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SD241807.03 | JL | Com Ivanova, Cmdr Neyes | "Son of a..."

Posted on Sat Feb 18th, 2023 @ 7:19pm by Admiral Rochelle Ivanova & Commander Tristan Neyes PhD.

2,739 words; about a 14 minute read

Mission: Lacuna
Timeline: BACKLOG

It had been... Fun.

Playing cowboy space pirate while waiting for news from Archer's team had been an effective way to spend time without pacing a rut into the deck plates on the bridge and ready room. As usual, Almar knew what was best - even if she was bent on fighting him each and every step of the way.

Sometimes physically.

Rochelle winced at the thought of the Cardassian's bruised jaw and the memory behind the Hail Mary of a kick that had caused it. Had it been worth it? Maybe... Just maybe it would teach him to think better of pushing buttons, and she had owed him for the split lip she'd sustained all those years ago with thanks to his simulations of the old ship's capabilities in battle. The chirping of the screen in her living room broke her free from her train of thought, the flashing light further confirming that someone was calling... It wasn't a priority communication and part of her begged to ignore it until a time after she was dirt and grit free. The more sensible part of her, the one that shoved the vain one down into a trash can and slammed shut the lid, guided her to answer it and the screen flickered to life, warping and lighting itself around Tristan's features about the same time she freed her hair from its knot and shook it free in a cloud of russet dust.

"Everything alright?" That was the greeting of choice, always checking on health and wellness of the parties he represented, even while wiping excess grit on the thighs of her jeans. It had been just over a year since she'd seen him, longer since she'd last allowed herself to set her eyes on Landon.

Tristan's now slightly longer hair was carefully coifed, as was fitting in with everything else about him. The monitor revealed he was where he always called her from, his office on Trill. Never once had he called in anything but the image of professionalism and tact, and to her credit, Rochelle had never once refused his call. The two's relationship had never been close, but it had taken a harsh turn when Landon spiraled into a relapse of his addiction.

Tristan nodded politely, "Fine, Commodore. But you know why I'm calling. I was hoping you may have had a change of heart since last we spoke."

"Nope, can't say that I have." Rochelle's reply, albeit terse, was far from filled with rancor. She was comfortable with him, sometimes more than she should have been given the circumstances, but had never once taken her fall from marital grace out on him. Nor would she ever. While, yes, he'd been treating Landon as a patient, he was simply not responsible for the choices his brother had made, he hadn't forced him to do anything - much less fall down the rabbit hole of addiction. Her shirt quickly became a point of interest, however, and her eyes left his as she went on a hunt to pluck bits of dead grass away that may or may not have existed. "You should know by now that answer is pretty much always going to remain the same, Tristan." She finally piped back up, not quite ready yet to go eye to eye with him again. Such was the song and dance routine they'd now rehearsed for months and months. Translation: she was a stubborn bitch with a grudge.

His eyes closed as he took in a breath of patience, "Ma'am. While I'm not one to toll the bells of faultless devotion, I do have to try and see things from both of your perspectives. It's been a year, at least. And he's not making the progress he could make if you'd let him at least send you a message he'd know you'll listen to." She'd shut him out, Landon that is. The captain was a fierce force of nature, both of them were, but Landon had buckled under the weight of his burdens. It had been difficult to watch. In his early 20's Landon had experimented with intoxicants to keep up with work as the Chief Engineer aboard a particularly demanding starship. The relapse had thrown Landon into a downward spiral, which he was not recovering from due to the complications and fragile nature of his bond with Neyes.

"Please, Rochelle. Let me send you his message. Promise me you'll listen and send a response a least."

It was her turn to sigh, jaw flexing as she pursed her lips tight at the end of that heavy exhalation. Her thumb automatically went to rub the base of her ring finger where it met the palm of her hand - a practiced motion she'd used as a way to relieve stress countless times before and this time, like so many in the past year and change, she found the skin warm and barren, devoid of the infinity band that had once religiously adorned it. It was yet another painful reminder of what had gone down, but a highlight to everything she'd accomplished in the wake of that horrific portion of time.

