Part of USS Dvorak (Archive): Exes and XOs

The Winter

Argelius II, Temtibi Resort
Stardate 77623.4
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August 2400

The week Captain Taes took command of USS Sarek

 

“Do we have to do this now?” Elbon Jakkelb groaned, from where he was laid out on a biobed in the resort’s infirmary.  The wiry Bajoran was only remotely capable of sitting up because of the angle of the biobed.  Even through the analgesic, he could feel one side of his face was swollen with bruising, and he didn’t want to see what was happening to his limbs within the surgical support frame.  Even by 25th century medical standards, the resort’s Bolian doctor had told him his fractured bones and torn tendons would take some time to properly mend.  Apparently, now wasn’t precisely that time. Elbon asked again, “Do we have to do this right now?”

Of course we’re discussing this now,” Kellin Rayco shot back.  His voice had trailed up to an impetuous whinge, but the look in his eyes was one Elbon recognised.  The intensity behind Kellin’s grey-blue eyes showed all the characteristics of a believer.  He wasn’t about to be denied.  Sitting uncomfortably in a patient gown that was hardly large enough for his frame, Kellin looked as much the worse for wear as Elbon did. Although Kellin only had one leg encased in a restorative brace, most every patch of exposed skin on his body was marred with bruises and bloody scratch-marks. Standing behind Kellin’s chair was the Bolian doctor, Tods, who was silently tending to Kellin’s wounds with a dermal regenerator.  Shaking his head, Kellin asked, “How could you do that, Jakkelb?”

“Jumping into a waterfall?” Elbon said, dismissively clarifying Kellin’s question.  Through an incredulous cringe, Elbon said, “I’m alive.  Calm down.  Believe me, I’ve done far more foolish things, being chased by Federation security–“

Kellin’s brow creased at that.  “Federation security?”

Sputtering at his slip of the tongue, Elbon asserted, “I meant Cardassian.  It’s not the end of the–“

“That’s not what I mean.  You’re getting me twisted,” Kellin spat out.  He tried to swing his arms wide for emphasis, but his body tensed up and he visibly winced in pain.  After dropping his arms to his sides, Kellin took a breath and then he asked, “How could you leave me to die?”

Elbon scoffed.  Without another moment’s hesitation, Elbon said, “Honey, you’re the coward,” with utter conviction.  It was only once Elbon heard that word hanging in the air between them — heard it echoing in his mind– that he sighed.  He lowered his chin to his chest.  He regretted hurling that word at Kellin, but now it had been said.  Softly, Elbon said, “I don’t mean you were afraid of the wild beast that was chasing us.  That’s your duty.  Your duty is you.  You didn’t come after me, but you won’t leave me either.  Rather than divorce me, you left me to die.”

Kellin blinked at Elbon three times and then all he could say was, “…What?”

“Who stands their ground?  Who stays to fight a wild beast they’ve never studied, or tracked, or even heard of before?” Elbon asked. His intonation was far more mellow than it had been, not nearly as acidic.  “Yes, I ran. Yes, I dove off a cliff to escape from that creature. I assumed you would follow me.” Elbon laughed at that, but the damage to his lungs made it a wet and mirthless sound. “That was my mistake. I have years of experience to tell me that you never follow my lead.”

In an amenable tone, Doctor Tods looked up from the dermal regenerator, to say, “Again, the Temtibi Resort apologises for what you’ve experienced.  Our concierge is new and didn’t understand it was mating season in the Lodine Thicket…”

Kellin paid Doctor Tods no mind.  “I’m sorry,” Kellin said to Elbon, although he didn’t sound particularly apologetic.  With a distrustful edge, Kellin asked, “What makes you say I’m incapable of following you?”

Elbon didn’t have to cast about for an answer to that. “Because it’s factually true,” Elbon answered at once.  “We were talking about this in the thicket, weren’t we?”

“I’m sorry!” Kellin said again, this time with a sarcastic point to it.  “I don’t do my best listening when I’m fighting for my life.”

“When I jumped off a cliff, you didn’t follow me. You let a monster cut you to shreds rather than trust in my judgement,” Elbon said accusingly. The words sputtered out of him in breathless incredulity. “We talked about this. When you make plans without me and I don’t comply, you say I’m a selfish boar who won’t prioritize our marriage.  But the USS Dvorak has been my home for a decade.  Before Taes, Captain Sefton would have done anything for me.  He would have made space for you in the Dvorak security team if that’s what you really wanted.  You never asked for that.  You wanted shore leaves and glamorous dinners, but you didn’t want my real life.  You wanted to find your own way…”

Kellin’s posture had crumpled in his hover-chair, looking for all the world like a chastised child.  He wouldn’t meet Elbon’s eyes.  Tilting his gaze to the overhead, Kellin said, “Computer, drop the privacy screen.”  The holographic privacy barrier evaporated.  Kellin’s expression turned pinched — his lips thinned into a narrow line and his eyebrows came together. “Commander Elbon should rest before his next surgery. I suspect his analgesic dosage is too low.”  Kellin looked back over his shoulder to give his next instruction to the Bolian doctor. “Take me back to my biobed,” he said.  In no time, a nurse appeared by his side to push Kellin away.

Slumping back on his biobed, Elbon knew better than to stop Kellin from leaving if he wanted to leave.  He sighed wearily and then he leveled his eyes on Doctor Tods. There was no fire behind his eyes, no pain. His gaze was vacant.

“What do you say, doctor?” Elbon asked impassively. “What’s your diagnosis on the health of my marriage?”

“Time,” Tods was quick to say.  “I prescribe listening and time and laughter if you can.  Give him time.”

“Time,” Elbon said gravely. The word felt heavy coming out of his mouth, but that was probably his lung injury too. When he laughed again, it certainly felt heavy and crackling in his lungs. “Time’s what got us in this mess…”