Thanks, Terri - another awesome RP as usual.
11 Dec 2520
On Board Summer's Gift
En route to Pericles Station
Since leaving Blue Sun, Nika has been introspective, but her mood has been better than it's been since Decatur. She has been watchful of both Arden and Joshua, but not warily so -- more that she's been either waiting for them to work things out for themselves or waiting for the right time to speak. She wanders into the kitchen to find herself something to drink and then wanders back out to go sit in the crew's lounge on one of the couches. She's observed that Joshua has a tendency to wander through this time of night, and she's chosen here -- where it's neutral turf not either of their 'own' spaces -- to try to talk to him. While she waits, she struggles with what she wants to say, uncertain that there's anything she can say to the Reader that's going to do any good at all.
Joshua entered the lounge, intending to do a quick check of the galley before finding Schrodinger and settling in for a little quiet time. But he saw Nika settled on a couch. He and Nika had not really talked since Meridian, other than as Captain and Steward. Not really surprising, he thought. He hadn't talked with anyone much. The conversation with Faria the other night had been the longest one he'd probably had. Unsure of what people were thinking, he chose to let them come to him rather than force himself into a conversation.
"Captain." He nodded to her as he walked in her general direction. "Anything I can get for you while I'm up?"
There was a faint smile when he said that and Nika set her cup on the small table next to her seat. "Nothing you can get, but some things you can do," she offered quietly. She gestured to the seating area, a silent invitation to join her. "Top of the list is to quit calling me that unless we're in a situation that actually requires it. I tend to feel like you're being sarcastic when you use the word," she explained quietly. "It makes me second-guess myself a lot."
"Sorry, Nika." He made his way over to the seating area and lowered himself down. "I didn't mean it that way. Just...easier to keep us at captain and steward. I know where I am there."
Joshua heard a slight meow from the doorway and saw Schrodinger walking in. Creature of habit, he thought. He patted his lap for a minute and Schrodinger jumped up and started kneading his thigh. "Schrody and I have quiet time together around this time and she doesn't like her routine changed," he explained, as he started petting her in long, soft strokes.
When the cat made her appearance, Nika smiled slightly though it wasn't about the cat so much as a rueful response to the 'captain' and 'steward' comment. "Glad one of us does," she commented in response to the idea that he knew where they stood when he kept them in those positions. "Personally, I'm all afloat when you put us in those categories. It's never been that way on this ship." She shrugged slightly, her demeanor indicating acceptance of the role, however.
"Tell me where you are, Joshua," she asked softly. "Cuz if I know one thing well, darlin', it's when someone's about to run away. Been there, done that a few times." This won't be one of them.
He shook his head. "I'm not going to run. I don't think." His voice was a little uncertain as he stated that. "But I don't know where I am. If anyone trusts me, other than Rina. Not even sure who I am."
As Schrodinger stopped kneading to curl up and settle in, he gave Nika a pleading look, an attempt to gain her understanding. "I... shot... Rina." Each word emphasized, hanging in the air. "Faria says to have faith in myself, and I'm trying. But I keep coming back to that single fact. I shot Rina. And I wonder how anyone can ever trust me."
"I know what you did," Nika said quietly. "I watched it happen." Her blue eyes on him are steady. "If I'd had a gun in my hand, you'd have woken up not just secured but wounded too," she said calmly. "But we had this conversation weeks ago, Joshua. Do you remember? We talked about the fact that you could be a threat, and you asked me if I'd kill you. My answer now is the same as it was then: Unless you prove to be a threat under your OWN power -- because you CHOOSE to be a threat to us -- it's a non-issue." She paused, picking up her cup and sipping from it.
"The part of the situation that Rina couldn't tell you, I will. When we went aboard, you were holding a gun to Rina. The agent wanted Arden, and he wanted to trade her for him. Arden .... used a lot of passive-aggressive behaviors and negotiated for your release as well. He wouldn't trade himself for just Rina. The agent wasn't buying it, and Rina took it upon herself to step in close and kiss your silly ass -- I assume in the hopes of getting through your programming -- and you shot her. In that moment, Arden made his move as well."
There's a long moment, and Nika watched him assimilate this information. "I don't know what more a group of people has to do to earn your trust. Clearly you don't trust us, though. You don't trust that we mean what we say when we say it to you."
