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Four Bells And All Is Well, Part 1

Posted on Friday March 19, 2021 @ 1:28pm by Canaan Serine & Madeleine De Saint Castine

Mission: Lower Decks
Location: Mess Lounge, Deck 1
Timeline: Unknown

All was well on board the Cardinal as the melody of four chimes rang softly through the corridors. Restless, Canaan had slipped from his bunk several hours ago - Insomnia, a constant companion. He'd paced the corridors of deck one, lapping it at a leisurely pace while scrolling the next chapter in the romance novel he was reading. The others were asleep in their berths - He'd checked on them a few times in the late hour, all except Maddie, who slept in the sickbay two decks below. Modest in size though it was, the dispensary accommodated a private living space exclusive to the ship's medical officer that no other crew member was afforded. The rest chose their sleeping berths from those lining the ship's uppermost deck's port and starboard corridors. Space was a premium onboard a Raven starship, with every square meter utilized somehow. Private quarters lacking though they were, the crew were provided with the newest iteration of the sleeping berth, which counted for something.

It was Canaan's tenth pass and the first where he noticed the lights on in the lounge. Curious to know who else may be up at this hour aside from himself and Trinity, who was on watch duty, Canaan walked through the open door only to find Maddie rustling around in the pantry. Her back turned, and not wanting to startle her, Canaan cleared his throat softly to get her attention.

The sound, although soft, startled her just enough to make her fumble the container of cookies she had just snuck from the pantry. Yelping slightly, she spun on her heel, her long blonde hair fanning out behind her. Very much off duty, Maddie didn't look like the ship's Chief Medical Officer; she looked more like a teenager in her pajamas caught raiding the pantry looking for a midnight snack. A repentant pout formed on her face as her gaze raked over Canaan. "I was only going to take one or two," she said softly.

Try as he might, this was the second time he'd startled the good Doctor into spilling or dropping something. Canaan was finding her to be an easy scare, making her a likely target for one of his impromptu pranks in the future. He wasn't particularly light of foot, and in both instances, he'd tried to make his presence known, yet startled her none-the-less - He'd start wearing a bell, maybe that would help?

"Pillaging the snacks at this late hour?" He said with a chuckle, they both knowing Maddie could never stop at one or even two cookies. She was a cookie monster, especially when paired with her favorite beverage.

Approaching the replicator, Canaan returned it from standby mode. "A hot chocolate and a cold glass of milk, please," he ordered.

Straightening the cookie jar in her arms, Maddie carried it out of the pantry and across to a table, setting it down in the middle and removing the lid. Before she sat, she straightened her own pajamas, now silently cursing herself for her lack of a robe. She hadn't planned to be caught, she assumed the crew was sleeping peacefully, yet now here they were. "Thank you," she offered quietly as he returned and handed her the hot chocolate. "I couldn't sleep, so I thought I'd grab a cookie and a hot chocolate. Shouldn't you be sleeping?" She asked, turning the attention back from herself and onto him.

Canaan pulled out a chair and sat, placing his book and glass of milk down. Like Maddie, he was dressed for bed. He wore a pair of grey nylon sleeping shirts and an old tank top from his academy days, both of which fit his willowy stature rather nicely. “I should be, but someone took me off my prescribed sleep aides.” He poked fun at Maddie before taking a butter cookie from the tin and dunking it in the cold milk. “What has you up?”

Brushing her long hair back over her shoulder and taking a cookie from the jar, she started by breaking it into small pieces, placing each one on the table in front of her. "Sleep hasn't been my friend for a while, but it seems like lately we're even more distanced," she said quietly. Finally, she picked up one small piece, dipped it in her hot chocolate, and popped it into her mouth, chewing and swallowing before she spoke again. "Change always disrupts things; I'm sure it'll settle." She paused, picking up another piece of cookie, holding it over her mug for a moment. "How are you finding things without the medication?" She asked genuinely before she dunked.

Their commiseration over an elusive sleep notwithstanding, Maddie's question inked the beginning of an informal counseling session Canaan hoped to avoid at this late hour. Reading much into a simple question, he hesitated in answering, knowing full well he'd invited it in his earlier joke. After another nibble, he shrugged casually before answering, "It'll be fine... I'm sure it'll settle." He parroted Maddie, followed by a goofy grin. "It was the one thing I was never really good at," Canaan continued, "I don't think I've actually slept through the night since I was sixteen, maybe seventeen?" He mentioned, "And you, what keeps you at arm's length with a good night's rest?"

"This and that." She shrugged, dipping another piece of cookie in the hot chocolate before dropping it into her mouth. "So, how do you think everyone is settling in so far?" Maddie asked. "You haven't had a riot over sleeping arrangements, so I assume it hasn't been too terrible."

Maddie was deliberate in evading answering Canaan's question in any meaningful way - Kudos. He shrugged at her next question, not necessarily dismissive in nature but more so resolutely. "I mean, the only one with better accommodations is you, Doc," he joked. Aside from Maddie, the rest of the crew and passengers were all in the same predicament when it came to sleeping accommodations. There was no point bitching and moaning about something that couldn't change. "If someone wants to hang their hammock in the cargo bay, who am I to stop 'em. But I think they're settling in well enough for the most part, save for lack of privacy. M'Riz purr-snores," he pointed out. "We have a few on board who aren't used to our bathroom setup, but they'll adapt fast enough, I'm sure. How about you? What's it like sleeping next to the cadaver fridge?" He asked with a chuckle.

