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It's My Time To Fly

Posted on Sun Apr 10th, 2022 @ 8:44am by Alden Loxley & Chloe Waltz PhD & Kindra Graham

Mission: Twas The Twelve Days of Travel
Location: Leaving Li Shen's Bazaar
Timeline: November 3, 2517

He didn't - wouldn't - listen. Sometimes (most times some might say) Alden Jericho Loxley could be stubborn like that. Sure, there might be the 'right way' to do something, a consensus of opinion from like-minded others with logic and reason wrapping the whole opinion up in a pretty little bow. But, those folks could be ignored when you owned (part in fact) the ship they were all standing and yapping on.

So, with Chloe's confirmation that they were all fuelled up and capable of leaving, Echo's Captain took it upon himself to get them underway. Gentle-like, easy and slowly slipping away into the Black as Li Shen's released their docking clamp, their payment all nicely confirmed for the short day.

The pain meds Cooper had rustled up from the infirmary took the slightest edge off Alden's headache and he blatantly refused to acknowledge any other thought or concern of personal internal damage. They needed outta here and he was gonna make sure that happened. Even with that unsettling rattle sound echoing down the comm link from engineering...

"We can lock that down, right?" Alden asked, irritably.

"Uh," Chloe responded on the comms. "Yeah." She muted the comms from her side for now. She was working on getting everything back to its nice and quiet state, but it was a slow process. She expected to have a couple days there to get some things on the engine looked at while it was off; upon taking off her priority had been just getting it working, not getting everything back behind the proper panels and cubbyholes. So honestly, she wasn't even sure which loose part was causing the noise.

Sucking in a breath, Alden kept them headed outwards into the Black some more, his hearing focused on the damn uneven clattering and his guilty conscience bugging him some on the way he'd just spoken to Chloe. It wasn't his engineer's fault all this was happening, and he'd promised her some down time to get Echo fixed up properly.

"I'm taking us home," he told Chloe via the physical comm link by way of a kinda apology. "Of sorts. You'll get that time I promised you to work on our ship. But I just need ya to tape it up or strap it down or something til then." A long pause followed a heavy sigh. "Please."

"Yeah," Chloe responded over the comms, grabbing a roll of duct tape and hastily taping down anything that might be loud enough to be heard over the hum of the engine. "Sure."

Alden's contumacious inflexibility did not however extend to maintaining enforced privacy, and he didn't flinch, complain or turn around in that pilot's seat as someone entered the bridge.

Kindra had lingered outside the infirmary, worried for Alison. It was soon clear that Jacy knew what she was doing. Cooper it seemed was remarkably familiar with the infirmary, but then he was the most recent patient under Karen's care. Once Kindra was satisfied that Alison would be all right, she made her way to the bridge.

She sat in the copilot's chair, arms folded, and glared worriedly at Alden. "You should be in the infirmary with Alison. You're hurt."

Her scent was a pleasant presence, one that reminded him of naked cuddles and all sorts of things he wasn't in the mood for right now, but didn't hurt to recall. Her stare - that look he could feel rather than see - wasn't as welcome and neither were Kindra's bossy words of kindness.

"I'll be fine," Alden muttered without turning round. "Had worse. Still alive. Gotta keep us flying. Gotta get us home."

"Just because you're too damn stubborn to stop and get your injuries seen to when you're hurt, doesn't make you fine. Someone else can steer the ship," said Kindra sternly.

She closed her eyes and sighed. Kindra was frightened and worried for Alden and Alison, and angry at whoever did this to them – she should not direct her anger at Alden. She unfolded her arms and rested a hand on Alden's shoulder. More softly, she said, "What happened to you on the station? I saw news reports of people killed at the medical facility."

He was. He knew that. Stubborn. But back where Loxleys were raised and forged, being determined and unyielding in the face of tremendous adversity was a necessary survival trait. He turned from the console's screens and regarded Kindra for a moment before speaking.

"Didn't say I was fine," he argued with a jovially petty lilt to his tone. "Said I'd be fine. Different things. Right now though, ain't no one else steering Echo but me." There was a tendril of decisiveness in those words that suggested arguing was pointless.

As to what happened on the station...

