2238-02-28 - Impossible Noble Men

Ines and Cate catch up after getting back to Northholt and talk about Aldrich, Gage, Nate and the future.

Date: 2238-02-28

Location: Northholt

Related Scenes: None

Plot: None

Scene Number: 1672

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Four days after the rescue at Northholt, routine has still not reclaimed the base. With refugees temporarily housed in a hangar and soldiers diminished by various privations still recovering in plain sight, everywhere there are reminders of what blows the CF sustained over the last month. People continue to lick their wounds, physical and otherwise, and Ines is no different.

She slept for nearly three days, barring occasional handfuls of minutes devoted almost entirely to eating. When she did finally wake up and fail to fall back asleep, she needed hours to convince the doctors to let her go, oral antibiotics in hand. She disappeared again after that for close to a full twenty-four hours. Tomak's conspicuously simultaneous absence probably rendered that absence less mysterious for anyone with inside knowledge about how she spent her last month shadowing the marine.

It's day four now, though, and the sun is out, so she's sitting on a picnic table not far from base, close to the water but not quite on the beach. High enough, as a vantage point, that she can look out over the water, dressed in CF sweatpants and a sweater.

Despite being restricted to light duty, Cate has done her best to keep busy since their return, mostly fretting over the wounded in sickbay and helping the refugees get settled. Right now she seems to be taking a break, though, taking Baka for a walk down along the beach. One of those retractable leashes lets him roam a bit without going too far. While the medic's thoughts seem far away, Baka at least spots Ines right away. With a tug on the leash and a happy little bark, he tries to go over and say hello. It takes Cate a second to realize what he's doing, but then she spots Ines and starts walking up towards the picnic table. Cate still seems pretty tired, and some bruises on her face and a cast on her right wrist are visible remnants of the rescue. She's wearing her duty khakis and jacket.

The bark gets Ines' attention in a way somebody's voice probably couldn't do: by the time she's turned her head to look there's already a tentative look of eager anticipation on her face, and it brightens again the moment she sets eyes on the dog. Which is nothing compared to the change to her expression as she notices whom it is on the other end of the leash.

She slides from the picnic table with an enthusiastic, "Rhodes!" It takes her three paces to close in on them and meet them partway, leaning down to rough her fingers through the fur on the dog's chest, before straightening and reaching, clearly with every intention of hugging the medic. Ines is a hugger. It's hard to deter her: it takes Stirling or Gage levels of daunting to put her off. "Hey!"

Tail wagging, Baka bounds up to Ines and dances around her feet happily. Excited much? "Hey," Cate greets in return. Her smile may be reserved, but there's a warm kindness in her eyes on seeing the pilot. She doesn't shrink back from the incoming hug, the hard shell of her cast patting gently against the pilot's back. "Glad to see you up and about. You look better."

"It would be hard not to." The words are quietly wry, and also a bit grim -- none of them had looked, smelled, or felt especially good by the time they were finally retrieved, after all. "So do you. Getting sleep again?" Hug dispensed, she sinks down into an uneven crouch beside the dog, one knee near to the ground. It's as much to limit the amount of tugging Baka does on the leash as it is to give her the opportunity to pet him, but she's obviously delighted with the opportunity to do the latter, eyes stilll bright.

Cate lets out a soft heh. "Well, I suppose we'd all looked better back at the ranch," she admits. Letting Ines take over dog-spoiling duties for the moment, Cate settles down on the picnic bench. There's plenty of slack in the leash for Baka to roll over on his back to demand belly-scratches. Cate hesitates a bit before answering the other question with an awkward shrug. "A little, yeah." Rather than dwelling on that, she says after a brief pause. "That was a hell of a thing you and Stingray did. Saved a lot of people."

Silence is easy for Ines, and she's not the type to rush to fill it, in spite of appearances. With sunlight on her shoulders and a happy dog with a fuzzy belly to pet, she looks fairly content, actually. Very little of what they went through seems to hang on her now, with the exception perhaps of the weight she lost or the shadows still printed underneath her eyes.

She blinks up at that last, lips parting, and then curves a rueful sort of smile. "It was really Stingray," she admits. "I helped to fly it, but he's the one who made it possible. King and Tomak, honestly." She tightens her eyes in a squint, gaze wandering off toward the bulk of the base. "And Whisper, and Ryan," she adds. The latter point troubles her, probably for obvious reasons, given the rumors flying around.

