A/N: I always come back. I would like to thank everyone for being so patient with me and my lack of updates. I do love to write, but have very limited free time to do so. In turn, I try my best to do what I can with the time I have. Note: I have no one to edit my stories. So I apologize in advance for any mistakes, I do the best I can.
WARNING: Strong Language/ Mature content... Enjoy
Chapter 6: Standing
Captain Spassky, Malic and Helena all stood in front of the kitchen doorway as Strauss and I walked through the rows of tables towards them, but something seemed different. Helena wasn't standing in the usual confidante way she normally would, her shoulders pulled forward and her small arms hugged her tiny frame, while her yellow eyes looked down at the metallic floor; oddly silent and uncaring that we were approaching.
The next thing I noticed was the way Malic and Captain Spassky stood close, but not in their typical loving way. They were face to face, with tense bodies and as we came closer I could make out dark uneven marks sprinkled along Malic's pale face. On top of that the air around us changed, like we were stepping into the thick tension surrounding the three.
It was Captain Spassky that spoke first. "Handel." He gave a nod to Strauss and then turned his black eyes on me. "Tokay, what're you doin' here?" The Captain knew as well as I did that I had other tasks that I needed to tend to right now, but I didn't want to be alone. My own thoughts would consume me and without Strauss… I knew I wouldn't be able to pull myself out from the dark hole. My eyes stole a quick glance to the orange eyed feline standing close beside me and then snapped back to the black eyes of the Captain.
I opened my mouth trying to think of a good excuse, the sting of tears threatening to spill over at any moment, because just being there to make myself feel better wouldn't cut it for the Captain; at least not coming from me. Strauss was more than capable of handle this mess alone and for the first time since I'd come upon the Isodel ship, I wasn't sure how to answer the Captain. It was then that I found myself looking over at Malic and Helena for some hint of what I should say, but I only saw avoided gazes. It seemed like everyone was dealing with their own problems, another hint that I needed to pull myself together. After taking another moment I noticed Malics uneven skin was because of faded bruises, and it looked like they went past his face, possibly covering his entire body.
"I need him here Cap, if you want this done today I'm going to need an extra pair of hands. We'll be good to go on time." Strauss was coming to my rescue again, and as sweet as it was, it struck a nerve deep down in my gut. I dropped my eyes, only to bring them up again and blankly look through the open doorway to the kitchen, where it all happened. I was being selfish while the rest of the crew had their own things to deal with, my fingers fidgeted with themselves as my mind started to kick into overdrive. I tried to imagine how easy it would be just to go about my daily routine without thinking about the nightmare I'd just lived.
"Since when did ya ever need extra hands Handel?" The Captain was calling Strauss out on his lie, his massive red arms crossing over his puffed out chest. It made my arms cross over my gut, I'm still weak, and the more I looked into the kitchen, the more it felt like I was already losing the battle to become stronger. Part of my mind screamed to go in and face my fears, to make my mind see that it was all over and I had survived. The other part screamed just do what I had to even if it meant I'd relive it over and over again, and that it would all happen again, because... I am weak.
"Come now Dustin, we have the sample. Let's turn this in and let them get their jobs done so we can leave on time." Malic's calm like voice came into the conversation, but without knowing him you wouldn't notice the hint of aggression to each word. His pale face gave a cross look, the light bruises becoming more defined. How had he gotten them? What had happened when they were out?
The black eyes of the Captain snapped back to Malic. "Tokay's not-" The Captain's protest was cut short.
"I do believe Dover is one of our more reliable crew members, Captain. I don't see why he'd let us down now, I'm sure he can help Strauss and get his work done on time." The edge to Malic's voice was almost foreign as he spoke. It was rare when his words came out as cold and icy as his appearance. "The room's all yours boys." He attempted a soft smile, but it quickly fell with the boom of the Captain's voice in response.
