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I'm Fine, Honest

Posted on Thu Apr 9th, 2020 @ 7:36am by Dr. Moira Dun & Alden Loxley

Mission: Mission 1: Gearing Up
Location: Geronimo Cargo Bay

Alden sat atop a crate with his back to a bulkhead, all his current possessions to his left barring his guitar which rested on his lap. It was warm enough to temporarily ditch a couple of layers, so his jacket now lay upon his pack, and his shirt was undone, revealing a sleeveless t-shirt and a muscular frame beneath. Quietly, he strummed an old familiar tune, one Alden had written himself and a musical comfy blanket of sorts, but his heart wasn't light enough to sing the words. They reminded him too much of her.

His left arm ached a little louder as he played out long fingers across the guitar's strings and Alden winced. Itchy, achey and uncomfortable, and becoming too difficult to ignore. He propped his guitar against his body and let the neck drop low, then carefully removed his shirt.

Ow. Abigail had done a decent backroom (well, bedroom) job of stitching up the through-and-through bullet wound, but it had been a rough 24hrs since then. The skin was red and sore on both sides of his upper arm now and Alden delicately poked at it as if that might solve the problem.

It didn't. But Alden was lost in that personal moment of discovery, completely caught up with the wound and the memory of where it had come from when he heard steps on the metal flooring. He cast a look upwards from beneath his brow, one that looked a little more vulnerable than he would have liked if he could see himself.

Moira wandered down into the cargo area, partially drawn by the quiet sound of guitar music and partially pushed by a general sense of restlessness. She told herself it was the former, not the latter - growing up on a farming world and even the smallest, quietest parties would have some ranch boy strumming their guitar. That music was largely lacking on Londinium, replaced by violins and pianos and electrical instruments.

By the time she reached the bottom of the stairs, however, the music had stopped. She arrived to see the man looking at his arm, the guitar propped up beside him. For just a moment, she contemplated what to say - some compliment about his playing to draw him out of this distraction. After all, talking about music was something safe and familiar compared to some of the conversations she'd been having later, and she was a bit curious (and a little intimidated) by these mercenaries. But before Moira could think of anything to say, she noticed why the man was looking at his arm.

As Moira took a few steps onto the metal floor of the bay, the man looked up. She froze, wearing an almost embarrassed look as if guilty for catching him in this moment. It surprised her; to see this mercenary with a touch of vulnerability in his eyes. That was more a look suited to her than him.

"What happened?" She asked, looking at the wound, her professional curiosity coming even before introductions.

Petite. She was delicately built with a fragility to her frame that spoke more of feminity than weakness. Alden was wise to the inner strengths of women, not foolish enough to underestimate them even if that knowledge had not been so recently proved. He offered up a uneven smile, conveying shyness regardless of his inner confidence. She'd caught him in a unguarded moment, and Alden figured they both looked a little uncertain.

"Someone shot me," he said, in a self-effacing tone that sounded almost amused by this revelation. "But for the record, it's been an emotional couple of days, and it really wasn't my fault." That was true. He'd been dragged into the chaos and gunfire against his will, by a forthright and dangerous blond female.

He didn't stand up, knowing just by looking across at this young woman, that to do so would be to tower over her. In an effort to convey informality rather than intimidation, Alden stayed seated and picked up his guitar again.

"I'm fine, honest," he said, and smiled briefly, then returned to playing a couple of lazy chords to distract himself from the pain.

"Oh," Moira said simply, in response to learning the origins of the wound. For some reason... that didn't surprise her. After what happened earlier on the ship, and even just the rough nature of this planet, well, honestly that seemed like the most probably explanation. She could only that whatever conflict it was that got him shot was left back down on the surface.

She frowned just slightly, not hiding the fact that she was looking straight at the wound. She was just too used to being a doctor; back on Londinium or on her old ship, everybody would be asking her to look at wounds or blemishes or illnesses, whether they were her patient or not. She could hardly remember the time when it would be considered awkward to be interested in somebody's health.

"Doesn't look quite fine. Pretty rough edges on the wound, showing some inflammation... even on the off chance it heals without getting infected, it'll leave a nasty scar." Then she hesitated; she wasn't trying to toss the fact that she was a doctor everywhere, but that didn't change the fact that he needed care. The longer this wound sat, the worse it would probably get. "You should get it cleaned up." She added, not entirely willing to entirely break her act and offer to work on it right then and there.

