AWD #553: Once a marine
AWD #553: Once a marine
Summary: Once a marine, always a marine. There's no such thing as a former marine.
Date: 26 Dec 2016 (OOC Date)
Related Logs: None
Kapali Kelsey Mallas 
Marine Enlisted Berthings - Deck 3 - Battlestar Orion
Housing for a whole company of Marines plus headquarters support staff requires more than one hundred bunks for the Marines' enlisted personnel. Divided into two primary bunkhouses, each one holds sixty bunks, one bunk stacked over another against the wall with a table between each row and a thin bulkhead between the sections. Rather than the blue curtains of the naval enlisted, each bunk has a dark green barrier with the crest of the CMC done in black. The lockers for the Marines are triple the size of the Navy's allowances, each locker holding a Marine's personal bodyarmor and several different sets of uniforms plus combat webbing and helmet. The space physically provided in the lockers might be larger, but the allowance for personal space is less, though the drawers beneath each bunk help alleviate the problem somewhat.
Thu 13 Jul 2006

The pilot has been busy, in and out quite a bit. She never seems to be totally focused on one thing, though. But handling a squadron for Bennett while juggling this? Its a lot. She's leaning heavily on other people. But even while a lot of people would crack under the stress, she seems to smile more - the kind of cheshire smile of someone that knows something. She's more cheery, though, but stops short of being bouncy. Maybe the Marines are good for her. Maybe the PT in particular. She's already had to draw new uniforms and the fitness is flattering on her curves. She's currently laying on her bunk, reading a combat drilling manual, wearing her uniform. Private Wescott has been trying to get the required reading in, but she's only just keeping up with where people want her.

Fresh from another round of off duty PT, Kapali has her hair slicked almost straight up and carries with her the faint scent o chlorine that is enough to explain what PT she'd just come from. A towel is draped over one shoulder, her sneakers making squeaky noises as she takes the turn into the barracks and heads for her rack, passing Wescott along the way. "Getting your reading done?" she wonders as she pauses nearby, lifting one end of the towel to drag over her hair again, only making it stand on end even more, if that's possible.

Kelsey looks like she might be about to fall asleep, but Kapali saves her from that fate. Falling asleep down here in the Marine bunks? Not good. Kelsey is supposed to be bunking with the Wing for racking-out. She screws up enough, the Marines might just get to keep 'Private Wescott'. Or at least thats the power leveraged. "Aye, Sergeant." She rolls on her hip a bit, laying on her pillow. Looking up at Kappa, the book is allowed to close on her thumb. "I've been in ground combat before. But nothing like this. I-" her mind takes her for a moment before drifting back, looking over the Sergeant while she speaks. "Are you afraid?"

One auburn eyebrow arches upward, a learned muscle skill to be sure - and worth every minute spent on acquiring the ability to make it work properly, Kapali eyes Wescott for a silent moment before she gives a tip of her head. "Anyone to stupid to not be afraid is to dangerous to go into combat alongside. If we weren't afraid, in the first place, then bravery wouldn't be required, so the saying goes. But yeah. You gotta learn to either put it away, so it doesn't cripple you. Or you burn it, as fuel. Anger's pretty good too, in my experience. Burn 'em both and it can be a heady cocktail, just don't let it make you stupid."

Kelsey listens and lets her gaze drift back to the book. These points seem to make sense to her and there's a slow nod. "I fly angry. I'm really passionate about it, even though I don't talk about it. The idea of flying in combat gets me all worked up in a lot of ways," she says with a short laugh, then looking back up. "Anger. Fear. So don't try and fret about it, yea?" She tries to slide a smile in, it only sorta works. "I'm scared shitless to go into combat with you all, Sergeant." The smile is there, but Kapali can tell she's scared. Not the mind-numbing fear that causes people to lock up in combat, but the fear that she'll fail or people will get hurt. Kappa knows the difference.

