The dark room resounded with heavy breathing and passionate sounds. Discarded clothes littered the floor. A blue dress uniform spread out alongside a dress leading toward the bedroom.
Captain Mikhail Breshnev and Marshal Erin Rommella had barely made it to Rommella's suite before they began to start undressing each other. Their lips had explored each other's exposed skin as each article of clothing had been shed.
They may have been over forty, but they put even young couples to shame with their physicality. Rommella had known Mikhail for over twenty years, and he never seemed to lose his edge. She feared that Mikhail would one day lose interest in her for another, younger woman, but he always assured her that there was always a special place in his heart for her.
In the hours that had passed since they had left the ball, Mikhail had proven that he hadn't lost a step. His body was just as strong, his passion just as hot. It was as if he hadn't aged a day.
Rommella now lay in his powerful arms, savoring their closeness. They had finished their first round of love making with both of them having received physical gratification. Their naked bodies were hot beneath the sheets and bedspread.
The Karlic woman noticed that Mikhail had been much quieter tonight than he had been on previous occasion. He seemed distracted in comparison to other nights over the years.
"Something on your mind, darling?" Rommella placed gentle kisses on his arms.
"Just you, Erin." Mikhail whispered in her ear.
"In all the years we've seen each other you've never been so quiet." Rommella closed her eyes.
"Must be part of that 'getting old' thing people keep talking about." Mikhail smiled.
"Please, dear. There isn't a single thing about you indicative of your age." Rommella ran her fingertips up and down Mikhail's forearm.
"I can say the same about you. Seems like you've found the fountain of youth." Mikhail's chin brushed against Rommella's shoulder.
"I've been lucky. Father Time saw fit to forget my address for a bit." Rommella laughed lightly. "Perhaps you've got more pressing matters on your mind?"
"Psshh. I'm not smart enough to multitask." Mikhail said with an underlying sense of sarcasm.
"Maybe you're thinking about that Liberion Captain again." Rommella teased.
"I'm a hot blooded man. I focus on the woman in front of me." Mikhail kissed her neck multiple times.
"Of course, dear." Rommella felt Mikhail's muscular chest against her back, enveloping her. "Maybe something to do with Chiron? Or Dimitri?"
"Who's thinking about someone else now?" Mikhail taunted, though he was merely playing. "I guess you have a thing for Orussian men. You've even got Levos as your little butler."
"You're quite funny, Mikhail." Rommella turned around in his arms and looked into his normally cold eyes. "But none of them can compare to White Wash."
"Good." Mikhail kissed her.
"Are you threatened by my inquiries into your former unit and its actions?" Rommella said once their lips ceased moving.
Mikhail said nothing at first, his eyes betraying none of the hesitation he had in his mind. Mikhail was privy to more information than anyone realized. An immediate response would give Rommella more information than a more thought out answer. Even if the answer were the same, the manner in which it was delivered also impacted the way it was received.
"I wouldn't say it was a feeling of being threatened. I just don't think that there's really any need to try and dig past what's already been exposed. You already know things without having to ask anyone. You've gotten the report. I've let things slip. Levos works with you. You don't need anything else from anyone of us to pursue this further. You could act on it right now. You could reveal what we've tried to keep hidden for years if you really wanted to." Mikhail's voice carried a genuine honesty in its tone. His eyes took on an unfamiliar calculating gleam. "But what if he is exactly what we need to win this war?"
"That's a really big gamble, Mikhail. Are you willing to risk your own life on the assumption you can keep him under control? I remember in Marseille's report that he was completely berserk." Rommella's strategic side surfaced. "And I don't have enough information from the defense of Berlin five years ago to assess any growth of self-control."
"The Desert Eagle's talons are sharp. You think of everything, don't you?" Mikhail raised his eyebrows. "Let me just tell you this. He was completely rogue in Berlin. He was much more focused in Ostmark. He destroyed the Neuroi before he ever directed his attention elsewhere."
"Perhaps it was a stroke of luck. He could have just targeted them on a whim, or because they might have been the largest threat to him. There are several different possibilities to explain it." Rommella reasoned.
"I've known Dimitri for years. That mind of his has been fashioned in a very professional manner. I guarantee you that he knows what he is doing. Would he have been completely berserk like in Berlin, those witches would not have been able to bring him down."
"…alright, Mikhail. I'm placing my trust in you. But that does not extend to Chiron and Dimitri. Dimitri seems like a good kid, but I haven't seen enough. You've never just straight up lied to me, so I'm placing my complete trust in you, and you alone." Rommella was giving Mikhail something she had never been able to give to another person before. "I will postpone any further action concerning the matter for now… But if any one of the witches in your unit, or any other unit, is hurt because of anything he does, I'll have to say something…"
"Of course. And thank you, Erin." Mikhail said with finality. He smiled warmly, not letting the wave of relief he felt to show through on his face. "What do you wish to do now?"
