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If the World Should End Tomorrow

Posted on Thu Jun 9th, 2022 @ 10:56am by Delaney O'Callaghan & Leiddem Kea (*)

Mission: Adrift
Location: Empty Cargo Hold
Timeline: MD04, 1800
5100 words - 10.2 OF Standard Post Measure

"Okay, but why the blindfold?"

Though phrased like a protest, there was very little about Delaney's tone that suggested she was hating the sheer lunacy of being guided through an inevitable obstacle course by the reassurance of a hand at the small of her back, and another grasping her elbow. She had, and this was quite a certain calculation, absolutely zero idea what was going on, why Leiddem had taken it into his head to steal her in this fashion, or how she hadn't tripped over her own feet in sheer disorientation, but there was exhilaration in anticipating the unexpected and it had been a long day. It had been a long week and, with crunch time fast approaching, everyone was dealing with the sudden confrontation of mortality in their own ways. Delaney had been trying to sneak in last minute preparations for the planned festivities. A certain Betazoid apparently had different ideas.

“Because I am trying to be romantic.” He countered as he finally stopped pushing and leading and pulled off the blindfold. He wanted to do something special and there were not many options but he dragged containers around and used some blankets to make a snug area. It was not much but to a man who did not do romance or at least had never had an excuse to be romantic. “Private dinner.” He said hesitating slightly.

It had been on the tip of her tongue to offer some quip about blindfolds and romance, but with the grand revelation came an immediate loss of words. An affliction not often visited upon Delaney, it was hard to argue that Leiddem, of all people, had become particularly adept at leaving her gobsmacked. It had been an idle conversation, a fleeting reflection that her love life to date had existed in a less formal arena, which hadn't left a lot of room for the usual romantic tropes. No candlelit dinners, no walks along beaches, no slow dances under the stars. Delaney never would have thought to crave such things but they were all being forced into a re-evaluative space right now and the potential loss of opportunity had spawned some sense of longing. She hadn't expected him to act on it though.

For a long moment, Delaney stood taking in the hastily-prepared scene, with its casual picnic vibe and flickering candle-light ambience, and slowly leaned back until her shoulder-blades connected with the Betazoid's chest and the back of her head could slip just under his chin. It served as an excuse to seek his body warmth but also facilitated an eventual turn so that she could wrap her arms around his neck. "You're a giant nerd," she murmured, her voice thick with emotion and compromised by a lump in her throat that took several attempts to swallow back. "But it's perfect."

“Course I am. Did you not know this or did my fumble into attempting to be romantic finally reveal it all.” The man said in response to her nerd comment. He had never denied that in the slightest. He loved following whatever came to his head, he was a free spirit in that respect. It also came with having so many sisters that eventually something was going to rub off on him from them. “Thank you.” He had been worried it was too corny or would fall apart and she would not like it.

At the moment, though she'd have been the last on board to admit to frayed nerves, Delaney appreciated any gesture that sought to remove her from the impending reality of surviving 'breaking point'. Every emergency situation had one, and the longer their troubles stretched out, the closer they got an escalation of issues. That it was Leiddem trying to distract her by proving he listened and cared enough to act on idle ponderings she hadn't expected to amount to anything, was an added bonus. Delaney clung to him for a bit, because it suddenly felt very important to just take that moment to steady herself, and then broke away to approach his makeshift dinner setting.

"I see you've gone upmarket," she teased, lowering herself into the puddle of blankets. The effect was so immediately inviting that Delaney then sprawled backwards, arms spread wide. "Actually, I would go to a restaurant that was this cosy."

"No, I just listened and tried my best. All that anyone can ask or not ask from someone." The man said simply moving to sit next to her. He pulled off his belt and put it out of reach so weapon and communicator would not distracted or not allow him to relax.

With a slow, languid stretch that paid homage to the bone-deep ache of cramped muscles, Laney settled beside him and leaned to press a kiss to his cheek, a hand cupping his face to make sure it landed. "Thank you for listening."

It was a heartfelt murmur, because the gesture alone was significant enough to bring Delaney a sense of peace in what was otherwise a fairly turbulent time. Anticipation for the night's festivities, whatever shape they might take, had gifted her renewed enthusiasm but both of them were suffering from the lack of routine, particularly in regards to their physical fitness. Twice a day, she was used to running, and work-outs every second day at least. Then there was the fact that their daily work schedule rarely saw them standing in one place for an entire shift. Cabin fever had been Delaney's biggest fear when opting to work on a ship, and being robbed of the strategies she'd employed to thwart it was hard.