"This is not your ship Malic!." The Captain's rage was beginning to match his deep red skin, something had happened in the two days they'd been gone and it was spilling out. It was a standoff between the two, and within seconds you could feel the electric sparks filling the air around us.
Malic was from a species that could harness the ions around them, and turn them into a devastating charge. With enough training it could be controlled well, but it could be dangerous too if emotions weren't held in check. "Would you like to start something?" The Captain challenged. My eyes went wide in shock, what was going on? This was the first time I'd ever seen the two argue like this and I couldn't help but feel responsible for it.
"I-I I'm sorry Captain!" I had to do something to break the charged atmosphere. "I can leave Strauss to his job." As much as I didn't want to be alone, I somehow couldn't handle the thought of the Captain and Malic fighting. In the time I had spent on this ship, everyone on here had become close loved ones to me, we had become a family. This moment felt like it was being teared apart.
Both their eyes snapped to mine, and you could see the flames in their eyes simmer as they read each of our faces, probably full of shock and fear. The Captain ran a large red hand through his white locks, "Just get this shit done before we leave. The rest of the crew has their orders, I want a route mapped out before the night's done Tokay." His large red finger pointed at me and I nodded in response, he turned back to Malic. "Let's get this done. I want to be back within the hour." The tension still remained lingering in the air around us as we watched both Malic and The Captain walk away.
As soon as they had left Strauss was quick to pry Helena for information. "What the hell just happened there Helena?"
Helena's small yellow eyes lifted from the spot they'd been glued the last little while. "I'm not even really sure…" She clung to her small frame even tighter as she spoke. "We… we ran inta Gritta Sobbs an' all hell broke loose before we could grab'er. Then after things settled we noticed we lost track of Malic." Helena's fingers clung tighter, almost digging into her flesh through the well fitted shirt she wore. "We looked all over for him but... by the time we'd found him… he was in pretty bad shape." I felt a wash of fear as to what may have happened, my mind stirring with dark thoughts. "We-we got him to the Med, and they were able to heal him really well… but he wouldn't say anything about what went down. It's driving the Cap mad." Helena's eyes searched around, almost like she lost herself for a moment. She lifted her gaze to us again, "I've never seen 'em like this. An' not to even say anything about it… that's not like Malic."
I wasn't sure what to do with this information. What if... what had happened to me… happened to Malic as well. Strauss studied Helena with intense eyes, trying to read her. He couldn't, just as much as I couldn't.
"Well… I suppose we just have to let the two of them work it out." I watched as Strauss bit the corner of his thin lips, maybe trying to figure out his next words. "Are you going to be okay?"
Helena gave a shrug to his question, "It's not sitting well with me, Strauss... but I ain't able to do much when it comes to them." Her yellow eyes looked down the path both Malic and The Captain had walked down. "I… have to go and take care of things."
Strauss and I both nodded, there wasn't much else we could do with the matter. As Strauss had said, we'd have to let them work it out.
As Helena left to do what she had to, both Strauss and I exchanged looks of pity. So far this was the worst stop we'd ever had. So much had gone wrong.
"Alright Dove, you ready to get this done?" The orange eyed feline placed a reassuring hand on my shoulder, while he tried to catch my downward gaze. I had to take a deep breath in before nodding and then following him into the empty kitchen.
The slew of the beast was still covering the metallic floor, with a small hole in the middle of it. They'd only taken the a small sample and left the rest to us.
"Well it doesn't look like you severed any of the wires or pipes, so all we need to do is repair the floor and clean up." Strauss was giving a small smile to me, knowing all too well that this was already taking its toll on me. I stood back from the mess, only a few feet away.
I didn't want to come any closer than I already was, but my mind fought with me. I had come here to clear this mess and help Strauss, all while trying to get this terrible ordeal behind me.
"Strauss…" I called out to him.
He brushed his hands off on his sweats and came over to me. "Is this going to be too hard for you Dove? I can handle this on my own if you want to just stand back." His warm hand brushed my cheek in the most loving way.
