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The Truth That Feels Like A Lie

Posted on Mon May 31st, 2021 @ 6:28pm by Commander Arianna Frost & Lieutenant Colonel Storr Garlake

Mission: S1E5: Symphony of Horror
Location: DS9 - Quark's
Timeline: MD2

Storr not-so-gently set the glass back down on the bar, the harsh liquid note still lingering on his tongue and throat. Signaling to the bartender for another, he looked around at the garish place, shaking his head. While he understood why she wanted to meet here, it didn't mean he had to like it. Or the whiskey.

Frost wasn't sure he'd even arrive. Arianna and the Colonel had only had an acquaintance level relationship thus far, based on interactions during the original IA interview and subsequent mission to Venus. Aside from that both had kept to themselves.

Arianna held a general kind of respect towards Storr Garlake, based on the man's record and Jaya's waxing poetic of the same, but she didn't really know the man. Which was why his conduct during the break in the inquest and the continuation was...odd to say the least.

So, to clear the air, Arianna extended an invitation to Storr for a chat, to try to clear the air.

"Colonel..." Frost approached the bar, taking a seat next to him, "Smirnoff, Black ice." She ordered from the bartender.

The Afrikaner looked up and half-smiled at Arianna, nodding to the seat beside him. Watching as she gracefully took the stool he couldn't help but appreciate her feminine figure and face, outlined by a shoulder-length bob. She was pretty, and Storr could see (at least physically) why Akiva fancied her.

A glass and bottle clattering on the bartop between them thankfully disrupted his train of thought. Taking his glass, the marine raised it towards Frost. "Gesondheid."

Arianna raised a glass in kind, "na zdorov'ye," she said in return, in Russian.

Taking a sip, Garlake set the glass back down on the bartop and returned his gaze to Ari. "Commander, thanks for the invite. I know that the tribunal's been stressful, especially your part in it, so I completely understand the need to unwind." Taking another sip, he sighed gently before continuing. "Trust me, as a marine 'work hard, play hard' was more than just a motto. I have to ask though...why me? My charming personality, I'm sure." Storr said with a chuckle. They hadn't had much interaction outside of short interviews during the investigation and the Venus mission so his curiosity was piqued.

Frost couldn't help a soft chuckle at the Marine's self-deprecating manner. It showed depth for people other than Jaya and presumably Akiva to see. "I wanted to understand you better, Colonel. It felt like things were different, since the start of this whole mess." She said, taking a sip of the vodka, "it felt as if the change was for the better and for worse at the same time. Jaya missed me, that much was clear, even to a non-empath."

"That she was," Garlake replied with a chuckle before finishing his glass. While his wife's physical outpouring of a seemingly infinite well of emotions tended to mystify him, he accepted it as part of her nature and usually wasn't jealous. Usually.

Looking over at the Colonel, she decided upfront was the best course of action. "You seemed angry, or at the very list disgruntled to see me. I wanted to clear the air if there was any issues that I might not be aware of?"

Even though it was just over a month since the end of the Venus mission, it felt longer, so much longer. The hurried activation of Project Castermer, the Donnager Operation which saw her team killed. It seemed like forever ago that they had all worked together.

Storr's eyebrows raised. "Well, that was...direct," he replied, running a hand through his short beard. While he didn't know her well, the times they had spent together had been professional and equally direct so it shouldn't have been as much a surprise as it was. "I..." he paused, taking a breath and exhaling. He what? What should have been very simple was turning into a far more complex answer the more and more he thought it through. "I...I'm sorry, this is just a bit surprising, that's all."

Arianna nodded, observing the quite obvious conundrum in the Afrikaaner's features.

"The issue is Akiva," the Afrikaner finally said with a self-reflectant sigh. "Laena is his wife, full stop, and you're a threat to that." Motioning to the bartender to refill both their glasses, he turned back to the Aussie-Russian. "I don't mean to be rude but your presence here is making him feel complicated towards her."

"First the Taskmaster, and now you?" Arianna thought as she opened her mouth, only to close it a moment later.

Present tense. A thought clicked in her head. Things had changed since their last talk on the QEC. Another conversation to be had, but not now. She had to figure out what it meant to her first. It meant something, otherwise, she wouldn't have felt a kick in the gut at Storr's words, nor the surprise of it.

