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Behr & Vasari: Log Series - Homestead: Unsteady Ground

Outpost Phoenix: Personal Com-Net


by Doctor S. Vasari & Lieutenant Junior Grade Lukas Behr
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Log Series: Homestead UNSTEADY GROUND Lieutenant j.g. Behr and Lieutenant j.g. Vasari (Note: This series takes place following the Inquisition of Masterson plot.)

There had been no real time to speak to the German, to catch up with him or to rebuild the friendship that they seemed to have lost.    A day after her return, activity seemed to buzz. There was the asteroid crater then the inquisition into the away team's role in the Rizlow situation.  She barely saw Lukas. There had been a brief moment of normalcy between them - in the short span of time when Jane was forced to wait between the communication with Fleet Captain Naal and Fleet Captain Xiva.  Then, the inquiry was over and the surgeon was left with nothing but awkward silence. The night after the hearing, she used their joined balcony to make her way towards his quarters. What she found had her heart sinking.  There was no sign of the operations officer, and it certainly seemed like it hadn't been in his personal living space for weeks. It only solidified her regret.


It took her two hours to think of a passcode she'd never used, but Jane finally changed the codes to her quarters that night.  She had failed to listen to Lukas for so long and the attempt, as small as it was, made her feel a little better.


The week was miserable.  Without his soft laugh and his endearing smile, Jane was reminded constantly of her mistake.  She even missed his cooking, meat heavy and completely lacking in any nutritional value. More than once, she wished she had appreciated those moments between them.  Sleep eluded her, so much so that she woke with the sun even without his irritating pull on her comforter. Morning runs were avoided and she opted for evening trail runs an hour after an early dinner.  It was the cowardly thing to do, but her heart didn't have the strength.


Lukas withdrew even further into his duties, spending more time working and the remainder of his waking hours on the sandy shore of the lake.  He apologized nightly to Therese for failing to make dinner and he tried to convince himself to just move back into his quarters. The peace was just so nice, his sleep uninterrupted, and no arguing neighbours.  And he had no idea where he stood with Jane. There had been a brief glimpse of their old friendship while the Masterson inquisition took place, but it disappeared just as soon as Admiral Sylver did. His attempts to stop by with biscotti were rebuffed when he found the passcode changed and he always seemed to miss seeing her in the medical building.  He started to believe she was avoiding him. “Es ist fertig. Ich muss darüber hinwegkommen. (It's done. I have to get over it.)”


Living in her quarters was unbearable and it didn't take long before the constant barrage to her senses had her declaring quits to her living situation.  She hated feeling sad, hated feeling the crushing regret, hated feeling lonely. Jane took to avoiding her assigned living space unless she needed to sleep.  When she wasn't working or running, she was out in a shuttle or taking long hikes to survey the lands in hopes of finding a new home. There was a homestead clause that would allow her to build a house on the planet.  It'd require committing to three years to Outpost Phoenix, but that was technically perfect with her residency requirements for her surgical specialty.


In the months since he'd started secluding himself on the beach, Lukas had come to memorize the shoreline as far as his eye could see.  There were only two houses that were visible - one being Therese's and the other a small Vulcan style house. Today there was movement along the shore that caught his attention.  The German leaned to one side to observe. It was far enough away that he could make out a single person standing at the edge of the water before turning to trudge back into the woods.  It was either the investigative part of his intuition or natural curiosity that had him pushing to his feet. The operations officer walked along the lake to see who could be looking into land on the water.


The PADD beeped as her fingers danced over the glossy screen.  With her eyes on the device, she took a far slower pace than normal to keep from tripping over any root or stray rock on the trail she naturally created with her footfalls.  She only had another hour or so before the sun dipped entirely past the horizon and before she had to return to her quarters. There was no way she could find a site for her new home in the dark.  The last site - the shoreline by the large lake by which Phoenix was situated - was too close to to the outpost. She wanted to be able to return home and not think of work.


His hands slid out of his pockets when he approached the treeline.  He would need full range of motion in case there were hidden roots or rocks that could trip him up.  Lukas followed the path up the bank and further into the woods. His gaze lifted to the area in front of him so that he could see whomever he was going to happen upon without startling them.  His brows furrowed as he noticed the person and he felt like the curves were familiar. Shimmers of light that filtered through the trees lit her dark hair. Longer strides and their slow pace helped him catch up and his foot stuttered on a rock when he realized it was none other than the medical officer.  The German gripped a tree to ensure he wouldn't fall as he stared at the back of the woman's head. “Jane,” he uttered in surprise.


