and tangible and far sweeter than anything he ever could have imagined.

She answered the kiss, first a similar light touch, shy like a butterfly. Then with more passion. After a long moment she drew back and whispered: "This… this is all new to me… I don't know how any of this is supposed to go." Of course, she had learned the technical details, and she had (blush!) felt the spill-over from other people's passions. But now that the first initiating moves had been made, with herself as one of the participants, it was suddenly very new and very frightening. A first time (she had heard the stories from others, it had never really interested her much before) wasn't usually all fireworks, it was often a lot of fumbling around and more often than not painful. And he was so much bigger than she was. For the first time she wondered if that applied to the relevant parts as well.

That thought made her blush only deepen. If the lights in the cabin would go out, she was certain he'd be able to see her glow in the dark.

"I mean, not necessarily for now…" she added in a tremulous voice. "You know… for future reference… At some point… I guess…"

Christ... His ears were burning at the sound and meaning of her words. "Ah..." His forehead rested against hers and held her to him as he chuckled lightly. It was a nervous and sort of shy chuckle that held the place for words that didn't quite know how to materialize. How the hell did one approach this? Sex in the society he'd been adopted into was far less secret and taboo than it had been in his God fearing and prudish 'native' world. So much so that birth control was a standard protocol and that, at first, and definitely made him raise an eyebrow. Freedom and life without being thumped on by those looking to control culture and the masses by using fear of the omnipotent was a far better practice. It was new territory completely. Unlike many men of his time that thought it pertinent to school themselves with trollops and loose women of ill repute, his wife had been his first and only, and that had been anything but smooth at first.

Still... He hadn't taken another lover since he'd lost his wife, and that had been nearly a decade ago. "Dinnae fash yersel'," Craig murmured into her hairline, pressing a kiss there for good measure as he collected the rest of his words, "I'm in nae rush or hurry 'n' certainly wouldn't be laying ye doon 'ere for th' first time." Decidedly not, even if the temptation was there and coiling its fingers and beckoning him with a heavy pang of desire that wouldn't quite dissipate. Say nothing of the fact it was an experience he'd want to share and savor with her, giving her his full attention and leaving no concern of being walked in on lingering in the back of his mind. "Done right, tis a' aboot learning aboot yer lover and yersel'. What ye lik', what ye dinnae lik', gi'ein' 'n' sharing... Tis nae a race."

This time his lips and moved to one of her ears. He could smell her soap and the faintest hint of lilac and clover and something else that left him a slightest bit dizzy in he best of ways. The arm around her slender waist tightened ever so slightly. "Tis th' creation o' a connection 'n' bond that cannae be sae easily undone 'n' is tae often taken for granted."

Ra'lin deserved every star in the sky and he was determined to give them to her.

A bond… for her, as a telepath, those words had a different meaning. Sometimes bondings happened between two people, a direct link between their minds. Both Vulcan and Betazed couples experienced it. It wasn't even necessary for both partners to be telepaths – the most famous couple who shared a bond were probably Sarek and Amanda, the parents of the legendary Ambassador Spock. But Ra'lins own mom and stepmom also shared a bond. She wondered what that would be like, to have such a link with someone else. A perpetual awareness of the other. Not actually living in each other's mind, just that awareness, that steady presence in the corner of your own mind – at least, that's what she thought it would be.

Would this happen to them if their (non-mental) bond continued to deepen? Would Craig accept it? Like it? Hate it? Already she could feel that the wall which she usually kept erect around her mind was no longer a wall at all, it was gossamer, it would take only a touch, a thought, to tear it down and merge with him once more. She thought she could smell heather and sea, smells she forever associated with him after an earlier incident. And with every touch between them the gossamer grew thinner. As she caressed his head with one hand, she wondered fleetingly if he could feel it too.

There was no doubt that he did, even if he couldn't quite describe or understand what it was he was feeling, or hearing for that matter. Her voice, in question of the bond he spoke of, sung sweet as bird call in his head. It was a great confusion for his ears which were positively certain they heard nothing but the thrum of the ship and the gentle sound of her respiration. "O' sorts, aye." He replied without hesitation, so real was the conversation he had perceived. Questions need not be asked, his trust in her was implicit and knew no bounds. Already he was tethered to her by the desire of knowing more and sharing life.

Whatever it was that implored that he relax and surrender was just more of the same notion. However 'strange' it should have been to him, it instead felt natural as the feel of her hand stroking through and over his hair. "I'm yers, lassie." He whispered against the warmth of her skin in response to that unconscious urging spanning between their psyches.

"And I'm yours." She had no idea whether she actually used words to say it or only thought them aloud. The tissue-like boundary began to dissolve. It wasn't that she suddenly joined his mindscape or he joined hers, it was more that there seemed to be no difference between her thoughts and his, they really did become more than the sum of their parts.

And this time, when they kissed, she didn't draw away.

---

Lieutenant Ra'lin Sha'mer
Captain's Yeoman
USS VINDICATOR

Lieutenant Craig Macleod
Chief Medical Officer
USS VINDICATOR

 

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