[NOVA] The New Normal (K/M 3.3)

edited October 2014 in NOVA

It is several hours later. A lot has happened during that time.

PFC Jaronsen and Dr. Upshaw, with help from a few of the undamaged soldiers and Mohammed Chatman (who trained as a nurse before following his passion into music), have tended to the most badly wounded of the soldiers after first making sure that Premier Lovejoy is stable and Zoo is suffering from no more than a bad blow to the head which rang her bell pretty firmly, but seems likely not to have any lasting effects.

Ksenia, you've introduced yourself as Ensign Ksenia Cribbage to the other guests and informed them that you've negotiated a deal with Number One—the soldiers will withdraw to the area around the bungalows, and you'll act as a mediator between Polity and planetary government on one side, and Number One's group on the other. As far as they're concerned, the status quo is still that you're hostages, but you've removed the immediate threat of violence from the table.

A quick meeting between the two of you, Brownlee, and Ayala led to something like a plan. (Ayala, by the way, is personally in favor of Agira joining the Polity, and apparently still has an active Ultraviolet clearance.) Mei, Brownlee flatly refuses to speak with, or even look at, you.

When the time for check-in with the Agiran government arrives, they of course "flatly refuse to be cowed by acts of terrorism." Ksenia explains that there are both hostages and hostage-takers hurt, and "negotiates" with Number One to allow a medical team onto the island to work on the worst of the wounded. The fact of Premier Lovejoy's injuries seems to shake the negotiators significantly. Next check-in is set for noon, local time.

The medical team has arrived in a jump-jet and set up an operating theater in one of the outbuildings. Lovejoy is being seen to. One of the team hands you a message on paper, Ksenia. Two lines. One is a Psi Corps recognition signal. The second is the Space Corps shorthand signal for "Maintain Present Heading."

For right now, though, there's nothing to do but wait. You've found a moment to be alone together, just the two of you in a second-floor room looking out over the ocean. The sound of waves and the smell of salt and night-blooming flowers fills the air.

What do you do?



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    I'm sitting against the window sill, my left leg slightly up while my cyberleg is planted on the floor. Benefit of being tall. I'm looking out on the ocean when I say, "I'm glad you're okay, Taban." I glance over at her, then add a little more softly, "I hope Zoo's alright."
  • Mei-header

    I'm perched on the sill next to her. One leg dangles out the window, bare toes testing the breeze or brushing the stucco. The other foot is in her lap, and the ocean ripples have transfixed my gaze. I'm a little withdrawn and the zen is good.

    "I'm not hurt, no. But I seriously question some of my field decisions and my judgement. And I hated feeling what they did to you." I can't look. If I was a little faster, maybe I could've gotten to her in time...

    "Zoo's tough. She'll pull through." I wonder about the notes.

    A predatory bird of some kind is riding the thermals, scouting for a meal in the waves.
  • edited October 2014

    It's late, you realize, or more properly, early. Both of you have your mental and physical aches, which are creeping up now that adrenaline and planning and action are on hiatus for a moment.

    The night is beautiful, though. The cries of nocturnal birds and the gentle soughing of the breeze and the waves mixes with the sound of Veronica DeJesus singing a wordless tune. (without the accompaniment) Cora croons her own wordless counterpoint to the singer's cantus firmus. It washes across both of you as smooth curves and the scent of fresh bread and the color lavender and the equation that describes the slow sweep of a long-period comet around its star.

    A small emerald-green lizard, one of Agira's gecko-analogues, climbs up onto the sill next to you.

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    I'm idly rubbing Mei's foot in my lap with my right hand. She's right, Zoo is tough. That look from Red was the worst moment of the entire incident. I look at her, my girlfriend. She needs my support, big time. Slept with Number One, feels like my injuries are her fault, I'm sure. "Taban," I start, looking at her. "We're good. Things like this... they get messy. It's why the Corps doesn't want us to be close. But we chose this, and we gotta be strong." I peer at her, making her look at me, "Are we strong?"
  • Mei-header

    "As carbon-fiber steel, love." I say, smiling at our pat answer.

    So many thoughts... Brownlee, Cora, Zoo, Ksenia's injuries, my own violence.

    I make a small motion, looking at her more fully in the moonlight. "I couldn't do it without you, K. You... " I think of fighting all those mercs... those Space Corps soldiers. "This is so messy. The whole sitch is fucking frakked." I feel a little queasy, and I rub at my nose.

    I lift my gaze up at the stars, and reach for her hand without needing to look. The music is nice. The bread smells good.

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    "Another gold star for Psi Corps brass." I remark idly. "You'll get used to it." I pause, then add, "Or not. But it's a thing."

    She reaches for my hand, and I take it. It stings, the pain meds are wearing off, but the skin to skin is nice. I watch her looking at the stars. My beautiful little Mei. She looks incredible right now. I'm elated to be here, with her. I thought she was dead several times today. I thought I was dead a couple, too.

    There's also a realization. It doesn't hit me as much as poke it's head up from under where I'd buried it. Look at her. Gazing into the stars. That's where her heart is, K. That's her passion, her life. She'll never be happy on the ground. She'd never want a house and garden, a frakking white picket fence and all that.
  • Mei-header

    I say quietly, "I'm not a killer, K. And he was Space Corps." I squeeze her hand, remembering her pinky too late. Between Ayala and Church, someone can get it regrown. "I was so worried about you, you were just gone!" My fingers wiggle at my temple.

    Brownlee... I assaulted her. I still feel like I betrayed my love. I look away from the window, I don't want anyone to look up and see my face.
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    I suck in a breath when she squeezes,, grit my teeth and force myself to grin when she flinches.

