A Camping We Will Go
Location: Junior Crew Quarters, Deck 4
Timeline: Mission Day 1 at 0800
The swish of the doors that signaled entrance to her quarters felt like a gentle whisper welcoming her home. Irynya had been at the gym, trying a trick that she had, unwittingly, learned from Noah. Granted, she was using it to escape something different, but the method she had recommended to Noah hadn't seemed like it would help her this time. She entered the room, black sports bra on display under an unzipped black jacket. Her black yoga pants and trainers completed the look which tied off with a high ponytail. The sweat from her workout had begun to dry leaving her with the sticky salty feeling of what was left behind. Absently she scrubbed at her temple with the back of one wrist as if that might rub away some of the tight dried sweat feeling from her forehead.
Stepping into the room she made a beeline for the replicator keying in a request for a large glass of water and a couple of protein balls, an oat, peanut butter, and honey confection that an Academy roommate had introduced her to.
She shot a look over her shoulder, spotting Noah settled on the sofa and, snagging her items, headed for him. "I heard a rumor that you're skipping shoreleave," she said pointedly. "Is that true?"
The stick bug cadet lounged on the couch, head on the armrest. His skinny legs were bent at the knee and cradling against them, a PADD. "Computer pause." Noah angled his head back to look at the voice. "Just a second," he said. He looked back at the PADD on his knees. "A-anyway Mum. Dad. Si. That's what happened. My ship's first photonic life forms. So that's all for now. I-I'm still waiting to hear on my grades. I'm hoping to graduate by December. Or um... what's the month on Bajor... Peldora, right? I think? Well, um, either way Mum.... Peldor Joi. To you and Arvim. Unless I'm mixing up my Bajoran festivals and this is the fasting one."
Noah tapped at the PADD and made a flinging gesture. The screen went blank and standby, as he spent the message on to the Yeoman Pool who would see it through. It would probably arrive right around the Gratitude Festival on Bajor, in a couple of months. Noah then pushed up on his hand. It was still a little stiff and sore from the repair- that spread thin, achy feeling- what Noah called, "feeling crunchy" that wasn't quite pain.
"Hey." He swiveled his legs down and bent. Some taffy was sitting on the table. He scooped them up and began to untwine one that was orange and yellow. "What were you saying?" he asked.
While Noah finished his message, Iry had flopped into the chair nearest the couch, setting her small plate of protein balls on the table while she continued to suck down her water. She tipped the glass up, tilting her head back so the last of the water ran down into her mouth and then set it down, grinning at Noah's penchant for taffy.
"Shoreleave," she said with eyebrows raised. "I heard a rumor you aren't going?"
Noah's hesitation to answer was a sidling glance away and back. "W-well I was thinking about not going down. I told Sheldon in the showers this morning..." Noah said. "I mean...." He grinned lopsidedly. "It's camping right?" He popped the orange and white in his mouth where it became a knot of slow mastication against his cheek.
Irynya tilted her head to the side, a quizzical expression on her face. Clearly, she was not seeing the connection between camping and Noah's interest in staying behind. "Yes?" she said. The confirmation came out as more of a question than a statement. She absently snagged one of the small protein balls and took a quick bite, the nutty sweet confection making her mouth water and, she realized, her stomach growl.
Noah seemed equally confused. He blinked, eyes narrowed. "Rrright? Yes. It's... it's camping."
"I'm missing something obvious. Why wouldn't you want to go camping?" Irynya asked, her uncertainty plain on her face.
Noah's mouth, in hesitation, moved in silence. "Um. Why-why would I want to go camping? I passed my survival training on Luna and on Mars..." Noah quirked a smile. "I-I get that people like camping... some people." He wanted to add, odd people, but that felt too judgmental. He felt his face trying to fight back something between a grimace and a laugh. "Why-why would... I mean I don't go camping." He shrugged, almost like a shiver, "N-not for fun. Not really."
As if someone had literally turned on a light, the confusion on Irynya's face cleared. "Oh," she said and then as the understanding sunk deeper she repeated herself, drawing the word out this time. "Oh..." She popped the other half of the protein ball in her mouth and chewed quickly. "Have you ever been camping... for fun...?" she asked. "I mean, not in a survival situation, but where everything's comfortable and easy and you sit around a camp fire and sleep in a tent or out under the stars?"
With a slow, almost Timmoz-like wolfishness, Noah's smile revealed that he might- just might- have been playing with her. It soon broke into a Noahesque grin, toothy and goofy. "I've been dragged out camping by my-my Academy friends when I was on Earth. In a few places. Um. Yellowstone, that one made me a little h-homesick. The Hoh Rain Forest? And Yosemite. And my brother liked to cryo-camp on Enceladus." He nudged closer. "I'm... I'm not really good at it. I always get sunburnt and the bugs think I'm..." He bobbed his head, vehement, eyebrows perked, "Really delicious. I guess. I think I'm more of an indoor pet. You know?" He leaned over to more closely examine the plate of Irynya's snack. "This looks like a Debbie recipe?"
