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Little Talks

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The singing of the night forest whispered into the night, the leaves swaying with the wind. The brisk breeze sent goosebumps creeping over her arms, a shiver rattling through her shoulders as she sunk into her coat. It hadn’t been her intention to stand there, watching her as the night’s palette washed over them and their surroundings. But here she was, legs weighed like anchors against the rough grain of the balcony.

Swallowing her pride, Imani stepped forward. Her voice was soft when she finally spoke.

“It’s a nice night.” Beckett’s gaze flicked over to her before returning to the stars. The signs of her discomfort were subtle, but they were ones Imani could never forget. Watching the soft press of her lips, her shoulders tensing before she weaved the response into a change in posture, the silent folding of her hands on the railing. There was a distant look in her eyes; she could see dozens more stars reflecting in the pools of her irises.

“For now, at least,” she replied, her voice lacking that extra kick of gusto it normally had. “I was able to spot some rain clouds in the distance. Before the sun went down, of course.”

“I assume you’re enjoying the night sky before the weather turns?”

“Mm. What brings you out here?”

“Same as you.” The rocketeer turned to look at her, straightening her posture. Her expression was completely unreadable, but there was a more...stiff look in her expression. ...So she caught the bluff that easily, huh? She supposed it was obvious; Imani normally spent her time reading at this hour. If she ever did take the time to enjoy the fresh air, she did it from the main deck, not the balcony. Of course Beckett would know that. “I was actually hoping to catch you alone so we could talk in private.”

“About?”

“What happened.”

“I don’t think we need to expand any further on that.” Beckett turned her gaze back towards the sky, her arms crossed. Her fingers were digging into her skin, her previous resolve beginning to crumple away like the scraps of leaves lost to the wind.

“I think we do.” Imani joined her, leaning against the railing. It was odd, really. It was as if their roles had completely changed, with her being more open, more casual as Beckett maintained a stoic front. “You told me that flying makes you feel free. Do you come up here to be closer to the sky, to try and emulate that feeling from the ground?”

“It’s not any of your business.”

“Apologies.” There was a dull ache in her chest. Years ago, she would’ve opened up to her, laying down on her bed, legs dangling off the edge as she stared up at the ceiling. Her hands would’ve been folded across her stomach, that same distant look in her eyes reflecting the low gleam of her lamp.

“I get it, you know.”

“Hm?”

“You’re trying to be the bigger person, like you always do.” There was no bite to her voice. Instead, threads of resignation lined the edges of her tone. “You keep putting your own feelings aside because you feel like you have to.” Beckett looked at her again. “I know you’re still upset about it. You’re conflicted. You spent all those weeks, ignoring me, rejecting my attempts to talk. And then we had to. And now here you are. Whether you’re just trying to make yourself feel better or if you have some other ulterior motive is lost on me, though.”

“Do...do you really think I wasn’t being genuine? Beckett I…” she paused, scrambling for a string of something coherent she could possibly say. “When you left, I was furious. Until recently, I couldn’t fathom why you couldn’t possibly understand why things were different. I didn’t go after you because I figured that you would come back, take the time to simmer down and then we could talk things through. But then that night turned into days, and the days into weeks and there was still no sign of you. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep. I would worry myself awake and find myself waiting on the edge of the camp, watching the sky, praying that I would see you return. It was at the end of that month when the others intervened. We had to move on.” Imani wiped her eye. “I resigned myself to thinking that you had been caught or worse, killed.” Those words constricted her throat, a pit forming in her stomach as she remembered the anxiety that would scramble her mind whenever she put too much thought into that conclusion.

“When I saw you again, I just...I couldn’t help but feel anger. I spent so long worrying about you, assuming the worst and there you are, perfectly fine. When you saw me, I just...I couldn’t bear to be near you. I had to dismiss myself. Looking back on it now, I suppose I was being irrational.” She sighed. “You tried to be the bigger person, and I found myself blinded by my own frustrations.” They stood there in silence, the breeze carrying petrichor alongside the nighttime chill. The sky had mostly disappeared behind the clouds before either one of them spoke up.

