2237-06-06 - What a Return Means

Van and Cate talk about what a return to Picon means.

Date: 2237-06-06

Location: Cutter //Vanguard//

Related Scenes: None

Plot: None

Scene Number: 1097

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Usually, when Van steps over to the stack of bunks alongside his, it's for Isolde. At the moment, however, the ECO is on duty, and Van is... or was... trying desperately to rest. Instead, he draws down the last of his cigarette, puts it out in the ashtray balanced on his chest, then sets the tray aside and swings himself out of his bunk, "Hey Doc... you awake?"

Cate shouldn't be awake. She should be sleeping. But for the past hour she's been staring up at the ceiling of her bunk, listening to soft music that has failed to lull her to sleep. She pulls back the curtain at Van's call, tugging out the earbuds so she can hear him better. "Hey," she greets. Then her brow creases. "You all right?" Maybe it's something about his face, or just the fact that he doesn't usually seek her out like that.

The pilot starts to shrug off the question, despite the little flash of relief that passed over his face when the medic pulled back the curtain. His mouth works for a moment, but no words come out immediately. Grimacing, Van tries again, keeping his voice low so as to not disturb anyone who might be having more luck sleeping, "Did you know? How bad it was on Picon?"

Picon. The mention of the planet causes a twitch on Cate's already-somber face. "I wasn't surprised." She doesn't elaborate on why, at least not immediately. A flick of her thumb turns off the music player and tucks it away on her otherwise-barren bunk shelves. Her head jerks towards the hatch. "You want to walk and talk?"

If Van weren't quite so deep in his own head at the moment, he would probably see that twitch as a warning sign of 'we're about to get into deeper topics that we tend to avoid,' but instead, he glances back to his own bunk a moment, then nods, grabbing a pair of exercise shoes from his locker and pulling them on over bare feet, "Yeah. Probably best." He is, however, still well-trained enough to offer the medic a hand down out of the bunk that she doesn't particularly need.

Cate doesn't need the hand, but she's not rude or proud enough to refuse the chivalrous gesture, so she takes his hand and hops down. She pauses a moment to retrieve her own shoes from her locker - and a zip-up sweatshirt hoodie that complements the sweats she's wearing. Not that it's that chilly on the ship that she really needs it. When the locker opens, she spares a glance to the picture of Dub and Mute that's taped to the inside door, just over the picture of two tween girls and a cat. "Figured this way we don't have to whisper," she mentions as they head out of the berthings. "Iz on duty?"

Van has his own picture, his fingers touching his lips, then the shot of the two women on the beach stuck up at the front of his bunk, and then he heads out with Cate, nodding at her question, "Yeah. Pretty sure she's on alert five." Once the door shuts behind them and they're out in the hall, he picks a direction at random and starts walking, although his voice doesn't rise much above its previous hush, "I figured we had it. Picon, I mean. The way people came together after Hyperion, I guess I just never asked. Or paid any attention. We were the best," at least in his mind, "it wasn't like we needed any help." Self-delusion can be a powerful thing.

Cate stuffs her hands in the pockets of her hoodie, listening to him as they walk. "I'm sorry, Van." It isn't often that she calls him by his proper name. "Has to be rough to see your home like that." There's a beat, then she asks, "When you flew out of Triton, were you able to make it to orbit? Get back to the fleet right away?"

Van hunches his shoulders, one hand rubbing over the opposite forearm, "Other people have it worse." Which doesn't particularly help him, but his tone, but it's the 'right' thing to say. The question causes him to shake his head, "No. We went south. I lasted just long enough to find friendly forces. Got shipped down to Queenstown for treatment and recovery." He lets out a breath, "Looking back, I'm pretty sure they just weren't telling me how bad it was because they didn't want to set back the recovery."

