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JL | Cmdr Stacker, Cmdr Valeese - "That New Sort Of Normal"

Posted on Mon Jun 29th, 2020 @ 2:27am by Commander Valeese & Lieutenant Commander James Stacker

Mission: When The Circus Comes To Town

The concept of 'elevator music' had died out several centuries before James was born, without much fanfare. It was more a novelty concept now; something rich dilettantes had piped into turbolifts in gaudy buildings fit to be museums to bygone ages. Yet as James stood there in the humming-along turbolift car he couldn't help but wonder if they might be onto something. It would certainly break up the monotony of the commute. Something that would encourage the occupants to swiftly vacate the car?

He refrained from smiling, although inwardly the thought almost delighted him. The truth of the matter was that - while his avoiding a move to the station’s upper levels had seemed like a good idea at the time - the commute back to his quarters was starting to add up to a lot of lost minutes. Especially if he was trying to make use of the transport system while the shift change was taking place.

Thankfully he had something to make the trip entirely worthwhile. No, not a flask of some fruity alcoholic drink. In his mind it was far better, and he wondered if it and her - both hers - had managed to get home before him. It wasn’t the first time the question had occurred, and he palmed the door to his quarters with it first and foremost on his mind.

And home, most definitely, was where the heart is.

Cycling between duty and motherhood was a different and difficult juggling routine that Valeese had found both frustrating and rewarding. Her priorities had taken a hard shift along a rather bumpy and underdeveloped path the moment she and the Ghost had welcomed their daughter into the universe. It was one thing to sit and spend time planning - it was another when those plans all went to hell in a hand basket because there simply isn't any planning for what cards life will throw. Babies, as they quickly discovered, often have very different opinions about things like schedules and refuse to adhere to normal spaces and spans of time. The first several weeks of Rune's life had been spent in the attempts to convince her to be less keen on the idea of a nocturnal lifestyle.

Something that a postpartum Valeese initially blamed herself - and her half of the genetic equation - for even against the solid medical knowledge that even human babies tended to prefer to be awake at night when the levels of noise and stimuli allowed for them to explore their world in an environment that replicated the quiet safety of the womb they'd recently exited. Like other overstimulated babies, Rune was all too happy to shut down and snooze when presented with the insanity of daily life on the Station - and who could really blame her.

However, the initial shock of that wearing off allowed for the realization that Rune's penchant for day time slumber made her an ideal candidate for joining her mother down in sickbay during rounds. The nurses were all too happy to argue over who would be responsible for her care at any given time when her mother was required to be child free in an exam room. For the most part, Rune never left her mother's line of sight. Too many variables. Too many dangers.

The sound of muffled foot falls and shuffling outside the door to their quarters sent one of the Vorta's fan-like ears twitching in its direction, passively analyzing it while she watched her daughter explore the various objects and shapes scattered across a play mat in the living room.

The process of opening the door was more intricate these days. Rune's arrival had posed a challenge in that the main computer needed to be instructed that the doors were not to be opened for wandering babies unaccompanied by their parents. That was a minor thing, easily dealt with. What had not been so easily dealt-with was reprogramming the door's data-input devices to accept input from several covert devices that spanned fifty meters up-and-down the passageway outside. No more would strangers be permitted unchallenged (and unalerted) approach to his quarters. Especially not if certain criteria held in an unobtrusive data-storage device in the ceiling over the bed were met.

Even though these precautions and preparations had been done by his hands, he still didn't trust them entirely. That was probably why when the doors first opened there was a look of intense concentration and scrutiny on his face. It took a few seconds for this to dispel entirely; seeing that all was well in the world - or at least in their quarters - did much to relieve his mind of a few minutes of concern. The sight of one blissfully-innocent and -carefree former-stowaway seated in the middle of the play mat, armed appropriately with one block with more nearby, helped.