Adjusting to lean against him, Delaney considered the table setting and promise of food lingering behind partial coverings, and frowned in amusement. "So what happens next?" Turning her head, she dug her chin gentle into his arm and grinned at him. "Is this the part where we try to make awkward small talk until the waiter arrives?"

“Any time if I can.” Leiddem promised with an embarrassed smile. He could only try and promise cause he was not a fool that sometimes he would fail to take the hint or misunderstand. “Well, we could make awkward small talk or just cut to eating.” He laughed, wrapping an arm around her, bringing her closer still.

"I am famished," Delaney declared to an unsurprised universe. The only time it seemed possible to not entice the woman with food was directly after a meal and, even then, if you threw snacks in front of her... It had been a primary means of their initial bonding, all those mornings in the messhall attempting to eat their way through the entire breakfast menu. Whereas Leiddem was able to turn it into bulk, however, Delaney seemed to convert her energy intake into conversation. As she huddled against him, the toll of even several days rationing, without her usual exercise regime, added a pronounced sharpness to her shoulder-blades that was slowly being mimicked across the entire crew. Even Curtis looked marginally less podgy.

As difficult as it was to eat one handed, Delaney reached out to pull the recently-baked bread roll from its plate and dipped it in the questionable gravy before offering the first bite to Leiddem. She'd fully intended to eat; food was becoming too precious even after their scavenging efforts to waste, and eating it cold wasn't going to be half as appealing. But the Betazoid had, once again, created space within the chaos for her to hear her own thoughts and Laney realised, though she'd already been kind of aware, that there was a lot riding the undercurrents of her mood now that they approached the 'make or break' moment of their self-help regime. Her thoughts had been all over the place for the entire day, and though there was plenty of scope in arguing that it was always the case, the direction of her thoughts had buried a little deeper than usual perhaps. Family, home, the future. Where they were going to be in a day's time, two day's time, a week. Was there even going to be a week?

It was hard to avoid wondering.

And so, rather than stuff her face with bread, Delaney found herself cataloguing Leiddem's expression in an attempt to read beneath its stoicism. Not for the first time, she envied him his psionic capabilities. Even though he'd sworn never to intrude, there just seemed so much for which the correct words didn't exist. A rueful smile was followed by a tap of the roll against the tip of his nose. "Just think, if we'd been less stupid, we could have done this on Freecloud." Missed it by a matter of days.

“Mmmmmm hmmm.” He mumbled through the piece of bread roll before grabbing his own. The gravy was sweet and savoury at the same time which left him confused but it was good. “Yes, but I bet it would not have been half as much fun as last night.” The man said wickedly.

That earned him a smack on the arm, though not before it caused Delaney to half-choke on a mouthful of bread. On paper, a first night of intimacy in the kind of conditions they'd been thrust into didn't seem ideal, but there had been something about the thrill of it that Laney had to concede had been kind of worth it. To follow-up, she gave him a playful push to the chest and tried to stop coughing through her laughter. "If we'd been less stupid," she reasoned, "You could have had last night weeks ago." Her eyebrows arched playfully. "Or would that not have appealed to you."

“I am a patient man.” Leiddem said simply with a shrug as he caught her hand, laying it over his chest. “I am not changing a thing.” He had never been the type for regrets and they had a good thing he was not changing anything or wishing it away.

"Good response."

Taking her bread roll and finding more sustenance in simply curling into his side, Delaney succumbed to the soothing reassurance of Leiddem's heartbeat thudding against her palm and wondered, not for the first time, why people were so quick to dismiss him as a jock, as he put it. If you took the time to slow him right down, there was a heck of a lot of substance boiling beneath the surface. In the midst of their current situation, Delaney saw the value in at least being grateful she'd realised it before it had been too late to experience it at all.

Too late. The creep of doubt and pessimism made her frown. Allowing negativity to get to her wasn't the way Delaney had been raised, and to feel its constant insistence now left her irritable. She knew she'd been prickly on and off all day, it had been a growing trend that she wasn't very fond of. Leiddem's timing on this simple gesture only added to his pool of brownie points.

As the tension left her shoulders, Delaney lapsed into an uncharacteristic silence. During the moments where she'd been left with her own thoughts, stuck inside an EV suit in the dark, she'd thought of a thousand different things she wanted to talk to him about. Now that there was finally time for it, it seemed almost sacrilegious to spoil the moment with chatter. Who is this person, she chastised herself, and what the hell has she done with Delaney O'Callaghan.

The man closed his eyes for a moment savouring the silence and her presence next to him that he was experiencing. It was comfortable and an almost perfect counter to how they usually did not stop talking about anything and everything. He wanted to savour it for longer but he needed to say something to her.

