A Drop in the Ocean

Posted on Tue Sep 19th, 2023 @ 8:15pm by Commander Benjamin Jamesson & Lieutenant JG Calanthe 'Cal' Diaz

Mission: Contagion
Location: Personal Quarters
Timeline: MD 365
3175 words - 6.4 OF Standard Post Measure

If she was honest, it wasn't the first time Calanthe had struggled to get out of bed.

When she was properly focused and coping as well as anyone could under the circumstances, the brunette still wouldn't have passed as a particularly proficient 'morning person' but it typically didn't take her long to find her stride. A decent shower, something resembling breakfast and a chance to concoct the day's mischief and a properly-motivated Calanthe was as chipper and spritely as the next person. Even on those days, however, the process of extracting herself from beneath the covers, and often from underneath her pillows, was not a quick affair. She slept deeply, and dreamt vividly, and often the combination of the two created an emotional oasis that was difficult to surrender. Of course, especially recently, it was just as likely to evoke a crushing sense of hopelessness and pain but that was hardly motivation to rise early either. Bed, and subsequently sleep, was one of the few assurances of privacy she had, which also made it a considerable source of loneliness on her darker days. There were definitely times when it seemed tempting to allow all of it to swallow her whole.

It went without saying that today, of all days, was not one the crew had anticipated with any sense of joy or expectation. Many times since their journey had started, that sense of shared loss had fostered camaraderie they'd all come to depend on but this was different. This was an anniversary none of them had looked forward to, and whilst it was far too significant to ignore, it was hardly something that could be celebrated. Nobody had really seemed to come up with any brilliant idea about what to do about it, the overall consensus seemed almost to ignore it entirely, and that would have been fine had that not resembled something of a betrayal. She'd been too busy this time 365 days ago to properly comprehend how complicated things would become in the future but here she was, a year on, and no amount of burying her head under her pillow was going to change things. Somewhere, more than a lifetime away, her father was likely facing a similar challenge as he contemplated a birthday spent in his daughter's absence.

The first of many, in all likelihood.

And of course, the timing had sucked. There was no good time to be flung so far from anything familiar that you might as well be dead, for all the good it did those you left behind to contemplate otherwise. It wasn't just the guilt of sabotaging her father's happiness, there was a self-imposed inability to talk about it with anyone, even Lexi, because if any time could be considered inappropriate for complaining about your own problems, this was it. Everyone felt like shit. Everyone was missing key milestones back home. Everyone was one day closer to accepting that this was just the way it was going to be from now on. From the depths of her blanket burrow, Cal attempted to muster the energy to chastise herself to move and fell well short of anything adequate.

Just 5 more minutes. Just a drop in the ocean, when you really thought about it.

Benjamin, as he stood there on that fateful day, was acutely aware that it was destined to be one of the most grueling they had ever faced. The ship's cramped confines had become a breeding ground for tension, and he had already intervened twice to quell heated arguments between crew members, employing his gift for words to defuse the situation. Despite his outward composure, he could not deny the strain that had settled deep within him.

He felt the space of separation as well as knowing it was a whole dimension away. He would never see his Earth again but he was slowly coming to terms with that, he had to keep putting one step forward if he was ever going to be able to achieve anything in life. He had contemplated for a long time coming off the mid shift at midnight whether he should just stay up and take Calanthe breakfast before he went to bed. It was healthier for him on the 4 to midnight shift to stay up and then go to sleep 8 ish to 2 ish he had learnt so being stood there at 7 a.m. pressing the bell he looked awake and ready to be there for someone he cared about.

There were not many people, despite Calanthe's relentless pursuit of conversation with everyone on board, who ever made it as far as her front door. The current predictable total stopped at 3, and at least one of those knew better than to turn up unannounced. She may not have completely figured out what Nate's situation was, despite the rumour mill providing plenty of perspective, but Cal was reasonably sure she could strike him off the list of early-morning callers. It left Lexi and, though she sometimes wondered if she was being a little too presumptuous to think as much, Ben. Neither prospect stayed her hand as her first impulse was to throw a pillow at the door.

Why does the damn door chime sound so cheerful?

"Okay, okay already."

The tousled, bleary-eyed bundle of grump that squinted up at Ben as the door opened to reveal her swaddled in her blanket might have been alarming had it not been so immediately, intricately recognisable.


Benjamin winched at the voice that came from within but he did not turn and run off. He was not a quitter at all and he was not going to back down from something he really wanted. “Hey. I thought today of all days that you could use some pampering and breakfast in bed.” He said knowing he was moving things a little more forward but it felt appropriate that they.

