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Listening in the Whisper

Posted on Tue Nov 7th, 2023 @ 9:20pm by Cadet Senior Grade René Rouen & Cadet Senior Grade Toareth Darqa

4,666 words; about a 23 minute read

Mission: 1 - Cruising through the galaxy
Location: Club Whisper
Timeline: Current

Too many times had things like this happened. So much so, that it felt almost second nature. Thankfully though, this was a pleasant event and, so far, filled with pleasing moments. The thing, of course, was Toareth walking, arm in arm, with another, in this case, René as they ventured into Club Whisper. And, as it was her second nature, Toareth looked around and took note of the people, those who were sitting and mingling, those who were dancing, those who were sitting in silence, those who were alone, especially those who were alone. She reached out and felt them with her empathy. Toareth looked about at doorways, avenues of escape, any method of acquiring the high ground, anything that provided a strategic advantage. Her eyes darted about. She made mental notes.

René had been pleasantly surprised when Toar took his offered arm as they had exited his quarters. He almost felt like they were going on a genuine date. His electric guitar was slung along the far side of his body as they made their way to the ship's cadet hangout. He had worked out a set of songs to play at some point during the night. He glanced at her as they entered and recognized the tell tale signs of someone making a tactical assessment of their surroundings. He led them over to the table nearest the impromptu stage and set down his guitar on the bench before offering a hand to Toar. "What is your pleasure lovely lady? Should we get a drink and talk some more or would you prefer we dance first?"

And that is exactly what happened all the other times she was in situations like this; drink and talk. More like, others drank and talked while she kept herself dry and listened. Not just listen to the conversation taking place before her, but tables down perhaps. Pick up a few words, get some empathic feelings, draw some conclusions..."Let'" she was halfway to sitting but had stopped herself. "Let's join the others first," she said, standing fully erect again. That was the difficult thing about second natures; letting them go and turning them off from time to time. In the case of Toareth, listening was her second nature. What better way to shut that down than to join in with the chaos of the others. "I've sat and talked enough for the moment."

René felt relieved. He had been doing his best, for the most part, in trying to conceal his growing attraction for Toareth. It was becoming increasingly difficult, especially when they were alone. Being with others would allow him to hide in the crowd so to speak. He pointed to a group of five cadets at the make shift bar. He walked over and ordered to waters for Toar and himself and approached the group of cadets. The group greeted Toar and René as they ventured over.

"Doctor," said one of the cadets; a human male. He raised his hand. "Doctor, a question if you please."

"No, no," one of the human females spoke up. "We should not talk about that anymore. It is all dark and depressing."

"Listen," said the male. "This girl," and he was pointing right at Toareth, "hangs out with the emo kids. Dark and depressing is her middle name."

Toareth pondering shortly how he knew of the circle she was acquainted with. Then again, all things managed to out in time. Word was certain to spread.

"Ask your question then," said Toareth. She could feel the cadet's desire for an honest answer.

He took a gulp of his water and cleared his throat. "Ok. you think war with the Dominion is a war we can win?"

"See, like I said," said the human female, "dark and depressing."

"Well," Toareth started. René returned with the waters and handed one to her. "Thank you. War with the Dominion is not one I think we should win. Can another story. Possibly. But we certainly should not win it. Allow me to explain," she said as some commotion started from the cadets present. "If we were to beat them into defeat, then there will always be Dominion allied Changelings who will want revenge. Meeting them at a conference table and hammering out a peace deal...that is what we should shoot for. Not victory but a mutual agreement to end hostilities and live together."

"Live together," mocked the human male. "The last thing I want is Changelings living among us."

"We already have a Federation allied Changeling," Toareth reminded them. "Two to be honest. One on DS9 and one with us aboard this ship."

"Living among us masquerading as human I mean. Anyone who lives among us, masquerading as us is someone who is not to be trusted," he said with a raised finger as to make his remark a pointed one.

Toareth could feel his feelings were genuine. "My people lived among humans on Earth, masquerading as human, for centuries before you invented warp drive."

The conversation drew to a pause as that thought was pondered upon.

