Two old friends meet in the aftermath of the battle over Delphi.
Related Scenes: None
Scene Number: 464
It was a long, difficult fight, but this time, they make it back to the Dauntless without SAR, without losing another of their number. Maybe that's why, after Alain goes through his normal post-flight ritual of a shower and into neat clothes, he ends up in the chapel, rather than drinking in celebration with some of squadron. Some of that tension that was in his voice on the comms is still visible in his stiff posture where he sits on one of the pews, head bowed, still.
Of all of the pilots in the squadron, there are a handful that Eva likes to keep a weather eye on. Alain, for good or ill, is one of them. Since the first day she sat vigil, she's watched after the man, never trying to interfere, but always trying to make sure she was there when he needed her. And so, when she sees no sign of him returning to the berthing, she went in search of him. And perhaps all of the long months they've known each other, a lifetime in war, pays off, as she arrives at the chapel, a glance around identifying Alain's seated figure. Once located, she moves, as she always does, to slide into the pew beside him.
Alain doesn't say anything, though the slight shift of his weight suggests he's aware of her presence when she settles in beside him. A familiar scene, even if it was a different ship, a different battle, over a different colony. That same, lengthy pause, as his finishes whatever prayers to the Gods that he deems necessary, before he exhales, and turns his gaze onto Eva. His expression is certainly easier -- the tension less visible -- though it isn't gone entirely as it normally is after such moments for him. Still, rituals are important to the pilot, and so he echoes, as he has done many times before, "How are you, Eva?"
"Oh, you know me, Alain. I'm always right as rain." Eva shifts on the pew. In all the months and at all the times that they've sat together like this, she's never bothered to ask if it's actually rude that she usually never bothers to look at the altar, but always focuses on pilot sitting beside her. But...perhaps it suits. Alain Tomlinson and his faith is likely as close to the gods as Eva, non-believer that she is, will ever get, "What about you? We've...had a rough couple of weeks."
"I know you well enough to know that's not true," Alain disagrees, albeit with a rueful smile. Her question isn't immediately answered -- instead, he nods sharply as his smile fades, and after a pause, says, "The military hospital wouldn't give me any details about Banshee, but I had a letter from her father arrive today, before the battle. It's... it was bad. They had to remove part of her skull to relieve the pressure on her brain. They think everything else looks good, normal brain function, and that she's a good chance of recovery, but... she hasn't woken up yet."
"Perhaps not, Alain, but my problems are entirely of the interpersonal variety. And that...in the grand scheme of things, might be terrible for me, but the things that are wrong with the wing, with you, take precedence." The news about Banshee brings a sympathetic look to Eva's face, "She took a damned hard hit, Alain. But nothing is impossible. She's strong, and she's young. And I'm sure they're doing everything they can." She considers, "If she's got damage to her brain, I know it sounds terrible, but that coma might be the best thing for her. Until they can get her healed more completely."
"The interpersonal problems aren't nothing, either. But not so much my forte," Alain confesses, with a brief grimace. He nods at her words, agreement in his expression, though it takes him moments more to voice his thought: "It's selfish, I know. It just felt weird, not having her flying with us. It makes it seem more... real."
"I know they're not. But, in the grand scheme of things, they won't stop me from doing my job. What happened to Banshee? The potential that it has to affect, not only her career and her chances for recovery, but your ability to fly, and the wing to fly with you? That is something worth focusing on." Eva shifts, turning fully now, tucking a leg up under her, so that she can sit more comfortably, "It's not selfish. The bond between wingmen is a powerful thing. It defines so many parts of your life, not just how you fly or what enemies you target. It's not selfish to miss her, and miss the dynamic that you had as pilots."
Alain glances at her, expression tight for a moment as he takes in her words. His gaze, and attention, shifts to the altar for a moment. "Wanted to shake her sometimes, for some of the moves she pulled. She flies too much like you," the Gemenese man continues, with a grimace, "Like winning is everything. Like she's invulnerable. Well, she's not. And neither are you. So," his gaze shifts back to her, expression serious even while he knows it's a useless request: "Time to promise me you won't get yourself shot down, Eva Thorne."
"Yes, Stirling mentioned that, when she took Finn and I to the carpet for flying recklessly the last mission we were on together. And she's right. I haven't been setting a good example for the other junior pilots. They're picking up my bad habits, and they don't have the years of experience backing them up to make it possible to pull off." There's a frown, that tightens the line of Eva's lips, "Personally winning isn't important. But yes, winning the battle is, to me. It always has been. And when the need requires, I will do something reckless, if it might possibly save one of the lives of someone else in the wing. I've had my time, Alain, and I've had a good run. I don't mind doing what needs to be done if it saves one of you." But as for the last, "You know that I can't make that promise. I can promise to try...but that's the truthful answer."
There's a moment of surprise, and something else -- respect? -- when Alain hears the CAG had a talk with the pair of senior pilots. "She's not wrong. Delphi wasn't as bad as Picon, but it was bad enough," he says, quietly, hands shifting to fold together. "Being reckless to save someone is something we'd all do," he allows, slowly. "But today... all those frakking missiles. It could've gone much worse for us." There's absolutely no mistaking why Alain went straight after the SAM sites, not after how much damage the squadron has taken from missiles while they've been fighting over Delphi. "That's all I need. That you'll try. And if you don't, well... I'll think of something." No bet, only seriousness from the Gemenese pilot.
"I think the degree of bad really depends on your perspective. There are a lot of pilots in the wing who seem to care more about the statues in the museum, or the buildings in the university than a lot of the places we fought over on Picon. More about the things, the objects, than the people actually living and dying on Picon." There's just a trace of bitterness there. "It can always go much worse, Alain, you know that. All we can do is try to minimize the damage as much as we can. "I'm sure that you will." The two pilots have never needed anything but words between then. A promise made, is a promise kept. "I will do the best that I can."
Running a hand through still-damp hair, Alain smooths it down. "Things can have an importance, too. They can inspire and uplift us. But I take your meaning." He reaches over and touches her arm, just briefly, at that hint of bitterness. "While I always know it can get worse, I always pray it gets better. Sometimes the Gods listen, sometimes they don't." Exhaling, he pushes to his feet. "Shall we get a drink? Maybe see if we can rustle up some cake to celebrate a successful campaign?"
"Statues can be sculpted again, buildings can be rebuilt, things, destroyed can be recreated. So long as there are still human hearts to dream of them, human minds to conceive of them, and human hands to bring them into being. So, yes, things might have their place, but without living souls, they are meaningless. They take their meaning from us." Eva, as always, raises a hand to settle it on Alain's, the pair sharing that moment of comfort and companionship, before she releases him and comes to her feet as well. "I think I know where I might be able to find some cake. If not, perhaps you'll settle for some cookies." She steps sideways and out of the pew, waiting for Alain to join her.