Kapali does that eyebrow arch thing again at Wescott's admission, even sharing another of those slight head tipped nods to both acknowledge and encourage the pilot liaison to keep going. She idly rubs the end of the towel over her head again before draping it over her shoulder once more, hooking both hands into the front pockets of her khakis before she draws in a quiet breath. "Good. Because, like I said, being scared is healthy. Look, you know why marines go through basic, right? Every marine who's ever been good enough to be called a marine?"

Kelsey see's the nod, encouraging her to keep going. She ends up turning more and swinging her legs off the bunk. She hitches a breath a moment and clears her throat, shaking her head. "When I fly in on a target, the anger builds. I think about home. Picon. I think about how my daughter watched my parents die trying to save her, sometimes. I think about the executions. The people we've lost." Kelsey ooks far away, almost sad for a moment. "What I hate most is that they've made otherwise good people be shown for their failures. People we loved and cared about, then something happens and we never look at them the same again. …I think that gets to me more than anything." Its the idealist, the dreamer. Moments like this its easy to believe she's 22. Or 18. Somewhere in there. But they've all personally seen her fly. Its almost a disconnect for a hardened combat pilot to be that way. But then again… "No, Sergeant. I mean- We all go to basic so we all get the same training and stuff. I- suspect that's not what you're getting at though, is it?"

"All the running, the sweating, the muscle strain, al the swearing and being broken down into a sweaty, bleeding pulp? All of that is designed to break every marine, male and female and all gender identifiers included, down completely then rebuild from there. From the base model," her lips twist slightly with those words but she moves on. "We all have the same skill set. The same training. The same abilities, at the core. A marine is a marine is a marine, that's how it works. Only after we transition do we get our specilization and skill sets and levels up, essentially. That's why a marine is a marine, not an pilot or a navy puke or anything else. We're marines because we're all trained the same way. It's why command can grab any dozen or two marines and field them in any situation, because we're both stock and custom depending on the grab bag. And why? Because when we're scared shitless, pissing ourselves, puking because of the shit we've just been dropped into? We still respond, instinctively, as a marine. Muscle memory and training kick in before the higher brain stops gibbering. Gibbering gets us killed. Muscle memory can, does, and will continue to save our asses until the higher brain stops gibbering."

Kapali taps one fingertip against the side of her head, tugging one hand out of her pockets long enough to do this as she continues: "Your higher brain, that's the part that's liable to gibber. It's also the part that's thinking about the people you love, the people you're fighting for, all the baggage you're carrying in, all the reasons you're going to keep yourself alive to carry back out again. All that emotion has it's purpose, I think, because it's what'll drive us. It's also about hope. Hope and belief are powerful and dangerous. Hope keeps us alive when we have no reason to keep on keeping on. Belief that what we're doing is worth living for, dying for, killing for, making the ultimate sacrifice for. Marines, we show up where we aren't wanted, do a job that no one else wants us to do, paid less than practically every other branch of the armed forces, wearing gear made by someone who probably gets paid more than we do, and most of the time without a thank-you in return. Because we're marines. And we're all volunteers. And pilots?" Kapali pauses to grin, a brief but genuine grin, "Ya'll are even crazier than we are, cuz you FLY your happy asses in, knowing you can make a crater just as easily as fly back out."

Kelsey keeps her eyes on Kapali, listening. At this point the Private looks like any other Marine that could have come through here. Her hair might be a bit long for the liking of some, but the Wing has different requirements. And being one of the 60 carries its own weight. "Hope makes me nervous. It can be dashed easily sometimes. But I undertand the sentiment, Sergeant. I'd rather believe, I guess. I believe in what we are doing. I love flying. I mean, well, three things I love most? Flying, frakking, and fighting. In that order. Most days." She ghosts in another little grin. The idea of Marines being that way, though, has the expression drift as she looks up at Kapali, soaking this all in. "I never thought of it that way. Marines have the hardest job, lowest pay, for the highest risk." Not that anyone gets paid anymore. She ends up rubbing her cheek. "I'm so used to everyone supporting me and my job, that totally blanked on my end." Her eyes lift back. "Is that why Marines take so much pride in being what you are?"