René tried to lighten the mood. "War with the Dominion may or may not be inevitable, but tonight we are still at peace. I say it is time for some fun. He glanced at the young brunette cadet. "Gloria isn't it. Correct me if I am wrong, but don't you play drums? I was wanting to play my guitar tonight and I could use someone who knows about keeping a beat."

"I do," Gloria said. "And Mr. Dark and Depressing here..." she slapped the human male on the back.

"My name is Gregor. People call me 'Grey'."

"Grey is the color of dark and depressing," said Gloria. "Well Grey here knows a thing or two about bass."

René smiled. "Perhaps we could get a jam session going sometime." He paused and glanced at the stage. Several instruments were already on the stage and additional ones rested along the wall behind and along side. "How about it? You two up for some fun?"

"I'm game," said Gloria. "Let's do it."

"I may be a bit rusty," said Grey, "but bass is like riding a bike."

They got up from where they sat and followed.

René led the way on stage and worked a few controls on his guitar to sync up with the sound system. He grabbed a wireless microphone and clipped it to his shirt. "Testing. Okay folks my name is René, this is Gloria and Grey and we will be your entertainment for the next twenty or thirty minutes. Ready for some Fun?"

It was not a raising of the roof cheer of affirmation, but it was enough. The majority of the people carried on with whatever they were doing while many decided to enjoy the show. Toareth made her way to a table and sat down, watching, her head minutely beating to the rhythm as they played.

René started playing and took the lead in singing the first song.

Some nights, I stay up cashing in my bad luck
Some nights, I call it a draw
Some nights, I wish that my lips could build a castle
Some nights, I wish they'd just fall off

But I still wake up, I still see your ghost
Oh Lord, I'm still not sure what I stand for, oh-oh
(Oh-ooh-woah) what do I stand for?
(Oh-ooh-woah) what do I stand for?
Most nights, I don't know anymore

Oh, oh-ooh-woah
Oh-ooh-woah, oh
Oh, oh-ooh-woah
Oh-ooh-woah, oh

This is it, boys, this is war
What are we waiting for?
Why don't we break the rules already?
I was never one to believe the hype
Save that for the black and white
Try twice as hard, and I'm half as liked
But here they come again to jack my style

That's alright (that's alright)
I found a martyr in my bed tonight
She stops my bones from wondering just who I am, who I am, who I am
Oh, who am I? Mmm, mmm-mmm

Well, some nights, I wish that this all would end
'Cause I could use some friends for a change
And some nights, I'm scared you'll forget me again
Some nights, I always win (I always win)
But I still wake up, I still see your ghost
Oh Lord, I'm still not sure what I stand for, oh-oh
(Oh-ooh-woah) what do I stand for?
(Oh-ooh-woah) what do I stand for?
Most nights, I don't know

so this is it?
I sold my soul for this?
Washed my hands of that for this?
I miss my mom and dad for this?
No, when I see stars, when I see-
When I see stars, that's all they are
When I hear songs
They sound like a swan, so come on
Oh come on, oh come on, oh come on

Well, this is it guys, that is all
Five minutes in, and I'm bored again
Ten years of this, I'm not sure if anybody understands
This one is not for the folks at home
Sorry to leave, Mom, I had to go
Who the fuck wants to die alone all dried up in the desert sun?

My heart is breaking for my sister
And the con that she called "love"
And then I look into my nephew's eyes
Man, you wouldn't believe
The most amazing things
That can come from
Some terrible nights

Oh, oh-ooh-woah
Oh-ooh-woah, oh
Oh, oh-ooh-woah
Oh-ooh-woah, oh

The other night, you wouldn't believe
The dream I just had about you and me
I called you up, but we both agree
It's for the best you didn't listen
It's for the best we get our distance, oh
For the best you didn't listen
It's for the best we get our distance, oh

René glanced towards Toar and tried to gauge her reaction to the style of music and specifically his performance. He could see she was clearly enjoying the show. The slight bobbing of her head, the tap of her foot beneath the table, she was enjoying the song and the beat. She seemed to be attending to the lyrics, listening with her El-Aurian focus.

As René played, he would, time and again, glance over at the table where Toareth sat alone. She seemed content and listened intently to his playing. Other things would weakly grab her attention at times and she would look away, send her attention elsewhere, but would always return to the band on stage.

