PHD #470: What It Means
What It Means
Summary: More insights and acrimony when Sawyer finally throws her conjectures about Trask's past in his face, and he more than returns the favor.
Date: 11 Jun 2042 AE
Related Logs: All Bets Are Off (the not-quite couple's most recent fight); Annual Performance Review - Bunny (Trask tells Evan to be honest); What Matters (phantom Penelope); Stay (Trask makes a move); Interested (Trask makes another move)
Players:
Sawyer Trask 
Deck 3 - Support - Battlestar Cerberus
The floorplating along the corridors of the Cerberus are standard military. Their forged steel plates are welded seamlessly together to run nearly the entire length of each hallway. The hallways themselves are the typical load-bearing structural design of the angled quadrilateral. Oxygen scrubbers and lighting recesses are found at nearly perfect intervals throughout the angled passageways.
Condition Level: 3 - All Clear
Post-Holocaust Day: #470

The corridors of Deck Three are typically empty this time of day, leaving the cold grey A-framed hallways left to their own shadows and the dull hum of life support. Where typically there would be a rather bored looking MP standing just to the side of the News Room hatch, it's actually the Editor in Chief herself standing with her back to the rest of the world, fiddling with something in the wall.

Left to her own devices, she's busily singing a song beneath her breath with her weight shifting from one high-heeled foot to the other. "…I hate to wake you up, to say goodbye…" There is the scrape of metal against metal and a pop as the security panel is pried away from the bulkhead by the blonde. "Come to momma."

<FS3> Sawyer rolls Lock Picking: Success.

"Not that rules and regulations much matter to you, but that's definitely one of the many places you shouldn't be snooping about." It's an off-handed observation from the man facing the blonde's backside, he himself leaning against the opposite wall, arms crossed as though he may have been observing her for some time. "Seein' how your rent-a-cop's nowhere around, I'm gatherin' that this is something you don't want to 'trouble' Engineering with." Faintly, one corner of Kal's mouth twitches into a small smirk.

Sawyer pauses completely for a moment, freezing like a deer caught in the headlights or a child elbow deep in the cookie jar. Finally, her movements thaw, and a fringe of blonde is tossed over her shoulder as she looks back to Kal. "I forgot the code and convinced Tweedle Dee that the security hub had a copy of it and if he would be a dear and go fetch it for me I'd be forever grateful." There's a snort-laugh from the woman as she goes back to the task at hand. "Funny how I can't remember a five-digit code, but this is all coming back to me like it's time to sneak into the Dean's office and change my end of semester grades."

"Oh, yeah," he says, in a tone of mocking reminiscence, "And then everyone would go party at the Kappa Delta Whatever house until the cops showed up." Or so goes the standard college life cliché. "Man, those were the best years of our lives." His poking fun is short-lived, though, for the more serious snark of, "How the frak'd you forget that?" She managed to remember each number in the proper order upon waking up in Sickbay after being interrogated by the Areion for several days, after all. Which leads to the realization of, "Unless it's a new passcode." Is she really so petty that she'd change the lock combo simply because he knows it?

By now, he's pressing off the wall to hover over Sawyer's shoulder. With a deadpan kind of cheekiness, Trask asks, "You sure you want that one?" Because he simply must be a pest when she runs the risk of getting electrocuted.

"This is why I write things down these days." Sawyer holds up her palm, "But then I went swimming." In fact, she does smell a bit like chlorine in this close proximity of his hovering. "Is this a three, an eight or a six?" The ink on her palm has bled so far that it's actually hard to tell it was /any/ code, new or old. "Doesn't matter." She shuffles around her lock picking tools between her hands, her tiny screwdriver becoming a pointer as she recites: "Green is mean, red is dead, and blue is true. I don't know squat about electrical engineering, but locks… locks were my thing. And for your information, it was the Gamma House that always had the best parties."

"You totally changed it," he needles with a grin, before pointing out, "That's really petty of you, yanno." Even so, he sounds more amused than admonishing. And if he happens to recall the passcode, he's not sharing. Instead, he watches Averies at work, occasionally clucking his tongue when she attempts something. Perhaps he's just messing with her. Perhaps not. "I heard all the cute guys were into Gamma House." As if this must be /why/ the best parties were there. "Nothin' like mommy and daddy paying off the girls and the Dean to make the frat house rape scandals go away." A bit too glib to be flat, that.

