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JL | Com Ivanova, Cmdr Dahe'el | "Tacitus" Pt1

Posted on 241809.23 @ 08:13 by Commander Almar Dahe'el & Commodore Rochelle Ivanova

Mission: Lacuna

The moments leading up to when Landon had been returned to her burned behind Rochelle's eyelids. Every time she blinked, every time she paused in her climb to wipe sweat or tears from her eyes, it was there. She could hear the music. Taste the lingering bit of her obligatory couple sips of champagne. Smell the hair spray and perfume and food and smoke. Feel the weight of the clothes, the touches of hands… It was torture that left her stumbling over wrong steps and rocks as her path along the ridge was obscured and her methodical concentration lost even though she knew the hike was a tedious, dangerous, and technical one - holodeck or not. Hours had ticked by, each one bringing a new song, a new mask, a new shimmering costume not unlike how the defeated desert sun gave way to new stars rising. People smiled, people talked, people laughed. The anonymity of the costumes allowed friends old and new to search endlessly for those who would hide beneath the veils of makeup and feathers. Some chose holographic images to hide their faces, and others hid behind things as benign and old school as leather.

Rochelle had been one of the latter.

Even with her ornate costume, there was no hiding her identity. Her height, her build, the way she held herself… Even the flash of her throat as she breathed, they all gave her away. They were tattling and pointing her out with big neon flashing lights as she stood on the outskirts of the ballroom. Of course, being dressed as a phoenix wasn't exactly playing peek-a-boo. The elegant movement of her holographic wings, the glitter and feathers, the autumnal copper of her hair – all of it just seemed so quintessential to the call sign the crew had affectionately branded her with. In the end all that mattered was their happiness. That mission had been a success, even if Rochelle herself remained relatively miserable.

Climbing a relatively decent sized rock, she broke from her revere long enough to guide herself to a safe port seeing that the whirlwind of memories was unrelenting, forcing its way through her mind and soul with brute strength. He said he’d started using the moment he’d gotten back to the Vindicator… It was her fault. She’d left him on Notura. She snorted sharply at the thought. NONE of this was her fault, she’d be conned the same way he had - mourned hard for the loss of someone she loved and had robbed from her. Recorded messages. Symbionts cloned and moved from one brother to the next with memories that weren’t supposed to happen. Professions of love, running for life while mortally wounded, the decision to die together rather than abandon one another or let the throng of crazed reticents kill and devour them.

Her eyes squeezed shut, and her fingers coiled tighter around the bottle of tequila she’d tugged along as part of an experiment. She wanted to feel what it was that made the high so alluring - of course she’d been too much of a chicken shit to source his favorite poison… Alcohol was a piss poor substitute and it burned all the way down with every sip. She, a lightweight, was fairly officially shit faced… And she knew it.

Somewhere above, and she refused to look, a lone Harris hawk circled and cried, somehow lending commiseration to her fallen sister sitting, bleary eyed, on the rock escarpment below.

Noah had done an incredible job at putting her together that night, even if the corset had made it so that she was barely able to breathe, much less dance. She’d still managed to find herself doing her fair share of both. Time after time she’d been tugged out onto the dance floor by those who thought they had the skill to waltz.

Oh what a fool she’d been to think that staying away from the smaller areas of more modern entertainment would save her from the dog and pony show these parties had turned into since Landon’s death. Each time a suitor had approached she’d wordlessly nodded in polite respect, slid her hand in theirs, tucked her wings and allowed them to make a mockery of the art. So many had stumbled, had jerked her one way or another, or stepped on her feet. Peep toed heels, she thought in retrospect, had been a bad idea. Not only were they hidden by the billowing nature of her gown, but they exposed her tender tootsies to the cumbersome steps of the tragically disillusioned. At least Archer and Almar had been skilled partners, each whisking her away from the agony of someone who tried their damnedest to dance with the little Captain and had mistaken the waltz as something easily accomplished.

The Cardassian especially had made the evening more than bearable, but even he had disappeared into the crowd in a manner befitting the masked crusader he represented for the night.

All she’d cared about was the inevitable end. The evening had begun to shiver with the anticipation of the promised unveiling of all celebrators at midnight. A glance over at the big grandfather clock near the windows had told her she only had to endure another fifteen minutes of the corset, the shoes, the music and the festivities as a whole. Another fifteen minutes and she could disappear from the holodeck turned old Victorian ballroom, light her candles, and hide in the darkness of what was left of All Hallows’ Eve - and she was determined to spend them simply watching her crew as they laughed and twirled, content to live vicariously through their happiness.

It was in her moment of thought that the next in line to take her hand had stepped from seemingly nowhere to greet her. He moved with confident grace, slowly taking his time to dip in and out of the many dancing crew around them. Draped in a Roman cloak, and scaled in ornate red leather armor, the man was the definite vision of a dragon. Covering his face was a iron-clad mask with only draconic sockets for his steely blue eyes, which locked onto her as he approached. His arms and legs were buckled into layered, sharp, fitted leather plates - dark metallic boots adorned his calves and feet. The only skin visible had been around his eyes - even his mouth was covered by the snout of his mask.

His approach had been slow, respectfully allowing her to see him coming rather than ambushing her the way some had chosen to. Extending his hand as an invitation to dance, the man's words came through in an obviously modulated tone. The smokey, deep breadth of his voice emulated what some might imagine a dragon would sound like -- if they were indeed something real to touch and hear.

"One more, Captain?" He’d asked.

"As you wish." Rochelle tipped her chin once more as she offered a mock curtsy, her eyes never left his. There was something to be said about them, some mystery left worth solving. The others, she'd guessed immediately who they were as all of them had been relatively transparent, though beautifully decorated.