After working through a solo, René took a look back and saw Toareth had company, a man he did not recognize and clearly more than double her age in appearance alone. Toareth appeared disinterested in whatever it was the man was talking about, but she did not dismiss him or attempt to leave him at the table. Instead, she continued their conversation, but seemed unwilling to make eye contact with him. He finally stood, touched her on the shoulder and leaned in to whisper something in her ear. Toareth did not lean away from him. The man then turned and stepped away, disappearing in a crowd gathered off to the side.

Toareth continued listening to the music and watching the band play. Whoever the stranger was, she knew him, but also did not seem to care much for his visit.

Rene and his impromptu band mates ended the set and shook hands with one another as most of the crowd applauded. He set his guitar on an open stand along the back wall and rejoined Toar at the table. He took a long sip of water and looked Toar in the eyes. "I hope the music was to your liking. It's been a while since I performed in front of a live audience."

"That was...different," she said, "than what I generally listen to. But I admit my selection is pretty limited. It seems you have expanded the range I should listen to." Toar did still appear a bit taken aback by the stranger's visit. She turned her full attention to Rene. "That was really good. Honest, I enjoyed that. Thank you." She eyed the stage as another group started forming up there. She was taking in the instruments all the while thinking about what she could do with musical talent like that.

René gave Toar a small smile. It was pleasant to hear that she enjoyed the music. He did, however, notice her slightly off expression. He glanced in the direction the gentleman disappeared to. "Do you mind if I ask you who the older gentleman was? The one who spoke to you briefly when I was on stage. You didn't look to pleased when he walked away."

"Oh that guy," Toareth started as she too looked in said direction. She was, however, sure to not see him. Lynch was probably already off ship. "That was no one." She remembered he had told her not to talk about him. That order proved a little difficult to obey when he would show himself thus. "Just an annoyance to be true. You know those people," she returned her eyes to Rene, "the ones who, just knowing them, makes your life more complicated? Well he's one of those people."

"Hmmm." René held Toar's gaze as he listened. "Interesting, but you didn't answer my question. I asked who he was, not what he was. However, if you are not comfortable answering, I will let the matter drop. Besides..." He looked towards the stage as the next group began to play a slow number. His returned to hers and he reached across the table. "I would much prefer to dance with the most beautiful woman aboard the ship at the moment."

It was not that Toareth was uncomfortable answering René's question, but more along the lines that she was told, by Lynch himself that she was not to talk about him on top of the fact that she only had the one name to go by and nothing else whatsoever. She was relieved that René did not dig deeper but found that she would not mind if he did despite how much of a waste of time she already felt the endeavor would be.

She hesitated, but did not really mean to, in taking his hand. Mostly because, "I do not feel...that beautiful," and she stood as he lightly pulled her up, "to be honest."

René looked Toar in the eyes with a serious expression. He gently squeezed her hand as they head to the dance floor. "Trust me. You are."

Toareth followed as he lead her toward the dancing area. The band was in the process of switching songs. She hoped whatever they were to play next, it was not too complicated to move to.

The band began playing an old Earth song called the Electric Slide, "This isn't too difficult to learn. Just watch me for a moment and join in when you're ready." He began to dance with the gathering group of other cadets.

Toareth stood back and watched briefly. This did not appear to be a form of dance for two people to share, but more for a group to share. Everyone was performing similar moves with some mirroring others. Toareth's eyes flittered about and observed René, his movements and placement of feet and hands. It felt a bit irregular in this dress, but Toareth felt this was close to the Verelan Gek'Ha Gen, but with music. Having been well trained, though not considering herself a master by any stretch, Toareth called forth all that training and immediately started reproducing René's movements. She was slow and awkward at first but started getting the movements right after but a few moments. She did not know the dance but she knew the Verelan Gek'Ha Gen really well.

Strike, strike, knee, kick, stomp, spin. Then, strike, kick, crouch, spin, kick, stomp.

She was actually amazed at how quickly she was picking this up and did not realize she wore a wide, open-mouthed, smile. Though she was envisioning this as combat movements instead of a group dance, she was performing it all adequately.

René was quite impressed with how quickly Toareth picked up the dance steps for the Electric Slide. He smiled at her as the music played. She seemed to be having fun. The next song was another rhythmic number called the Macarena. He found them a spot on the dance floor and provided a short tutorial. He was pleasantly surprised at how quickly she picked that pattern of movements too.

