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Home Is Where the Heart Is

Posted on Mon Sep 18th, 2023 @ 7:26pm by Petty Officer, 3rd Class Lottie Daglish & Ziu'Liherasefra

Mission: Contagion
Location: The Tua'ri, Hangar Bay, USS Atlantis
Timeline: Day 365
2841 words - 5.7 OF Standard Post Measure

As far as transitions went, the integration into this particular crew had been one of the easiest Hera had ever experienced. It was partially due, she suspected, to a lack of premeditated expectation on their part, these intriguing people who had no reason to expect anything of her other than a perfectly understandable fascination with her point of origin. That was a very generalised appreciation for the new and unfamiliar, however, and didn't translate to the kind of narrow view more common amongst the sector's denizens. Nobody had placed all their hopes and dreams and aspirations in her hands, or surrendered their fate to her benign intervention. They'd been grateful for the advice she had been able to provide but, so far, nobody had seemed to find it soul-destroying when she couldn't magic up quick fixes to complex problems.

She liked it here.

Part of her empathetic nature, however, meant a heightened awareness of the ebb and flow of emotional energies around her. She and Lottie had spoken at length about the benefits of her natural mood elevation and how important it might become as the crew acclimatised to life back amongst the stars but Hera was equally as worried about interfering with natural grief cycles. Once she had learned of the significance of the current date to the people around her, it had seemed only polite to retreat to the cozy confines of her ship to avoid convoluting things. So far, she had honoured the Captain's stipulation that it not be used as living quarters but there were still plenty of helpful tasks that her onboard computer was better suited for. Of most use was her food dispenser, though its energy expenditure made it unsuitable for mass production. Experimenting with recipes she'd found and translated from the ship's databanks, however, was a far easier task. Right now, the entire cabin smelled of Nankhatai, or what she hoped was a very close approximation of.

Lottie had been gathering every reserve of emotional resistance that she could for days to force herself through the motions of day 365 of what was now just her new life. It had gone well her shift apart from Voznyuk dislocating her shoulder before she had gotten from the store room and suspiciously what she suspected was McManus' fourth injury from his brewery attempts. She had been imagining cuddling up to Hera all day when the moments had gotten hard or she had noticed someone else having a moment but now that had finished she had not been able to find the woman. Maybe Hera did not want to spend the evening together but then she remembered that morning that Hera had told her she would see her later it dawned on her that Hera could be on her shuttle in the the shuttle bay.

It was a snug fit as she slid along the wall and prayed to Krishna that there had just been enough room for the shuttle onboard even if she was a little snug to get to. It gave them a little more privacy than either quarters provided. She sniffed the air and smiled as she recognised that there was something cooking inside. "Is this just for you or am I invited?" She wondered pulling herself up into the the shuttle.

"Well, I hope it's for you if I've got this recipe correct." The Ziu'ni's tone was always noticeably more dulcet in times of stress but it was difficult to pinpoint whether that was an intentional effort or simply a matter of perception, a natural byproduct of her latent abilities. At the very least, Hera seemed relaxed and pleased to see the nurse, reaching out with a hand to help her inside. "There wasn't quite enough time for a full analysis of ingredients so hopefully the approximation is palatable." Hera pressed a kiss to Lottie's temple. "It won't be your grandmother's baking but I thought it might help."

Lottie accepted the hand helping her inside with a grateful smile. It was not steep but it was not at all graceful to the small human. She turned at the kiss to her temple and leant up for a longer more fulfilling kiss before answering. “Just you thinking of me today helps.” Lottie assured before she moved to look at what had been created letting the woman had some space. The nurse was fully aware she could be a bit to much hands on and was making efforts to back off just a little.

It hadn't occurred to Hera to complain. If anything, she was still adjusting to the realisation that someone wanted her in their personal space quite as much as Lottie did, but that wasn't immediately objectionable so much as it was just different. The human wasn't one of the clingy, inappropriate types trying to leech off the Ziu'ni's mood enhancement, which left her genuine interest something of a rare delight. "The date has been significant to all of you," Hera observed quietly. In many way, such anniversaries were arbitrary, measured in units of time that fluctuated in relevance, but she could understand the tendency to define life's passing as a sequence of milestones. "I hope it wasn't too strained?"