Given that she'd transported a good portion of her bed with her, Calanthe took a moment mid-drowsiness to revel in mild confusion. For a while now, it had been this semi-asleep state that had provoked the most clarity when it came to the information Smith had dumped into her head, which tended to jumble her reality with the overlay of a familiar yet different one and rendered it difficult to tell the two apart. On the one hand, this was Ben, who didn't normally turn up first thing in the morning with breakfast. On the other, this was Ben, who she could have sworn was asleep right next to her...

Her face contorted from the effort to avoid yawning.

"That time already, huh?" Despite everything, an element of weary humour allowed a decently accurate perception to reassert itself and she stepped aside to allow him in. It would be a few more minutes before she even considered being bothered about how terrible she looked.

The man offered a shrug at her question. “Seemed appropriate that I make an offering and check on you before I head to bed.” He said quietly as he poked the controls near the door one handed and turned the light up just a notch so as the door closed he was able to see enough.

The sudden glare didn't do a lot for Cal's squint but the gesture, now that it was finally registering and the correct version of reality returned with some clarity, earned the gruff engineer a tired smile. "I guess I did miss breakfast, huh?" No matter their shift pattern, it had been an easy routine to fall back into, the self-same routine she'd shared with him the first time around. Just as it had been back then, it was usually an incredible motivator for getting up early enough to eat, which generally improved the odds of her getting through the day in a decent mood.

"Well you would miss it and your shift start if I did not turn up, I suspect," Benjamin said putting the food down on her bed so that she could not get back into bed at all. It left her no option but to wake up more to be on the bridge on time. "It is just past 07:00." He offered as explanation.

"Wonderful." Even with his efforts, Cal was tempted to curl into whatever small corner of the bed remained. Instead, she sank onto a chair, still swaddled in a blanket, and wrapped it in such a way that only her face peered out. "You think anyone would notice if I just turned up like this?"

Preoccupied as she was with the mounting realisation of what this day represented, and just how difficult it was going to be to get through it knowing that nobody else was enjoying it any more than she was, Calanthe lacked the focus to figure out just how much empathy Ben was bringing to this simple gesture. In truth, it hadn't even occurred to her yet that he understood this was more than just a dreadful anniversary to her, that he would know how much guilt she carried for ruining her father's birthday, and the ache that twisted her stomach in knots knowing that this was the first time ever she wouldn't be able to talk to him or be there in person. It wasn't an intentional attempt to take him for granted, more another example of how easy it was for him to settle into a part of her life she so often kept to herself without her even noticing. Pulling her legs up, she attempted to curl into a ball on the seat instead.

"I'm moving, I swear."

“Go shower and wake up and this will be waiting for you once you are ready.” He promoted picking up the uniform she had left lying on the desk area for the new day. “I am very much sure they will notice and Leroux does not seem to be the type to take it as a joke on today of all days.” He said trying to poke her into something with the hour that she had.

"You're a bully." The protest, weak and entirely without sincere intent, was partially muffled by blanket. He had a point though. Leroux was approachable as far as leadership went but her tolerance for inefficiency, especially on days like today, wasn't particularly strong. With a groan, she half-rolled off the chair and allowed the blanket to puddle around her feet. It took all of five seconds for her to pull it back up around her waist as she recalled, a fraction too late, what she she had...or rather hadn't...worn to bed.

Pink-cheeked, she dragged the whole thing towards the bathroom. There was a moment where trying to get through the door encumbered required a forfeit of grace, but she disappeared eventually, only for the blanket to be jettisoned seconds later, followed by a dark head of messy hair poked around the doorframe.

"Uh, can you toss me my uniform?" Flustered but capable, as always, of seeing the funny side of her mishaps, Calanthe rolled her eyes and, despite the subject matter of the day to come, supressed a smile. "I'm a train wreck, I know. nice."

The man had instantly looked away but it could not deny that he had seen the knickers nor the way he instantly flashed back to another time time and place. He let out an awkward cough but laughed just a little as he set about retrieving the uniform for her. “You are not a train wreck. But I will be nice.” He said offering the piles of clothing to the woman that had been laid out with socks and underwear previously.

All things considered, especially in regards to the temptation of lingering anywhere that provided a small measure of comfort, Calanthe spent such a short amount of time in the shower that it wouldn't have been a stretch to wonder if she was sickening for something. When she was emerged, she was mostly dressed, had brushed her hair to its usual high sheen and looking marginally, if not completely, human. She flopped into the chair to pull on socks.

"So I'm curious, what does portable breakfast look like?" She'd at least had time to process the full extent of his gesture.

