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JL | Cmdr Valeese, LtCmdr Stacker | "Nefelibata" pt 1

Posted on Sat Oct 28th, 2017 @ 3:53am by Commander Valeese Stacker & Commander James Stacker

Mission: The Round Table

Old souls are usually childlike in many ways, having the playfulness and simplicity of children, while maintaining a certain world-weariness and deep insight. Everyone has an unsuspected reserve of strength inside of them that emerges when life puts them to the test, but old souls… They’re the closest many can come to describing the feeling of having done it all before, being one who can see through the lies and illusions of existence, and experience a tired longing to ‘return home’. That was just it, though, Valeese knew not where ‘home’ was. She’d looked in temples, studied abbeys across the universe, but still knew not where it was that she truly belonged. If anything, the little Vorta was an ‘emotional archaeologist’ now more than anything, looking for the reasons and the why behind actions and emotions and trying so very hard to sort out just why she reacted to certain stimuli in certain ways.

Moon dust in your lungs, stars in your eyes, you are a child of the cosmos, a ruler of the skies. the sing song played within her head as her battered, aching, diminutive body, sunk beneath the glass like surface of hot water scented by exotic oils and salts designed to soothe and relax her. It was just another reminder that half of her was always bursting with words and the other half painfully shy and happy to hide in perfect solitude… Though she craved interaction… She craved people… She craved… him. Bubbles rose as she nearly drowned herself, delivering an undignified snort in hopes of banishing the very thought of the crocodilian human spook. He’d kill her faster than anyone out on the promenade if he had half the chance and an eighth of a reason. Still… He was a constant remind of how dearly she wanted to pour life and love into everything, and yet nurture herself and continue to go gently. She wanted to live within the rush of primal, intuitive decision… Yet also sit and contemplate.

It was the messiness of life, the fact she, like so many others, must carry multitudes of emotions, memories, wants, cravings… As such, Valeese knew she must sit out the bucks of the shifts and accept that they were both such complicated creatures, and ultimately, the balance would come from that understanding. Her fingers flexed, arcing elegantly through the water, reminding her to be water; flowing… Flexible… Soft… Subtly powerful and open. Wild and serene… Able to accept changes and yet still governed by the steady pull of tides.

But he made her soul shine…

Ever since their first encounter, that first ghost of a smile, she’d feel a dull ache in her soul, a gentle humming around her heart as it longed for something that rode into town without a name. If ever she were to give herself to, and obey completely any one master, that would be it. She longed to listen to that call, to find that part of her that lived just outside of her own skin, let it have its way with her… And now she felt as if she’d die a hundred times demanding herself ignore it and chase it from her life. For what? Fear. The knowledge that she was hated, hunted, and would likely be killed for so much less. The cardinal rule that no one in their right mind would want her for what she was, rather than know and defend the who…

And just who was she, really?

Her heart hurt with that barbed reminder, and her body shifted beneath the water. Waist length umber tendrils rose like ink, dancing like waving bands of seaweed as they sought to find solace at the surface of the bath. She’d have to come up for air sooner or later. Suicide by drowning wasn’t done while fully conscious in bath tubs, after all – not that such a thing was even a thought. Death was far less entertaining than life, and far more universal. Everybody dies, you see, but not everybody lives.

Was she living?

Half a life, at best. She was a pair of eyes, albeit a beautiful pair, and while the predecessors of her unique little species had been known to incite wars and execute cruel commands that maimed, tortured, and killed so many. The lasting bruises of her encounter with the Bajoran would fade, but the emotional implications would stay. It wasn’t like she could have shouted back at him that she was there to keep the Federation from falling into war against an enemy they had no hope of defeating. Not with how far the tendrils of the Ascendancy’s power reached, how wide a net the cast, and how adept they were at using and exploiting their territory to their advantage. The ancient race was led by a wise, young woman. Another old soul. But she was flighty and prone to knee jerk reactions… And that had been why Valeese had been chosen to be the eyes, the mouth, that would connect Federation information and actions to Empress Xue’Daio Nox’s alabaster ears. She, who could paint pictures with words, had become a sage and soothsayer when in all reality she herself wanted no part of the xenophobic members of the society she’d decided to save.

But why?

Reaching the surface of her bath, she gasped for air through the heavy steam. Her lungs were screaming for release, her heart thundering as it tried to speed precious oxygen through her veins to feed her organs and realizing its reserves were running dry and it was suffocating. It was there, though, gulping air into her lungs in pants that threatened to choke into sobs while fingers ran along the freshly knit bone of her clavicle that she remembered, faintly, the sounds of laughter and the cooing of babies. Each one she’d seen on the promenade from the first time she’d arrived until now had been stored away. Each smile. Each gentle hand. The way parents guarded their brood and shepherded their flock. They were instances in time that had been stolen from her by parents who had no idea how to handle a child or coddle it or be tender with it. She had been the first natural born infant in such a long time, a miracle few thought possible as each generation of clones steadily lost fertility the further and further they got away from the original. Now such things were becoming common place, parents knew to express their love to their children – but the idea that another race could lose all of that… Be robbed of their babies and babies robbed of parental devotion and admiration as she had been… No. It wouldn’t happen on her watch. War would not ravage the quadrant so long as she could stop it.

Even if it meant being trounced and beaten by Bajorans while people watched on as if it were a blood sport, a canned hunt. Even if it meant that James would likely eventually catch her red handed and never once think of her as anything other than a silver-tongued snake with jackal ears and amethyst eyes. Even if it meant that she perished never knowing what it would be like to walk hand in hand, fingers tangled, along the promenade and not have her partner wince and grimace and try to take to the shadows rather than be seen beside her… Even if it meant never being able to give love and attention and devotion to a child of her own to prove she was capable and not ruined by what the Founders had left behind when they’d recognized the gig was up and bowed to the Ascendancy as superior beings.