"No… it's just that… I don't know… I'm not sure I can stay on this ship much longer." I rubbed my arm in shame. "Maybe I will be better if I take time away from surfing the galaxy and just… go home." His hand dropped from my cheek.
"You don't get to make that choice Dover! Not on your own." My name sounded foreign coming from Strauss's mouth, it wasn't the nickname I was becoming used to hearing from his lips. "I-I haven't worked my ass off for two years... I-I haven't slaved to get this ship in top notch shape just so you could disappear on me."
"W-what are you talking about Strauss?" I wasn't sure what point he was trying to make. True it wasn't a decision that I had given much thought to, just something that came to mind that might be better for everyone in the end.
"... Ever since you came aboard Dove… I… The moment I saw you… that was it. I knew I wanted every second I have left in this universe to be with you. I worked so hard." There was pain embedded in his face, like what I had said cut deep into his soul. "Fuck… If I ever wanted time with you I had to make sure the ship was running the best it's ever been. If not, I'd be taking off on you every other minute. And then… it happened. I started having time to mess with ya. I mean, it wasn't my best idea, but Dove… the way your eyes looked at me with that blazing fire in them… Don't get my started on that furrowed brow and that small little crinkle you get just under your left brow. The way your lips got so small in anger, just fucking adorable. We've been through so much in the past two years. You can't just tell me you're going to run and take a break from us… I know what you went through was terrible. We've all been through terrible things, and I'm not dismissing what you went through as anything less." His large warm hands cradled my face and pulled me close. "But, you won't be alone. You would never be alone on this ship. We all care for you deeply. You are part of our scattered strange family. Please, no matter what. Don't… don't run from the people that will support and love you."
My heart swelled, I felt like I was going to burst, and I did. Tears streamed down my cheeks blurring my vision and I nodded. Agreeing with him, how could I have ever entertained the idea of leaving everyone. He was right, I had a family right here. A family that I would fight with and people that would give their lives for me, just as I would for them.
"I'm sorry Strauss… I'm all messed up inside right now. I don't know which way is up." I grabbed hold of him again and wrapped myself around him. Sobbing uncontrollably into his soft scented shirt. Strauss embraced me back, his strong arms holding me and all the crazy I felt.
"I know Dove, and that's okay. You can be up, down and spinning round and round, but you will never be alone." Strauss pulled me back from him, smoothing his hand over my cheek and catching my quivering lips in his. Although my body was buzzing with emotions, I was calmed to a warm fizzle spreading throughout my whole body.
As we broke from our warm kiss I gained courage. "Let's get this done Strauss." I gave a brave smile.
"Yes, let's finish this."
"Alright, Tokay." The Captain's gaze fell on me while we sat in the haul. "You surprised me again. We're good to depart earlier than expected, thank you Dover." He gave me a hard pat on my shoulder and I felt a swell of happiness swirl inside of me. Smiling, I met his eyes with a hint of pride in them. "Mr. Klee, all docs clear and searched?" The Captain paused for an answer, nodding he spoke again. "Rhone one, are we clear?" He nodded again and spoke once more. "Rhone two, are we clear?... Good. We are clear and good for departure. Mr. Klee, make sure you show our new crew members around properly, and..." The Captain cleared his throat before giving a sheepish look in Malic's direction, "Be nice."
I couldn't help the smile peeling over my lips as I heard the words come from the Captain's mouth. Noticing a small glance and smile from Malic. It was still a baffling how Malic could stroke such a softy from the Captain, even if they were fighting.
"Engines are operational and ready." I stated as we began our departure.
"Confirmed Captain." Malic relayed.
"Anchoring latches releasing in 3… 2… 1" The ship shook as we let go of the small trading post. "All systems green, we are ready to head out Captain."
"Thank you Tokay. Mr. Gaelic, take us through the first leg of our journey."