As Sawyer is called out about the passcode, she only smiles in that way that has her cheeks slightly hollowed out because she's undoubtedly sucking against her teeth to keep the expression restrained. "I wouldn't know, I never stepped foot on Gamma lawn. Or rather, lack there of. I don't think they ever remembered to water it." She tilts her head and 'hmms' thoughtfully as she tries to recall the mental image, but ends up just shaking the entire notion away. Back to work, egged on by his clucking tongue.

Part of the problem of the journalist being on this side of a locked hatch is that her reading glasses are on the other side. She squints and leans into her work, "What is this, a relay?" She asks, touching the tiny metal point of her screwdriver to it experimentally. "TZZZTTT!" She says sharply, her body jerking suddenly into a rigid position before she finally cracks a grin. "Kidding."

"Not uncommon when people only care about the sowing of oats." Such types aren't at all concerned with watering or tending to a harvest. When Sawyer fakes getting zapped, though, Trask rolls his eyes and snickers. "Please. You think I don't know what someone actually getting electrocuted looks like? And whoever taught you how to disable an electric lock sucks." Beat. "Sucked." Another beat. "Whatever." Because, odds are, that person is dead. "Fortunate for you that your Dean was too preoccupied frakking his secretary when you chose to break into his office." Because, in his estimation, Sawyer is hella slow.

"You try doing this while going cross-eyed. The lock picking part, not the… fake electrocution bit. But it made you laugh." Sawyer blinks owlishly at the panel, but things are magically becoming more clear, and if she's not careful she will end up getting herself seriously injured. "Getting old is a bitch. Gah…" She digs her knuckle into the corner of her eye, rubbing ruefully. "You know a better way?" She straightens, flourishing the tiny screwdriver like a divine blade that she's regally passing on to Trask.

<FS3> Trask rolls Electrical Engineering: Great Success.

With a cant and dip if his head, the SL levels a 'step aside and watch a master at work' look at Averies, amused smirk included. After all, it ain't no thang for an electrical engineer to get an electric lock to do what he wants. It's even less of a thang when that electrical engineer has already made this particular electronic lock do exactly what he wanted once before. Taking the screwdriver, the deed is done lickety-split, with the all too familiar beep, green light, and clacking noise making this known. Without pausing, Kal taps in some keystrokes. "I'm re-setting your password." Maybe it'll even be the old one.

Sawyer can actually see better now that she's a pace away, but that doesn't do much good when you need to be hands on. "Ah, I was forgetting the crucial step: knowing what the hell I was doing." In fact the blonde /did/ know what she was doing; she just couldn't particularly pull it off with the same flare. "Just don't make it something cheesy like your birthday, and don't tell me until I have a pen in hand." She holds her hand out for her tool, so she can slip it back in the case amongst its brothers and sisters.

"Well, see, some of us earned our degrees with top honors by actually, yanno, working for it." As opposed to illegally changing one's grades. With aplomb, the mini screwdriver is returned. Despite the request and him saying, "Oh, yeah, sure," like he actually meant it, Trask doesn't wait for Sawyer to have a pen handy. Instead, he rattles off, "Eight seven five six three." At least he was nice enough to make it something the reporter should be able to remember, what with how it had been the code that she only recently changed. "And really? My birthday? That's probably one of the first things a would-be burglar would assume your password already was." Ho-ho!

"Some of us couldn't pass chemistry class to save their lives. I also made a mint that year out of other students who had a similar predicament. Eight seven five six three…" Sawyer reaches past him to pop open the hatch, repeating as she walks: "Eight seven five six three…" Beneath her breath as if she might forget a code that she should already have committed to memory. "Well, if that's the case, we'd be able to narrow the list of would-be burglars down to what… maybe five people? And then we'd have to cross reference that with the people who actually knew or had access to your birthday. So, maybe three? Short list of suspects, there but I always thought Cidra looked a little shifty." The journalist crosses over to her desk and kicks off her shoes while simultaneously searching about her hornet's nest of a desk to try to find a pen. "Seven eight five three six…" She mutters. "So, what can I do for you, Kal?"

For whatever reason, Bootstrap doesn't follow Sawyer inside. He also doesn't immediately take his leave and instead hovers by the hatchway, expression somewhat impassive until he hears her screw-up the sequence. Then one side of his mouth quirks. "You can start by gettin' your frakkin' passcode right," he wryly replies. This prompts him to enter the News Room, closing the door behind him, perhaps to preserve from privacy when he repeats, "Eight seven five six three."

