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Nothing Better to Do

Posted on Mon May 23rd, 2022 @ 3:33pm by Executive Officer Jake Ford & Evelyn Reynolds

Mission: Adrift
Location: Empty livestock bay
Timeline: MD-03: 1930
2253 words - 4.5 OF Standard Post Measure

When Jake had first offered Evelyn the use of the vast, empty space that housed the lingering, residual stench of livestock without the physical reality of them, it had seemed like an unnecessary gesture. The prospect of being alone in a cold, dark storage space with only a crate to sit on hadn't been immediately appealing if only because it would have been ridiculously difficult to explain had she ever been discovered. The ensuing day, however, with its escalating tensions and palpable agitation simmering away in the undercurrents, had jangled nerves that weren't quite as resilient to the struggle as they'd once been. It would have been difficult enough under normal circumstances given that Evelyn typically preferred smaller groups, with plenty of space to work alone. With the constant clamour of unwanted recollection spiralling her in and out of bouts of dizziness and disorientation, one cargo bay just wasn't large enough.

For the past hour, she'd set up her repair station just by the doors, so that anyone coming in at least wasn't confronted by a solitary figure perched in the middle of an empty void. It also served as a means to avoid being taken by surprise, which was probably more to the point, particularly as at least one visitor's arrival was somewhat anticipated. Up until just recently, Jake had been responsible for initiating most of their conversations. Fixing him with her patented 'we need to talk' expression would eventually yield results, there just wasn't anything urgent enough for her to interrupt further. Thus, Evelyn waited, and patched holes in spare jackets, and did her best to ignore the fact that muted thuds and voices beyond the door brought back impressions that chilled her far more profoundly than the blanket draped across her lap was going to be able to combat.

Arriving from the adjoining cargo section, Jake took in the fact that she'd gotten straight to work after their last conversation. Keeping herself busy, trying to contribute something meaningful while not stepping on toes. If anything, he suspected the old Evelyn might have been a bit more forceful in trying to offer her skills, but he suspected after her previous revelations that she probably just wanted to stay quiet and keep to herself for a while.

"You're going to get a reputation," he said, approaching the pile of neatly-stacked repair jobs she had completed. "People are going to think you're just a simple seamstress and not the hot-shot genius hiding behind a needle and thread." He said it jokingly, rather than to suggest she was deliberately hiding herself away. He knew the reason she was there and doing that job. "Making good progress," he added.

A pair of blue eyes, wearing an expression he'd likely seen one too many times in the past, peered up at Jake from beneath raised eyebrows. It wasn't Evelyn's style to be quite so blunt as to launch into complex analysis without so much as an exchange of pleasantries but Jake, as always, had a way of phrasing things that cut a little close to the bone.

"Apparently, I've made exceptional progress." Despite the pointedness to her expression, there rested within the nuances of a dull sparkle in the scientist's eyes a certain brand of humour that was easily missed unless you knew how to look for it. "Though you may be a little too late in concerning yourself with my reputation."

"Plenty of time to fix that," he remarked. "But you're probably right." He absent-mindedly checked over the pile of clothes, as though assessing the quality of her output even though he had no idea what he was looking for. "Speaking of you want to hear something really funny that I heard earlier?"

"If it's anything like what I've heard, I'm sure funny is a gross underestimate." Being more than acquainted with the sensation of flying over the heads of Ford men, Evelyn enjoyed a private moment of pursed-lipped humour at Jake's expense and then gestured with an inclination of her head for him to continue.

"Cassie was acting all weird around me. Apparently someone thought that you and I were an item and she got all confused about it." He chuckled. "Imagine that."

"Ah, so exactly the same joke then. It doesn't seem to have lost its flirtation with the absurd for the retelling." Evelyn's needle tugged at its last knot and then she put aside her latest completion to fold her hands against her thigh, her recovering leg stretched outwards to work the tendons around the artificial joint. "It seems to have accumulated a second part since I heard it, though. Is Cassie someone I'm meant to know?" An arched eyebrow pinned him.

Oops, he thought silently. He'd not really talked about that part.

"She and I..." he shrugged sheepishly. "I guess we're exploring some things together. It's a fairly recent thing. Like...72 hours..." It hadn't been long at all. Things had moved very fast in that regard. But it was still exciting and felt good, and he wasn't going to feel guilty about it at all.

"I see."

By now, Evelyn had very little scope for catching Jake unawares with her capacity to employ imperiousness with impish disregard for people's capacity to tell how much she was laughing on the inside. Every inch an intentional mockery of her breeding, her stoic and impassive expression was partially responsible for current opinion polls on board rating her only a degree or two above a block of ice in terms of personability. Evelyn hadn't found the strength to rectify that yet, or to make it apparent that there was a heavy degree of playfulness behind her haughtiness most of the time. In Jake's case, the effort wasn't required; the implied tease of her next words were evident before she even spoke them.

"Well, this is certainly going to complicate our wedding plans."

He opened his mouth to protest but caught himself before the words came out. She'd almost got him with that one.

"In some cultures, polygamy is legal..." he managed to retort, a little slower than he would have liked. Evelyn still had the edge on him when it came to her wit.

