So he sat, contemplating how his life seemed to have gone full circle. What did he do? What was he supposed to do? This wasn't an issue common to Vekimen, as their children were often taken and raised by the family den. Fathers and mothers had no responsibility for thier children unless they worked in the youngling dens, however he also spent many years with the IA, where he did have the responsibilities. He had expectations as a father, ones that he had dropped completely when the Ikate Keda made their call for soldiers.
That was the only warning Daran got before his old roommate landed next to him, an elbow popping the Vekimen in the side. "Damn, you look like death warmed over. You got raised yourself or something?"
Daran huffed, turning to Joshua. "It was the price. 15 plus years of combat necromancy does terrible things to you," the lizard responded, his voice dry and gravelly, very unlike the smooth tone he had way back when. "Stone are trying to find a cure, but it's not physical," he added, the air drying several degrees the longer Joshua sat.
"See, this is why I'm kind of okay with magic stuff," the human said, taking a moment to take a bite of his already dry burger. "Do you get to have dominion over death itself? Sure. But you look and sound like a piece of shit, so its not like a free lunch or something."
"If you would call what I do a free lunch, I suppose. Necromancy has far more costs then that however," Daran explained before going silent. He let the man next to him ready, before looking at him again. "You know, I expected this meeting to be far more violent. Same with Ava."
"Ehh, no reason to fight when I can just poke fun at you," Joshua said, taking another bite of his burger. "Better finish this though. Didn't think this thing could get drier than it already was."
Daran grunted, letting Joshua eat. "You should try my rations. Fully dried meat crumbs held together with animal fat. You're complaining?"
"Hmm?" the human mumbled, his mouth full of sub-par meat. Taking a moment to swallow, he said, "Oh, no I've definetly had worse. Don't see a reason to not complain though. Means times are good if all I have to complain about is a crappy burger."
Daran nodded, before turning to the kitchen. He held his gaze there for a moment, then turned back to Joshua. "Hmm... The dog woman started sobbing half way through this conversation. She just ran out saying something about her food being terrible..." Daran stated, before looking at the table. "Strange."
"Hmm hrm," Joshua mumbled, having shoved the rest of the burger into his mouth. Taking a few moments to chew and swallow, he sighed and replied, "Probably something her sister ate didn't work well with what she was eating."
"So probably nothing to do with the fact she's the ships cook? That's a relief," daran sighed.
"I mean," the human said, raising an eyebrow as he took his own look at the kitchen, "Maybe? Same thing, but her sister just didn't like what she made and was getting at her that way? I don't know," he continued, shrugging as he picked up a wrapped candy bar off his tray. "I've really only known about them for a day or two, so I'm just guessing right now."
"Hmm, fair enough," Daran said before going silent. He didn't really know how to push the conversation forward.
"How long are you going to be sticking around?" Joshua asked, looking over at the Vekimen with a raised eyebrow.
"So long as I'm welcome. I already told the captain I need not be paid. Just fed. So I guess that depends on how long you all plan on staying with an employer who is comfortable with necromancers," Daran said simply, telling his claws against the table.
The human shrugged as he turned his attention back to the kitchen. "Gotcha. Just don't push your kids away on purpose, okay?" he asked. "They need their dad, whatever shape he's in. Uncle Joshua isn't a good replacement."
"I don't plan on going anywhere in that regard," the Vekimen states firmly, just as a familiar, hot headed teen walked into the mess.
"Hey Joshua, how's the food?" Xokagi, the youngest sister asked, flopping down beside him. Joshua could tell Daran was uncomfortable and the girl was oblivious.
"Hello Xokagi, how're you?" The lizard asked, voice tense.
"Uh, good? Telling the crew to stay away from me or something Josh?" Xokagi replied, elbowing Joshua playfully.
"Food's dry, as always," the human said, blinking at the girl's behavior. "And last I checked, no, I didn't brandish my shotgun at anyone yet. Usually wait until you have them on the hook before I scare 'em off. More fun that way."
"Oh yeah, well I guess you're safe..." Xokagi said, turning to Daran. Silence filled the air before Daran responded with his first name. "Huh... That a common name?"
"No, not really," Daran stated calmly. He was always able to keep his voice calm and composed, but he has other tells to how nervous he was.
"Huh, my dad was named Daran. Small galaxy," Xokagi said with a shrug.
Joshua's mouth opened slightly as he processed the girl's words for a few moments, before facepalming himself. "Xokagi..." he said, pointing his unoccupied thumb at the male Vekimen, "That's your dad. Daran Isk'Laderen."
Xogaki froze for a moment, any semblance of easy-going or relaxation gone. "Funny. I know we don't always get along Joshua, but this is way too much," she said, giving Joshua a hard glare.
"Joshua is not joking," daran said, drawing the teens attention. "I am your dad, and Xoha's. The galaxy really is a small place." He continued. Xokagi just started. Her eyes were wide, and her jaw parted.
"I was expecting Joshua to just say it, of course, but I suppose it's for the better," the alien continued.
"Am I really dumb enough to joke about someone being your long-lost dad?" the human asked, before he shook his head. "Sorry for not easing you into it, but I really don't know how I'd pussyfoot my way to somehow soften the blow."
Xogaki remained silent for a while longer, then stood up and walked out of the mess hall quickly, leaving the two alone. Daran watched her leave. "That did not go exactly how I planned," he said, sighing.
"Somehow I forgot that she thought you were dead," Joshua said, facepalming himself again.
