AN: Look! Not Dead! Isn't it a miracle? So, kkolmakov and I had been sitting on this one for a little bit. We've only the last chapter to wrap up, and I'll be posting this every Sunday afternoon. Each chapter is a joint effort. I'll let you guess which characters kkolmakov wrote, and which ones I wrote. Enjoy!
SS Erebor is currently in orbit around Dathin, the second planet of the red giant Gerida Three, in order to provide a neutral platform for peace talks between the two sentient species, inhabiting the planet, who have found themselves in a centuries long war.
This war, from what little Starfleet has gathered, started three centuries ago, when both races were on a much less advanced stage of technological development, and was caused by the races' inability to find a diplomatic solution to the tension around shared resources of the planet. The two races, Phoebians and Eddalar, are both felinoid. The Phoebians are diurnal, while the Eddalar lead a nocturnal life. The royal heirs of both sides have agreed to act as ambassadors in the negotiations, and it is Starfleet's hope that by putting a face on the other race will help the two arrive at a peaceful resolution of the conflict.
Captain Thorington, SS Erebor stood in the transporter room, in the company of his Klingon security officer, Dwal of the House Fund, waiting for the delegation of the Pheobians.
"It's going to be good to see the boy again," Dwal growled, and Thorington nodded.
Prince P-Helium of House Adonar, who had served on Erebor for thirty six months five years ago as part of the growing cooperation between Starfleet and the Phoebians of the planet Dathin, had been an excellent officer. Thorington had enjoyed having the young man on his bridge, but like no other he understood duty. The Prince had to return to his planet then, to assist his father in ruling his people. Thorington felt it was only fortunate that P-Helium had been influenced by his experience in the Starfleet to initiate the negotiations between the two races of his home planet. The three century long military conflict was draining the resources of both sides.
Engineer Norison energized the transporter, and Thorington saw the familiar form of the golden maned Prince. He was accompanied by two older Pheobians.
The three visitors stepped down from the transporter, and Thorington stepped forward, without stretching his hand. He remembered how little Phoebians were prone to physical contact. Their skin was photosynthetic, and centuries ago the race had developed a set of strict cultural norms precluding them from proximity and consequently throwing shadow on each other. In the last five centuries their technological advancement made tissue photosynthesis redundant, but Phoebians remained rigid in their customs.
"No shade upon your face!" Thorington pronounced traditional Phoebian greeting, and a wide sincere smile coloured the face of the Prince.
"Long may the light grace you!" he answered, and then stretched his hand to the Captain. Thorington shook it, trying to convey how much he appreciated the young man's trust.
The bright blue eyes of the Prince shifted onto the Chief of Security.
"Lieutenant Dwal," he pronounced respectfully, bowing his golden head low. The thick glowing mane wavered, and the braided moustache with ornate beads shook.
"Your Highness," Dwal rumbled in return. As different as the races were, the two officers had enjoyed cordial camaraderie, secured through many hours of vigorous sparring with battle staffs both were very proficient with.
"My Uncles, Hydrosius and Nitros," the Prince introduced the two older Phoebians, and decorous bows were exchanged.
"Allow Lieutenant Dorison to accompany you to your rooms," Thorington offered, pointing at the officer, and the guests followed the man to Deck 12, to the best lit rooms on the ship.
Once the door closed behind them, Thorington asked Norison to dim the lights in the transporter room. It was time to greet the delegation of the second race of Dathin.
The transporter lit up, and four dark silhouettes were seen on the pad. Three were consistent with Thorington's expectations: they were shorter that Phoebians, long tails, cat like ears, with fluffy tussels. Two were female, and Thorington pushed the inappropriate male appreciation for the curves of the delegates to the back of his mind. The females of the Eddalar were known for their sensual appeal, with their soft purple fur, with dark green stripes, and full, agile bodies. The third Eddalar was male, bulbous, and decorated with voluminous mane. The fourth person on the transporter pad was a female Vulcan.