She hadn't moved off, but remained in relatively close proximity, and Alden wondered if she was crew or a passenger aboard this weirdly mysterious ship. He didn't ask outright. Not yet. Cloak and dagger action out in the warehouse and that rocky landing, it was all feeling just a little off kilter.

He'd automatically dropped back into strumming that familiar song when she spoke up again. Alden kept playing, but let his gaze wander back up to meet her critical one. She spoke like she had some experience of dealing with wounds, so he tried to treat her comments with the seriousness they deserved.

"Nasty scars make for interesting conversations," he heard himself say, flippantly, then Alden caught himself and wrinkled up his nose in a silent moment of guilty apology. "But yeah, okay. You're right, it hurts. I just got here, figure wandering around up there?" He gave a backwards nod of his head in the direction of the upper deck. "Not a great idea."

"Tattoos make for good conversations. Scars make for bad memories." Moira shrugged. At this point, she was about ready to argue if the captain were to try to stop her from treating somebody who needed treating. With a casual show of determination and confidence, so unlike what Moira had shown previously on this ship, she motioned to the stairs.

"I don't think he can rightly say anything about an injured man just heading to the infirmary. Especially if the captain wants you in good physical condition," she added. Based on the previous happenings on this ship, the fact that he was here for muscle seemed a safe assumption; and if he was stuck in bed with an infection, well, the captain would hardly want that, right?

He chuckled. "You make a fair point," Alden conceded graciously. His hands kept playing that damn song though, caught up in their need for simple comfort and continuity. Then she indicated the stairs and he exhaled softly.

"You're serious, aren't you?" He asked, grinning at himself as he put the guitar down and stood up obediently. "Well, yes ma'am. If'n you say so. I ain't exactly sure what condition the captain wants me in, but I thank you for caring. You mind escorting me just so I don't end up accused of stealing something important?"

"I'm coming with you, but I don't know if the captain quite trusts me of not stealing anything either," the woman shrugged. After all, she was still a bit uncertain as to her position on this ship. And to be fair, she wasn't exactly a model of honesty. If she was the captain, she probably wouldn't trust herself - not that she would ever steal, but she wasn't unfamiliar with the concept of distrust.

As Moira turned to walk towards the stairs she paused and glanced back towards the man. Her demeanor softened just a little - some of the doctor personality getting replaced by the cheerful persona that was slowly becoming more and more natural for her. "You play well, by the way," she added.

Well, that was interesting... Alden smiled acceptingly and nodded twice. "Awful in'tresting ship y'all have here," he noted, but he sounded more curious than concerned on that front. Seemed Captain Stanton had an eclectic mix of souls aboard.

She led the way, and Alden picked up his gear as if he was moving lock, stock and barrel to the infirmary. He didn't miss the shift in her disposition either, grateful for the candor.

"Hey, thanks," he said, genuinely appreciative of the kind words. "Plenty of long nights when I was a kid, and a captive audience on the ranch. Kinda lent itself to practice."

"Well, it is certainly different than the last ship I was on," Moira said with a shrug. That couldn't be more true - considering the last ship she was on was an Alliance cruiser.

Moira glanced back towards him as he started talking about ranch. She couldn't help to smile - and for once this was an honest smile. "I grew up on a ranch too," she said, turning her attention back to the stairs. "But I was the captive audience in my case; it was my brother who decided to pick up the guitar." It felt good to be around somebody else who knew about ranches; after spending all that time in the Core, and then on this ship... it took all her effort to not start asking him about it - what they raised, where it was, etc - and that fact itself surprised her. That was something the new Moira, the bubbly Moira would say, not the actual Moira. Or maybe she didn't know her actual self as well as she thought she did.

"Last ship, better or worse?" Alden asked, not really expecting an answer. He wasn't so much prying into details as being politely curious right now. Then she turned back and cast her direct gaze towards him and, eyes bright with the recognition of her sincerity of expression, he stopped in his tracks.