"A reasonable assumption. I am surprised I survived myself," the Vekimen said, standing up. "I will go talk to her. What better than a necromancer to talk to a thought dead father?"
"Probably one that's not said father, but its not like we have another one lying around," the human agreed, smirking at his dumb joke.
"Of course Joshua, use what you have and all of that," Daran said, walking out of the Mess hall. He looked back and forth, opening his mouth and letting his tongue slip out of his mouth. While Xokagi was sitting with them, Daran took a mental note to remember her taste. He knew he would have to go looking for her at some point. Not quite as soon as he was now, but in the near future. No matter.
He walked through the ship, not rushing. He didn't want to come off as desperate. He also didn't want to give the impression that she wasn't important to him. Timing was complicated. He didn't understand the timings. So, when he finally found her, he approached cautiously. She was curled up in a small crevice of a maintenance hatch, which, was rather Vekimen of her.
He looked in the space. For a person, it was small and cramped. For a Vekimen, it was a touch cosy. No matter. "Xokagi, do you mind if I come down there with you" He asked, lowering his head down to better see her. She was just sitting there silently, in the darkness.
"I guess. Not like I ever stopped you from going where you want before," She muttered. It hurt. Far more than the Vekimen was expecting, but he deserved it. It seemed, the lack of pain in his previous reunions was building up for this, and no matter how hard it got, he would sit through it. So, with permission, despite backhanded, he eased his body down, curling up into the crevice, facing her. He noticed her pull herself in tighter. It could have been for any number of completely valid reasons, so he let it go.
"I am sure, there is much on your mind. I, have very little to say, because I know nothing I say will ever make it right," Daran started, his voice dark and raspy. "But, you deserve answers, and whatever else I may have to offer. So know, that no matter how this goes, I will not leave until you tell me too," He continued, going silent to let his daughter absorb what he had said.
Everything went silent after that. Xokagi didn't speak, and neither did Daran. Daran could hear her heart beating. It would speed up, and slow down. The girl went through a range of emotions as the seconds turned into minutes, and the minutes turned into hours. Daran watched was Xokagi gradually grew tired and uncomfortable of holding herself as small as she was, and as she gradualy started to relax and loosen herself up.
The silence finally broke.
"Mom told me about dad," Xokagi said. "She said he was sweet, and caring. Had this awkward adorableness that if it was anyone else, she would have thought they were a total creep, and he had this soothing voice that could put her too sleep. That while he was cold blooded, he had a warmth about him that was different. That was special."
Every word she spoke stung. "My dad was strong, proud, and did everything for his family." Her voice cracked. "He would play with his family, sleep with his family, eat with them and-" Xokagi broke off, sniffling. "And I never got that?" She asked, looking at Daran now.
"And now I'm told you're him? You are this strong Vekimen. This... person I've heard stories about?" Xokagi asked. "Your... Cold. You're weak and frail, and sound like you are dying all the time. You look like a... corpse. You sound like a corpse, you feel like one. I know about the Vekimen, at least a little. I know Vekimen are famous for their necromancers. Mom doesn't want me to know about it, but I do. I also know that you're the only one who can answer one question," She stated, her voice softening.
"When did my dad die?" She asked finally after what seemed like forever, her voice a whisper. The question didn't make sense literally, and while Daran had a hard time with metaphores, this metaphore was one he could understand. What she meant by that hurt more than anything else she had said. He wasn't her father. He may have been her sire, but he was nothing more than that.
"Before you were born..." Was the only responce Daran could give.
Silence again. Not as long this time, but still pervasive. Xogaki shook her head. "No... I want to know when he died. I want to know the moment. He went off to fight a war, and I don't care how gruesom the details are, I want to know the moment he died. I want you to tell me that," She snapped, anger flooding into her voice. "Tell me the terrible moment that turned him into whatever the fuck you are!"
Her outburst echoed through the maintenance hatch, and it gave Daran pause. The two stared at each other in a strange showdown, but it was Daran who looked away first. He opened his muzzle, then shut it, momentarily speechless.
"I didn't think you could..." Xokagi hissed, making Daran look at her again.
"It wasn't in a battle. It wasn't because of a fight," Daran said, his own voice a dull whisper. "Your dad died the moment I closed the door to your mother and I's house. He died when I made the choice to go to war instead of staying with your mother, your sister, and you. He died at the realization that he would never again see his daughters."
The two looked at each other for a long moment. It was Xogaki's turn to be speechless. So, Daran continued. "I'm your sire, but your dad is dead."
Silence again. Xogaki was fighting with emotions and eventually she broke, tears freely flowing down her face as she cried. She cried, and Daran watched, unable to do anything more than witness her suffering. 16 long years of suffering, the longest years of her life. "I want him back... I- I want my dad back!" She shouted, clutching at the rough quills on her head. Whatever she was holding back was let free as she continued to break down into hysterical wailing. Everything she had held back for 16 years. All the pain that had been building up released, and now Daran couldn't stop himself.
He didn't think about it, he just leaned forward, pulling the girl into him and holding her tightly. People said Vekimen couldn't cry. No matter how much you hurt them, no matter what you did to them, they would devolve into vicious insanity before a single tear was shed, but the one who was there to hold Xokagi wasn't a Vekimen. He wasn't a War Priest, or a killing machine. This was the man who had kept Daran awake every night with sickness he couldn't understand. For this moment the real Daran who had spent the last sixteen years kicking and screaming in the back of the Vekimens mind to try and change what he had done, pushed aside the emotionless machine of death to comfort his daughter. And he was not ashamed to feel tears running down his face. It didn't fix him, but for the moment, he had hope. That was all he needed.