“I did think about going back, you know.” Imani turned towards her. “A day didn’t go by where I didn’t think of the crew. It was you who mainly occupied my thoughts but I...I thought you hated me. You had never taken that tone with me before and it made me feel like I was plummeting. I just...I had to escape. I meant to go back. Every time I thought about it, though, I felt sick to my stomach. I couldn’t bear to be yelled at like that again, to have everyone staring at me with that...that look. I just…” Beckett sunk down, looking towards the trees with her hands running through her hair. “I couldn’t.”

“When I saw you again, I was...caught off guard. All of a sudden, all of these repressed feelings came back, the anxiety, the guilt, the embarrassment. I didn’t know what to do. I was trapped in a conversation and I could only just watch as you walked away. I don’t know if catching up to you would’ve done anything. Probably would’ve just caused a scene, given the amount of people there. At that moment, I don’t think that attention would’ve been good for either of us.”

“Probably not.” The first flecks of rain dripped onto her head. “I’m going to head inside. The rain may only be specks now, but there’s no telling how quickly it’s going to start pouring.”

There was no response from her as she left. Imani couldn’t help but spare a glance behind her before she passed through the door, her heart feeling nothing but heavy. Instead of walking down the hall, she leaned against the wall, sighing. She didn’t know how she was supposed to feel. A part of her wanted to muster up her previous anger. As if it would make things any easier. They both handled things poorly. She handled things poorly.

She rubbed her temple. For a captain, she was rather terrible at attempting to make amends. Was that what this was, amends? Did she have some ulterior motive? No, no she didn’t. If she did, she would have known about it. That’s how motives work, they aren’t some unconscious thing. She missed her. That was her reasoning. She didn’t tell her, but the moment she laid eyes on her the first thing she felt was a sudden burst of joy. Knowing that she was okay. It’s just...some part of her couldn’t be happy.

Why did this have to be so confusing?

The sudden, loud creaking from the door jolted her out of her thoughts, sending her skipping away from the wall and quickly straightening up her posture. Didn’t want to have it seem as if she was waiting for her, after all.

Beckett looked at her in surprise, clearly having expected her to return to her quarters. They stood there, the howling wind slowly being silenced by the door that crept towards its frame before sealing itself in place with a dull thud. One of them should’ve moved, should’ve done something, but...neither of them did.

Then Beckett spoke.

“Hey, Imani?”

“Yeah?” Suddenly, she was enveloped in a hug, Beckett’s fingers digging into the back of her jacket as she rested against her shoulder. Upon processing what was going on, Imani sunk into her embrace, wrapping her arms around her and burying her face into her hair. She missed her scent…the mix of the musty tang of jet fuel and the freshness of damp earth wasn’t all-too pleasant, but it was what she was accustomed to.

It felt like ages before she pulled away, Beckett’s face flushed with emotion. Tear stains traced her cheeks, her eyes already turned red. Almost immediately, she wiped at her face.

“I told myself I wasn’t going to lose my composure. How quickly that went out the window,” she said, her usual light-hearted tone having returned. Imani could’ve swore that her heart skipped a beat.

“Nothing wrong with that.” Imani cupped both sides of her face, her thumbs tracing her cheeks. They looked at each other, the quiet, unspoken need of each other’s presence reflecting in their movements. “I love you, you know.” She brushed away a tear with her thumb. “Nothing’s going to change that.” Beckett hummed quietly, uncertainty wavering her pitch. “I’ll convince you of that eventually.” Slowly, she pulled her into a kiss. It was brief, their lips lingering for a few moments before they leaned their foreheads against one another, relishing in their closeness. Imani didn’t want the moment to end.

Beckett broke the silence, flashing her a toothy grin.

“I, uh, appreciate the kiss, but, y’know, I think we should, catch up?”

“Oh.” Imani pulled away, heat rushing to her face. “Oh, right, right of course.” Her hand moved to cover her face, trying to hide the flush that tinted her cheeks. Beckett straightened her posture, rolling her shoulders back as she looked at her with an amused crinkle in her eyes.

“There’s a cafe just south of here, and the next power race isn’t until a few days from now. We can maybe go there?”

“That sounds nice.”

“Then it’s a daaaate…?” Imani smiled at her, a sheepish thing.

“I suppose it is, then.”