"Yes, sir." Young Riley Gaelic confirmed the Captain's order and took us forward into the deep dark space ahead. Although as I thought about Riley, I knew neither he or his twin brother were young. They appeared no older than eighteen year old humans, but they were old. Falling into the 1000 years and over; somewhere they had lost count. Their species was fascinating even just scratching the surface there was so much to learn about them. I couldn't imagine living as another species other than my own, but they were able to do so. Somehow they could become and adapt to any species home. They only did it when they were near death or in dire situations, starting as younglings in the species. It was amazing that they had survived for so long when they'd been exposed to so many things as they grew to adulthood. How had they been able to endure so much, my mind swam back to the dark kitchen.
"Mr. Tokay?" I was snapped out of my wandering mind before it had gone too deep. I spun around to meet the Captain's gaze.
"Yes sir?" I clenched my jaw bracing myself for his next words.
"This is Orev and Delta Vorant." The Captain introduced the two young additions to our crew. They young boy Orev, stood slightly behind the girl named Delta as they nodded in my direction. "These two are going to be helping us out for a bit, if they do good, they might become permanent residences of the ship." The Captain crossed his arms over his large chest as he stared down at them.
"Geez Cap, you told me to be nice, but you're staring at them like you want to eat them." Spencer Klee pipped in, large hands engulfing the two young kids shoulders shaking them about. His fanged teeth showing as he laughed an echoing deep laugh. He himself looked like an animal that would devour his enemies in one bite. Spencer was the only one on the ship that matched the Captain's large stature and bulging muscles, but unlike the Captain, he wasn't afraid to show his soft heart to his crew mates.
"How old are you two?" I couldn't help the blurted out question, they looked far too young to be on this ship. They were small, smaller than me and had young faces with similar dark marks on their faces.
"We will do our job, no matter what we look like. We carry our own weight kid." Her small white finger pointed at me, but her face was tanned. I then wonder what planet she came from. The girl named Delta held herself high as if she was proving something, however Orev continued to stay closely planted behind her.
"Ah, cool your jets Delta. Dover meant nothing by it, he's just a curious spit. Hahaha." Spencer chimed in to calm the young girl. "Don't worry Dover, they look young, but they have plenty to offer, might be able to teach you a move or two if yeah like." He winked at me with his dark green eyes the scar that streamed down his face creased as he did. Delta crossed her arms and puffed out an irritated breath, avoiding my gaze.
"Alright you two this is Riley Gaelic." The Captain pointed him out.
"Hey." Riley waved his hand without turning around.
"And Malic Laurance."
Malic offered a soft smile, "Welcome aboard you two, nice to see you again."
"Have you taken them through the whole ship yet Klee?" The Captain asked. I was still looking the two over as their eyes wandered around the haul. Their skin was a mix of colors, black marks on their tanned faces, but their skin faded to a white, almost like they had powder or paint covering them. Lines of their tanned skin cut through the faded color running down their necks. Their eyes a vivid blue, took in every part of the new ship around them. A pink strip started from their shoulders and faded as it got closer to their hands, that then was cut off with a black ring wrapping their wrists and was met with their snow white hands.
"Not yet Cap, thought I should get them to meet the crew first and get a quick look on the way. Then get into the dirty details of the ship. I just gotta find that sneaky feline Strauss." Spencer ran a hand through his short black locks, then down through his short beard. "Have yeah seen him?"
"He was down in the lower decks going through his daily checks last I heard. Just comm him Klee." The Captain was ready to dismiss the new recruits and get back to work. "Alright you three, take off n get back to work." He waved a large red hand at them and pulled up a digital screen swiping through it.
"Okay you two, let's get this done. Then I'll be putting you two to work." Spencer pointed them to the door behind them. "Gentlemen." He gave a short wave before following after the two new recruits.
When they had left I couldn't help my curious thoughts. "I thought we were only getting one new recruit."