"Don't want you wrapped up in that mess," Alden said, words plainly spoken now and wrapped with a genuine affection. "Best you don't know what happened, then you don't have to lie." She could, of course, lie like the proverbial trooper, but Alden didn't want her to need to. "Got caught up in some trouble that involved the Alliance on some level. S'all I'm saying."

Kindra looked at him worriedly for long moments, thinking through both what he said and what he didn't say. "Whatever mess you're wrapped up in, I'm here, and I'm wrapped up in it with you." She caressed the side of his face gently, fingers light over his ear where there was still dried blood. Alden's instinct to protect everyone in his sphere, and her in particular, warmed her heart. And yet, she would not be put off so easily. Kindra could be stubborn too.

"You and Alison took Daiyu to the medical center to see about getting her the help she needs. Until just now, I thought you'd gotten caught in the crosshairs of some random violence. Didn't occur to me it was your mess of trouble with the Alliance. Did something from Alison's past - or yours - catch up?"

He unconsciously leaned into that soothing touch, ignoring the headache that still screamed silently in his brain, and Alden listened to that sultry voice speak those pretty words. Kindra's wiles were expensive and in serious demand, so truly he should feel extremely honoured to be receiving this fine service for free, but the chills in his heart were held too deeply for Alden to truly relax. He couldn't bear another to suffer like Ali had, not if he could help it.

So he pulled away. Not harshly, but wth a simple gentle flourish, turning his bad mood to the ship's console. The pang of that chosen moment of separation was awkward, though, uncomfortable and instantly regreted. "That kinda mess," Alden mumbled, "not the sort I wanna have you wrapped up in." There was a loaded pause, then he added, with a slight turn in his chair to glance sideways at Kindra. "But thanks." For the support, for the friendly shoulder and for giving a crap. He'd needed that. But those were a lot of words that didn't get added to the words leaving his mouth.

"Mebbe it was random violence," he said, then shook his head gently. They both knew it wasn't, so Alden added as an afterthought. "Yeah, something from the past for sure. I don't wanna guess. We all got out alive, s'all I'm worried bout for now." His eyes silently asked her not to ask more questions on that front. To let it lie. To remain safely excluded.

Though gently delivered, the rejection stung. Her touch shrugged off, Kindra sat back in the copilot's chair, and focused with bowed head on her hands - now folded unobjectionably in her lap. He didn't want her wrapped up in his mess. She had not wanted to tell Alden about the danger that threatened her, and yet she had shared it with him. Because he asked and because... wasn't that what people who cared about each other did? Besides, she simply could not lie to him, but it seemed he could lie to her.

"I see." Kindra took a moment to compose herself. Putting aside the subject of what happened, she lifted her chin with a carefully neutral expression on her face. "Then shall we return to the topic of your health? Is it possible you have a concussion?" She rattled off some of the better-known symptoms. "Do you have a headache, ringing in your ears, nausea, blurry vision, dizziness?"

Okay, so. That was worse. Even through his muddy-headed vision, Alden could read those emotional signs. He spent another moment of two checking trajectories, collating data from Chloe's side of the little Firefly and adjusting some settings - that gave him enough time to rally his aching head - and then he stood up, wavered a little and took the couple of steps to crouch down in front of Kindra.

"Sorry," he said, simply. He reached his hands out to hold hers. "You have enough to worry about already, right? This isn't about me or Ali. This is... different." He needed to talk to Whit. "I don't know 'sactly what it is yet."

Such a sweet and touching gesture, especially when she could see that he was in pain. And saying he doesn't know what the mess is exactly - has the ring of truth. Kindra grasped Alden's hands, interlacing his long fingers with hers. Her neutral mask melted, her smile was warm and guileless. "Thank you." She leaned in and brushed her lips against his, a kiss both undemanding and a gentle promise of more. "No matter what else is on my mind, I can't help but worry about you. You know that, don't you?"

So damn beautiful! That sense of undeserving and unexpected fortune hit Alden as hard as the first time Kindra had offered up that perfectly natural and unbelievably amazing smile. He'd felt like the only person in her world, with no thought for her complicatedly simple profession. Her kiss made him blush just a little, but Alden shrugged that away without shame. He had a ship full of people to protect, he couldn't do whatever he wanted right now.