Must have been a recent development?

She took another moment, took a sip of her drink, and exhaling before opening her mouth to speak again.

"You are a good friend, Colonel." She said finally. Then another awkward pause before continuing, "my presence here is not something I can help, and you know that. As for how the Captain feels towards his wife, well...that's on him. Not on me. We are friends, nothing more."

It somehow felt like a lie, though it was also very much the truth.

"She hurt him, and he was quite devastated, though he seemed more settled the last couple of times we talked. Even told me he'd ended it with her." It seemed that telling things as they were was going to be the hallmark of this excursion. "By your reaction, I surmise that that may not be the case at this time. Even still...he's not processed what it all means, I don't think."

Neither had she herself if that residual gut kick was anything to go by.

Storr opened his mouth and closed it immediately. She was right about her presence and Akiva's feelings not being under her control but she did have control over how she managed her time with the Captain and what was said in those conversations. She was right that Laena had devastated the Captain but that didn't mean there couldn't be reconciliation or that Ari needed to rush into that maelstrom. She was right about Akiva not being finished processing what was going on between him and Laena but that's because it was far from being finished. She was right that they were just friends but between Akiva's reaction toward her, the likely intimacy of their conversations, and Ari's reaction to what Garlake had just said, there was good reason to think that if it wasn't more already, there was a desire on both sides to escalate things.

The station commandant shook his head and reached into the bowl of salted nuts, tossing a handful into his mouth. He wasn't a "stress eater" but needed to chew on something to clear his mind. Unfortunately, this was far from it.

"Bleh!" he nearly belched rather than exclaimed. Leaning over the bar and grabbing a water bottle, he quickly uncapped it and slugged the entire half-liter before slamming it down next to the bowl. "What is...," he began, pointing at the bowl, his face screwed in a look of disgust and contempt. "You know, never mind, I don't want to know what that is." Exhaling deeply, he pushed the bowl away and turned back to Frost with a sheepish grin.

"That was embarrassing...sorry about that. By the way, those are not salted nuts," he said with a chuckle, trying to regain his composure and at least a little dignity. The bartender huffed just behind them as he took the offending snacks away, muttering something about hoomans not enjoying Ferengi pearl-slugs.

By the time he was done composing himself Arianna was scrambling to get her laughter under control. The last thing she had expected was the scene that had unfolded next to her. So she quickly wiped the sides of her eyes as he looked over at her again, so as not to embarrass the Marine further.

"Look, you're beautiful, sensible, and thoughtful and in any other circumstance would make a great woman for Akiva...While I hate what Laena's done to him and despise how she's continued to flummox the man, I still think there's hope for reconciliation. I'm trying to keep outside forces from muddying the waters and don't mean to offend."

Again, the Colonel was showing surprising depths and Arianna could definitely see why Jaya loved the man so much. And again surprised, both with the compliment and devotion to his friend despite being quite clearly aware of issues.

Except, how does one even begin to address things in that statement?

"I understand and respect your protectiveness and loyalty to your friend. Of course, you want to see them reconciled, though I would imagine more for the Captain's sake than, Ms. Laena's. What makes you think I would want different?" Another truth that also felt like a lie. "Friends are happy for their friends, and so would I be." Frost took another sip of her drink. "If that is to be the outcome, then that will be the outcome. That, however, doesn't mean that I will stop being the Captain's friend."

Green eyes caught blue, "even if that means encouraging the resolution of their...dilemma, to whatever end. I respect the Captain and I respect myself that much to ensure that happens. I won't be the cause of the dissolution of one's relationship or marriage."

The simplified answer was if things were to escalate, there needed to be a clean slate. Room for only one. She also needed time herself to sort out what she was feeling. Being in that room earlier...things had definitely changed.

This wasn't the time nor the place. Bigger things were happening around them. Much bigger and much more impactful.

"No offense taken," she added as an afterthought, "there should be more friends like you around." A smile finally as she finished her drink and ordered another, "and thanks for the compliment. Wasn't fishing for it, but always nice to hear."

Storr nodded slowly as Arianna spoke, her smile at the end softening & brightening both her features and mood. "Well, I call them as I see them," he said with a charming smile. "Akiva's lucky to have you as a friend but I have to ask...you've talked about what you won't do, what is it that you truly want with him? If we're being honest with each other, I think it would be helpful if we both knew what your desires are even if they run counter to what we think needs to happen."

