Previous Next

I'm Coming Home

Posted on Thu Sep 3rd, 2020 @ 9:57pm by Alden Loxley & Tristan

Mission: The Milk Run
Location: Bridge - Fortune's Echo
Timeline: Day 14 - Late Afternoon

Tristan walked through the bowels of the Echo, timidly looking for Alden, but the pit in his stomach wasn't sure if he had the courage to face him just yet. Having failed on his mission to find Jacob and bring him back, there was a level of shame that mixed with the hurt that he wasn't ready to acknowledge just yet. Would Alden even let him come back? Would he still give him a spot on the crew after he left like that? Was this the thing that made him lose that opportunity?

As Tristan walked through the neck of the ship, he could hear Alden's voice coming from the Bridge. He was alone, but it seemed he was talking to himself as he messed with a few of the control panels along the wall. He took careful steps, trying not to make too much noise. He wanted to give himself as much time to turn around as he could.

But this was it. He stepped over the doorway onto the Bridge. There was no turning back now. Even if he turned to run, Alden would see him or hear him. He was in it and he couldn't abort now. Clearing his throat, he looked up at the Captain. "Anything I can do to help you?" he asked, unsure of what the proper greeting would be in a case like this.

Muted swearing and incoherent swearing accompanied Alden's work on one of the control panels, its circuitry visible and some tools scattered messily about the place. He gave the console a hard smack with the butt of a loose fist and then exhaled sharply in relief as lights came back on in the correct order. It had been One of Those Days. Well, weeks really, but the worst was happening all around him now, and sleep had been especially elusive since their return to Serenity Valley.

"Turn back time, give me some smarts to work with and fix this damn ship?" Alden bit back, then turned to see Tristan. "Ah, sorry," he muttered, then mustered up a small attempt at a smile that he didn't really feel in his heart. "I dunno," the captain said with a shrug. "What can you do to help?"

He didn't mean it quite as harshly as that came over, and the softness in his gaze as Alden regarded the kid before him partially made up for the roughness of his words.

"There's uh..." Tristan swallowed hard. "Noah used to have this book he would read to help him fix the ship. I'm sure it's in the engine room somewhere. We could always go get it."

"Y'know," admitted Alden easily enough. "That's actually a real good idea, kid." He sighed, because going into the engine room really wasn't his favourite pastime right now - too many memories and the repair work was still ongoing. "'Cept," Alden fessed up slowly. "I've been kinda avoiding going down there," he looked embarrassed as he spoke now. "Noah's ghost..."

"I can go get it," Tristan said, almost interrupting the man's train of thought. To be honest, he understood what he was saying, completely. The last thing he wanted to do was discuss it now.

Alden wrestled internally for a second or two, then nodded. He felt a moment of guilt at passing this particular chore on, but if Tristan was offering, then why not let him go?

"Okay, sure," he nodded. "Thanks." Gave him a few more minutes to pretend he knew what he was doing with this other collection of wires, as well as time to mull over a sensible reaction to Tristan's return after the whole Go Find Jacob Mission.

"Berfore I..." Tristan stopped, turning back towards Alden. "Are you mad at me for leaving yesterday?"

"Depends," said Alden's voice from underneath the console. "Are you back, or here to say goodbye?"

Tristan blushed with embarrassment. "I can't imagine that your offer is still available. And I know I'm not your responsibility. But if you'll have me, I would love to accept and be a part of your crew."

There was an 'ow!' that coincided with a dull thud of a bump, and Alden scooted out from where he'd been working to regard the crimson-faced young man standing on the Fortune's bridge. "Whatcha talking about, kid?" He asked, the frown mostly down to the banging of his head, but genuine confusion visible in his eyes. "Offer stands until we get off this rock, so if you're in, go grab that manual real quick and come help me fix this."

The hesitant look on Tristan's face bloomed into a full grin. "I'll be right back with it, Captain," he said as he shuffled out of the room and down the hall.

Alden maintained a semi-serious-somewhat-confused expression for the few seconds it took for the younger man to turn away, then allowed himself an indulgent grin as Tristan headed away from him. "Good to have you, home," he murmured quietly, then ducked back under the console to fight the wires.

Five minutes passed before Tristan returned, carrying a large book. "This is the one," he said as he plopped it down on the side of the pilot's control panel. "I'm sure there's something in here about that system you're looking at, though...I wouldn't know where to start to find it."

