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No Debts

Posted on Sat Nov 4th, 2023 @ 9:35pm by Lieutenant JG Jaya Maera Garlake & Lieutenant Colonel Storr Garlake & Commander Arianna Frost

Mission: Season 1 Interlude II (E5.5)
Location: Yuna Tarka Medical Facility, The Garlake's room
Timeline: ID 7

It felt incredible to have use of all of her faculties again. She had to have minor surgery to repair the damage to her hand and fingers, and she now had supportive bindings on her hand for a few days so as to make sure she took it easy. The body still needed a few days to recover. Her ribs and muscles were, thankfully, an easy fix.

Her vision had luckily stabilized too, both due to the rest of her body being repaired and her retina and optic nerve deciding to cooperate again. She knew one thing, though, when they got back to Overwatch, she'd need to talk to Doctor T'Bela about maintenance surgery. With the issues on Venus, and now this...Ari knew that the degradation had begun again.

All negative thoughts evaporated for the moment as she reached Jaya's room. Ari pressed the buzzer to announce her presence.

"Come in!"

The door opened at Jaya's invitation. She was lying in bed, recovering from her ordeal. Not only had she been kidnapped and beaten to a pulp, but after she had been rescued, the injuries she had sustained sent her into a premature delivery. How premature was difficult to assess due to the mixed physiologies of human and Deltan, but it was too close for comfort. Three beautiful triplets were kept inside an enclosed incubator which simulated an environment somewhere between the womb and open air.

"Ari!" Despite the puffiness around Jaya's face, she still beamed at the sight of her friend. "Thank you so much for coming! Storr and I..." She trailed off as she remembered that he was passed out asleep on the adjacent biobed. Soft snoring cut through the air. "... well, we owe you a great debt."

Ari grinned and changed her tone to match, "You owe me nothing, mate. There was no way I wouldn't come and get you. I'm just sorry it took me so long to find you." She did a little wave as if to dismiss the debt and pulled up a chair with her good hand. "How are you both feeling?"

It pained her to see her friends in such a state. They'd done nothing to deserve such vicious reprisal. To go to such lengths...this was why Arianna joined the security services, to protect people against individuals like Kontos and his ilk. And yet she failed to protect those closest to her now.

"I'm just grateful that you did." Jaya felt a frown overtake her face, but she did nothing to stop it. "Should've trusted my gut. I knew something was wrong with that Andorian captain on the cruise. Storr was having the time of his life swinging from one rope to another up in the sails... I ignored my own senses and almost got us killed for it."

Ari couldn't help a smirk. "Bet that was a sight though," she said with a soft laugh, "but, you're both alive, and my nieces and nephews have joined us. Can I meet them?"

"I was actually hoping you would say that..." Jaya bit back a coy grin as she pulled the transparent incubator over to her. It was mounted on a cart for ease of mobility. Three tiny but otherwise healthy premature infants kicked their little feet with curled toes. Little eyes hadn't even opened yet. "The boys are Aker and Kevin, named after each of our fathers. There's a girl, too. Her name is Chelsea." At that, Jaya grinned wide despite the bruises on her face, unable to contain her joy any longer.

Ari blinked for a moment. Chelsea? Her heart beat just that little bit faster at that as she looked down at the babies, lingering over her little namesake. She tapped her finger just above little Chelsea for a moment, a soft smile on her face.

"Well, I know my favorite." Ari grinned, "I'm honored, my friend." She reached over to Jaya and pulled her into a gentle hug. "God, I feel like it's been ages since we talked, so much has happened, and yet, it's hardly been a day or two."

"You can say that again..." Jaya let out a wry chuckle. "I feel like I've been through hell and back." Her eyes swept over her newborns, though, and the flame of her ever-present joy lit up once more. "Or like I've woken up from the longest dream."

Ari nodded, grinning at her friend's expression. "Let's go with the dream; it sounds better. We can do a neat little wipe under the rug. I kinda had a few fights of my own. And resolutions...I think," she said with an undefined expression.

