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Night Cap

Posted on Fri Nov 17th, 2023 @ 10:40pm by Cadet Senior Grade Toareth Darqa & Cadet Senior Grade René Rouen

2,340 words; about a 12 minute read

Mission: 1 - Cruising through the galaxy
Location: Toareth's Quarters
Timeline: Current

"Is it OK if I were to ask for a full glass of that wine?" she asked Rene.

"Of course." He was a bit surprised by the request. He reminded himself to be mindful of his promise. He uncorked the bottle to allow the wine to breathe. He's stepped towards the replicator to procure two wine glasses as Toar disappeared into her fresher.

Toareth stepped into her lavatory and could not work fast enough to get that dress off of her. She was almost tearing it off of her.

René wandered about Toar's quarters as she was in the fresher. The planet was unfamiliar, but was obviously of some importance to Toar. He was struck by the Marc Chagall painting, an obviousreferencetoGod'sfirstpunishmentof humanity. The print of the dog was just a generic piece.

Toareth had a change of clothes in the lavatory; just a pair of compression shorts for PT and a shirt emblazoned with the symbol of the Clan of Xymox. She did not bother to adjust herself in any way. Her hair appeared a little disheveled; perfect. She was still in a state of unbelief of the unravelling of recent events; that she completely lowered her defenses; that she expressed her feelings; that she placed her trust in someone else...a security officer no less.

She looked at herself in the mirror and breathed a few times, deeply. "Do not mess this up," she whispered to herself. "DO not mess this up," she pointed at herself this time. "Do NOT, you stupid girl, mess this up." She turned and left the lavatory, returning to her company.

Rene turned to gaze at Toar as she re-entered the room. He poured her a glass of wine and handed it to her as she approached him. He gave her a head to toe once over and nodded with approval. "You look as if you couldn't wait to shed the dress.

She gave him a look, one of those the-thought-had-crossed-my-mind-earlier looks, but did not give any words to that thought. Instead, "Yeah, it's in a heap in there," she pointed with her thumb over her shoulder. "May have popped a few threads getting it off. This," she looked herself over, "is much better."

René gave Toar a flirtatious smirk and wink. "Well, if you ever require help with getting a dress off again. Please, don't hesitate to call."

"I'm not sure I want to wear that again." She noticed he was standing over near where she had her pictures hanging, notably, the slowly rotating image of, "El-Auria. I see you found it."

Rene gestured at the planetary representation of Toareth's home world. "I gather this is a special place for you. Your home I presume?"

"Was home," she said. "That image is really all that I have left of it. It was not like the Borg gave us a chance to grab family heirlooms and whatnot. That picture," she stepped up beside Rene and set her eyes upon the image, "was given to me by an El-Aurian elder shortly after we escaped." She straightened the frame a tad. "This is perhaps the last image of the planet before destruction."

"I can understand wanting to keep a piece of home with you every where you go." He pulled his PADD from his back pocket and gave it a little jiggle. "I have pictures of home on my PADD." He sighed softly as he turned to Toar. "Our former Counselor advised me to print and frame them for my quarters. I just haven't made the time to do so yet."

"It is a good thing," she said as she turned away and started toward a chair, "to have family and home, and friends that you have pictures of. Helps keep the memories alive." She lowered into a chair and took more than a sip, but not quite a gulp, of the wine. When it came to family, a home, pictures of family and home, all that Toareth had was that one image of El-Auria. There was nothing else, no one else, nor any word of sign to speak of. She could feel that old companion of hers, loneliness, knocking at the door again.
René had become adept at reading Toar's body language. He poured himself a glass of wine and sat down on the couch end nearest her chair. He gave her a concerned look. "I did it again. Said something that has made you sad." He glanced at his glass of wine for a moment and then to the door. "Perhaps...I should leave." He didn't want to but the thought of saying something that compounded her sense of loneliness saddened him as well.

"No." She shook her head, then, "No," again. "I would prefer you stay a bit longer." She reached over and touched his arm; the first time, in her recollection, she actually made the first move to touch him. "It's not that you said something that brings sadness. It' is that just about everything brings sadness." She took another near gulp of wine. Her head swam just a little. "What you call...or what would you say to someone whose home was destroyed over a century ago, and this person has yet to build a new home, build a family, find..."she looked into his eyes, "...find love, a lasting love, make new and happy memories? What would you say to such a person?"

René reached up and placed a hand over hers touching his arm. The fact that this was the first time Toar had ever initiated physical contact with him spoke volumes to him. Not that she was afraid of him, but that she was afraid of herself. He could tell she was at war with herself. "Fear is a powerful thing. On one hand it does keep one alive, but at what cost? Fear can be paralyzing. It can keep one alive, but prevent them from living." He looked into her eyes, really looked. "I would say to that person...that they would have to give up their fear."

'Fear? Really?' she thought. Toareth never considered herself fearful of anything. She had dealt with pirates and warlords and tyrants and even faced criminal charges from her augmentation research and near augmentation application. 'Fear?' She wanted to laugh, but did not.

René gently pulled her from the chair onto the couch with him and held her close. He did so, not in a romantic way, but protectively. "I believe one thing is stronger than fear. Not love, not joy." He pulled back so she could look into his eyes and see what he felt.

