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The Dam Bursts

Posted on Sun May 8th, 2022 @ 10:17am by Leiddem Kea (*) & Delaney O'Callaghan

Mission: Adrift
Location: Cargo Bay, a small tent in its own alcove
Timeline: MD 17:45
2806 words - 5.6 OF Standard Post Measure

"So, who is that?"

"Huh? Oh, that's Ford's friend. Evelyn."

"That literally explains nothing."

"Well, what do you want me to say? Apparently she's been here two or three days and nobody knows anything about her. He must have smuggled her in under his shirt."

"What's she doing here?"

"Is this Don't-Listen-to-Laney Day? I have no idea. She didn't turn up for the initial rollcall and Ford just about burst every capillary about it, so Leiddem and I went and found her and she was really... Actually, kind of unimpressed to see us, if I had to guess."

"I suppose being plunged into mortal peril might be considered poor hospitality."

"I get it, I'd probably be pissed too. But yeah, I don't know who she is, except Ford bunked next to her for a bit so maybe she's, like, his..."friend"... Though, if that's the case, his taste in women has taken a nosedive."

"Maybe he likes blondes."

"In that case, we can give you highlights and you can join the line."

"It would never work out, he never returns my calls."

'There might be hope for him yet."

Beyond the flimsy material of the tent's main flap, the muted thud of distant footsteps added syncopation to the churning of Delaney's thoughts. Normally, she was the kind of person who gravitated towards others, one of life's natural extroverts who occasionally saw merit in keeping her own company but never for long stretches at a time. The concept of removing herself, of sequestering herself in a place with the intent to avoid detection, was such a rare occurrence that she never felt herself quite prepared for the intensity of the compulsion. Usually, it wasn't difficult to muster the energy to simply push through things, and she found genuine relief in immersing herself in solutions rather than languishing in the impotence that came from only focusing on the problem, but stress was a fickle beast. One too many blocks had been knocked loose and, for the first time in quite a while, her tower had buckled under the weight of everything she'd tried to deal with by just forgetting.

Cross-legged, she sat, staring vacantly at the tent's sheer wall, the spasming of her diaphragm resulting in the occasional sniff. Crying wasn't much of a comfort, she always felt defeated afterwards, but she hadn't been left with much of a choice. And now that she'd shoved her face into a pillow so that nobody overheard and vented her sodden heartache enough for the pressure valve to have reset, Delaney felt exhausted. She'd already slept poorly; now, though the prospect was usually not appealing, it almost seemed palatable to just fall back and take a nap.

She didn't know what she had done wrong.

And it was such a theme throughout her life, such a reoccurring tempest, that whenever it reasserted itself, the bitterness of disappointment and self-recrimination seemed to harshen. Crueller still was the fact that, through the inevitable influence of experience and maturity, moments where she spoke out of turn and created tsunamis were fewer and further between than they'd once been, so it felt like double the betrayal to realise that she was still capable of it. Making people angry with her wasn't fun, but this almost felt like she'd hurt someone; someone who, understandably enough, many people felt protective of. That was the worst of it, along with the acknowledgement of fear that the repercussions would be a number of angry, accusatory judgements. Squeezing her eyes shut tightly, Delaney once more pulled her legs upwards so that the pillow rested against her knees and buried her face in it. Once again, the conversation replayed in her head.

Leiddem had not expected to find her there but stopped mid crawl as he saw her turned away but obviously not sleeping nor just resting. He could see from the way she was moving that she was crying. He had never seen her act like that in the last couple of months and it left him stunned and unsure for a moment as he took it all in. What could have possibly happened to make her so upset? He could not remember having heard anything but that did not mean something had not happened. "Hey?" he questioned confused but moved instantly to wrap her in his arms.

He had a damnable way of moving like a ghost when he wanted to. Too committed to her momentary misery to have noticed Leiddem's arrival, Delaney's first hint was that gently spoken word, and though it made her jump, he was too swift to gather her up for the crumpled mess of a woman to do much more than submit. Having company, especially his, forced an attempt at rallying her composure though. Delaney prided herself on keeping it together; Leiddem was the last person she wanted viewing her as an emotional wreck.

"It's okay," she reassured him, her voice wobbling under the strain of trying to marshal her tears, which she attempted to wipe at with no small measure of futility. "I'm okay."