News Room - Deck 3 - Battlestar Cerberus
This compartment isn't huge by any means, an afterthought shoved into an alcove when the engineer was finishing the final plans for the ship. The long awkward rectangle is filled with several desks and those heavy pieces of machinery that are tools of the media trade — copiers, computers, printers, and of course a seemingly never-ending supply of paper of both the A4 and broadsheet variety. In the far port corner hangs a mulberry-colored hammock attached to the bulkhead — where the head-reporter-in-charge is purported to spent her nights. Three heavy desks have been moved to form an inverted 'U' for the new Editor in Chief's work station, and behind them lies the hatch to the modest closet-sized darkroom.
Condition Level: 3 - All Clear
Post-Holocaust Day: #470

"Eight seven five six three." Sawyer looks up with a 'that's what I said, right?' expression, and then ends up frowning at herself and resuming her search of a pen. She's only successful after she's tugged open the third drawer, which of course isn't the one in the middle that's meant for such things like writing implements. "Eight. Seven. Five. Six. Three." This gets jotted down on a sticky back piece of paper, folded up and then stuffed in the best hiding place known to mankind: inside her bra. The blonde then drops down into her office chair and reaches for a foil pack of pills that she happens to know the exact location of and pops out two of the remaining pills from their protective bubble. "Okay."

"Or maybe it's five seven six eight three? Then again, it might be eight six seven five three…" Now he's being impishly unhelpful. That mischievous mirth carries to his eyes, but it's not overly long for this world. With Sawyer now seeming to have the proper code, there's no real reason for him to remain, is there? "Well." Yeah, this is bound to get uncomfortable if he stays, and he's feeling himself starting to internally squirm like a worm on a hook, which is something Kal simply cannot permit. "I see you already have a headache, so my work here's done." For three beats he silently lingers, left hand rubbing something in his primary left pant pocket, and then starts to turn for the hatch.

"For the record, the headache's onset was well before you haunted my doorstep." At least, this time around. Sawyer's forehead crinkles as she notices the special attention he's paying to something he's fiddling with in his left pocket. "You know, when you play pocket pool, you're generally supposed to do it underneath the table so no one can see, right? I mean, I'm flattered but…"

Haunted? That's enough to stop him cold and get his defensive hackles up. Turning, he makes it known in no uncertain terms, "I was not haunting your doorstep. I came across you doin' somethin' you shouldn't've been doin' when I was leaving the girls." That being Kalli and Maggie. "For all I know, you staged the whole frakkin' encounter." Take that, woman! When she comments about his hand, though, Kal quips, "If I were playing pocket pool, my cue would be unmistakably visible." Just what he's been fondling (ha!) isn't revealed, though.

"Really? We're going to fight again? Or are you merely just going to use my word choice as a convenient set of armor to hide behind. We can joke, we can pretend nothing happened between us, but that doesn't change the facts. So, you can tell me what you have in your pocket that you're unsure if you want to share or not, or you can come back tomorrow and try again. And I may even be here tomorrow, or the next day, but one day I won't be. And if you're prepared to live with that just because it's easier for you today, then you should trade in your callsign." Sawyer can't help but be riled up again, so soon after their last encounter.

Trask is always ready to rumble, even when he'd rather not. She calls him out, though, and he's really not the sort to back down from any kind of attack, which he surely is taking this to be. And so it is that he advances with purpose, expression severe and a tad tight at the corners of his eyes and mouth. "What I'm unsure about has nothing to do with what's in my pocket." Or, more precisely, in his hand.

Just what that is would be a singular prayer bead made of jet, slightly scarred and warped from intense heat that wrought it into something no longer perfectly round. Although it is now on display in the man's outstretched palm, it's not so easy to tell that it's also somewhat worn in a manner suggestive that it's often rubbed between thumb and forefinger. That having been shown, it's returned to his pocket.

Sawyer looks at the bead the entire time that it's on display, her expression suddenly unreadable. Someone's been working on her triad face, it seems. Finally, her eyes lift to Kal's. "And the fact that that means nothing to me - because I don't know what it is - should speak volumes." Should, but apparently doesn't. "So, what are you unsure about?" She doesn't literally rise to the occasion, because while she might put on a good show, it doesn't seem as if she trusts her legs enough to get to her feet and go toe to toe with him.

That it seemingly means nothing to her seemingly means nothing to him. The difference is that his indifference is genuine. Sawyer saying that she doesn't know what it is also doesn't garner any semblance of explanation. Then again, she didn't outright ask about the object's significance. Snickering a little, Bootstrap wryly remarks, "Maybe it's not supposed to mean anything." And Lords of Kobol know /that/ can be interpreted countless ways. "Next time, though, maybe I'll whip out my dick. 'course, I can't guarantee that'll mean anything to you, either."

