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SD242103.03 | Com. Ivanova, Capt. Neyes | "Snowflakes and Star Fall" pt 1

Posted on Sun Feb 19th, 2023 @ 8:27pm by Admiral Rochelle Ivanova & Captain Landon Neyes

3,527 words; about a 18 minute read

Mission: Genesis
Timeline: BACKLOG

Two nights - and a move to another, even more rural, cabin somewhere outside of Prescott - later, there were still no stars to be found. Only snow that fell in big, heavy, wet flakes. The frozen bits of precipitation spiraled on each gale of wind and threatened to leave the world, and its inhabitants, breathless beneath their chilly touch.

Rochelle was no exception to that rule as they met the skin across her frost-pinked cheeks and chilled the tip of her nose. The cold was brutal, but the deck had become her only escape from ‘reality’. Tr’Bak had no love for the cold and Landon, for the most part, shied away from it as well. Too many memories, none of them particularly positive, revolved around winter.

The sound of a board creaking beneath the weight of a footstep easily caught her attention over the soft hum of snowfall.

“Landon.” His name was barely a whisper, its taste so sweet and reverent as it passed over her lips for the first time since he’d come crashing through a window and back into the forefront of her life. She knew he’d hear her, and even if he didn’t, he’d feel her. She could still feel the way he’d clung to her, as if she were his salvation and not knowing that he’d never stopped being hers. For years she’d sent him to walk alone in the dark, refusing him out of fear that she herself was the cause of his darkest hours. The weight of that guilt, the weight of failure, had never left her shoulders as she fought to preserve her integrity as much as she fought to preserve his.

And now all of it had been turned on end by the same reason she’d rebuked and forsaken the man she loved.

Leave it to a pair of madmen to bridge the chasm she’d placed between herself and Landon.

Leave it to another touch of chaos, the promise of further indelible strife and tragedy, to bring them back together.

Leave it to Landon's stubborn integrity, his foolish selflessness, to bring her back from the brink and leave it to the Romulan, for God’s sake, to open his palm and hand them to keys to that realization.

“I’m here.” There wasn’t a chance in Hell that he wouldn’t be. While breaking bread with the Romulan Praetor hadn’t exactly been something he’d ever have thought he’d do, war was coming, and he wasn’t going to be the one to leave Rochelle to fight it alone.

She’d tried her damnedest over the last forty-eight hours to make him loathe her, clawing against his presence in her life, and he’d refused to budge. Not this time. From there, she’d provoked him without mercy. Demanded him to leave, dared him to stay, locked them into a perpetual standoff.

When the tables had turned and Landon had had enough, turning the entire situation and fight on end - a giant to a waif - she’d never even blinked.

And he loved her even more for it.

To his credit, he’d explained the situation as plainly as he possibly could to a headstrong, desperate, stubborn woman: If she wanted to continue on in this fight, in this rebellion against those that sought to destroy everything they stood for, he was going with her. That was that. Period.

She’d tried to get past him. He wouldn’t budge. She’d ignore him. He’d reassert his place in her life with a vengeance. He’d countered every attempt she made. Like a well played game of chess, he’d anticipated her every move, figured out her strategy, and kept her ass in check.

She’d tried to intimidate, alienate, aggravate, irritate. He’d refused to let her bully him.

Tough. Tender. Courageous: A walking contradiction of strength and softness, Rochelle Ivanova was a force to be reckoned with and he couldn’t escape the impact of her.

He didn’t want to.

“I’m here…” He repeated, watching the way snowflakes gathered in her upswept hair.

Landon Neyes was not a naive man.

Like the woman before him, he was anything but subjugated to the idea that the universe was all peaches and cream, filled with fairytale happy endings. They’d seen, done, and experienced a multitude of circumstances that had tested their characters, their beliefs, and their sanity. Over the course of their lives, they had sought, both directly and indirectly, to expose themselves to those extreme possibilities, to openly embrace situations that had consistently caused them to redefine, reevaluate, and redirect.