Glancing round, Kapali drops down onto the edge of the vacant bunk across from the one that Wescott is in, mindful not to actually invade the rank that belongs to someone else, just perch on the edge of it. "You're a mom, though, so being a mom has to be somewhere in that top list of things," she doesn't make her words a question, though, another of those statements. "It's not the hardest job. It's the most in your face job, however. The hardest job is the men and women who order us to go do and die. Who know we're going to die, and they have to decide how to spend our lives for the biggest return. That's the job that sucks. So here's why there's rules, rules that every officer worth his or her salt actually has to abide by. Any officer who doesn't abide by these rules is vainglorious and is going to get more of his or her men killed and not get the job done along the way. Rule number one is simple," and Kapali rubs one hand briefly over her face. "Never command someone else to do something that you, yourself, would not do if you had the skill set. Do you get what that means, to a marine?"

Being a mom. Kelsey blinks. Its like the girl almost forgot in the moment. But how often does she see her daughter, anyway? She tries to brush it aside with a saucy look, "And frakkin is just practice to being a mom over again," she giggles a bit. The sound is healthy. It may be beside the point, but she understands. Though her face once again draws blank while she tries to soak this all in. There is recognition at commanding people into their deaths, though. Her eyes drift down and there's something there.. Its like Kelsey has made the conscious choice to not fall to pieces over something. She speaks to it, though, "Colonel Io lead the fight at Twin Rocks and at the bottleneck. I lead the strike portions. Lil Lieutenant Wescott. Wanted to puff my chest out and say inspiring things." Those haunted eyes stare at Kapali's feet, seeing far beyond. "My orders killed half the air wing. I had to give them on the fly while still piloting my strike. The only thing people have ever done is tell me Good Job. Pat me on the back. …But I look at those rows of empty bunks. Two hundred and forty," she whispers. "Sometimes I just stare at them, try to remember their faces." She sniffs once and rubs her cheek again, seeming to come out of it. "I'm not sure if that counts, Sergeant. But I'm going to be haunted by that weight for the rest of my life."

"Good. Because that's how it works. That's the price. Anyone who tries to tell you different, doesn't know shit. Anyone who says: I know how you feel, is talking shit. Anyone who says: I understand, same answer. Pure shit. No one knows what -you- are feeling, thinking, remembering, dreaming, because they're not you. You are your own, unique, perspective based filter. And everyone else? Same deal. We get similar experiences, but we're not the same. There's categories, and the head quacks will talk to you about how you feel about processing about the steps that you go through, because similar is similar, but it's not the same." Kapali leans forward as she speaks, elbows resting on her knees, "You remember their faces, you remember their names, their personalities, their lives, because you're supposed to. If you forget? Then they're gone, and there's no way to bring them back. So you keep remembering. And there's only one question to ask: Did their deaths, ultimately, save lives?"

Kelsey looks back at the Sergeant, holding her eyes. Kapali can see the weight and pain there, but also the strength of character. Wescott has actively chosen to not break down and lose her mind over this. Its a daily struggle, and one she will eventually have to deal with - somehow. Drugs, alcohol, psychotherapy, maybe all three. If she hasn't already. "Yes, S'arnt. Saved a lot of lives," she says quietly. "Let us invade Leonis. All those basestars we killed won't be killing our own people. Skinjobs rising up, taking down the Cylons." It doesn't make it any easier, though. Kelsey's learned the hardest lesson about command with a high payout but a devastating loss of life. People she knew. Friends. "I wouldn't wish the feeling on anyone. But I don't know if that applies to leading Marines. …Does it?"