To the rest, the man merely smiles in a sardonic manner, although the causticity is largely turned inward. "You'd be far more efficient if you instead asked what I /am/ certain about," is the unilluminating response about his uncertainty. "Maybe I'll have a more satisfying answer for you tomorrow." She did, after all, give him that exit, didn't she?

"It's not supposed to mean anything, but it clearly does. You're carrying it around, worrying it with your thumb. It looks like a prayer bead, but you're not religious. Though for that particular piece of nostalgia you're devout. You also mentioned your dick again, which you haven't for a few weeks. So that can only mean we're regressing back to you using overt sexual overtones as a way of deflection lest you remember that you are the one that refuses to so much as kiss me." Sawyer actually smiles something akin to an honest smile, even though it seems out of place in the conversation. "Guess I'll see you tomorrow, then."

No, he's still not backing down even if he might be angling for egress. "It's not?" Supposed to mean anything, that is. The tone is somewhere between irreverent, flippant, and quasi-caustic. "And what if it does mean something?" Now he's baiting. It's in his voice, in his stance, in the too keen gleam in his eyes. "And for the record, you're the one who mentioned pocket pool. A man can't play that without a penis, now can he? And don't even," the eyes roll with emphasis, "gimme that 'you refuse to kiss me' crap," the phrase delivered with a mocking falsetto. "EVERY time I've made a move, you've make it clear that my advances were unwanted."

"No no, don't mistake the facts. You only made a pseudo move after you had done something bullheadish to upset me so that I'd be too emotionally vulnerable to allow anything to occur, which is exactly what you wanted. That's you're safety net. You wanted to be shot down, otherwise you would've tried to make an advance on me during the whole five seconds we ever had of actually being happy together. And if it does mean something, I wish to every Lord on High on Kobol that you'd tell me, so maybe for once in our miserable lives we'd be on the same page." Even through all this Sawyer still remains seated, though in the past she'd be up in his face as he is hers.

"Back it the frak up, Averies," he snaps, not about to have this twisted on him, especially when he truly believes he's in the right. "Silent Mastiff wasn't MY doing. I'm so sorry if the fact that I follow orders that may get me killed leaves you feeling emotionally vulnerable."

Oh, but the lack of her face up in his face only upsets him more, which is unfortunately natural for someone whose ingrained response to upsetting stimuli is aggression, even if he generally sublimates it into oft inappropriate humor. There is no yelling from the woman, though. Sawyer doesn't even stir from where she's sitting, and that well and truly knocks him off-balance. Enough so that her imploring leaves him overwhelmed with a sense of impotent rage that comes out in the form of a torn from beyond the throat bellowing. "I DON'T /KNOW/ IF IT MEANS ANYTHING! I'M NOT EVEN SURE WHAT, IF /ANYTHING/, IT /EVER/ MEANT!"

And if ever he looked as though he were about to go on a physical rampage, this would be the moment. The bull has been baited and is now seeing red.

Sawyer doesn't flinch despite his yell, doesn't move despite his ire. The only thing she does is raise a hand to rub at the back of her neck. "It means something, you carried it around all this time because it means something. It might just not mean what you thought it did, or what you want it to. Just like you calling me Nanners instead of Scoop means something. At first, you convince yourself it's nothing. Then you suspect it's something else that you're not prepared to deal with, and then you push it away so violently we end up… here."

Just like that, the circuit is broken. The nature of the woman's resistance has killed the current that was fueling his fury. With the lack of reciprocated hostility, the anger and agitation start to seep away. The pain, however, remains, unmistakable in his eyes and upon his pinched face. Lids close then, as if this will somehow enable him to maintain his dignity. After what may seem a weighted moment, he admits in a softer and more hoarse tone, "I hadn't touched it in months." Blinking several times, he looks to the ceiling lest the tears do more than merely threaten.

The 'all this time' was just an assumption based on the worry marks, which could just be the standard of any prayer bead from any prayer bracelet that was once well used. Sawyer reaches down, hand cupped on just below her knee on her shin as she pulls one leg around and then repeats the process with the other to maneuver them around so she can turn to properly face him with quiet dignity. "What made you touch it now?" she asks softly.

"Dunno," he replies, still looking upward and away. There is something about his expression that suggests his unconscious mind is trying to make things make sense to his cognizant self. All he knows for certain is that he's feeling warm in the face and that his lashes are slowly becoming sticky. "Prob'ly 'cuz I'm still not cleared for flight." Which means he's still not smoking. A somewhat amused huff of breath follows, along with a wan smirk. And then he slowly rolls his neck.