There were risks, of course. Along the way they’d been pillaged by the unforeseen, the very fiber of their innocence burned to cinders by the fire of truth. Stripped of security, acceptance… Love… Both of them had rejected the needs of their hearts long ago and sought to fill the emptiness inside with the safe and unobtainable - something always outside of themselves, always elusive.

Until the stars had crossed and brought them together just long enough to give them a taste of a drug far more addictive than anything he’d ever injected into his veins. The high had been incredible, but even then… The lows… Unimaginable. It left him ashamed to think of it, and she was always the constant reminder of what he’d had, and lost, and refused to lose again.

But then, there were moments that could define a lifetime. Drops of seconds blended together to create a benchmark, a crossroads, a place from which people realize - with absolute clarity - that the very foundations of their existence had been changed, altered… And there was no going back.

One such moment was the one when Rochelle finally turned to face him. He watched her as she brushed a wayward lock of hair back behind one of her ears and set to searching his face with her eyes. No one could read him quite like her - and for her it was as easy as reading a book. It left him feeling bare, wondering if this would be the beginning of their next battle or if she’d finally come to understand that there wasn’t a single thing she could do to shake him.

Under the heaviness of her gaze, and the chill of the unyielding wind, Landon found himself reaching a hand out to her, silently asking for her to take it and leave the storm for sake of something safer, warmer… Him. He realized as his fingers unfurled, that he was asking her to accept him.

And she did.

Her tiny hand slid so easily into his and he closed his grip around it, giving her the gentlest of tugs in his direction. Much to his relief, she stepped easily forward. There was no tension, no fight, no argument to be made - she simply allowed him to bring her towards him and Landon used the ceasefire to lead her back into the warmth awaiting them inside the cabin.

Tr’Bak was absent from view, stowed away in the solitude of the space he’d claimed as his own in hope of avoiding the next round of bitter fighting between the two of them. The level of trust displayed by all sides of the unlikely trio would never quite cease to amaze Landon - but it wasn’t Tr’Bak his mind wanted to settle on. The Romulan was a byproduct, something unworthy of thought when things boiled right on down to brass tacks and lined themselves up by level of importance.

Rochelle, he’d long ago decided, was of paramount importance.

“Peace offering?” He asked, releasing her hand as the sliding glass door snicked shut behind her, locking the cold out where it belonged.

Sliding her coat off and tossing it onto an unassuming chair to drip, or dry, Rochelle looked up at him, “What did you have in mind?”

“Idiot had his minions bring supplies. Seems he assumes beer is a necessity.” Landon shrugged, “Not your style, but it’s what we’ve got handy.”

She nodded, watching as he took the hint and lazily wandered in the general direction of the cabin’s small kitchen. “If I had to guess, he has an affinity for humanity he’d rather not admit.” The redhead more or less muttered out loud while she managed to get her boots off and sought out much needed warmth.

“Something like that.” The Trill replied. Re-entering the living room, he found her still standing by the door. Her hair had been released from it’s bun, allowed to hang in dam curls about her shoulders as she tried to both dry off and warm up. “I’m sorry about the last couple days,” Landon offered, giving a small shrug.

It was obvious that he was waiting for an invitation rather than simply trespassing on her territory and making himself at home as he usually did. He stood a small distance off, two beers trapped in a single hand, watching her as she sulked against the wet cold that had descended upon her.

"Sit." Rochelle gave up and gestured towards the couch. Unlike her, he hadn’t worn a coat when he’d stepped out into the snow. It had spilled itself across the back and soldiers of his blue Oxford shirt. Unlike the general size of the snowflakes that had landed upon them, the drops left behind were small and sparse, like a pattern of random dark blue polka-dots that she, for some reason or another, felt compelled to connect.

The invitation to come near her was all Landon needed to be in motion once again, but sitting wasn’t going to cut it. Instead he came to rest in front of her, holding out one of the beer bottles in her direction. Without taking her eyes off him, she reached for the beverage, twisting off the cap and held out her hand for his when he started to fumble with it. He didn’t need to be asked twice, resting it beside hers.

