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[BACKLOG] JL | Cmdr Valeese, LtCmdr Stacker - "On the Necessity of Self-Defense"

Posted on Sat Aug 24th, 2019 @ 10:41pm by Commander Valeese & Lieutenant Commander James Stacker

Mission: Dust Stirring
Timeline: a few days after the "Five Minutes" series.

It took several days before James managed to get completely over the shock inflicted on him. This isn't to say that he was completely incapacitated: far from it in fact. He still went to work, dressed, ate, showered, and conducted all those activities that were befitting of a healthy individual. Behind all this, however, was certain knowledge that his life had not just changed but been completely upended. For months he had become accustomed to no longer being on its own. Now there was the irrefutable knowledge that he - and Val - were joined. Literally and biologically. And that was not something easily dismissed.

It was a discussion about legacy that caused him to look at the issue with different eyes one day. During off-hours news was received within Intelligence concerning a coup d'etat on a small world beyond Federation territory. Its was remote. Barren, Dusty. Two chieftains had gone out to inspect a water harvester. An argument erupted, and five minutes later a power spanner was buried deep in one man's skull. Sitting at his desk, reading the report, James caught his mind wandering to Val. Wondering what she was doing. Was she protected?

That thought in particular had given him pause. Was she truly protected? It was no great secret that Vorta were not particularly welcome at Federation - and Starfleet - facilities. This was putting it mildly. She had already been attacked once before. Who wasn't to say that it wouldn't happen again? The thought chilled him to the bone far more than any blast of cold wind could have achieved.

Which is why he found himself in bed one morning, several days later, wrestling with what seemed like an insurmountable problem. Fingers gently moved across her bare skin, teasing the curls of her hair before retreating. Finally he could stand it no more. "I think you need some training," he said, by way of breaking the silence. "Some hand-to-hand and basic defensive exercises." He fell silent after this, gauging her mood while fingers continued stroking her back.

Valeese, in return, lay quietly listening and considering the strange words that had slipped past his lips and pooled in her ears. In many ways they seemed cold, maybe a little distant, and they curried from her a hefty sigh, "Yes, we determined that after I was kidnapped." She nodded, her jaw flexing in tension before she flipped over onto her back and considered him, drawing breath to speak again while she still had enough backbone to do so. It would need to be fast, before the growing weight of their daughter made it impossible to lay in such a position.

"James..." she began, the bright violet of her eyes meeting the slate blue of his, "I... I feel like I've accomplished the polar opposite of what I wanted to do. I feel like I've burdened you... Started to lose you." She was silent only for a small measure, long enough to alleviate the growing pressure against her diaphragm by rolling onto her side to face him and tugging blankets both over her shoulders and between them, "It's still not too late for me to take a position at the academy. Nothing crazy ever happens at the academy and then you wouldn't have to worry or be weighed down or pretend to be happy and ok with something that you feel..." her shoulders shrugged as she sought the right turn of phrase, "I don't know... Trapped by? Then there wouldn't be any need for you to take time, train me or whatever... Guilt free." She nodded softly, perhaps in part to convince herself more so than reaffirm or add weight to her words.

His response was both immediate and swift. The former because of the sense of righteous self-indignation. The latter because hadn't they already been down this road once before? Some distant part of him marveled at her ability to rationalize this and somehow think she was a burden on him; it even speculated if shaking her would somehow fix the problem. But then rationality reasserted itself. No, grabbing and shaking her would not knock sense into her Vorta skull. No, it wouldn't solve whatever issue lay between them. And no, she wasn't going to go away. Not if he could help it at least.

While he came down off the swift and immediate tide of insurmountable irritation to which he'd risen at her suggestion, he took a breath, held it, and then exhaled. Thankfully he spoke rationally. "No, Val. I'm not trapped, you're not going away." He too turned onto his side and slid down to eye her face-to-face, fingers plucking the blankets from her fingers. They lifted it up and removed the temporary barrier she'd brought down. "You're not going to lose me. I love you, you're staying, and I'm damned happy with this situation." He finished his little spiel by leaning in to kiss her on the forehead. An arm was sliding around her back, rubbing softly at her shoulder.

At first she clung to the blanket, both for warmth and some weird sense of security, but his speed and general insistence won out over all and she - like so many times in the past - found herself bare to him and her eyes immediately locked onto his. They'd darkened, and not from arousal... Or rather arousal of an entirely different nature; agitation, irritation, maybe even a healthy touch of anger. In many ways she realized that silence wasn't what he was looking for, but it was all she could give him as she organized her thoughts and flurry of emotions that had kicked into overdrive at the drop of a hat that particular morning. It may have been the way his fingers worked her shoulder, soothing and acting as if he were trying to erase whatever had gotten into her head or maybe he was trying to work his assertions in deeper.