She turned quickly, pulled from her silent musings by a familiar voice, and accidentally tripped on a sizable rock.  How she didn't end on her behind was beyond her, but the medical officer was incredibly happy that she didn't make a complete fool of herself in that moment.  “Lukas?” Jane straightened and glanced around the thicket. “What are you doing here?”


He took a step toward her, nearly reaching to help, but paused when he saw that she righted herself.  “Uh, I was sitting by the lake and saw you looking around- what are you doing here?” The operations officer inwardly groaned.  …˜She's going to think I've been stalking her or something.  It was pure coincidence.'  Lukas nearly groaned to himself.


“I'm trying to find a site for a house,” she answered without a beat of hesitation.  The medical officer lifted the PADD in her hand and waved it ever so slightly. “I was thinking a lake house, but mosquitoes.”  She lowered the device and her eyes swept over him, taking particular note of how the golden light of the setting sun filtered just right through the trees to highlight the definition of his jaw.  It made her heart stutter, and it took particular effort to remind herself that he didn't want anything to do with her. She'd been home for some time and she basically only saw him at the Masterson inquiry.  “It's- It's nice to see you. It's been a while.”


“Marigolds or lemongrass,” he offered without realizing.  A frown tried to pull at the corners of his mouth and he slipped his hands into his pockets to keep from fidgeting.  “It's good to see you, too,” he revealed, genuine in the revelation, but saddened by the realization that it had been quite some time since they really saw each other.  The trial that never happened could hardly count since they'd been on duty. Lukas cleared his throat and nodded in her direction. “A house is a great idea. You'll love getting away from the neighbours.”  Even in the shadows of the canopy, he could see the curve of her neck where it met her shoulders. His eyelids nearly fluttered closed as he recalled how much he enjoyed kissing her there.


She nodded and held the PADD to her chest, hugging the device by her arms.  “Yeah- I can't stand it there,” she added truthfully. …˜Without you, it's pretty miserable.'  Her silent sigh was easily hidden.  There was no point in lamenting the consequences of her mistakes.  It would only serve to make her miserable, and she wanted to be better.  It was hard to do when he was avoiding her, but above all, Jane truly missed the natural friendship that existed between them.  Her eyes lifted to the sky. Bright blue was quickly changing to orange and pink. “Only a bit of daylight left- Actually, I'm glad you found me.  I could use some help. Do you mind?” She pulled out the pinned tablet and waved it slightly by the corner.


His hesitation was rooted in the rejection that he perceived from her, but it lasted all of a second.  This would be a first step in regaining the friendship they'd once had. He could only hope he'd be okay with it and not fall back into his hope that things would ever change.  Lukas nodded and made his way toward her, smiling when he could finally see the rich cognac brown of her eyes. “What can I do?” He reached for the device when she offered it to him.


“I need a site.  Far from Phoenix, but close enough that the commute won't be irritating.”  She waited until he glanced over her gathered information before she pushed into motion and she was careful to keep to an easy pace so that they could walk side-by-side.  “I'm actually thinking I've been looking too close. I took a shuttle for several days, but I think I went too far. I just- I don't want neighbours.”


The German nodded in understanding and he was a bit enthralled to be looking at the topography of the land that he'd become so used to seeing as it was.  “I'd suggest instead of looking along this side of the lake, try across the lake.” Lukas turned slightly at the waist so he could show her the PADD, pointing out the areas that he was envisioning for her.  “It'd be about twenty minutes by hover car.”


She wrinkled her nose.  “It'll get developed as the years go by and more people start looking into getting their own property.”  She took a small step towards him and leaned so that she could read the PADD that he continued to hold. Her finger brushed lightly over the glass until she managed to zoom the topography to the right magnification.  “I was actually starting to think a little bit more elevation.” Jane pointed to a point on the device before she slowly moved her hand higher and higher, forcing his chin to turn as she indicated to the snow-capped mountain.  “Apparently there's a lake situated at the first ridge. I was going to go take a look in the afternoon tomorrow.”


“Oh,” he hummed, both out of surprise and acknowledgement.  He'd never known Jane to be drawn to the mountains. His brows furrowed slightly before he removed the expression from his features and nodded in agreement.  “Does Dr. Mayer prefer the snow?” Lukas hadn't been able to ask her about the man she'd been so excited about while she was on Bel'mara, but he could only assume that their relationship was progressing if they were looking into a house together.