"Heh," he responded with happy amusement. "what are the chances, eh? Ranch buddies all the way out here." Alden's grin broadened as she mentioned her brother and his guitar. "My little brother and I both used to play, but I think he was really just humouring me. He really preferred playing cards and hunting down 'treasure'. But the cows didn't mind listening to me practice," he freely offered up a little information, unknowingly answering at least one of her unspoken questions.

"It's the horses I miss the most though," Alden admitted honestly. "Just taking a long old ride out, y'know?"

"Well, on the last ship I was about 90% confident I wouldn't get shot on any given day. On this ship that's down to about 70%." Moira responded to the joking question anyway, but she responded with a sort of dark joke.

She nodded as the man described his old family ranch, stopping right in front of the infirmary. She'd rather let him finish talking before she had to explain why there was a shot up woman lying unconscious in there.

"Sometimes I'd try to join in with my brother, but my family only had one guitar. We found a ukulele at a swap meet and I got decent at trying to join him with that, but it isn't just the same." Whatever happened to that instrument? Did her parents take it with them when they betrayed the family, sold the farm? Or did they leave it there to be crushed and destroyed, like everything else? She didn't want to know. It was almost funny to think that nowadays she could easily just go and buy one to replace it, but she didn't. "It's the horses that I miss too," she added. "My favorite was this blue roan I had... Dusky. I know, it's an awful name, but I was twelve." At that she laughed - an honest laugh, the type of laugh that would make her forgot the injured traitor in the infirmary just behind her.

"Seventy percent?" Alden raised one eyebrow and chuckled. "I'll take those odds." He held his arms out to his sides in a gesture of innocence then and regarded the young woman amicably. "For the record, I'm here to defend and protect."

As they briefly held position outside what he assumed to be the infirmary, Alden offered her his right hand in an obvious request for a handshake. "I'm Alden Loxley," he said. "Lot of folks use nicknames and inventions, but that one is my very own." He smiled warmly. "And yeah, you should always hold out for the guitar. I mean, I can play a uke, but it's just..." His grin broadened and shrugged demonstratively. "Too small."

Home. It had been a while since he'd checked in back there, but there was always a happy, fuzzy feeling when he considered the old family lands. Alden looked wistful for a moment, grinned at her mention of horse names and confessed without any shame whatsoever.

"Mine's Magic," he admitted. "Dapple grey mare. And I called her Magic. I was ten. She's an old lady now, but my sister looks after her." He felt the lump in his throat, so Alden pointed to the door behind her. "This it?" His arm still protested fiercely, demanding attention.

"I'm Moira," Moira said, taking his hand in a handshake. Then she realized he had given his last name as well, and figured it best to give hers... it felt strange to say her last name without just saying 'Dr. Dun'. "Moira Dun," she elaborated. "And I don't think I was ever too big to play a uke." She shrugged too, but if anything that only showed off her petite structure.

After that, she glanced at the infirmary. "Well, this is it," she said with yet another shrug, carefully stepping over to open the door. Inside, the woman was either asleep or unconscious. Moira had heard their was a sick bay right next to the infirmary, but she didn't want to overstep her boundaries here, so for now the woman was recovering from the surgery right here. Despite her presence, the place was surprisingly clean; Moira had taken care to clean the place after treating the patient. She glanced up towards Alden instinctively, as if gauging his reaction.

"Pleasure to meet you, Moira Dun," Alden said politely, and he bowed his head in deference to the lil lady. He wondered if there was any meaning to her pause between first name and last, but didn't pay too much attention to it. They were strangers, and names were important. "Size is only part of the equation," he said, and he was deadly serious on that front.

The infirmary, it seemed, already had an occupant. That raised his eyebrows and Alden canted his head to the side as he looked from said unconscious person back to Moira. He stood on the boundary, waiting for permission to enter as he replied to her obvious statement. This, was definitely, it.

"She okay?" Alden asked, avoiding seeking any details as to the who or why. Generally those kinda questions weren't wanted, and he had the intention to stay awhile yet.

Moira stepped over into the infirmary: an unwritten invitation for him to follow. "She's getting better. I do think she'll turn out okay..." Moira quieted for a moment, looking at the woman. What a strange situation the both of them had gotten into - her treating these strangers on a random ship, and this woman with the luck to get shot right next to a surgeon. Even though Alden never asked further about her, she could guess his curiosity. "She was an... 'acquaintance' of the Captain's... and not the good kind of acquaintance."