    I shrug about my sudden disappearance. I was a little worried about me, too. I circle back on her guilt about not being a killer. "Taban, we're soldiers. We're not just killers, we're trained killers. He was not Space Corps when we acted to defend the interests of the Polity. It sucks that he lost his life, but we were all doing our duty. Again, blame it on the brass. It's the best way to compartmentalize it so you can cope." I force myself to squeeze her hand back even though pain shoots through the stump. I'm ready for it, so I mask it. "That, and lots of booze and wild sex."
  • Mei-header

    I'm not quite wearing a smile. I appreciate what she's trying to do. But I shake my head. "I'm not a trained killer, K. I'm a trained astronaut and pilot in a ugly situation trying to cope." I readjust my grip so I don't touch her stump, and kiss her fingertips.


    I'm still down. "And the business with Brownlee... What's wrong with me?"
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    I smile when she kisses my fingertips. She thinks that stayin away from the stump means it doesn't hurt. It does, but not so bad. I keep it off my face. I could use a beer. Or three.

    She asks what's wrong, and I answer straight up, "Cora." I nod once, hold her gaze, "She's pushing you into these experiences. I felt her hunger. You and I both know you didn't need to seduce Brownlee to incapacitate her. But Cora wanted it, and you just... followed." I didn't mean that to come out as an accusation. But still.

    "I'm worried about what she's doing to you. And me, too."
  • Mei-header

    I nod, wordlessly. I feel miserable about what I did.

    Ksenia is so good to be here... She's my rock. "Me, too." I don't want to spend the rest of my days in a lab. I look up to her lovely dark eyes, the ones that still make my girlish heart flutter. "Would we still be... together if not for her?" I wiggle my foot, flexing it in her lap.

    The lizard scuttles along the sill, intent on some speck of dust.
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    She wiggles her foot, and I absent-mindedly move it over, which happens to be right at my center. Ok, maybe my subconscious meant to do that, I dunno. What can I say? Combat gets me keyed up, ok? Sorry.

    She asks if Cora is the only reason we're together. I laugh and shake my head. I can't believe she even thinks that. "Holy shit, Taban. Do you really think the alien sex fiend is why I love you?" I smirk for a bit longer, but yeah, she does. Or she wonders. Damn, Mei. I straighten up, massage her foot and answer so she won't keep fretting. "I had the hots for you the whole trip on Dauntless. I kept telling myself it was because I saw myself in you. But eventually I realized I just wanted myself on you." Then I smirk, like 'see what I did there?' But you know I meant it, right, Taban? You have to know it. Even if years from now you're still flying high and I'm settled on terra firma, there's here and there's now.
  • Mei-header

    She makes me blush and feel good, despite my mood. "Or in me, naughty," and I flirty wiggle my fingers. "The whole trip?" I look down, then back up, smiling a secret smile.

    But I think about it some more. "No, I don't really think that the "alien sex fiend" is why you love me... But I can't but wonder how much she had to do with it."

    I keep thinking about Brownlee. And my admirer. And Lourdes' secret I spilled. Psi talent doesn't feel like a gift right now.

    The lizard has moved along, crawling upside-down along the wall.
  • edited October 2014
    I sit with my girlfriend on that sill for a long moment or two, wondering which way to take this. Should I reassure her of my love, that Cora has nothing to do with it? Should I push the issue with Cora, try to get her to agree it's a problem? It feels like she agrees.

    "There were a few minutes today when I tried reaching out to you, even to the fiend, and I was cut off," I admit. I begin working more purposefully at her toes on the foot in my lap, my hand kneading pleasure from her the way I know she likes. It gives me a bit of a smile, even though I'm talking serious. "I was alone, for the first time in months. It was scary for a moment, you know? But then, it felt good. Being in my own head again, just me and my actions and feelings. It's weird, I know."

    I lick my lips, trying to explain when I see it on her face that it doesn't make so much sense. I point to her, then me, "When we talk, you know, in our heads, it's communication, two-way, purposeful, consensual. But the fiend is always there, she's eavesdropping... probably now. It's like there's no escape. No calm. No... me. Frak, no... us."
  • Mei-header

    I watch her small muscles adjust her balance. The way her shirt hangs on her frame. The lines in her face. The animation of her face, her hands. Her missing pinkie. What's that like for her? Will she live without it? Get the medical care she needs out of the negotiation? Convince Pierre to front the cost of a vatgrown finger? I think about the PT involved... and my thoughts drift to other kinds of physical therapy. Are they my thoughts? Cora's? Ksenia's? Action gets her motor running.

    I want to scoot closer. I want to be held. I barely want to even whisper a think about a nullifier and what it would do to the secondary personality matrix riding in my head... to Cora. Or to me. I'd likely scrub out of Psi Corps, and maybe Ksenia, too. Or they'd assign her to another psionic to handle. "It was more than scary for me... I thought you were gone." The gecko regards me. Do geckos feel... preemptive-panic-and-grief-that-never-materializes-but-transforms-into-sharp-relief-and-you-still-want-to-cry? There's probably a German word for that feeling. The gecko blinks, stalking a large black bug of some kind.

    "Of course there's an us." But sometimes there's a Zoo, or a Brownlee... almost a Lassiter or whoever else K has her eye on. Shit, why didn't I say no? I know why. That old chestnut about holding too tightly. And my own desire, I can't put it all on her. To say nothing of the transition! Is it getting warm in here?

    "And privacy is valuable." I manage to look amused. "This coming from a girl who grew up in the arcology, remember?"
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    I smile at her joke, more to reassure her that I'm listening than anything. I can tell she wants to be closer. Doesn't take psychic powers. So, I gently move her foot over and scoot closer, putting my right arm up to her shoulder, continuing the little massage. We're much closer now. She could just lean in and kiss me. You know, if she wanted to.

    "Taban," I say softly, looking at her face, studying those little dimples that show sometimes when she smiles, that wisp of hair that always sneaks over her left ear. She is a delightful mix of beauty with tiny imperfections that make her more attractive. "I know you're not bringing Cora into anything. You're not trying to invade my mind. You're not doing anything wrong. But she needs to be reigned in. You know?"

    I lick my lips, thinking. "Maybe we should work on it together."
  • Mei-header

    She makes my heart melt when she looks at me. The love that comes out of those dark eyes catches so much. I brush my hair away from my ear, self-conscious. I can tell she wants a kiss. She's doing that lip thing that makes me imagine what else she wants to do.