“Nothing overly for medical or for me. Just a sad feeling knowing we have not found a way home. We hoped for a wormhole or… something.” Lottie sighed softly as she sat slowly down in one of the pilot chairs and scrubbed at her face. She had not been feeling the weight of it until that moment. “This time a year ago I was trapped in sickbay and trying to sleep as we were sealed in the anti radiation spaces.” It had been around this time when all hell had broken loose and a sharp shock had woken her from the doze.

It had taken some trial and error but Hera had eventually figured out a way to replicate a drink that seemed to bring Lottie some measure of comfort. Recent upgrades to power efficiency meant that occasionally indulging wasn't going to be too resource-heavy but the Ziu'ni was still mindful of the fact that she couldn't rely on her ship's facilities indefinitely. This seemed like a decent enough excuse, however, and so she took a minute to prepare them both something and sank into the co-pilot seat after activating the mechanism to raise a small table from the decking. The space was compact but meticulously designed, a parting gift from resigned parents who had graciously come to accept the inevitable. Setting down the drinks, and the small plate of cookies, Hera pulled her legs up to sit cross-legged and regarded the human thoughtfully.

"I don't think you've ever told me exactly what happened," she pressed gently. "It's okay to talk about it, if you want to."

Lottie glanced at the chai hot chocolate and picked up the mug holding it in both hands and just savoured the heat in her hands. “There is not much to say to be honest. We took refuge in the radiation shelters and there was an issue with the engine and the Captain left to fix it and never came back and when we could finally get out we were no where near where we should have been.” She sighed watching the steam. “I just remember a thud and then nothing really in the days that followed as we tried to survive the Vrav stalking us.”

Hera nodded slowly. Though her situation was vastly different, the end result was similar. Loss of access to anywhere familiar and anything that resembled a home, leaving no choice but to rebuild elsewhere. Her experience had been daunting at times and life as a lonesome Ziu'ni was not without its dangers, but at least most of them she had been able to navigate with some measure of prior warning. Lottie's situation sounded, frankly, terrifying. "Your crew seem to operate well under pressure," she observed quietly.

"It is a human trait and why we go through psychological assessments on joining Earth Starfleet," Lottie explained finally taking a sip of the chai hot chocolate and offering a satisfied sound at the fact it tasted good. "None of us got this far without being psychopathic or gifted." She assured. It was a lot of luck as well but she did not want to offer that up.

"Emotional resilience doesn't mean you never break though," Hera reasoned softly. "It's more about the tools you use to piece yourself back together to move forward. You spend a great deal of time tending to everyone else's needs." It wasn't an admonishment, if anything the alien's voice radiated admiration. "But you are also in a position to encounter many of their low points. The events that occurred may be easily summarised but I more interested in how you are coping." She smiled faintly. "It's perfectly all right if you feel the need to cuss."

Lottie smiled and shook her head. “I actually feel well adjusted. It was sad and hard at first for sure but I am… I enjoy being a helper and it is not draining me like it used to anymore. We have more people in medical other than me and the doctor so the load is shared.”

Tilting her head to the side, Hera regarded the human quietly for a moment. It had not escaped her attention that Lottie seemed to struggle to speak with any firm fondness for her home, though certainly aspects of it were nostalgic. The drink in her hand, for instance. In terms of actual grief for relationships lost, however, Hera didn't sense in the brunette quite the same level of separation anxiety that the rest of the crew understandably endured. It was difficult to know what to make of that, though Hera herself was well-versed in estrangement. "You must miss something though."

There was the question she had known had been brewing for a while but she had no idea how she was going to answer it when it came up. It was hard to explain that despite Earth being united and supposedly free of poverty it was not free from sexism nor families who favoured sons over a daughter. "I miss my mother's kitchen and the time I spent with her but not much more. It is hard to miss things that tested you."

"Your relationship with your family is difficult." This was more an acknowledgement than a question, evidence that Hera had paid attention to the titbits hinted at along the way. It had struck her almost instantly how similar their situations were in that regard. The alien sat in silence for a moment, seeming to consider her next words carefully. They were the culmination of some of her private wonderings since leaving Relea behind. "Do you think you would have chosen this then, had it not been a decision made for you by fate? To be this far away from them with limited chance of return?"

“I was not my brothers.” Lottie shrugged a little. She would never be as great as her brothers no matter what she did. “I am not sure I would have chosen exactly like this but I would have chosen to just be out in space exploring.” She assured quietly looking into her drink. “So I do not regret any step I have taken.”