He followed slowly behind, taking in the scenery as he crossed the threshold into the medical space. Alden, too, studied the unconscious form for a lingering moment as if he might divine her reason for being here with a mere gaze.

"Good stuff," he said, though his tone was neutral since he had no idea if she were part of the crew or part of the problem. Or both for that matter. Moira half explained it with her next sentence, causing Alden to raise an eyebrow.

"Gotcha." He nodded. "Someone have to shoot her?" He asked, not really expecting an answer, but making his guess nonetheless. Alden moved then, to lean against the nearest counter and offer up a plaintive glance across at Moira. The obvious wound on his upper left arm thumped with pain now, but he didn't want to be a baby about it.

Moira just shrugged. "I seemed to have gotten myself in a place where people shoot first, and ask questions later." At that, she couldn't help but to glance at Alden's injury. Then she quickly turned around and starting looking through the cabinets and pulling out various medical supplies. She looked through a small bag on the counter as well - her own supplies. And she talked and she sorted through them. "Personally - I ain't-" for once her rather formal tone slipped; despite years living in the core and trying to fit in, there were some habits that still slipped up from her time on the farm "-ever been shot. And I don't plan on shooting somebody, either. In fact, I'd rather not even hold a gun." Sure, she had handled guns all the time back on her farm, but those were for vermin and hunting, not people. And the Alliance had given her at least basic training in their own weapons, but this new, happy Moira wouldn't need that, right?

"Let me see that injury," Moira said, turning back to Alden, changing the subject just a touch.

Alden made a face that suggested he agreed wholeheartedly with something that he wasn't happy about agreeing with. "Yeah," he said. "I think I've had dealings with the same travel agent." Listening to her talk, he smiled, picking up on the nuances of those little differences, from farm raised to university educated at a guess.

"I don't recommend it," he said, his tone light as his face screwed up in amused displeasure. "Being shot I mean. I've tried it out a few times, and none of them were fun." Alden shrugged then, watching Moira move about the place and then stepping in closer to take a seat on the second raised med-bunk when she asked him to.

"Neither's the shooting other people part," he added a little more quietly. Soulful blue eyes looked up at the doc from beneath his brows. "Fixing people is far more noble," Alden noted. "But a lot messier." His gaze brightened just a little in hopeful optimism. "Am I gonna live?" He joked.

"You'll live, but you probably shouldn't make a habit of this," Moira said with faint amusement as she looked at the wound. She turned around and pulled a small bottle of pills from her bag. "Are you on any current medications, or do you have any allergies?" Moira figured she'd ask - how strange it was to work with a patient without any medical records. With the lady she didn't have much choice, but here she could at least try to be professional. "I've got some painkillers and some antibiotics here, but they might interfere with any current medication." Moira frowned, just slightly - man, she sounded too much like a doctor right now. Wasn't she supposed to be just a cheerful coreworld tourist? She sighed, again faint.

"That'd be shiny," said Alden. "But highly unlikely given my current situation. Honestly, I think people just like shooting me. I got lucky this time," he added softly. He usually was, but it still hurt, damn it. "No ma'am," he answered her question. "No meds, no allergies." Alden waited patiently, looking up at her as Moira frowned. He picked up on the little sigh, but didn't understand it. "Thank you kindly, Doc," he said, automatically, then, with real concern in his expression and tone, Alden added. "Are you okay?" A question born of pure gentle concern for his fellow human being.

"Yeah, of course," Moira responded to his question a bit dismissively, as if she was only half listening. Then she paused. "Just... well, this is not quite where I'd thought I'd end up, huh?" She handed Alden two bottles, one in each hand. "Take one of each, once a day. You might want to take a dose now." Then she shuffled back over to the counter, pulling out a few other medical supplies.

"But you know what?" She talked as she worked, lifting a bottle of liquid and pulling some out with a syringe. "I think it will all turn out okay. Years from now, this will all be an interesting story, and think of all the beautiful landscapes and people and birds I'll see, wherever this ship takes me." If she said it enough, she'd start to believe it, right?