Undefined because while there had been a resolution, it only clarified so much. And yet, she felt lighter and more settled than she had in a long time.

"And I take it you don't mean criminal mercenaries under the sea?" Jaya arched her brow and tried not to wince from the gesture. "Who have you been fighting with?"

Ari gave her a sheepish grin, "Laena...and Akiva...sort of." She motioned back towards the bed with her splinted hand. "Well, Laena fought more with me...verbally and physically."

At first, Jaya narrowed her eyes with suspicious intrigue, but then she covered the incubator with a small blanket. "Close your ears, wee bairns. This is grownup time." With that small task completed, Jaya looked back at Ari, crossed her arms, and pursed her lips against a naughty smirk. "Alright, then. Start from the beginning and spare no detail."

Ari laughed softly as the two sat back down and began re-telling her friend the events after the breakfast. The chat with Cal, as much as she could, without mentioning any trigger words. The follow-up chat with Akiva, who pretty much self-inserted at the end of her 'meditation' with Cal, and then the rather vicious altercation with Laena. Not three days ago, she'd felt tense and avoidant talking about any of these issues. Now though, she felt at peace, settled, calm.

As intense as those three interactions had been, Ari knew now she'd needed them.

"So...uh...yeah." Ari ran her good hand through her hair. "Then we got Matija's help to find you guys. And it was actually him that gave us the first proper clue, and then Mrazak's missus gave us the final piece of the puzzle."

"Sounds like that was the easy part," Jaya quipped. In truth, she wasn't quite ready yet to reflect on the events of her captivity. She knew it was avoidance, but with three newborns who were premature and in need of incubation before she could hold them like a mother should, there was plenty to avoid. A little gossip wouldn't hurt. "You rolled in the sand with Akiva, got slapped by Laena, and actually got to meet Mrazak's better half." Her eyes squinted again as she fought to remember. "Something about that rings a bell. Didn't she publicly shame him back on the ship?"

"Oh yeah, that nutjob went full feral on him." Ari laughed, "fuckin' nutcases, the both of them. I mean, normally, you know, you try to tune it out, people's private life issues and all, but the stuff that spewed out of her mouth...I'm loathe to say it, but I think that Mrazak is *the better half*, as inconceivable as that sounds."

At first, Jaya looked incredulous, but then her psychoanalytical skills kicked in. "No, wait, that tracks, actually," she said with a cringe. Changing the subject back to Ari, Jaya asked, "So did Matija help take your mind off Akiva?"

Frost laughed softly, cradling her splinted hand. "No." She said with a shake of her head, "I don't fuck my assets. Tends to lead to them having leverage overhead. Learned the hard way that's not the way you want to conduct business. Don't get me wrong, I was tempted, but nah...I steer clear of that pathway as a matter of principle." She explained, "That and...Akiva's not exactly easy to remove from mind."

"Ah, then in that case, you must tell me about the 'hard way'," Jaya said with a grin. "Storr and the babies are asleep. I could do with a sordid tale."

Ari raised an eyebrow at her friend. "You are an incorrigible fiend, and I love you for it." She said with a soft laugh as she leaned back in her chair. "It was back in '82. I was fresh out of the analyst desk, trying my hand at being a case officer and handler. I was on Angove II for an assignment. Needed to embed an asset back into an Orion Syndicate cell. He was a tall and wiry Bajoran man, dark hair, dark eyes, slight tan, gorgeous nasal ridges," Ari began.

"He was all charm, the reason we thought we wouldn't have an issue embedding him back in with the cell." Ari continued, looking around the room as she did so. "I was young, lonely, and thinking being a spy was awesome and sleeping around was par for the course. It's what my kind did...or so the whispers would say."

She crossed one leg over the other, "I hadn't handled him before his recruitment for our side, so I only went off of what was in his file and the vetting record. So, in theory, I knew he was a flirt, and he would try something. Three nights in, we were in a dingy-ass local motel when he snogged the senses out of me."