"I think White Wash needs to live up to his name." Rommella put her hand on the side of Mikhail's muscular neck as she pulled him into a deep kiss.
"Like I've always said… Gotta keep em comin back for more." Mikhail smiled as he began moving down Rommella's body.
Lieutenant Perrine Closterman sat in a chair facing the long window in the room. Francesca was already snoring as she slept on one of the beds in the room. The nurses allowed them as part of General Hatake's unit to stay in empty rooms on his floor. Charlotte was supposed to join them sometime later.
Perrine's mind was on Major Sakamoto. She knew that she had left the ball with Colonel Wilcke so she expected the worst in that regard. She really wished that she could have had the Major all to herself, but she had gradually been coming to the assumption that it was a lost cause. Francesca had told her that she should have seen it coming.
"You alright, Perrine?" Perrine was caught by surprise as she heard Erica's voice in the doorway.
"Of course. What are you doing here? I figured you'd be all over the General." Perrine's glasses fell slightly on the bridge of her nose.
"Trust me, I'd be trying my best. Things just happened to not go the way I wanted." Erica held up her hands. "And now I'm dealing with a drunk Hanna."
"Oh… I'm sorry." Perrine understood her plight. Captain Marseille was a hand full when she was sober. No telling what it was like when she was drunk.
"Frau…" Hanna walked from Gertrude and Dimitri's room next door and put her arms over Erica's shoulders.
"Hush, Hanna. I'm talking to Perrine." Erica reached over her head and pat Hanna's head like a dog. Hanna nodded and rest her chin on Erica's shoulder. Erica could smell the strong alcohol in her breath. "Jesus, how much did you drink? Your breath smells like rubbing alcohol and charcoal…"
"I only had like… six…" Hanna mumbled.
"Six what? Gallons?" Erica nudged Hanna's temple with her forehead.
"Shhh. Let's go lay down, Frau." Hanna put her arms around Erica's waist and tried to drunkenly pull her back to the other room.
"You need to go lay down." Erica only shifted her weight a bit, not even moving her feet, causing Hanna to lose hold on Erica's waist and tumble to the floor alone. "Colonel Levos had to have carried you up the stairs. I don't see you making it up the first step alone."
"You're so mean, Frau…" Hanna whined from her position on the floor.
"You're the one that's mean. You ruined the moment I had with Demi!" Erica flailed her arms in the air and mimicked a strangling motion.
"He's just trying to seduce you!" Hanna sputtered.
"If anything, I was the one attempting seduction." Erica huffed as she crossed her arms.
"Don't fall for his clever schemes, Frau. You're better than that." Hanna finally got back to her feet.
"Sounds like there's a lot going on in ya'll's world there." Perrine couldn't help but laugh. "Also seems like no one understands anything. You might want to take her out of here. Might wake up Francesca."
"You're forgetting that she naps in the repair and testing deck all day. I highly doubt anything short of Armageddon is going to wake her up." Erica held Hanna at bay with one finger.
"That's about right." Charlotte snuck up behind Hanna and Erica as they stood in the doorway.
"Welcome back, Shirley. Wanna take this drunk off my hands?" Erica motioned to Hanna, who slurred her attempt to deny Erica's claim.
"Nope. I'm good." Charlotte smiled as she sidled by them to get into the room. She pulled back the covers on the bed Francesca was already asleep in.
"Wait. You hung around til the end, didn't you?" Erica inquired.
"Yup." Charlotte left her heels on the floor as she slid into bed next to her Romagnian squad mate.
"So then you kept an eye on Demi?" Erica stepped closer to the bed. She put her hands over Hanna's mouth as she tried to speak.
"I guess so. Me and Sanya made sure him and Waltrud got their dance." Charlotte nodded.
"How did it go?" Erica held out hope that she still had a chance with the General.
"I'm not really sure. They danced and I could see lips moving even while they were dishin' out some serious moves. No tellin what they might have been talkin about." Charlotte said quietly as she lay next to her longtime friend. Francesca rolled over, feeling Charlotte's motherly body next to her, cuddling up to her. "Got kinda quiet at the end. Thought something might have been wrong."
"…and?" Erica gripped the bedrail with the hand not covering Hanna's mouth. Charlotte put a finger up to tell her to be quiet. "You just agreed nothing would wake her up! Finish!"
"Calm down, Erica." Charlotte stuck out her tongue, enjoying giving the Karlic Lieutenant a hard time. "Sanya finished her amazing piece of music, I dimmed the lights as almost everyone had left by then…"
Charlotte smiled, her pause intentional. She could see the expressions around the room, and they were all seemingly interested.