"Tristan..." A hand ran through her hair, tucking a good lot of it back over a shoulder and away from where it had hung to frame her face. All she could do was shake her head and worry her lower lip with her tongue as she formulated words that made sense, "Listen... We both want what's best for Landon, right?" She asked, her voice more strained than she'd have liked, "What's best for Landon is that he concentrates on his future, not his past. Obviously, there were a lot of catalysts for what happened, but I'm not taking the blame for his actions." Rochelle shrugged, "It's as simple as that. So," she blinked, forcing her eyes back up to his, "I just don't see the point in listening or answering. There's an old Terran saying; he made his bed and now he has to sleep in it."

Neyes nodded, "I would never mean to suggest you are in any way responsible for his actions or his behavior, Rochelle. What I mean to say is he cannot take the responsibility for himself unless he knows you're aware of his remorse. He's not so uninformed that he thinks you'll suddenly start listening to what he has to say without knowing for sure. He's not asking, and in fact, hasn't asked to speak to you. I practically had to have him tied and bound in order for him to record this 15 second sound bite for the benefit of his therapy... and perhaps you." His voice broke from the cold and calculated doctor with multiple degrees. A tuft of hair fell out of place as he spoke, and it remained there while he leaned into the image. There was a plea, as close to begging as he'd come in a long time.

"The shame cripples him, Rochelle. Give me something to help him."

Then there was the slow burn of anger, or at least what she thought was anger. What she wanted was to be angry. Landon talking about shame was a decent joke, one at her expense no less. There had been conversations, but the one that stuck out like a sore thumb was the one with Admiral Archer about options and choices... Careers. She'd been given a promotion only to have it ripped away from her in the very next breath - but what she wouldn't admit to was that busting was a secret blessing because it enabled her to stay aboard the Vindicator as her skipper. She, like Landon, had made her bed - but so very much unlike him, she was content to sleep in hers and did. Still... There was that nagging niggle of guilt that tugged at the moral fibers of her soul and conscience that begged her to forgive, but never forget, and just move on. Jumping straight to the 'move on' part wasn't going to get her anywhere fast, this she knew well from experience, but the forgiveness just wasn't coming as quickly as some would hope. As Tristan would hope.

Rochelle snorted. A soft but highly undignified noise indicating her supreme displeasure. It wasn't quite a scoff, it rolled more than a scoff, and it seemed that the sound was only made when she was cornered, irritated, or disgusted. Usually it was accompanied by an eye roll, but today would be a bit different. She didn't have need to roll her eyes - not that the suddenly tired and haggard looking counselor that had slowly melted away back into a baby brother begging for... Something. Again her eyes closed and this time her arms folded protectively over her chest like a shield. "What do you want me to tell him?" She asked, swallowing the knot growing in her throat.

"Nothing. Just... listen to this message. I'll let him know you heard it." He blinked wide for a moment as he turned and composed himself, his blue eyes glistening with unspent emotions. "Mhhm, and Rochelle. Thank you."

The image of him blinked out and was replaced with the loading insignia of Tristan's office on Trill. The message from Landon was loading, soaring across subspace, and in a moment the icon was replaced with a command prompt on her console.

Play message.....Delete Message

Rochelle almost hung up. In fact, her hand reached out and hovered over the 'end transmission' portion of the screen and stayed that way for a good long minute before it moved back and away. The next temptation was to hit 'delete message', tell Tristan that she couldn't do it and goodbye. That wouldn't do either - and so she stood in flux, knowing that Tristan was somewhere on the other end biting his nails and praying to whatever God he held holy that she wasn't going to opt for one of those two choices but instead for the glaringly difficult option C. "Fuck my life. Sometimes I want to hate you, Tristan Neyes." She muttered sharply, shaking her head before slapping the prompt for it to play the message he'd recorded.

The chirp of the screen rang... and there Landon sat heavily in a seat, staring into the camera at her. Healthy as the day she first met him. At first glance, or if she'd known any different, it would look like nothing about him was out of place. It was a recording, she knew, but his gaze eerily crept through to see her. The white of his outfit pinned him against the dark blues in the background. His figure had recovered, and no sags hung under his eyes. Though, their luster was gone, replaced with a dull matte that grated against what she knew about him. He looked like a different person, someone who didn't know the difference between love and pain, someone who was losing the ability to care.

