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[Back Log] - JL | Lt. Evan Merlin & Xue' Daio Nox | "Time Is A River" Pt. 2/3

Posted on Wed Aug 22nd, 2018 @ 4:02pm by Xue' Daio Nox

Mission: Lacuna

Not much later they entered the restaurant. At this time of day it was not exactly crowded, but not quiet either. A soft hum of conversations permeated the area. A waiter saw them and walked over, consulting a slim, silvery PADD. "Good evening, can I help you?"

The Lieutenant smiled. "Please. I made a reservation earlier today, name of John Smith."

The waiter gave a brisk nod. "Ah, yes, reservation for two. Please follow me." He guided them to a table in a corner on the plateau which extended from the promenade ring. There was no visible railing and the ground seemed a long way down. The waiter added: "I do hope neither of you is afraid of heights. There are, of course, force fields in place."

"Marvelous." Xue breathed as she took her seat and peered over the edge. It was indeed a long way down, and beneath her gaze life went on as usual with no-one wise to the fact they were being observed, let alone who they were being observed by, "I'm rather certain we're both quite comfortable with heights." She quipped with a pleasant smile, though her eyes glittered with the mirth of the hidden knowledge that powered that fantastic statement.

Beneath the anonymous veil of the holoemitter, she was free to do as she pleased without chance of universal consequence. No one stared at her, no one murmured in her wake, and no one treated her as some precious, though fragile, jewel. She wasn't an empress, she was simply a woman enjoying a date with her partner. A date. She blinked as she smoothed her cloth napkin into her lap. Out of everything she'd done in life, she'd never been on a proper date. The night was the gift that kept on giving.

The lieutenant began to raise a hand, lowered it when he realised there were no errant strands of hair to brush back with the holo-emitter in place. (A lot of hair gel and some pins had done the rest.) He smiled as he looked at the woman seated in front of him. It seemed that if he concentrated, he could see both the projection and the real woman underneath, though he knew the latter was only in his mind's eye. It was a marvellous illusion, though, and his heart swelled again as he regarded her. She had come to mean so much to him in such a short amount of time.

Automatically, with the ease of long habit, he banished all thoughts of the past (such as it was) and the future from his mind. They were here, this was now, they were enjoying the spectacular view over the Promenade rings from this restaurant. Below them were the shoppers, the wanderers, travellers, and those who came out here to see and to be seen. Languages from many worlds could be heard with only a little effort. And a beautiful woman sat in front of him. "See anything you fancy?" he asked, indicating the menu.

"Hmm?" The albino hummed in question, looking up to find his eyes. Those hadn't changed and were her point of comfort and contact through the entire experience. Fancy? Yes. She certainly saw something she fancied, though it was hidden away beneath a close cropped dusty blonde facade. That wasn't what he meant, though, and his subtle driving of attention towards the menu cemented that fact, "Oh... Um..." Her head shook and she shrugged with a sheepish smile, "I have to admit that I'm not all that well versed with cuisine outside of traditional Stenellian and Cardassian fare... Maybe a bit of Klingon and Ferengi, but I tend to avoid that altogether." The explanation was something she'd never quite expected to have to give and the situation one she'd never dreamed she'd find herself in. Solution? Be a Roman while in Rome. "What do you recommend?"

"Oh…" He rarely recommended anything, often preferred to go along with a dining partner instead. That way, he often ended up with things he never would've thought to order himself, simply because he had never known it existed. Stenellian cuisine, for instance, had been a very pleasant discovery. He tore his attention away from Xue and focused on the menu instead. Italian… No. Indian, hmm… Then his eyes lit up. "Japanese sea food. Yes. I think you might like that." He called up various examples of something called 'sushi' and showed it. "What do you think?"

Her head tilted in honest interest as she took in the information presented. It was only a short moment between that gentle cant and when she nodded, "That looks terrific." Of course it did! Fish, rice, seaweed, wrapped around vegetables and various other bits and bobs? It sounded like heaven and not totally unlike what she knew to be completely palate pleasing. "Says some are heavily spiced... Ah well. They say you only live once, right?"