And interestingly enough, she also happened to be Captain Thorington's ex wife.
Berylium took a long look around the transporter room. There was a large scary looking fellow, and a nicer looking fellow - just as tall and broad, but not quite as frowny - with friendly eyes. Target acquired. Pounce initiated.
"Hiyas!" And she was wrapped around the tall fellow in a bone bending hug, and suddenly she's on a human male mattress. It was nicely muscley and comfy and warm.
He smelled nice, she nuzzled closer for a better sniff.
"Ooooooh, I approve. He smells very nice, Ambassador W'Ren." Berylium turned to face her companion who had her head slightly cocked and an eyebrow raised in faint curiosity. Apparently, the traditional greetings were not the norm for SS Erebor.
"I have to concur, Your Highness." Berylium's ears twitched at the lilting cadence of the Vulcan's voice. She even had the appropriate ears. If only she were a little furrier, she'd invite her to the next Moonsinging. "I have always found Captain Thorington's smell most pleasing."
"Ooooh! Confidant W'Ren, is this is our dashing Captain? Would they host a Springsinging, do you think? There's not nearly enough young Eddalar men for the women this year." Her voice was a bit wistful as she addressed Ambassador W'Ren. Her query was interrupted by the most polite of coughs, and her mattress bounced along slightly.
The scary one was making funny sounds now behind her too. Maybe he wasn't so scary, maybe he just had a bad case of wrinkled forehead.
"I suggest you release Captain Thorington, Your Highness," the Ambassador pronounced in an unemotional voice. "And..." She turned to the wrinkly forehead fellow. "Dwal, qaleghqa'mo' jIQuch!" Funny throaty sounds were probably the forehead fellow's equivalent of 'hello.' No answer followed, just a glare. Now why was the recently snorting scary one now glaring daggers at the Confidant? Did they not do hello's on his world?
"Oh, certainly, would you like a hand up?" Well, it took two, actually, and thank the Twin Moons she had a low center of gravity, or the good captain might have gone back to the floor. His face was extremely pleasant. There was laughter in the bright blues, and a brow raised. It must be something Starfleet taught their recruits, because it was an almost constant expression on the Confidant's triangle face.
"Ooooh, you have fur!" Her fingers stroked the neatly groomed beard, but she sighed sadly. "You are not conditioning it well. It feels so coarse. I will send you some from my personal stores. It'll help, Princess' promise." Berylium patted the tall shoulder in front of her in sympathy. He needed a wife. Maybe W'Ren could be convinced to take him back.
"Your Highness, welcome to SS Erebor." The Captain sounded very nice. Not as growly and rumbly as Berylium liked them, but very velvety indeed. "Allow me to introduce to you my Chief of Security, Dwal, and engineer Norison by the transporter panel."
Berylium noticed the scary one nod at the name 'Dwal' and the engineer wave enthusiastically from behind the transporter panel at 'Norison,' which reminded her she had some introductions of her own to do.
"Oh, very pleased to meet you all. May I introduce my sister, Princess Delyrium, and my Uncle Strontium?" As Berylium gestured to each of her family members, they made elaborate bows. "And I believe you are familiar with Ambassador and Princess' Confidant W'Ren of Vulcan?"
For the first time, the Captain's gaze fell upon his once wife, and Berylium knew a gonner when she saw one. This would be almost too easy. She'd still meddle, of course, may she lose her stripes forever if she didn't.
She turned around to consider her Confidant, and the most adorable green blush was traveling neck to eartips, and the ginger fringe set it off divinely. Yep, hardly any challenge at all, but she was still going to have fun getting the two together. They were too adorable not to be a couple.
"Captain." The tone was even but the colour was betraying the stoic Vulcan.