Finally… Hours after the assault, far away from hungry eyes, Valeese felt her chin begin to wrinkle, her ears droop, her jaw quiver, and the pin pricks of pain along her nose that heralded the first of her tears… And she wept, openly, in mourning, pain, embarrassment, hatred, loss… She wept for everything that had been and that which would never be and by the time the pain began to lessen, that ache and squeeze around her heart, the water had gone from steaming to tepid to downright cold without so much as a gentle reminder until the chime of her door rang and nearly sent her out of her skin.

“Just… Just a second!” She called when the water stopped sloshing from the tub and her heart began to quiet. The cold pang of fear that the Bajoran had been released or his buddies had come with the intent to finish what he started settled into the pit of her gut. Within seconds it began to radiate along her nerve endings until they reached her finger tips, chilling them, forcing them to shake as she pulled herself from the tub and wrapped herself in an oversized, fluffy, warm white robe. Her feet remained bare and with a degree of hesitation she let the tub drain back through the replication system and made her way to her living room, hair still dripping in loose curls along her back.

What waited on the other side of that door was more surprising than the Bajoran or any of his friends could ever have been. There was a man with eyes of steel and deep as the oceans waiting there, watching her just as intently as she was watching him – trying to discern why it was that he had come and what was to transpire. Valeese, having quickly forgotten her state of dress and undoubtedly still glassy eyes, fought back the last of her sniffles and knew she had a choice to make – and it was made by silently stepping aside and swinging out a robe clad arm to wordlessly invite him into her dimly lit home. Unconsciously proving that she was born with a soul that was far too sensitive for the cold and ugly world she lived in, that the way she had always felt things differently than most had always been her blessing and her cure. That she still dared and deigned to believe in things like chivalry, romance, and love even when life repeatedly kicked her, drug her down, and tried to bleed her out.

In short… She was a fool.

He waited for the door to close, eyeing the dimly-lit quarters before turning to her. He could have kicked himself for his bout of indecision in the Star Lounge; it was readily apparent that she had not had a good go of things since the last time he'd seen her, at the briefing. Anyone could probably pick that out. His happened to be a little bit better than most at perceiving these sorts of things - low illumination or not. It came with being an intelligence officer. Right now, though, he gently chivvied that part of himself aside, blessing - not for the first time, as it were - the Warrant's none-too-gentle suggestion that he had been going about things the wrong way. The Vorta was many things. An enemy agent hell-bent on wreaking general mayhem was not one of them. That much was readily obvious, both from the report he'd received from security on his way here, and what he saw now.

"I heard about the Promenade," was all that he could say, right then. "For what it's worth, I am sorry about it. You should know I - well. I had nothing to do with it. I'm many things, and I know Starfleet Intelligence does have a reputation for underhanded methods, but we didn't have a hand in that. Tr-" He abruptly stopped, looking at the carpet under his uniform boots - for it was obvious that he'd come here directly from either being on duty, or just having got off duty - and exhaled. It was a long exhalation of breath. Finally he looked up. "I was going to say 'trust me,' but I haven't exactly given you reason to recently, have I?"

Silence pervaded for the moment, digging its icy tines back into the little Vorta's veins by way of nervous energy. "No," She began to answer, shaking her head slowly, "You haven't." She added, finding her way to the replicator in search of something warm. Tea would have to suffice, letting it soothe her soul with it's patient variety of herbs and soft spices. "But you haven't given me reason to think you'd have anything to do with what happened." Valeese's voice carried again and she found herself instinctively ordering him the duplicate of her beverage of choice, "I know that if you wanted me dead, I wouldn't be breathing now and you wouldn't have employed a half drunk civilian to do the task... I just would have woken up this morning room temperature, that's all there is to it." She shrugged, wincing softly at the remaining pain, and made the return trip back to him. Offering him the steaming cup and saucer, she nodded over towards the seating empty arrangement of sofa and large, cushioned chairs. "Make yourself comfortable, Commander. I sense you have a lot on your mind and I have nowhere I need to be for quite awhile."

He took the offered drink and saucer with a nod of thanks and eyed the furniture, but only for a moment, eventually seating himself in one of the large and cushioned chairs. The steam from the tea caressed his face, momentarily reminding him of her. Her touch, specifically. He pushed the thought aside: this wasn't about him. "I'm glad you think that. But -" he paused again, glancing down at the tea, before leaning back in the chair. One of his shoulders moved in a passable half-shrug. "Well, it seems I have my work cut out for me. Earning your trust, that is. Assuming I can earn it." He glanced up, looking at her, watching, hoping.

"Trust is one of those things that comes with time and a lack of secrets... You have plenty of things you cannot talk about." She replied, offering a shrug of her own and settled into her tea. The amber liquid was hot, relaxing, sweet perfection as it warmed her from the inside out, "What I mean is that trust is relative. Fear, now that is something to be concerned about." Valeese smirked, setting her cup and saucer down on on her side table, her body claiming the corner of her couch. "You haven't earned my fear, if that's what you're wondering and concerned about."

He had found himself nodding in agreement with her words. It was true: he had things he could not talk about. And never would be able to. But his eyes watched her as he took a sip of the tea, letting it warm his mouth before it swallowed it down, feeling the drink warming his insides all the way into his gut. It dissipated some of the chill that had encompassed his insides, during the brisk walk to her quarters, and helped him relax. Enough to say what he was thinking. "Good. I'm glad."

To Be Continued...

Commander Valeese
Chief Medical Officer
Cold Station Theta, SB-1170

Lieutenant Commander James Stacker
Chief Intelligence Officer
Cold Station Theta, SB-1170


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