The two sat for some time, Xokagi eventually calming down, sniffling into Daran's chest. A little while after that she leaned back a little, and huffed out a laugh. "I... I think I ruined your robes..." She said, pointing out the setting stain.
"I care little, they went for a good purpose," Daran responded, running a claw through the teens stiff hair. Then he made her look at him, letting out a breath. "I will do everything I can to try and fix the mistakes I made. I feel it is time for me to practice a different kind of necromancy. One that will bring your father back."
Xokagi nodded, finally allowing herself to don a weak smile. "Can I help?"
"Well, your mother did say she would evicerate me and use my intestines as jumpropes if I brought necromancy anywhere near you or your sister... But... I think in this case, she might give an exception," Daran chuckled, exaggerating what she said, but certainly not what she intended. "If only for the cause."
"Eh, Mom wouldn't do that. Well, not if I asked her not too. Maybe... Wow... Uh... I think I'm going to have to talk to Mom about stuff... I've... Kinda been a bitch lately..." Xokagi sighed. "But, I feel a lot better. I think it was good to get all that out. Though, I think I should be... Going now. Uh... Let's try bits at a time from now on, okay?" She asked, looking hopeful.
"I would have to agree. This was nice but I would rather you not sick of me, or my cold skin," Daran responded in turn.
"It's not terrible once you get used too it. Anyway, I'll see you around," Xokagi said, crawling up past Daran and out of the maintenance hatch. He thought about what had just happened, and he knew he had a while to go, before there was any hope of him fixing all of his mistakes. He started on one path, now he only had two more to follow.
"What's up, kid?" Xoha shifted on her bed to face her sister, head resting on her hand, "Tough day?" She figured that things would be tough for Xokagi the first few days on board the Star Traveller, it was a new place and a real job. Even if the entire family was there, Xoha figured Xokagi would be rather stressed- or was at least prepared for her to be.
Xokagi nodded her head slowly, rubbing her face. "Uh, yeah... A lot rougher than I expected. Than I imagined, actually..." She said, rocking back and forth on her bed, deep in thought. It took her a minute, but she looked at her sister with a strange look on her face. "Do you remember Dad?" She asked.
Xokagi seemed to catch Xoha off guard with that question, but she answered it nonetheless "Yeah, vaugely. Why?" The older girl raised an eyebrow at her sister.
Xokagi was silent for a moment. "What do you remember? Just... Give me a memory. I want something to compare too..."
"Uh, I don't really have anything spectacular to tell you. The best ones have always been with Mom, even then. Dad was around, some- but Vekimen generally don't care a whole lot about their kids. I think I'm lucky to have gotten the attention I did manage to get."
"Do you think Dad cares about us? What if... What if he came back. what if he said leaving was the biggest mistake he ever made in his life? Would you believe him?" Xokagi asked, staring down at her bed. The question bothered her quite a bit, and it showed. "What if he looked you in the eye... And said he would try to make it right... Would you give him the chance?" She added in a croak.
"Sure. If Dad wanted a second chance I'd give it to him, no problem. It'd be weird having him around again, but I could probably make it work. Eventually." Xoha said with a half-shrug, "And, uh, I'd at the very least give him the benefit of the doubt. Lying about something like that would be pretty fucked."
Xokagi nodded. "Uh... Last question..." she said, biting her lip. "What would you say... If I told you... Dad... Was on the ship?" She asked, looking at her sister with concern.
"I would say: I sorta figured."
Xokagi blinked a few times, then turned to Xoha. "I'm sorry, you're going to need to explain that to me, what the fuck do you mean you sorta figured?!"
"I saw him around when we first boarded. I just wasn't entirely sure."
"You said you don't remember him! He looks like literally almost ever other damned Vekimen in the Galaxy, and you just watched him go by and were like "Oh wow, that's probably Dad!" or something?!" Xokagi said, her voice pitching up.
Xoha shook her head, "No, I said that my memory of him was vague. However, I also pay a lot more attention to things than you do. Vekimen don't all look exactly the same. Besides, any suspicions I had were confirmed when you started asking all these questions."
"Oh, well that's great. Met Dad by the way. He says hi, or well, I presume he said hi I don't know. Joshua sorta dumped that bomb on me while I was about to go eat while he was sitting right across from me. Kinda looks like a zombie but whatever, seems like I'm the only one really shocked by this sudden development in our lives!" Xogaki rambled, turning over and flopping on her bed, face down.
"It takes a lot to shake me up. One of us needs to keep our cool, 'Agi. I knew if I freaked out, you would too."
"Thought dad would be something we both sorta freaked out over," Xokagi's voice came from the pillow. "Sorta wanted to make mom deal with that because, you know, if Joshua knew, Mom fucking knew." She continued, rolling over onto her back. "Just spent the last..." She sighed, looking at her watch, "Three hours crying. Great day for me, but at least I got a hug out of it..."
"I'm sure she has a good reason for not saying anything to us. She would never do anything to hurt either of us intentionally. Besides, it's probably been pretty weird for her too." Xoha shrugged, "Ask her."
Xogaki went wide eyed for a moment, then sat up without using her arms, turning her head to look at Xoha. "I just realized something... And I don't know how I feel about it..."