Not hesitating she offered up the plate so Noah could snag one of the confections. "Academy roommate," she said, "but it wouldn't surprise me if Debbie has a version of these as well. They're delicious after a workout."
Noah passed with a soft gesture of his hand and a twice-shake of his head. "I ate..."
She understood Noah's aversion. It made sense. Everyone hated being nibbled on by bugs. And sunburn was the worst, or at least she understood that to be the case. She'd never experienced the phenomenon herself. But she also found herself suddenly painfully eager to have her friend along with her. It was going to be an odd trip and although she didn't want to play the Kennedy leaving card, if she was honest she was eager, selfishly, for the comfort of her closest friends. She thought fast though and, raising one eyebrow at him she asked, "So you've been camping, but have you been...." here she grinned, cat-like, as she drew out the moment for effect, "glamping?"
Noah chortled and couldn't help a touch of irreverence with an eye roll. "The twenty-first-century comm'ed. They want their slang back." He shrugged and pushed a breath out. He grimaced a smile. "Y-yeah. That's what people would say to soften camping. But," his nose wrinkled. "Camping is what it is. We can dress it up but... it-it's camping." He chewed his lip.
Noah rose and paced some. He folded his arms across his chest. "I-I was kind of hoping this one," and he gestured at his room's door with a flick of a finger, "Would go down and dol..." he shrugged, "I guess whatever Anticans do. And I'd finally get my room to myself... for a few days anyway." He admitted. Though, now that he thought about it, he had no idea what Margarar intended to do.
If the Risian's face gave away any disappointment it was fleeting. Her eyes, followed the flick of Noah's finger to the door and an old burn of frustration at the roommate circumstance stirred in her for a moment. She could hardly fault her friend for wanting that solitary time in space that used to be comfortable and after everything they'd been through she wasn't willing to try to convince him further. "If you want company," she said, "I could stay onboard with you. But if not and you change your mind, I don't have a tent buddy yet."
Noah's head tilted. "I thought you'd probably... uh.... try with Kennedy?" Noah said. His eyes skirted. "I-I guess I assumed. Or Sheldon. But I guess Sheldon is tenting with Dravor?" Noah fought a smile. "Might want to put their tent a little far out of the main group if you want sleep."
This time Irynya couldn't as easily hide her reaction. "He hasn't talked to you?" she said quietly, eyes echoing a sort of resigned sadness. "I thought he would have by now."
Noah shook his head. "N-no I've been double shifting trying to help Engineering get everything back to normal." He said, stilling. "And studying." He said with an admission, his eyes dodging up and back.
"Oh," she said, and somehow that reaction was quieter than the rest. She looked at Noah for a long moment, chewing the inside of her cheek as if she were considering and then sighed, resigned. If he hadn't spoken to Noah, who by Kennedy's reckoning was one of his closest friends on the ship, then there was no point in putting it off.
"Kennedy is leaving tomorrow," she said. "There's an inbound shuttle with a new security chief to replace Lieutenant True, and another security crewman joining us. Kennedy will be on that shuttle when it leaves. He's been offered a fellowship, for his research on the Chameloids, it's..." she trailed off, not sure how to explain herself at this point. When she'd left Rami to go to Starfleet there hadn't been anyone to talk to really. No one that wasn't also grieving the fact that she was leaving Risa. And it had been a long time coming, so the experience had been different.
Noah's shoulders fell some, along with his honest face. "Oh." He said in a ghostly sound. "No, he didn't tell me yet..." Noah admitted. That swirled in his guts- but then again they had been so busy, Noah absolved that he was not surprised. The skinny one moved to the sweaty woman. "I'm-I'm sorry. How are you feeling?" He asked, hovering tentatively if the Risian wanted a hug.
"I don't know," she said honestly, though a lump formed in her throat all the same. The decision was only a few days old. It hurt, letting him go, but she also had no doubt that this was the right decision for him. What she hadn't anticipated was how much Noah's reaction would impact her. "It's the right choice," she said. "It's the right choice and I am happy for him and it still hurts."
She stood then, acknowledging the hovering of her friend and wrapping her arms around his waist. "I'm sorry for not telling you sooner," she murmured into his shoulder.
Noah wrapped back. He was bony and slight and still held her. "Sorry," he mirrored. "I-I'll go down then. Sorry."