"C'mon, just because someone else has it worse doesn't mean it doesn't suck. That's like saying you can't be upset you lost a leg because someone else lost both." Cate offers the gentle permission to wallow a little, then nods somberly to the rest of his explanation. "Probably. And it's hard to know what's really going on, when we get so little news up here." And what news they do get is filtered.

Van nods, rubbing his face with both hands, "I just..." The pilot gives another shake of his head, "I don't know. I thought I hadn't heard from my family through the last deployment because we're deployed. Now I'm worrying that Cape Bismark may have been occupied." Stopping a moment, he pats down his pockets, then realizes he left his cigarettes back in his bunk and starts walking with an exasperated sound.

Cate withdraws a hand from her pocket to reach for his shoulder, intent on giving it a companionable squeeze. "We'll find out. Sure there'll be more info once we get there." Not that it's much consolation now. A corner of her mouth quirks up at the search for the cigarettes. "You should knock those off, y'know. Would suck to get all the way through the war and then get cancer. And Iz hates them. We've got some nicotine patches up in sickbay if you need them."

Van glances over at the hand on his shoulder, offering up a tight smile. For a moment, he really looks like he's only twenty-six years old, relief clear in that smile. "Thanks. It's a hell of a birthday present, isn't it? Going home?" He starts to nod in the 'I've heard it all before' manner about the warnings about the cigarettes, but when she mentions that Isolde hates them, he blinks, "She does? She never said anything..."

Cate's brows go up. "It's your birthday? Well, happy birthday. Hopefully the real present will be a call from your mom when we get to Picon space." That thought causes a preoccupied frown to touch her lips for a moment. She lets her hand fall and resumes walking. "She didn't?" Cate looks surprised at the revelation that Isolde never said anything. "Dumbass." Though there's a fondness in the insult. "Well, she does. Probably too afraid to say something and take away your stress reliever. Does she know it's your birthday?"

Van nods at the first question, "Thanks. And yes, that would be a good present." Then he's shaking his head at the question about Isolde, although the fond name-calling causes him to smile faintly, "Well, until a few days ago, she was too busy avoiding me because of the quals. And I think she does. But it's not a big deal either way. There are a lot more important things going on." Letting out a long, slow breath, he looks over to the medic, "Speaking of which... how are you doing? With going back to Picon, that is?"

"Yeah, I heard about that," Cate says with a sympathetic frown. "She seems pretty broken up about it. I asked Tucker if he could help out - though I know you are too." Or so she assumed based on something Isolde said. "Getting those wings means a lot to her." Cate sighs a little, frustrated at her inability to help her friend. The latter question from Van causes her lips to draw together, tension evident in her shoulders. "I don't know," she says softly.

"Yes, I figured that since I flew Raptors even after flight school, and Vipers now, that I could help out everyone who wanted to try the quals again. But I'm glad for anyone and everyone's help." But then Van lets that slip aside, taking another deep, cleansing breath as he focuses in on the woman walking beside him as best as he can. "There are a lot of bad memories back there, aren't there? And some good ones that are rather tarnished, yes?"

"Yeah, I thought of that when she mentioned it. Figured you'd be good at both." Though there's a distance in Cate's words now, her mind light years away. "Yeah," she agrees tightly with Van's assessment. "You know it's funny..." In an ironic sense, not a ha-ha sense, judging by her glum tone. "My best friend took me there because she thought it would cheer me up after some shit back home. See the Fair, hang out at the beach..." Her lips thin. "She died at the arena."

There's a whole lot of that 'funny' going around when talk turns to Triton. Van nods slowly, listening, "I can't even watch pyramid after the arena." Still, he turns it back away from himself once more, "Even though there are a whole lot of stories like that, it doesn't make it any easier, does it?" His shoulders rise and fall slightly in a little shrug, "I'm sorry." Expressing condolences is another thing that never gets easier, by Van's expression, "Perhaps... perhaps we'll have a chance to avenge all those ghosts we carry along with us?"