In contrast with the pilot, Cate still seems weighted down by the events of the past month. It's visible in the slump of her shoulders as she sits on the bench, and in her tired, almost gaunt features. "Hey, don't sell yourself short there. I remember when Cherry and Farmboy flew the raider off Canceron. No mean feat, flying something that wasn't meant to be flown by humans."

There's another brief silence, this one more pensive than the last, and Ines tracks the rifling movement of her hand through the dog's fur with pale eyes. Unseeing, though -- more reflex than anything, her attention directed inward. "It made me wonder what it must be like for them," she says eventually. "Flying that way. Or at all."

But that's really not something that needs a response, and two heartbeats later she glances up again, squinting into the light. "Thanks for everything, Cate. Everything you did, out there. Not just for me, either. Nate, too." The corner of her mouth quirks. "He'd probably like to see you, if you haven't gotten to visit him yet."

The comment about the Cylons gets just a pensive nod in response, and the thanks cause Cate to rub the back of her neck with her free hand, awkwardly. "Yeah, no problem. Wish I could've done more. I think I'm gonna have to knock over a pharmacy and go out with a better kit." Nevermind that she already has more than the average medic in her pack, probably in violation of a half-dozen regs. Hearing about Nate though gets a faint smile. "Yeah I saw him over in the hangar. He seems to be settling in pretty decently." A curious gaze shifts to Ines. "He have any family?"

Something in Cate's reluctance to accept those thanks gets a wry look out of Ines, but she doesn't press the point. Pivoting around, she settles onto her backside on the ground beside Baka, leaning into her free hand, the other still attentive to the dog.

It's subtle, but a faint shadow nicks into the space between her brows in answer to that question. "We...don't know. He was asking Tomak what's going to happen to him now that he's here. Neither of us have wanted to ask." Her eyes tilt off in some other direction, almost evasive.

Cate squints a little at the wry look, oblivious to the irony of her own reluctance. "What?" She's not so oblivious to the shift in Ines' expression when the subject of Nate comes up. A sad sympathy settles on Cate's face. "If he doesn't have any other family, he'll end up in the foster system," she explains with somber certainty. "There's an agency out of Queenstown. They handle resettlement for orphans from war zones."

The shadow becomes a crease as Ines nods, the shape of her mouth thinning. "Tomak said he already knows he can't stay with us, so he's not living with that fantasy, but it's still difficult. No one can promise him anything." She lifts her belly-rubbing hand and draws the tip of her index finger over the outside of Baka's paw, tickling, though the look on her face is still troubled. "The Queenstown agency, do they- will they already be taking his case, or...? Is that something we need to-?" Her uncertainty is obvious, and tinted with something awkward, too. Children are just not her area of expertise in any sense.

Cate's gaze drifts out over the ocean. "One of the docs has been overseeing the refugees. I'm sure he contacted them." Her tone is unusually distant. After a stretch of silence, Cate says, "There was a little girl. We rescued her after we were shot down in Havison. She really latched onto me." Her throat bobs, and she lets her eyes return to Ines. "So I get it. It sucks."

It would be difficult to give a name to the change in Ines' expression. Sympathetic, yes, but also something else. Tentative, maybe? "I feel for him. I know what it's like. But I'm...I was older. Much older." She drops her eyes again, aiming her gentle frown at the dog. "I've never been very good with kids, to be honest. As tough as it may be for him, it's -- he wouldn't be any better off with me, even if that were possible." For a moment she lets the dog be, splaying that hand just below her throat. "So I just- I want him to be happy, that's all. I don't regret that he can't stay." After a moment she lowers her voice, exhales the words on a sigh. "I hope that's true for Tomak, too. I honestly can't tell."

"It's rough no matter what age it happens at," is Cate's somber response to that sentiment. "I think you're not giving yourself enough credit though. I've seen you with him. Maybe you're not a kid person in general, but you're good with him. Tomak... yeah, I dunno. He's a hard one to read. You know him better."

