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That Which Is Thicker Than Water

Posted on Tue Feb 8th, 2022 @ 3:58pm by Petty Officer 2nd Class Corvus Hannah [Rogers]

Mission: Pre-Launch + Pre-Mission 1 Stories
Location: Holodeck 2, Pioneer

Corporal Terry Baldwin, MACO/Security on the Project Delta ship Pioneer stopped at the control panel at Holodeck Four. He was dressed in the tactical vest and jumpsuit costume he and Hunter preferred when they played through scenarios in Call of Honor though it would just be him this time. He’d asked Hunter to join him for maybe a double session, a way to make up for the week before when Terry had to bail on their scheduled game due to lack of child care when Malinda worked over the week before. But this time it was Hunter who canceled on their session. He was evasive as to why but stated he had something he had to do concerning Weaver.

At that point Terry was going to stay home and spend the time with his family. It was Malinda, however, that insisted he go and play his “silly game”. She stated reasons like he’d been working hard all week and, she said with absolute seriousness, he’d been ‘moping’ all week since he missed out on his ‘date’ with his ‘work husband’ Hunter. She’d also mentioned that he needed time for himself, that if all he did was work and worry about the family, he’d be no good for either one. Time to decompress and have a bit of fun was necessary. She did it and he understood she needed that time away. She then practically pushed him out of their quarters.

Now here he was, ready to go in and run one of the new scenarios involving Klingon terrorists. Except, as he tried to input the parameters of the game, he discovered the holodeck was already in use. Further, it was in use by one Corporal Hunter Kawolski. As far as Baldwin could tell, it wasn’t running a version of Call of Honor and, according to the computer, Hunter was the only person in the holodeck. He wasn’t on another date with Weaver which Baldwin could understand. Not necessarily like, but at least he’d understand why his best friend would stand him up and go to the holodeck by himself.

He stared at the information on the display more than perturbed at this turn of events. He thought Hunter understood when he canceled last week. He even stayed and the two of them just hung out, taking care of Jeremy and discussing their respective relationships. But this and how oddly distant Hunter has been during their duty shifts for the past few days indicated that perhaps Hunter was more upset about their canceled holodeck time than he was willing to say.

“Well, frag this,” Baldwin muttered. He wasn’t going to let his best friend just distance himself to the point where their relationship outside of work was ghosted. Not over one missed gaming session. He thought, maybe, Hunter was anticipating that their friendship would be taking a hit because Terry was married already and Hunter would be married soon enough. But that was nonsense, if it were the case, because their respective wives were already friends and were getting together more and more often. It was almost to the point where Malinda was considering asking Weaver to help with childcare. Weaver seemed to adore Jeremy and kids in general. It made sense, it gave them someone they trusted to watch their child and gave Weaver something to help occupy her time. She couldn’t weave all the time.

Baldwin entered his code to the holodeck and the arch opened the door. Immediately he saw a forested path and heard the rush of a large waterfall somewhere not far off. Placing one hand on the butt of his sidearm in the drop holster and the other gripped the a strap on his tac-vest - both were unconscious gestures that came from their time in these various uniforms - he set forth. The path wasn’t long before it broke through a screen of deep green pines into a grassy clearing on a bluff. It overlooked the large falls in the distance which filled a wide basin into a deep, sapphire blue lake. It appeared to early morning in late Spring where the are was warm but not hot. Slight humidity from the lake and waterfall made it feel a bit more pleasant. Bird calls were like an orchestra through the bright sunlight that suffused the clearing.

Baldwin found himself perplexed by this scenario. It wasn’t from Call of Honor nor any of the other holo-adventures he and Hunter had previously played. It was almost idyllic in tone and execution. A pleasant place to while away an afternoon.

Low voices followed by a rthythmic pounding came to him and he turned to his left after stepping from the trees and into the clearing. He found Hunter there, dressed in workpants and a simple t-shirt. He and another two men whom he also didn’t recognize.

Both men were dressed in what Terry considered ‘craftsman’ garb - heavy denim coveralls with a long sleeved chambray shirt underneath. Sleeves were rolled past the elbow and the two wore wide leather workbelts with various implements in pockets or secured by loops around their waists. They spoke with a thicker inflection and accent that he associated with Hunter. He wondered if they were holographic representations of people that Hunter knew. Family perhaps.

