Lieutenant Allegra Ames stepped out
of the turbolift and walked into the Admiral's suite's main living area.
As she crossed the threshold she adjusted her tunic and straightened her
cover atop her curled red hair. She stopped dead in her tracks as she
spotted Major Kiley on guard duty once again. She had heard she was
back, but did not expect to see her here tonight. "Heard you tried to
kill yourself," she said in a demeaning tone, "Anyway ... let the
Admiral know I'm here."
Major Kerrie Kiley's mimicked Human face
threw a deadly glare at Lieutenant Ames. Indeed, she had returned to
duty protecting the Admiral and his family, but it was not a suicide
attempt. "Toss off," Kerrie said angrily as she stepped towards the
woman and crossed her arms in front of her chest, blocking her movement.
"You give me the message and I'll tell him," she said angrily at her
"No way," Allegra said as she inched
closer towards Kerrie and got directly in her face. "This message is
important and I can't let some pill popper like you screw it up," she
said in an arrogant tone. She pushed forward against Kerrie, attempting
to get by.
Kerrie groaned as she thrust her entire
body weight against Allegra's larger frame to block her movements. "I
said no!" she barked angrily as she tried and restrained her. "Give me
the message," she told the woman, "And *I* will tell him."
"Tell him what?" Admiral Claudius Rodney
said as he emerged from his personal chambers at the first sounds of
yelling. He sighed deeply as he watched the two officers carrying on
like jealous children competing for his affection.
Htaere stood leaning against the back
wall of the turbolift. From her secret garden, she had spent most of her
time upon their return, withdrawing inwardly in hopes that things would
once again settle and return to some degree of normalcy. Her gaze down,
her eyes were closed, simply concentrating on her breathing and
centering herself, appreciative of the garden's seclusion and
tranquility and determined to take some of that with her. As the lift
rolled to a gentle stop at the PQ level, the soft *ding* rang out.
Htaere's eyes opened, her head lifting in time to see the doors retract.
She straightened, inhaling deeply once more and preparing herself for
*the* talk. She moved from the lift, gliding down the corridor with
nothing less then her usual regal splendor. As she came to the entrance,
she keyed in the code and strode through, passing the anteroom without a
second thought and into the main common room. She was surprised to find
it far from empty.
Allegra cringed as she heard Htaere
enter the room. She had failed to deliver the Admiral's message in time.
She bowed subserviently to Htaere as she entered, "Milady." Her
attention then turned to Kerrie, to whom she flashed a quick grin,
before looking at the Admiral over her shoulder. "The shipment you were
awaiting for has arrived, Milord," she informed him obediently.
Kerrie's eyes never left Allegra's face.
The two exchanged venomous grins for nearly the entire time. "Welcome
home, Milady," she said to Htaere as she arrived, but her focus remained
entirely on Allegra.
Claudius smiled as he heard Allegra's
message. The present had arrived. Everything was going according to
plan. He rubbed his hands together eagerly and walked passed the two
squabbling 'children' and headed for Htaere. "I have missed you," he
said pleasantly as he leaned forward and placed and gently kiss upon her
Htaere nodded to the female officers
politely before her soft grey pools flickered to Claudius. She managed a
small but genuine grin for a moment. "May I speak with you when time
permits?" she asked in a tone only he was privy to, her expression
looking somewhat serious.
"Time always permits, my dear," Claudius
said to her with a smile. With a simple gesture of his hand he ordered
Major Kiley and Lieutenant Ames to leave the room. He then walked
towards the largest sofa in the room and sat himself down, patting the
other side of the sofa as he looked towards Htaere.
Kerrie walked towards the turbolift and
stepped inside, her gaze locked on Allegra the entire time. If looks
could kill, Kerrie's face was capable of committing genocide.
"Careful," Allegra said to Kerrie as she
stepped into the life, "My mother told me if you made faces like that it
could get stuck that way." She smiled and looked forward as the
turbolift doors closed. "...and you're ugly enough," she said under her
breath as the two exited the scene.