"Evan's been sorta seein' someone," Kal finally continues, "but it's obvious he's still hung up on Tavi, and this other guy has no clue. I told 'im," that being Evandreus, "that he needs to tell 'im," that being the someone. "That this other guy deserves to know that Buns is in frakked-up headspace right now. That the decent thing is to come clean because this other guy needs to be able to make an informed decision about what he wants to do about Evan not knowing what the hells he wants." Which, in all fairness, is nothing that Trask himself hasn't been practicing.

Only then does he bother to look at Sawyer. "So… dunno." A faint shrug. "I'm sure that has somethin' to do with it." The look does not falter, but there is a weariness. "You're wrong, though," is added. "About Penny. You're wrong. See, I never loved her like Evan loves Octavian. I never even loved her like you seem to think I did." Beat. "Do." Another beat. "Whatever. You know what I mean."

"Sometimes it's easier to love a ghost or believe that someone else still does rather than deal with other burdensome truths. So, that bead had some tie to Penelope." Sawyer is verbally linking pieces together. Once she has her legs manipulated where she wants them, she leans back in her chair so she can look up at Kal without having to crane her neck. Her eyes rove his face, "You cared. That's all I know. Did you love her?"

"I suppose," he replies about the link to Penelope. "When we were scouring for survivors, I went to her family's farm and fell asleep in the grass. She came to me while I was dreaming." Eyes grow a little hazy with reverie. "We were gazing at the stars above and the valley below. I was tellin' her how I'd had a plan to one day retire up in Allegheny. That I'd have my own workshop, and I'd build an' design ships when I wasn't repairing 'em. The local kids would try to sneak in to see what goodies I had, and there'd be folk legends about Old Man Trask." If that ever was a serious notion, it's now moot, although it conjures a ghost of a smile. "In my dream, she gave me a bead akin to this one. Said it was all that was left. When I woke up, I was clutching it in my hand." Eyes fall back to the blonde. "So, I dunno. Maybe it's from the set I failed to salvage from Sagittaron. The more logical explanation's that I found a similar prayer bead where and while I was sleeping, and my unconscious mind wove it into the dream. That kind of jet's common to the area."

As for loving a ghost, the small smile resurfaces, a touch wry. "She told me I wouldn't always be in love with a ghost, that it was the nature of the living to move forward. I'm not so certain I ever was in love with her even when she was alive." There is no explanations as to when, why, or how he came to that conclusion. "I was exceptionally fond of her, though, and I probably would've been a pain in her ass for as long as she would've had me. That's not the same thing, though, is it?" It's not as if he's some expert. "But love, being in love…" Yet another shrug. "I felt better around her. That somehow was good enough. I think she felt the same." Which may or may not be a satisfactory answer for Sawyer.

"A year ago, if you would have asked me if I believed in things like ghosts, I would have looked at you like you were crazy. Proof, show me the proof and the cold hard facts. Since Warday, I've had a prolific dream with three other people that led to the discovery of a lightening bolt dagger that I'm almost certain is the key we need for Lampridis Falls. I've now seen and experienced things that have no explanation, so maybe anything really is possible." Sawyer concedes in part to the tale of his dream and the little bead he's since tucked back away in his pocket. "So I guess the question remains: did you ever feel better around me?"

He probably should've known that was coming. Nonetheless, that might be the flicker of a wince at the corner of his eyes. "Not in the same way, no." Which isn't an outright no, but also is unlikely to be well received. "It's not at all the same dynamic." The facts remain that he's still here, and that he's consistently returned when the easiest thing would've been to cut all ties oh so many months ago. "They're called growing pains for a reason, right? Not growing pleasures." Then, with more of his usual aplomb, he notes, "Besides, feeling better is overrated. /Being/ better is where it's at." If that's the case, something about being around Sawyer must make him feel as though he's somehow making progress as a person, which is no small thing. Not for the likes of him.

The blonde clenches her jaw in that way that she is biting back a comment after his initial declaration, allowing him the courtesy to finish before she lights into him. Miraculously, however, he seems to redeem himself by the time he's through and that momentary bubble of ire has popped and her shoulders have relaxed back down. "The old saying goes: no pain, no gain. If that's the case, both you and I probably stand a lot to gain from our dynamic. If we manage to survive it."

"Surviving's overrated, too," is wryly remarked, but Trask does not expound upon the comment. And then in what may seem a complete 180, he asks, "So. What was this Amien of yours like?" Looks like he's settling in for story time, for he's parking his ass on the nearest desktop.