Her words stung a little, but he probably deserved that. "It's not that I don't trust you. I just don't trust myself all that much. Hard to believe other people can trust you when you don't believe in yourself." How could he explain what he was feeling?
"Let me try and explain what I mean, since you can answer me a question that Rina couldn't. After I shot her, was there any sign of Joshua in me? A hint of remorse, a glimpse of anger at being used, a single tear at having shot someone I love?"
"I was a little busy keeping my eyes on the man with the sonic toy to pay attention, Joshua," Nika admitted, her cup cradled in her hand. "But here's the thing..." She paused, choosing her words with care this time because inasmuch as she'd wanted to verbally slap him on the back of the head with her last ones, these ones she wants him to really hear.
"A friend is someone who has faith in you even when you don't have any in yourself. They care about you because of who you are -- flaws and all. When you screw up, they do their best to help you get through it -- whether that means actually helping you or letting you sort through it on your own for however long it takes -- without making you feel like crap for messing up." Nika toyed with the cup in her hand, her lips pursing in a small grin. "It don't mean they don't slap you upside the back of the head when you need it. It just means they accept that you're not perfect." She looked at him once more. "And usually, they're far more forgiving of your imperfections than you are of yourself."
She and Faria weren't far apart in this one, it seemed. Stop navel gazing, soldier.
"It wouldn't take much to be more forgiving of my imperfections than I am." Joshua shook his head a little. "It's one thing to theorize maybe Blue Sun has a trigger on you. It's another thing to actually have it happen. To be told I willingly did things that go against everything I believe in. It can be unsettling to find out that your core beliefs aren't so core."
He ran his hand across the now softly snoring Schrodinger as he gathered his thoughts. "But thank you for letting me have your back even when I don't feel I deserve it. Big things to be done. Knowing you're with me helps me build myself back up again in preparation."
Nika moved to stand up and nodded, unable to stop herself from a quick ruffle of his hair. It was strange for her to feel like she was the one he needed this from, but Shyla was right -- he needed it. And he clearly needed it from her. The words she chose were ones that had rung true for her when Yu-Shin Harrington offered them... and continued to do so now. "The things we do in this life are not all black and white, good and evil. I have faith in you to fight the programming, Joshua -- and I think that your ties to this crew are instrumental in your ability to do that. I think that's why they kept you isolated -- so that you couldn't form the ties that would break their control." She shrugged just a bit. "Food for thought."
"And you?" He looked up at her from his seat, a warm cat on his lap. Even though he had his own set of issues, he hadn't forgotten that Nika wasn't living in a world of sunshine and lollipops either. Joshua wanted to make sure she knew that he wasn't just a taker - he was concerned about her too "Found your way out of the dark yet?"
"I'll get there," Nika told him quietly. "Some things only time heals." There was a momentary pause and Nika reached up absently to touch the chain around her neck, the one tucked down deep into her blouse. The heaviness in her chest was a weight she was getting used to carrying, lightened only by the tiny amount of reassurance from Shyla that Brian was 'okay.' But it wasn't something anyone would be able to help with. She pushed a smile for him. "We got bigger things to deal with than my personal issues, none of which have any bearing on what we're doing now. It'll be fine, Joshua."
It was clear she didn't want to talk. That was okay. As she just said to him, sometimes friendship was about letting your friends sort things out on their own. He shrugged and said quietly, "It seems to me that we don't have anything bigger than making sure everyone on board is alright. My issues just have the disadvantage of being wrapped up in Blue Sun's business. But if you ever need someone to listen, you know where to find me."
Nika's smile wasn't forced this time. "I know, Joshua. I just.... " She shook her head. "I don't want to talk about it. Not now. Maybe not at all." She shrugged a little. "I'll be okay. It just is what it is." She jerked her chin at him a little. "Have a good night, okay? I'll see you in the morning." And she slipped out to put her cup in the kitchen and then catch some sleep before her next watch on the bridge.
She felt so lonely to him as she left. Joshua wished she would open up, but that was probably asking too much. Wasn't in her nature, and considering he was just telling her he didn't trust himself, he really shouldn't expect her to open up to him. "Hope she'll be okay," he whispered to Schrodinger as he rubbed her ears absentmindedly. Schrodinger responded with a soft purr, as if to say that everything would be alright, as long as he just kept petting her. And he settled into the peace and quiet to digest what Nika had just given him.