Astraea brings Alain a belated birthday gift. They discuss her recovery and need for distractions more.
Location: Squadron Office
Related Scenes: None
Scene Number: 1533
Alain is dressed in his flight suit -- though it's rolled neatly down to his waist, and near-spotless enough to suggest he's probably on his way to, rather than coming back from stick-time. He's settled at one of the desks, his neat, careful handwriting flowing over the page of a standard report form. There's a cup of already cooling tea close to hand, untouched.
It took some asking around to locate Alain, but someone saw him go that way. Astraea's in her flight suit, as well, but it's peeled back to her waist. In her arms is a small-ish paper box. She leans into the office, confirms the Viper pilot's presence, and meanders her way further in. "Jigger," she says, to get his attention, before placing the box on top of the desk in front of him.
The box? Contains cookies. Double-chocolate chip. But sitting atop it is a drawing of the statue he'd liked in Delphi. Aurora. A sketch brought to life with color; sworls of it across her statuesque form. "It's late, but- happy birthday."
It's probably no surprise that Alain takes the time to finish his carefully and neatly written sentence before he acknowledges, "Nova," with an upward glance and a smile. One finger marks the spot where he's up to -- probably unnecessary, given the set out of the form, but a habit of a past life, undoubtedly. Brows go upwards when he notices the box she's set on his desk, "What is--" and then something between wryness and a smile. "Thought I'd snuck that through, Cherry aside," he admits, as he carefully sets the pen down, leaning forward to turn the drawing towards him for study, lips quirking upwards. "Thanks, Nova. I love it."
A chair is hooked and drawn up next to Alain before Astraea drops into it. Her expression was nervous until he'd reviewed the sketch fully; an artist's fear that her work isn't good enough. She grins, however, when he speaks his appreciation of it. "Oh, I'm glad. That's... your primary gift, really. Been workin' on it since we got back. Th' cookies were backup." She looks a bit sheepish. "Just in case you hated it an' all." She leans forward, forearms braced across her legs. "You think I wasn't gonna try to find out the birthday of one of my favorite people? C'mon."
"In that case... I mean, it's okay," Alain drawls with a clear exaggeration, so that it's no great surprise when he draws the box of cookies towards him, like she might otherwise try and claim them back. "Pretty sure I can stash a few in the cockpit for my CAP," he adds with a grin, peeking briefly into it and breathing deeply and appreciatively of the cookie-scent.
There's a broader grin at his caveat and Astraea reaches out to shove -- playfully -- at Alain's shoulder. "I woulda gotten it framed, but... kinda hard to do on th' ship. If you want, next leave, I will." She bobs her head in a nod as he speaks of stashing them in the cockpit. "Wanted to make ya somethin' that wouldn't be finished off right away. So, y'know, you've got time to enjoy 'em an' all." She falls quiet for a long moment, looking down as she scuffs her toes against the deck plating. "Anders gave me a sort of... homework this week. Like, mental exercise type stuff, I guess. I think it's... sorta garbage, but he thinks it'll work. You ever heard of, uh-" she tries to remember the name, tongue between lips. Then: "Mindfulness?"
"It's fine," he assures her with a grin. "I can stick it up on the wall easy as it is." Despite his statement of sneaking some into the cockpit, Alain, of course, has to taste-test one now to make sure they're good. Of course, he's neat enough that he cups a hand to catch the inevitable crumbs. Her mention of the doctor has him both surprised and pleased. "Well, he's the doctor I guess. Mindfulness?" he shakes his head. "Is that like meditation?"
There's a small smile from Astraea as Alain tries a cookie; like she expected as much. There's even thirteen in the box. A dozen... plus the taste cookie. She knows his sweet tooth well. "Sorta," she says finally, sobering a touch. "It's... like... I'm supposedta say things to myself?" She wrinkles her nose, digging in a pocket and pulling out papers that have been folded and re-folded over. She smooths them out, reading. "Phrases like... 'What happened to me was traumatic and it is natural to have bad feelings connected to it.' An' how I'm feeling. Supposedly sayin' 'em aloud is... gonna make me better." She sounds very, very skeptical.
"To yourself?" Alain echoes, at least once he's finished his cookie and tidied his crumbs into the saucer of his tea cup. He's listening closely as he takes a sip of tea, thoughtful. "There's lots of schools of thought about the power of positive thinking. I think there's something in reiterating the good over the bad. Helping you acknowledge it, you know?" He pauses for a beat, a shade uncomfortable at the subject -- perhaps visible in the slight shift of his posture and the question that follows. "So, uh, how do you find Dr Anders?"
"Yeah, to myself." Astraea shuffles the papers to bring the second one to the top. "Th' other is... similar, I guess. I'm supposed to remind myself every day of... what I have control over." She gives a small shrug as she starts refolding them, keeping things carefully aligned along the creases. "He wants me to try it for two weeks an'... go from there. So far I just feel really, really stupid each mornin'." She looks back up at Alain and gives a small shrug. "I... don't really trust him. Sometimes he says things an'..." She swallows, gesturing to Alain's tea: "May I?" And if he allows, she'll take a sip before passing it back.
"...an' I don't feel... right. Not so much now, I guess. That's good, I suppose. But..." She shrugs, looking up at the Gemenese pilot. "I gotta keep seein' him. If I don't, he'll take my flight status away."