Xokagi opened her mouth, lifting a finger, then shook her head in further confusion. "Mom fucked a zombie..." She said, clearly trying to process that information. "And we are the byproduct of that..."
Xoha snorted, "That's not how that works, kid. He isn't a zombie, probably."
"I want you to go find him, and give a good hard look. He looks dead. He feels dead, it's like touching a weird ice-cube. Like... I Kinda feel bad for him... Apparently the last 16 years have been nothing but fighting for him. Like, I remember reading whatever I could on the Civil War, never much, but... He somehow survived a massively bloody battle. There are even video clips online. It was gruesome..." Xokagi explained. "Part of me wonders how that affected him... Think maybe he's some crazy PTSD case that will freak out and kill everyone if someone makes a loud sound?"
"I'm not surprised. That would probably make a lot of people look like zombies. There have been days where mom has looked pretty bad herself, but sixteen years of straight fighting? It's a wonder he's even here." Xoha sat up on her bed and stretched out, "Let's hope that isn't the case- I'd really rather not have to witness anything like that."
"Hmm. Maybe he justs needs a hug. Whatever. You were anti climactic with that whole thing which is disappointing," Xokagi said, kicking her feet little. "Gonna talk to him? Or are you to calm and collected to let yourself go a little even then?"
"Of course I'll talk to him, contrary to what you might believe, I'd like to talk to our dad too. Just because I didn't freak out like you did, doesn't mean I don't care any less." Xoha nodded, "Not right now though, right now I should probably take a nap. Today was a pretty long day for me."
Xokagi blinked. "Nap? Dad's down the hall and you wanna nap? If, like, I was in your position right now I probably would have ran down the hall and like... Punched him... And then apparently cried all over myself..." Xokagi snorted "Maybe you can sleep with me? For a bit?"
"No, if you were in my position you'd do exactly what I'm doing." Xoha laughed softly, before patting the bed beside her, "Sure, but you're going to have to come over here. I'm not about to get up off this bed."
Xokagi just groaned loudly at being told to move, getting up and walking over. She flopped down onto the bed, pulled Xoha into her arms.
Xoha shifted about to get comfortable and then wrapped her arms around Xokagi. She was done talking, at least for a while.
Xoha had enjoyed her nap and wiggled away from Xokagi's grasp. She didn't have another shift for a good few hours, but there was the whole dad buisness she needed to address. She very lazily had thrown on her Technician's jumpsuit, but left all her other things behind.
She left the room and wandered around. It shouldn't be too hard to find a big, undead looking lizard alien. It really wasn't, at least, not on this ship. He was fairly easy to find, and Xokagi wasnt lying when she said he looked rough. It seemed, he had passed out in the mess hall at some point, and no one wanted to wake him.
Xoha sat herself next to the unconcious Vekimen and gave him a firm couple of nudges. She was normally a patient person, but she wasn't going to wait around in the messhall for her dad, who she hadn't seen in sixteen years, to wake up, "Hey, Wake up. We have some chatting to do."
The body at the touch, went from zero to 100 in a moment, jerking up far to alert. His eyes locked onto Xoha for a moment, little gears visible for a small fraction of a second as he tried to price together what he was seeing. Then, it was almost like he forced himself to look more relaxed. "Sorry, I must have dosed off. Xoha, if your similarities to your mother are correct," he grunted, coughing as his body tried to go through the process of waking up that he so quickly skipped.
"Spot on. Look at you being observant." Xoha snorted, "You really broke the news to Xokagi pretty awfully. Although, it wasn't entirely your fault. She gets upset easily," She explained.
"It was not my fault. I planned to wait a little to get to know her, Joshua ruined that when she didn't realize who I was right away. If she was going to find out without me telling her, I wanted her to figure it out," He said, reaching up and rubbing his eye. Even Xoha could remember he was never particularly... Soft handed in his opinions when he had just woken up. Or, soft handed in any regard. He was a grumpy wake up person.
"That's really shitty, actually." Xoha responded bluntly, tone just as relaxed as it was when she had woken him up, "You should have tried to tell her yourself. I realize that Joshua took that chance, but that wasn't even your goal in the first place. Very not cool."
Daran paused for a moment. "I believe I said, if she was going to find out without me telling her. I had every intention of telling her, and you, but she seemed to beat me to that as well. I just wasn't going to do it so quickly," He grumbled.
"My bad, then. Misunderstood you. I had you figured out, for the most part, when I first saw you. I did have a leg up on Xokagi, though." Xoha shrugged, "Doesn't matter at this point anyway. Cat's out of the bag." The hybrid leaned forward against the table, "That's not really why I came looking for you, just thought that maybe it'd be nice to see you."
"Well, it's nice to see you if it is any consolation. And your sister. I take it, though, that our conversation will involve significantly less crying," Daran said, taking a deep breath. "I've never been particularly good at dealing with that. I feel I got lucky with your sister," He added, placing a hand on his muzzle.
"I'm not much for crying, so you'll be alright. I'm not entirely sure what to feel at this point, admittedly. I can't say I really missed you all that much, but at the same time it's kind of nice to see you." Xoha leaned her head against a hand as she spoke, "I get why Xokagi is all emotional about it- plus, that's just how she is. It doesn't take much to get her upset, or angry for that matter."