"I'm surprised they let you sneak away early," Valeese practically hummed with amusement while reaching for one of the play mat's suspended stars. A gentle flick of her fingers set the glittery mirrored object swinging passively, much to the delight of the child below, "what with the Empress coming and all that..." The Vorta shrugged before slowly laying flat on her back. The move gave her the chance to look up at the stalwart Ghost, studying him as he studied them, all while lightly drumming her fingers across her abdomen, "Or is there something else on your mind, Commander Stacker?"

He chuckled as he joined her, thumping onto the floor while the door shut behind him and the lock automatically engaged with a firm snick. That was another new addition: a custom retrofit to the door not on any plans or schematics. The first few times he'd heard the sound it'd caused his head to turn. But now he was at the point of tuning it out. And so it was that without a pause his hand found her arm and gave it a light squeeze.

"For once, nothing else. Just pleased to get out of the madhouse and somewhere else." A wry tone laced through his words as he continued. "I should've known this position wouldn't be as easy as it seemed, once I got used to everything. Guess life decided to give me an easy start in the XO's chair. Now this." 'This' was accompanied by a head-turn towards her and a knowledgeable flick of the eyebrows. Half-humor, half acknowledgement of ... everything. Including one wandering and still-preoccupied child.

The Vorta offered a wry smile, "There's something to be said about the unexpected," an ear half cocked towards the sound of two blocks meeting - that was the new normal, so long as no sounds of injury or frustration sounded afterwards. "If we were able to map out everything in our lives, start to finish, how boring would that be?" She sighed at the thought. Life would indeed be mundane and hardly as exciting as it had become in the past year and change. It went without truly needing to be said that they'd very likely have never included one another in their plans had life been pre-plotted. how boring would that be, indeed. "There are some philosophers that claim that every experience we have in life sets us up for the future as it unfolds. I like to think that there's a balance between fate and the random unknown that sort of trade one another off and keep each other centered with a system of checks and balances... But," She shrugged, rolling onto her side to face him, "There has been a word for predestined fate in every civilization. Maybe there's something to that - maybe there isn't."

He made a thoughtful sound as he did what he did best: contemplating and evaluating from multiple directions, before responding. As he did so the lines smoothed still further from his face, bringing out less the Ghost-turned-XO and more of the man. One who looked closer to his age instead of a face that looked carved-out. Some days it was more prominent, others less so. Today was one of the former.

"On the one hand, I don't like the idea of a predestined fate beyond my control and understanding," he finally said, eyes going from her to the activity on the playmat - a check of his own, to make sure things were still good - before turning back to the woman who still captivated him, even after all these many months. "I think that most humans I know would agree that we're very individualistic. The idea of some higher power or higher force imposing its will on our lives doesn't sit well with us as a species. We want our freedom. But on the other hand I think you might be right. That there's a balance of fate and the random unknown. This collar," he said, plucking at the telltale grey, before stretching out onto his side, propped up on an elbow to look down at her, "is me. I think it's fate. That means, though, that you and I were the random unknown. And I'm definitely more-than-pleased with that."

"I can't tell you how fascinating I find that theory given how often the human species has used the supposed will of an unseen omnipotent force to control the masses. Then again, that sort of thing seems to run rampant through the history of many species." Valeese, all too eager to exploit the knowledge decades of reading and research had awarded her, felt her grin widen. It was always a marvel to watch his brain work and to listen to his take on things both mundane and complex - a wonder that she doubted would ever wane no matter how long their time together would be, "I mean... Look at the Bajorans. There's still so many that allow their lives to be guided by the interpretations of a select few. Anyway..." She waved off the thoughts, "I'm glad the insanity isn't screwing with station schedules too bad."

He let his own thoughts concerning religion and their intercorrelation with omnipotent forces slide by the wayside, distracted by her waving hand and change in pace and train of thought. "I think we can both agree on that. I'd hate to think of medical overrun with cases and with its schedule thrown out the window. So should we be glad the insanity of my desk hasn't reached down to your office yet?" he asked with a gentle poke to her ribs. He couldn't help himself. The grin on her face was downright infectious, and here - in the privacy and security of their quarters - he could truly be at ease in someone's presence.