"Would you be content not to return?"

It was a softer question yet, the Ziu'ni's gaze had travelled downwards as Hera contemplated her own relationship to it. Whilst it wasn't a decision she needed to make immediately, it would eventually become such. The prospect of leaving behind everything familiar, even if there was very little chance of her ever returning, was causing her confusion she hadn't anticipated.

"I am content here so yes I think if I ever got the chance to get back to Earth I would sign up for the next big adventure pretty quick to get back off it." She said looking over at the woman. "Why?" She asked leaning over to stroke a thumb over the woman hand enjoying the soft sensation underneath her thumb that sent warmth through her.

A fleeting smile didn't do a lot to chase the uncertainty from Hera's features. "Your perspective is helpful. At the pace your ship is able to keep, it won't be very long before we stretch the limits of my explorations. I suppose I am not very accustomed to the idea of being outside a distance of easy return, even though I have no plans or really any ability to return home."

She could not imagine that the ship would be doing that kind of speeds for long they had to keep within safe limits whilst testing out the fixes from Relea. “Cross that bridge when it comes to it?” The brunette offered leaning back closing her eyes for a moment just savouring the silence and peace.

"Of course," Hera agreed. "But lack of anticipation can make for hasty decisions. Not that I'm attempting to make any yet," she reassured gently. "I simply find myself contemplating something I had never expected to, that's all."

Lottie raised an eyebrow but was placated with the reassurance. She had never assumed she would get to keep the woman in her life forever but she had not assumed that it would be so quick to be over in months. “Wanna talk about that?” The nurse shifted tact and attention from the anniversary to the pale woman.

For a moment, Hera regarded the other woman intently and then, rising with her own drink, moved over to curl into Lottie's lap with a laugh. "I'm not going anywhere, at least not abruptly and certainly not without speaking with you extensively first. Dr. Hughes simply said something today as we were discussing crew morale and it has rendered me philosophical, I suppose."

The small space was made even smaller by the other woman but Lottie smiled and rest her head against the other woman’s chin and sighed happily. “Please do not leave abruptly. I would hate that.” She admitted. “What did he say?”

"That our situations were not all that different. I had been explaining a little to him of my circumstance, he seemed quite sympathetic, which I am not used to." The prospect of grieving her separation from family had never been anything Hera had been able to share with others. The decision had not been made lightly but it had been made with agreement from all sides that it was for the best and the consequence for official exile had never been sugar-coated. Returning wasn't really an option and yet the prospect of it being an actual impossibility had thrown her equilibrium in a way that was taking Hera some time to process.

Lottie nodded and kissed her temple lightly so that she could reel just enough reassurance in her presence without it being stifling in her face whilst she was explaining stuff. “He is a good guy.” The nurse surmised.

A dip of her head was Hera's only acknowledgement of agreement before moving on. "It did encourage me to reflect on how similar my choices are to yours, with the only difference being possibility, at least for now. Home is not without of reach as far as star travel goes but it might as well be for all the welcome I'd enjoy." She leaned her head atop the human's and closed her eyes. "You have done a much better job of redefining your purpose though."

“I try to but it is a very human defining trait to move forward, it’s the motion of the ocean, but you are welcome here.” Lottie flirted just a little before she savoured the silence and the comfort of the woman surrounding her.

"And you are welcome here," Hera echoed, possibly meaning the small vessel but just as likely veering towards a more metaphorical application. She kept her eyes closed and smiled. "You are very comfortable." A familiar air of mischief had crept into the Ziu-ni's tone.

Lottie smiled at the mischief and matched it with her own tone. “This is how you sleep sometimes.” Lottie said quietly not disturbing the mood nor the woman from her lap.

"What, with my eyes closed," Hera teased, not opening them.

“All over me.” Lottie laughed nudging her with her nose for a moment before sighing happily. “I would not change this.” She announced to the world.

Hera cracked open an eye. "Not even when your legs go numb?" Her playful side never stayed hidden for long, though the longer they knew each other, the more the alien's capacity for deep introspection became obvious. Now that it seemed likely that the incumbent anniversary was not going to cause her lover too much distress, Hera saw no need to hold onto the topic, at least for now. Leaning up, she stole a kiss and then rested her forehead against Lottie's.

"Then let's not change it, at least for now."


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