"Then that's the question that you ask yourself, every time you have to spend our lives. Will this death save lives? how many lives will it save? Is it worth the cost of one life? Ten? A hundred? I believe that all life has value, Wescott, or none does. It's the only all or nothing thing I believe in. When you give orders, orders that put our lives at risk, that cost us our lives, then make damn sure that it's worth it. We don't take 'hills' or 'fields' or line up in pickets and toe off with the enemy over ideals or taxes or anything any less than life or death. So make it count. Because we humans? We get one shot at this. And when we die there isn't a reset key, we're just dead. And all our training, all our experience, all our skills, they just stop. And that's how it's supposed to be. So that each life? Each person? We have value. We're unique. So remember our names, remember our faces, and know that when you're ordering us into combat, that you're sending us to our deaths, if and as need be. Don't let it handicap you," she adds with a brief gleam of a smile, "just spend us wisely."

Wescott listens to all this and her face starts to fall again. Shoulders slump a little. Those eyes once again go distant, looking off Kapali's right shoulder. Something said, or maybe the whole context of it, set her mind adrift into someplace dark. Even after Kapali finishes speaking, Wescott sits there in silence and eventually her eyes draw towards the floor. "Any other rules I should know about, Sergeant?"

"Remember what I said, about not letting it handicap you," Kapali warns in a quiet voice that isn't the least bit threatening, and is instead very calm but emphatic all the same. "Decide what you're willing to fight for, die for, and what you're willing to send others to their deaths for, that's rule 2. Rule 3 is to Fight smarter, not harder. It's not all about sweat equity, after all. Rule 4, If the choice is yours, pick your battle ground. Rule 5, Never underestimate your opponent but encourage them to underestimate you. And lastly?" Kapali pauses for a moment, searching Wescott's eyes with hers, "No one will rescue you. You can't count on it. You can't bank on it. Rescue your own damn self. The gods, if there are any, only help those who help themselves. Be worthy. Get up off of your own damn ass and rescue yourself. The least you will do is make it easier for any recon team to get to you if one even can." She straightens slowly, scrubs both hands over her face as she does so, "We carry out what we carry in, and that means we don't leave fellow marines behind. We carry body bags in our gear for a reason."

Private Mallas returns to the barracks, wiping hands with a rag and muttering to himself under his breath. Dressed in duty greens, which now sport a big, dark stain on the front of the crotch. The smell of gun oil hangs heavily over the grunt. The sight of a pilot in the berthings draws Mallas' eye, and he grimaces before looking to see who the officer is talking to. Sergeant Kapali. Skirting past the pair to get to his locker, the Private slows down a bit when he overhears a bit of the conversation. The Sergeant is instructing the pilot? Okay then. This might be worth listening in on.

Kelsey's head went to a darker place, someplace where only she knows what she has seen. The place Kapali was just talking about, where nobody quiet understands what its been like for her and her unique viewpoint. the rules are clearly heard, Kelsey is just doing her best to put them in order in her head. The last rule has her lips twitch towards something there. Its gone as fast as it appears. "Been shot down a few times, Sergeant. I, ah." Mallas can hear the deference, which makes more sense when he see's she is wearing pins of a Private on a Marine uniform. But the name 'Elena' is just barely on her lips, like a gentle breeze passing over. "Is there any one thing you all wish a pilot knew?" she asks quietly, not even noticing Mallas yet. She's leaned forward on her bottom bunk, hair obscuring Mallas from her vision.