"Not seeing a downside yet," Jaya cut in, "unless it's that he left it there, and you had to go about your regular business all hot and bothered..." Then she teased, "... kind of like now."

Ari shrugged, "surprisingly, I'm actually fine. After the talk with Akiva...things...found their equilibrium, I think." She drifted off a bit, "anyway, we ended up in bed that night on Angove. Only to find myself at gunpoint from the head mook of said cell. My gorgeous Bajoran sold me out - before we even got there and planned to use me as his bargaining chip to get back in the cell's good graces, back in for a mid-level Federation spook. Only managed to get out because I had my 'oh-shit' button on me so my backup team managed to get me out." Frost sighed, "an OS Cell was left short its command that morning. And one hot Bajoran. After that, never again slept with an asset. A lot of people still do, but they just must have been lucky. More got the short end of the stick than not. I *will* say this, the nose is not the only place Bajorans have ridges." Ari finished with a cheeky wink in Jaya's direction.

"Oh my...." Jaya let out a giggle, then cast her eye on Storr. "Oh my," she repeated in a more sultry and dusky tone. Then he let out a harsh snore that nearly woke him up. Jaya looked back at Ari and nearly laughed herself breathless. "Ouch. Laughing hurts." Jaya still couldn't help herself as she whimpered and chuckled at the same time.

Ari chuckled softly as she watched her friend get taken down by pearls of laughter. "Yes, exactly where your dirty mind is thinking." Her grin grew wider with each word. "Worth a romp, at least once, I'll tell ya."

"And you say I'm the incorrigible fiend," Jaya teased. "Just you wait. One of these days, you'll get settled down with one man and never look at another one twice. If I can do it, so can you."

Ari raised up her hands in mock surrender, feeling somewhat ridiculous with the splint and all, "I never said I couldn't or that I didn't want to settle down. Just kind of needs to be the right bloke. This one..." she motioned over to the snoring Afrikaaner, "he's something else. Just need to find one of my own."

On the inside, a little voice whispered. "Maybe you already have." Then it was squashed away by the reality of that particular situation. Yet, deep down, Ari felt like that ghost of a voice wasn't wrong.

Jaya just grinned as if she knew Ari's thoughts. "Just so." She spread her arms wide. "Give me a hug before I pass out again!"

Ari leaned in gingerly and embraced her bald friend. "I am so grateful you're both alive and well," she whispered as she squeezed the other woman as gently as she could.

"Mmmmm..." Jaya hummed, eyes closed and already drifting off. "Me, too..." She barely finished saying the words before she fell asleep with her arms still grasping Ari.

Ari could feel the woman slump with the onset of sleep and gingerly extricated herself out of Jaya's arms. She pulled the cover over the sleeping Deltan and straightened out with a smile. Her unintended family was safe. That was all that mattered.

Part of her, however, didn't feel like leaving yet. Her gut told her there was something she needed to do still. What though? Ari looked around for a moment, trying to decipher what it was that her gut was telling her.

As her gaze fell upon the incubator, she knew. With a smirk to no one in particular, Ari wheeled the chair over to the incubator with her nephews and niece and sat in front of it. She placed her good hand on the container.

"Hey,'s me, Aunty Ari. How about a story?" She whispered softly, "Anyone ever tell you about the Ballad of Ned Kelly?" Ari asked as she leaned back in her chair and began telling the younglings about the infamous Australian outlaw of the late 19th-century Earth.

Storr's own snoring woke him up with a start. Vision, sounds, pain, and overwhelming anxious protection crashed over his consciousness like the most powerful of storms over the Cape of Good Hope. His heart racing, the Afrikaner bolted upright and reached for his knife, heartbeats thrumming in his ears and red pulsing at the corners of his vision.

But there was no threat; only two beautiful women and three needy, wonderful, innocent, and helpless babies. The Station Commandant let out a slow breath and sat back into the (surprisingly comfortable) chair as his heart began slowing down to normal. He chuckled, removing his hand from the hilt at his side. They were each a threat in their own manners, for sure, but none of them needed the knife. Probably.