The uneasy shrug regarding Nate becomes a somehow similarly uneasy but distinctly bashful half-shrug regarding Tomak, paired with another of those evasive, oblique glances away, this time toward the water, where she can mask the smile that wants to form as part of her squint into the last rays of the late afternoon light. For a moment it seems as though she wants to say something about that, but she balks, and conveniently there's a ready subject to hand to help her do that: "Oh...did you-? I heard you came back with Kavanagh." Curious eyes return to the medic. "Is he...? What, ah. What happened, with him? Where did he even go?"

Cate sees that bashful look, and a slight smirk tugs at her lips briefly. She might have prodded about it, but then Ines is asking about Aldrich and Cate's face falls. She looks down at her hands, frowning. "He got himself captured, so he could go in and organize the prisoners when the attack started." A soft exhalation and a headshake demonstrates a degree of admiration despite her sadness. "Probably saved a lot of them. They'd already busted through the gate by the time we got there." But there's always a catch. "He got a bad knock to his head." Her worry is obvious.

It's several seconds into that explanation before Ines stumbles over a realization, the look she's wearing changing by steps -- first intent concern, then surprise, then incredulity as her eyes go distant. "Oh, that asshole!" That doesn't seem an appropriate sentiment for the subject matter, and as it occurs to her she finally tugs her gaze back to Cate and looks rueful as she tries to explain: "I had a conversation with him the night before he went missing, and he said some things that were..." Her mouth opens, closes. "At the time I thought he was just being especially chaplainy about it, but I bet he was already thinking about what he was planning to do. ...Gods." Hand lifted, she draws the pads of her fingertips over her crown in a rub, shaking her head. The flicked look she gives Rhodes after that is dry. Parched. "The impossible assholery of noble men, Cate. If the cylons don't kill me, that'll be what gets the job done." She does soften, finally, as she threads her fingers back into Baka's fur. "Is he going to be alright?"

Ines' exclamation gets a surprised and confused look. The Cate's mouth twists wryly. "I'm sure he was. He made up his mind, fooled us all into thinking we'd talked him out of it." A dejected sigh escapes the medic's lips. "Noble men. No shortage of those around here." Silence answers the final question, but Cate's expression changes. A gut punch of a reaction, her lips thinning. At long last, a dull voice says, "No. But he'll survive."

'No' was not the answer Ines was expecting, clearly; her mouth hangs open for more seconds than it ought to. Until she remembers to close it, at least, brows drawn together, the debate as to whether or not she ought to ask plainly written on her face. In the end she decides to spare Cate the burden of explaining. Her tone is all solemnity, now, subdued by that unanticipated revelation. "Is he...in sickbay?"

If she picks up on that silent debate, Cate offers no further explanation. From her expression, one might guess that the subject is too raw and painful. She shakes her head slightly to the question. "I'm not sure. Maybe. There's not much they can do." She falls quiet there, then clears her throat and makes a half-hearted attempt at changing the subject. "I hear they might give us some shore leave. You and Tomak gonna hit the beaches on Scorpia?"

'Not much they can do' is also not something Ines expected to hear, and it leaves her sitting in silence, reflecting on the last time she actually saw him: gently inquiring into whatever it was that was troubling her. Offering to listen, even if his thoughts appear in hindsight to have been mirrors to something else on his mind. It causes a melancholy pang in her that she's altogether too willing to set aside with Cate's change in subject.

"Maybe," she nods, with another of those half-smiles. "Somewhere, anyway. He likes-" Beaches, she was going to say, only to double-take, fumble. "Wait- how did you know?"

Cate nods slightly when Ines mentions going away. At the double-take, though, there's a little half-smile. "Well. It was more of a hunch than 'knowing'. But you get that look when you talk about him. And with how worried he was about you..." She shrugs a little. "I think it's nice. Tomak's a good guy, long as it's not warm and fuzzy you're looking for." A look of knowing amusement briefly banishes the gloom on her face.

Ines stares for whole seconds, brows creeping slowly upward in surprise, until she remembers herself and turns her head to look elsewhere -- out over the water, mostly -- simultaneously laughing in a way that manages to be nervous and amused and a few other things into the bargain. Nothing she does reads as a careless fidget without any purpose, but she fidgets anyway: tucks hair behind her ear, rubs gently at her cheek. "Oh, I meant about the beach," she says, though to look at her she's probably surprised about Cate guessing at the rest, too. "He's -- Tomak likes the beach a lot."