"Check the back of the book," Alden's voice emanated from under the console. "Should be an index. Look up 'Helm Control Panel, Electrical Grid' and then hand me the book." He waited about half a minute, then added. "Got it? Okay... Change of plan. Read me the wiring configuration colour code out, line by line."

It took a few moments but Tristan found the image of the electrical grid that Alden was looking for, along with a detailed list of components. "The blue component needs to be wired into the white component, but it says here if you cross the green cable, it might zap y-"

"Ow!" Complained the Captain, the vocalisation followed swiftly by a bump of his head on the underside of the console and a torrent of quieter cursing. "Hard to see which is which down here," Alden muttered.

Tristan tried not to giggle, and kept a straight face. Clearly Alden would rather jump in real quick than wait for him to finish reading.

There was a moment of quiet, the smell of burning and Alden emerged into plain sight. "Hit that blue button," he requested, pointing at the console above him. "Main display should come up online?"

Pressing the button, the screen sprung to life. "Looks like it's working," Tristan said.

"Shiny," said Alden, and he beamed a bright grin. "So, next up is Sensor Array," he continued, nudging his head towards Tristan. "That's mostly working, but a little glitchy so we're gonna check it. Again line by line..."

He ducked under the console again and opened another panel. "So," Alden's voice wandered out into the space between them. "Things not really go okay back in town?"

Tristan blushed with embarrassment as he looked over the diagram in the book. "He avoided me," he said, almost too soft for anyone to hear. "I tried to talk to him, waited as long as I could without it being creepy. I think..." He swallowed. "He doesn't want to talk to me."

Alden killed a few more moments in checking wiring before he answered that concern. When he did, it was with his face still concealed by his position. "Ah, gotcha," he said, noncommital, yet mildly concerned for the kid. "Maybe he thinks he explained it all in the letter?"

"His letter said that I was..." Tristan thought for a moment. "I think the phrase he used was 'stumbling block'?" He sighed, his hurt starting to turn to anger. "He said that he had to stay away from me because I was a threat to his Companion vows. He said that he doesn't blame me for what happened but that it could never happen again."

In his frustration, Tristan slammed the Engineering manual on the console, trying to stop himself from crying. "He basically meant that I wasn't good enough for him. That I was useful for a quick fuck but that was it. He..." Tristan swallowed and took a deep breath. "I thought he cared about me, that he liked me. That's what he said when we were..." He shook his head. "But no, he clearly didn't."

"Stumbling block? Bu Hui Hen De Puo Fu," (remorseless harridan) the Captain muttered.

Jacob had been with them a few months, long enough to have an idea how he operated, and short enough to still harbour a few surprises. Whatever it had been between these two men, it had clearly shaken both their worlds. Love? Infactuation? Pure lust? Either way, Jacob's exodus had been both unwanted and poorly timed, and, it seemed, almost entirely because of Tristan.

Alden didn't claim (or try) to understand the complexity of the Companion's emotions, he'd simply respected Jacob's need to leave. Tristan's return ensured which side he was forced to take in the whole messy aftermath of their sexual encounter.

As the weighty tome smacked down, Alden slid out from beneath the console, lying on his back to look up at Tristan as the younger man spoke his piece about Jacob. There was a confused frown and a heavy sigh.

"Yeah," Alden said, eloquently. "Sounds about right."

That wasn't gonna fix anything that was broke, however, so he sucked it up and tried again, dragging himself up to stand so that he could tower above the kid.

"I'd say he cared," noted Alden. "Enough to need to be away from you, if not enough to give up his entire life's work and career. But if it makes you feel better, we could pretend he doesn't like you at all, anger's easier to deal with than sadness, trust me. And fuck no, it wasn't your fault, kid. This whole Joo Fuen Chse is all on him, not you."

Tristan nodded. "I think you can handle the rest," he said, turning to walk away. "Thanks for the offer, Captain. I'm glad to be part of your crew."

Alden opened his mouth to protest. Twice. Then decided not to argue with the kid who clearly needed a little bit of space. Understandably.

"Sure," he returned, amicably enough. "You need to talk, you know where to find me. You don't, that's okay too. Happy to have you back, Di Di." He paused, then added, with a smile wrapped about his words. "Crew have their own bunk, so make yourself properly at home. Also, we're having a wake for Noah soon as I finish up here, so feel free to join us, or not, as your mood takes you."

He watched the boy leave, then ducked back under the console and went right back to fixing the damn wiring. There was always something to work on with this boat. Sometimes the Firefly was easier to fix than the people aboard.



Previous Next