“Who?”  It took her nearly a minute before she realized to whom he was referring.  Jane laughed and couldn't avoid the snort that managed to slip. She blushed but shook her head.  “Philip? Yeah, no. I have no clue if he does or doesn't.” She shook her head and gave him a …˜What a weird thing to ask' expression, nearly laughing at him.  The medical officer let him keep the PADD and she continued on the natural trail forged by the wild animals who lived in the forest. There was one more spot she wanted to find before nightfall.


Confusion was easily pushed aside for his mirth when he heard the medical officer snort.  “Du bist süß, (You're adorable.)” he cooed with a warm smile. As much as she didn't like the fact that she did it, he was endeared to the complete freedom that originated the laughter.  “So, you're not still seeing- Philip?” Lukas inwardly groaned as he tried to fight the hope that blossomed in his chest. …˜Das ist nicht fair.  Ich muss sie gehen lassen.'


She'd heard that enough to know what he'd said and her hand jutted out quickly to playfully shove him to one side.  “Still? I never saw Philip,” Jane corrected as she was forced to take the lead.  The incline to the trail required climbing over the rock formations embedded in the dirt.  “I was stupid and needed to blow off some steam. I decided to stop, got caught anyways, and screwed up my reputation.  Then I aced my solo surgery and people shut the hell up about it.” She shrugged then paused mid-climb to look over her shoulder, scoffing incredulously but not maliciously.  “See Philip,” she chuckled at him. She shook her head at him before she turned her head and continued with her climb.


He could only shrug in his defense, the expression on his features carefully neutral.  “The way you talked about him-” Lukas wondered where they were headed but even as much as he hurt knowing that there was definitely no chance for him, he trusted where Jane was leading him.  He retreated into his thoughts and even considered seeking a counselor to help him move past the Italian woman. …˜Es gibt offensichtlich keine Zukunft hier.'


“Yeah, well-  I was stupid and trying to-”  The words caught in her throat.  No way she was going to tell him that she exaggerated about Philip's personality because she was jealous about his girlfriend.  “Ah. It doesn't matter.” Despite the cooler temperatures that came with the quickly approaching evening, she was warm with the exertion.  She was silent for several minutes to focus on the slope that they scaled. When she reached the edge, Jane took several steps onto the flattened ground.  She straightened and waited for Lukas to join her. “How's Therese? I'm guessing things are going well. It'll be three months, right? You have anything planned?”  She hadn't meant to ask, but his question about Philip had her blurting out the question without thought.


The operations officer furrowed his brows as he reached the level area and he took several deep breaths to fill his lungs.  His retort about everything mattering was silenced when she started asking about the woman he was roommates with. “Uh, I'm not sure how she is.  I don't see her much anymore.” His chin tilted as he considered how to answer her other questions.


Jane raised a brow.  “You don't see your girlfriend?”  Confusion etched itself into her expression.  That didn't sound like him at all. Lukas doated.  He was the doting type.


It was his turn to guffaw, though no obvious sound came from his throat.  Lukas bent slightly at the waist and the laugh lines in his cheeks and eyes creased heavily with his mirth.  “Girlfriend? She's not my- oh!” This time, a boisterous laugh fell from his lips and he leaned back, shaking his head.  After a few moments, he regained his senses and reached out to rest his hand on Jane's shoulder. “No, civetta. I sleep on her couch- I told you that.  Because of the neighbours.”


“Well, yeah-  But I just kinda assumed she was sleeping on the couch with you,” she muttered, unable to keep from turning red.  “I mean- Seriously, who invites a perfect stranger to just crash on her couch without some sort of motivation?” It made absolutely no sense, but Jane couldn't deny being relieved.  He wasn't married to Therese Bjornsen. He wasn't even dating her.


“I was making her dinner for a few months but I've kind of fallen out of that.”  The German shrugged and shook his head. “There was no attraction, just friends. I couldn't even bring myself to rebound with her.”  Lukas suddenly felt far more at ease with the medical officer. Things still weren't the way they once were but there was light where there had once been storm clouds.


She had to bite her tongue to keep from quipping that they were just friends and that didn't stop emotions from forming.  Maybe he didn't know he had feelings for Therese. Men tended to be dense. Instead, she wrinkled her nose at him and shoved him.  It was playfully done, but necessary. Lukas was far too close and there was a chance she'd blurt out some confession she'd later regret.  “Yeah, well- You make any woman dinner and she'll fall in love with you, so you should probably make sure.” The Italian woman motioned for him to follow and they walked along the packed dirt until they reached the edge.  Her hands rested on her hips and she stared out into the open. She could see the first ridge of the mountain she hoped to explore and the lake was crystal clear. It looked promising. Her gaze shifted to the main body of water by Outpost Phoenix and she hummed softly at spotting an island just beyond one of the coves.  “Hey. You have that PADD?”