"Uh-huh," said Alden, parking his thoughts for a moment as he simply regarded pensive Moira and listened to her think. "Yeah," he answered her spoken thought with a chuckle wrapped around the word. "Verse has a way of dropping us all into places we didn't expect," he suggested. "Kinda like it expects us to figure it all out from a few harsh tests and a drop in the deep end, y'know? Likely it's trying to teach you something you don't know you need to learn yet."

He took the drugs, read the bottles' labels and nodded. "Thanks." Alden popped one of each in his mouth and, on trust, swallowed them without any obvious need for water. Then he waited, watching Moira move about by the counter and listening to her think out loud.

"Interesting stories are well worth the mileage, Doc," Alden agreed enthusiastically enough. "And there's plenty pretty places out there to be seen. People - all kinds, for sure. Some a lot less pretty than others," he joked, then he picked up on something he didn't hear everyone say. "Birds?" He asked. "Y'all have an affinity there?"

"Indeed I do," Moira said, turning back around with a syringe in her hand, needle attached. "Mind if I numb that arm up a bit? Just while I'm messing with the wound." Before waiting for an answer, the woman continued talking. "I'm technically here on a bird-watching trip. Quite interesting, you know? Although all the terraformed planets are similar, they're all just different enough that sometimes different species of birds take hold. Legend says they all used to be found in the wild back on Earth that Was, but these days you've got to visit pretty much every planet to see every different bird outside of captivity." She talked with genuine interest about the subject, moving her free hand to add emphasis to her story, the other hand still holding the syringe.

Alden nodded, intrigued by this revelation of hers. His eyes widened just a little at the production of the syringe, but he didn't flinch any. "Go for it," he said, softly. "Whatever you need to do." Trust didn't appear to be an issue, he accepted Moira without interrogation as to her skillset, and Alden listened to her talk before he spoke again.

"Never really thought about it, I guess," he admitted honestly. "I mean, I used to watch the birds wheel in that big ol' sky back home, but I've never really thought about all the different kinds when I'm travelling. My sister used to have a pet crow when we were kids. It hurt its wing, then sorta adopted Dani." Alden grinned at the memory. "So, you're kinda collecting species of birds, ticking them off a list?" Without any deeper concern for such issues as privacy, he continued to let his curiosity speak out loud. "Do you have pictures?"

"I..." Moira hesitated. "Pictures? Not anymore." As she talked she worked on Alden's arm, cleaning the area around the wound up with some sort of disinfectant before carefully injecting some of the med. "When I was a kid, I always took pictures... my big brother moved to the core, got himself a good job as a lawyer, and thought he could make up for leaving the family behind by sending us little gifts. Didn't even deliver them in person, just shipped them to us. Each 'gift' of his probably cost what the farm made in a season. One of them was a camera, for me. I was never a good photographer, but I was just a kid, well, a teenager; I tried my hardest, and that's all I could ask for."

With the arm cleaned up and hopefully beginning to numb, Moira turned back to the counter, picking out a pair of scissors and some other tools. Her story-telling seemed entirely earnest; but where before it was filled with a bittersweet sort of nostalgia, the tone quickly darkened. "Life happened. I moved the core and..." she couldn't tell him how desperate she was to stay in vet school, to cover tuition... if he knew about that, he'd know that she'd failed. Might as well pretend like the plans she ended up following were the plans she intended after all. "...and I really needed the money. I sold it. Haven't taken a single picture since." Not that she couldn't afford another camera; she could quite easily now - with a little effort she could probably buy one just as good as the gift from her brother. But she couldn't picture herself with another camera, not after that. She didn't deserve one.

Listening to Moira speak took Alden’s mind from the fact she was messing with his arm. He kept still, and quiet, wincing rather than making any unnecessary motion and thoroughly appreciative of her trained attention. He smiled as she spoke of home and family, and canted his head thoughtfully as Moira spoke of her elder brother and his failure to please said family with expensive gifts. That caused Alden to consider his own exodus, and wonder if he should have sent shiny things back home. He’d never really had enough money for that, simple letters, small tokens and the occasional visit had seemed to suffice.