“Hey, you know last night?” He started gently before carrying on without waiting for her response. “I might have slipped into your mind at one point. Was pretty hard to keep my barriers up at one point.” He knew she was fine with it but he needed to admit it all even if he felt embarrassed by it.

Not having anticipated the topic, Delaney took a moment to absorb the implication before pulling back to look up at the Betazoid. Much as she'd always promised, there was no disgust nor apprehension to her expression, merely the intrigue of someone who was now reconsidering her own experience. "I think I felt it," she admitted softly after a moment. "I mean, I felt a lot of things," she couldn't help but point out, trying to control a grin. "But there was a point where..." Delaney's brow furrowed. "It's hard to explain. I don't think I know how telepathy's supposed to feel when you're not one. It was...intense, but I kind of liked it." Her features softened to a more reflective smile. "I hope it wasn't too messy in there."

The man held his breath as moved away and turned to look at him. For a moment he could not understand her features before they softened into a grin. It was hard to keep his grin from his face now he could hear with his own ears that he was not in to much trouble. “Intense is what I call it.” He admitted with a small shrug. It was hard to describe what it felt sometimes to outside people who were not telepaths. He had never been strong outside of other telepaths so it had been almost surprising how easy it had felt with her. “You are perfect.” He said simply bring her close to press his lips to hers.

Not for the first time, Delaney felt the thrill of elation that came, not just from physically intimate contact, but something fundamentally deeper. She had, if she really stopped to think about it, fallen in love only once in her life and that had eventuated into what had seemed like a decently-commited relationship until the strain of long distance tore it to pieces. She owed her entire fascination with holo-novels to living in a different country to her boyfriend and wanting some way to connect. The experience of betrayal had stalled any efforts to repeat that level of commitment but that had mostly been fine. She'd found companionship enough in less serious flings and focused instead on what she wanted her life to look like, flying solo.

Leiddem just kept finding ways to shake up her system. Delaney couldn't recall the last time she'd been called perfect and, though the accuracy of the sentiment clearly wouldn't hold up to close literal scrutiny, she understood what he meant and it left her staggered that he could feel that way. About her. The fact that she found it easy to trust that he was sincere was owed mostly to the odd sense of intensity that the Betazoid was now providing a potential explanation for. She felt his honesty, poured into his kiss, and the ache in her chest as the enormity of it washed over her, through her, saw her mood immediately swing back towards the exhilaration of pure happiness. She'd been on a pendulum these past few days; there was something inherently confusing about being both the happiest she'd been in years, and the most scared.

Immersed in the kiss, Delaney honoured the tenderness by leaning into it and once again keeping her silence. But she wore its effect as a blatantly open surge of considerable affection that she wouldn't have denied, and therefore did very little to keep from being telepathically obvious. Not that she would have known how to mask it anyway but it seemed a natural instinct for her mind to broadcast its best attempts at self-awareness. At this rate, Leiddem Kea was going to turn her into mush and it felt amazing.

“Eat.” He finally encouraged, pulling back removing to the warm food. They had plenty of time to talk once they had eaten. Leiddem was starving, having missed lunch as his stomach had been in knots waiting for any sign he had to go search out people or news of everyone coming back.

Beyond all expectation, given the existing swirl of competing emotions, Delaney laughed. Food was undeniably their love language.

"How does telepathy work when it comes to non-telepaths anyway?", she asked, moving away to take up her spot at the crate-table. Even if she removed her personal investment in the topic, Delaney was interested in the answer. "I didn't really expect to notice it, I thought it would be more you getting a headful of my gibberish." Was it possible to develop any sort of purposeful connection? It seemed unlikely but she was intrigued.

The Betazoid shrugged a little. He was not just himself if he was honest but he had to at least make an effort. This was definitely something he was going to have to discuss with Jeassaho and Reuben. “If I say not a clue would you think any less of me? It is not something I rarely lose control of. So I guess I am saying be proud of that fact.” He teased not moving from the floor to his own chair. He did not mind at all that he was sat on the floor it was nice to not be weighed down.

A tiny potato, speared on the end of a fork, became the mouthful around which Delaney grinned. Her teeth bit down on the metal prongs and she pulled the fork in a slow flourish that deposited the morsel into her mouth. If it was possible to chew smugly, then Delaney had mastered it.

"If it is possible, I wouldn't be against learning. You know, to save you losing control." She was teasing and yet through the innuendo was considerable sincerity. It wasn't the first time the human had shown a distinct curiosity for telepathy.