"No, Noah," she said, pulling her head up to look at him, but not releasing the hug. There was something immensely comforting about being hugged right now and she wasn't ready to give it up yet. "I didn't tell you that to convince you to go. I mean... I want you there... because I want to be around my friends. But I was serious. I can stay up here too if you don't mind the company. I just... don't want to be by myself mostly."
Noah frowned. "N-no I'll go. I don't have anything to do up here. It's fine." His eyebrows popped. "I can bring a few, um, you know, projects. Down." He shrugged. "It's f-" He was cut off by the shrill chirp of the door.
Caught off guard, Irynya extracted herself hastily from Noah before giving him an apologetic smile. "Sorry..." she said softly... "you give good hugs." And then she turned to the door and called "Come," to whoever was outside. "And projects would be fun. Cat?" She asked hastily before turning to see who had entered.
"Maybe Cat," Noah acknowledged as the doors opened. They were barely open before the occupant outside stepped inside and with him, the waft of oak leaves on a forest floor... something truffle-like. "Good, you're both here." Timmoz addressed them. "You. Final certification test. I have decided. Starfleet decided for me, your grades are due before December on Earth," he pointed at Noah.
Noah's eyebrows betrayed him in a pop upward. "I-I."
"You're going," Timmoz countermanded. He blinked away to gaze upon the Risian. He was wearing black pants that left little to the imagination, made of Aldebaran leather. He had a vest, open, with copper jewelry around his neck and on his bicep. "We've got a request from Science. They have several sites they want to survey. They'll need shuttling around and transport for their science-" he waved his hands in a dismissive circle, "Trinkets."
Irynya's eyebrows crept up as Timmoz spoke and she glanced between the two men, watching Noah's face transform before returning to watching the walking sex that was Timmoz in slinky black pants. "You'll be great," she said quietly to Noah. Even though there was no doubt that Timmoz would hear, it didn't hurt to keep up the pretense that he wouldn't. "And what do you need me for?" she asked.
Timmoz was moving out of the door when Irynya asked. "You can do half the flying, why should I have all the fun?" He countered. He deadpanned snapped fingers at Noah between the cadet's eyes, who blinked- and had apparently been staring. "Welcome back," the Orion drawled with a sideways smirk. "Cadet, be in the shuttlebay at 1500 for pre-flight checks." The brown eyes of the Orion turned back to Irynya. "Are you interested?"
With a grin and a shrug, the Risian voiced her agreement. "Absolutely. Been a while since I've gotten to run a shuttle within atmosphere for any amount of time. Sounds like fun."
"Good. See you planetside, V'Kava," he nodded at the Cadet. "As you two were." Timmoz stepped out of the door's threshold. It hissed shut on a hydraulic, spritely whisper.
"Well that was unexpected," Irynya commented with wry amusement before turning her gaze back to Noah, taking him in. He'd barely said one word during the exchange and his face gave away more than he probably would have liked to admit. "You ok?"
"Um," Noah blinked. "I don't feel ready for a real-life piloting test. Especially if there's people a-aboard."
For a second Irynya considered following her natural tendency to encourage. She was confident he could do it, but also suspected words wouldn't help in that moment. So instead she turned back to him, opening her body language in case, this time, he wanted a hug. "How can I help?" she asked.
Noah blinked. His brain was spinning with the news. Part of him was irate with the Orion pressuring him. But he'd caught that the Lieutenant was apparently under pressure as well: December was looming. Hesitation in his voice, Noah shook his head. "I-I'm not sure there's anything you can do. I-I've been putting this off because I'm not good at it."
Pulling her bottom lip in between her teeth the Risian studied the cadet for a long moment. "You just have to pass," she reminded him. "And Timmoz wouldn't force the matter if he genuinely thought you were going to put anyone in danger." One hand reached up, absently fiddling with the end of her ponytail. "He's many things, but careless with lives is not one of them. Deadline or not, you are ready enough."
"True... that's true." Noah acknowledged. He had to pass, not fly a Kolvoord Starburst. "It's not the flying, it's the landing." Noah took in a breath and pushed it out. "W-well I guess I'm going so.... I-I need to pack a few things. Ummm...." His eyes narrowed. "Portable generator... portable computer uplink..."
A small grin spread across Iry's face as Noah began to consider what he needed to bring along. "I'll help," she said then looked down at her rapidly drying sweat sticky attire. "I'll help... after... I shower."
Noah nodded, his mouth wide and thin as he veneered the stress of an impending test. But even if his shoreleave wasn't going to be what he planned, it would probably still be enjoyable.
=/\= A post by =/\=
Chief Flight Controller
Lieutenant Junior Grade Irynya
Assistant Chief Flight Controller
Midshipman Noah Balsam