    "Ksenia... I have to reign myself in, too. It's a lot of power that's been dumped in my lap. And it's so tempting... But remember Dinah? When I drank too much? I don't want to be or become a stereotypical scheming, amoral, psi operative." I snuggle closer, not exactly meeting her eyes, ashamed. "But the temptation is so strong. I can't let loose."

    I look up at my love, so strong and caring and sexy... and in pain. My mouth opens and closes suddenly. I can't tell her about Lassiter. "It's why I want to practice psi therapy. Do some actual good with what I can do." I love you, Ksenia. I kiss her on the nose, then behind the ear, playfully. I look back, lost in those dark eyes.
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    "What if..." I ask, my eyes half-lidded after those two kisses. Need to keep talking, body's betraying me. I really, really want to drag her over to that bed and have my way with her. I've got nine fingers I want to use to touch her all over. "You know I'm trained to handle you. So what if we find a new place for Cora? Or, I dunno, take her home?" I give in a little and lean in and kiss her before she answers.
  • Mei-header

    My eyes flutter and I lose the train of thought. I give her a sassy smile and a teasing shove, rolling my eyes a little. "You mean trained to handle me out of my clothes and into bed, my dear." I wasn't really in the mood earlier, but it's really quire wonderful to be alone with my Ksenia.

    But I stop. "If we can even do that with an alien ghost. If she even wants to leave." I regard her, seriously. "And what of the psi handler with no psi charge? I might get shunted back to Space Corps, or do penance flying a desk for a while..." I reach to cup her cheek. I'm worried to lose her again.
  • edited October 2014
    "I did receive Psi Corps training to handle you, clothed or not." I correct her, but the tone isn't sharp. She's so achingly close. Her flashes of playfulness always give me little thrills.

    My hand begins working at her neck again, but I'm pulling her closer, too. She's holding my cheek and I don't want her to let go. "Space Corps isn't so bad, Taban. The chances of their bullshit committee plans being handed down to a couple lowly ensigns are much, much smaller." I pull her a tad closer and lean in for a slow, lip to lip kiss, then pull back an inch or two and look into her eyes.
  • Oh, that look. Eye-to-eye, the way you've always been, even before you knew you were a "we." It's interrupted by a knock, then the door opening. Dinah, with Zoo right behind her.

    "Sorry to barge in, but I think we need to have a conversation. What the frak is going on?"

  • Mei-header

    "Zoo!" I stand up, glad they did't catch us more in flagrante delicto, but still utterly glad to see her up and about. "How are you feeling?" I tug my tunic back into place.

    "Dinah, how much do you know? Where's everyone else?" I take a few steps closer.
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    Well, Red. I was about to get laid, but then you barged in. I whimper a little inside when Mei puts her clothes back in order. I wasn't done messing them up!

    I turn on the window sill to face them. Damn, Zoo's up! So glad to see her moving around. "We've got it under control. We can't talk about it right now. I won't let any of you get hurt," I look at Zoo, "Again. Once we're off this rock, I'll tell you over drinks." I'm not telling civvies this frakked up plan before we salvage it.

    No way I'm going to reach my hand into the toilet bowl of this brass idea, fish it out, then slip up and drop it back in there to swirl to the bottom again. This is a need-to-know basis thing. They don't need to know.
  • Ksenia, Dinah walks right up to you and gives you a full-on slap across the cheek. "What... the hell... is going on?"

    Zoo is taking the supporting role, for once, but her facial expression is hard. She turns to you, Mei, with a laser-focused questioning look. "Yeah, that. What's happening here?"

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    The side of my face burns, a reminder of Red's anger at me. All the blood drains from my face and I go cold. I straighten, the old street rat in me creeping back. "Zoo, are you alright, girl?" I'm asking Zoo the question, but my eyes are only for Red. I'm ready for your next shot. You better pray you don't take it, Red.
  • edited October 2014

    My eyebrows are about to leap off my head. I was not expecting that! "Dinah! That was uncalled for!" I admonish. "We've all been under a lot of stress — and under fire — in the last few hours and this is no time to turn on each other!" I sigh, frazzled, but regaining control. "Please."

    I look to Zoo, arms unfolding and going to my hips. I breathe hard through my nose. "Politics gone dumb. Some of it is classified. Are you okay? How's your head? They got a medico for Lovejoy, if you need attention." I killed someone today, Zoo.
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    Dinah's voice is tight as she addresses you, Ksenia. "We were taken hostage by terrorists, who, when you attacked them, knocked Zoo out. Oh, this is after Taban sneaks off with their leader for some hanky panky and heavy petting, or whatever. You then take off to 'clear the docks' and while you're gone, we start taking fire from more terrorists. Ten minutes later, you waltz back in, with the leader, and we're told that we're still hostages, but the soldiers are moving a little ways off. What is really going on, and when did you know about it?"

    Zoo sits in rattan chair and pours herself a glass of water from the pitcher on the side table.

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    I hold up my left hand, turn it so the missing pinkie is obvious. "This is a frakked up situation. We knew jack and shit before we came here, just like you." I say it with grit in my tone, but I'm not about to yell.

    I try to soften my voice, but it's hard. I can't pull rank, I can't beat them down or threaten them. I don't want to, I don't want to feel like I should. "I love all three of you, and I feel I've earned some trust. I am asking you to please trust Taban and me. As soon as I'm able to reveal classified bullshit details to you that we just found out about through pain and frakking dumb luck, I swear I will do so." My eyes mist up a little, from anger, frustration, guilt, a feeling of betrayal. These are my only friends, and they're turning on me? Frak... just frak this. I need a drink.

    "Right now, I just need you to play along... ok?" Please God, Red, stop looking at me like this. My girlfriend just did awful things to someone's head, and I attacked a bunch of marines, may have killed a few of them, I don't even know. Just back off. Please, back off before I punch something. Or cry. Probably both.
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    Dinah opens her mouth to say something you'll both probably regret, but before she can, Zoo says, quietly. "Okay, Boo. Okay." She takes a sip of her water. "You're right. We're a team, the four of us, and you deserve our trust."