"I've generally heard that is the case," the lieutenant replied with a smile. "Then again, the humans also seem to have a book or a movie called 'You Only Live Twice', so maybe it's different for them in some cases…" He trailed off and made that airy gesture to wave the thought away. "Anyway, yes, I think it looks great." He tapped on the menu, ordering a selection of sushi and the accompanying suggested dishes and drinks.

It wasn't long at all before their food was brought - only just enough time for a tiny bit of idle chit chat as they settled into the realization that they were truly free. Xue had just taken advantage of that fact, reaching to stroke her fingers along the back of his hand when a server appeared with their order and she was tugged away from him to make way for the plates and the conscious decision to turn down a glass of sake before it could kill her. The look the server cast in her direction was one of sympathetic knowing - but she couldn't quite figure out the meaning behind it. They certainly had no idea who or what she was. Casting the thought to the back burner, Xue flashed Evan a smile when they were at long last left back to their own devices.

"Well then." She breathed, gathering up the chopsticks left with the food, "I've seen these used once or twice by some delegates..." It was harder than it looked, but her analytical mind - combined with over developed sense of pride - refused to let the two wooden sticks get the best of her. It took a few moments, and a furrowed brow, but she eventually figured it out well enough to navigate a piece of food into her mouth. Crab, cucumber, carrot, cream cheese... The flavor was an explosion and she felt her eyes close in sheer pleasure.

The sushi came in amazing shapes and colours. It was the first time the lieutenant ate it and he was amazed at the way it stimulated all the senses. Or maybe it was the company which stimulated them. Most likely a combination of both.

He took a small sip of sake, wondering – as he so often did – what the whole deal was many races had with their infatuation to alcohol. Alcohol, as opposed to syntahol, added a little to the taste, but nothing really worth mentioning. He had never experienced intoxication himself, but the results he'd seen in others made him regularly wonder why people ever indulged. There seemed to be no benefits that he could see.

The thought was discarded as the sip rolled around in his mouth, changing the tastes lingering there, and was swallowed. "You're getting the hang of them quickly," he said, noting the dexterious way Xue manipulated the sticks and food.

Pausing in her pursuit of another bite of food, Xue's brow furrowed and her head tilted in question until it dawned on her that he was talking about the chopsticks in her hand and she smiled, "Trying to, anyway." Xue had survived for nearly twenty long years on her wits alone, it would seem. Wits and doses of sheer luck, and that luck had smiled on her again when she met Merlin. While the platform itself was relatively uninhabited, she could hear no less than ten conversations - including a merchant fighting with someone over an expensive counterfeit chronometer - below. It was a reminder, a big one, that in spite of the insanity life threw in her path she'd always have a touch stone... Even though he'd be across the stars from her.

Her heart squeezed at the thought and the glow of her flickered ever so slightly as she tugged herself back up and away from the nagging notion that she'd be leaving him in such a short period of time. Asking him to come with her was pointless and cruel - a man of the sun would never compromise and deign to dwell as anything less than an emboldened first fiddle. Maec still existed and when she returned to him there would be the role of wife to fill once more.

How regents of the past had somehow managed to keep harems left her mind fuzzy and boggled. It wasn't possible - at least not for her - to spread herself so thin. As it stood she was torn and hurting. Another look in his direction and she felt herself surrender to the notion that, though she'd have to leave him, he'd never be far from her mind... Or her heart.

The chopsticks were set down

"Evan?" she hummed the smoky flavor of his name, savoring the way it tasted as it spilled from her lips.

There was something in the tone, not really heard, but rather felt, which indicated it was more than the preface to an idle remark. He looked up with a slight twitch of an eyebrow, an unspoken query. Her light, weak as it was under the multicoloured glows within the restaurant and the bright promenade light spilling over from below, still seemed muted. "I'm here," he said softly.

