PHD #260: When We Were Young
When We Were Young
Summary: Vandenberg comes to give Cameron some good news, but Elpis' presence is an unexpected distraction, leading to unexpected revelations.
Date: 13 Nov 2041 AE
Related Logs: Target Practice
Cameron Elpis Vandenberg 
Observation Deck - Deck 3 - Battlestar Cerberus
With a quiet view to the stars, this tends to be one of the more popular 'quiet areas' of the Cerberus. Up front is a small-unseated area for ceremonies or other activities while the seating rises up behind it. Each level rises up behind the one before it, comfortable chairs and couches set up for crewmembers to relax, get some work done or even take a nap. A large armored plate is lowered during Condition One to protect the interior against a breach in the glass.
Post-Holocaust Day: #260

It's a lovely night, but then, out in space, it's pretty much always a lovely night unless the starry sky is filled with Cylon Raiders or exploding planets. Fortunately, tonight does not seem to be one of those nights. Cameron is enjoying a quiet evening with Elpis, the little girl amusing herself with a finger string games that she occasionally leans over for Cameron to participate in. He does so indulgently, a small smile gracing his lips as he slips his larger callused fingers in-between her tiny soft ones, plucking the strings free and then offering them to back to her. With eyes sparkling with amusement she reaches in and pulls the string into a new pattern before reclaiming it and sitting back to entertain herself for awhile. Nice. Quiet. Peaceful.

All's peaceful until Vandenberg wanders in. She's in her MP browns and armed. The woman might even been here on Official Business. She stands a little straighter than normal as she makes her way down the side of the room towards Cameron and the girl. Natalie looks like she might hesitate when she spots the child, but its too late. She's already visible to the both of them. Crap! Fight or flight? Fight or Flight???!!! "Ahem. Doctor Adair?" At least she does her best to hide the inner flailing.

Cameron glances up, a smile touching his lips till he notices Vandenberg's dress and the formal title. A small frown of uncertainty touches his brow as he greets, "Evening, Lieutenant, is everything alright?" Elpis glances up as well, naturally curious. At the sight of the woman, however, she lets out a squeak of pleasure and runs over to her, holding up her hands to display the complicated tangle of twine. Glancing down at Elpis, Cameron chuckles and explains, "She wants you to play…"

"Ah, yes. Everything is fine, Doctor. I just-" And Elpis runs up. Natalie looks down at the girl and blinks. Even Cameron's suggestion to the child's desires doesn't seem to help. "Play? I-" The Marine looks totally lost as if the concept is completely foreign to her. She stammers out a few more confused lines, most of it dribble and unfinished words. The poor woman looks back to Cameron as if requesting help. Lieutenant Vandenberg looks totally helpless and the squeak and following actions from the six year old.

Noticing her utter lack of clues, Cameron puts down the book he was reading and chuckles softly, rising up with easy grace before strolling over to the pair and crouching down to Elpis. "It seems the Lieutenant doesn't know how to play, Elpis. Would you like me to teach her one trick and then let her do what she came here for?" The little girl nods emphatically, her curls bouncing slightly in her enthusiasm. "Lieutenant?" Cameron asks, with an upwards glance and huge grin on his face. "May I borrow your fingers for a moment? I promise, this will be entirely painless…"

There's an apologetic look towards Elpis. "Sorry. I'm just not very good with.. this.." And then Cameron is asking for her hands. "Uhm. Okay." It seems to make Elpis happy. Natalie glances to the sidearm on her waist and then reluctantly offers her hands out. "Be gentle?" Is she serious? Vandenberg looks like a fish completely out of water.