The man had pottered around and made the bed whilst the woman was in the shower making the bed and folding discarded clothes into a pile. "Eggs on toast and a cup of coffee." The man said lifting the lid off the tray to show 2 plates one with sweet chilli on and one with tabascco.

She smiled faintly at that. It wasn't just that he remembered because there was no reason that he shouldn't, not when such knowledge had obviously been such an integral part of daily life for him for quite a while. It was more that it confirmed another similarity between his version of Calanthe and herself and the more of those that stacked up, the wilder it seemed to her that there could be other versions of her out there, living almost parallel lives. For all the impact it had had, it was still hard to really conceptualise it sometimes.

Reaching out a hand to accept her plate, she added another similarity to the list by pulling the crust from the bread first and then dipping it into the cold-yet-still-runny-enough yolk of one of the eggs. As she chewed, she regarded the engineering with gentle intrigue.

"Does it feel the same to you?," she eventually asked softly. "This anniversary, I mean. With everything that's happened to you, do you feel connected to this at all?"

The man sat down slowly checking that the chair was not going to move under his bulk and started to tuck into his food. “It does but it doesn’t. I have not been home to Earth for a long time. I am used to being away so this is not different.” He said taking a sip of the coffee.

One of the more frustrating things about their situation was that, in terms of pure information, Ben had her trumped. Calanthe had been involved in enough discussions with her Ben to know a few details about his private life but nothing compared to what would have been a far better handle on the half-remembered conversations still floating around in her head. Some things were crystal-clear but, over time, what lingered best was the way he'd made her...the other her...feel. More mundane things, like the name of his mother for example, were annoyingly elusive.

"There's a fine line between realism and fatalism, you know," she replied softly. If the parallels were as strong as they seemed, he'd have a decent idea of how strong her connection to home was and how much the separation dug deep. "You don't always have to be the stoic one. At some point, it's probably okay to say that shit sucks."

"I am not being stoic I am just being truthful. Home is where the heart is and my heart is here but I do know that you miss home and you miss having this for breakfast the way your mother made it so I thought you might like this because I knew that you would be carrying my load of missing home." He said simply thinking back to when his version of her had joked that she got his share of the homebody feels. There was nothing right or wrong about how people felt it was more about how they adapted and shared the load and he was trying to help her in a small way.

It was a sweet gesture which, catching her at an already tender time, threatened to render Cal's eyes a little damper than she'd like. She blinked quickly, not opposed to allowing this man to see her fragile side but worried that if she started now, this early, she'd never make it through the day. "You're a sweetheart," she murmured earnestly, delaying the need for further response by taking another bite of the breakfast he'd remembered.

“Eat up. You are running out of time.” He prompted already taking another bite of the food. Despite being a bit cold it was still enjoyable and worth staying up later to have as one thing decent instead of the midnight meal.

"You know I used to try to make Dad eggs on his birthday every year." As soon as the words left her mouth, Calanthe lowered her eyes to her plate. "Actually, you probably do know. My bad."

He smiled. “I know my version of it. Tell me yours.” He advised trying to keep to their deal of learning about each other in this universe. He could easily say yes he did but they seemed with not learning.

A faint tug of her lips tried its best to return his smile. "Dad wasn't always home for his birthday, of course. During his days of active deployment, we were lucky if we could speak directly to him some years. The whole eggs thing became a tradition I got stubborn about, always made his share even if there was nobody around to eat them."

A pervading sense of defeat saw Cal's hand, still clutching the remains of a piece of toast, drop to her lap.

"It's the stupidest thing but I can't shake the feeling that the worst part of all of this is that I'm not there to make his damn eggs for him."

“I suspect he will be thinking the same thing and wishing you were there but there is nothing you can do to change it, Calanthe, and your father would not want you to dwell and be sad for him.” The man was very sure of that. He had no one to think on back on Earth so it was easy for him to say what he had but he was trying.

"I know." With effort, she resumed eating, conscious now of the time and Ben's unwillingness to let her squander it. "I just wish there was some way to let them know I was okay." It wouldn't have been perfect but, at least, they would know she was alive. Finally lifting her dark eyes to meet his, Cal managed a half-hearted smile that did nothing to diminish her despondency. "At this rate, they'll never know I'm studying an alien language that may never actually be useful."

"But you are doing what you love." The man pointed out smiling more. "That is what your dad would want you to do so eat up, get up and face the day." He prompted looking at the time knowing it was quickly running out.

From across the room, a small section of crust was lobbed with playful accuracy. Smiling properly despite the odds, Cal mustered the composure to pull a face at him and huffed, "Trust you to ruin a perfectly good sulk with commonsense and reason."