But all three men stood before a platform and appeared to be creating framing for walls. It didn’t look as if it would be a large structure when finished but maybe just large enough for a young family.

“Hunter?” he called out. The big man startled and turned. His eyes were that of an animal caught in surprise. Immediately he called for the computer to freeze the program.

The sound of the falls, the bird calls all ceased while the two men froze in place.

“Baldwin,” Hunter said, dropping a hammer and wiping a forearm across his forehead. The sweat staining his t-shirt indicated he’d been working at the construction for some time already. “What are you doing here?”

“I came to do some gaming,” Baldwin answered, closing the distance to his teammate and friend so that the peace of the clearing wasn’t shattered by them yelling across to each other. “You canceled on me but Malinda threw me out and told me to go have fun.” He took another look around the clearing. He saw stacks of two by fours and other lumber behind the building under construction. Some empty bags indicating cement used to sink posts at the corners and midpoints, as well, he now noticed, as create a foundation for the first floor to sit upon. A small crawlspace was also created underneath with a rudimentary staircase to the space. “What are you doing here?” He turned back to Hunter, noticing his friend’s face turned pink in a blush. He gripped a hammer tightly in one large hand and stared at the structure.

“Weaver’s amazing,” he said, a whisper. “I did what you said. We’ve gone on two dates and…she’s soft and kind but also smart and funny. She’s going to be an amazing mother and our kids will be so very lucky to have her.”

Baldwin scowled at that response. Something in the way Hunter spoke indicated that perhaps he was scared of something. He was about to ask his friend when Hunter spoke again. “She’s so much more amazing than I ever thought. And, she’s so much better than me. I’m afraid she’s going to realize that soon.”

Baldwin shook his head. “Hunter, you’re a pretty great guy yourself. I wouldn’t worry about that. I’m sure she thinks your wonderful.” He wanted to ask how much Weaver thought of him mattered. They were already matched and they were the only two from their homeworld seventy thousand light years away.

“I hope but I’ve gotta make sure she’s happy with our matching. With marrying me.” Hunter sighed, his large barrel chest heaving as he finally turned to look at Baldwin. “Back home I’d build a house for us while we waited to be married. If it wasn’t finished before the wedding, we’d have to live with one of our families and, well, you can imagine how that would be for newlyweds.

“I can’t really build a house for us and we already moved into our married quarters but, I still wanted to build it. To show her what she’s worth to me. Plus, it helps with the chastity pledge, y’know?”

Baldwin chuckled but decided to skip the part where the two were basically already married in the custom of their homeworld but were still abstinent. He felt for Hunter, he recalled the beginning of his relationship with Malinda before they finally became intimate. “I’m sorry to intrude, I just…” he looked around again. “You have to build all this by yourself?” Sometimes he found that growing up on Earth was so much easier. So many rituals and customs he never had to worry about.

Hunter lowered his gaze and sighed again. “Back home the men of our families would help. Which is good. I mean, I learned how to do some of this stuff by helping others out but I don’t know how to do all of it. The computer created a couple craftsman to help teach me. That’d be part of what our fathers would do, help us learn to build the home so that we could maintain it in good condition and…” he trailed off for a moment, blushing again. “And build on it when we had children.”

“And since you don’t have family here you have to do it yourself?” Baldwin asked, a bit of sarcasm in his voice. He shook his head wondering if Hunter really was that clueless.

Hunter shrugged, tossed the hammer and caught it again. “Guess so, pretty much. Sorry for bailing on you but I wanted this to be a secret. I wanted Weaver to find out about it when we get married. We’re going to do it here, by the Falls. It’s so beautiful here and has been one of our favorite places since we were both kids.”

“No, that’s the best reason to ditch a friend,” Baldwin said. “I understand that except, you could have asked for help.”

“Ask you to take time away from Malinda and Jeremy to help me build a fake house for Weaver?” Hunter said, shocked that the implication was actually made. “Malinda would probably beat me senseless for even suggesting it.”