There's a short but active silence, watching the water, petting the dog. "I wasn't really looking for anything at all," she admits after a moment, in a tone that seems quietly baffled and amazed by recent developments. "Maybe that's..." But she stalls out partway through the thought, taken over by a humored wince of self-consciousness. "Life's strange, Rhodes."

A pause, then: "What will you do, if they give us shore leave?"

Cate is caught off-guard by the reply. "Oh. Sorry, I thought you meant..." She winces a little at the misunderstanding, relieved that it didn't go worse. "I just guessed the beach 'cause it seems we're always ending up on Scorpia." She waves a hand, flailing a little bit. "Life is strange," she agrees somberly. "But what else were you gonna say? Maybe what?" She doesn't immediately answer the question about her shore leave plans, though the way her brow creases suggests she did hear it.

One hand lifted, Ines waves the apology casually off. She still looks bashful, self-conscious, but not unhappy. "No...it's fine. It's not a secret, it's-" But what is it, actually? She hits another of those walls, the sentence hanging halfway through as she confronts some obstruction or other in her own head. Eventually her mouth is open long enough that she needs to use it for something, and finishes lamely with the nevertheless supremely honest: "I don't know."

A beat, a one-shouldered shrug, and a squinting glance over at Cate, smile small and somewhat at-sea. "I was going to say something like, 'maybe that's why it works,' but I- I don't know if it does. We haven't really had time to find out." Rue, and humor: "I think the only plan we've got is to avoid having one."

Cate nods, a touch of sympathy creeping into her face. "There's something to be said for just winging it. Al's always telling me I think too much about the future. I suppose he's right, in a way - I mean, it doesn't do much good to plan six steps ahead when it's just as likely tomorrow will frak those plans right to hell." A sad frown touches her lips thinking about her friend. "I don't know what I'd do with shore leave," she admits finally.

"Do you?" Both of her brows rise again, thoughtfulness softening the sharper self-awareness in her eyes. Ines takes a moment to draw her knees up, then loosely folds her arms atop them. The sunlight bouncing off of the water reflects in the pale mirrors of her irises, rendering them inscrutable. "I try not to. There's something freeing in it. Not thinking about it." But her lips change shape, tightening; the corner of her mouth turns downward, as though something about that sentiment sits uneasily with her. It's a look that cracks as she huffs a silent, breathy laugh, smirking. "Funny, though. Being told not to worry about the future by a man with a fiancee, isn't it? Maybe easier said than done, for some."

Cate fidgets with the padding on the end of her cast, lifting her shoulders slightly. "Yeah, I dunno... I guess I'm just wired that way. Especially when it comes to relationships. I can't help it. But Al... I think he understands more than most. He loves Lyn, but it still wasn't easy for him to set aside all the 'what ifs' about the future to decide to marry her." That sad look creeps back onto her face.

"I can't imagine it being easy," Ines agrees, eyes dropping to the plucking Cate's doing at the material lining her cast. Not for any particular reason -- it's just easier by far than eye contact -- and she's not really seeing it, attention unfocused there, directed inward. She bites at the inside of her cheek, hollowing it. "It seems like it might always be difficult. Worse for us, though."

She finally pulls her eyes away, lifts them to study the medic's face in the glare, and then lowers them down to the fold of her arms atop her knees, lashes low enough to veil her eyes entirely. "I hope it's not a mistake." The words are gently said, almost offhand, and quiet enough that the remote sound of water on sand and that of the breeze are almost enough to swallow her words entirely. Still, though, and in spite of her carefully schooled expression, there's an obvious fear in that sentiment. Maybe she can hear it, too; certainly she shifts then, lifting a hand palm-upward and taking a turn for the theatrically-firm -- like she's trying on conviction for size. Conviction and a shocking amount of honesty, at least for Ines: "Frak it. I'm not thinking about it. Because until last week, I've been- I think I've just been killing time. For years, now. Why do all of these things if I'm just going to wind up a fireball sooner or later, right? But last month, all of the things I thought about once I got sick and I wasn't sure..."

The sentence fades into silence, followed by an abrupt: "Is there something you've never done, or seen, or- some place you've never been that you'd want to go, if you could?"