The movements proved easy to replicate and even easier to perform once she had gone through them a time or two. For someone who was familiar with the Verelan Gek'Ha Gen, this 'macarena' proved rather easy. The movements themselves however did not feel at all graceful, or, as the Romulans would say, 'verelan.' The macarena felt more like something a victor would perform over a fallen opponent as a form of an insulting taunt than feeling like a martial art to be utilized in a fight. Toareth would have to call this the 'Desaise'enh Gek'Ha Gen.' Surely the Qowat Milat sisters would disapprove of these movements, but Toareth envisioned herself performing this over the tyrant Kadan as he laid there helpless at her feet all those years ago. With that in mind, she wore a fiendish smile as the music carried them through the movements again.

The song ended and the band switched tempo. A mellow song began and René looked at Toar. He stepped closer and extended his arms. "My I have this dance milady? I promise to behave."

Toareth did almost feel a bit danced out...almost...but, "for showing me that you can live for centuries and still find new and interesting may." She went into his arms and allowed him to lead this number.

René was surprised and pleased to be dancing close with Toar. While the weren't cheek to cheek, there were just a few inches between them. He was thankful for not having any alcoholic. Her closeness was intoxicating enough. "I must say. You're a fast learner. I hope you are enjoying this evening. "

"There is one thing I find I am not enjoying," she said. There were two things in fact, but she was trying to put the surprise visit by Lynch out of her mind. In the stead of said surprise visit, "this dress," she said. "I find I am not a fan of dresses. This dress at least."

René nodded slowly. He didn't want Toar to feel uncomfortable "Well, you look beautiful in it, but I would prefer you feel comfortable in what you wear. I...want you to feel comfortable around me." He knew he might be overstepping, but he embraced her in a hug on the dance floor.

Toareth allowed the embrace. To be honest, she never quite felt entirely comfortable anywhere nor in any situation. Not since enduring the plight of the El-Aurians did she feel comfortable. This was because she knew that everyone around her, everyone enjoying themselves on that dance floor, she would one day know they would be dead, of old age or otherwise, and she would continue on. The same went for the man in whose arms she was in, the man who was in her arms.

Sure her closest companion over the past several decades was absent and silent for the moment but Toareth knew that, one day, loneliness would make a comeback whether she wanted it or not.

On top of all that, René was Starfleet security. She had originally played nice with him to curry favor for if and when parts of her past caught up to her or some of her current research ever caught the light of day. She wanted someone in security on her side. She never expected to end up in the arms of one.

Toareth looked around with just her eyes. There was still no sign of Lynch, no threat of him holding her past and her past deeds over her head. She closed her eyes and "I feel the most comfortable here than I have felt in a long time." It may not have been an utter and complete comfortableness, but she was honest in that it was the most comfortable.

René was surprised when Toar embraced him. He could feel his heart beating faster. He parted slightly, lest she discovered just how excited he was to be holding her close. He looked into her eyes for a moment. He could see a complexity. There was so much about her she kept hidden. He sighed. "Do you want to stay or would you prefer to return to your quarters? I still have two thirds of the bottle from dinner if you want to just relax and enjoy a glass of wine."

Toareth nodded. "I think I've had my fill of this place for now." She looked around at the others having a good time. The population seemed to have changed almost entirely since when they arrived. "Relaxing and a bit of wine seems a fitting end to the night."

René smiled. He excused himself for a moment and retrieved his guitar from behind the stage.

While he was off doind that, Toareth looked around and took in the feel of the place. Through her empathy she could feel a communal sense of relief. There were no worries and little drama to speak of. Pain, both physical and emotional was at a minimum. This communal sensation rubbed off a little on to her and she felt almost young again. Though she was just that in appearance, young was the last word she would use to describe herself. Mentally though, she felt as though a grand elder. Her experiences through the decades brought her to the 'back in my day' point.

This night, however, all that had gone away, even for just a little bit. It returned a little with Lynch's surprise visit but went away again, just as fast as he did.

René returned to Toar's side and gestured towards the exit. He felt as if the evening had gone like an actual date. He subtly brushed his hand against hers to see if she would take it. "Thank you for an enjoyable evening."