"I know," he agreed, gently. "I don't understand it, but I am grateful..." Grateful? What the hell was he talking about?! "Uh," he changed tack, one hand freed to face-palm. "I mean... thanks. I worry 'bout you too." Insert awkward smile here and pretend he wasn't currently experiencing pretty much all of Kindra's previously mentioned symptoms. Alden planted a firm and definite kiss on those perfect lips and then pulled backwards without malice or indecision. "Something's still making a noise," he said, checking the console and tensing, brow furrowed.

It was frustratingly difficult to focus through the battered headspace, but he needed to.

As much as she wanted time with Alden, Kindra understood that he had more urgent concerns that were impossible for him to ignore. On top of that, he was in pain and should be in the infirmary with Alison, under Jacy's care. "Alden, I know flying a firefly transport is nothing like flying a shuttle, but you've set the course and I think I can handle keeping an eye on the bridge. If something goes wrong, I will call for help. Then you can go to the infirmary and get our new medic to check you over." Anticipating his refusal, Kindra added, "Or check on the Echo and speak with Chloe about that sound first. But then, please see the medic and try to get some rest, even if you have to sit in the pilot's chair to do it."

There were so many horrible things and irritating souls in the Verse, folk who had done him wrong in the past or were no doubt waiting to inflict some atrocity on him and his in the future. Kindra definitely didn't fit on any of those lists, and he genuinely did appreciate (on a deeper level) the fact that she cared about him. Really, he didn't even mind Kindra being here and helping out, not truly. But Alden had no intention of leaving the bridge to anyone else, not unless he was unconscious or raving mad, and even the latter there was a definite possibility for continuing on his current stubborn path.

He did, however, really like (hell, maybe even love?) the Companion, and she was right, she wasn't useless. Maybe they could come to a compromise that helped her forget about the rutting infirmary for a bit....

"Fine," Alden said. "Watch these displays for me while Chloe and I test the systems again?" It was a polite request, not an order, and he wasn't relinquishing the controls so much as roping Kindra into the fault-finding.

"I can do that," said Kindra simply. She was in no way giving up on getting Alden to the infirmary, but if he was satisfied with the condition of the ship, she might be more likely to persuade him. Head injuries were unpredictable and dangerous, but if he passed out, James and Jonas would carry him to the infirmary. As long as she was on the bridge, Kindra could at least keep an eye on Alden.

Internally, Alden knew he was pushing it. Not Kindra, or Chloe, but his own limits. Echo came first though through absolute necessity. Echo was their lives - all of their lives - their safety, their freedom, their temporary home. He wanted and needed distance from Li Shen's, from Ghost, from those blue-handed assholes with the instant headache devices and the only way they got that was courtesy of the plucky lil Firefly.

"Thanks," muttered the Captain without turning around to look at Kindra's face. She was there. She was on his side. That was a big deal and one he'd make sure she knew he appreciated. Later. Not now. Now was fixing and checking and being sure that he and Chloe could keep everyone alive for the next ten days. He really missed Alison in these little moments of internal panic. Her stoic and brutally honest foil to his... well yeah, they were alike on those but they handled them differently. Not having his business partner and close friend beside him on take-off and entry into the Black didn't feel right, made him edgier than normal even without all the extra stress piling up on his shoulders.

"We got this," Alden told Chloe, and for a moment his booted foot sought Kindra's own and rubbed against it gently. Then, the Echo's Captain's focus was all about Ship's Captain business. Back and forth, short, curt confirmations, checks and re-checks sounded between himself and Chloe for as long as he could maintain focus and as far as they needed to ensure the Firefly would hold together. It was a fine line between confidence and paranoia on this front, but the balance of old, familiar ship and dangerous chances in the middle of literal nowhere was one Alden had done many, many times before.

He wondered if Chloe (coming from a far more business-like and definitely highly professional shipbound environment - right?) might need some psychiatric help though, or perhaps another game of cards with some friendly drinks, once this was all locked down.

If Alden's brain had been capable of multi-tasking in this moment, then the thought of poker would have sidelined a whole mental thread of happy reimagined nakedness... but those beautiful memories could be made again if they all lived to see another day.



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