"I did not mind losing control with you." he grinned back surprised by the curiosity from her around his telepathy. It was a nice surprise that she was interested and wanted to be more open to it all with him.

"I noticed." An eyebrow quirked playfully stopped the inference there but not before the glint in Delaney's eyes dealt their mischief. It had been an...interesting...night. Certainly nothing objectionable, though she could probably admit to having several more reasons to be impatient for this all to be over with. Getting her own quarters back seemed highly desirable. She skewered another potato, this time taking a bite at it instead of devouring it whole, and took a moment to spin the remaining portion for closer examination.

"All these vegetables remind me of my grandmother's garden," she confided suddenly, giving voice to the vague sense of longing that had dogged her since setting out for the hydroponics bay. Staring wistfully at what remained of the boiled spud, Delaney then slide the rest off into her mouth and used her fork to push around the green beans that looked a little less than appetising. It had been hard to avoid thinking about home, which suddenly seemed as far away as it actually was with no subspace transmissions to bridge the gap. "It's kind of hard to believe it's been over half a year since I saw any of them."

The man did not need to be crude and flirt more. She knew he had enjoyed himself and he knew she had enjoyed herself so that was all that mattered in his mind. They could have more privacy next time hopefully or at least it be less likely to be interrupted. “Close to them?” He wondered.

"My family?" Delaney nodded, discarding an attempt to pick up a bean in favour of using her fork to saw a carrot into pieces. "Don't get me wrong, they drive me batty but I guess the feeling's probably mutual." Chewing thoughtfully, Delaney sat for a moment in the soup of emotions that had threatened all day to pull her mood back down and then hunched a shoulder. "I was due to send them an update the night we went offline." Several pieces of corn evaded her best attempts to stab them. "If I was back on Earth, they'd have half of Ireland's law enforcement after me by now."

“Awkward.” Leiddem teased trying to lighten the mood a little to as he watched her try and get some food on her fork. “I am sure as soon as we get out of this mess the first thing we can do after having showers is get the communication array back working and we shall be able to send communication to people.”

After a day of listening to the muttering undercurrents of a fearful crew, Leiddem's unwavering optimism was a boon. Delaney regarded him over a mouthful of corn and then slowly nodded. "Hopefully," she added for good measure and then smiled coyly. "I have plenty of news to update them with."

“I bet. You know what is funny, from the sounds of it our families are completely different.” He real not had not been over thinking when his family had not noticed him and Jeassaho missing for three years they just had total faith that they would come back.

"Oh?" Between mouthfuls, Delaney tried not to seem to eager, though there was no reason for her to suppose she'd suddenly mastered that previous difficulty. "How so?"

“We are close but I once went missing for three years and no one looked for me and Jea as they were fully assured that we could take care of ourselves and keep out of trouble. We did not keep out of trouble but we came back.” He said with a shrug. It was not a take to explain there and then.

Delaney's raised eyebrows spoke volumes. "Oh god, if I disappeared for 3 years, my family would flay me alive. They're not controlling," she added hastily, then stopped to consider the honesty of that remark. "That is to say, they're Irish, so they have an opinion about everything. But they're supportive. I jumped sideways out of the family business, headed off-world to see what the big, bad universe had to offer. Most of them only called me insane about, oh, two, three hundred times each?" She grinned. "But hey, it must be nice to have a family who believes in you that much, right? I think mine half expects that I'll offend the wrong alien and end up in a penal colony on the other side of the galaxy."

“Oh they more than believe in me and Jeassaho. So it is nice that they have absolute faith in me. Wish more people had that faith in me.” He said thoughtfully as he used his fork to pick up some food. He offered a smile before he started to chew thoughtful.

That achieved the impossible and rendered Delaney silent for several seconds as she regarded him. There were times when it was difficult to read Leiddem, who had a similar tendency to her when it came to just getting on with things. She'd always felt that she spent more time feeling frustrated at his lack of seniority on board than he did. "I do," she reassured him softly. "I know I hang shit on you all the time but that was more an excuse to flirt with you." Overly innocent eyes considered him over her next mouthful. "That," Delaney continued after swallowing, "and the fact that you give as good as you get. Reminds me of home."

“Course I do. I only have sisters, I know women.” He chuckled before his gaze looked away, softening. “I know you do, Lan.” He said softly. “I do not blame anyone but there is a bit more to me.”

Keen blue eyes scrutinised him for a moment, in the way they had picked him to pieces over the course of the last six months. Delaney didn't always stall her own momentum long enough to pick up on cues but she was deceptively astute despite appearing distracted most of the time. "You can tell me, you know," she gently offered. "Though, for what it's worth, I already figured out there's more to you than meets the eye months ago." She smiled faintly. "It takes more than a few flexes to impress me." Not that there was anything to complain about in that department, as such...