There was a moment of shocked silence before Maddie laughed. "Thankfully, thus far, I haven't had a bunkmate," she said with a shake of her head. "But, trust me, I've had worse sleeping arrangements. At this stage, I'm just thrilled that I have my own bathroom so far. That said, I'm pretty sure someone is sneaking in when I'm not here. My soaps seem to be disappearing rather quickly," she added with a grin.

Canaan laughed along with Maddie, finding the idea of sleeping less than a meter away from a deceased person more than a little morose. He liked they shared a twisted sense of humor. "I can neither confirm nor deny I may have seen M'Riz stepping out of sickbay looking more fresh and clean than when he'd first walked in. But, you didn't hear that from me," Canaan said with a wink before asking, "Did you happen to find a large furball clogging the drain?"

Maddie raised an eyebrow slightly. "If I find a gold-colored hairball clogging my drain, we may just find out what it's like sleeping next to a cadaver quicker than we planned," she shot back without missing a beat.

Canaan spewed his gulp of milk, laughing hysterically at Maddie's matter-of-fact declaration, a small amount even shooting out his nose. He wheezed at the thought of M'Riz's magnificent, lion-like head mounted to one of the walls in sickbay, "Oh no!" He exclaimed, laughing even more. "Imagine filling out the cause of death on the death certificate... How would that read?!"

"Accidents happen," she replied nonchalantly, trying very hard not to react to his response. "Lieutenant M'Riz accidentally fell on an active laser scalpel, beheading himself in the process."

Canaan stood, retrieving a cleaning wipe from a nearby compartment. He continued laughing at Maddie's deadpan delivery while cleaning up his mess. "I've got the feeling they'd let you get away with it, too." His cheeks were hot with color, contrasting deeply against his pale complexion. "Remind me never to be on the wrong side of your laser scalpel, Doc." He disposed of the cleaning wipe and recycled the glass of milk in exchange for a glass of an old Earth beverage called Coca-Cola. "You're a bit twisted, aren't you?" He asked casually, yet his interest was undeniable.

"Who me?" Maddie asked with perfect innocence. "Actually, no, I'm not in the slightest bit twisted. I'm just good at pretending." She shrugged slightly. "Some days, I'm so good I even convince myself." She dipped the last of her cookie in the hot chocolate, eating it before snagging another cookie from the jar.

"Ah, now therein lies the problem - We're terribly good at convincing ourselves of things, aren't we?" He pulled up one of his legs, hugging it against his chest before resting his chin on the knee. "Don't be afraid of this, you're good enough for that, this can't be true... so on, and so forth. Some of us even make an art of it, I suppose. What have you convinced yourself of lately?" He asked before taking a sip of the carbonated beverage.

"Well, when I walked into the kitchen, I convinced myself I was only going to have one or two cookies," she said with a wry grin as she reached for another. "But, mostly right now, it's just that 'this too shall pass.'" She sighed, taking a bite of the cookie without dunking it in hot chocolate. "Maybe if I tell myself that enough it'll come true."

Canaan nodded, absentmindedly scratching his thigh, "In your experience," he spoke after a moment's silence, "Has that ever really worked?" He thought he knew the answer, but maybe Maddie was privy to something he was not, "Do you feel as it'll pass, or hope for it to?"

"My experience?" Maddie countered. "Do you mean medically? Or personally?"

"Sure," he replied sincerely, meaning both.

"Medically, the human mind is the most powerful part of the body," she said quietly, shifting her gaze to the mug of hot chocolate in front of her. "It can make or break the human body and the human soul." She paused, breaking the cookie in her hand but not actually eating it. "It's also the first to see through your lies. You might be able to convince your heart, but your mind always knows."

Canaan breathed in deep, a pensive expression drawing across his face, "Lies are like poison, they fester and rot - They cause heartache and darken the soul. Yet, we do it to ourselves all the time, try to convince ourselves of something else to avoid dealing with what's really affecting us. Is that a coping mechanism or delusion?"

"A bit of both?" Maddie countered, looking across at him. "We want to be able to believe better, but deep down, we know the truth. Still, we keep telling ourselves otherwise."

"Denial is like quicksand," he said quietly, staring thoughtfully into the distance. "We wrap ourselves in it for protection because it's what we need at the time, only to discover it's burring us in hurt. And personally?" He asked, his gaze returning to hold Maddie's.

"Personally?" Maddie asked, unsure if he was asking her for her thoughts or waiting to offer his own.

Shifting his posture to face Maddie more directly, Canaan nodded at her question, "Yes. You spoke medically about our inclination to avoid the truth by convincing ourselves otherwise. But, what do you think about all of that on a personal level?" He wondered, taking another sip of cola before wiping a few crumbs off of the table's surface.

Maddie paused, picking up her hot chocolate and taking a sip, contemplating on his words. "Personally... we tell ourselves we're okay because we want to be okay, but all the while we build up walls. Not necessarily to keep people out, but to keep us in" she said, setting the mug down and pressing both hands against her chest. "Personally, I think we know we're hurting ourselves, we know we're causing ourselves harm, but I think we have a subconscious voice saying that we deserve the hurt that we feel, that we're punishing ourselves for whatever transgressions may have happened in the past. On the outside, we smile, we laugh, we wear a new mask every day and keep adding to our walls to keep the rest of the universe at arm's length because we don't want to believe any differently."


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Comments (2)

By Arminius Baiua PhD on Friday March 19, 2021 @ 2:27pm

Cute post!

By Trinity Anderson on Friday March 26, 2021 @ 1:46pm

Yes- good thing I work from home. I burst out laughing at the M'Riz part. As the security officer, I know who to pepper with questions should M'Riz mysteriously disappear :p