Cate listens quietly, a soft furrow forming across her brow. "Nearly dying has that effect on people. Makes you think of all the things you want to do that you never got to. Gives you a different perspective. I mean - we face death every time we go out there, but... it's different when something really has your number like that." The latter question gets a confused look. "You mean for shore leave? No, not really. Y'know it's funny... before the war, I'd never really been anywhere. Coming here for the Fair was the first time I'd ever been off-world. Now I've been to what - half the colonies?" Cate's head moves in a disbelieving headshake, then she says, "What about you?"

Different, Cate says. It's different. Ines nods her agreement, slowly enough that there's probably a complex chain of related thoughts there, none of which she shares. They have weight, which means by contrast her surprise over Cate's 'not really' is that much more visible, an exclamation point of an expression. When the medic turns the question around her way, she answers it first with a wry half-smile, finally lifting her eyes. "I'd never been off of Leonis until my transfer, actually, but I'd always wanted to. I was studying for that. Always fascinated with visitors from other places, you know? I wanted to visit everywhere. Meet every sort of person. That's why I started to study languages. I was curious about everything. Everything different from Leonis."

The wryness tilts, skews. Becomes slightly nostalgic, or maybe melancholy. "And then everything happened. Now I couldn't go home even if I wanted to." Two beats of silence. She shifts her weight uneasily, pressing her teeth into her lower lip, on the verge of- something. Confession? "I got a letter from someone I know. Months back. We went to basic together. He's at the most forward base, nearest the city I used to live in. He invited me. It's not the kind of place you can just visit. Too dangerous. But he told me he thought I might want to see it again, even from a distance, and if I did, I should let him know -- he would get permission." Her brows buckle together. "I told him I wasn't sure. I'm still not."

Cate's head bobs at Ines' answers, considering thoughtfully. "I know what it's like... to not be able to go home again." There's a stretch of somber silence, but Cate doesn't elaborate on that particular point. She gives up fussing with her cast for a moment to finally look at Ines with soft curiosity, "Do you really want to see it like that? I mean - is it really still 'home' or just a graveyard?"

It's a subtle, wordless look of understanding that Cate gets, on the matter of home and its loss. It says more than she could manage aloud, likely, even if she were the sort to make the attempt. Instead, she takes the silent measure of what she was asked, eventually swinging her gaze out water-ward again, eyes tightening into the ruddy shine of late-day sun. "It's both," she says finally, words slowly spoken, as though she's still sorting through her thoughts as she goes. "I think. Because the last time I saw it, it was..." Her mouth stays open a moment, then closes. There's no way to finish that sentence that she's willing to entertain. So she half-shrugs, and glances at Cate to see whether or not the woman takes her meaning. "The way I remember it is...bigger. Bigger than it is. Like...something too important."

Cate continues to listen, nodding here and there to show her understanding. The thoughtful frown, tinged with her own sympathetic sadness, doesn't leave her face. "Well. Some people need that. The closure. Maybe it'll be good to go back - pay your respects, see how things ended up." She starts to straighten up then, from the bench, giving Baka's leash a gentle tug accompanied by a click of her tongue to get his attention. The pup had been content to take a break from the walk to sprawl out while Ines was petting him, but now he hops up and wags his tail, ready for round two. "Either way, I'm sure you'll decide whether it's something that's important for you to do." After a beat, she says, "I should get back. It was good to see you."

Like many of the expressions Ines wears when she's wading into delicate subject matter, the appreciation she has for Cate getting it is subtle, but evident. Maybe. There's time to decide, anyway." They're words that contain within them a faint sense of marvel and gratitude, still so aware of how close all of them came to being on borrowed time at best.

As she rises and Baka follows suit, she plants her hands on the ground to get to her feet and absently dusts off her backside, shifting around to reclaim her seat on the picnic table. Once she has, she aims a smile far less reserved than the ones that came before it in the medic's direction, easier for her now that they're out of deeper waters. "You, too. You should come with us into town, sometime. Dinner or drinks or something, while we still can. Maybe they'll let us drag Nate out for an afternoon, too. Bet he'd love Baka." And with that she settles back into her posture of repose, braced into the hands behind her on the tabletop, focus aimlessly wandering the horizon as the day continues to sink into dusk, and soon into night.

"Yeah, I'd like that," Cate says with a very faint smile. "I'll seeya later." And then she's wandering off, Baka in tow.


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