“I guess he thought that big money gifts would show you how much he loved you guys?” Alden surmised, not so much defending said big brother as offering his own insight. “Lawyers… folk who earn a lot, they tend to focus on finances rather than the personal touch.” He shrugged apologetically. “I totally get that it’s better to spend time rather than money, but I had family who drummed that into me from an early age,” he added with a soulful smile.

His arm was mostly numb by the time scissors came into the equation, but Alden still wrinkled his nose and bit his lip as Moira turned back to him. He didn’t have enough information to truly understand Moira’s motivations, but Alden tried to put the pieces together anyway. “You chose independence rather than asking for your brother’s help,” he surmised from her story so far. “There’s no shame in that. But, did you see him? Do you guys still talk?” He was curious, that was all, intrigued to know more about this fellow ranch-born traveller.

"We don't talk, not since a while ago. My..." Moira hesitated, trying to pick out the right word. "...romantic partner at the time found out about him and tried to reintroduce us." As she talked she cut away the old, crude stitches. Talking about her brother came easy - it felt less personal, despite being about family, and, well, talking to Alden felt more like talking to a neighboring rancher than like talking to the crew. "I agreed to it. I went in with an open mind and agreed to talk with my brother. And he was nice. I thought we could become friends again but... well... life happens. I haven't talked to him in five years, and I no longer have an address for him to send gifts or letters to. Maybe its better that way."

He couldn't imagine not talking to family. Sure, Loxley contact was sporadic, but the cortex kept them in touch and that link remained unbroken despite their distance apart. Alden sucked in a breath as the stitches the blonde demon had given him were removed and the raw red flesh separated. It hurt, but the bullet was long gone at least. Not the worst he had, but definitely uncomfy.

"Sounds like your partner was the fix-it type," Alden said, looking up at Moira from under his eyebrows and shrugged. "Sometimes a good thing, other times not so much." Not everyone liked someone else meddling in family affairs, and on that front he could see both sides. He nodded. "Life definitely has a habit of happening," he agreed, with a soulful glance across the infirmary to regard a blank bit of the bulkhead. Anouk's face teased in his memory, forever lost and Alden sighed.

"I dunno," he noted, his tone friendly, supportive rather than persuasive and easily absent on the judgemental. "I'm thinking your saying 'maybe' means you've considered otherwise? And five years means nothing with family." Alden smiled wryly. "We're forever connected." A shrug and words spoken with casual seriousness. "But ultimately it'll always be down to your decision."

"Shoud've asked me before setting up this meeting with my brother. I probably would've agreed to it - but walking into a 'surprise' and its my estranged big brother?" Moira shrugged - the action only evident in her shoulders, while her hands remained steady, cleaning out Alden's arm. "And yeah... I have thought about meeting up again. But what's just so infuriating was that he was right. About everything. I'm just like him; and both of us are too stubborn to admit that we might have done wrong." Then she sighed, taking a step back to grab new stitches.

"He always said the farm was going to fail. That it was a bankruptcy waiting to happen, and he wasn't going to be there when it went under. Of course we parted on bad terms... but, well... he was right. The farm's sold, paved over, and I wasn't there either to save it. I was too busy studying. The worst part? I'm not sure if I regret leaving. I mean, I would give my life if it would bring the farm back. But how much longer could we hold on, even with my help? At least now I have marketable skills, to try to start over or something."

Then Moira paused - she had been rambling. Good job, Moira she thought to herself. She had come here to try to start over, put the past behind her, and here she was airing all her dirty laundry and life's regret to some stranger she had just met. Maybe she had been bottling it up too much... that's what Davis would say. And this poor man that had to listen - not like he cared about Moira's brother, or farm. He was a captive audience here as her patient, and he was only making conversation to be polite. The woman couldn't fathom that somebody would actually want to listen to her. "Sorry," she muttered, putting in the first new stitch.

"Ah," said Alden, understanding somewhat more now that detail was in the open. "Well, yeah. Surprise family meetings? They rarely go well. I'd say," he smiled warmly, "you're more 'n' justfied on that count." He kept still, looking to Moira rather than what she was doing to his arm, and simply relaxed into the situation.