Chuckling in amusement, Cameron's hands are very gentle as they guide hers down and he instructs, "Now, just hook this finger around this loop like this, and this finger around this loop here… pull up, over, and under…" and then Elpis moves her hands to change the pattern. "And now place your fingers here, here, and here and pull out and…" Elpis slips her hands down and out and now, magically, the twine is wrapped about Natalie's fingers in a complicated pattern. "Now," instructs Cameron, "Elpis is going to do the exact same thing," which she does, "and grab those like this," Cameron explains patiently, showing Natalie how to grasp and twist the string. "And now Elpis is going to do this and…. ta da!" The string has once again been transferred back to the little girl who giggles and grins, her hands dropping away to let the string fall loose as she tugs on Vandenberg's sleeve to bring her even closer. Clambering up on a chair to get a little higher, Elpis gives Vandenberg a kiss on her cheek before Cameron instructs, "Okay, little monster, off with you for a bit. The Lieutenant needs to talk to me for a bit, yes?" Elpis bobs her head cheerfully and drops back down to the floor, walking over to one of the windows before plopping herself down before. The ratty piece of twine is plucked and arranged into another pattern, the little girl holding it up before her, tilting it this way and that as she frames and traps the stars beyond, one eye closed, her tongue sticking out a little as she tries to match them up. Straightening up, Cameron offers Van a smile and asks, "There, that wasn't so bad, was it?"

When you need a complex tasking fulfilled and something destroyed overnight? Van's your woman. Attempting to follow these instructions and get the twine wrapped properly is a bit of a struggle for the near-midget. When Elpis transfers it to her own hand, the Lieutenant blinks. That was apparently unexpected and a little neat. "Huh." It was unexpected like the kiss. Natalie gives the girl an awkward smile and a whispered "Thank you," before she looks back to Cameron. Vandenberg just isn't very good with kids and its painfully obvious. She wants to - she just has no idea what she's doing. "Uhm. I guess not." Her eyes stay on Elpis as the girl moves off, her own face hard to read. Her expression drops a moment, flickering away as soon as the look appeared. "I, ahem. I came to talk to you about the requests made to me about shooting and the access to the range, Doctor."

It's clear that Vandenberg doesn't know quite what to do with the little girl, but it's equally clear that she isn't willing to perhaps learn. Chuckling softly he notes, "Elpis is easier than most children, in that she's fairly easy to please. A bit harder because she doesn't talk. But you did just fine, Lieutenant, for what it's worth." He studies her for a moment before noting with a smile, "If you'd ever like to hang out with her some, just let me know." But at her news he smiles broadly. "Oh!" Cameron replies, a quick smile touching his lips. "That was fast.. what's the word?"

"It's okay. I didn't talk much at her age, either." Natalie's face pulls that strange, humorless half-smile again. "Thanks, anyway. I just don't have any idea what to do with a kid. I'm pretty useless in that area. I'd take you up on seeing her, Doc, but I'm not cut out for babysitting. I'd probably get super paranoid about her hurting herself and end up having to handcuff her in a corner to satisfy my own anxiety." Natalie looks genuinely sorry. She wants to be good with kids. She's just not. At all. "As far as your requests go, Lieutenant O'Hare has approved your request for unrestricted range use. The matter of having a Marine present will be fulfilled by the duty Marine stationed there. I've also been cleared to give you whatever kind of firearms training you would want. If you're interested, I may be able to show you a thing or two about how to handle yourself indoors. Its what we call CQB - Close Quarters Battle. Again, though, this is entirely up to you."

"I don't think she doesn't talk because she doesn't want to. I think she doesn't talk because of what she's been through," Cameron murmurs, his gaze clouding slightly with worry. "Because of how I found her." But he doesn't elaborate, fairly certain that Vandenberg has heard and seen enough horror stories without needing to hear any more. "She's a good kid," he notes with a nod, "I just worry that I can't really do right by her… give her what she needs. But I try." Shaking his head at her comment, Cameron corrects, "Oh, no, I wasn't suggesting babysitting. I'm sure you're much too busy, Lieutenant. Just thought I would offer, in case you were interested in, well, hanging out with a kid." But he can see the foolishness of that thought and his voice trails off with an awkward smile. But he straightens up and nods with a pleased smile at the information, offering in return, "That's great! And yes, I would be interested in learning in all situations how best to use a weapon. Never know when trouble might spring up, or what the environment might be. Best to be prepared for anything and everything, right?"