    She stands, sets her glass back down on the table next to the pitcher and a cut-glass decanter of something that looks like whiskey. Gives you a hug, Mei, and then walks over to Ksenia for another. "What do you need from us?"

  • Mei-header

    Now Dinah's not even looking at me. I remember the accusation and the hurt when I let my psi slip around her. And now I've done it again. I don't feel very admirable right now, Zoo. I look away, ashamed. Her hug feels good.

    "I did it to distract their leader, Dinah. To separate the head from the snake." I'm cupping one elbow in one hand. "I fought a lot of people tonight. I think I killed one. But I was defending the people I love, and the rest of the guests, the civilians."

    "What do I need? Sleep, talk, and a vacation from my vacation." I half-heartedly smile at my friends. "I just don't want things to needlessly escalate any further. There's a safe and sane way through."

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    When Zoo hugs me, I'm too tense and wired to let myself feel it. If I did, I couldn't fight these tears that are pushing at my eyes. I sort of clench up and she won't know how much it means to me, but I have to stay up, alert, hard. I swallow, wipe at my eyes with the palm of my left hand, which hurts like hell after I do it. Dammit.

    "Head down, store up all your anger and shit for later. We'll have it out then, alright, Red?" I say, clearing my head by getting in the game. I finally look at Zoo, "Are you alright? That was a good shot you took."
  • Mei-header

    I put my hand on Ksenia's back. My poor girl.
  • Dinah nods, Ksenia, and you see her consciously push the tension out of her body.

    Zoo walks back to the table, swallows the rest of her water and pours two fingers of whiskey into each of four glasses. While she's distributing them, she answers the question. "Medic said I should be fine, there's no concussion. Still a headache, of course." Once everyone has a glass, "We're not on the ship, but I still am the captain, and I'm going to give the Orders of the Day. From what we heard while you and that Number One woman were communicating with whoever it was, the next check-in isn't for several hours. We are each going to drink the glass in our hands, and then we are going to nap for a while. Together, in a big puppy pile." She raises her glass and an eyebrow. "Any questions?"

  • edited October 2014

    "Aye, aye, Cap'n!" I feel weary. A nap sounds good. And that bed is HUGE. Plenty of room.
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    I swallow, think of something about maybe going off and leaving them to it. But frak me I could use someone with me right now. So I nod, looking at Mei, then Zoo, then finally Red.

  • Dinah opens her mouth to decline, but once again shuts it without speaking. She shrugs and gives a wondering head shake. "Zoo, you are a force of nature." She slugs down the whiskey and bends down to take off her shoes.

    You manage to find comfortable spots on the huge bed. Before long, Ksenia, Mei is asleep in your arms. Dinah is on the other side of Mei, facing away, not quite spooned up against Taban, but close. Zoo found a spot at the foot of the bed, curled up around a pillow in her usual fashion, facing up toward the head. At some point, the Captain shifts a bit in her sleep and her hand lands lazily on your left calf.

    The room is quiet, Ksenia, when you hear Dinah's voice in a bare whisper. "K, are you awake?"

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    I was lying in the middle, sort of on edge with Mei and Zoo in the same bed. I'm still aching, the pain meds are worn off. And yes, still a little angry, too. I was trying to lie still for Mei when Red calls to me.

    I open my eyes and lift my head up to look at her. My expression is calm. I nod, since it's obvious that I am.
  • Dinah is just finishing rolling over to look at you when your eyes open. Still at a whisper, so as not to disturb Mei and Zoo, she says, "Listen... I don't do 'out of control' very well. I'm an engineer, after all. That situation, and then Zoo getting hurt, I just lost it. I thought if I hurt you... I'd feel like I was in control again. That was wrong. Stupid and wrong." She reaches over Mei to brush your short hair back behind your ear. "We four, even with all the stresses and the strain and the drama and the crazy shit we've been through, we four are something special."

  • Mei snores lightly, mouth open. She shifts a bit in her sleep. Her face is relaxed. Her eyes are steady beneath her eyelids. She does not yet dream.
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    As I look at her, and listen to Red apologize, my resolve slips. I'm so relieved the tears just well up and fall over the bridge of my nose and down my right cheek across my ear. My voice trails a little when I whisper back, "When I saw them hurt Zoo, I almost died inside, Red. Then, when I all alone, didn't know where Mei was. Then, they cut off my... I just. I thought I'd lost everything. And I kept thinking about how you looked at me, Red. Like it was my fault and I... I was trying to protect you all. I just..." I stop talking. I'm about to completely nose-running bawl on her. They took my finger! There's only so many damn parts of me left! Mei was gone. I thought Zoo was frakked. Red hated me. I kept it all down all day long and it's leaking out.

    I look around, a bit wild, like maybe I should get up, move. Go away. Hide. Something.
  • edited October 2014

    Ksenia, as the tears run down your face, Dinah melts, as well. Tears streaming, she rolls over slow and quiet, and slips off the bed. She moves around to your side and lies down again, behind you. Her left arm worms its way over your side, around your tummy, and her right strokes your hair. She whispers in your ear, "I'm so sorry they hurt you, K." And then, surprisingly, she starts to sing in a voice like the memory of a dream.

    Hush-a-bye, Don't you cry,
    Go to sleepy, little baby.
    When you wake, You shall have
    All the pretty little horses.
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    Red keeps me from leaving the bed, and she's so soft, so warm. I lean my head forward, rest it gently on Me's back, and hide my sobs until it passes. Red's here for me, and I needed her. I need them all. The song soothes, and I just let myself hurt for a while. The sobs irritate my ribs, which make me want to cry in pain, not just loss. I'm a mess, Red. I'm a wreck, Mei.
  • It's a few hours later, and the room is filled with the soft sounds of sleep and the susurrus of early morning at the beach. Ksenia, did you sleep at all?