Daran nodded. "Well, you certainly take after your mother in that regard. I also know where Xokagi gets her emotions, just... Not her method of coping with them," He said simply before going quiet. He looked at Xoha, then sighed. "I will admit, the main reason I wanted to wait, was because I have no idea what to say right now. Xokagi did a vast majority of the talking, though it seems you are more prone to a slightly more rational approach, which I can't just sit here and let you yell at me until you feel somewhat better. Though, you can if you want, Gods above know I deserve it and everything else."
"You're probably right, of all things walking out on Mom after taking two years of her time and love was a total asshole thing to do, but, you know- she's over it so it's a moot point. I doubt you and I will ever have the whole 'father-daughter' relationship, but we can shoot for friends."
Daran nodded, his lips drawing taunt enough to bare his teeth even more than they already were. "You and your sister very much are so are different. Though, as I told Xokagi, and will tell you, I regret that decision every passing moment. I was a young Vekimen, I still didn't understand human culture, and it took 16 years of fighting a war that did a whole lot of nothing to really, really, drive that into my head. It was only meant to be to respond to Tai Pan's expansion towards us. I knew I made the mistake the second I left, and thought I would be able to try and do something, anything, to make it up to you mother. Then Civil unrest started, martial law was put in place on several of our border planets for all of a week before an all out war started," Daran explained. "Really, if I learned anything that might be useful to you, it's that you don't realize how little you care for one thing, compaired to how much you care for the other, until you act on those beliefs. I do love you, I do love your sister, and your mother. I did then as well, it just took me making the biggest mistake I could, to make the Vekimen part of me realize that."
"People make mistakes, it happens. At least you realize that you made one and are willing to do what you can to rectify it. Hopefully that works out. I don't know about Mom, but you certainly have a chance to get back what you lost with Xokagi- if you didn't she wouldn't be as worked up about things as she is. Keep that in mind when you're dealing with her."
"Is it good that screwing up with dealing with Xokagi terrifies me more than screwing up while dealing with a panicked Vekimen about to tip over the edge?" Daran asked in a terrible attempt at a joke.
"I , uh, probably? That sounds like a question to ask a psychiatrist." Xoha responded with a slight smile, "It sounds like you really care though, so you've got that going for you."
"I had a subordinate almost tear my throat out after a 34 hour shelling campaign..." Daran said, before realizing that wasn't likely a good conversation. "But I suppose that would be for another time, if you are interested in what I did for the last 16 years. It's okay if you aren't, but I am interested in your last 16 years."
"It's quite the tale to tell," Joshua said, leaning on the door frame of the mess hall's entrance. "I just got here, by the way."
"We know!" Xoha said over her shoulder to Joshua, before turning back to Daran, "There isn't much to tell, all the interesting stuff is recent. I'm going to school for Starship systems and this job is part of if. Fortunately the classes are all over the 'net, so I don't have to worry about leaving this job anytime soon. It's a pretty decent gig."
"That's good, though I am curious which tale Joshua is talking about," Daran said, looking at the man. "My stories, or the stories of Xoha and her sister?"
"Well, I only know Xoha and Xokagi's stories," the human said, walking into the room and sitting on a bench across from father and daughter. "I'm sure your's are interesting, but you got 16 years of silliness to catch up on and as honorary Uncle, it is my job to embarrass my niece."
"Bring it on- you know Xokagi is the one who's easy to embarass, not me." Xoha challenged Joshua, eyebrow raised, "But if anyone can do it, it'd be you." She admitted with a laugh.
Daran blinked, looking between the two. "Embarrassing stories? You mean like the time I asked you to the Military Ball because you didn't explain how dating worked?" Daran asked, looking at Joshua, who snorted in reply.
"I hope you two used protection." Xoha smoothly added.
"He said no," Daran was quick to respond. "Then, I asked your mother. Then I beat her up, and she told me to pick her up at six. I thought humans were insane, but that was a rather normal encounter for me. A nice change of pace," Daran thought, looking up.
"Sounds about right. I think I recall Mom telling this story- and, yeah, Mom can be pretty nuts. I don't think I'd be cut out for her work, or anything like that. No military colleges or Marshal... stuff for me."
"Your grandmother must have been over joyed to hear about that. I always remember her not wanting Ava in the military," Daran said simply.
"Gran's always been pretty supportive of everything we do- and it's funny you should mention that. She's actually some mercenary group, or 'free company's', or whatever's shrink."
"Your grandmother was always... interesting. I probably made a horrible first impression," Daran said shaking his head. "Bring her daughter home with a split lip, and then awkwardly hand her a guitar a few days later. I was hoping your mother was there, I never really found out what she thought of that," Daran said, rolling his head to loosen his neck.
"Don't remember her ever bringing that up," Joshua said with a shrug. "There was that one time that Xoha decided she wanted to go to school nude."
Daran paused at the comment, then looked at Joshua. "I don't see how that's an issue..."
"Which was her point at the time," Joshua said, nodding as he leaned forward. "But due to Xoha's, hmm, more human apperance, its not like she has all the scales that keep female Vekimen relatively decent."
"I still don't see the problem. Is it similar to why you and Ava freaked out when you walked in on her changing?" Daran asked, his head twitching to the side.
"Seems like you can forget a lot in sixteen years," Joshua replied with a smile.
"It's not forgetting, more than not caring to remember stupid discomforts. A body is a body. Seeing it should be nothing special."
"The boy she decked for groping her thought differently," Joshua said.