Kapali tips a nod at Mallas, though to be fair the scent of gun oil was what drew her attention first, "Mallas," she voices along with the nod. The oil stain is given a brief glance followed by a bit of a smirk as she turns back toward Kelsey, the smirk fading as she scrubs her hands against the knees of her worn and faded khakis. "Yeah. We're not canned meat. From the minute we cram onto what ever bird is about to drop us through atmo, with or without getting shot at, we're treated like canned meat being delivered. We're not. We're not stupid. We're not the dumb ones from the grab any box. We're marines. You're a pilot, you have years of training and kills that I don't have. And I have zero interest in learning how to fly any damn thing, I happen to LIKE having my boots on the ground. I don't know that you're any smarter than I am, I don't know that I'm any smarter than you are, but I do know that I'm going to cram onto that bird, with all my gear and weaponry and as many rounds as I could pull, as much weight as I can get away with carrying. My feet are going to hurt, so are my shoulders, and i'm going to wish - for the hundredth time - that women could pee as easily on the move as men do," she flicks a brief squinted look at Mallas, because he's nearest and she can totally blame him for a moment if she wants to. "You guys fly combat ops to drop us off and retrieve us when we're done. We respect that. We respect you. We think you're crazy, don't forget that part. So don't forget that we're not canned meat either."

"Yeah, yeah," Mallas grouses at the Sergeant when he sees her smirk. "Day I get armory duty, and some smart ass frak unscrewed the cap on the oil can." He stops a few bunks down at his locker and props a foot on the edge of the bottom bunk, starting to unlace his combat boots. He makes no bones about listening to the conversation, studying Kelsey with a quizzical eye. He's probably seen the Raptor pilot any number of times, but usually in a helmet and behind the controls of a bus, not hanging around the barracks. There's a smirk back at Kapali when she claims Marines aren't stupid, and a laugh for her comment about field urination technique. "Seen plenty of grunts piss their pants out there. Never seemed like it was harder for the ladies."

Kelsey turns her head to look over at Mallas. She just stares at his groin. And stares. And stares. Then finally lifts her gaze to his face. "I'm going to make assumptions and you can't stop me." Deadpanned. Neener. She then looks back at Kapali. Meat, ego, assumptions. "Is it seriously that much of a-" And Kelsey starts thinking about all the gear she has to wear. The layers. Just to pee. "Motherfrakker," she sighs, almost a groan. The rest has her continue to look a bit distant. "Respect your lives." She glances to Mallas, shaking her head, then back. "Can't ask a deckgang member to move into combat anymore for a Predator than you could a Marine. Skill levels, training, it all matters." This is all new understanding for Kelsey.

Kapali points a finger at Mallas, "There's a big difference between pissing in ones pants and pissing withOUT pissing in ones pants, or on ones boots or anything else. You try hanging your ass out over what you hope are just a bit of grass and leaves while hoping you aren't pissing in some native bit of poison oak or ivy or some other strain of local fauna that's about to, literally, bite you in the ass and give you a rash that you'll have to IGNORE until you get lifted back off again." She sounds way to damn familiar with having been on the wrong end of the local flora exploratory team. She then huffs out a laugh at Wescott's words at Mallas. "You do that, go for it, free thought and all that." This said before she runs one hand over the top of her head, making her hair stand up at odd angles. "Yes. Respect our lives. Because we respect yours. And no, you can't, but you CAN tell us what we can do to help out. There's no damn reason at all that we can't be cross training. All of us. We are just as compatible for multi tasking. Look, a smart man once wrote: 'A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects!' "

The pointed stairs at his crotch causes Mallas to give Kelsey an amused look. "See something you like?" It's a few seconds later before he bothers to append, "Sir." Then there's another smart ass laugh for Kapali's offer, and a quick shake of his head. "I think I'll pass on that, Sarge. Thanks though." Boots off, the Private proceeds to search for replacement trousers and skivvies out of his locker, then start stripping down. "Pitch manure. I knew there was a reason why I hadn't made sergeant…"

Kelsey lets Kapali explain the finer points of concern about dropping trou to piddle in a pasture. By her expression, its not fun. "I think that- it would be-" The pilot thinks, mind obviously distracted with something. She rubs her forehead. "I think its too early for me to say what would help. I'd rather say nothing than risk putting my whole boot in my face." The saying, however, draws a lofted brow and a mildly amused look. "I like that. Not sure I'd like to be able to do all that since the learning curve sucks, but.." She shakes her head, then looks to Mallas. And his stain. "I'm not a sir here. Private Wescott." just letting him know. "And if you're asking a pilot if she likes something she see's, I can tell you my three favorite things to do. But I think I'll keep that one between the Sergeant and I. She can tell you if she wants." She gives Mallas a sly wink and looks back to Kapali.