    Mei, you wake after a few hours of sleep in Ksenia's arms. How do you feel? Dinah's no longer in front of you.

    Zoo isn't in the room, by the way.

  • Ksenia's asleep now. She finally relaxed after Dinah's song.
  • edited October 2014

    I wake up happy. I lie for a moment, hearing her breathing and feeling her skin. I am refreshed.

    Then my brain starts working and I remember. Stress wakes up, too. I start to worm my way out from under Ksenia's arm. I need to pee, and I don't know where Dinah and Zoo have gotten to.

    I kiss Ksenia's fingertips and look around. Can I hear them?
  • Mei, Dinah is now on the other side of Ksenia, one hand draped loosely on K's hip, the other tangled in her own hair. Zoo is nowhere to be seen. Ksenia is sleeping deeply, something you rarely get to witness, since she always seems to be the last to sleep and the first to wake.

    The morning sun slants through the window, catching Ksenia and Dinah's faces in a perfect frame of golden light.

  • edited October 2014

    I sit on the bed, pulling my knees up. I fold my arms over my knees, resting my head there. They look so peaceful, so lovely. I'm trying to fix the moment in my mind until I can put charcoal to paper. The light is so perfect on Agira, and I fancy having more vacations here. I could stand to draw and swim more, and have a healthy number of daily massages.

    Ksenia sleeping makes me mouth quirk, with Dinah spooning her so loose and free after her earlier fire and anger. I lean forward to give Ksenia a lingering kiss on her cheek, then roll-tumble off the bed and pad around to administer the same to Dinah. She's so funny, with her hand tangled in her hair.

    I'm a little concerned about Zoo, so I'll check the rest of the upstairs suite before checking the downstairs.
  • edited October 2014

    Mei, as you're about to leave the room, Zoo comes back in. She's wearing a fluffy white robe and carrying a tray with clean glasses, a pitcher of fruit juice, and a little basket of bread. "Morning," she whispers as she sets the tray down, looking at Dinah and Ksenia. "They're so sweet when they can't talk back, aren't they?"

  • edited October 2014

    I light up when I see Zoo is up and about. I irrationally feared she might've been taken. I chuckle, too, at her words. That bread smells lovely, and my stomach makes its interest known. "They are indeed. Does Dinah always sleep like that? She's like a big kid."

    I'll pour two glasses and break some bread with Zoo. I curl up into one of the rattan chairs, pulling my legs underneath me. "How are you doing?"
  • Zoo smiles when you ask about Dinah. "She's kind of like a cat... she'll fall asleep in just about any position." She sips on her juice. "My head's better today, just a dull throb instead of a pounding ache. It's weird, it feels almost normal here now, with the terrorists keeping out of the house. Veronica's thinking about singing for us this afternoon, after Number One and Ksenia do their check-in with the government."

    Dinah begins to stir. "Coffee."

  • edited October 2014

    I nod, agreeably. "Almost normal. She has a marvelous voice." I glance at the window, tyen at Dinah stretching in the light. "I doubt I could retrieve my sketchbook from the bungalow with all the activity..." Maybe Ayala has some paper in the house. Brownlee isn't likely to let me gallavant about as I choose to indulge a whim.

    I wonder who Kevin is. I wonder who I killed. The bread loses its taste and I set it aside.
  • Dinah slides off the bed, smacking her mouth sleepily. "Pee. Coffee. Toothbrush." She pads out of the room to start checking things off that list.

    Zoo ponders. "I would not be surprised at all if Pierre has a stash of art supplies somewhere in this house. He probably paints exquisite still-lifes of seashells and tropical fruit in his spare time."

  • image
    Red's movement finally rouses me. I slept like a log. I haven't crashed that hard while sober in a very long time. I sit up, watching the slumping form of Red walking away. I rub at my hair, which is all standy-uppy, look at Mei and Zoo. I rub my eyes a little with my left hand, then groan lightly in pain because I'm stupid. "Shit. Good mornin." I stand, lean backwards to crack my back a little, wince when I do. Then, I pop my neck, I can at least do that right. "Who wants to go for a run?" I ask it mockingly chipper. I feel sorta terrible and my ribs ache.
  • edited October 2014

    Dinah is very cute in the morning. I feel an odd maternal tug as I watch her sleep-stumble out the room, making noises in the hallway. She chases away my dark thoughts with her small human motions.

    I deadpan, "I figured him for a sculptor." Then I grin a little goofy grin. I would like to draw Zoo, perhaps with Dinah, perhaps alone.

    Ksenia rolls a bit from Dinah's absent presence. I know how she is, she won't admit how much she needs or wants contact. Her sleeping self reveals it, though. She's waking, so that cuts off my question to Zoo. "Morning, sleepyhead." She's so wonderful. I watch her. "I could stand breakfast and a swim. Are you sure you should be running? Don't push too much, okay?" Unthinkingly, I'm rubbing my ankle, rolling the joint.
  • image
    "Mmmn, a swim." I say, imagining Taban in a bathing suit. Then, imagining removing it. "Of course I shouldn't be running. Still gonna." I head over to get some clothes, and without any modesty, start changing. I mean, they've both seen what I got.

    Okay, maybe I'm showing off a little.
  • "Ksenia Mae Cribbage, I hope that was a joke," Zoo says, "You are not to go clomping around with your ribs in that condition." Whether or not Zoo knows your middle name doesn't matter—she makes up a new one every time she needs to jokingly/not-jokingly scold you.

    Through the window, you see clouds gathering on the horizon.

  • edited October 2014

    I give Zoo a look that says, "See what I have to put up with?" then one to Ksenia that says, "You better listen to us, girl." Then I watch my love show off, comfortable in her body for a change. There's a sketch of worry around my eyes. She's been through so much.

    There's still some warm bread in the basket. I choose a piece and nibble.