And she did feel something; a sense of intense truthfulness. It was not a sense that this was some bit of advice that he had grown up with and it struck with him all his life. No. This felt like it was tried and true advice; ground-shaking and mind-blowing. Toareth waited a brief span of eternity for him to speak again, giving words to the feelings he projected.

And, in that span of eternity, Toareth thought that, finally, and after all the other times she was told not to fear, maybe, just maybe, she had mis-identified her closest companion, Loneliness. Perhaps it was Fear all along.

René brushed the tear from her cheek and gave her a warm smile. "Hope. Hope is the single most important thing to have in your heart. It is even documented in one of my own world's oldest legends regarding a woman named Pandora."

"I've heard of Pandora's Box," she said. "And I...I'm afraid I am unfamiliar with hope. To me, that has long been a transport that arrives too late." Toareth has always been one for action. Want something done? Make it happen. In her many decades, Toareth never found herself willing to rely on something the likes of hope. "I have little experience with hope. Besides, if you are comparing me to Pandora's Box," she shook her head minutely, "then you do not want to open me up."

René released Toar and retrieved their wine glasses from the coffee table. He gave Toar her glass and took a sip of his own before responding. "I wasn't comparing you to Pandora's Box. I just wanted to stress the importance of hope." He gave her a quirky smile. "Take me for instance. I was hoping you would like my cooking and you did. I was hoping to get to dance with you and I did. I was hoping to kiss you and...not get maimed or killed." He paused, giving Toareth a wry grin. "Yet anyway."

Toareth found the humor in that and grinned likewise. She was still struggling with this idea of 'hope.' It was a foreign concept to her on top of her habit of declaring herself without fear. It made some form of sense however; that hope and fear would go hand in hand. Hope for the best and fear for the worst. But, being without either also meant being without both. Toareth looked away as she heard that proverbial knock at the door. It was loneliness again.

René did want to kiss her again, but Toar would have to give him a sign that she wanted to. He wouldn't lie about his attraction for her, but he would not surprise her with as before. He took another sip of wine and decided it would be best to depart when this glass was done.

Just as he pulled that win glass away from his lips, Toareth pressed her lips against his. It was not a passionate kiss. More like a mere touching of lips, with a little added pressure. It was just as much of a surprise to René as it was to Toareth. And they both froze still as though time itself forgot how to count as it too was attempting to comprehend this surprising suddenness.

Toareth exhaled through her nostrils and breathed somewhat laborsome. Her heart had beat itself into her throat and her whole body pulsated as though some subspace anomaly had transfigured her entire being into one big heart, beating as if it was beating its last. She pulled away and opened her eyes. Looking into his, her eyes showed a great deal of relief, and of fear, perhaps a little less emptiness, but especially a hint of, "Hope," was all she whispered.

Toareth's kiss was quite unexpected, but felt like a dream come true. His face flushed and despite only the faintest hint of passion, he could feel the heat of her desire. His heart pounded against his chest. When she finally pulled away, he was speechless. He looked into her eyes and watched the conflict of emotions wash over her. He breathed in deep, her scent intoxicating. He only found his voice after her whisper. "Hope."

Toareth mouthed nearly a novel before she finally spoke. She battled with thoughts of telling him about Lynch, the stranger from earlier, amongst so many other things but recalled René's hope from earlier; that they both will have pleasant memories of this night. Vocalizing any of her thoughts would have ruined his hope. She was unsure of what to do next; if they should call it a night or if she wanted him to, "Stay a bit longer," she finally said.

René glanced briefly at the door to Toar's bedroom as he set the wine glass down. His gaze returned to hers and he gently brushed his fingers on her cheek as he shook his head. She had asked him for time to think and he was going to give it to her. He, despite the overwhelming desire he had for her, was not going to allow Toar to rush into anything she wasn't 100% ready for. "I want to, more than you know." He stood and took her hand, pulling her gently to her feet. A gentle tug led her to the door to the corridor and not to her bedroom. He embraced her. "You asked for time to think and you shall have it."

Toareth nodded; remembering.

"No pressure from me."

"Thank you," she said. "And...just know...that I can be difficult." She shrugged her shoulders. "Bear with me. I haven't..." and she had to say what came next, fearing it could kill her if she did not, "I've not felt this...about a long time."

René smiled and nodded. He decided to give her one last thing to consider, a hint into what pursuit of a relationship could be like. He kissed her one last time, but this kiss was filled with passion, heat and...promise. Time stopped again as their kiss deepened and their bodies pressed together. Hearts beat rapidly and each could feel the intensity of the other one's. He finally broke the kiss and stepped back through the door. "Never forget. You are beautiful more beautiful than words could ever describe." He stepped back once more, and as the door closed, locked the image of her in his mind.

Toareth stepped back away from the door. Her heart was still pounding away and the emotions still ran rampant. Thoughts of blasting herself emerged and went away just as fast as they appeared. Self-hatred was gone. Replacing those emotions was, well, things she did not have the words to describe just yet.

It took a moment for her lungs to launch into a protest. It had been that long since she last breathed. She wanted to apologize but had no one to apologize to. Nor did she have any real reason to do so.

Without a better thing to do for the moment, she started stripping off her clothes, getting ready for bed. Sleep seemed lightyears away so Toareth hoped the mental techniques she had learned over the years would work.

First thing's first...

A pinch formed behind her right eye and she forced a palm to her forehead. "Oh, come on! I've already had one today."


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