A withering look, gentle only in that it eventually betrayed Evelyn's amusement, was all the response his effort warranted. "I suppose it's to be expected," she addressed the issue instead, "And probably suggests it's about time for formal introductions." She had appreciated his efforts in sheltering her, always one for offering a protective buffer; she'd relied on him the first time things with Jack had gone awry, and again after Marcus had died. But were lack of explanation existed, speculation was sure to creep in and it had clearly reached a point where that was going to be more intrusive than her fronting up to a group of people and exchanging pleasantries. "Starting perhaps with your... Cassie. It's fine, Jake," she added as tired reassurance. "Your senior staff should at least feel able to approach me. I'm not going to break."

"It's not you I'm worried about," he said, before breaking quickly into a grin. "All right, that's maybe half a joke. If you do meet her, gentle? She's been through a lot lately." It was part of their kinship, really. He and Cassie had both just come out of failed relationships. Hers probably far worse than his, but it was a sore point. Evelyn was rarely passive, which was both a strength and a potential fault.

"You are just worried about the amount of dirt I have on you." Finally, Evelyn's amusement cracked as a sly smile. "I may be halfway to losing my marbles," she added, her tone curbed to a more gentle empathy, "but I do remember how to be nice to people. And the longer I remain the subject of speculation, the more opportunity it has to get inside her head. Just trust me on this." Other women had been part of the turbulence the first time around with Jack, after all.

She was right in that she could probably dig up just enough dirt to make him a pariah to every woman on board, but they both knew that wasn't her way. "I do trust you," he said, the joking barbs having left his tone entirely. The tiny Romulan voice in the back of his mind was buzzing away at that, but he pushed it back down. "If you'd prefer me to be there, though..."

"Go find her now if you want." It was less a matter of her preferences and more just a patient understanding that Jake would likely feel more comfortable being present but didn't like to press his needs before others'. He was singularly alone in this trait as far as Ford men went and Evelyn wasn't about to complain.

"I'm not sure where she'll be. Or if she's busy. We can catch her later, right?" he suggested. It wasn't that he wasn't keen - he was - but the state of things at the moment it was almost impossible to keep tabs on everyone. Lots of different things needed doing, and there was a list of people he supposedly needed to get through.

"I'm almost certain to be free, I've just about run out of mending and my only other function currently is clandestine relationship sabotage, which I'm honestly quite sure I didn't sign up for." Evelyn offered a tired smile. "You deserve a little better than your brother's discarded laundry."

It was harsh humour, dark around the edges, and sliced through a bitterness that Evelyn immediately smothered by breaking eye contact. Waiting to fall out of love with Jack Ford had an unpredictable timeline but at the very least, it would serve to buy his brother some breathing space. Acting as palpable proof that there was no space in Evelyn's life for another Ford was probably the most help the older brother had ever been to his younger sibling.

"Hey." It was a firm protest, chastising her for even going there. He was fine with taking things lightly, but there was no laughter to be found there. In a moment he was close enough to put a hand on her shoulder. "Less of that. And no arguing - I'm the highest authority on board right now, so what I say goes."

"I oddly don't recall being officially assigned to your command hierarchy." It was point taken, however, and Evelyn's humour settled back into something less self-depreciative. "Which does at least leave me uniquely positioned as an impartial sounding board," she reminded him. After all, he'd been the one to suggest she dredge up her years of psychology and put it to use. "Any update on our rendezvous with the storm?"

He nodded. "End of tomorrow, assuming nothing has changed. We're looking at gathering more supplies from elsewhere in the ship before we get there. I'll be gone for a few hours, but nothing to worry about, and Nollel's looking after things back here if you need anything." He found himself smiling, mind drifting backwards. "All the times we came across ion storms in Starfleet, they were never really an issue. Now we don't have the luxury of state-of-the-art shields and systems to protect us, it feels like a whole different ball game."

"There's something to be said for not being overly reliant on automated systems," Evelyn pointed out. "I've actually been impressed by the way your crew has mobilised and mostly held it together. A civilian crew like this, with undoubtedly a portion of itinerates that might typically hold no particular allegiance. Say what you will about Starfleet, they do a bang up job of giving people something to rally around."

She'd miss that, the sense of purpose and accomplishment that came from the belief that she was making a difference. It was difficult to grasp hold of that now, sullied as it was by the undefined capacity for it to have all been to the benefit of a corrupt infrastructure. Evelyn smiled and reached a hand up to squeeze his, still settled on her shoulder. "And they said you'd never make command material."

"Not exactly my comfort zone," he admitted. "But it's nice to hear. Having people believe in you is half the battle, right?" He squeezed her hand back and then let it go. "I should get back to work. But let's meet up - you, me, Cassie. Maybe share our ration tomorrow or something?"

Evelyn inclined her head in quiet agreement. "Or just come find me," she added quietly, slowly bending her leg to prepare to stand. It required leaning heavily on her cane, though her actual mobility was less inclined to involve the aide. She winced nevertheless, a sure indication that the discomfort had reached a point of intervention. "I'll be the one in the corner cursing under my breath as my body refuses to cooperate."

Waving aside any offer of assistance, Evelyn instead indicated the pile of mending that needed carrying and stretched out the kinks in her back as she made her way at a deliberate pace towards the door. "Don't get old, Jake," she advised the man several months her senior. "At this rate you may have to put me out to pasture with whatever the hell left behind this god-awful stench."

"Your words, not mine..." he replied, giving her a little wink as he went.


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