Posted by Lieutenant Faye Calloway (Mission Specialist) in Starbase 173 (2398)-Gambits
“I know. It worries me a little.” But he smiled at her withering glare. “Then again I don’t think I’ve ever met someone quite as scrappy as you Faye Calloway so I suspect you’ll find a way of making things land on your side somehow.”
“Awww, that almost sounds like a vote of confidence.”
“And that sounds like a yes to me.”
She downed the rest of her own drink. “When do we leave?”
Strickland shook his head in slight disbelief. “Tomorrow, if you can get get your affairs in order that soon.”
Faye rose to her feet. “Name the time and place.”
“Shuttlebay 2. Nineteen hundred hours.”
Faye moved to the door. “See you then,” she said giving him a salute with her first two fingers.
“Hey now, coming from you that’s almost rude,” he quipped.
“I prefer the term irreverent,” Faye said as she slipped through the doors.
Left alone in his guest quarters, Strickland just chuckled. He had a good feeling about all of this and if nothing else Lieutenant Calloway would make life far more interesting.
Undisclosed Location, One Month Later (2390)
The object whizzed past his head far more closely than he wanted to admit he was comfortable with. It hit the wall ahead of him with a dull thud. Turning his head, Leroy smirked. “Should I be glad that wasn’t a whiskey bottle?”
“How did I ever let you convince me that this was a good idea?” she shouted.
His expression softened. “You’ve had a bad day, Faye. Albeit an exceptionally bad one, but a bad day nonetheless. They happen.”
“A bad day? A bad day? This is more than a bad day!”
He looked her over. The poor woman was covered from head to toe in a dark substance that others might have mistaken for dirt, but was most definitely not. He had to fight from laughing.
“You think this is funny?!”
His internal red alert went up and Strickland beelined for the door and subsequent safety. “Shower. Food. Sleep. In that order, Lieutenant,” he said picking up his pace.
“Running away are we? Coward!”
“I’m avoiding your right-hook,” he quipped nonchalantly before disappearing from the training room.
“Go ahead and run! You can’t hide from me Strickland!” Brushing what amounted to goo off of her arm, she grumbled, “Some days I really hate my life.” And yet she still wore the barest hint of a smile.
Despite how crappy today was she was having the time of her life.
The next morning, Leroy and Faye sat at a table in the mess along with several of the marines Faye was training with. If someone had told her three years ago she be sitting here having friendly banter over breakfast with a bunch of marines, Faye would have told them to request a psyc eval. And yet here she was. Granted, not one of them had pulled that superiority routine crap on her ever since she made it clear where she stood. Then again, it hadn’t been the Samurai where her emotions were easily provoked and she would let her fist fly if she felt truly compelled to. But it had involved a sanctioned sparring match and much to her and the marine’s surprise, it was Faye who walked away without so much as a bruise. After that, the marines seemed to grant her some respect (if grudgingly) and after the first couple weeks, it had grown to something amounting to camaraderie. If only Jubal Early could see her now… he’d probably vomit. It made her smile.
Faye sipped her coffee and turned to Leroy. “So, today is…?”
“Holodeck 1. Be ready for physical exertion,” he said nonchalantly.
“Why does that sound like an understatement?”
Strickland grinned. “Because you catch on fast.”
Sure enough, a couple hours later, Faye and Leroy were on the holodeck scaling an enormous rock face… without safety gear. It had to easily be two hundred metres high and they had only navigated the first fifty. It was tricky as well, and Faye found it required her complete and utter attention. Then again, it was just the holodeck.
They moved in silence, Faye to the right of and slightly lower than Strickland. They took turns leading and seemed to have fallen into a rhythm of trading off without needing words.
“Have I mentioned the safeties are off?” he said eventually, tossing the remark carelessly.
Faye paused, but only for a moment. Yes, he had momentarily thrown her, but now was not the time to lose focus. “Lovely…” she quipped as she kept climbing, testing each hold before she committed her weight to it.