Several seconds passed before she broke his gaze by closing her eyes and puffed a small sigh while nodded and burrowing deeper into her pillow. "If you're happy, then why such a morose topic this morning?" Her eyes re-opened and it didn't take much or long before she found his again - this time far less accusatory or worried and far more curious.

He snorted. "Morose? Val, when we're talking about keeping you safe it is not a morose topic. This is about keeping you - both of you - safe." The latter sentiment was emphasized with a meaningful glance between them. Where she was increasingly showing just how pregnant she was. It hadn't escaped his notice by this point that certain positions, certain postures, were being actively avoided. It was leading him to increasingly pay attention to how she was most comfortable in bed. Which otherwise sat just fine with him, thank you very much. Her comfort on account of the pregnancy was becoming a concern of his; something that not even his wildest dreams had imagined.

The look on his face softened as he looked back up and caught her eyes with his. His hand came around to stroke the side of her face at the same time, too. "I already lost you once. I'm not losing you again. Nor our little stowaway there." The latter was said with a slight smile at the corner of his mouth.

"No... No you certainly won't." Valeese nodded, finally reaching to touch him, letting her palm rest flat against his chest, and reciprocating the affection he was doling out. The hand on her cheek was warm and comforting, leading back to the sensation of soothing and gentleness that the Ghost always seemed to hold reserved in boundless quantities just for her. "It's still a bit morose, though... But we had agreed. I just wonder why so urgent now?" Her palm pressed a bit firmer, not pushing him away but re-affirming contact and connection, "You'd tell me if you'd heard something... Wouldn't you?" An ear twitched in earnest interest, homing in on whatever answer he would give. The very nature of the beast was one of nearly insatiable curiosity and an endless quest for knowledge and answers to all of life's wondrous questions.

The smile broadened on his face; evidence alone that he was well aware why she asked the question. Of course the way his eyes darted to her ear just confirmed that he was well-attuned to her in a multitude of ways. They didn't linger long of course. Just long enough. "Yes, I'd tell you if I heard something." His hand enfolded hers, fingers sliding from wrist to palm and holding it gently. Just enough to let her know it was there - as if her eyes had suddenly stopped working. "And no: there's no threat to you. What I am concerned about is the reaction of others. Much as I hate to say this," he said, boldly forging ahead even though the tone of his voice clearly showed he despised bringing it up, "there's already been one attempt on you. By a drunk. Who's to say the next attempt won't be by someone better-prepared?" Eyes glinted in the low lighting as he lifted her hand and pressed a kiss to the inside of the palm.

"I can understand that," As much as it stung, she'd often thought along the same lines - so much so that her path of travel had been greatly altered in order to avoid the station's promenade as much as possible. Free as a leaf of a breeze, Valeese had somehow managed to make herself a prisoner for sake of remaining safe and sound, tucked away in spaces the general public couldn't venture and where the station's crew, and other members of Starfleet, ensured that she wasn't going to be jumped by the next xenophobic boogieman. Had she been wise to the dangers that lurked within those supposedly safe boundaries she'd set up for herself, she'd very likely have sequestered herself to her spot on the bed and waited for a ride on the next vessel headed to Earth... If Earth could be considered safe.

Lucky for all involved, such a conspiracy hadn't made it to her radar. She was still caught up in what transpired on the station and slowly allowing the Ghost's need to protect his family, in every way he could possibly think of, to sink in. "I wasn't exactly prepared to handle the drunk... Was I?" Her voice was softer, a bit more dismal. She'd managed to fight the monster that had snatched her from just outside the arboretum, but even that was fruitless beyond leaving behind a busted bit of fingernail containing traces of his DNA. It had helped the Ghost find her, but it hadn't prohibited the kidnapping or the outright struggle to survive that had ensued. Her free hand wriggled free from under her pillow to press and rub two fingers against her chest where one of the Orion's had plunged a crude needle full of adrenaline through her chest and directly into the tissue of her heart to keep it beating after one particularly savage interaction.

It was the Orion's nonsense need to drive up the bid by playing God via crackpot medicine that had eventually lead to the very situation they found themselves in now, the evidence of which was downright undeniable both by glancing down at her swollen belly. That heavy dose of Novarel left it a small wonder that their stowaway was one of a kind and hadn't brought a buddy along for the ride. Of course, had she known about what all they'd done to her - or, rather, been smart enough to wait to run her own diagnostics on any and every substance and hormone level and and and... stop. Her thoughts had run away with her, leaving her mind racing and anxiety levels to climb. It didn't matter the how or why. Now it was about making sure her choices in life weren't permanently affected by anyone other than herself - especially when it came to going places or encountering other unsavory beings. "What do you suggest?"