"You sound suspiciously like Jaya now." Frost chuckled as she signaled for another round of drinks. "She's rubbing off on you, I'd say."

Another round was placed before them. Ari took a long sip before addressing his question, "you're asking a complicated question, Colonel. On one hand, it doesn't matter what I want. Bloody hell, I don't even know where I'm going after this inquest or if I'm ever going to see any of you again face to face. On the other, I'm still trying to figure out, what I want out of the whole thing. I value friendship above all else...doing what I do, genuine friendships are so very hard to come by and maintain."

And yet...things had evolved, she couldn't deny it. Was it worth it though, entertaining such thoughts while there was a very real possibility that a reconciliation might happen? What did Jaya say back then about opening herself up to possibilities?

"Perhaps it's best not to dwell on it while the other situation is going on," Ari said finally, her eyes more fixated on her drink than on her drinking companion. "I will own up to one thing though, I care about the Captain. He's a good, moral, smart man. Sometimes seriously awkward," a smile formed on her face at that, "but that's perfectly okay."

Garlake couldn't help but chuckle at her comment. He hadn't really thought about it but it was quite possible that Arianna was right...while he had initially gone into their relationship to change Jaya's mind about human men, it might be that she indeed had an influence on him as well. Of course, he'd never admit it.

"Well, I'll take that as a compliment given how she adores you. I'll also channel her by saying that you didn't answer my question but I won't probe further as it sounds like you have some serious thinking to do." Storr chuckled again. "And you're right about the Captain...he could use a good woman li" he didn't finish his sentence but rather placed his hand over his mouth. "I suppose we both do," he said, eyes twinkling as he brought his hand back down.

"You won't pry now? After all we just said?" Frost gave an amused chuckle, but was silently thankful. She made a silent promise to herself to sort out her feelings sooner rather than later.

"Well, there's still a bit of our drinks left and I don't want to waste it or time with a pretty lady so tell me more about your history and family..."

"I'm from Alpha Eridani Two, we call it Achernar." Frost replied, turning to face Storr again. "It's a small colony close to the Romulan space border of Federation space. My mum and dad own the 'Fig & Olive' Pub in Heliopolis, the Capital. My brother Rob is a private investigator there. We're both very much into that kind of thing, but he's the type to stay closer to home, whereas I wanted to see the stars as it were." Ari took a sip, "South Africa?"

"Good guess," Storr replied, mentally noting the pub's name as knowing where to get a good pint around the galaxy was of top priority. "My ouballie and mallie live on our estate in Laphalale, a couple hours outside of Johannesburg. My brother is a fellow Marine that just transferred to the John Paul Jones and my sister is living happily in Rhodesia as a wife to a game warden. I have various other family throughout southern Africa and space, though most stayed relatively close-to-home in SA." He smiled thinking of the Nyala Berry and Baobab trees back home and wondered when he and Jaya would be able to visit again. Maybe she could have the triplets there? Garlake absently stroked his beard in thought but was brought back by his conversation partner gently clearing her throat.

Frost observed the physical changes on the Marine's face as he lapsed into memories both old and new that he wanted to make. Despite the general direction of this conversation, Arianna decided that she liked Storr Garlake. Forthright yet thoughtful, strong yet sensitive with a very keen mind.

"Sorry about that...just got thinking about home, that's all." Looking at the chronograph by the door, Storr stood and grabbed his glass. "Sorry to leave you but there's an even more beautiful woman desperately needing my attention. I appreciate the talk and your honesty; here's to more future understanding." Garlake raised his glass to Arianna and, with a wink and a smile, downed his glass before setting it on the bar and making for the exit.

Arianna watched Storr leave, though her mind was elsewhere. Usually she prided herself in keeping a steely control and a calm countenance around people, though now there wasn't just one person that could unravel the deep, hidden parts of her, there were three, each in their own way. Jaya, Akiva and now Storr. There was a new directive on the horizon though, now, one she thought she would deal with alone. People had noticed, she had let them in. Alone wasn't a posibility anymore.

"I am in so much trouble." Frost thought to herself as she downed her vodka. She set the glass on the counter heavily and stood up.

First thing's first. There was the Tribunal to finish. Then she would see what the future brought.

 

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