"And then… and then… I think I stroked off there for a minute. I don't remember what happened after that." Charlotte grinned extra wide.
"…if there was a table in front of me… I would flip it so hard, so many times…" Erica couldn't believe how cruel Charlotte was being.
"What the fuck is she telling you in here?" Erica heard Waltrud's voice. She spun around, knocking Hanna backward into Waltrud's capable arms. "Ooooh. Drunk girl, for me?"
"You can do whatever you want with her." Erica smiled as she saw Hanna's face twist in fear of what Waltrud might do to her. "Where's the General?"
"I figured that would be the first thing you would ask, Hartmann." Waltrud set Hanna in a chair. "I honestly don't know. We had our dance, thanks to Captain Yeager and Lieutenant Litvyak, and then Dimitri dropped me off here. He said he needed time to prepare for the conference tomorrow…"
"Oh…" Erica didn't know what else to say as she saw the vacant look in Waltrud's eyes. "So where did Sanya and Eila end up?"
"I think Dimitri asked Colonel Levos to take them back to the Mirage before he came back to pick up Marseille." Waltrud pointed her thumb at Hanna. Before anyone could say anything else, Waltrud moved back to the door. "I'm bunkin' in Demi's bed while he's out. Kinda tired. Need to get me some sleep. Night ya'll."
"Hey wait!" Erica held up her hand to try and stop the long legged Captain.
"Unless you're offerin' to join me, I'm gonna call it a night, alright, Hartmann?" Waltrud didn't look back as she walked out and stepped into the room next door.
"Umm… anyone else sense a bit of hurt in her voice?" Perrine spoke up quietly.
The Next Morning…
It had been a long night for General Hatake as he had sat at his desk aboard the Mirage in complete darkness and silence. The immaculate room was a stark contrast to the battle that had raged throughout his mind during the night. His dress uniform jacket was lying on his bed, the sunglasses tucked in the breast pocket.
Dimitri's eyes had flickered between emerald and crimson hues for hours. Though his eyes were looking down at documents in front of him, their focus was much deeper, as if peering into the waters below the ship.
He didn't know what he was supposed to do now. He knew what he was expected to do, supposed to do. But he wasn't quite sure what he wanted to do. His duty and obligation to the AF and FC Anderson were always first in his mind, but the rest was up in the air.
It was so clear to him, the memories of Creina and Waltrud. Every smile, every laugh, every single thing up until whatever happened five years ago. He loved them both more than he could put into words, and yet he didn't know what to do. He tried to come up with the right words, but the other side of his mind didn't even have to interfere to cause him duress.
The clock began to chime that it was six in the morning. He expected everyone else to be in their beds trying to sleep off the night before. He had heard Colonel Wilcke and Major Sakamoto in one of the bedrooms on his way in. He also had heard Sergeant Bishop and Sergeant Miyafuji in a room closer to his own. He didn't even have to hear Lieutenant Litvyak or Lieutenant Juutilainen to know they were also aboard.
They deserved the rest, though he was amused at the thought that they probably weren't 'resting' in the conventional manner. But they had earned it nonetheless. He also knew they were going to need the rest for upcoming ventures being formulated by the AF brass.
As he stood up sluggishly, he could feel the other presence stirring from its temporary slumber. He had fended it off several times throughout the night, but he didn't feel up to silencing it at the moment.
Another night without sleep, eh? The hiss was low, as if testing the waters.
Dimitri moved to the bathroom, his thoughts nearly non-existent for once. He ran some water from the faucet and began splashing his face with cold water.
How many times are you going to keep doing this?
There is no rest for the wicked. Dimitri managed to broadcast through every inch of his mind. The other presence receded slightly. He turned off the water and dried his face with a towel.
I do believe it would have been better for you if you had brought her with you.It began to pick at him, targeting a very sore subject at the moment. Dimitri could swear that it was licking its lips at the chance to break him down.
Enough. You're never getting released unto this world again. I'd rather die many painful deaths before you get the chance to kill any more witches. Dimitri looked at himself in the mirror with disgust.
Here you go again, trying to blame me for your own past actions. It seems like I remind you on a daily basis of one small piece of information… We are the same person. You won't accept it, but we, as one, are General Dimitri Hatake, the infamous 'Orussian Ghost.'
No. No… no longer am I the 'Orussian Ghost.' Dimitri stepped back into his room and began dressing in his normal uniform.
Time will tell, won't it? The presence laughed quietly.
Dimitri felt relief as the crimson drained from his eyes, signaling the withdrawal of the demonic presence. He slipped on his undershirt and pulled his long silver hair out of the way. He could still feel Waltrud's hands on his chest as if they were still there. He knew that he had handled the situation incorrectly, but he didn't really know what he would do about it. He finished dressing and stepped out of his room quietly.