Htaere drifted after him, sitting down
beside him on the luxurious sofa. She was turned slightly to face him,
hands folded in her lap. "I shall not keep you long" she promised. "I
have been thinking...and I cannot help but feel that I am a hindrance
here. If it is acceptable to you, I shall leave" she offered
optimistically. "I shall wait for you, as long as it takes. Alderaan,
Delaya, Gallinore...it makes no difference to me. I wish not to be a
further burden for you" she said apologetically.
"No!" Claudius was quick to respond,
shrieking at the thought of her leaving him. "You are no hindrance," he
explained as he leaned forward on the sofa towards him to stress his
point. "I know it has been difficult here, my love," he said as his face
sunk into a deep frown, "But what gave you the idea that you were a
Htaere blinked large cloudy grey orbs
for a moment. "Well...I realize that I do not exactly understand what
life is like beyond the confines of my own existence..." she began,
trying hard to figure out what to say and how to say it, her thick
accent still endearing. "...I cannot help that I do much of my thinking
with my heart...and...well...I realize there is not a lot of room for
compassion in this profession..." she paused again, thinking. "I do not
want to be the source of a weakness for you, Claudius, a weakness that
could perhaps jeopardize your responsibilities, a weakness that could
ultimately lead to..." she couldn't say it, but her face was grave with
Claudius leaned back against the sofa,
unsure where her feelings and thoughts were coming from. He studied the
landscape of her face for several quiet moments and could tell that she
was serious. "Is this about what happened with Major Kiley?" he finally
Htaere swallowed. "It is not the first
infraction in protocol I have instigated. I just..." her mouth opened to
continue speaking, but she hesitated for a second. Finally she
continued. "I simply cannot handle the thought of contributing to your
grief. I could not live with myself if I were a cause of your downfall."
She shifted in her seat. "I promise that I would wait for you..."
"Htaere," Claudius said to her with a
calm, reassuring smile, "I have fallen just as far as a man such as
myself can. We have nothing further to worry about." He reached forward
and placed his hand upon her knee gently, trying to instill the same
outlook on life he had developed recently on her. "As for Major Kiley,"
he continued, "She is not the same person she was since she returned
from her visit to her homeworld." He paused before continuing, "I had
hoped her reassignment would serve to toughen her up ... to restore her
to her former capabilities, but I see now that it was the wrong way to
go about it." He smiled at her warmly, trying to convince her that
nothing was wrong. "If anything," he concluded, "you are an asset."
Htaere simply stared at him for a long
while. "I hope you do not sugarcoat the reality of us for the sake of
keeping me happy" she said quietly at long last, nodding once.
"My dear," Claudius began as he leaned
forward towards her, "For the first time ... in a long while ... things
are going very well. I attribute a large part of that to you."
The makings of a small flickered across
Htaere's face. "You credit me with too much, Claudius" she said softly.
She leaned towards him as well, finding such proximity to his person
invigorating. "Will you hold me?"
"For all time," Claudius said quietly as
he wrapped both of his arms around her. Interlocking his hands in front
of her stomach like a protective belt, he drew her in close to him. He
closed his eyes and sighed contently as he held her, their two bodies
nearly becoming one.
She facilitated the gesture by moving as
close to him as was physically possible. A pleasant smile fixed on her
face, she leaned against him further, her head turning for a moment to
let her lips brush the smallest and most sensual of kisses on the side
of his neck before settling back into him comfortably. "I do so love
you, Claudius" she mumbled dreamily, eyes closed.
Claudius leaned his head forward towards
the back of her head, which was nestled just below his chin. "I love you
too, Htaere," he said softly. He placed a soft kiss upon her forehead
before the peacefulness of the situation caused his head to fall to the
side as he drifted off to sleep with her in his arms.
Several moments Jelena Rodney emerged
from the suite she shared with her two sisters and spotted the couple
asleep on the couch. She had hoped to discuss something important with
her father. Something that had been keeping her awake most nights, but
when she saw them like that she could not disrupt them. Smiling as best
she could given the fact that it was not her mother, she deactivated the
lights for the living room and returned silently to bed.