“Nothing to say. You will learn it all once we are out of this mess.” He said it with a shrug. “Not much can change and I understand that.” He said simply. It was no one’s fault really just how it worked. “Though I really do hope the next chief of security doesn’t call me boy.” He said with a grin.

"You do that a lot, you know," Delaney accused gently, though without any real recrimination. She skewered her last potato and took a bite out of it. "Any time we get into a conversation like this, it's always 'not the time for it'. Are you really that scared to talk to me about things that matter to you?"

Much though she tried not to let it get to her, Delaney couldn't help but view it as some sort of implication regarding her suitability as a confidant. What bothered her more than anything was not being trusted, particularly since her recent shortcomings probably made that a justifiable concern. She pushed what remained of her vegetables aside and set down the fork, suddenly without appetite.

“No but I also don’t want you to think I’m this bundle of resentment. I understand why Reuben will not give me the position of head of security but even so others do not and that is okay too.” The man slowly moved across and slid behind her against the wall.

Swivelling to watch him, Delaney took a moment to consider the tired stoop of Leiddem's shoulders before pushing aside her concerns about inadequacy and moving to sit beside him, her back pressed against the cold hull. "So what is his reason?," she asked gently, more than aware that she was one of the loudest voices of dissatisfaction at the Betazoid's continual benching. "It can't be performance, you're easily the best candidate we have. Even when Robertson was alive..." Her voice trailed off, unwilling to speak poorly of the dead. For once in her life, Delaney strove for a little tact. "People just seem to naturally gravitate towards you for advice and leadership. You've already proven you have a good head for the job."

The man grinned at the comment about Robertson, he himself did not want to be accused of speaking ill of the dead but the man had called him boy in his determination to out dick him because of Dixoho. "Same reason Jeassaho is not Chief of Engineering. He does not want his family in those positions and to be accused of nepotism." It was a simple rational and he respected it to say the least. "Ah that gravitation is what pisses a few people off." He said with a grin.

"Only those inclined to find fault in everything," Delaney countered. She'd watched Leiddem for long enough now to know that he drew attention simply because he exuded the confidence and knowledge that people assumed necessary from people in positions of authority. "And I don't know that reverse-nepotism really makes all that much sense either." It was a blunt assessment of the older man's mentality but Leiddem knew her well enough by now to realise that Delaney was not above telling Gregnol to his face what she thought of his logic. "Burnie, at least, is a worthy competitor. Who the hell is going to be a better candidate than you now?" Slipping an arm through his, Laney leaned her weight against his arm and rested her head against his triceps. "It's not fair on you either," she concluded softly. "To be passed over just in case someone wants to be a dick about you being better suited for the job than anyone who's actually done it so far."

“Delaney…” he said amused. “If it really worried me I have so many other options. I could have gone back to Starfleet or found a job elsewhere.” He chuckled and leant out and pushed her her hair out of her face. “I’ve stayed the last few months cause I had a proper reason to stay other than Reuben and Jeassaho…. You.”

So this is how I die.

Happily, in any case, despite the sudden twist of her stomach into knots and the ridiculous clamour of her heart in her chest. All stereotypes aside, Delaney actually found some cause for concern in the way Leiddem could spin her on her axis at a moment's notice. Independence. That's what she had forged her way back towards after the debacle of her previous serious relationship. If he kept setting depth charges off, she was at serious risk of turning into one of the incoherent emotional messes she enjoyed weaving into her holo-novels just because their behaviour was ridiculous. Her features crumpled into a resigned grin, a full acknowledgement that he'd managed to knock the wind out of her argument once again, and with her chin dug into his arm so that she could look up at him, Delaney murmured with a sincerity that actually surprised her, "Well, if you do leave, you have to take me with you." There was a pause for effect before she added mischievously, "Boy."

"You rascal." The man commented on with a roll of his eyes as he resisted the urge to lean out and tickle her. It was impossible to not take her with him if he ever did decide to leave but for now, despite everything, he was quite content to stay where he was, despite what everyone thought. "Always. The only person I can stand half the time." He said without hesitation. It was a promise from him to her that would be easy to keep.

Mollified, Delaney curled into his side and contented herself, with impressive adaptation to a more peaceful atmosphere, with the simple reassurance of his body heat pressed against her cheek. "Half the time?" Her eyes closed, Delaney grinned. "My odds have improved."

 

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