No Skin Off My Knuckles
Episode 1: Hell is a four letter word
Location: Liorga and Estelle's Quarters
Timeline: after Left Behind
Returning from her operation on Justin’s leg, which had gone as planned, Estelle walked into her cabin. “Are you home yet, love?” she called as she started peeling off her surgical gown.
Liorga, her knuckles still bleeding, had hoped she’d have a little more time before her lover arrived home; time enough to dispose of her blood soaked wraps and do dermal regen on her hands, but it seemed that wasn’t in the cards. Shit. She sighed internally, quickly tossing the wraps into the replicator for disposal, “In here, baby.” She called back, hurriedly washing her hands as best she could.
Estelle joined her in the bathroom to get rid of her used clothes. “He’ll have to do some physical therapy but he’ll walk normally again soon”, she started. “He’s a very happy man, he’s got…” she paused, seeing the bloodied knuckles. “What happened?”
“Must’ve cut myself working out.” Liorga shrugged, “No big deal. Anyway, I assume you’re talking about Case, glad to hear the surgery went well.”
Estelle looked at Liorga and frowned. “Please don’t. Whatever it is, you needn’t lie to me. I’ll help, and I’ll understand.” She could see that this was no mere cut, after all.
“I don’t really know what happened, honey.” Liorga repeated, “I was pounding the heavy bag and I looked at it and realized I was leaving bloody knuckle prints on it every time I hit it, then I saw my hands were bleeding. Guess I just overdid it.”
Estelle went to work treating the wounds, making sure the bones and ligaments were okay. “What’s got you so frustrated that you’re hitting this hard, though? I’ve noticed a change in your mood, I wasn’t sure if it was significant, or even if it wasn’t just a false perception, but looking at this, I think there’s something you should be telling me.” It was one of those rare moments where there wasn’t a hint of playfulness about Estelle’s words and intonation.
“I should be out there helping find the command crew.” Liorga replied, there was no way she would lie to Estelle, there was also no use if she even wanted to, “But Maddy the Cadet Counselor doesn’t think I’m ready yet. Little bitch. I was under fire when she was still shitting yellow.”
“I can’t say I’m upset you’re back here with me instead”, Estelle said. “But yes, she doesn’t seem to understand. She thinks having been traumatised on Cortic makes you upset and angry, and doesn’t realise that being held back is much worse.” She squeezed Liorga’s freshly treated right hand before going to work on the left. “I’d love to keep you close by myself, I just understand it would feel like a golden cage for you.”
“Right.” Liorga nodded, she knew Estelle would understand, even if Liorga sometimes had to remind her which end of the phaser went towards the enemy, “Probably hurt my own cause in retrospect when she asked me what I felt when I had to kill those guys in the gun on Cortic…”
Estelle chuckled softly. “I’m willing to bet you said something like ‘backlash’ or whatever technical term there is. Probably something she didn’t understand, like I wouldn’t. No, you’ve got to speak to her in terms she can process.”
“Recoil. And yeah, that went about as well as you’d expect.” Liorga groaned, comprehending now that she hadn’t done a damn thing to help herself, “I said recoil, now there’s a backlash, and I’m restricted to the ship…”
“Right, recoil... I knew I had the wrong term”, Estelle shrugged. “You know, when I was a cadet, I wasn’t much better. I’ve been in combat simulations before, there’s no way to escape those when you grow up with Andorians, but I had to get hurt in a real fight before I could understand what it’s like. If all you have is book knowledge…”
“Kid don’t know her ass from a hole in the ground about the reality of this job.” Liorga grumbled, then added caringly, “Hope it doesn’t get her killed.”
Estelle smirked. “You know, we could lure her into the holodeck for a combat simulation, only we’d have to make sure she doesn’t know it’s just a simulation.”
“Just wonder if she’s done her mandatory combat training.” Liorga laughed as she was pretty sure the answer was a resounding no, “She probably doesn’t even know that she has to do combat training to graduate the academy. Boy, that’s going to be a nasty surprise for her…”
“I’m no kind of expert on psychology or counselling”, Estelle said. “But in my personal opinion, it helps to have first-hand experience to help someone out. As for you, just look at it as an extended holiday where you get to spend your nights in bed with me rather than in a hammock between shuttle bulkheads with five other people and no shower.”
“I guess there is that.” Liorga laughed, “As far as gilded cages go, this one isn’t bad at all.”
“But I need you to promise me something”, Estelle said. “When there’s something that’s bothering you, no matter what it is, don’t hide it from me. I’m with you, not only for the good times. Okay?”
“I just didn’t want to drop a whole lot on you.” Liorga explained, “I mean, there was so much crap last mission, I didn’t want to bring you any more stress. Hell, between Maddy and that jackass Lovejoy…”
“Yeah, looks like my attempt to be nice to him and make him feel welcome didn’t do any good”, Estelle grumbled. “I thought I had a bit more charm than that.”
“Not every snake can be charmed, love.” Liorga laughed.
“And it seems particularly hard to persuade this one to leave”, Estelle said. “And have you heard Gallia talk about him? I mean, beyond the little prank, and about more serious misgivings?”
“I’ve heard rumors he’s got his eyes on Kara.” Liorga nodded, “Gallia’s madder than Hell about that.”
Estelle nodded. “As if those two didn’t already have more than enough drama in their relationship.”
“They really do.” Liorga sighed, “Look, don’t mention it to Gallia because she doesn’t know I know, but she got served with documents the other day. That guy Cardille, the one who killed her sister, his parents are trying to get custody of Tayalas, claim Gallia’s unfit. Also, from what I’ve heard, there’s a chance the charges against him may be dismissed.”
“She’s the best mother this little girl can ever hope for, and any number of professionals will vouch for that”, Estelle said. “So she needn’t worry.” She would put together a statement, she decided. That should help at least a little. “And how could those charges be dismissed? Murder in front of witnesses? Not exactly something you could wind yourself free of.”
“Because Gallia missed a court appearance.” Liorga rolled her eyes, “While we were neck deep in the shit on Cortic, Gallia was supposed to be on subspace giving testimony for his indictment. Now his lawyers are trying to say ‘no witness, no murder’ and get him off on a damn technicality. It’s so unfair.”
Estelle shook her head. “No, that doesn’t float. I’ve had a similar case. Well, it wasn’t murder but… I don’t remember what it was. But long story short, there’s a provision in the laws for being unavoidably detained. I’ll tell her she needn’t be worried.”
“I swear, if I didn’t know better, if I didn’t know things like that didn’t happen anymore, I’d think that someone was trying to fix this for that bastard Cardille and his family.” Liorga sighed, flexing her fists, “That’s a lot better, baby, thank you.”
“Those things do still happen”, Estelle said. “We’ll just have to watch out and guard against it. But look who I’m telling this.” She took Liorga’s hands and kissed them.
“Yeah, I suppose so.” Liorga said sadly, “But I’m sure we can come up with a shipload of statements to back Gallia’s status as the best parent that Tayalas could possibly have.” She laid her head on Estelle’s shoulder, “So, any thought about how you want to spend the next couple of hours? I’ve got one…”
“I’ll happily follow your lead, love”, Estelle said. “Unless you say back to the gym or something similarly insane.”
“Nah, already had enough gym today.” Liorga winked, taking Estelle’s hand, “I’ve got another kind of exercise in mind, we’ll start in the shower."