If only he knew what those words meant to her and the comfort they brought even though she remained so very conflicted.
They promised that she'd be happy, safe, warm... They also made up her mind. "Come with me." It wasn't voiced as a question, but it was a request all the same as she set her napkin on the table beside her chopsticks and rose from her seat. Before she knew it a hand was extended asking for him to take it. She wanted to be far away from the noise of other people, not that they troubled her much. More importantly, she wanted to go back to the beginning. Their beginning. To the arboretum and the sea it held.

"Of course." He rose as well and casually dropped a cred stick on the table, knowing that one of the owners of the restaurant occasionally enjoyed visiting the casino at the end of a busy night, and took her small hand with the other. Time was flowing again, dragging them on in its wake, but it hadn't torn them apart yet. And while they were here, he wanted to enjoy every second of their time together. "Lead the way."

And lead she did. Down through the station, following winds and contours until she found the very place she was looking for. The artificial weather pattern had called for a stiff breeze, chilly, and so very alive. The tall prairie grass swayed in undulating waves until it eventually tapered down a dune and disappeared into the expanse of soft sand.

With nobody else to be seen or found, Xue was quick to kill the emitter, finding it easier to be and breathe as her true self even with her hair defying gravity on the whipping wind. "Do you remember?" She asked him, looking over her shoulder as she kicked off her shoes, relishing in the feel of the cool sand racing to envelop her feet. Her eyes glittered brightly, fresh with the memory of being caught in the rain - thunder rolled as if on cue.

He deactivated the emitter as well and tucked it in one of his pockets, then discarded his shoes and dug his bare feet in the sand. "Of course." He remembered everything (at least, from the moment that escape pod had opened, some thirteen years ago – nothing before that, still). But the memories which contained Xue were the brightest in his mind. Their first casual meeting on the Promenade, their first real encounter here, in the arboretum, dancing in the wind, caught in the sudden torrent of rain. "I could never forget." Of this he was sure. Somehow.

"I knew then." Xue's exhilaration refused to crumble as the chill-tide washed up over her bare ankles and tugged at the hem of her jeans. She was carefree, unwilling to compromise, and pleased as anything to see him again instead of the unremarkable disguise he'd hidden behind at the restaurant. A sliver of moonlight, silver and soft and bright, the Empress tangled her fingers with his and brought the knuckles of one of his hands to her lips. "I knew that you were unlike anything I'd ever seen and unlike anyone I'd ever met." She beamed up at him as the first few drops of rain splattered across the bridge of her nose, forcing her to blink a couple times.

He wrapped his free arm around her and drew her close, protecting her from the imminent rain as well as he could. "I knew it before then, when I saw you on the Promenade for the first time. The way people reacted to you, even if they didn't quite know who you were." The subtle way people aligned themselves around her, like planets and moons around a star. And how people saw her, the Empress Xue' Daio Nox, and how few people saw the person underneath. "Some part of you reaching out, even then…" A part reaching out, but beyond Xue's conscious awareness at that point. Composed, self-contained, hidden behind masks behind shields.

Pressed against him and peering up to watch the gales play with the wild curls of his unruly crow black mane, Xue's smile never waived. It simply metamorphosed into different shapes and sizes as her emotions passed across her face. "You don't see the universe like everyone else does, do you?" She asked wrly, her voice raising to combat the wind and surf, "You don't see it in terms of black and white, you see all the gray areas, don't you?" In a few short seconds they were soaked. The fluffy bounty of her chiffon based blouse was quickly downed and plastered to her frame - even her hair was tamed, though far from dimmed, by the heavy droplets of life sustaining liquid and she laughed. Exhilarated. Empowered. Maybe even a touch out of her mind as she chased away convention and propriety for a chance to live.


To Be Continued...


Lieutenant Evan Merlin
Executive Officer
Cold Station Theta, SB-1170


Empress Xue'Daio Nox
Queen of Apsha
Ruler of Aleine
Stenellian Ascendancy


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