Van and Isolde deliver bad news to Cate.
Related Scenes: None
Scene Number: 215
The Timber Wolves - officer and enlisted alike - are housed in cramped quarters, a couple dozen men and women to a room. The only real privacy aboard ship can be found in one's bunk, when the gray curtains are drawn. The bunkbeds are stacked two to a row, all the way around the room. Lockers occupy the space between the bunks, almost hidden behind smooth paneling. In the center of the room, a long table serves as a communal gathering area.
Cate is in her bunk. The curtain's open, so one can see that she's got her earbuds in, listening to music while she reads the latest Blake spy novel.
After touching down and running -- quickly -- through the shutdown checklist, Van vaults out of the cockpit. But he doesn't go immediately to find Cate, nor does he go to Calliope and Isolde's Raptor. No, he goes to Sweet Pea's Viper first, confirming with her that there were no chutes and that the Raptor went down. He's not going to tell Cate her boyfriend went down in flames without being sure about it. He'll even check with another pilot from the other flight, just to make sure. Only then does he find Isolde, wait for the longer Raptor checklist to be completed, and then lead the way to the berthings. His fingers twitch a little, and he feels a nearly overwhelming urge for a cigarette. Licking his lips, he moves around into Cate's field of vision, offering up a little wave to get her attention as he struggles to keep a sickly expression off his face.
Isolde gets through her checklist as quick as she can, and then she is quickly moving off with Van. She wants to get to Cate first. She doesn't want anyone to tell her before Isolde can be there. "This is going to undo her," Izzy whispers under her breath to him as they seek out the medic. She is standing just behind Van when he looms into her field of vision. Isolde can't keep that look off her face -- bad news incoming.
Judging from the relaxed look on Cate's face when they arrive, it's probably apparent that she hasn't heard from anyone yet. Van appearing in her peripheral vision catches her attention. It's a bit of a surprise, but not an unpleasant one. One hand pulls the earbuds out while the other folds the book closed. "Hey," she offers with a faint smile. Then she sees Isolde coming up to flank him, and she registers the fact that they're both still wearing their flight suits. And that look on Isolde's face - Cate's broken enough bad news in the ER to recognize that look. The smile fades and she sucks in a little breath, a pained crease to her brow suggesting she suspects what's coming even before either of them opens their mouths.
Van still hesitates, the smile from Cate only making it worse, and he nudges around the class ring he slipped back onto his finger after landing. Rank hath is responsibilities, and so does friendship. He glances back to Isolde a moment, then resolves himself. Drawing in a breath, he gets right to it, nodding in confirmation of her silent question and speaking quietly, "Cate. Flats went down." He does his best to not pause or anything like that, "No chutes."
"I'm really sorry," Isolde starts to say, but her voice breaks as she feels the tears well up in her eyes and her throat tightens a bit. Then she breathes out a sharp breath and shakes her head. "It all happened so fast. I didn't even know until they started asking for confirms." She then stops, realizing she's on the brink of rambling. She worries at her pockets, fingers working together and the inner seams.
Even her suspicions can't prepare her for the gut punch of hearing the words come out of Van's mouth. Cate's face crumples, the look of someone struggling to keep their composure. Her eyes flick to Isolde then back, white-knuckled fingers crumpling the already-battered novel in her hands. "No chutes," she echoes, voice soft and shaky. She's hung around pilots a lot but still doesn't know all their shorthands to realize what precisely Van means by that. "Did they crash?" Crashing at least implies a chance. Implies hope.
"No parachutes." Van draws in another breath, even his own stiff Academy education not keeping him going without the pause, "No." Glancing over to Isolde again, he forces his eyes back to Cate, "They didn't crash. The Raptor exploded."
Isolde let's Van take point on the details, though the Tauron is edging forward, trying to get closer to her friend as if to offer any sort of comfort the medic might want. She takes her hands out of her pockets, worrying her fingers together instead. Which isn't better. She keeps her eyes on her friend, waiting for the signal to offer the hug. Or to just stay back, and let Cate process.
Exploded. With that, hope is snuffed out as quickly as Tucker's Raptor was. Cate's face scrunches up even more, tears spilling over. Unable to speak, she just gives a little headshake. An instinctive denial, even though she knows Van and Izzy would never lie about that. Tension ties her muscles up in knots, but she's too strong and too proud to break down in tears the way part of her wants to. She does, however, take the implied cue from Isolde and lean towards her friend for a hug that's made a bit awkward by the fact that she's still sitting in the bunk.