"So feel stupid. It's not like anyone knows you're saying this to yourself," Alain assures her. "It can't hurt to try and well -- he's here for a reason, right? He wants to help you." There's a moment of hesitation as she gestures to the tea, and he pushes it towards her, apparently intending to let her finish it now she's taken a sip. "It hasn't been that long," he says, after another, slightly longer hesitation. "I think it's good you're still seeing him, Nova."
"I am tryin' 'cause I don't wanna lose my status, but..." Astraea gives a small shrug. "I... I mean I guess he wants to help, but it hasn't felt helpful so far." She does take the tea again, holding onto it as she murmurs her thanks. "I know it hasn't, Jig, but I just want it to be over. Like... when you're physically hurt, you can see th' progress, yeah?" She gives a small shrug, setting the tea cup aside. "I... I know this all bothers you," she says, rubbing palms against her thighs. "But you're th' only person I'm comfortable with who is even willin' to talk about it at all."
"I don't know how this works, Nova. I'm... I'm really not the person to be talking to," Alain says, carefully. "But I guess it's not an immediate thing, and I guess the doctor told you that, too?" he says, slowly. His silence over the latter is probably agreement, though he's too polite to verbalize it. Instead picks up his pen again, as much for distraction as anything, gaze dropping to his not-yet-completed paperwork.
"He did. I just... I'd like to know I'm gettin' better, y'know?" Astraea gives a small shrug, looking down at her hands. She finally takes a quick, sharp breath and leans out to put one hand lightly on Alain's arm. "I know you don't know how it works. I dunno that anyone does. What happened is... I mean, it ain't like that shit happened before th' war. Ever." Her touch is light, but insistent for his attention for the moment. "I'm not... expectin' you to fix me or nothin'. I just need a friend. I know... others were there, but th' only one I'm... comfortable around is Hawk an' he's been... I guess processin' his own way? But- I.. like, I see Rhodes an' she just avoids me. An' I barely know her an' th' other marines even then." She swallows. "I can't just open up to everyone. You know that." She was terrified to tell even him about her past. "I don't need you to fix me. I don't expect you to have all th' answers. I just... need someone I feel safe around to listen. That's all."
"I'm not sure anything exactly the same happened -- but plenty of bad stuff happened before the war started," Alain replies, slowly. "Especially here on Sag." He definitely looks uncomfortable, the touch to his arm drawing his gaze, albeit briefly. "The truth is, I don't have any answers," he says, slowly. "The doc could be that person, if you let him try to help you."
Biting into her lip, Astraea drops her hand away with a sigh. "I don't need answers, Jigger. Not from you. You're..." She gives a small shrug. "I trust you. I feel safe around you. I'm still... learnin' to trust th' doc. An'... Razor will barely even look at me, now. With him actin' like that an' Hawk bein' unavailable, I don't... have anyone else." She tries a small smile, but there's anxiety clear in it. "I just... need someone to listen. Even if all we do after is pray or listen to some of your music. I'm not lookin' for answers. I'm lookin' for a place I can just relax. Like th' holobands th' other day. That really helped a lot. You didn't answer anything but you still helped me feel better."
"I... I can't always be there, Nova." Alain's gaze lifts to study her, perhaps to emphasize the point without it being too harsh. His movements are minimal, to hide his discomfort as much as possible. "And I'm not... once I thought I could be the priest, be the one to listen. But that wasn't meant to be." He exhales. "I'm your friend. But... I can't be what you need, what you're looking for here. I told you that when we were in Delphi, and that hasn't changed. I'm sorry," he says, quietly.
Chewing at her lower lip, Astraea is quiet for a short time. "What about... just when I need distraction? To not talk about all this, but if I just need someone to help me think about or do somethin' else? Like teachin' me more Gemenese or hangin' out when we're both off-duty?"
There's another hesitation, brief, but notable. "We already spend time together," Alain says, with a quick, faint smile. "Maybe I can help you find something else, too. Something to read, or a hobby or something, to help keep your mind occupied?" he suggests, with a thoughtful frown.
"We do," Astraea agrees. "But I'm offerin' to... try to bring this up less if you're willin' to sometimes, when I say I need it, help me be distracted when we hang out. To do things that take more focus an' attention, yeah?" She offers a small smile in return. "Maybe," she agrees to his suggestion, dipping her head in a nod. "I used to just... draw-" like the picture she gave him. Or the tattoos she's designed. "But that hasn't been helpin' much lately."
"We'll find something. One way or the other," Alain says, sounding confident. "Puzzling out a language can help. The notes I gave you on written Gemenese require lots of focus and thought -- it isn't an easy language to learn by any stretch of the imagination. That is, if you still want to keep studying it..?" His gaze drops to the paperwork, and he adds a few more words and some marks here and there. "I should head down for CAP," he adds, after he's set aside the pen and slid the form into the appropriate tray.
"I do," Astraea says quietly. "It's been nice, bein' able to start readin' th' books you've given me, rather than just lookin' at pictures." She offers a faint smirk. "But I've had a few things lately I've been strugglin' with in it, so I might need your help. Just, like, grammatical structure an' all is confusin' sometimes." There's a slightly broader smile. "An' if you ever wanna learn Scorpian, I could start teachin' you that in return." When he mention going for CAP, she gives a small nod. "I've got Alert most of th' night, so if you run into any trouble... I may see ya out there." Beat. "Not that I want you to run into trouble."
Alain's, "And so say we all," is reflexive, earning a brief smile. He reaches for that box of cookies, tucking it under one arm. "We can talk about that later," he says, as he takes a last survey of the desk -- to make sure it's as clean as when he arrived -- before he heads for the hangar bay.