Cate shifts a sympathetic glance his way when he mentions not being able to watch pyramid any more. "I don't know if anything makes it easier. But thanks." At the talk of revenge, she shakes her head. "I don't know if that helps either. Would take a hell of a lot of toasters to even the scales for what we saw." There's a beat, then she asks. "You said your sister was in Hyperion, yeah?"

"At the Fair," is the answer to the most important comment in there. Van lets out a sigh, "She and her wife were visiting the Fair. I was supposed to meet up with them on the 14th." His features set, looking down at the deck ahead of his steps, "One at a time. That's how I figure to set the score straight. One at a time, until there aren't any more of them left."

"I'm sorry," Cate offers somberly, knowing it doesn't help any more than it did when he said it to her. But it has to be said anyway. She nods to his sentiment about taking out toasters, then walks a little further in silence before saying, "We didn't make it to friendly lines. Crashed just outside the city. We hid out for a couple days before the toasters found us. That's when I got separated from Dub and Evan and Daisy." Daisy being Evan's niece, who was among some refugees found in the city during the siege. "Took two months before we made it back to friendly lines."

Van nods his thanks at the condolences. It doesn't help, not really, but it's still nice to hear. Rather than circling back through the hallways, he picks a stairwell when they get to it, ascending on the same random choice that took him right instead of left when they came out of the berthings. Call it a pilot's choice to gain altitude. Nodding slowly at the details of the escape, he considers something for a minute, "Well, you all might have saved my life and that of everyone else in my Raptor. We had to dodge a pair of Raiders for about a minute, but that's all. They must have been distracted. So whether it was you or something else, thank you."

"I didn't do anything," Cate demurs from his thanks, stuffing her hands back in her pockets. Her shoulders hunch a bit under the weight of the memories. "Dub and Evan took out a couple Cypers on the way out, I think. I was in the back trying not to pass out." There's a little snort, then she realizes that might warrant further explanation. "One of the bombs hit the next house over in the refugee area -" That would be some former military family housing on the base that had been co-opted for the refugees. "I was standing outside. Got hurt pretty bad." Her mouth tightens. "That's why I couldn't go with them, when they went out to scavenge." And how she got separated from them.

"That's alright, I was in the front trying not to pass out every time I hit right rudder. I'm lucky I didn't hit a building on the way out." Van can do self-deprecating with the best of them sometimes. Still, he nods, "Best traditions of the service, watch out for the civilians, the wounded, and the medics first." He pauses then, reaching the top of the stairwell and randomly picking left this time, "Who knows, we might even connect with the right resistance group while we're there."

"Doubt luck had much to do with it. You're a good pilot," Cate tells him. Not that she would know from first-hand experience. But he is one of the leading aces, so it stands to reason. She nods, though. "I wish I could've gone with them, though." She follows along, letting him take the lead on direction. "The day before we got separated, me and Evan had a pretty brutal argument. Wish I could take it back." But her sad tone shows that she knows she can't, and she sighs and says, "If wishes were horses, right?"

"No... no. There was definitely some luck involved." Still, Van sobers as the conversation dips down into seriousness again, "If wishes were horses, we'd need a lot more shovels." Someone has actually been around horses a time or two. Still, he nods, "I'm starting to think that maybe it's times like these," one hand gestures to the stark halls around them, "that mean we should just let the little things go, the things that get in the way of happiness and don't impact how we do our job."

"All right, maybe a little," Cate grants. After all, it was a dicey situation. "But still, I'll bet they were lucky they had you flying." She nods to the other comment. "Yeah, maybe. You talking about something in particular, or just in general?" she wonders.

"Probably should be something specific, but no. Just in general. I mean, a couple years ago, I wouldn't dream of arranging a chance for a Tauran Master Sergeant's daughter to meet Mother. Now? I'm starting to think who the hell cares what Mother thinks of a proper match or the politics of it." Van blinks a little at that, shrugging his shoulders awkwardly, "Uh... I don't suppose there's any way you don't tell Izzy I'm nervous about Mother's reaction?"