"Of course it has," she huffed, trading back a quick jab, "The Empress of the Ascendancy has decided to turn us all into her handmaids when she brings her child into the universe. Everything's a little muddy." To say the very least. Rumors and conjecture were one thing, but knowing the truth behind the Empress' alleged show of good faith left her more than a little on edge regarding the situation as a whole, "I'll be tending to her tomorrow, I'll keep you up to date as best I can with patient confidentiality and all."

Now there was a laugh. Secrets absolutely didn't exist between them - not anymore. The jingling of one toy or another, answered by an amused coo, was an easy reminder of why things - medical Intel included - didn't need to be kept secret between the pair. They each knew too many damning things about the other, and it showed.

The two may not have been telepathic, but the oh really? look he gave clearly indicated that his mental thoughts mirrored her own. At some level he clearly knew that one secret or another would be let slip but would never show up in records or documentation. Were it to be known by sickbay patients it might have been a little terrifying: a man with his background and experience knowing what went on behind closed doors? But none of what she had told him before - the casual asides in the kitchen, at the dining table, when they were entwined in bed or merely enjoying very close physical proximity - had ever been wielded or used.

"I know you will," came the reply, fingers finding her hand and lifting it up so he could inspect her digits. "Have you been practicing kung fu when I haven't been looking? Because that was one hell of a jab. You might have missed your calling, unless you're secretly practicing on unruly patients and word hasn't reached me in the ivory tower yet." The uplifted lines and quirk of his mouth were immediate giveaways about his good humor. Yet another sign of the cares of the day easing away.

"I can neither confirm nor den--" a quick, out of place succession of electronic chirps and a request for her response cut her off before she could finish her sentence. It was met with a whine and a look downright baleful as she brought her fingers to her combadge, "Commander Valeese here, what's the issue?" All she'd hoped for was one last chance at peace and quiet before being jerked back to duty - and there was only one reason why they'd have called her, short I'd a multi-casualty emergency and the Ghost's combadge would have been smoking if anything of the kind had transpired.

"Empress Xue'Daio Nox-tr'Verelan has arrived. Station command is escorting her to medbay."

Hell had broken loose, but it was at least containable, "What's her condition?" Knowing was half the battle, but knowing also meant that Valeese was well aware that the visit wasn't a social call. It was a matter of foreign affairs of an entirely different sort. The ivory Queen of the Stenellis peoples had chosen the station to be her safe nest, of sorts, and Valeese could hardly complain.

"Brief initial scans show that the Empress is healthy but suggest she may be in the latent phase of labor."

Of course she was. "I'm on my way."

Valeese heaved a heavy sigh and slowly got to her feet, peering back down at her daughter and lover, "I won't even begin to pretend you didn't hear that, " she said to the latter, "You know nothing until the child is safely delivered and she announces it's birth. She'll have our heads if it goes any differently, even if it could be another month before it happens." The Vorta bit her cheek before she could continue to rant about the father's genetics adding unknown variables to gestation and physiology and a thousand other things.

The pronouncement of the Empress' current condition has caused his eyebrows to rise. Already? No great expert in Stennlis' physiology and reproductive cycles and ... other aspects, he felt akin to the man standing by an open door. Peering into a place whose function he had no idea of, and evaluating what he could see to determine if it was - at the least - safe to enter. Rather than digressing and holding up her return, however, he swiftly got to his feet and collected her hands. There was a swift kiss to the back of each one. "My lips are sealed. All I can say is 'good luck' and 'keep me posted.'" Whatever else he might or might not have thought about her obviously restraining herself went unsaid.

---

Commander James Stacker
Executive Officer
COLD STATION THETA

Commander Valeese
Chief Medical Officer
COLD STATION THETA

 

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