The smile he gave her was overshadowed by concern. Concern because he saw the anxiety playing out in the way she moved and spoke. Concern because he'd heard her dismal side. It was good in his opinion that reality was sinking in - memories came back to him of officers and other individuals he'd encountered, over the years, in denial about their lack of abilities. At the same time he was saddened by the loss of innocence. Both he and she knew that the universe on the borders of the Federation could be a particularly harsh and savage place. Val just happened to have found that out more brutally than even he - with his no-nonsense and blunt approach to reality - would have preferred.

His hand recaptured hers but did not redirect it; he had no idea why it was over her heart but it obviously was of some special meaning to her. That he had no knowledge of why concerned him. Obviously he could speculate but logic asserted its weighty presence, before he could do so, and bluntly informed him that idle speculation served no practical purpose. Nor did asking her why she had her hand there. It did not however supplant concern that even now played out across his face. In the ways the brows furrowed. The slight sigh that escaped him. The way his mouth compressed its lips and the corners of his eyes drooped.

His hand let go of hers and circled around to her back, again, as he slid himself closer. Not an easy thing to do when several blankets were weighing down on you and there was an intent and acute desire to be subtle and soft in all movements on account of a pregnancy. His face nuzzled hers by the time he was finished. "We're going to train you how to defend yourself. That's what I suggest. Just basic hand-to-hand. Nothing fancy."

That was about the time her eyes fluttered shut and she allowed her forehead to press to his, sharing breath as they lay against one another and simply breathed and lived. Valeese had seen the concern in his eyes, felt the query of his hand as it had taken and held hers, interfering with the way her fingers pressed to a significant patch of skin. The men who had done such things were dead, save one, who was held in a place perhaps worth than death - and she knew the reason for that was the very soul she loved so effortlessly.

Part of her, perhaps the wisest part of her, wanted to move on and forget what had happened - ignore that silent request for answers that had come because he, like her, knew when to remain silent even if it burned to do so. It would have been easier to simply walk away from it and nod and agree to his verbal statement... His eyes wouldn't let her. She knew the moment she moved away and re-opened hers that she'd see the faintest traces of that question and the colors of concern that would always seem to remain and hang there to haunt her. "Just a memory," she whispered, nodding ever so slightly, "from when I was away," because it was a vacation, right Valeese? You simply went away? The knot if her throat told her otherwise, "I destroyed part of the wiring system, shut down everything but life support..." If she really thought about it, she could feel his hands closed around her delicate throat, crushing her windpipe until everything in her vision went the ugliest shades of bruised purple and darkened until pure blackness had consumed her.

She didn't shake or shiver, she simply remembered it for what it was. "One of them strangled me for it, the other figured I was more valuable alive... Amazing what a few CCs of adrenaline straight to the ticker will cure if administered fast enough." Her breath passed through her nostrils in a short, huffy, single-note laugh. It wasn't funny in the 'haha' sense, it was funny in the 'wouldn't ya know' sense... Which wasn't really all that funny at all, really. Laugh or cry... She chose laugh, at least for the moment.

The confession ripped at his soul. He'd known they'd been brutal in their treatment - Orions and Nausicans not being known for their tender mercies - but this was something else entirely. Strangulation? Raw adrenaline injected straight into her heart? It pained him that she was relieving this now, and that she would forever have to have this as part of her memory; in that moment he would have given anything to relieve her of the burden. The part of him that still was the young, idealistic, man from Barolia wanted to hold her close and whisper how she was safe, and sound, and he wasn't going to let the universe close in around her ever again.

"I don't know what to say." It was a confession of the ultimate truth: how to keep her safe safe in both present and past? How did one comfort a lover and spouse-in-all-but-name and protect them from unspeakable horrors and depravities not normally seen in civilized space? Some part of him quailed before the suggestion that this might happen again. That she would need to be fortified against this. To say he was uneasy and profoundly unsettled was an understatement of the highest order.

But then reality kicked in again, in lockstep with logic and similarly clad in The Truth. Together they systematically advanced upon his uneasiness, slewing the various horrific thoughts on-by-one. How to keep her safe? Train her. Arm her. Prepare her. Yes, this might happen again. Both of them would need to be on guard and vigilant so that it did not happen. How to comfort? That was the easiest one of all. His lips found hers while the arm tightened around her upper back, careful not to apply pressure where it might cause discomfort.

---

Lt. CMDR James Stacker
Executive Officer
COLD STATION THETA - SB 1170

Commander Valeese
Chief Medical Officer
COLD STATION THETA - SB 1170

 

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