It was a horribly awkward moment, neither one of them knowing what came next or where the evening would lead as they steadily tried to find balance between them. But before she could use the excuse of needing to trash the bottle caps she held, Landon broke all of their unspoken rules of engagement. He touched her without her permission, reaching to stroke her hair as if surprised by its lack of restraint. “I really am sorry,” he offered, running his fingers through her damp locks until they reached her shoulder.

The hand fell to rest idly at his side just as quickly as it’d come to connect with her.

However, the lasting effect of his touch was undeniable. It left her feeling nailed into place and unable to leave. Her fist closed over the bottle caps and she found herself once more looking to his face - finding him peering down at her, full of apology and regret, and something else.

“It’s ok. Just one of those things.” It was a struggle to maintain what she felt to be a necessary level of softness in her voice when a heavy measure of irritation and chill demanded its place within it. It rose unbidden, without reason, sharp and caustic and biting at the back of her tongue in its demand to be unleashed upon him. It took everything within her to remind herself that he hadn’t come to her to argue or bait her into another fight.

Usually it was time that soothed and smoothed away the wrinkles of whatever problem they’d encountered - the cool down period of a night most always left the issue seeming small and far less problematic by the time morning rolled around. This time, he’d changed the status quo with his refusal to wait until morning to fix whatever problem he’d perceived spanned between them.

Both of them had changed. Both of them had grown. It was still awkward as hell trying to dance carefully around their moods and thoughts as they re-learned how to orbit one another.

Landon nodded at her statement, but then his dappled brow furrowed and his head began to shake in the negative, “No, that’s not good enough. There’s no reason for us to argue like that, Roc.”

For some reason, she had trouble looking at him. Maybe it was his damp shirt tugging at her heart in some inexplicable way. Maybe it was the tenderness with which he had just touched her. Maybe it was the all consuming, gut-gnawing sensation of her own guilt when it came to their situation. Whatever it was, she found herself staring at his beer while his fingers picked restlessly at the label.

The edges of the bottle caps in Rochelle’s fist dug viciously into her palm as she tightened her grip on them. Just by standing there, looking a hundred times apologetic and completely lost as he tried to rally their cause yet again, he was chipping away at every single one of her defenses. She ventured a peek back up at his eyes, watching them glitter as they reflected the lights from the kitchen behind her.

“I don’t think it’s that unusual, Landon. Sometimes we aren’t going to get long. It’s inevitable.”

He blinked slowly, then took to studying his feet. “Not like that. If we’re going to argue, let’s not argue about things like that. You can’t push me away, Rochelle. You can’t expect me to just shove over and let you run off into things like this without me there at your side.” He moved to meet her gaze again, but Rochelle cast her eyes back to his beer before he could. He sighed in mild frustration, “It’s not worth arguing about, it’s a given. It’s my duty to you. There’s so many other things that we can argue about if you insist.”

“What really matters that we haven’t already discussed to death? A thousand times?” The little redhead heard the ice creep up in her tone again. It threatened to consume her mood, the one that the snow had done wonders to cool off and allow her to breathe more freely. So many times they’d gone round and round on things they couldn’t seem to agree on. So many times they’d fought, placing blame where it didn’t belong. How could there be more?

Landon shrugged and took a swig of his beer, letting his arms swing down to his sides when he was done, the bottle slung casually between his fingers. She watched as a droplet of condensation slid down the dark glass and hovered on its bottom edge. It clung valiantly, growing and expanding, until gravity ultimately won and it plunged to its death on the floor below.

For a long while, they stood silently. His gaze bounced around the room while hers remained fixated on the way water beaded on the bottle in his grip.

It was worse than arguing.