"Tell Iz what?" Cate asks, playing along with mock-ignorance. Then more somberly. "But seriously - you're right. Frak politics. Hopefully your mom sees that too though, with everything the way it is. She sounds like a smart lady."

Van flashes a smile of thanks to the medic, letting out a breath, "She is." He hesitates a moment, and then states again more firmly, "is." Running a hand back over his close-cropped hair, he shrugs a little, "She will. It might take some time before the facade of politeness becomes actual affection, but she'll get there." He lets that sit for a few steps, and then smiles again, a faint curve of his lips, "So, if I'm right, what are you going to decide you just aren't going to worry about anymore?"

"I hope she does." Cate also hopes she's alive, but she keeps that thought to herself in light of Van's emphatic use of present tense. The question gets a thoughtful frown. "I dunno. Maybe I'm too busy stressing over the big stuff to worry about the little stuff as it is."

That gets a little chuff of quiet laughter from Van, and he nods, "You're way ahead of me then. Because I'm worried about getting Izzy ready for a test that took me a year to pass, keeping up the morale of all the new pilots after they get in their first dogfight or get shot up the first time, where that little ticking sound in my usual bird is something to bring up to the deck crew, and a whole bunch of other little stuff," like 'I'm going back to the place where I was put out of action for a year,' and 'can I hack it back on Picon,' "when I figure I should be focusing on the fact that I've found a woman that I love," there, he said it in front of someone besides Isolde, no take-backs now, "and I'm in a position to help keep people alive."

Cate offers a brief, wan smirk. "See, I dunno... those don't really sound like little things to me. I mean, yeah, maybe not the most important thing, but keeping your squad alive, worrying about whether your bird is going to fall out of the sky -- which has actually happened to me, so..." She shrugs a little. "It's all relative." Then she slants him a glance. "I'm glad you two are happy together. You both deserve it."

"The bird is totally FIFI, it's just a little ticking." Still, Van shrugs a little helplessly, "and the rest... it's important, but I'm starting to think that it's important because the last two are important, not on its own." At the last, however, he nods, "You and Flats seem to be getting along pretty well too, which is great." And then there's a pause, and he asks, "She really hates the cigarettes that much?"

"FIFI?" The pilot acronym gets a blank look from Cate. She nods to the rest, then hehs softly when he asks about the cigarettes. "Well I don't want to put words in her mouth, but... she's mentioned it a couple times. I actually got the impression she'd talked to you about it." The mention of Flats gets a reserved smile. "Yeah, he's pretty great. I'm the one with all the issues." She sighs then. "Y'know, back at Triton - I convinced myself I was in love with Evan. When he told me he wasn't interested -" Which may be surprising given some of the rumours floating around about the pair of them. "He said he wasn't who I thought he was. That I was in love with the idea of him." Her lips thin. "Given some of the things that happened after, I think maybe he was right. Between that, and Sean -" Whom she has on occasion amended to say Jacob. "Makes me wonder when I can ever trust what I'm feeling."

"Frak it, fly it," Van explains, "When the deck crew can't find what's wrong with it, and it's not hurting performance at all." That's a minor point though, and he nods slightly at her expansion of Isolde's concern, a thoughtful frown settling onto his face. There's more, however, and that frown deepens. Eventually, Van draws in a slow breath and lets it out again, "That's... rough." An apologetic shrug accompanies the words, like 'sorry I don't have better words for that,' "I don't know what happened after, but I always figured that if it feels like love, and it doesn't fade in a month or two, it's probably pretty good." He grimaces a little, "Not helpful, I know. But... I mean, can't you be feeling love even if the other person doesn't? Sure, it's painful, and horrible, and it sucks, but does that mean that it wasn't love?"