Isolde moves in at that lean, and she's sinking into the bunk beside her as her arms sweep around Cate. She hugs her tight, burying her head alongside Cate's. She just holds on tight, letting Cate decide whether or not to let herself go in this safe moment that Isolde tries to give her. "I know," she murmurs to her friend, and that's all she provides. No 'it's okays' or 'I'm sorries' or anything else. Just an acknowledgment that she knows.
Van evidently subscribes to the 'yank the bandaid off fast' school of thought, given his no-nonsense report. When Cate leans into Isolde, Van steps up alongside the women, getting a hand on the back of each of them, but letting them be the focus of what little comfort can be provided.
There are no wails or ugly sobs, but Cate does let herself cry quietly on Isolde's shoulder. Tears wet her friend's flight suit and her shoulders heave, but she barely makes a sound. Some time passes, absorbing the comfort offered by her friends. Eventually, she mumbles in a broken voice, "It's not frakking fair."
Van doesn't push any timing, and he keeps the twitching of his fingers to his right hand, on Isolde's back. Both hands rub between the shoulders of the women, and when she finally mumbles, the Picon man nods slowly, "I know, it's not at all." There are words that are supposed to be said to a grieving significant other, official words that are supposed to make things better. But they never work to that purpose, so he swallows them.
Then Isolde offers a small nod in agreement, not releasing Cate right away. She just murmurs softly in response, "It isn't." There's a small quaver that moves through her simple words, but then she pulls back a bit to look at her friend. "You just tell me what you need. I'm gonna get it for you. I'll even steal rum if I have to."
Cate bobs her head slightly, acknowledging their words. She sniffles, wiping at the tears on her cheeks. Isolde's mention of rum sounds like a really great idea right about now. Cate's throat bobs. "You wanna get some glasses?" Her voice still sounds raw and shaky. The plural, at least, suggests they're invited to drown their collective sorrow with her.
Van glances over to Isolde at her promise of stealing rum, but he shakes it off with a mere frown. Cate's request provides him a momentary out, and he nods, "I'll go get them. Start from the flask, I'll be right back." Letting his hand trail off Cate's back, he squeezes Isolde's shoulder a moment, then ducks away to scrounge a trio of glasses.
Isolde looks over toward Van at the quest for glasses. She bobs a nod slightly before she gives Cate's shoulder a small squeeze. Then she is on her feet, and she starts down the line of bunks to where she knows she can find some rum. She withdraws the flask, but then she settles back onto the bunk and gives Cate the flask first. "I'll find a bottle. I know where to get one."
"There's a bottle in there if you'd rather," Cate offers, motioning vaguely toward her locker. She won't protest the rum, but figured she'd offer Isolde an alternative to her life of crime. The bottle's in the bottom, under some clothes, but she doesn't seem to mind Isolde rooting through her stuff. There's nothing interesting in there, mostly just official-issue junk. Van gets a distracted nod when he heads off in search of glasses. While they're doing that, Cate hops down from her bunk and moves to the center table instead so they can all sit down. She slumps in a chair. Pained. Spent.
Van isn't gone long, getting a trio of glasses from someone who has stolen them from the mess hall. They're set down on the table, and he settles into the chair at Cate's right hand. Once the rum is poured, he hesitates, and then he simply can't avoid it. Taking up a glass, he lifts it a little, "Absent companions." Including those recently absent.
Isolde stalls, and then fetches the bottle. She just digs, and withdraws the bottle, and then returns to Cate with a bit of a pained look on her own face. She needs the drink, too, but nowhere near as much as Cate. She waits for Van to come back, and when he has the glasses, she pours the rum. She shuffles Cate's glass in front of her before she takes her own. When Van offers the toast, the Tauron looks a little pale, but nods. "Absent companions." She looks to Cate before she takes her swallow.
Cate sits quietly until Van gets back with the glasses. A pained look ripples across her face at the toast. "So say we all," she mumbles in spite of a throat trying to close itself off. She lifts the glass to her lips, the first step towards getting well and truly drunk for the first time in quite awhile.