"Can you smoke yet? No… no, I don't suppose you can, but do you mind if I do?" Sawyer asks purely as a formality, as she's already reaching for her pack of cigarettes which is where the pen should have been in her center drawer. "What is it about dredging up old memories that makes you crave your vices? Like a trip down memory lane requires some sort of drug to lubricate the process." She rambles, going through the process of lighting one of the sticks from a crappy little orange plastic lighter. "Amien was… Amien. Tall and lanky and clumsy in a lot of ways as if walking was never his forte. He always wore this ridiculous safari vest…" Sawyer waves away a wisp of smoke from in front of her face, dissipating it before it can reach Trask. "But he took amazing photographs. Funny how I can remember the exact smell of his aftershave, but I'm having trouble remembering the color of his eyes." She shrugs. "It's been almost two years now, but it seems like a lifetime ago."

A brighter kind of humor surfaces at the question about smoking. "It's wise to not use words like 'can' and 'can't' when it comes to me." If Kal Trask truly wanted to smoke, he'd be smoking. It just so happens that he wants to be back on the flightline ASAP more than he wants to light up. Even so, the psychological craving starts to creep at the sight and smell of cigarettes, which subsequently prompts him to pull out a tin of mints from one pocket. Nicotine and tobacco, it is not, but he'll settle for sucking on peppermint.

"I thought being in love involved a lot of gazing into each other's eyes. Don't tell me you simply were just lookin' at your reflection." Because she left herself wide open… and because it is a somewhat valid criticism to level against someone who claims to have been in love. "So, that's it? He took amazing photographs and that was that?" Trask is finding this to be a lackluster explanation. "Or is this gonna be something about his artistic soul and all that other slop that makes women weak in the knees and wet in the crotch?" Evidently, he's bounced back from being emotionally raked over the coals. "You gotta gimme somethin' more than that, Averies. Maybe he had a perfect ass or a giant cock, and you were too busy oglin' those to have much noticed his eyes."

"That's not what love is about. Perfect asses, big…" Sawyer makes a vague gesture at the level of Kal's crotch, but doesn't repeat the word. "Don't get me wrong, that helps. But if you're buying in to the whole artistic soul nonsense, no wonder you've never been in love. It's not about hearing fireworks when you kiss." She takes another drag on her cigarette, using her exhale as a reason to break eye contact with the Raptor SL. She tilts her face towards the ceiling, watching the stream of grey as it leaves her lips to momentarily cloud.

"It's about the way your gut feels wrenched out when you see them in a hospital bed. It's knowing that you'd trade places with them in an instant if you could when they feel ill or pain or sadness. It's about not seeing each other for days or weeks or months but when you do it's as if you've never been gone. So, no, I don't remember the exact shade of blue his eyes were, but I remember the way they shone with mischief right before he ducked behind a camera lens. Blue." Sawyer runs a finger along the bottom lid of her eyes. "His eyes were blue."

"You're such a prude," he teases with a grin, face scrunching in a manner that denotes he finds it both funny and oddly endearing. "And, last I checked, I wasn't a woman, so the whole artistic soul thing ain't my idea of panty peeler." To drive his point home, the man gropes his nether region. "Yup. That's a penis, so there goes your whole no wonder you've never been in love theory." To the rest, "Nah, see, that's a bunch of crap. 'cuz if /those/ are your criteria, then I'm 'in love'," cue the index fingers only quotes, "with my niece, and that's just plain sick, in addition to being totally wrong."

"But you /do/ love her," Sawyer points out, conveniently ignoring the fact that he called her a prude and his little crotch grab, though she couldn't help but flick her eyes in that direction briefly. Very, very briefly. "In love though, I guess that requires more spooning," she says dryly. "So then tell me, oh wise sage, what is your definition of being 'in love'."

"I never said that I /didn't/ love her. I said that I am not in love with her. GAWDS. Pay attention." Cue the rolling of his big brown eyes. "And what the frak does being in love mean, anyway? Is it just wanting to frak someone you love? How's that differ from friends with benefits?" Inquiring minds want to know. If he has a working definition, Kal's not sharing it just yet.

"Friends with benefits implies you don't care if they are frakking anyone else. It's about fun, momentary companionship, and then you part ways. Being in love is… almost as exhausting as this conversation." Sawyer's thumbnail ticks off her cheap foam filter, knocking ashes into a little glass ashtray which she fiddles with afterwards. "Love is… picking up someone's dirty socks. It's wanting to wake up next to someone and kissing them despite their morning breath. And it's wanting more than anything for that someone to want to do the same things for you, too. Sharing the…" She sighs. "It's about sex, and socks and sour breath, yes. It just is what it is."