"But," he added, grin lazy and self-effacing now. "You know what beats stubborn sometimes? Dumb bravery. Ain't saying it's a safe move or a sensible one, but 'ccasionally a person just has to go for it. Take the tricky path, make the hard call, jump into things without carrying all that stubborn pride around."

Alden didn't shrug, not while the doc was working on his arm, but he tilted his head from side to side instead and exhaled softly. "Might be time to go all out. Tell him he was right. You might be surprised, you might not. But either way? Sometimes talking's easier than all that silence. Enough of that to go around out in the black."

"For the record though?" Alden said with a deep and obvious sincerity. "Someone tells me my family home is gonna fail and die, I'd do what you did and fight to save it. Hell, I'd likely still be there, deep in debt and trying to make it work. Not all schooled up and out here helping folk like you are. So I'd say you were both right, you for caring enough to try, and him for knowing when to bail. All of us have our limits..."

He let his gaze meet hers the second Moira allowed it, and there was only a friendly concern in those blue eyes. "You ain't got nothing to be sorry to me for, Doc," Alden promised, that lopsided grin adding weight to his words.

Moira was quiet for a moment, working on the stitches, playing through things to say in her head that would neither condemn nor justify her brother. Only after that moment did she realize what Alden had said.

"Please," she spoke kindly, "Call me Moira. Not 'Doc'." Then again, would it hurt to have him know? But that would only raise questions... and even if he didn't seem to be bothered by the fact that she might be an ex-rancher turned doctor exploring the rim of the 'verse, Moira wasn't sure how he'd take it if he dug deeper, and found out she was former Alliance. Besides; she was less sure about the Captain and other folk's response to her position. They seemed suspicious enough of her already, and if she knew anything from living on the rim it was that people were even more suspicious of people with fancy degrees and a lot to lose.

He raised both eyebrows, looking for all the world as if he might be about to ask a searching question. Then Alden released the tiny amount of tension and buried the broadening sense of curiosity and simply nodded.

"Sure thing, Moira," Alden agreed. He didn't know if she had secrets that she wanted hidden, or if she simply wanted to be addressed by her actual name, and in the big scheme of things, it didn't really matter which. What mattered was her polite request and his acquiescence to that well-spoken request. "Anyway," he noted, tone light as he distracted them both. "I owe you one now, so if you're ever near Ezra and you want some ranch time.... mebbe I can arrange that."

"I've have to remember that, if we ever stop by." Despite her own rural origins, Moira's formal speech contrasted a bit with Alden's. "It's been too long since I've ridden a horse." She worked in silent relief that the man didn't ask any further questions. For a moment, she had worried. Then she paused, looking at the stitches. "I think we're about done here," she said, with the casual voice she was used to talking with her nurses.

Alden smiled. "You'd be welcome," he promised. Most folk were, his mother was fierce, independent, but definitely sociable and she'd make assumptions, but she'd also share food, time and resources without question if folk were friendly. He pushed off the bed and stood up, studying his own arm more closely now, out of morbid curiosity.

"Looks good, D... Moira, thank you, kindly," Alden said, the full force of his happiness directed solely at Moira for a long moment, eyes bright, smile broad. Then he spoke again, quieter this time. "Some damn fine marketable skills you have there," he said, and wagged his eyebrows comedically. "Thanks for sharing them with lil ol me, much 'ppreciated."

She had a story there, his dark blue eyes said, and he knew it, but he had time, and no need to interrogate. If it happened to unfold in however much time they had ahead of them in the same space, he was up for it. If it didn't, no drama was needed.

"And thanks for not getting shot worse than you did," Moira said with a chuckle. That was far from something she would normally say to a patient, but she had a feeling this man didn't care about formality as much as her patients back on Londinium did. But she was about done here.

"Stay safe," the doctor said as she cleaned up the infirmary a bit, now finished with tending to the wound.

Alden gave a big dumb openmouthed grin to her first comment, that faded into a calmer, warm expression at her second. "Kinda sorta my job to make sure you stay safe from here on out, Moira," he noted. "On account of Captain's taken me and Jonas on as security. But I can promise I'll make sure you stay safe, if'n you don't mind the occasional patch-up job."

He ducked out of the infirmary then, leaving Moira and her other patient to the quiet of their own space.


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