"Well, that and your inability to secure the lids on containers to which lids ought to be properly secured," Kapali retorts back, humor shading her words while the marine is fighting back a laugh that only to have her humor control stripped away by Wescott's attempt at diplomacy. "Ahh, that would be a negative, Wescott. Discretion being the better part of valor and all. Plus, I'm after giving you a head start if you change your mind and decide to rock the rifleman's world at some point. A close encounter with a pilot, while not having to sweat the strata of rank, could seriously make him strut and smile." She leans forward, elbows braced on her knees again, to say: "Though, mind the saying, once you go marine, you'll never go back," said with a grin before she straightens again.

Mallas changes into clean uniform, responding to Kapali's remark as he's buckling his pants. "They don't let us grunts secure lids, Sarge. Gotta give the Corporals something to do." Then there's another quizzical look for Kelsey's response to his question, and this time it shifts to Kapali as he waits to see if the Sergeant is going to elaborate. There's an amused smirk from Mallas, and another look between the two of them. "Get what you can, while you can," he advises with a shrug. "Odds are you'll be sitting in a cold, wet hole tomorrow facing down a frakload of Cylons."

Kelsey quirks a brow at Kapali. "You're saying that I've already decided I wouldn't? That's a bit presumptuous, Sergeant." She tilts her head a bit to look over at Mallas, sizing him up. "He is pretty cute. Not too gangly. I like his eyes. My age.." she waggles her brow at him and looks back to Kapali. "He's got a point. Get while the gettin' is good. Besides, I'd heard Marines frak like rabbits. Any truth to that? The bunks seem disappointingly quiet after hours."

"I knew there was some sort of half baked ass backward logic to why you spilled the gun oil all over yourself," Kapali's words are paired with a grin before she winks then straightens slightly, again. "Dunno, If you're sitting, you're probably doing something wrong. Now, if you're crouched in one, that means you're still on the job." She huffs out a laugh at Wescott, again, then rolls her eyes. "Yeah yeah, and Pilots shack up with anyone they can land for the twenty seconds it takes 'em to get the job done. Personally," and she shrugs then, "I have a personal rule against frakking where I work or with those that I work. Messy."

Kelsey watches Mallas move off towards the head for a few, then looks back to Kapali with a little smile. "So crouching is okay. Sitting is never acceptable. Check." She gently rubs her face, listening. "Some of us are more discerning. Others less so," she laughs it off. "To each their own. I mean, your code makes sense, Sergeant. I'd just have problems. You should try it sometime. Just find someone who isn't going to get attached and understands the concept of discretion. Plenty of people around here will trade that for some time with another person." The half-smile stays. "Have you ever been married?"

"No thanks. I'd have a hard time keeping a straight face if I had to serve beside someone who'd I just had sex with," Kapali replies, shaking her head, scrubbing the heels of her hands against those faded khakis again. "Me? No." She sounds entirely appalled by that idea. "No way. Marriage is for grown ups," she rises to her feet and sticks her tongue out at Kelsey, "I refuse to ever be a grown up enough to do something as crazy as that."

"Its like going to school or college with someone you slept with. Its not like this is a complex concept, Sergeant," Kelsey chuckles. "But I can understand. Sometimes there are moments to giggle about." Kelsey clearly understands this. Her daughter's was not an immaculate conception. She doesn't complain about it, though. The reaction to the marriage question also gets a short laugh. "Makes sense I guess. I wanted to after I joined the fleet. Decided recently I'd probably not enjoy it. Stuck with just one person."