"No, see, picking up someone's dirty socks is just enabling 'em to be a lazy frakker. And hormones have this amazing way of momentarily snuffing out the stench of bee-oh. So, either those are some of the shittiest criteria ever, or being is love is really just that lame." This could, however, be a cultural difference. Taurians are painfully pragmatic people, after all.

"And then you have all these different kinds of love. All you need to do is listen to Evan prattle about all the different forms of Aphrodite to know /that/ much," he continues his quasi-rant. "Romantic love, erotic love, filial love, parental love, platonic love!" His hands go up with some exasperation. "The list goes on and on and on! And that's not even factoring in things like fear and neediness or loneliness. Oh, and let's not forget fantasy versus reality. Can you care about someone without really knowing 'em? Sure. Can you really /love/ or be in love with with such a person? No. Of course not. Why? Because it's not THAT PERSON you're loving. It's this idea that you have of 'em that may or may not be at all accurate. And then what happens when the masks finally start slipping and the real self is seen? Oh, right. People fall out of love, which is crap 'cuz they never were really in love in the first place."

"I haven't forgotten what you think my version of love is. How you want to trivialize it just because I don't know what your shoe size is or who you lost your virginity to. But you're forgetting one important factor: I don't give a damn what you think about my love. Because it's mine. It's mine to use, or bury, or piss away on snarky little frakkers like you." Sawyer reaches over to stub out her cigarette in irritated little jabs, only then to once more begin the search for her pen. "Filial. That's a good word. I haven't heard that one in a while," she mutters underneath her breath, sounding as if she could spit venom despite the fact that she's jotting down random vocabulary words.

And there it is. The 'are you freebasing crack or just insane?' look. "You honestly think that knowing my shoe size or the first person I frakked actually tells you anything about who I am? You think that rattling of bits off trivia is really knowing someone?" The vitriolic tone should more than convey that he does not deem such minutiae as meaningful. In fact, he's getting disgusted with the direction of the conversation.

"You know what else is a good word? Hyperbole. Such as using 'shoe size' or 'virginity' as examples in this conversation. You want to know what I know about you? I know that you know the meaning of hyperbole without having to use a dictionary. And I also know that this is the point where you're going to get so pissed at me that I'm actually risking never seeing you again." Sawyer looks down to her feet as if she's gauging where they are, and then using the edge of the desk, she pulls herself upright as if unsure of her footing. "I know your father beat the shit out of you." She tests her legs by taking a half step out from behind her desk. "Probably daily. He turned his belt or fist or steel-toed boots on you and your sister and maybe even your mother. And you grew up in a place where that was probably the norm." She takes another step, but falters, and instead leans on the desk.

"You couldn't get bigger than him, but you could get smarter than him. And that's how you got away. But in getting away, you had to leave the memory of your mother and your sister behind. That guilt alone has probably eaten at you. Probably churned its way into some sort of resentment of weak women. Of women who are so in love with a man they are willing to see past his faults. Your mother could have left, but she didn't. Your sister maybe even married into the same sort of situation."

"So, let's go back to you. A man so driven by his need to get as far away as possible he joined the Fleet, so obsessed with knowing more than his father that he had to learn everything he could. So you've mastered more careers in your lifetime, when any other man could only hope to master one. You hid so far in your work because you didn't want a family. You never had children. You never wanted the chance to become the monster that your father was. What I'm uncertain of is the alcohol. Did your distaste for it come from your father's habits of drinking and then beating out his frustrations and short-comings on his family? Or did you in your adult life take one too many a drink and lose your temper and backhand some girl you were dating? Bootstrap was meant to be a praise from whomever gave you that callsign, but you wear it differently. You wear it as a reminder. Yeah, there are a lot of 'maybe's and 'probably's in there because you haven't given me the chance to know you otherwise. But don't you think if I were going to concoct some fantasy… I damn well would have picked a better one?"

On some level, he knew she would dig up the dirt. That she'd somehow put the pieces together to get more of the story than anyone else ever did. That all his dark secrets would be dragged into the light. On some level, that's what he wanted. It's part of why he could never stay away. It's a factor in his ambivalent attraction to the woman. On some level, he'd been waiting for this moment to come. Things he could never bring himself to confess would finally be revealed. Best of all, he could rationalize it away as not of his own doing, but that of the investigative journalist merely being good at what she does.

So it is that whatever explosion she may have been expecting does not come. Make no mistake, there is a maelstrom of conflicting emotions evident in his damnably emotive eyes, and his jaw even clenches at a few of the truly stinging points, but there is too much turmoil to get any kind of real read on the man, who otherwise remains still.