    "How did you sleep?" I bet she had sweet or naughty dreams.
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    I pull my shorts up over my hips, then struggle into a sports bra, using my cyberarm more than my frakked up pinkie. "Not at all till Red sang me a lullaby. Then better than I have in a while." I pull the patch of fabric over my meager breasts and turn around to face them. "You?" I ask them both with a look.
  • edited October 2014

    "Out like a light. Being snuggled into a... puppy pile?" I look at Zoo, to check my memory. "Was very just what I needed. I want to leave yesterday behind me."
  • edited October 2014
    I stroll over to Taban and Zoo, stand near them both. "Good. Usually takes me half a bottle of something nasty to get to that point. So... am I jogging alone?" I arch a brow and look at both of them, a hint of challenge in my tone.

    Stupid or not, I'm going for a jog. I need to get outside, and it's an excuse to get a look at the soldiers, check their vibe. I can read a soldier's readiness in their shoulders, I won't need much. I still don't trust Brownlee.
  • edited October 2014

    I sigh dramatically, channeling some Zoo. "If you insist on jogging in your state, then no." I get to my feet in that graceful rolling way I have. I raise a finger. "But not a long jog, and you are making me breakfast when we return. Proper breakfast."

    I should probably change. I'm not sure I want to do so in front of Zoo, or when Dinah comes back from her morning routine. But it's a small thing, and I crouch over the clothes case to pick out some light wear for a run. Bright orange running shorts and a white top with an abstract series of black stripes.

    I change artlessly, but with some modesty.
  • image
    I consider a quip about Mei being breakfast. But Zoo's here, and I don't want to cause trouble... not really.

    And yes, I watch her change.
  • You're both changed, and there's no guard on the front door, as you know. If you don't stray too far, there should be no problems. A little stretching and you're ready for a run around the immediate property.

    Here's the thing. You're both hurt, and running can't be good for either of you. Let's see some dice, okay?

    Difficulty (d8): You've got an ankle and some ribs hurt, between the two of you.
    (Rolled: 1d8. Rolls: 1. Total: 1)
    Running on Sand (d8): Sure, it's soft, but it's not even, and sometimes it catches at your feet.
    (Rolled: 1d8. Rolls: 4. Total: 4)

  • image
    d6 Individuality - I'm going to do this my way, no matter if it's just being stubborn or what.
    d10 Security - I am checking out the soldiers outside.
    d4 Temper - okay, yeah, I'm mad at being frakked up
    d6 Mei - she's out here with me, on a bad ankle, even
  • image
    (Rolled: 1d6. Rolls: 4. Total: 4) Individuality
    (Rolled: 1d10. Rolls: 1. Total: 1) Security
    (Rolled: 1d4. Rolls: 4. Total: 4) Temper
    (Rolled: 1d6. Rolls: 5. Total: 5) Mei
  • image
    That's a 9, with a 1 out there for you.
  • Mei-header

    Love d8 - I'm going to make sure she doesn't get herself into more trouble. I don't mind taking care of her if need be.
    Comms d6 - We'll be able to talk about what's going on.
    Natural Athlete - d4 - Psssh. I can run. [NB: Gaining one PP]
    Ksenia - d10 - Silly girl, you've gotta take care of the ribs you have left!

  • Love - (Rolled: 1d8. Rolls: 2. Total: 2)
    Comm - (Rolled: 1d6. Rolls: 1. Total: 1)
    Natural Athlete - (Rolled: 1d4. Rolls: 3. Total: 3)
    Ksenia - (Rolled: 1d10. Rolls: 10. Total: 10)
  • [10 + 3 = 13, with a tasty one for you.]
  • Ksenia, Mei, the stakes were "Go for a run without getting hurt further," and you both succeeded. But you both had subsidiary goals for your jogging expedition. So, I'm giving you each a plot point and a choice.

    Ksenia, you wanted to get eyes on Brownlee's soldiers, see what sort of state they're in, trying to get a read on the situation. You may have that intel and a d6 Complication for the rest of this scene: Reinjured Ribs. Or, you may have neither the intel nor the injury.

    Mei, you wanted a chance to talk to Ksenia about what's going on, without the ears of your friends or fellow "guests". You may have that chance and a d6 Complication for the rest of this scene: Reinjured Ankle. Or, you may have neither conversation nor injury.

    Whichever choice you make, you get the plot point.

  • image
    I'll take that Plot Point and the Complication for some intel.

  • [OOC: Plot point, no conversation nor injury.]
  • As you jog along the sand, you see a few of the soldiers making a relaxed patrol, alert but not worried even when they see the two of you. You know that Brownlee has her men and women bivouacked in the area near the four bungalows you were staying in, so you run along the wooden pathway toward them.

    Ksenia, you can tell within the first few steps on the boards that you're stressing your not-quite-healed ribs. The pain isn't sharp, but the dull throb in your side when you first woke up stretches out and becomes its own particular pain, not just part of the background noise of general exhaustion and aches from multiple fights yesterday.

    You're stopped within sight of camp by two women with rifles standing on either side of the spot where the path opens onto the clearing around the four buildings. They're not aggressive, but they are firmly insistent that you turn around and go back the way you came.

    You can see the setup pretty well, though, in the time you have. As you'd expect, the camp is laid out in a disciplined and precise manner. You recognize the morning routine. The last of the night patrols return in pairs to their tents as other men and women queue up outside two of the bungalows (Zoo and Dinah's, as it happens), clearly waiting to use the facilities. Jaronsen emerges from your bungalow, Ksenia, and in the moment you have to look before the door closes, you see several cots, so that must be where the wounded are.

    In all, these soldiers are doing what soldiers do when they don't have anything to do. Maintaining. They don't seem keyed-up, but neither are they looking lax. In general, you see no reaon to doubt that Brownlee issued the orders she said she would. That is, withdraw and patrol.

  • image
    When those ladies warn us off, I turn around, drop to a walk. My jaw is clenched in pain, but I keep it as contained as possible. "When we get back, you mentioned breakfast." I give her a grin, and ask, "Are you on the menu?"
  • Mei-header

    Ah, the thrill of speed. My blood is pumping, my long muscles welcomes the sweet ache of use, and each lungful of joyous oxygen wakes me up just a little more. I'm extra careful to not push my healing body, staying in low to middle gear instead of high. You never know.