Daran blinked then looked at Xoha. "You punched a guy for touching you?" He asked, before looking at his hand and lifting it. "Way to go?" He asked, clearly unsure if this was at all appropriate.
Xoha gave Daran a high-five, "My body, not his. I may not be suited for military work, but I never said I was a pacifist."
Joshua just shook his head before looking at his watch. "Awe shit, well, you two don't seem to be trying to kill each other, so I need to go do some things. I'll talk to you later," He said, giving the two a wave.
Daran watched as Joshua left, then turned to Xoha. "I honestly expected Xokagi to have that story," He said. "She seems more suited to it, no offense. Even as a child you were reasonable."
"Actually, Xokagi did have a phase where she refused to wear clothing. Lasted a lot longer than mine did- and she didn't even have a reason. Just decided one day to scream anytime anyone even so much as showed her an outfit. She's, uh, nuts." Xoha chuckled.
Daran slowly nodded "Younglings are strange... But so are clothes. I suppose it evens out."
"Clothing is comfortable, I don't normally dress in jumpsuits- mind you." Xoha shrugged, "Makes it easier for the crew to identify me, at the very least. It's practical."
"That is mostly the only reason Vekimen wear clothes," Daran said, looking around. He was silent again, then sighed. "I was never good at this, even with your mother. I was not... A conversationalist."
"Ah, well, I can tell. It's all good, dude." Xoha snorted, "You don't have to be. It's nice talking to you regardless."
"What would you like to talk about Xoha?" The lizard asked. "It's there anything you would like to know?"
"Nah, not that I have questions for. The things I want to know are things I'll to wait to find out."
Daran nodded. "Well, if you do ever have any questions, I would have no problems with you asking. Though, something tells me you want to head off to other things now," He said, a weak grin spreading across his muzzle. "I will leave you to it then?"
"There are a few things I need to do before I punch back in, yeah. It was good talking to you. Good luck with Xokagi, and- uh, try not to do anything weird." Xoha grinned at Daran as she hopped up, leaving the Vekimen with a couple of pats on his shoulder before she left him sitting alone.
Being a Marshal on board a civilain vessel was odd, a majority of the time you were 'on call' or wandering aimlessly about trying to find something to do. Ava had very little problems with this, it beat having to stand at one corner for hours on end or following strict patrol routines.
Of course, Ava did stand at one corner of the ship for a while, browsing the net to pass the time. Boring, but it made her presence known on a ship full of people who had never seen her before. It was good for the crew to know that she was there. It would have been perfect, if a majority of the crew wasn't eating or working at the time.
Of course, the ship couldn't remain quiet forever. Before Ava realized it, she heard the sound of crying, and running footsteps. Then, a furry woman came beening around the corner, running into the Marshal hard enough to bring the right back to the ground. It was a dog woman. She was, uselessly, wearing a hair net to keep her long brown hair in place, and an apron. She was even still wearing oven mitts. She was, also, very clearly an emotionally truamatize dog.
The sobbing woman scrambled up, not getting off Ava, but pushing herself up so she wasn't suffocating her with her breasts. "Y-you! Y-You're a marshal right?!" She sobbed, sitting quite squarely on Ava, face soaked in tears.
Ava took a few seconds to respond, reeling from being pounced on by the strange dog woman. Clearly she was in distress, however, so it would seem that Ava would need to act fast, "Yes, yes, I'm a Marshal. What's wrong?- Did someone hurt you?- Are you okay, Ma'am?"
Cleo shook her head. "N-no! I'm not okay! The most horrible thing ever j-just... Happened!" She wailed, burying her face into Ava's chest, her crying only intensifying. "You n-n-need t-to arrest the m-m-mean m-man in the m-m-mess hall!" She added, her voice muffled by Ava's body, and more importantly, her jacket which would have been in the process of being ruined by the dog womans tears if it wasn't waterproof.
Ava rubbed at Cleo's back in an attempt to help her calm down, "I need to know what happened, what did he do? I can't barge in there and arrest someone if I don't know what he did. Did he hit you, or make unwanted sexual advances? You have to use your words, love."
Cleo proped herself back up, seeming to get a better handle on herself. "He... He was t-talking t-to that l-l-lizard man, and... and..." She started, getting caught up in what happened.
"And..?" Ava prodded gently, leaning up on an elbow to stabilize herself.
"HE SAID MY FOOD WAS BAAAAAD~!" The dog woman practically screamed, bowling Ava back flat on her back as she curled up on her again, sobbing harder than she had been this entire time.
"He... said your food was bad?" Ava was unsure of how to respond to this, because clearly this woman was actually shaken to the core by someone's comment on how they didn't like her food. In her years of both Military Police and as a Marshal, never once had anyone come to her in such hysterics about something so... silly.
"Unfortunately that isn't a crime, so I can't actually do anything about it."
"B-b-but, he said it was dry, and bad, and is a horrible person! You arrest horrible people don't you?" The dog woman asked, whimpering at her. Her eyes were wide and filled with tears, and her muzzle quivvered. "You're supposed to arrest the bad people!"
"Expressing your opinions, even if it's a mean one, isn't a crime. I'm sorry he hurt your feelings, however. I'm sure you're a wonderful cook!" Ava did her best to assure Cleo, now patting her arm with a pleasant smile, "But, I can't arrest someone for being an asshole."