"Ambassador." The voice was even raspier than usual, almost hitting Eddalar range, and she noticed his throat bob? It moved quickly up and down. It brought attention to the long line and sheer breadth of that nice smelling neck. The Princess' eyes cut to her Confidant. Her blush was brighter than ever. Apparently she noticed it, too. This would definitely be a hunt that ended well.
W'Ren stood in a lift with Princess Berylium. They were on their way to the first, preliminary meeting with the Phoebian delegation. It was decided that it was to take place between the Prince and the Princess only, as each of them was the initiator of the peace process on their side.
W'Ren was going through the main points in her mind, when the Princess moved closer to her, and pressed her soft shoulder to W'Ren's.
"Confidant?" The Vulcan turned her head, and met the Eddalar's large expressive eyes. The tone was uncertain, which told W'Ren that, unfortunately, the topic of the impending conversation had little to do with the planet's peace initiative.
"Yes, Your Highness?"
"Thorington is tall, strong, handsome, and he smells good. How did you two meet?"
"I do not see how the discussion of my former relationship with Captain Thorington is relevant to the current circumstances, Your Highness." W'Ren studied the face of the Princess, trying to determine her state.
"There is a reason, and it is one you'd approve. Please indulge me, Confidant?"
In the two months preceding the beginning of the negotiation Princess Berylium had shown sound judgement and admirable leadership skills, given, masked under unrestrained, overemotional outward behaviour. W'Ren decided leading this conversation could help the Eddalar feel more at ease. In a more balanced state, the female would contribute to the negotiations more efficiently.
"Captain Thorington and I met in the Academy. I was his instructor of the Interspecies Protocol Course. Due to the difference in our life expectancy, eight years after his graduation we could be considered equally mature, and he started his courtship."
"What was the courtship like? You were married, surely you fell in love, at least a little? Why did you have to leave?" The questions followed one after another, and W'Ren pondered possible answers. She could see the Eddalar thought of marriage in different terms, and delegating the truth was presenting itself challenging.
"Captain Thorington and I were..." Suddenly, W'Ren could not find words. More so, she felt the tips of her ear burn. That was the physiological response she was unfortunately incapable of controlling. "We were a successful couple. We were compatible." W'Ren ignored the small smile hiding in the corners of the Princess' lips. Apparently, W'Ren's blush was noticed. And indubitably, interpreted in an erroneous way. She was in no way affected by this discussion. The blush was accidental.
The Vulcan cleared her throat.
"After several years of marriage, I found us… incompatible emotionally. I left."
The arms of the Eddalar wrapped around W'Ren's shoulders, and the soft nose pressed to her neck.
"I'm so sorry, Confidant. It hurt, didn't?"
"It was only logical..." W'Ren started, only to be shushed by the Princess.
"Oh, quiet you, Confidant. You miss him, I can see. You look sad."
"I look exactly as always. Vulcans do not express emotions..." W'Ren stoically tolerated the embrace, but she felt she needed to point out the mistake in the Princess' observations.
"Oh, you don't have to keep the brave face with me. Your ears are green, and I can see it in the eyes. We see the smallest things, Confidant. We live in the comfort of the dark, remember? So, tell me, Ambassador, when you knew you'd see him, were you scared?"
"I was not scared. I do not perceive Captain Thorington as a threat." W'Ren pointedly kept her tone even.
"Not even a tinsy bit? So you weren't upset when you saw him? Nothing stirred? C'mon, Confidant, Vulcans don't lie." The wide open golden coloured eyes, with large pupils, lights of the lift reflected in them, were right in front of W'Ren's face.
"I knew it would be hard," W'Ren whispered, and felt her cheeks burn now as well. "There are… sensations that are amiss in my life now that he is… absent." W'Ren felt the familiar increase in heart rate, and she habitually pressed her palm over her heart, below the ribs. She knew, of course, the words were nothing but a metaphor, but there was a feeling of a void under her hand. "What does my… discomfort have to do with today, Your Highness?"