Baldwin took a deep breath to keep from responding. “Okay, I get it, sure. I’ll just…” he hooked a thumb over his shoulder to indicate where the arch would be.

“But I’m gonna want you guys to come over when it’s finished, after Weaver and I ‘move in’ as it were. We’ll grill. Fresh fish from the lake, they’re delicious. Smooth, buttery. Best you’ve ever had.”

“Yeah, sure, sounds like a great idea,” Baldwin said as he turned then stopped and looked at Hunter. “Has to be family huh?”

“Yeah,” Hunter said.

Baldwin nodded then walked away. He heard Hunter command the program to resume and immediately the crash of water and the symphony of bird song with an occasional counterpoint of warm breeze through the trees resumed. Baldwin went to the arch.

It took him only a few mintues to do what he planned then returned to the clearing. Hunter was working with the other two to raise another section of framing. Hunter noticed his return when Baldwin dropped his tac-vest and duty belt, holster included, onto the ground near the lumber supplies.

“Baldwin, what are you doing back?” Hunter asked, “Did you want the holodeck now?” Hunter knew he was taking up a lot of the time but…

“No, you idiot,” Baldwin said, rolling up the sleeves of the jumpsuit, “I’m here to help my brother with building his marriage house. Like your custom says. Male members of the family, right?”

“But you’re…” Hunter started then shook his head, a wry grin spreading across his face.

“That’s right, you knucklehead. You’ve got family here. Me for one. Or do we just say we’re brothers without meaning it?”

Hunter nodded then shook his head. “Thanks, man.” His voice quivered a bit but he coughed and said, “You wanna help frame out this room?”

“Sure,” Baldwin said, “But I’m gonna need a lot of guidance from your teachers there. I grew up on Earth where we don’t really have to manually build things.”

“Yeah, sure, right,” Hunter said clapping Baldwin on the back.

About ten minutes later, Hunter looked up as the arch to the holodeck appeared and the door opened. “What the…” he said, standing up straight and then freezing.

He stared at the four other MACO team members who just entered, with three of the ship’s regular security officers.

“I understand there’s some sort of traditional barn raising going on here!” Chakton called across the clearing. “Now I don’t know about the rest of my brothers here but I am very put out that I wasn’t invited to this family function!”

Hunter looked over to Baldwin who only shrugged as if to say “that’s right, knucklehead”. The door remained opened to admit Malinda carrying Jeremy in a baby carrier on her front and a large bag on her back.

“I got dibs on roofing!” Steinman called out as the Maco/Security people moved toward the structure and ordering the computer to pull up tools. Baldwin also ordered more craftsmen to help instruct the others. He then began directing the various people to different areas and assigning tasks and mentors.

“There’s security people here?” Hunter whispered, shocked.

“Yeah, we’ll just call them cousins for now,” Baldwin said with a smile. “Let them earn brotherhood. Though this is a good step.” Baldwin laughed as he was shooed away by Malinda.

“You okay there big guy?” Malinda said, putting one arm around Hunter so not to crush the baby. “You know, I should beat some sense into you for not thinking of us as family before now.”
She moved her hand to rub Hunter’s broad back as he wiped at his eyes again. It took him a moment to nod and recover. “Good, don’t let it happen again.”

She moved away and took off the pack she carried, beginning to bring out two large pitchers and several glasses. “I got lemonade and I got tea,” she called out.

“This job requires beer! Men drink beer when doing manly things like building homes!” Warren called over, jokingly. He was met with a chorus of agreement from several others.

“You don’t get any beer until the job’s finished. I’m not having my sister living in a crooked house built by drunken sots!” Malinda joked back. It seemed Warren wanted to say something else but then just shook his head and muttered, “Yes, ma’am,” before turning back to his mentor. The others looked away and pretended like they didn’t know what happened.

Hunter shook his head as he watched his friends, his teammates - no, more importantly - his created family working on the gift he wanted to give to his soon to be wife. Then, with a shake of his head he went to join them.

Cpl Hunter Kawolski
MACO/Security team member/knucklehead

Cpl Terry Baldwin
MACO/Security team member

LCpl Sean Warren
MACO/Security Tech member

Malinda Baldwin
Lounge employee/spouse

Jeremy Baldwin
Cute baby


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