Taking a final, deep breath, the Marine pushed himself to stand and slowly made his way to the incubator. He was still incredibly stiff, walked like he had just ridden a horse for three days straight, and had a moderate-to-high baseline of pain to nearly everything he did, but he was alive. He was alive, and that bliksemm Kontos was not. His mind immediately went back to the man's face when Storr...Garlake shook his head, not wanting to relive the memory of the violence he had imposed upon that man. Kontos deserved it, every bit and a hundred times over, but it was still...he sighed, pushing that line of thinking out of his mind as well. Death and killing were part of his job and business...HIS business, it seemed, for most of his life, has been good. Close quarters, "bad breath distance" killing though? That was something far different than pulling a trigger on a phaser to shoot someone twenty feet away, shooting a photon torpedo into a ship thousands of kilometers away, or sending a signal across incomprehensible distances to activate a machine to kill. It was a problem that mankind had struggled with since some bloke thought, "That man over there needs killing, but I can't reach him with my sword." Only the instruments had changed in the preceding several thousand years.

Again, he shook his head to dismiss the philosophical musing. There was much more to be interested in, and thankful for, in this small room.

Placing a hand on the incubator, he gently removed a corner of a blanket that had been lovingly placed over them and thought that his heart would leap out of his chest. Three tiny children...HIS children...were hugging each other in sleep, their miniature arms and legs entwined together, and small, nearly imperceptible smiles creased their cheeks. Storr's smile made his jaw hurt, but he didn't care. They were physical representations of the love he and Jaya shared, and God blessed them with not just one or two, but THREE opportunities to be fruitful and multiply. Filling this very small corner of the cosmos with little warriors for Christ filled him with equal parts pride, joy, and dread. With great blessings comes great responsibility. Would he be up to the task or found wanting? The thought sent a cold shiver up and down his spine. They needed food, clothing, protection, nurturing, instruction, discipline, love...Garlake took a measured breath in and out. There was time enough to worry about those things later.

Letting the blanket nestle back into its position, his gaze fell upon Jaya, and his heart yet again began pounding. He could not be more proud of a woman. She was the archetype of loveliness, beauty, and meekness, yet fought with the ferocity of a mother lion. He could only imagine what she went through in that undersea hell, worrying every moment for the lives within her, but she passed through it with aplomb. There was no other woman in the galaxy he would rather raise his children with, and the fact that she felt that way in return almost made him dizzy. Her face was beaming even at rest. Incredible, he thought.

Two feminine hands were lightly interlaced on the top of the incubator. Following the one from Jaya, Lt Col Garlake began a smirk that turned into a full-fledged grin. Arianna Frost sat, Jaya's legs atop hers, sound asleep with a light smile alighting her cheeks. He had greatly enjoyed getting to know the spunky, stunning Australian, and somehow, even despite the seemingly inconceivable, compromising conversations and situations the two (or even three) of them had found themselves in, she had ingrained herself into the Garlake family. Hell, they had used Ari's middle name for their daughter...harder to become anymore kith and kin.

Storr's large, splinted hand rested as gently as he could upon Jaya and Ariana's over the incubator. Never in his wildest dreams had he imagined in his entire life he would be where he was, with who he was, doing what he was. He closed his eyes and began with a genuine prayer of thanks and finished it with a solemn vow and promise to the One that brought him to such a place and time. Opening his eyes and raising his head, he quickly wiped away a solitary tear.

"Welcome back, bruh." Came a soft whisper from said spunky Australian. "I already picked my favorite," she continued as she looked over at the incubator. "I will spoil her rotten, mark my words." Ari looked back at Storr with a smile.

Garlake chuckled. Leave it to Ari to break the moment. "I'd expect nothing less. If you think you'll be able to pry my only daughter's attention away from her father, though, you've got another thing coming." "Oh, by the way..." he said, gently squeezing her splinted hand with his, "how's the hand?"