Cate ahs at the explanation of the acronym. She listens quietly to the rest, her own frown lingering. "I don't know. I guess for me it's more a question of... if you've got this idea of who someone is, and that's who you think you're in love with, and then it turns out it was all an act... was it really love? Because depending on the answer I've either been in love twice or never. And it's kinda frakked up that I don't even know the answer to that question." Then it's her turn to let out a sigh.

Van's frown deepens even further in thought at the medic's words, and he looks down at his feet for another half dozen paces before he huffs out a breath and looks back up, rubbing at the back of his neck with one hand, "I say if they're pretending to be someone else around you, then they're a dick and don't deserve your love, whether or not it was real." He shrugs helplessly again, "But that's just me blowing out hot air. You ever find out who they really were underneath?"

It takes several steps for Cate to muster up a reply. "I don't know. I saw two sides of them. How much was real, how much was an act... I don't know." She sighs again. "And none of that is Tucker's fault. He's just suffering through the fallout. They did a number on me." Her voice grows quiet there before she bucks up and slants him a glance. "Anyway. There's a war on. More important things to worry about than having your heart broken."

Van nods in a manner that from a wiser man would be sage. From him, it's more sympathy, empathy, or somewhere in between. "It seems like he's still interested, so there's that. I'm pretty certain that everyone is going to have to suffer fallout in any relationship they're in now. We just have to hope that the relationship makes it worthwhile." The last point causes him to grimace and shrug again, "There's a war on. And it's important, but isn't having your heart broken and trying to heal it part of what makes the war worth fighting?"

"Yeah," Cate agrees when Van says Tucker is still interested, but there's an edge of anxiety in the word. She also shrugs at the latter point. "Is that what you're fighting for?"

"Yes. In part." Van shrugs a little, "Justice, revenge, to defend people, to have a future with Izzy that doesn't involve both of us maybe dying any day." A dry smile touches his lips, "I'm a complicated man." And then he shakes his head, "I think the fact that you're worried about Flats taking a wave-off is a good thing. It means that you care how it goes, yes?"

"Well. Sounds like you've got your head screwed on pretty straight there," Cate offers with a wan smile. The latter question gets a thoughtful look, chewing her lip for a moment before she nods. "Yeah. I really like him." Of course, she really liked the other two too, before they pulled the jekyll and hyde routine. "I hope it works out. I hope I don't frak it up."

Van gives a little tip of an imaginary cap when Cate says that he has his head screwed on straight, then settles in for lip-chewing hoping, nodding his head slowly, "I think you'd probably have to try pretty hard to drive someone off, Cate." See, he does know her first name.

"Well, thanks. But - now you know my luck with guys, so... can't blame a girl for being skeptical." Cate offers a helpless shrug.

"Totally different story," Van assures her, "That was them screwing up. And if Flats screws up, I'm sure there is plenty of malicious things Izzy and I could do to just about every piece of electronics he owns." There's a pause, letting the humor bleed out, and then he adds, more quietly, "But yes, I understand. And I don't blame you at all for being wary."

Cate manages a little smile. "Well, thanks, I'm lucky to have you two looking out for me." The smile fades then. "I blame me," she admits, in sharp contrast with her words just ten seconds earlier. "Doesn't really seem fair to him, when he's never given me any reason to doubt him."

"What are friends for if not for promising to do horrible things to your significant other if they ever set one foot out of line?" Van nods slowly, "Maybe because you're someone who cares a lot about the people around her? You don't want to blame them, after all. Even when you should. And even if it's not fair to him, if he's worth it, he'll let you get settled, be a nice steady presence the whole time. If he's not, he won't, and then you'll know."

Cate chuckles weakly at that. "Well, good thing I don't have to worry about you hurting Iz." RIGHT? She nods to the latter. "Yeah. I suppose that's true. And, I mean, he's been great." She refrains from saying 'so far'. Barely. Switching gears a little she says, "When we go back to Picon, you know if you need anything..."

