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Apologies Are For Other People

Posted on Sun Jul 5th, 2020 @ 4:06pm by Alden Loxley & Jacob Lara

Mission: The Milk Run
Location: Fortune's Echo - Port Shuttle
Timeline: Day 11 - Newhall to Hera (Late Evening)

It had taken him a week. A whole week. Seven long days out there in the black between worlds. But, finally, quietly, like a thief in the night, Alden Loxley took the steps up from his cabin down the metal catwalk towards the port shuttle.

He didn't knock - he never did unless Jacob had a paying client - just walked right in and he held out an arm that ended in a hand that held a bottle of wine. Not a particularly expensive one from the Companion's point of view, but not the cheapest one ever. Probably, the implication was by the light layer of dust, one that had been at least saved from a previous cargo run or been given as a gift.

"I found this," Alden stated simply, as if he'd located a lost sock. There was minimal eye contact. "Thought you might like it."

And that was as close to an apology as Jacob was ever likely to get.

Jacob had been sitting in meditation when he'd heard the man's footsteps approaching. After the last time, when he'd simply burst into the shuttle, Jacob had decided not to spend much time without a decent covering of some sort. And so, he was actually dressed this time, in a pair of loose shorts, and a tank top. Turning he saw that he was holding out a dusty old bottle of wine and grasped it.

Pursing his lips and nodding he shrugged, "I never say no to a bottle of wine," he replied. Then, taking a closer look he raised an eyebrow in surprise. It was a better bottle than he'd have expected someone to just stumble upon, though not really the best one could get. "You found this?" he asked, looking back to the other man's face to see if he was trying to deceive him in any way. He didn't exactly expect duplicity but wondered if maybe it was an overly exaggerated attempt to make him feel better about the previous encounter.

"Found it, yes," Alden stated for the record, as his gaze sought and levelled with Jacob's own. Man was dressed this time at least, which helped him maintain his focus. "Plenty of places to hide things on this ship." Neither of those were a lie, but they circumnavigated the details of the truth fairly efficiently. "If it's not good enough for you," he added, sounding a little snarky now. "I'm sure someone else will appreciate it."

Jacob shook his head, wondering if the man was ever not too high-strung and ready to be pissed off by the slightest thing. "Actually, Captain, I asked because it's a pretty impressive bottle of wine for someone to just leave lying around to be found," he said, "I was just surprised."

Putting the bottle down he decided to change tack, "Would you like some tea, or maybe something a little stronger?" he asked, waving the man towards the chair.

"It is?" Alden looked mildly disappointed. He knew nothing about wine, but had figured the gesture would be at least appreciated in some way. People did that in polite society, didn't they? Exchanged bottles, all civilised like. "You're welcome then," he added, with a soft graciousness that was devoid of sarcasm.

Then he took the seat in the comfy chair and looked up. "Tea would be good," Alden said. "I'm on the helm tonight."

Jacob chuckled. "I'll make it a strong brew then," he said, and began assembling the stuff to do so. "What's got you at helm? Just your turn again?"

"Thanks." Alden settled down into Jacob's armchair until he felt suitably at ease. "It smells funny in here," he noted, though the words were spoken without overt malice and Jacob had heard the same complaint often in their mutual past. "I like the night shift," the older man half-lied. "Just me and time to be alone with my thoughts."

Jacob sniffed, "It's the incense," he said, in reply to the man's comment about the smell. "I use it for meditation. Some people love it, some hate it."

He then went about getting tea measured into the pot and adding the hot water so it could steep. "So, what brings you here? I highly doubt you came just to bring me a bottle of wine..." he said, turning and bring the tea service to sit on the small table beside the chair, and then folding himself onto the small stool he kept tucked under it. He would settle down on the cushions soon, but he needed to be able to serve the tea and didn't want to have to get back up.

"It smells like rich people's sock drawers," noted Alden as he wrinkled his nose. It wasn't as if this was the first time he'd ever been in the shuttle with incense burning, but the amicable complaining served as a familiar distraction from heavier subjects and circumnavigated their discussion. It was a dance, one he and Jacob did often.

"A Captain can't visit a business partner of an evening and gift him something without having ulterior motives?" Alden asked, putting false tetchyness into the question simply out of habit.

Alden watched as Jacob positioned himself so as to serve tea and deliberately leant back in his chair to allow more space between them. "Besides, I don't like wine," he added, dismissively.

Jacob burst out laughing, almost spilling some of the hot tea. "A captain can," he said, putting heavy emphasis on the first word. "you, well, you don't strike me as the type that could."

Once he was done pouring he handed the man his mug of steaming tea, and picked up his own. "I am honored that you thought of me, though. I was worried the rest of our time together was going to be awkward and hostile..." he added, taking a sip.

