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A Conversation, a Trade and a Letter

Posted on Wed Aug 12th, 2020 @ 10:15pm by Tristan & Alden Loxley

Mission: The Milk Run
Location: Cargo Bay - Fortune's Echo
Timeline: Day 13 - Morning

Tristan sat on the grated walkway, his feet dangling over the side as he leaned his chin against the railing, his eyes studying the mostly empty cargo hold below. His finger mindlessly dug at his cuticle as his mind thought back to Noah. He didn't know him very long, or very well. But Noah was the first person on board to truly ask him about himself, to make it seem like he cared. He made him think of things he hadn't considered and helped to open his mind to other viewpoints. For that he was grateful.

But behind that was just a pang of guilt. Tristan kept going over his mission in his mind, his actions on the Seeker and what he could have done differently. How he could have changed it to save Noah, or at least keep the bad guys away. But as much as he tried, he could see no alternative route that would have prevented this.

Footsteps on the gangway jarred his mind as he looked up to see Alden walking towards him. He gave a slight smile as the taller man sat down next to him, swinging his legs over the side of the walkway as well.

"I'm sorry I couldn't stop them," Tristan said, willing his tears from falling.

He'd taken the steps two at a time, expecting to see the kid in his room, but that fake smile from behind the walkway railing was a welcome sight despite its relative insincerity. Tristan was trying, and that was all anyone could ask of each other right now. Guilt and pain washed through them all, one way or another, but none of them were truly to blame, but Alden himself. He'd taken this mission, this sideline, and it had kicked him twice, real hard. Noah was dead. Drake had lied to him.

"Oh, hey kid," Alden mustered up a half-smile of his own, one born from sympathy rather than any kernel of amusement. "It ain't your fault." He offered his good arm to wrap about the younger man's shoulders for comfort and support. "It's definitely not your fault. I'm real sorry I sent you out there like that." He could have lost Tristan too, after all that had occurred, that fact was painfully clear.

"I was worried I'd killed you too," Alden admitted outright, the pain tangibly wrapped about every word and visible in his eyes.

“I was ok the whole time,” Tristan said as he relaxed into the embrace. “Was he in a lot of pain?” He asked.

That close, Alden's sigh of relief was tangible. He tensed again though at the young man's follow up question. "I wasn't there," he said, truthfully and with obvious guilty conscience. "I don't know for sure." He had a pretty damn good idea, but that was his burden to bear, not the kid's.

Tristan just nodded. "Hopefully this makes up for it." Tristan sat up and opened his bag, rummaging through it for a moment before he pulled out a small metallic device, holding it out to Alden. "When I realized I wasn't going to be able to stop them, or sabotage the ship, I decided the second best option was to wait and try to steal whatever it was you were looking for back from them."

He had no words for the longest minute. Alden sat there, stunned into silence, staring at the skinny little kid who had stowed away on his ship. He tilted his head to the side and really studied Tristan as the boy sat there, proudly showing off the small, shiny piece of tech. "Huh," Alden vocalised, noncommittaly.

As he took the metallic cube into his own possession, he was momentarily surprised at its lack of weight, and caught up for a moment in the complexity of the design etched into its outer surface. "It looked bigger when I dug it up," Alden said, with a half-smile as realisation began to truly sink in.

A pause led to a broader, genuine grin, a purer reaction to Tristan's magnificent, unexpected achievement. "You did great, Di Di," Alden praised him enthusiastically, ruffling the kid's hair with his free hand and wrapping the long fingers of his other about the cube as he savoured the moment of their victory. "Let's keep this between us for now, though, okay?"

Tristan's forehead scrunched in confusion, "Why keep it a secret?" he asked. "Isn't this what you wanted?"

"It is," Alden told him gently. His brow creased inadvertently as the unspoken internal struggle of emotions swirled. "But I need to have a conversation about all this with Ali before everyone gets the news, okay?"

The young man nodded.

"Tristan," the Echo's Captain held the cube tighter, his knuckles whitening as he met the young man's eyes and held them a moment before continuing. "If you want to stay with us, I have room on this boat for a hard-worker, especially one with a covert skill-set like you seem to be cultivating. Wanna stick around, join my crew?"

Tristan's eyes went wide with surprise as Alden's question really started to sink in. "Join your crew like...permanently? I wouldn't have to be a stowaway any more?"

Alden laughed, a light, friendly sound that brightened his eyes. "Yeah, permanently," he answered. "Means you have to do what I say. Means you have to work for a living. So think about it real hard, make sure it's what you really want. Won't always be easy."

He wanted to say yes. While he would have never expected to, Tristan actually wanted this. At least for now. "I should go talk to Jacob first," he said. "I just want to make sure he's comfortable with that."

"Not sure he wants to talk to you, Di Di," Alden said. There was no good way to say that, so he didn't bother trying to sugarcoat the sentiment. He did however, give the younger man a sideways squeeze of a hug as he said it, signalling his fraternal support for what it was worth. His free hand plucked a letter from his shirt pocket, which Alden handed to Tristan. "Jacob left this for you," he explained, watching the kid's face closely as he spoke.

Tristan opened his mouth to speak, but words just wouldn't form as he took the letter from Alden's hand. He tore open the letter, his eyes glazing with tears as he began to read through the words etched permanently on the piece of parchment. "I don't understand," he said, his voice quivering slightly. "When did he leave?"

He felt for the kid, he really did. But, Alden had to believe it was likely better this way in the long run. A Companion didn't stand much chance of a long term relationship - Did they? - he wasn't sure how that would work. Hadn't really thought too long about it, really. "Late last night," Alden answered.

The young man swallowed hard as he nodded, "Then I still have time." He picked himself up from the walkway, heading towards the stairs. "I have to go," he said to Alden as he raced down the steps and bounded for the open cargo doors.

He stood and watched Tristan rush out into the world. Alden didn't try to stop him, didn't yell after him or tell him not to leave. That wasn't how this worked, he didn't get to choose how other people lived their lives (well with the possible exception of James, at least by intent to change him). He, the Echo and her crew would be here for a day or so yet, and either the kid would come back, or he wouldn't.

Alden walked swiftly down the steps to stand, finally, on the extended cargo ramp, and he silently watched the boy's exodus for as long as Tristan remained visible to the naked eye.


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