The truth comes out, awkward things are discussed, but two friends figure out where they stand.
Location: Study Room
Related Scenes: None
Scene Number: 338
It's one of the rooms on the Scorpian base, off of the library. Many of the pilots have been using them to go over books, run gun cam footage, or even use holobands. All the last-minute cramming before qualifications. Astraea has reserved one for her own studying and the table in it is covered in a few binders as well as a lunch spread; takeout boxes from a place nearby. One can smell the spices from the meat dishes. The screen on the far wall is showing guncam footage, but it's older. The sort used in Academy to show 'textbook' methodologies.
She dropped word with Jigger that she wanted to talk to him once he had time free and where to find her. There's enough food for two and even a second bottle of water sitting unopened. She, on the other hand, is holding one and fussing with the cap as she leans over a binder full of schematics.
Dressed in dark gray pants and a white button-up shirt, Alain's outfit is as neatly pressed and dressed as any of his uniforms. Even casual, there's something militaristic he can never quite shake from his walk as he enters the library, looking around. He doesn't spot Astraea immediately, circling around before finally locating the raptor pilot, stepping into the room with a deep breath. "Trying to bribe me with food, Nova?" he asks, with a twitch of lips.
"Sometimes I think I mebbe Hera is tryin'-" But whatever joke Astraea was going for falters as she leans to nudge a carton his way. "I never wanna see that sorta look on your face again. An' I know it's my fault. Consider it... th' first step in apologizin'. Food. That kitchen ain't got what I need to bake an' you don't apologize with store bought cake." The woman leans to grab the remote and pause the footage before she slouches back in the chair, looking up to him. There's other chairs, but she doesn't immediately try to get him to sit. Maybe it helps to atone; to remain physically lower. "How much y'know of Scorpian... politics? Between th'clans? How we... fight?"
Even if it's a trap, when it comes to great food, Alain hasn't the willpower to resist. He settles down, pulling the carton closer to himself, opening it and breathing in. He picks up a fork, but lowers it when she starts to apologize. With an exhale, he says, "Nova, I... I just want to be clear. I like you, as a friend. I think maybe," a twitch of expression, undoubtedly recalling last night's events, "You might want more, but that's not what I want. I don't want to get tangled up in something." There's a softness to his words, bearing a mute apology as he gaze flickers towards her. Maybe he's happy for the distraction; he shakes his head at her latter question. "Not much at all."
There's a flinch at his words. Astraea's hands tighten on her water bottle. "I do." There's no point in lying about it. "Is it 'cause of her? What she's said?" She finally caps the bottle and sets it aside before she spills it on the library's binders. Grabbing her own carton of food, she inhales slowly. "Some of th' smaller clans, like mine... they get used. My family lives on an island that... th' clan that runs Argentum would very much like to control, but another does. They own it. They own my clan, my people. We... we gotta do what they say." She looks down as she speaks, her voice quiet. "That's... how and why I had to work with explosives. I was small-" she still is. "I could get in an' out of places. I knew just enough, y'know? How to plant 'em, wire 'em in, that sorta shit. About... six years ago, I was... supposedta plant one ta go off in a buildin'. Meant ta go after hours, to take out a business. Do the job and my family wouldn't be evicted."
She lifts a hand, rubbing at her cheek. Her hand is shaking. Not just her hand; all of her. "It was.. hopefully gonna be th' last time I had to do that sorta thing."
"It's not because of either of you," Alain says, firmly. "Only, I think it's on me to be clear, because this is getting out of hand. I meant what I said -- I trust both of you. I want you to be able to trust each other, even if you might not like each other, because you're both my friends." There's a slight release of tension after he's said the words, but now his gaze flickers away from Astraea, giving her a moment of privacy. The illusion of it, anyway. He listens closely as she talks about her clan, frowning after a few moments, gaze flickering back towards her, expression sympathetic. Softly, he asks, "What happened?"
"The timer was frakked," Astraea says quietly. He's potentially heard her have night terrors in the barracks, but she's far from the only one. She leans forward a bit. "Thought it was accidental, later found out Tybarre did it on purpose, to ramp up th' war with Crossguard. Instead of hours, there were just minutes." She swallows, staring at nothing. "I didn't know how to disable it. 'Course not, that's how they wanted that shit, y'know? Someone who could plant 'em, but not take 'em out. I was... an acceptable loss." She sniffs, briefly. "I coulda maybe gotten myself out, but it was a shoppin' center. I could hear kids. I... had to try, but... couldn't remember th' layout. Place came down."
She takes a deep breath. "Woke up in an ICJPK field hospital. I was initially marked dead. Told 'em not to tell my family. Took refugee status. I mean, it's possible my family's looked me up, but they ain't never contacted me an' I've never contacted them." Nova rubs at her face, scrubbing at her eyes. She looks over to Alain, adding after a quiet moment. "There's always all this noise in my head. An' when I'm around you, it goes away."