She did not, actually, take his hand. She did, however walk, arm in arm, with him toward the exit. "And thank you," she started. It was not always an easy thing for her to thank people but this one felt natural. Toareth only hoped she would not make it awkward. "...for...this break from...well for an enjoyable evening," she said. "No, not...a break from an enjoyable evening." Too late to make it not awkward. "The evening was enjoyable. A break, I mean, from..." and Toareth sought the words to finish her thought, words that felt as though she would bleed out therefrom if the words did not come. "A break from my usual self," she finished.

René was thoughtful as they exited the semi official cadets lounge. It wasn't until they were in the turbolift that he turned to Toar and spoke up. "You constantly try and maintain control of your thoughts, actions even your emotions. I have wondered why, but I have tried not to pry."

'Oh not this again,' Toareth thought to herself. She wanted to vocalize that but, through her empathic abilities, she did not. The feelings she was picking up from him, she did not want to admit even to herself, but they nearly matched her own. And it was that synchronization that put a stop to her words. As much as she wanted to stop him from saying another word, the words did not flow.

"I would never hurt you or allow anyone to hurt you. I want to be your friend and...more if possible." He allowed her a moment to consider his observation of her. He placed a finger on her lips as she started to open her mouth to speak.

All she could do was breath, and it was almost labored breathing through her nostrils; a hint of pain, emotional pain, seeping therefrom.

Rene knew actions were worth a thousand words. He was a man of action and often acted on impulse. He closed the distance between them and kissed Toar lightly on the lips. A soft kiss that lasted a few seconds. He brushed her cheek as he broke the kiss. "You don't need to be afraid with me. I am more than capable of protecting myself and...being Chief Tactical Officer and Acting Chief Security Officer, everyone on this ship, including...especially you."

Now allowed to speak, Toareth found she could not. Her mouth opened and closed a few times as she attempted to form words but not even the simplest whimper escaped her lips; her vocal cords failed her utterly. She thought, only seconds ago, 'oh not this again,' and she thought it again, but not because of Rene's words or what she felt he was going to say next, which was exactly what she had predicted, but this time she thought on the last time she had feelings for another. Though all records have been deleted, thanks to Lynch, the end result was time in the Federation Penal Colony in New Zealand.

Speaking of Lynch, he had already reminded her that Rene was SF Security; would probably throw her in the brig if he knew half of her past. That, and Lynch held her profile over her head as a deterrent.

But none of that could stop her from feeling. And none of that could stop her from admitting that, "I have feelings for you." And then she clearly and audibly whimpered; astonished to have heard herself admitting that aloud. "But I..." and she did not mean to say 'but.' However, it was already spoken. "I ask...that you please...grant me, the time I need to come to terms with what I am feeling." Toareth could not break her eyes away from Rene's. "I do feel and these feelings are real...for you." She shook her head in a tremble but still would not let her eyes waver from his. "I am afraid of ruining things as I've done in the past. I..." and her words ceased.

Toareth appeared as a woman at war with herself; half happy, half in pain, half nearly crying, half nearly running a turbolift with nowhere else to go. The final half of her, however, wanted to stay right there and live in that moment.

René nodded slowly. "Of course." He brushed a stray lock of hair from Toar's forehead as the turbolift doors opened on their deck. He offered his arm for her. "You still up for some wine? I promise I am not trying to get you drunk and take advantage of you." He gave her a mischievous grin. "Though if you get me drunk and take advantage of me, I won't hold it against you." He chuckled to emphasize he was joking...mostly.

Toareth had to swallow hard, to get her heart back where it was supposed to be. It had been many years since she last jeopardized her defenses like that. She took his arm and stepped with Rene, after a nod of affirmation of course. The ability to put words into coherent thoughts felt to have finally returned. "Wine. Yes. And no taking advantage." It was her turn to attempt to joke about, "Remember what I said about El-Aurian curses?"

René's good natured smirk and nod affirmed his memory. "I shall endeavor to always remain on your good side." A few moments later they arrived at his quarters where he dropped off his guitar and grabbed the remainder of the wine they'd had at dinner. A minute later he was stepping into Toareth's quarters.


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