"We were supposed to only take one new one, but Delta refused to go anywhere without her brother. I would've just left the two runts, but Malic wasn't going to have it." The Captain hadn't taken his black eyes from the screen in front of him as he spoke. "An extra mouth to feed. They best be worth it Malic, an not hiding anything either." It was clear the two were just playing nice to keep the peace on the ship.
"You wouldn't of accepted Delta's application if she wasn't worth it, I don't see why Orev wouldn't be. You heard her, they pull their own weight." Malic also had his eyes glued to the screen in front of him, making sure all the ships statistics where in order.
After that silence fell in the haul and the occasional sounds of the ship systems could be heard. I turned back to my station and started to sift through the contact list and where we would be stopping first. We needed to get our hands on some information of our bounties and where they had plans to be.
We had already caught and turned in Grita Sobbs and Pita Witknotch, the name struck me. It was the creature Strauss had killed on the ship. A low time crook wanted for many crimes, what he did to me being one of them. I clenched my jaw and tried to hold back the tears of anger getting ready to fall.
Focus on work Dover. Focus.
I opened my eyes again and went to the next criminal wanted. Wick Brimy. He was a known snitch and would be a big help when it came to catching higher bounties, he was tied to many different gangs and was wanted by a lot of people. One of my contacts had given me information of him staying at the Eternal Tavern. A place well known for having all types of bad people gathering. It was just off the current system we were in, placed on one of the few dead spaces that weren't governed by anyone. It would be a risky first stop, but with the reputation the Captain had built, not many would want to get in the way of him getting what he wanted.
It would only be a few hours to get there, I familiarized myself with Wick's face. He was a Tertrian, blue faced with reptilian like features. He stood at least three heads taller than me and specialized with knives and escapes. So we would have to make sure the exits were covered properly.
I knew the Tavern had three exits and two were covered by regular guards at all times. The third was more of a secret passway, only a few knew about it, but if Wick was an escape specialist he would surely know about it. We couldn't afford to think he wouldn't, but that would only really matter if he was in the bar area. If we could catch him in the small rented rooms for the overly drunk customers. We would only have to worry about one exit, which would work well for us.
I searched for the specific layouts of the Eternal Tavern and found next to nothing. "Captain, can we get Elsie to send us her prints of the Tavern? Or should I just hack it real quick?" I looked back to the large red man taking a break from looking at the screen in front of him to think.
"Hack it. Knowing Elsie she won't get back to us until we're there. I'll let her know it was just us." The Captain was swiping through the screen and typing something out with his large red hands. "She's going to be pissed at yeah again Tokay." The Captain chuckled.
"Well she should be on her messages then." I spun back to my screen, starting to make quick work of Elsies system.
"Haha, I'll let her know."
"N-no don't!" I spun back around. Last time I had hacked her system she had made me clean the worst toilets ever.
"To late Tokay." Captain laughed as he scratched his muscled belly and sat back in his chair.
"Quite teasing, Dustin." Malic spoke as he also leaned back.
"Don't ruin my fun Malic." The Captain gave a tight lipped response back.
"I'm going to grab something from the kitchen quickly. I'll be back. Dover, can you keep an eye out?" Malic stood from his seat ready to leave.
"Sure Malic." I agreed as I watched them, it became tense.
As Malic left the Captain also stood. "I'm going to do the same. Riley, you know what to do." He didn't wait for a response as he left the haul.
It was then silent again as both Riley and I were left alone to manage.
"Geez, seems like they still got shit to take care of, hey?" Riley finally spoke after the silence had become too much.
"Yeah…" I wasn't sure what to say to that. They really did have to work something out, I wondered what Malic was so scared to tell even the Captain.
I went back to work as I weaved through the digital space and found the blueprints of the Eternal Tavern. After finding them I looked closely over them, making sure I didn't miss anything that could potentially help us in our capture of Wick Brimy. I traced different paths and where would be the most effective points to place our crew to optimize the chances of capturing the bounty.