Alain's silent, although there's a sharp intake of breath and his fingers press together for a moment, but he doesn't interrupt her story. Finally, he exhales. "It must be difficult, being back here?" he guesses, with a quiet murmur. "Have you wanted to contact them? Or one or two in particular?" When Astraea looks towards him, he meets her gaze squarely, sympathy in his expression. "Well, I've been told I'm distracting before, never in quite such a positive way." He smiles, genuinely.
"It is, 'cause it's home, but... All I wanna do in th' fleet is to make up for it. All those people I killed." She is crying now; just a few tears falling. "I... follow Apollo 'cause he represents, to me, hope. A better future. It's all I ever wanted an' th' ICJPK gave me a way out. I fear goin' to my family will risk that." She sits up a bit straighter, sniffling. There's a small smile for his last. "It's true. Ain't never felt so clear-headed as I do when yer around, Jigger."
Alain leans forward, resting a hand against her arm in silent company. After a beat, he says, "Letting your family know you're alive won't stop you being a Timber Wolf. I don't know them like you do, but... even though my father was disappointed in what I chose to do, and that I didn't continue in the priesthood, I know he'd still want to know I was okay." He tilts his head, considering. "Is there someone you trust, more than the others? A sibling, or...?"
"One of my older brothers, Michel." Astraea looks to his hand on her arm, then up to Alain. "Maybe. But it's... it's been six years, Alan." She looks drained. Scared. "That's... a long time, y'know? I dunno what I'd say, or do... Or even th' state of things back home." Her shoulders shake a little. "That's why I get... stressed around Banshee sometimes. She's so... pretty an' talented an' even after th' war, she's got so much goin' for her. An' she's got every right to hate me. All I'm made to do is destroy."
"After six years, I don't know. I imagine he'd be thrilled to know you're alive. The words'll come to you, or they won't, but it's obviously bothering you, Nova. Sometimes, you get so wrapped up in the what-if's, you forget that with family, it's easy in some ways." Alain's smile is wry, as his hand lowers. "It's harder to start something than it is to destroy something," Jigger agrees, but after a moment, he says, "Things aren't easy for her, either, Nova, despite what it looks like. She has family in Picon... her father was in a building that collapsed in the bombing. We saw him in the hospital, she was pretty shaken up. You're both feeling pretty vulnerable right now, and it's okay to lose it a little during shore leave. But, just as she'll have to deal with her issues, you should take the opportunity to confront your own."
Biting at her lip, Astraea is quiet for a while. "I served here," she says finally, "after... Academy. War began right as I was beginnin' on Vipers in flight school, but they decided I was suitable, y'know? So I got sent here, to Scorpia. Mostly on th' other side of the planet. Prob'ly coulda asked to come here. But the first I ever saw of the area since that day was as I was headin' to th' Vanguard itself when I got my transfer orders." She takes a deep breath, looking up at him. "Just thinkin' of goin' home, it's more terrifyin' than when I was shot down over East Kearney. What if they hate me? What if Tybarre goes after me? What if... what if-" She laughs, then, in a bitter way. "Yer right. Lot of what if's."
"You're a raptor pilot in the Colonial Forces. You're not a girl anymore, intimidated by people older than you, taking advantage of you. You know your place, and your worth. Six years away -- means six years of change. You'll be fine, Nova," he says, with a certainty. "It's the unknown that's making you afraid. It's easy to fix that part -- invite your bother to somewhere public for a meal and a drink." Because food and drink fix nearly everything, in Jigger's book.
"Jigger..." Astraea lets out a slow sigh, looking up at him with a small shake of her head. "It ain't as easy as that. Everyone in my clan is... was poor. We made it, we survived 'cause Tybarre allowed it. If I planted this bomb or stole that part, it covered our rent or put food on th' table, y'know? My returnin' could put 'em at risk." She swallows. "I mean, it might not, no, but I dunno for sure. An' I dunno how to contact my brother, let him know to meet me, an'... not take that risk. Not put him or them at risk."
"You'll find a way. Siblings always -- we did anyway -- have secret ways they'd keep in touch so their parents couldn't tell. Worst case, you find someone local, have them deliver a message to your brother and only your brother. I have faith you'll find a way," Alain says, with confidence, as he gives her an encouraging smile. It falters briefly, as he eyes the food, realizes it's been cooling all this while, and picks up his fork again, digging in.
"Maybe," she answers quietly. Astraea reaches for her own food, but for a rarity just picks at it. She glances over to the other pilot with a bit of uncertainty and fear in her mien. "So y'don't... hate me? For what I did to all those people?"
If anything, Alain looks surprised, swallowing quickly and lowering his fork as he turns his gaze back to Astraea. "You said it yourself. You thought you were going to blow it at night, when no one was around. You were tricked. The only person to hate is the one that put you in that situation, made that choice for you."