Cleo just lowered her head, looking quite thoroughly destroyed. "I don't even have anything to actually cook with..." She mumbled. "It's all this ground up jerky crap and I did my best with it, and that Joshua asshole called it dry! After I let him rub my belly! And play with my ball! Now I need to throw out my ball because he has tainted it with-with- his horriblness!" She whined. "He owes me a new ball!" She cried, burying her face into her hands.
Goddammit. Of course it was Joshua, fucking asshole.
"I'll tell you what. I'll go have a talk with Joshua, and I'll get you a new ball. I have a few stress balls in my room, you can have as many of them as you'd like." She didn't get paid enough for this.
"But it was a tennis ball!" Cleo whined, shaking her head. "It was a tennis ball, and it tasted good even though most tennis balls taste baaad~!" Cleo cried. "I had even broken it in so it didn't hurt my teeth!"
"Well, that's no good. I'll tell you what, when I was younger my mother taught me how to force the, er..." Ava needed to pick her words carefully here, "Bad-ness out of stuff. I even have the supplies for it. I'll throw in some peanut butter or something in it for you. How does that sound?"
Cleo perked up when Ava mentioned removing the bad-ness from balls, and then perked up even more at the mentioning of peanut butter. "Y-you... You would do that for me?" Cleo sniffled, rubbing her eyes with the handful of nice jacket she had idly grabbed.
"Uh, yeah!- If it'll make you feel better, for sure." And get her to off and potentially quiet, or at least not sobbing, "It would be my pleasure."
Cleo sniffled again, nodding. "Yeah... I don't want my ball to have bad-ness on it... And I really, /really/, like peanut butter..." The dog woman said, starting to compose herself again. Before Ava realized it, she look reasonably normal, aside from the matted fur on her face. She just sat there, staring at Ava who was trapped under her fluffy butt, and slowly her tongue started to slide out of the side of her mouth. "My name is Cleo, by the way. What's yours?"
"Ava. It's very nice to meet you, Cleo." Ava continued to put on her best smile, despite how actually rather annoyed she was, however admittedly Cleo was rather cute, "I also really like peanut butter, It's my stress food."
Cleo gasped loudly at this, covering her muzzle with her hands. "You like peanut butter too!" She asked, bouncing up and down in excitement. "Oh my gosh, we need to be best friends! I like it when my sister put it in those rubber balls, because then it gives me a challenge! Do you like doing that too?"
"Sure, sure, friends are nice!- but, uh, no. I haven't ever tried eating it out of a ball. It's never occured to me to try that, sounds like it might be fun."
"Oh my gosh! You totally need to try it out! You can even use my ball! It's great! Really red, and it doesn't have that rubber smell anymore! I kinda... chewed out some of the hole to make it easier to get at the peanut butter, but I promise it's just like using a new ball!"
Oh Ava, What have you gotten yourself into?
"Oh, that's awfully nice of you!- but I couldn't use your ball. It is your ball after all. I don't want to impose!"
"No no no! It's not imposing! You haven't lived until you've tried it! It's amazing! My sister does it when I talk a lot, but it's just so much fun! I just sit and it's like mlem mlem mlem mlem," Cleo started, licking the roof of her mouth to demonstrate what it was like. "And it's just totally awesome!"
"Wow." Ava started, "That does sound absolutely amazing. You'll have to remind me to try that with you sometime!- You can swing by my room later and we'll work on that tennis ball of yours first."
Cleo nodded. "I would really like to play with my ball again," She said, looking down at Ava. She held the gaze for a moment, tongue hanging lazily out of her mouth before she looked confused. "Wait... Why are you on the ground?"
Ava stared at Cleo blankly for couple of seconds to really let what the dog woman had just said sink in, "Because. You knocked me over and sat on me. You're still on me."
Cleo looked very confused at what Ava said. "Knocked you over? I don't remember knocking you over! I just remember sitting on you! Kinda... How we met, you know? when I was like "My name's Cleo! What's your name?" don'tcha?"
"Right, well, you did knock me over, but it's cool if you don't remember that part. You, uh, can absolutely get up if you'd like. No rush, though. Just chilling on the floor, it's cool."
Cleo stared, blinking at Ava for a moment, before the proverbial lightbulb lit up. "Oh!" She said, getting up and pulling Ava up with her. The woman was shockingly strong. "there, now you're standing up!"
"Oof!- Thanks!" Ava brushed her coat off, sending tears and snot alike off her coat and onto the floor as if it was never there in the first place, "You're certainly an interesting person, Cleo. The most exciting person I've met in, uh, a while."
"Oh... Well thank you! And you're really interesting too! I've never met a ball exorcist before!" She smiled. "I could just lick your face I'm so happy!"
"Oh, well, I'm glad you're happy! You don't have to lick my face though." Ava reminded Cleo, "The thought is appreciated though!"
"Ball? You fix ball now?" Cleo asked, pulling off her oven mitts and pulling a very worn and... somehow still slightly soggy tennis ball from her pocket and dropping it in Ava's hand. "That's my ball... Can you fix it now?"
Ava stared at the tennis ball and looked it over as if admiring it, "Well, actually, I'd need the sage I keep in my room- I can't do it without it, or standing out in the middle of this hallway either. You're welcome to swing by later and if I haven't done it by then, you can remind me. Is that alright?"
Cleo stared at Ava with an uncomfortable amount of intensity, before her head slowly tilted to the side. "What do you mean later? I need my ball now..."
"Right now. We'd have to go back to my room and do it. Do you need it that badly, Cleo?"