    Why is Ksenia messing with the squaddies? Something's up. But before I get a chance to bring it up... Her flirting is a nice taste and promise. And yes, a distraction. I match her grin, and answer, "Are you?" I can see her ribs are giving her trouble. It's sweet that she's trying to hide it. I keep my grin but my eyes aren't showing much amusement. "You need to heal, my love. We can't wear you out or have you fall out of bed again." My nipples are hardening despite my concern as I remember some of her... enthusiastic moves.
  • edited October 2014
    When she asks if I'm on the menu, I shrug like "I just might be". I continue grinning, walking along. I need my meds. And a shower. "Well, I'll hold onto you, my little bucking bronco. That'll keep me in bed."
  • edited October 2014

    "I bet you will." Neither of us got some last night, I know she's feeling frisky. The lapping water is soothing, the sand feels good under my toes. I mentally scowl at this stupid faux terrorist nonsense. I'd much rather we were relaxing on the beach, swimsuits optional.

    It's so nice, walking along the shore, listing to the birds, looking at the trees down the line. Almost shyly, I take her hand as we walk. I hum for a few minutes, sharing the silence.

    "What are you making me for breakfast?"
  • image
    Feels weird, holding Mei's hand with my cyberarm. Hurts less, but I'm used to flesh on flesh. For all the sensors in my milspec, it just doesn't have the same "feel" as the fleshy me, the real me.

    I adore Mei's humming. It's adorably Mei. I lace my fingers in hers and wish I could just pull her tight under my arm. But my ribs would be pissed at me. So I don't. Sex is going to be rough, but I'm doing it. I don't care how stupid it is. I'm getting laid.

    "I'm making your eyes cross..." I say with a laugh. "What do you expect me to make you for breakfast?"
  • Mei-header

    "You can make me waffles." I proclaim without hesitation.

    In a lower tone, I say, "Then you can make me scream." Yes, I blush. I squeeze her hand.
  • image
    I register the squeeze, grin wider when she blushes. As we're heading up the walk to out rooms, I ask, "I'm going to take a shower. Want to wash my back, Taban?" A little wink. I need this. It gets my mind off the desire to scream, or just to sit down and ache.

  • edited October 2014

    I bite my lip. "That sounds fun. But you're just trying to charm me out of making breakfast." I bump her with my hip like, I know your tricks. Then I get up on tiptoes to kiss her neck once, lightly, to take the sting away. "You really need to heal and not strain yourself." It's tender.

    "Don't pout so. I want some, too." I'm sure I look eager, and I don't care. I squeeze her hand again.
  • image
    I get little chillbumps when she kisses me. I swear the spot when her lips were tingles in memory. "I'll take some pain meds. It's not so bad, Taban." I pull her to stop as we reach the top of the steps. The door to our cabana is right there. "Being here, with you, for days now, and nothing. I'm going a little crazy. I just need to feel good. With you. At least kiss me, alright?"
  • edited October 2014

    "Always." I look up to her, worried, concerned, content, happily lost in those dark eyes. I grab her wrists and settle her hands on my hips. I lace my hands around her neck and tiptoe up into a light kiss that gets stronger, more intent. Tingles run down my spine and I melt into her arms.

    I lose time.

    "Oh, my Ksenia, you are such a good kisser."

    And I kiss her again, again, again.
  • edited October 2014
    I still adore how we fit together. She molds herself into me as I lean down and kiss her. My left hand roams down to that taut little ass of hers. I can't squeeze without whimpering a little in pain, but I can just feel it. Damn, I could bounce quarters off that ass. If there were quarters anymore.

    When she pulls back to compliment my kissing, I chuckle low. She always sells herself short. Doesn't realize she inspires me to be passionate, to kiss better. I don't want to disappoint. Then we're enfolded again and I'm probing her mouth with mine. The pain, the worry, falls away. It's just us. I don't even feel the alien sex fiend for once, and it's so wonderful to be connected with her.

    The kissing makes me hot, though. I am not sated with just this, lil Mei. You're my breakfast girl, there's no escape. No puppy pile, no interruptions. I'm gonna take you to a room and do things to you.

    I pull back, then look down at her black striped shirt and wild orange shorts. I smirk and say, "C'mon tiger. Come inside, so's I can have my way with you." I push open the door and start walking her backwards towards the first empty room I find. She's an amazing dancer, like Ginger frakking Rogers.
  • edited October 2014

    I adore her hands on me, like I'm the only one in the universe. I forget all my trouble and fret and the whole stupid Polity. I even forget her small injury until she whimpers. But I don't forget my hunger. Well, my appetite. Dammit, I'm horny and want breakfast!

    Kiss. "You can have your way with me," kiss. "And I with you," kiss. "After you feed me, " kiss, hands. "Waffles." Kiss. "With lots of maple syrup." Kiss. And now I tiptoe again to her sweet little ear, and whisper a promise, "And I'll do that special thing you like so much." My tongue flicks at her earlobe. "Remember?" My eyes are locked on hers, intense and wanting.
  • image
    Oh. The special thing. I close my eyes and imagine the sensations. I nod, slowly, enjoying the feeling of her mouth so close. "Waffles and lots of maple syrup." I imagine I'm floating for a moment, the past days going away for just a bit.

    "Go on in your room and get, ah, ready. I'll cook up some for you and bring you breakfast in bed. Kay?" I open my eyes and look at her hopefully. I need this, to feel human, be connected, be with her.

    I also need my pain meds. I'm hurting.
  • Ksenia, when you get to the kitchen, you are prevented from making waffles by two of the staff, who insist on doing it themselves. "Is Mei okay? She's... well, she did a lot for us." The two, one man and one woman, whip up an extravagant breakfast in a short time. Waffles are only the start. There's fresh fruit, carafes of juice, sausage and bacon, biscuits that have been held in a warmer, even a throwback to your days of training. Chipped "beef" gravy. Over the burnt toast it was usually served on, you and your squaddies called it "Shit on a Shingle."