"I didn't talk because I didn't have anyone to talk to. I wasn't through anything traumatic like she probably has been but I know what its like to just watch the world around you and take a less active role. Its one of the reasons I am the way.. well, the way I am. For better and worse." Natalie clasps her hands behind her and looks back towards the girl while she plays. "Poor choice of words on my part, I think. I just meant that if I hung out with her I don't know… how. Do I just kind of sit there like a jungle gym? What do kids… do? What do I do?" Either she's a terrible Cylon or she didn't have much of a childhood. "As far as the shooting goes, no trouble. We'll get you qualified on a few guns first before we go showing you anything advanced. If you're interested in hand to hand, I also offer classes in Bolkat Kontakta as well."

Chuckling, Cameron notes wryly, "Elpis is definitely very… active in her role. Well, as much as she can be, considering the circumstances. I'm not sure what the not talking is about exactly. And in a way, I'm not really sure I want to take her to a shrink to find out. For the most part, she seems really happy. I think she's blocked everything out from before, and if making her remember it and face it is only going to make her miserable, I'd really almost rather she never say another word and stay as happy as she is now." Sighing softly, Cameron glances toward the child, fully invested in her own world it would seem of stars and string. "But I realize that it's also unrealistic. At some point, she's not going to be okay. It's only a question of time." Having taken a seat again, his eyes lift thoughtfully to Van as he muses, "That sounds like a lonely life. Why wasn't there anyone for you to talk to or play with?" Ocean eyes settle on Elpis once more as Cameron shrugs and notes, "I guess it all depends, really. You can do the sitting like a jungle gym, and kids probably would climb on you at least some if you did. I think more than anything, you try to make a connection. You see what they are doing and ask them about it or do it with them. Like with the string game. Elpis likes to read, so sometimes we just sit together and read, or I read to her. She also likes to draw, so often I'll sit with her and look at her drawings and ask her questions or do drawings myself. They like learning new things, so you can show them 'cool' grown-up stuff too, so long as you remember that they probably won't remember what you've explained and you have to keep things fairly simple. But not stupid." His eyes flicker up again as he notes, "Well, the invitation stands, should you ever want to just see." His head tilts to one side as Cameron confesses, "I'm a decent hand at aikido, so I'm not unfamiliar with hand to hand fighting, but I'm sure you're far more experienced than I am. So yes, I would enjoy training with you if you have the time and it's not too much bother."

Natalie appears a little smaller as she looks onto Elpis while Cameron talks. There's concern and worry and frustration. Everything in between has its brief moment. "Maybe one day she'll just start talking and she'll never have to confront it. If you don't make a deal of it and just carry on, then talking I guess wouldn't be taboo?" She offers an impish shrug. "My parents were extremely wealthy in a town full of people who sweat and bled for minimum wage. No brothers or sisters. Parents wanted me to read all day long. I didn't get toys. I was bookish and hated. Nobody wanted much to do with me until I hit puberty." Natalie might've rolled her eyes but it looks like more of an embarrassed admission than anything else. "I don't know. I guess I could her. I know you just gave me ideas but I'm horrible with people. Like… you've seen me. I argue. I get haughty. I'm a ruthless bitch sometimes. I've got the interpersonal skills of a cactus. Cats are afraid of me. I can't even get a dog to stay in my house for more than a few days before it runs away. I had a goldfish once and it died a week later. I don't want to break her or anything. She seems so happy that I don't want to ruin her day because I frakked up."