“You are crying.” Leiddem whispered leaning around to to wrap his arms around her better and move her hair. “That is very much not okay in my books. What has happened?” He requested in a soothing voice.

"I'm just having a moment." The hitch in her voice that was meant to be an attempt at a huff of laughter didn't really translate. Swiping her thumb across her cheekbone to smudge away some of the moisture, Delaney sniffed several times before continuing. "I don't even know why I'm crying," she quavered, "It's just... Everything I've touched has turned to shit today." It wasn't a satisfactory explanation though. Delaney, who normally handled that kind of thing with determination to improve, had instead collapsed in a heap. Navigating distress in this manner was not something she was particularly adept at. She leaned into him though, content that she'd wiped away enough tears not to saturate his shirt as her cheek found the reassurance of his chest and she just closed her eyes to absorb his warmth. "So I'm okay, I'm just also a huge idiot."

“You are touching me and I have not transfigured into anything else.” He murmured as he pulled her closer as she turned to lean into her. She was a lot of things but she was not an idiot. “You are not an idiot.” He assured quickly not allowing her to put herself down when there were enough other people doing that out int the world.

"I stuck a piece of wire through my hand this morning," she confessed with an exhalation that sounded more like laughter. "And that wasn't even the first stupid thing I did. Today started out so well too," Delaney added, her tone gentle with fatigue. "I woke up next to this guy I really like and though I didn't sleep great, I was warm. And it felt safe." With everything unravelling, perhaps it was time to address the slow degradation of her sleeping patterns since they'd left the Holoworld situation far behind. A lifetime of being used to only needing 5-6 hours a night to be perfectly fine had left Delaney assuming that 2-3 was probably fine. "Then I tried to do normal human things and I failed. I made one mess and then had to clean up another, and then I think we have the potential for a spider infestation and my only contribution was to stab myself, and then I..."

None of it warranted the meltdown. Knowing her personality, understanding the way she normally operated, what Delaney was describing was just regular ammunition for her make fun of herself. The redhead mostly understood that this was just a lot of months worth of stress no longer permitting itself to be suppressed, but that didn't make her feel less ridiculous. "I think Cassie is angry with me but I don't know why."

"So much to unpack there," Leiddem commented with a small smile. "So one thing at a time... stabbed yourself with a piece of wire?" He asked fully aware that she did sometimes get clumsy.

"I was trying to get the spider." She wasn't clumsy; she was very coordinated! When she wasn't being impulsive and talking too much to watch where she was going... That wasn't clumsiness, it was...bad luck. Even now, Delaney's tone carried well-deserved sheepishness. "But trying to drop an oil can on it lead to squirting toothpaste everywhere, and once I cleaned that up, I went looking for spider again and found a roll of electrical wire that hadn't been stored properly instead. Benji caught me," she added, too tired for more than a pointed look of resignation. "And made me go to sickbay so I'll live to make another mess. I did make me kind of wish I'd stayed in bed though, it was much nicer there. Less hazardous, even sharing with a pillow hog."

That made sense and he was glad she was patched up so that led to the next question that filled him with dread and made him all tense. "You snuck out on him but I am sure he forgives you but that leads me back to the spider infestation?" He questioned already imagining loads of Stans and wondering how east it would be to phaser them. There would be no mercy, he hated spiders and thought that Gregnol was crazy for keeping Stan.

"There's at least one, which makes me not very confident there isn't more. Smaller than Eden's, looked more like the ones that sometimes come in on the fresh produce, which should have been sprayed and treated before moving out of coolstore, but... Not exactly a priority at the moment." Delaney didn't mind spiders, but they needed to stay in their place. She had no desire to sleep alongside them.

"Nope... nope. We will get back to that fear another time but do not be surprised if I shoot stuff." The man shivered. "I hate spiders." He was already considering who to send to check and then it came to him, Cassie. She did not scare easily and she dealt with Stan easily enough. "So that still doesn't explain Cassie being mad and she cannot be mad at you. She does not do that at all." Cassie was a lot of things, stubborn, cool, and sometimes lost but she could not hate someone.

Any other time, a fear of spiders would have been too much of a temptation to pass up. As it was, the revelation seemed to cheer Delaney up for a split second before Leiddem brought the conversation back to what was admittedly the worst part of the day. Immediately, her face fell. "Maybe not angry. Upset? I don't really know. She was eating with Curtis and I, and I guess she was kind of quiet, but she's always quiet. And we're...the opposite." Delaney had found her match in the Risian, who could exchange mindless prattle with persistence enough to ensure neither of them ever knew what they were actually talking about after ten minutes or so. "She got up mid-conversation and just left."