He checked each door as he walked down the hallway. He could hear deep breathing in three rooms, confirming his previous count. He nodded to himself and allowed himself a very light smile. He stepped onto the lift and proceeded to ascend to the bridge level. He had a feeling that FC Anderson would already be in his office.
Dimitri exited the lift after reaching his destination. He could see out across the still dark harbor as the Mirage peacefully rested in the frigid waters of Copenhagen in winter. The temperature had plummeted and the snow had thickened. The carrier now had a clean, unsoiled blanket covering its deck. Lights across the deck and on the dock set the snow aglow as it reflected the illumination.
The snow… remember Imatra? The other presence in his mind returned, seemingly intent on steering the thoughts he was having about Creina and Waltrud down darker avenues. It was snowing like this. It was beautiful… seeing the blood coat the snow. The snow dyed crimson by your blind hate and constant need to avenge someone you don't even remember.
I've already accepted the sins of my past actions. I don't need to be reminded of any particular deed. Dimitri closed his eyes, still able to see the light reflecting off of the snow's surface.
Don't you think you've been cruel enough to Waltrud? You killed her mother. You fell in love with her sister. Then you can't explain to her what happened to her sister five years ago. You come back into her life and the first thing she sees is the side of you that killed her mother. She tries to express her feelings for you, and you don't give her an answer. The demon hissed, taking pleasure in Dimitri's distress. You just kissed her on the forehead and said 'I need to find out what's in the rest of my heart before I can answer that.' You're more dangerous than you think.
God damn it, just shut up! If you're not going to ever answer my questions, then keep quiet! Dimitri knew the voice was right. He couldn't believe that he had been so cruel to one of the most important people in his life. But he didn't feel he could return her feelings until he figured out what happened to Creina. …I don't know if I was responsible or not…
"General?" Dimitri snapped back to awareness upon hearing his mentor's unmistakable voice. His eyes were moving back and forth between red and green uncontrollably. He kept his eyes averted from his superior.
"Yes, sir?" Dimitri did his best to respond appropriately in a level voice.
"Are you alright?" Chiron stepped out of his office. He moved to the edge of the bridge where Dimitri had been looking out.
"Of course, sir. Just a wild night, I'm afraid." Dimitri managed to get his eyes under control and forced a smile upon his face. He turned toward the Fleet Commander and saluted.
"I understand. And I keep telling you there's no need to salute when it's just the two of us." Chiron returned a slight smile."
"Yes, sir." Dimitri dropped his right hand. "I came up to see if there were any necessary preparations I should make before the conference this afternoon?"
"Well, none that I can really think of, Dimitri. You already know what our agenda is, and how things should be handled. Just remember what I said about our reports. We must ensure that they all mesh. We don't need any more suspicion. Rommella is one thing, we can't really afford any of the others to throw their suspicions in as well." Chiron shook his head, Dimitri able to read the man's thoughts as if they were on his sleeve. "Just take the morning to relax and prepare for the heavy scrutiny we face this afternoon."
"Yes, sir. Thank you." Dimitri could feel Chiron's apprehension though his cool façade still stood strong. He knew that Chiron would wish to be alone, so he began to return to the lift.
"Dimitri…" Chiron started, causing Dimitri to pause. After a few seconds of silence, he spoke again. "Please be careful… Do your best to get that under control, alright?"
"…I will do my best, sir…" Dimitri felt guilty as he replied. Chiron nodded and then returned to his office.
Dimitri rode the lift down to his unit's level and strode quietly back to his room. The walk back seemed like it took an ungodly long time. Though the other presence was silent, he felt as if he were in a haze in which he could lose control at any moment. He managed to step into his room without incident.
His vision started to blur as if he was moving too fast. He began to feel vertigo as he weakly closed the door. He struggled to sit down in his chair. He could feel the other presence gradually returning to his mind.
You're weakening. You're too unstable right now. Your mind is too preoccupied with meaningless things that you're resorting to your most basic nature. And that is where we are at our best.
"God… damn it…" Dimitri felt as if he was about to vomit. He knew this feeling all too well. He used to feel it when he would embrace his bloodlust and witch hunting abilities. He had been used to it in the past, but right now it was hitting him like a freight train. He couldn't recall a time it had felt this strong.
I'm afraid that Chiron has always been right in keeping you away from things that might confuse or upset you. It's not in our best interest to dwell too much upon things, we are of ACTION! We are here to eliminate, exterminate, eradicate! And you are losing sight of the goal we have had for so long. The other presence resounded with authority, feeling another opportunity to attain free reign. Dimitri was losing his grip on reality, feeling that dreaded feeling of being a mere spectator in his own life.