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White Flag

Posted on Wed Nov 30th, 2022 @ 3:23am by Lieutenant JG Irynya

Mission: A Camping We Will Go
Location: Somewhere along the lake
Timeline: Mission Day 4 at 1100

The quiet lapping of water, gentle and rhythmic, made a soft percussion to the rustle and reedy swish of breeze across the lake. It was the perfect sort of temperature. Warm enough to make the coolness of the breeze pleasant, but not so warm as to prevent the campers from being out and about this near to midday.

The spot Irynya had chosen was secluded, an alcove amongst the trees tucked against the water's edge. The view was brilliant, sun sparkling off the water’s surface just beyond the edge of the trees' shadows. The Risian was curled up, knees to chest and chin on knees taking it all in. It was beautiful.

It was beautiful and Irynya wasn't enjoying it. The brief flare of warmth and appreciation and family she'd felt that morning watching the sunrise with Mei had vanished like smoke when she'd returned to the camp. Even when she wasn't thinking about how spectacularly she had messed up a tight ball in the pit of her stomach, a bit like a clenched fist, refused to release, acting like a constant reminder of her guilt.

She had forced herself to watch the water long past the point that made sense, eyes watering as she looked across the shining surface. Eyes stinging she finally looked down, bright flares of light clouding her vision even with her eyes closed. She blinked rapidly, trying to clear her field of vision, but between the phantom after images of the light and the way her eyes had begun to water, she couldn't do it. Her stomach clenched a reminder of the night prior and she sucked in a breath, ducking her head against her knees and closing her eyes.

When she first set out from camp she'd considered going back to the waterfall by herself. Maybe swimming behind it to perch on the ledge and let the loud crash of the water overwhelm her senses until she could think straight again. But the scientists were headed that direction, Noah among them, so she had scrapped that idea.

Looking up again, she unfolded her body from itself, releasing her grip on her legs and moving until they were criss-crossed in a lotus. It felt uncomfortable sitting in that open position when what she wanted was to hold herself in and make herself smaller, but she did it anyway. With a stabilizing breath she rummaged in the small bag she'd brought, pulling out her PADD. A quick swipe of her hand she opened a log and set it to record before she set the device on her knee.

"Hi Marti." She'd barely gotten Marteli's name out before her throat closed up with the homesickness that welled around the fist in her belly. She held her breath. Willing it to pass like a cramp that needed to be endured.

"It’s been a while. I’m sorry for being so quiet. It’s… well you wouldn’t believe the things we get into out here in deep space. I’ve been meaning to send you this for a few days, though. It’s going to take time for this to reach you, but I like to think that maybe just by talking to you I can imagine what you’d say. What you’d do right now."

She pressed her lips together, imagining the look on her friend’s face–a mixture of quiet concern and openness in her dark eyes.

“Kennedy and I…,” she continued, “we’re not together anymore. I know last time I said… well… you know what I said. And it was true. Is true… isn’t… I don’t know. He’s been offered a life changing opportunity and he’s taken it. I told him to take it. It was the right thing to do. And I’m so happy for him. But… I couldn’t.”

A sigh, barely more than an exhalation, escaped her as she cupped the back of her neck with one hand, probing at the muscles with firm presses of her fingers.

“That’s not even why I’m sending you this. Well, it kinda is, but not. Brilliant blue seas I wish you were here Marti. You’ve always known what to say. After Rami you were just there. And those couple days you kept me out of my head and… I mean it wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t as hard when I got on that shuttle and left.”

That shuttle had been her life changing opportunity. With parents struggling to understand her decision and a lover who would sooner marry her than see her go, Marteli had been the one that kept her sane. The one who had drawn her out of her own head. Her first real, true, woldelaht companion. A memory of that moment sprang to life in her mind's eye. They'd all come to see her off, but Marteli had been the one whose smile and knowing expression had gotten her off the landing pad.

“And Kennedy isn’t Rami. I know that. But I keep thinking, what if that was it? What if those two… they were my only opportunities? I’m the one who wanted to explore the stars, and that was enough when Rami and I split, but now… now that I’ve known it could be possible at the same time… What if that was it?”

When it feels like this the last few days I like to imagine your arms around me, and your cheek against my back, and the way your hair tickles. It’s funny how we were taught that sometimes feeling good in your body can help you function when the rest of you doesn’t feel good. How there are ways to use the makeup of our bodies to create relief and space for the hard emotions to flow. But I can’t even seem to find that. Not for very long anyway. And I made a horrible mistake because of it.”

She fell silent then, turning the thought over and over. So many things were communicated without words. Explaining felt insufficient when she knew with a touch or a look Marteli would have seen and understood. Still, the words were needed. Even if her friend had been there they would have been a necessary thing. Her PADD flashed a prompt at her, asking if she wanted to continue or save the message. She tapped it quickly.

“Humans… they associate a lot of emotion to feeling good physically. A lot of it. I know that. I knew that. I knew that. You and me… there would be no confusion. You’d know what to do. I’d know how to respond. But last night,” she muttered a curse under her breath, frustration rolling through her as she recalled the moment with uncomfortable clarity, “I tried to kiss Noah when I shouldn’t have. I shouldn’t have Marti. I know I shouldn’t have. I’ve always found him attractive, and on Risa, that would be enough. Between you and me that would be enough. Because that’s… it’s how we work. But Noah isn’t you. Noah isn’t Risian. Humans don’t work that way.”

Head dipping as if the weight of explaining was just too much, she sighed again. Tan fingers traced the edge of the PADD absently and she chewed her lip a moment.

“What am I going to do Marti? What am I going to do if I lose two people I love at once?”

And there it was; the thought that drove her to send a message to Marteli on the other side of a wormhole because if she had experienced this at home, she knew exactly how she would have coped. She wouldn’t have hurt her closest friend with a kiss. Marteli never had minded the exchange of touch to help bear grief. But then, Marteli was Risian.

“I guess that’s it,” she said after a pause. “All I wanted to say. I’d give anything for you to be here Marti.”

She stared at the PADD then tapped the command to save. She wouldn’t be able to transmit the message until they were back on the ship, but if she erased it now she knew she’d never record it again. Deft hands tucked the device back in her bag and then, as if it might somehow quiet the loud inside her head, she brought her knees back to her chest, circling them with her arms and placing her chin on top of her knees. Small again, Irynya starred out over the water.


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