Whilst that was not like Cassie it could be explained that she really did not like the discussion and decided coolness and leaving would be easier than trying to explain why she was leaving. “What were you guys taking about?” He wondered.

A defeated shrug of her shoulders used the last of Delaney's energy. "What do we ever talk about? Spiders, pirates, Curtis complained about the soup. Then he complained about being useless. Then he dropped soup all over himself and complained about that." There was a lot of affection for her friend in Delaney's tone, but at the same time; Curtis complaining was pretty much a staple. "We went off on a whole tangent about what else could be living in the abandoned parts of this ship and how long it will take for it to move in here because we're the only place with heat and stable life support. Then he tried to beat me at naming everyone in the room." Sighing, Delaney rubbed at the stress headache that had settled behind her eyes and held up both hands in confusion. "Maybe she hates bugs too? Or, I don't know, I guess we were kind of hanging shit on Ford a bit. Maybe she felt uncomfortable."

Leiddem shrugged at the thought. Cassie would not feel uncomfortable but be did smile at the comments about Curtis. It summed up the man very well but he would have a talk with him about the suggestion he was useless. There was no way in hell he was letting the man think that. “Maybe. Or maybe she’s friends with Jake or something. They have his Ex who was from Cassie’s time.” He suggested.

Moments of hesitation, especially those that lead to a thoughtful silence, were few and far between with Delaney. There were still moments where the intricacies of that whole situation eluded her and she forgot that there was a wonky time disparity going on. What Leiddem said made sense, but having a working theory didn't go very far to making Laney feel better. When it came to the everyday things, she was stubborn about admitting fault; these kind of situations, however, contained hard truths she'd had to come to terms with. Her shoulders sank, deflating under the guilt, and she lifted her hand to rub fingertips against her closed eyelids to alleviate some of the burning.

"Sometimes I think I should just tape my mouth shut."

“We can try that in the future but right now I don’t think you have upset Cassie. She’s delicate and I think you are thinking too much into things.” The man assured bending down a little to brush a kiss across her temple.

"Imagine that," Delaney replied dryly, though there were plenty of people who might suggest she never put enough thought into things. Those people had never seen her try to tie up a plotline satisfactorily. A deep breath in became a shakier one out but it was a reassertion of a more typical resilience. "I can find her later and make sure. Right now..." This admission was going to hurt. "I think I need to try to take a nap. You're welcome to stay." Leaning her temple against his chin, Delaney closed her eyes and smiled. "Though I'm going to make a bet you're not done with self-imposed responsibility yet." As uncomfortable as it might eventually get, using him as a pillow sounded about the most appealing method for trying to get her brain to stop but he'd clearly come in here for a reason other than dealing with her mess.

Leiddem winced for her knowing how much it pained her to admit that she was tired and needed to rest. He wished he could record it and play it back for other occasions that inevitably would occur. “Unfortunately I am not over my self imposed responsibility I actually came to find my communicator.” He admitted and started to search around the bedding until he found it wedged in the corner of the tent.

Heavy-hearted but ultimately too reasonable to protest, Delaney simply nodded her head. "I know." And she did, it was too early for him to be indulging emotionally-wrought whims. "I'll get out of your way." Her blue eyes met his, bloodshot and yet already brighter, despite their deep fatigue, and Laney smiled faintly. "Thank you."

“You do not need to get out of my way. You are never in the way.” He said kindly and reach over for a blanket and wrapped it around her so she could not move away. “You are welcome but it does not need to be said.” He assured quickly already seeing her half asleep. He almost lent over to kiss her but that would just cause her to delay sleeping any longer. “I will see you later. Get some sleep and it will all feel better later on..” He promised quietly.

"Wake me up in an hour or so," Delaney murmured, knowing that he wouldn't. With the entire makeshift bed to herself, swaddled in more blankets than was necessary, she closed her burning eyes and tried to tune out the buzzing of dozens of thoughts all vying for a chance to be the culprit for her lack of restfulness. In the end, sparing a final regret now coupled with fresh resolve for not having reached out to Cassie when she should have, Delaney settled on the comfort of being found. For the first time in months, she wasn't suffocated by a sense of loneliness.

And so, she slept.


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