"To you," Kapali counters with a grin as she walks to her rack and pulls out a fresh set of clothing and starts changing into the fresh non-chlorine scented attire. "I don't ever want to," she says while pulling her damp t-shirt off and tugging the new one on. "Marriage is a promise. It's an agreement and a compromise, wrapped around hope and belief but at it's core, it's all about that promise. I don't make promises that I know I can't keep. Marriage seems like . . rolling the long odds on a promise that I don't know I'd be able to keep. The whole till death do us part, thing? Few people keep that, before this war started or the world ended. Faithful? Few people keep that one, too. Love, honor, cherish? People stop liking each other, then they stop respecting each other, they stop honoring each other, and cherishing just . . fades and falls off the rack somewhere. So no."

Kelsey gives a little smirk to the counter. She does watch Kapali change, too. Just how it goes. Bare skin draws the eye. "Worded like that? It makes sense. I always loved the romance of it. The beg event with the white dress and family and food and the big party." Her eyes are distant. "But I think I was just in love with the idea of being a bride. Yanno?" Her eyes go back to Kappa. "I guess the last few weeks i've been more interested in just being a passing ship in the night, you know? No attachments. Randy's whole thing…" Kelsey looks down. "We both lost the same girl, but she meant different things to us. "

"Passing ships means it's just physical, no strings, no in depth conversation required. You set your standards to what works or doesn't work for you, and just do it. Simple. Clean, in a way. And not messy, with strings or expectations or things that you can't give each other," Kapali says as she sits on the edge of her bunk to pull on new - dry - socks and a dry pair of sneaks. "I know what I can't give," she adds as she ties the first sneaker, nice and snug. "If things were different, but they aren't, so it's not fair to go in with someone who wants - deserves - more. So I don't make promises, or imply promises, or any shit that's anything other than the truth. Take it or leave it." She fits the other sneaker on and ties it, silent for a moment, before she glances up again. "I wanted to smack the three of you," she admits it bluntly. "Ellie for being to young to know better. Randy for being old enough to know better. And you getting tangled up in all of it. It's a triangle of frakked up feelings, the lot of you. I'm sorry, for the three of you. Sorry doesn't make a damn bit of difference, though. And no, I don't have a damn clue what you're feeling and no I don't understand. So it's only from the outside, looking in, which doesn't help you or Tiny at all. Save that I'm here, and we," she waves a hand at the rest of the marines, "are here. You know that saying, about it taking a village to raise a child? Wescott, we're all the child, and we're all the village. No one is in this alone. That's the other thing about being a marine. There's no such thing as a retired marine. We're marines now, we will always be marines, and when we die, we're going to go to hell and regroup, because we're still marines. You're one of us for how ever long the powers that be decide you're one of us while you liaise or what ever it is that you're supposed to be doing. So you're an honorary marine for the rest of your life, presuming that is that you can keep up," this last part said with a ghost of a smile.

Kelsey nods slowly. "That's sort of what I'm getting at. I don't mind being a passing ship - as bad as that sounds. Like you said, there's no attachments or feelings. No need to lay in bed and talk about our fears or future. Just servicing the body like getting a meal. It doesn't have to be a date." Kelsey almost sounds regretful. There's something about the way she says it that infers that maybe some part of her died or had to be given up on. Some part of the light in her soul flickered out - or maybe she just 'grew up'. But she does believe what she is saying and seems to understand that it isn't a /bad/ thing. The point about the little trio issue has her nod her head and looks down. "That was all my fault. I did something stupid. I betrayed the trust of one of my nuggets. I did what I could to make it right and I've resolved myself to stay away from Randy like that.." With the implication that she doesn't always want to, but whatever. No more trouble out of the LT, that's all that matters to some. With Kapali continuing has her whole being somber and she ends up looking towards the floor between them again. The silence from Kelsey might be concerning. It drags out and her lips twist painfully and she eventually leans forward and puts her head in her hands, crying in silence. No wailing screams, or overblown thanks. The girl just knuckles her eyes a few times, looking both full of sorrow and relief.