He sat there for what felt like minutes, though the time stamp was rapidly counting down from :14 seconds. When he finally moved, it was to put his hand through his hair, possibly to mask the look of panicked anguish that poisoned his expression before he pushed it back down.

"I ca... an apolog... I'm sorry. You deserve every one of those I can give and more. I expect nothing.... I lo... I... um. yeah." He waved painfully, and the screen blinked out again.

A hand went to her mouth, covering her lips before moving to cup her chin, leaving her index finger in its place as she blinked back the hot sting of tears that prickled along the tip of her nose before welling in her eyes and she looked away, instinctively knowing that Tristan would be back in Landon's wake. It hurt more than she'd care to, or would, admit. So many years of her life reduced to cinders for want of a fix and now suddenly when she wanted to hate him most she was forced to something else that she couldn't, for the life of her, describe with words. She knew why he was sorry. Knew that he damned well should be and at the same time knew that she shouldn't blame him for it. He'd had nothing to do with the loss they'd endured when they'd returned from Poquott, but the drugs had been a fine substitute for being there at her side as she dealt with it both physically and emotionally. She'd been alone. But like her call sign, she'd risen from the ashes fortified and stronger for it... Alone.

Somewhere behind her Helsa snuffled an inquiry, having wriggled out of hiding at the sound of her former food source's voice. His sudden disappearance had been hardest on the strange lavender fox's waist line, so much so that she could now squeeze back beneath the sofas and leap to the tops of tables with the greatest of ease. One look at Tristan back on the screen and she muttered a rather disappointed collection of grunts and sneezes before lurking back into the shadows off screen, leaving Rochelle to her own devices once more. "I didn't..." Her voice cracked and she caught her lower lip between her teeth, tapping her upper with her finger as she steeled herself away, "I didn't send him away as a punishment, Tristan. I did it because he... it was the right thing to do." She said, her eyebrows lifting slightly. "He wasn't really here anyway. Didn't care. Didn't feel. What else was I supposed to do?" Clipped. Cool. Measured. She struggled, but she spoke.

Tristan nodded, "At the risk of sounding clinical in the worst way, you did exactly what a Starfleet Captain should. No one will fault you for that, and nor should they. As far as impossible decisions go, I have no judgment for you. Landon lives with your decision as if it were his own. And even at his worst, which believe-you-me is definitely worst, he has not once laid the blame at your feet. It's difficult to describe to you in a way I imagine you'd find satisfying, but in his way he's distancing himself from the idea of the two of you..." Tristan scanned her as he attempted to navigate honesty and delicacy. If he could avoid hurting her further it was his first priority for the duration of the call, but he needed to express Landon's status as earnestly as possible.

"He's instead focusing on getting better for Vaan, which is something we encourage." Tristan gathered himself for a moment, "I can't know how difficult this is for you, Commodore, but please accept my thanks for your patience. We're all doing our best to put things right. If you'll excuse me, I have an appointment I must keep."

"I think we all know where I lay the blame, Tristan. Call it a step forward from my usual routine of shouldering it." The redhead sighed, reaching to brush a dusty lock of hair back behind her ear. "I have no interest in getting back together with Landon. You can rest assured that chapter is very much closed - now if you'll excuse me... I've got a ship to run."

"Take care, Rochelle." Tristan smiled and the channel closed.

Left alone to her devices, Rochelle sat silent for a long moment before heaving a sigh and pursing her lips with a contrite shake of her head. Tristan was like a dog with a bone and Landon still a weakness he knew he could exploit. All she could do was wait for the day that tenderness would resolve itself, the chink in her armor soldered back together through time and necessity. Life, she had to admit, was far less complicated and her attention far less flighty with Landon sequestered where he could find happiness and the salvation she couldn't afford him no matter how hard she worked. It wasn't her fault. It would never be her fault. The blame lay deep within Landon's own psyche and in the hands of a Romulan likely giddily chuckling at their pain and suffering.

"Son of a bitch..." She drawled, pushing away from the table the damned screen rested over. Just who she was cursing would remain a mystery at the end of a multi-forked road.


Commodore Rochelle Ivanova
Commanding Officer

Commander Tristan Neyes


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