They carried on for another seventy-five metres and both were getting tired, but neither seemed inclined to stop just yet. Just another seventy-five metres and they were done! Faye smiled at that thought as she reached up to hunt for another good place for her hand. It took a moment to find something secure enough and it certainly stretched her right arm a bit more than she would have liked. But she took a deep breath and moved her left hand off its hold and went to reach up.
The next thing Faye knew small bits of rubble were skittering down the rock face and Faye’s previously secure hold was now precarious and about to break off entirely. She had let out a gasp of surprise as she felt her body swing and dig her fingertips into the rock as hard as she could.
Leroy missed nothing and immediately stretched out his free arm. “Grab my hand!”
With all the strength she could muster and without hesitation, Faye reached up with her left hand, desperately seeking his. The instant her hand grasped his, she let out a small breath of relief as she realized he had reached a small ledge and was in a more stable position. It was probably the only reason he was able to help haul her upwards towards safety.
By the time she was safely on the ledge, Faye’s shoulder was in terrible pain, as was her wrist. But she was alive. Leroy handed her the canteen of water and she gulped it down, wincing as she handed it back to him. “That was entirely set-up, wasn’t it?” she said, shaking her head as the full realization sunk in. Leroy just smirked at her. “Do I get to ask why?”
Finishing his sip, he handed the water back to her. “Does it matter?”
“Then the answer is simple, Faye. It was a test, and one you passed with flying colours.”
She shook her head. “I don’t get it.”
Strickland smirked and nudged her with his elbow. “You trusted me.”
Faye turned her head and gazed at him for several long moments. “I didn’t hesitate.”
“You didn’t hesitate. And saved both of us the terrible incident of you falling off a cliff.”
“What would have happened?”
Leroy half-shrugged. “They would have beamed you out before you hit the ground.”
“Kind of them,” she said dryly.
He laughed. “Computer, end program.” The scenic mountain view disappeared and they sat in the gridded space. Leroy pushed himself to his feet and offered her his hand.
Letting him help her up, she winced slightly, knowing that a visit to the Infirmary was next on the agenda. “What, didn’t want to finish the fun?”
“Eh, I have no doubt you could have finished the climb, injured or not. That wasn’t the point.”
Planting her one good hand on her hip, Faye narrowed her eyes. “Does everything we do have to be some sort of test?”
“Life is a test, Faye. It’s just that failure doesn’t always present itself the way we expect. Neither does success.”
Considering this, Faye broke into a tiny smile. “And I pass this time because I trusted you?”
Gazing into her stormy eyes, Strickland’s seemed intense and she thought perhaps even proud. “More than that Faye. You don’t have to give me than answer because I already know it, but consider this: when was the last time you ever gave one hundred percent control of your life over to someone else. Anyone else.” He pivoted on her ball of his foot and headed for the exit.
The answer, of course, was never. Until today. More than a little humbled and intrigued, Faye followed Strickland out.
Somehow, despite all the odds, she trusted this man unconditionally. He had never demanded more of her than she was willing to give and yet he had found this delicate way of pushing her to be more, be better. She hated him for it some days, but she also loved him for it.
A few weeks later, Faye made that idle comment one evening as she and some of the marines were passing a bottle of something around. A little bit tipsy, Faye’s mind didn’t seem to have as much of a filter. Leann, a gunny with almost as good an ability to wield a knife as Faye, elbowed her and whispered. “So, have you slept with him yet?”
Faye could do nothing but laugh and laugh and laugh until her sides hurt. The answer would surprise people and she could understand why they assumed it, but no, her and Leroy would never ever be like that. After all, Strickland was very, very into men.
A few months later, in her old and beat up Armadillo-class shuttle that had seen better days and yet had a few clever and hidden tweaks to the engines, Faye Calloway embarked on what she felt was going to be an exciting mission. But she understood the risks too. In a bizarre way she understood those Jem’Hadar monsters who destroyed her home and killed all the people she had loved. For she too now had a forfeit life and every action would help her reclaim it. If not, ah well, at least she had tried. And at least she had begun to find something of a different way of being. It was surprising and more than a little weird, but the discomfort was fading fast as she, for the first time in her life, began to truly embrace who she was. And this time, someone had her back too.
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