At least when they were fighting, there was something to say and feel and far less guessing games and time to crawl back into one’s head. Her fist clenched even tighter around the caps held within it, using the twinge of pain from the points pushing up into her skin to keep her grounded as she fought to keep from completely losing her temper and tame the frustration bubbling hot and heavy within her veins before it boiled over. It wasn’t worth it. Fighting him was pointless, they both knew it. It would only end the same way; both of them feeling like utter shit and her stuck with him whether she liked it or not. It wasn’t his intent to irritate - it was his intent to protect and support… To love her. To uphold his end of their vows.

She sighed, drowning her irritation with another long pull on her beer.

“I’m sorry about the last couple of days, too,” Rochelle finally said, knowing and feeling in her gut that the conversation had been cornered and given no other place to go. She knew Landon knew it, perhaps had masterfully angled it in such a direction having learned entirely way too much from Tristan over the years. At any other time, she’d have smirked and shook her head and outright called him on it - perhaps even demanded to know what it was that he had in mind when he’d conjured up this particular situation.

Now wasn’t the time for that, though. Her gaze shifted up to the top button of his shirt, noticing the way it hung too loosely on its thread. It was something even more emphasized by the way the collar of the garment moved as he swallowed another sip of beer.

Landon could feel as much as see her dissecting some part of him, it left him curious and intrigued more than unnerved or worried. “We don’t have all the time in the world, Rochelle.” He all but whispered as he reached out and pressed the lip of his bottle against the top of her wrist as if trying to gain her full attention.

He had it.

Although she instinctively knew the bottle was as cold as the one she held in her hand, the edge of the lip was warm from having been against his mouth. She shivered with the thought of it, all the while knowing he was looking to her in wait of an answer - and she stood without one other than an announcement that he was right. Silence won out.

All the time in the world.

They had been living like that for years, always assuming there was more time to avoid what really mattered.

Landon lifted his beer to his mouth again, allowing Rochelle her silence and knowing better than to pry or prod. She watched the way the glass rested against his top lip, remembering how it felt against her wrist. The moisture it left behind on her skin, a small drop, sat cooling as proof of its existence and she shivered, gripping the bottle caps ever tighter.

“It’s chilly in here, we should probably toss another couple logs on the fire,” He hummed, letting the glass tug on his lower lip.

“I like it that way,” she replied, thankful the conversation had shifted gears.

Her statement quickly earned her an odd look, his expression rife with the evidence that he knew she was lying. Blankets had warmth had always been more her forte than shivering and chills. Calling ‘bullshit’ was a rather intense desire, but it would have been fruitless.

“C’mere.” His arms opened towards her and, much to his pleasant surprise, she stepped into them, wrapping her arms around his waist and resting her relatively untouched beer atop the stiffness of his belt. The bottle nestled snugly into the small of his back and he enveloped her within his embrace, squeezing her tightly.

It was impossible for her to miss the whisper of a kiss he pressed against the top of her head.

“I’m sorry for fighting with you,” She spoke the words into the warmth of his chest, not wanting to move from his embrace but not quite ready to admit that it was far more soothing than her previous thoughts of disappearing into the depths of her small, dark room and the absurdity of a pair of sweats Tr’Bak’s men had procured for her, that were entirely too large.

“You said that already.”

Her head shook, “I mean for calling you a selfish prick, among other things.” She was… Now, anyway. In the heat of the moment it had felt vindicated and she’d even revelled in the hurt that had crossed over his face and darkened his eyes. Now it felt hollow and empty - yet another reason for guilt to consume her.

Landon pulled back enough that it forced her arms to drop from around him. His hands rested on the swell of her hips as he studied her closely in a moment of silence that ultimately ended when his eyes found hers once more, “Always say what you feel. Don’t ever hold that back from me, not even if it’s something I probably don’t want to hear.”

“I feel I prefer this to arguing,” Rochelle instantly replied without thinking. Before she could decide that she wanted to take it back or follow it up with some biting remark that would put them back at odds with one another, he laughed, relieving what could easily have become yet another excruciatingly awkward moment between them.

To be continued...

Commodore Rochelle Ivanova
Commanding Officer

Captain Landon Neyes


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