"That's my plan," Cameron returns with a nod. "Until it becomes a problem, I'm just going to let things continue as they are. If things become worse, then I'll do whatever needs to be done. That's really all anyone can do, really. Which is why I treat her the way I do. I don't force her to talk, I do my best to understand her hand signals and unspoken cues. We seem to communicate pretty well." Cameron pats the spot next to him on the couch he's seated on, should Vandenberg wish to sit for a bit, talk and relax. "That's tough," he concurs thoughtfully, leaning back and allowing his gaze to flicker out toward the stars. "My parents were poor, but likewise put me to work quite young. No brothers or sisters either and while they were not adverse to letting me play, they didn't exactly encourage it. I ended up kinda bookish as well. I don't think the other kids were all that interested in going to the 'doctor's' house, as it were. But I was certainly never hated. I can't imagine what it would be like to grow up hated." His head turns to study Natalie, but there's no pity in his gaze. Just a hint of regretfulness. "You are tough and brusque. I always assumed that had to do more with your position and the training of the military. But I think you're being a bit harsh on yourself. You're still human. Maybe a bit out of touch with your feelings, but that doesn't mean you don't have them inside you somewhere. And I don't think you would frak up or ruin her day. You have to do something pretty mean to do that, and the very fact that you are worried about doing something means that you're pretty unlikely to do anything really mean." His head tilts a bit, a small smile touching his lips as he offers, "Have a little more faith in yourself, Lieutenant. We may not always agree, but you're true to your beliefs and do your best. Maybe you just need to learn how to be a little more flexible from time to time."

"Probably for the best, Doctor. I don't think a shrink will do anything positive for her right now. I think you'd probably be best to wait on that until we have a little more than hope to go on. Something concrete." Natalie looks back to him when he says that he couldn't imagine what it was like growing up the way she did. She might have sat but his words stop her. Her green eyes look away and into a darker corner of the room so its harder for him to see her face. "I need to get back to work, Doctor," she mutters, dipping her head to turn the rest of the way. "Say goodbye to Elpis for me. I'll see you again soon, I'm sure." The Lieutenant doesn't wait for a response, she's just walking off back towards the hatch.

Oh frak. He said something wrong, something sharp and pointy that pushed whatever hot red buttons the Lieutenant has buried down inside. Frowning he jumps up and follows her, Elpis' eyes turning and watching curiously as he catches Vandenberg's arm lightly and calls, "Lieutenant, just a second." And then, because he can't think of what else to say he offers, "I'm sorry… if I said anything out of line or anything that upset you. It certainly was not my intention to do so." Releasing her arm, freeing her to flee he adds, "The invitation still stands, if you're interested. And I'll keep my opinions to myself if it helps any. I'm sure Elpis would love to do some art with you. Or maybe you could show her one of your favorite hobbies some time. But no pressure. Just know that your company is always welcome."

Grabbing the arm of an on-duty MP is probably a bad idea under any circumstances. But rather than explode at Cameron (or shoot him), she twists her arm forward and away to break the hold without even turning. She doesn't look mad or hurt by the way she carries herself away. She looks over her shoulder as she slows, though. "You didn't offend me, Doctor." Natalie's voice cracks and she inhales sharply. "Just wasn't expecting… that. Don't think she'd be much interested in me, anyway. I know… guns. And explosives." Either she really isn't anything more than her job or she doesn't think she is. "I need to go, though." She hangs her head back forward and continues off through the hatch.

His hand drops away, the man confused and, well, a civilian who doesn't realize that grabbing an MP's arm after they've been having a conversation is such a foolish thing to do. He doesn't understand. He doesn't understand what he did or what he said that upset her. He doesn't understand what 'that' is. He doesn't really understand Vandenberg at all, though for the first time Cameron feels like he's gotten closer to the truth than ever before. The soft crack in her voice, the fact that she is fleeing the conversation, suggest that. But he can't help but wonder if, like with Elpis, he should simply let things be. Stepping back he offers, "Of course, Lieutenant. I'm sorry to have held you up. Thank you for the information." And with that, Cameron lets her go, his expression as bemused and as curious as Elpis' as they both watch Vandenberg leave the Observation Deck.

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