"I know, but there were... there were children in there-" Astraea shivers, briefly. She lifts a hand to scrub her wrist at her eyes, laughing a bit again. Nerves bubbling to the surface. "This is what I mean about you. You're so frakkin' good, Jigger. You'd have every right to hate me. Any other colony, I'd be labeled a terrorist. Been... been terrified of any of ya findin' out an' bein' kicked outta th' Timber Wolves, but yer just... so frakkin' calm."
"And you didn't know about them," Alain says, firmly. When she rubs at her eyes, he averts his gaze, just briefly, to give her a moment, focusing on his food instead. "Well, I was almost a priest, so -- I guess being able to unload onto me comes naturally," he says, ruefully. He falls silent at her latter words. "Does the Colonel know?" he asks, after a pause.
"Mebbe. I'm glad you aren't a priest. I feel like I need someone like you, here." There's a pause, and Astraea shakes her head. "No, I need you here." There's a little bit of a tension at Nova's jaw, briefly, at his last question. "I... dunno. Never met him, directly, myself. And I dunno what's in my... records or anythin'. No one at Academy ever said anythin'. I got accepted. I... Jigger, yer th' first person I've ever told th' whole of it."
"This... what you're feeling, it's fear, Nova. You're constantly afraid if someone finds out, you're gone. It might even be holding you back, to stop you getting noticed." Jigger exhales. "From what I've seen, the Colonel's a reasonable man. But it's your choice. Just think on it."
"I think it's a valid fear," Astraea points out with a small, shaking laugh. "But I don't know about telling him. It may not be his decision? I... I dunno." She looks back to her food, then to the books. Reaching out, she closes one of the binders. There is, after a moment, a small smile cast towards the Viper pilot. "Thank you, Jigger, for listenin'. I... I really needed someone... needed you to know I'd never, ever attack one of y'all. I joined th' fleet to atone for my sins. Everythin' I do is to save people, for those I couldn't."
"I'd be surprised if they didn't know. I know things went crazy after the uprising, but it's not like the Academy dropped its standards, and the CF always had high standards right from the start." Alain's chewing thoughtfully on a mouthful of food; maybe he's considering what the CF knows about him, too. He gives her a smile in turn. "You're welcome, Nova." He shoves another mouthful of food in, after glancing at his watch. "Quals soon. You're up, right?"
"That's... sort of what I've always figured," Astraea admits. "I went to Academy on Caprica. If anywhere would know, it'd be there, yeh?" She gives a small shrug. "It's just easier not to think about." She lets out a long breath, looking up to the paused footage. "Yeh. I got some last minute ones in before shippin' out. Hopin' to improve my numbers." She sits up a bit straighter before looking over to him, hands setting to the edge of the table. "If... I can ask, why- uhm, why not? With... me? Did I do somethin' wrong?"
Alain is in the midst of bolting down his food, and slows, then stops when she asks her question. Carefully swallowing, he says, "Nova, when I told you earlier, this was about me, it really was. I'm not interested in a relationship in close quarters in a combat zone. I've seen it go well, and I've seen it go badly, and on balance, it's not what I want. Maybe one day, there will be the picket fence and kids and what comes with that. But that's some day, when I don't have more than half my thoughts on what awful thing that just happened, preparing myself for what awful thing that might happen tomorrow, and what's probably inevitably coming." He exhales, slowly, then glances at her, expression serious. "I hope you'll respect that."
As Alain explains, Astraea listens, studying him as he does. She chews on the inside of her lip in the process. At his last words, there is a bit of a cringe from the woman, but she gives a slow nod. "Of course," the Scorpian offers quietly. "I just... was afraid that th' things said an'... all had maybe been why." She takes a deep breath. "I... I do like you, a lot. An' it'd be a lie to say I didn't wish it weren't diff'rent, but of course I'll respect that." She reaches for her water, uncapping it. There's a small smile for him. "I'll just hope that if you ever change your mind, you'll think of me."
"Thank you," Alain says, with a genuine smile, after he's exhaled slowly, like he was holding his breath. And although he hears the latter words, he's wise enough perhaps that he doesn't respond to them other than a bob of his head. After a beat of (probably awkward) silence, he says, "Walk you to the shipyards? I'm going to come watch... cheer everyone on. Maybe see if I can wrangle another bottle of ambrosia."
There's no more she can cram into her head. It's all theory versus practice anyway. Astraea pushes to her feet and begins packing up the leftovers. "I've never had ambrosia," she admits, happy to change the subject. She's made her position clear; it's all she can do at this point. "Never could afford it. So if you do manage to talk th'CAG outta some, I'd like ta try a sip." Whatever's left is packed into the plastic bag and a knot tied. She offers a smile towards Alain. "Here's to not embarassin' myself out there."
"Uh-uh," Alain refuses, although with a grin, "Saving it for a special occasion. Well, if I get a second bottle two special occasions, I guess." He packs away the remnants of the food, takes the unopened bottle of water with him, and holds the door for Astraea to precede him. He'll keep the talk light on the way over to the shipyards with the certainly obvious intention of distracting her from the qualifications looming.