Van raises his hands in an 'I surrender' sort of way, "I know I'd never get the right prescription again. And would probably die messily." The pilot has the courtesy not to add in the 'so far' that she left out, merely nodding. He's silent a long minute as her words trail off, "Yeah. You too." He's quiet another moment, and then adds, "Might be we Picons -- or adopted Picons -- have to stick together a bit more. I guess I hadn't really thought how it must be for the people on the ship from the Colony we're fighting over." And just like that, Van piles one more duty on his to-do list.

Cate smirks a little. "I think that might go against my oath. But I'm creative in other ways." When he mentions adopted Picons she says, "I ever tell you I tried to join up with the Picon Navy?" She probably has, but doesn't remember. "They wouldn't give me the time of day though, since I was a foreigner. Didn't seem to matter what I'd done at Triton." Seeming to pick up on the wheels turning in his head, she gives him a sidelong glance. "I think I'm gonna make a new callsign for you: Mother Hen."

Van shakes his head a touch, "You mentioned they wouldn't take you, which is ridiculous." And then he feels the need to defend the honor of the Navy, "I mean, it was probably exactly what the rules told them to do. Maybe there was so much going on that they couldn't see past the rules to do what was right?" Which should probably be a lesson for Van, but it will be one that he has to learn another time. The threat about the new callsign causes him to chuckle, even if there's an edge to it, "I don't think it would stick. Half the squadron seems to already treat Cherry and Farm boy as Mom and Pop. Besides, I'm just doing what needs to be done." Probably by the CAG.

"Yeah, they said it was just a regs thing. I wasn't a permanent resident, blah blah." The disdain in her voice makes it clear what her opinion about the regs is. But they've had that debate before. "Anyway, it worked out I guess. Still would've rather spent that first year with the Picons than the Virgons. I hope I never have to go back to the roosters." Cate offers a smirk at the callsign business. "Oh well, I tried. Milkman doesn't seem to suit you." Probably why she never calls him that.

Van doesn't know all the details behind the clash between Virgons and Hibernians, but he knows enough to say, "At least it was all after the Uprising. Just shooting Toasters." At least, he assumes so. He chuckles faintly at her commentary on his callsign, "I knew there was a reason I liked you." Shaking it off, he explains a little, "It suited who I was when I was driving a bus, I guess. I might not like it, but I'll live with it."

"I never would've joined if it weren't for the Toasters. No way in hell am I fighting my own people." Cate says flatly. She hehs softly at the callsign business. "I'll never get that about pilots. Would suck to get saddled with a name you hated. Took me a long time to get used to being called just 'Rhodes'. I mean, 'Doctor Rhodes' sure, 'Doc' sometimes, 'Catherine' when I was in trouble." A brief smirk there.

"It's not that I hate it." He does. "I guess..." he shakes his head, then shrugs a little, "Mostly it's tradition. But I guess there's something about having the testicular -- or ovarary -- fortitude to take whatever your fellow pilots throw at you and not just deal with it, but accept it. Or maybe I'm just glorifying the idea. Mostly, I've stuck with it because if you complain, you get a worse nickname, and because I respected the hell out of Captain Goff."

"I suppose. Must be a pilot thing. But - at least you don't mind yours too much. Tucker and Iz's aren't so bad either. I've heard some that were pretty awful." Having circled a fair portion of the ship by now, Cate says, "Think I'm gonna head on back, but... my curtain's open any time, 'k?"

Van nods slowly, then flashes a tired, but still faintly crooked smile, a flash of the young man who inhabited the body before Triton, "I can make anything work, Doc." And then he looks around, blinking, "Although... I'm not entirely sure where we are. Oh... the chapel's right up there, isn't it?" He nods, offering out a hand, then hesitating and opening his arms to offer a brief hug instead, "I think I'll drop by there a bit. And yeah, lemme know if I can return the favor."

"Yeah, just up there," Cate says. There's a flicker of surprise when he offers a hug, but she accepts it, complete with a friendly pat on his back for emphasis. "Thanks, I will. Take care." And then she's heading off.


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