His brow raised with a silent question - had he made her fall in love with him?  Lukas had certainly made dinner for Jane plenty of times. When she failed to notice his expression, he sighed and easily followed her toward the edge.  The operations officer hummed as he surveyed the area and he absently offered her the tablet that he still carried.


Her hands danced over the glossy screen as she pulled up the topography of the giant lake.  “I don't know how the hell I missed this,” she muttered under her breath. “Two stops tomorrow then.”  She used two fingers to magnify the island on the device then motioned to the large green mass in the center of the lake.


He glanced over her arm and nodded.  “You'll need a shuttle to get up there.”  The German looked up to see if he could spot the lake she'd pointed out.  Lukas turned slightly so that his elbow brushed her bicep. “It's getting dark.  Can I make you dinner?” It'd been several weeks since he cooked anything at all and the thought of returning to it for Jane warmed him completely.


Her chin turned and she looked up at the German by her side.  “I- I'd like that,” she answered softly. The smile that warmed her features couldn't be helped.  “Fire pot beef brisket?” she asked hopefully. When he began to move back towards the slope to start the descent back to the outpost, Jane followed.


A quiet chortle rumbled in his chest and he nodded.  His chin turned so he could see her from over his shoulder but he didn't take his eye off the trail.  “Of course.” Lukas was careful as he made his way down and he was sure to point out any dangers on the trail.  Still, the ground was wet and the soil loose. It made for an interesting trip down.


“Well, you get dinner tonight, and I'll take care of lunch tomorrow.”  It was more like sliding along the rock than climbing down towards the beaten path.  With the fading light, she grew steadily more nervous about her footing.


“And I'll be dead when we reach the lake so you can dump my body.  Brilliant.” Jane rarely made lunch, rarely made anything to eat. It was a surprise to hear.  Without realizing he was doing it, Lukas reached his hand behind him and offered his support to the medical officer when he saw that they neared the first dangerous section.  His fingers wrapped protectively around hers and he guided her down and through the woods. For some reason, he didn't release her hand once they reached the shore. It just felt natural to keep it in his possession.


“I wouldn't have to dump your body.  I'm a trained surgeon now. I'd just cut it up into little pieces and throw your remains from a shuttle for the animals to find.”  They were out of the forest and well on their way to the outpost. Her hand remained in his and she used her free hand to shove him lightly.  It was good to banter with him again and she felt a weight lift from her shoulders. She couldn't help but laugh as he blanched at her comment and his familiar whine of complaint filled her ears.  It was so easy to tease him. For some reason, Lukas didn't have the stomach for morbid jokes and she rather enjoyed teasing him with it.


The walk back to the outpost reminded him of their best times together - when they weren't dating, because those were obviously the best times too.  True to his word, he made his way back to his quarters next to hers and got everything together to start cooking the beef brisket. Lukas hadn't the opportunity to practice the dish without the recipe - he'd thrown it away with the pants his first night in the residence building - so he could only hope that he remembered it well enough.  They continued to banter throughout the evening until it finally came time to part ways.


All his clothes were over at Therese's, so he had to go back to the Norwegian's house to sleep.  When he mentioned it, he was surprised that the medical officer offered to replicate clothes for him to stay there.  …˜I didn't even have to tease her about it.'  “Uh, sure.  I'll sleep on the couch.”  Their argument was actually heated until several loud bangs from below them silenced the pair.  The German glanced back toward Jane and raised his hands in defeat. “We could share the bed,” he offered with a wry grin.  Her playful shove had him chortling and he bid her good night. “Buonanotte, civetta. I'll see you in the morning.” He made his way to the glass door to their shared balcony.


“It's a date, brÃ*chen.  Don't be late,” she yawned as she made her way to the bedroom, her arms reaching out to the sides as she stretched.  It was far past her bedtime, and she had no concept of what she'd said. “Guten nacht.”


He had to stop and stare at her over his shoulder.  Jane disappeared into the private space before he could open his mouth to confirm what he thought he'd heard.  Hope dared to spring alive and he did his best to keep it contained. The last few hours of the evening were muddled by emotions that swirled around in his head.  He wanted to believe that she wasn't teasing or playing with his heart, but after four years of waiting, it was hard to fathom that the medical officer finally understood what was going on between them.  Lukas hummed with his thoughts and stepped back from the glass door. He walked silently on the short pile carpet and pulled the quilt from the back of the sectional couch. It was draped over the cushions and he settled onto the sectional to sleep.



   
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