Almar had given her a steady run for her money until he touched her, guiding her with such beautiful care. The dragon, however... His identity eluded her. She'd taken the chance to watch him come near, though she'd admit that his trajectory had been lost in great retrospect to her own thought as she comfortably paid more attention to the details. The shining leather plates, the scales, the boots, the cloak that concealed his neck, but accentuated the broad strength of his shoulders - they'd all caught her attention individually.

And then there was his voice, modified through technology and further stealing from her any chance of identifying him until the big clock chimed midnight. Until then, his eyes would be her only clue and even they held their secrets well.

With a demure little smile, the Phoenix had accepted him further, allowing her small hand to be engulfed by his much larger one, the deep scarlet of her nails disappearing as his gloved fingers closed ever so gently over them and the plot thickened as she allowed him to steal her from her roost.

With her eyes now closed, and senses lost to the the memories spun out on that dance floor, a new song began to play. The Dragon had taken the Phoenix by the hand and allowed her to take her place on the before him. He’d invited her to join him of her own will and time, and only just so. Despite his powerful size and frame, the motion of his hands and feet around her when the song began touched on elegance and timeless practice.

His gentle power.

That was the first thing she’d noticed as she the music began to play and he sent her gliding out in front of him with nothing more than the sighing of her gown. It was masterful, the way he drew her only close enough to make it known she was his for the duration of the song and she let him play her like one of the quartet's fiddles. The stroke of bows across the strings of a cello and violin seemed so sensual as they toyed with her ears and the beating of her heart. Chasing away an ever persistent loose lock of hair, Rochelle allowed her free hand to find the surprisingly warm leather of his shoulder, delicately perching there with precision and care.

"How have you been?" The question was benign enough but held a touch of want, like someone asking with genuine interest.

"Alive." She’d replied coyly, her saucy nature truly pugnacious and full of itself as usual. The question seemed personal, far from formal. It wasn't 'how are you?' or 'how are you feeling tonight?', it was something more with hidden notes of comfort and ease that seemed so foreign for a stranger.

Even the way he’d touched her spoke of some sort of understanding, some sort of tether between the two far greater than just two random people. Albeit with some degree of hesitation, the Phoenix found herself drifting closer to the Dragon that held her in his grasp, the fear of him causing further injury to her toes quickly dissipating and allowing her to move freely as he manipulated her across the marble floor.

"You dance beautifully." She’d commended him, choosing not to fight his lead. To do so would have been a grave mistake and insult to such grace and precision. Even with his great size, especially when compared to how delicate and petite she truly was, he managed to adjust and counter to match and comfort her with every adroit step and every powerful note of the serenade that held them rapt with divinity strewn in spades.

She wouldn't have been able to tell, but beneath his mask a thin smirk appeared.

Her hands had been solid and borderline tense when she'd first taken his. Walking out onto the dance floor, Rochelle was a vision to behold, and her every motion betrayed a woman uncomfortable in the spotlight she created. There was no beacon illuminating her place on the floor, but all the same she stood out from the crowd in a way he knew only she could. Despite knowing she longed to be away from the hustle and bustle of the showy night's event, the petite Captain couldn't help but outshine everyone at the masquerade. It was her gift, and her curse. She politely accepted his offer to dance, but he could feel her resist the bubbling enjoyment everyone else seemed to have. As they danced, though, the muscles relaxed and he was happy to find her easing into the role. He wanted to world to fall away for her, to bring her into a space where nothing mattered but the music and their footfalls.

And it had. Because of him.

She sniffled at the thought, bowing her head - but even then she wasn’t free. His voice, smoky through the modulator, burned through her mind and her lips curled soundlessly around the words.

"I can't take credit for my practice. But I know a thing or two. Something about everyone wearing masks, though. Did you pick yours?"

"I see." She’d nodded, "I wasn't given much choice. Cthulhu's brother begged to dress me for the party and to be honest..." Her teeth found the fullness of her lower lip, holding it between them as she shook her head. Admitting she wasn't planning on attending the party to a crewmember, especially one she couldn't quite place, would be in poor form. "I couldn't have done better myself." Instead she offered, with a smile.

Cthulhu… Amelia Pond Waterhouse. It had been a fitting disguise for her first officer, and her brother had been the artist responsible for the essence of the Phoenix on display.

The ensuing crescendo had then taken a more mellow turn, fading to build up to a grander bar. They ended up slowly moving together, closing the distance between them. "It looks... very you." His words held soft hints of admiration, "And the evening seems to have brought delectation to your guests, a success, I'd have to say." He played into the period piece that made up the ball, wink had signaled his jokingly thoughtful compliment.

She’d thought him… Well… Dorky.

Something hadn't quite fit. It wasn't necessarily that it was amiss, but it hadn't fit. "Thank you," She’d responded to his teasing compliment, her eyes quickly darting to catch sight of those she'd already labeled. "I aim to please my crew."

Almar was standing poised and protective somewhere along the back wall and his eyes were dark, almost obsidian.

Logan was dancing and whispering sweet nothings into his wife's ear some twenty feet away.

Archer had come and gone and stood chatting up some pretty young thing.

Tristan wasn't quite tall or broad enough, Noah was too tall and Malone had been shipped off to the Gamma quadrant. Plus his eyes were brown, or were they blue? It didn't matter, she hadn't cared paid enough to pay attention. Rochelle's list was growing smaller, whittling down to nothingness as she worked to try to figure out who hid behind the mask she ran her studious gaze over.

(To Be Continued...)

Commodore Rochelle Ivanova
Commanding Officer
USS Vindicator, NX-78213-F


Commander Almar Dahe'el
Executive Officer
USS Vindicator, NX-78213-F


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