    On the way back to Mei, you detour to down a few painkillers. They help, some.

    What happens when you enter Mei's room, Ksenia?

  • edited November 2014
    I assure Consuela and Diaz that she's fine, no worse for wear, thank them for the wonderful food, then take it all on a tray. The painkillers are good to take the edge off, but the comfort I really want is right inside that door.

    I balance the tray with my cybernetic hand and grit my teeth to open the door with my left. Stupid, manual doors. Then I'm nudging the door open with my shoulder and carrying in the tray with a big, presentational smile, "Ta-da! The staff insisted on treating you super special. They made you a feast for a queen." I close, and lock, the door, and bring the lovely tray forward for the queen's inspection.
  • edited November 2014

    I'm lying on our bed, sort of backwards, looking upside down as she comes in. I kick my legs up and flip over, propped up with my arms akimbo, paddling my feet lazily in the air, only wearing my orange shorts. Ksenia will walk over my top as she brings the delicious-smelling banquet. I'm hungry. My eyes are shining with adoration, I love her so much. "Did you bring enough honey for when we're done with the biscuits?" I do want a biscuit, really! And look at those waffles!

    I hold up a small pale chartreuse capsule, still in its blister, between two fingertips. I watch her sweet face.

    I dare not even think about trying it until I get a good, solid, definite report from the boffins on what it might do to me. In duplicate. But Ksenia's 100% human and I know that the TruLuv strengthens a psi link for her, particularly when I'm not holding back.

    I bite my lip a tiny bit.
  • image
    I love those orange shorts. Back in Basic Training, I saw my first group of girls, other than Lana, and I admired them. I never lusted after them, but I was jealous, or felt like I wasn't as pretty. But Mei Mei, I just want. Nobody makes orange so beautiful. This is home. Here, in this room, me and her. No pain. No mission. Just us.

    "I shook down an entire hive for as much honey as you could ever frakking want, Taban." There's plenty of honey. I plan on putting it to good, sticky use.

    When she brings out that pill, I stop for a moment and just look at it. A thrill runs through me, and I make a sound like a little, tiny squeal of excitement. I have no idea where it came from, it will never happen again, but this time, this time it did.

    I head over to set down the food, then rush back to her arms. Her arms make me feel whole.
  • Mei-header

    I grin at her excitement, building into a little giggle.

    Then she almost overpowers me with her need, her enthusiasm. I sigh into her, feeling her kisses and touches, my mostly bare skin against her mostly clothed. The world falls away, I forget about even the gravity.

    My stomach makes a noise, probably from the smell of the sausages. "Waffles." I murmur. "Breakfast." I nip at her earlobe.
  • image
    "Right. Waffles." I agree as I scoop her up into my arms, kiss her again lightly, then unceremoniously deposit her on the bed, "I shall serve you breakfast in bed, Queen Taban." I'll pick up the tray and set it over her lap. It's one of those with legs, so it sits up about level with her pretty little nips. I take the fork and knife and start cutting the waffles into bit-sized pieces. I plan on feeding her.
  • Mei-header


    A girl could get used to this. I fold my hands in my lap, not squirming too much. My, that is a lot of honey.

    I am hungry. Actually.

  • image
    I'm very careful as I feed her. It's more of an act of me giving her full attention and adoration than treating her like a child. It's not a joke to me, not at all. I want her to know how important she is, how special.

    As she is chewing on waffle number two and looking a bit less ravenous, I ask gently, "Taban, do you know how vital you are to me?" I pick up another forkful and offer it to her.
  • Mei-header

    I tilt my head slightly at her words. "Vital." I mull it over as I chew a damn good fresh warm waffle. I offer her a strawberry, considering.

    "I know how much you mean to me, K." I glance away, then back. I push complicated thoughts of Lana and Zoo away, opening my face and heart to Ksenia. I prop my head on both hands. "I draw vitality from your love, but that's not what you mean."
  • image
    I shake my head no, she understands. "I mean. There's a whole lot of my heart wrapped up in you. I know there's Zoo, and you've got your secret admirer. But I wouldn't trade anything for you." I eat the strawberry, chewing on it as I look at her.

    "When they. They had me. I thought you were gone. That I'd die alone." I consider the words as I say them, they're not coming from my head, but somewhere else. "I've faced death a bunch of times. But I've never felt regret. Until then."
  • Mei-header

    Silence hangs between us, comfortably.

    "I think I'd trade you for two of you." I tease. Two Ksenias! I'd be in a state. But I reach out and squeeze her ankle, letting the contact hold for a moment while I'm lost in her eyes. My mind's eye skips ahead, seeing us together in years to come.

    "They prepare you for death in space. It'd be quick, almost over before you know it. No time for regrets or second what-if games." I take a nibble of some kind of cured pork, still warm. I wave two fingers at my temple. "But when I felt you gone, it was different from Gaumata. I knew the worst hadn't happened. I had to find you, and nothing was going to stand in my way." You temper me, Ksenia. You're my forge.
  • image
    If there were two of me, maybe somebody could stitch me into a whole person again.

    "When I... when they tried to make me rat on you. I was ready to die. I wanted it." I reach up with my left hand, run the backs of my fingers against her cheek. "As long as it kept you safe."
  • Mei-header

    I grab her hand, turn my face into it, careful, mindful of her partial finger. Surely Space Corps will replace it, even if Pierre won't. I'll make Brownlee pay for it if I have to. I smell her skin. "I never want to lose you, Ksenia." The steel in my voice softens. "I want to grow old with you."
  • image
    Oh God, please don't ever take this girl from me. Everything melts and my eyes water. I don't even feel the pain in my hand now, it's buzzing from her touch. "Taban," I reply softly, "I think you're already done that special thing." I slip into her arms, hungry for the contact, moving close to nuzzle against her.
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