With a confused expression on his face, Alden watched the companion nearly mess up his tea ceremony. He took the offered mug, carefully, and placed it down beside his chair on the metal flooring, hearing Jacob's words and frowning a little deeper as he listened, absorbed their meaning.

"Not sure I could keep up being hostile with you for that long," Alden said lightly, but with his emphasis on the penultimate word.

Jacob moved to settle on a cushion, leaning against the bulkhead and smiled. "I'm glad. I really don't like it when the people I have to depend on are hostile, or even just angry with me. Besides, you seem like a really nice guy. I'd rather be on the good side of that, than the other," he replied, sipping his tea.

Alden looked quietly amused by this little admission of Jacob's, but he considered his words before he spoke them, meeting the other man's eyes as he relayed his own point of view. "I guess that's what makes you a good companion?" He asked. "You want to please everyone?" Then he wrinkled his nose at the unwanted opinion. "Nice?" Alden grizzled. "Don't know if I like that." He did like the sentiment behind it, kinda, but - nice? - was an awfully generic and weak sounding adjective. "But you're right," he added with a lopsided smile. "You do want to be on my good side." He picked up his tea and blew across the top of the liquid before taking a small sip.

"How about caring? Compassionate?" Jacob said, smirking. "But I'll keep that in mind. I don't think you'll need to worry about me doing anything to get on your bad side again. It wasn't fun," he added.

"So, time alone with your thoughts, huh? What's that about?" he asked, taking another small sip of tea, enjoying the tannic dryness of the brew, and the way it awakened his senses.

They'd been on the Echo long enough now - four months - that Jacob had seen Alden let his guard down on occasion. He'd no doubt heard that guitar being played occasionally, fingers making harmonics on those strings that carried at least part of the way through the ship. So, Alden, in this moment, chose not to vocally defend the part of his ego that demanded justice against being called caring and compassionate.

Truly, he saw those qualities as strengths, despite knowing well enough that others did not. Caring for others was a weakness in some circles, but to the Echo's captain, friends and allies were worth far more than money.

"Some thoughts require solitude and darkness," Alden stated quietly. It was late, and he wasn't sure he wanted to explain deeper. He took a big gulp of tea and winced at the heat of the liquid now coursing down his throat.

"One of those nights," Jacob replied, nodding his head knowingly. He'd led a fairly sheltered life. He couldn't deny that. But at the same time, some of the nights he'd spent alone in the Guild House, exhausted from his training, lonelier than he'd ever known was possible he'd cried himself to sleep in the silence of his small room. Those nights, when his thoughts had swirled around, and his heart had ached for the companionship he was being trained to provide to others, the quiet and the dark had been his best solace.

Swallowing the tea and finishing the cup swiftly, Alden considered getting up and heading immediately back to the bridge. Seemed like neither he or Jacob were in a talking mood, and with his own thoughts turning in Anouk's direction, solitude seemed the better solution. He didn't though. He offered up his empty cup and let his gaze find Jacob's for long enough to ask. "Can I have a refill?"

Standing, Jacob plucked the cup gingerly from the other man's hand. "Definitely," he replied with a smile. Picking up the teapot he poured more into the cup and then handed it back to Alden. "I hope you didn't feel like I was trying to pry..." he offered, settling back to his cushion with a lopsided grin. Truth be told he knew the other man had things on his mind. He also knew it would likely help him tremendously to get them out of his system, but it wasn't likely he'd be able to draw them out on his own. Alden was tight lipped on a good day, Jacob figured on a bad one it would be like pulling teeth.

"I'm not always great with fancy talk, subtext and hidden meanings," was Alden's response as he took the cup back. "So, if you want to know something, best to just ask me straight out."

Jacob nodded. He fully understood the man's point. Some people really just were straight-forward, and preferred that all communication be the same way. "It seems like maybe you have something you need to talk about. I want you to know that if you do, and you so wish, you can talk to me about it. Nothing you tell me would ever leave this room."

With a smile and a gentle shake of his head, Alden stretched out his legs and coddled the tea cup in his hands. The warm seeped through his fingers in a modicum of neutrally offered comfort and his mind cast back to older times, and a different sort of tea party. Lost moments in time crystallised softly in his mind alone now.

Breathing softly, but deeply, Jacob relaxed into the moment, allowing the contemplative silence wash over him. He had been trained to wait patiently, to allow a person to come to their own comfort level at their own pace, and so he felt at peace. Bringing the slightly warm cup up to his lips he sipped the amber liquid, inhaling the scent of the tea, letting the warmth fill him as he swallowed, savoring the astringency of the taste, and simply being, allowing Alden to speak if he wished, or sit in companionable silence if he did not.



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