"Hey." I jumped from my seat not noticing that Riley was now standing beside me. "Haha, you really need to be more alert. Anyways, think you can take a break and steer for a bit. I mean we're on cruise right now, but you know if anything happens take over, eh? I wanted to visit with Dax for a bit before we get to Eternal Tavern." Riley had put a hand on my shoulder as he looked down to me with his different colored eyes. It was still amazing to see, his lighter brown hair hung messily around his face, it was much lighter than his brothers.
"Awesome, thanks so much Dover!" With that Riley was ready to run out the door.
"Hey, wait a sec." I was calling out to Riley before I knew what I was saying.
"Can you… could you… maybe… tell Strauss to come see me?" I asked sheepishly, I had never asked to see Strauss on my own free will, it was almost foreign to me. It was clear it was an odd request when I looked at Riley's shocked face. "I mean, if you see him… if you don't, you know. Just don't worry." I let out an uneasy breath and scratched my head.
"Damn Dover. Haha, how can I say no. I'll let him know." Riley was out the door after that.
"Only if you see him, geez Riley." I got up from my chair after sending the plans to the Captain and moved to the ship controls seat, flopping myself down in defeat. I looked out into the mass of stars, some slowly growing closer as we moved through space and others staying the same no matter how much we moved. There were so many planets, and so many of them were able to create and bring forth many more different creatures.
I started to wonder what kind of new creatures we would continue to meet… it was then that my mind started to trace itself back to the dark kitchen right here on this ship. What kind of planet had created that monster. What kind of things raised it to become so evil. I could see flashes of the moment coming back and starting to burn in my mind as I let myself become taken over once again. I squeezed my eyes shut, trying to think of something else. Shutting out the star spotted space in front of me.
I was angry at myself, my hands clenched while I told my mind it wasn't real. The things I saw weren't real anymore and I wouldn't relive that moment over and over again. I was almost lost myself to my own mind when I felt warmth wrapping around me. It wasn't the slick slimey twisted heat that I had felt creeping back slowly, but a warmth that enveloped me took me over and brought me back to my sanity.
"Dove… Dove…" The light scent of citrus brought familiar orange eyes into view. At first I had thought they were just a figment of my my imagination, but then I blinked, realizing it was all real. Strauss' tanned smooth skin was sprinkled with soot making his orange eyes pop even more from under his dark black hair.
"S-strauss?" I felt tears dripping down my cheeks, I was so relieved to see this man's face. "I-I can't get it out of my head. I want it to stop haunting me, for it to go away. M-make stronger memories so I can make this one seem like nothing." I hung my head. It had been easy to keep it at bay when I was busy enough with other things, but as soon as I was no longer busy… everything seemed to fall apart.
"We can do that Dove, we can." Strauss crouched beside me as I sat in the chair. "Don't you see, today we are leaving this place and starting new adventures. With new, crazy, wonderful awful things ahead of us. This moment won't matter after a while. You will grow stronger from this and we will make stronger memories." I watched Strauss, taking in every word and clinging to it. He had to be right. There was more out there, I had survived an awful thing and came out the other side. There would be more, greater things that were lying ahead of us. I moved my gaze to the deep space ahead of us, looking out to all the possible things that would come our way.
This is a new moment, a moment where I had people that would stand by me. Even if they didn't, I knew for sure the one person that would never leave me now was here with me. Loving me, encouraging me and accepting me as I am.
I stood with Strauss and wrapped my arms around him, this was going to be the beginning of a new chapter in my life and Stauss would be part of it.
A/N: Well I didn't get the things that I was originally planning for this chapter in, but I think it took me on it's own journey. I can still weave my dirty ideas into the next chapters when it's more of an appropriate time. Anyway, I really hope this little chapter was worth the wait. I know I'm terrible for making you all wait so long. I'M TRAAAASSSHH!