Kapali's expression turns from one of blunt assessment to one that's a mix of alarm and chagrin but mostly alarm when Wescott begins to cry. Silently, at that. "Crap. Don't do that. Jeez," she runs both hands through her hair, then takes a handful and tugs briefly, that'll help jump start her brain or something. "Dude. Look. Kels. Don't cry," she rises from the edge of her bunk and walks over, drops - heavily - on the edge of the bunk beside Wescott and awkwardly puts one hand on the pilot's shoulder. "I mean. Look. Cry it out if you need to, I guess. But jeez. None of this is on you. Everyone does what feels right at the time. So it got snarfed sideways and it turned out to be a bad idea. Or maybe not. Who the hell knows. Give it time, sometime stuff sorts out. Or doesn't. Look, I suck at the whole say the right thing comfort someone stuff, ok?"

Kelsey leans a little on Kapali and the tears abate after a minute or so. Something must have hit her all at once. "I must look stupid. Marines don't cry. I'm sorry, Sergeant." She sighs sniffles, then uses both hands to sort of fan her face. "Blotchy mess now." The girl comes off the lean and looks back to the floor. "No, Sergeant, I wasn't crying about that. Something else. I see you all interacting and I want to be part of it. I never knew how to really describe it until you said something. In the Wing, all the pilots are pretty much by themselves. When you get up in rank, it gets more isolating." Her voice is kept to a whisper. "I don't see my daughter much anymore. I don't know how to be her mom anymore. She barely recognizes me. My squad leader is down so everyone is looking to me. I'm so frakking alone and then I come down here and you're talking about how I'm going to have family forever. It just made it all come into focus all at once." She sniffles and wipes her nose. "Sorry. I- that won't happen again, Sergeant." Kelsey is trying hard to make sure she doesn't mess this up.

"Bullshit," Kapali says quietly, "marines cry. Ask anyone. Cry, if you need to, when you need to. And when you're done, you marine up, and keep going. That's how it works," she gives Kelsey's shoulder a firm grip for a moment before she offers a sidelong slightly lopsided smile that's sort of a grimace at the same time. "Look, if you're gonna cry, you can't call me by my rank, it just makes it weird. I'm Penny or just Pen, ok? And you'll figure it out, the being a mom thing. The whole thing about being a parent, my gramps said, is love. You love your kid more than air, more than light, more than everything else. Then you figure out the rest. So. Love your kid, and make time to be with your kid. You gotta carve out the time, or you're gonna miss the important stuff. And with kids, all stuff is the important stuff, right?" she leans briefly to the side and deliberately shoulder bumps Kelsey. "I'm glad i'm not a pilot, then. Because we are sure as hell a lot closer than that. And as you're one of us, now, you're not alone anymore. Cry when you need to, Kels, and marine up when you're done. That's all there is to it."

That's something Kelsey clearly didn't know. She noddles and looks down, still trying to get her face dry. "Sorry, Penny," she chuckles quietly, giving a low smile. The part about her daughter, though, just leaves Kelsey staring at the floor. "My gramma looks after her. Says the same thing." And that's it. There's nothing else for her to say? No overtures to the love for her daughter? The words should be easy but the young pilot just stares at nothing and Kapali can probably see that pain in her eyes - the source undetermined. The shoulder bumpb seems to bring her back and she nods. "Its a lot of ego in the Wing. Not anymore. Not after our losses. Now its a lot of silence. I don't think we know how to be a family." She slowly rises off the bunk, leaving the manual behind. "I think I need to go for a walk. Thanks, Penny."

"You're welcome," Kapali says as she follows Kelsey's movements with her eyes, "and Kels? Everyone can learn how to be a family. All it takes is someone to show them the way. Family isn't about where you come from, or who you come from, for that matter. It's about who you meet along the way, who you're brave enough to care for, and who you take with you to the end."

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