Cleo nodded her head really fast. "Yes! I neeeeeed my ball! If I don't have my ball, then... I ... I might die!" She said, grabbing Ava and shaking her. "Do you want me to die?!"
"No, no, I don't want you to die. Come on." Ava grabbed Cleo's wrists to make her to stop shaking her and then motioned towards the opposite end of the hall, "My room is on the other end of the ship. We'll make your ball, you know, not bad anymore."
"YAY! My ball!" Cleo said excitedly, jumping up and down excitedly, her large chest bouncing with her glee. Her poor shirt looked stretched to it's limits, and come to think of it, the woman was dressed very much like a whore.
It was hard for Ava not to notice the straining shirt, but she was at least tactful enough to not stare. She let go of Cleo's wrists and started down the hall to lead the excitable, not so bright, woman to her room so that she could 'exorcise' it.
Cleo followed along attentively, entering Ava's room after her, and seemingly, going directly into exploration mode. If there was any sound this woman made, that could make Ava any more uncomfortable than she already was, then it was the rapid sniffing she was doing as she wandered around the room, literally, sticking her nose into everything, including Ava's sock drawer...
The best way to describe the blonde woman's room would be 'clean'. She had quite a few things, but they were all put neatly in the places she had decided for them to go. Even the small desk she had was set up as organized as it could be. There was the slightest smell of cloves in the air, the same smell that was lightly present on Ava herself.
Despite the fact that Cleo was smelling the entirety of her room, including the place she kept her underthings, she did a really good job of pretending like it wasn't happening.
Ava dug through her things to produce the bundle of sage she had mentioned before and a lighter. She lit the sage, and then waved it around Cleo's precious ball, "The peanut butter is under the bed. You can have a jar." She offered as she made it look like waving a burning bundle of plants around was serious buisness.
The sound of claws scrabbling against the deck and the /thump/ of a body hitting the floor was the only responce Ava got to her comment. Moments later, the room was filled with the strange sound of a dog rapidly licking at peanut butter, and when Ava turned to look at Cleo, the dog womans face was actually buried in the jar.
Ava nodded, she would probably do the same thing if she had a muzzle, but she had to make do with a spoon most of the time. Eventually the smell of the sage took over the room as it burned away- but after a short time the short blonde woman held Cleo's ball out, "Here you go, your ball is one hundred percent cleansed of 'bad-ness'."
If Cleo wasn't currently dealing with a jar of peanut butter on her face, she may have reponded. that was not the case.
Ava snorted and sat down on her bed to watch Cleo eat the entire jar of peanut butter. She sat the ball down beside her and waited for the dog woman to finish.
Ava had turned watching Cleo eat peanut butter into a nap, occasionally opening her eyes to make sure that she hadn't somehow managed to get into another jar or something else. It was strangely peaceful, until her door was opened and she had a rather angry sounding woman in her room.
"You are such a stupid bitch!" The voice groaned, sounding... Exactly like Cleo, except she lacked the "Stupid" tone.
Ava's eyes shot open and she sat up in her bed to see who had just walked into her room saying shit like that. It was Cleo, only Cleo was still laying on the ground.
It took Ava a moment, but Cleo had mentioned that she had a sister. She had not mentioned that this sister was her twin, "What's up?"
"sorry for the intrusion Ava, but I'm just here to deal with my sister," Kleo said, leaning down and pulling the jar from her sisters face. "Are you joking? You put me through all that shit because your food was called dry? What would mother say?"
Cleo frowned, shrinking. "B-but, he was mean!"
"Woah, woah. We are sure as hell not about to start this back up in my room." Ava said very sternly to Kleo, "Deep breaths. That was literally hours ago. It's been dealt with."
"Of course it was hours ago, but here she is, doing what she usually does. Emotionally manipulating people into doing dumb ass shit every single day!" Kleo snapped, pulling Cleo to her feet, much to the dumb doggo's dismay. This was when Ava noticed something striking. Cleo's eyes filled with tears, sadness clear across her face. The part that made it striking, was that Kleo's face didn't change at all, and yet her eyes filled with tears at the exact same time. "Oh no. No no no. Don't you dare go and make me cry with that crap. I'm not doing it today. You did it yesterday with that Joshua guy, and no. Not doing it," Kleo said, trying to drag Cleo out of the room.
Ava held up Cleo's ball and waved it about in the air, "Don't forget the ball, or the peanut butter. You can have some too if you'd like." She offered. Even if Cleo had thrown a fit, she had gotten a pretty solid nap out of it."
"I don't submit to my baser desires quite as easily as my sister does. By the way. You have a daughter, right? The two half vekimen girls wandering around the ship?" Kleo asked, still trying to get Cleo out of the room.
"Yeah, those two are mine."
"Well, the black one started wailing in the maintenance hatch a few minutes ago. You can really tell she's part Vekimen. Like a banshee I swear," Kleo mumbled. "I don't know if you want to be kept informed of such things, but, from the sounds of it, it was a possible mental destablization and she's probably curled up in a ball down there. Then again, that is my professional advice based on a thirty second sound sample from her very own throat, down a hallway."
"Fair enough. Thanks for letting me know." Ava wasn't altogether surprised. There was a lot going on and clearly Daran being on board wasn't helping anything, "I'll go see what's going on." She moved to her feet and stretched out, "The peanut butter wasn't some weird bribe, by the way, I have lots of it." She tossed the ball towards the two, something inside her told her that if it was left in her room that Cleo might just show up in the middle of the night to come get it.