"How did you find the courage to do what needed doing, even facing your worst fears? I need that now." The long fluffy lashes trembled, while small strong hands were clutching W'Ren's elbow, cutting out the blood circulation. The Eddalar needed to be calmed down.
"What fears would that be, Your Highness?" Facing her pon farr alone again was W'Ren's biggest fear, but surely, it had nothing to do with the situation at hand. The Vulcan carefully suppressed the memories of two years ago, of the pain, and the despair, in the silence of her new home, the one she had built for herself after she had left taluhk John. No, not taluhk John anymore. Captain Thorington.
"You left your mate, but found the courage to face him again, how?"
"I meditated, and reminded myself of all the reasons that led to my current position. Logical consideration is always the shortest path to acceptance," W'Ren spoke slowly, and the psychosomatic symptoms - constricted throat, chest tightness, and light tremour in the right hand - had eased. "What logical consideration can you apply to your preoccupation, Your Highness?"
"Long have our two peoples fought, but never face to face. They are the boogeymen, the scary stories to make younglings behave, the only proof to the defilers and killers the armor brought home as trophies hung over the hearth to prove one more nightmare had ended. Now I must walk in there and face the stuff of centuries worth of nightmares, and wrangle a peace that would allow my people to survive." Emotions splashed in the eyes of the Princess, and W'Ren considered the words.
"As you have just pointed out, Your Highness, you know nothing of the people of the floating cities. Your races had no direct contact, and whatever perception of the other had been formed needs to be abandoned at this stage. Only unemotional, sound judgement and openness will benefit these negotiations."
"Not knowing them makes them only scarier. How do I face what I have only seen labours of? The destruction, the deaths, the broken families?!" The Princess moved closer, and at that moment the lift arrived to Deck 7, and the doors opened, making her halt her words.
Captain Thorington stepped in and then lifted his eyes.
"Your highness. Ambassador."
W'Ren's sensitive ears caught the slight irregularity in his breathing. The skills of observing and evaluating him had returned with unexpected speed. Her eyes quickly ran him over, noting the two inch increase in hair length, doubled volume of grey hair on his temples, and additional stone of weight in comparison to their last encounter five years ago.
He slightly bowed to the Princess.
"I hope you'll be pleased with the room we have chosen for this meeting, Your Highness. It has a moveable shield over the glass roof, and we're hoping both sides will find comfort in it."
"Oh, you are a darling!" The Princess proceeded in her usual manner and embraced the Captain. W'Ren suppressed the memories of how it felt to be in this very position. The Eddalar was only two point three inches shorter than her. The location of the arms was almost identical. Given, W'Ren had never made him stumble backwards from the force of the embrace. Except the three times when she would surprise him with embrace, and the seven times during intimacy, her mind corrected her evaluation. W'Ren made a mental note to spend additional hour in meditation in the evening.
"Your consideration and help is truly appreciated, Captain. Thank you, from myself and my people." A deep inhale and a quick sideglance from the Princess prepared W'ren for the next remark. "No wonder the Confidant suggested you! She simply could not stop talking about you!"
"That is an exaggeration," W'Ren felt necessary to point out.
Thorington, still in tight embrace of the Princess, her cheek pressed to his chest, exactly between the pectoral muscles, gave out a small chuckle. W'Ren could never understand his sense of humour.
"I reckon. I'm sure you've only mentioned me twice a day." The familiar expression of smile hiding in his eyes made W'Ren frown. She could not understand his previous remark.
The Princess stepped back from him, and smoothed down the embroidered bodice of her layered lilac dress.
"Well, we are ready. Are you?" she asked, and W'Ren was shocked to realise she had just regressed to the habits of five years ago. Since she didn't understand the apparent joke, her eyes flew to Thorington, in search of explanation and guidance, as they always had when humour or social intricacies were escaping her.
Judging by dilated pupils and a shallow inhale, he had noticed her inappropriate behaviour as well.
And that was when the blast of the explosion shook the lift, and the world grew dark.