When finally he speaks, he begins at the end. "No." Kal's voice is oddly modulated, nuanced and shaded. "I'm the perfect fantasy for someone as frakked-up as you. I'm this big, fat coconut full of sour milk that you find oh so sweet. And you curse and lament that I'm so damn difficult to crack, and a part of you is hoping that there are more than a few maybes and probablys in there because you love the challenge. And I bet," he continues, just a bit more animated, gaining momentum as it's his turn to go on the offensive, "that part of why you held your tongue for so long isn't because you were afraid that you'd never see me again, but because you're afraid that you wouldn't want to after the mystery was finally unraveled. What fun is the whodunnit that's solved, right? And who the hells would be your next investigative piece?"

"See, that's where you're wrong. That's how I knew I loved you. You weren't just a story. I'd endure a lot of things for a story, but baby vomit isn't among them." Though Kalli wasn't necessarily in the picture when Sawyer first proclaimed her love for Kal. That must be another one of those gross exaggerations she was referring to. "So sorry, sweetheart, but I'm not rising to the bait on that one. You have anything else in your arsenal to try and push me away?" Cue the obstinate folding of her arms over her chest.

"Push you away? I don't have to. You wanna commit to someone who's refusing to commit." And now returns more of his usual impertinence. "Odds are you'd feel differently if I resisted giving you resistance. But what is it, exactly? That I'm not some doormat like Danny? Or are his shortcomings limited to having a less than perfect ass and a disappointing dick size? The former he can work on. The latter? He's pretty much doomed if that's the case." And when the blonde crosses her arms, it's like the gauntlet being thrown down. Bootstrap's boots hit the ground, finding the man now off of the desk and back on his feet. And, unlike Sawyer, he's not the least bit unsteady.

"But this probably has something to do with /your/ daddy issues," he says, emphasizing the possessive word by pressing his left index finger into the fore of her shoulder. Then, abruptly, he pulls back in a blithe manner and asks, "So, how's it play out for you, hmm? Do you chase after the ones who seemingly don't want you 'cuz your father didn't pay you enough attention? Or maybe you feel conflicted and self-loathing over the realization that you'd skank it up like daddy dearest did, 'cuz, yanno, the apple never falls far from the tree, right?" That's delivered with enough bite to suggest that her having compared him to his own father cut Kal to the quick.

The journalist looks down impassively to the arm that his finger just jabbed into. Eyes lifting when he lays into her family. "There you go, that's better. That kind of verbal assault is more what you're capable of." Sawyer's eyes lid partially, a slight smile curving up the corner of her lips. "First of all, don't drag Danny into this. He's off limits," she says simply, as if she gets some say in the rules of their little non-relationship and how they are written. "I do have 'daddy issues'. That doesn't earn me some sort of kinship with you, because my father was a whole other kind of breed of bastard. We'd bond more over our resentment for our mothers for staying in that sort of situation. But unlike your mother, who was bound by love, mine was bound by money but she had enough booze and anti-anxiety meds to make it all okay. Now if you want to get into my tendency for sexual proclivity, that I'm going to have to correct you on. I never did have to chase. So let's double back to your word choice. 'Refusing to commit' and 'seemingly'." She makes a hand gesture that says, 'please go on'.

"I suppose that eager beavers don't really lack in logs, do they?" He needn't actually believe that she's some kind of slut to intimate that she is. After all, the kid gloves came off a while ago. Besides, Sawyer surely had to know that he'd twist what she said in such a manner. It's what he does, especially when he's feeling defensive. As for doubling back, he instead advances, flippantly replying, "Yeah, maybe, but we're not done talkin' about your daddy issues. And by the way? Passing it off on mom? Totally weak play."

"But they can build some mighty fine dams," Sawyer remunerates him for his choice in metaphors. She leans over, fingers fishing for the hanging chain of her desk lamp. They miss at first, but close around it on the second grab and she gives a quick tug to turn the light off. "The only issue I have with my father is he couldn't keep his dick in his pants. Maybe I like you so much because yours is perpetually glued in there, isn't it? The way I look at this is I have nothing else to lose in this equation. So if you want to go all night, I'm game. You just might have to give me the occasional break so I can hurl."

"Even when there were trillions of people, a man who wasn't careless with his carnality was fairly uncommon, I suppose," Kal concedes. "I can see why you might find it so compelling." Faintly, he smirks, but it's somewhat softened by the ruefulness of his eyes. People suck. What're you gonna do, right? As for going all night, he merely harkens back to something Sawyer said shortly after he followed her into the News Room: "Maybe tomorrow. My next shift starts soon."

And with that, he departs.

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