Ari raised her splinted hand, "Well, it's whole...again!" She gave a dry chuckle, "Turns out Klingons don't like it when you shoot their spare spleen. Who knew?!" Then she looked at him again, "How's...everything?"

Out of all of them involved in that firefight, Storr had had it the worst. It was amazing he'd survived the ordeal, thanks primarily to Doctor Stolz and Sergeant Kos.

Storr laughed at Arianna's answer. "I..." he began, reaching up to stroke his beard but was reminded that it had gotten shaved off. In frustration, he went to run his hands through his hair, but that, too, had to have been removed. His smile crept into the downward persuasion. "I'm alive. I can't thank you and all the others enough for coming to save Jaya and me." He sighed. It was something that seemed to become almost part of his character, nowadays, and he didn't like it. "I let my guard down and nearly got my wife, my children, you, and all the others killed," Storr ended in a whisper, his final words nearly unintelligible. "I'm so sorry."

Ari leaned up as best as she could with her legs still trapped under Jaya's. She took Storr's closest hand to her and clasped it with both of hers somewhat awkwardly. "Storr, stop! This is not on you. There was no way we could have predicted that Kontos would go after you. From all the reports so far, it was a stroke of incredibly dumb luck for them and misfortune for us. What matters is we managed to find you and get you out in time. All five of you are alive and well, and so is the rescue team. This is what we do, remember? We look after each other. That's what family does. And we are a weird, functionally dysfunctional family, the lot of us. There is nothing to apologize for. Hell, if anything I should be the one apologizing for not managing to find you sooner."

The Commandant was searching for a reply when his eyes alighted on his wife.

A quiet moan followed by a deep, cooing sigh heralded Jaya's return to wakefulness. She rubbed her eyes and saw both Ari and Storr. Her beaming smile lit up at both of them, but her affections were for her husband. "Storr... my love... you're finally awake."

Mister Garlake couldn't help but return her beaming smile with his. Meeting Ari's gaze, he winked in thanks and affection, gently released his hand from hers, and shuffled towards the newly non-pregnant Deltan. "I am, my Boervrou, and it seems you are too." Taking her hands in his, he leaned down and kissed the crown of her head before coming nose-to-nose. "And you, if I might be so bold, look absolutely radiant."

So this was how feeling happy and jealous felt, was it? Happy beyond words for her friends and being witness to a wholesome display of love. Jealous because she wanted a situation like that for herself, but knowing that was not in her cards any time soon...or ever. Ari could never begrudge her friends for it. They deserved every ounce of it.

"Thank you for saying so," Jaya said after returning his kiss, "because I don't feel it." Closing her eyes and sighing, she said, "I wasn't sure what to expect, my love, but I never thought I would be unconscious when bringing our children into the world." When she opened them again, the old mischievous glint was back. "You just couldn't resist one last adventure, could you?"

Storr laughed a bit too hard, as he grasped across his torso to try and contain the pain that suddenly burst forth. "I...I suppose not," he said between gritted teeth. Sitting down next to Jaya with an unceremonious *thump*, "I mean, did you really want a plain old birth story to tell to your friends and family?"

"No, of course not." Jaya stuck out her tongue and then winced from the effort. "I'll never forget this, I can tell you that much."

It was time. As much as she would have loved to bask a little more in her friends' love and affection, it was time to leave the little pride of Garlakes be. Frost felt healed a little bit in her heart, and she smiled at her friends as she gingerly stood up, tapping the incubator gently and smiling at the triplets.

"Bye, bubs, I'll see you soon." She whispered to them before straightening up, "I'll leave you guys to it. Got some things to take care of before I get back to the ship." Ari said, unable to hide a smile as she looked at Jaya and Storr. "I love you guys. I'm glad you're alright."

"Don't be a stranger," Jaya said. "If we aren't discharged by morning, then Akiva says we're getting left behind."

Ari winked at her, "I'll sneak in for a hug before we go if that's the case."


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