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JL | Com Ivanova, Cmdr Dahe'el | "Tacitus" Pt2

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

Mission: Lacuna

The part that would have troubled her most, if she'd been given a second to fall back into such a thought pattern, was the fact that she found herself closer to him with each passing note and each coordinated step. No one would swoop in to rescue her, she wasn't struggling to keep her feet out from under his or in threat of sustaining further whiplash due to poor handling. The Dragon held her carefully, steadily claiming territory as she continued to relinquish it. With the occasional tentative whisper of fabric against leather, the bright red of his scales began to beckon the fire and shine of her jeweled bodice, calling it closer and begging it home. Her hand had already fallen to his collarbone, lured there by some sense of security and likely misplaced familiarity that lead to further synchronicity as the tempo picked up and the veil of Captain fell away to leave the fire kissed woman to shine in his hands.

Rochelle's head tilted to the sound of his whisper - something about masks that drew her attention back to the Dragon's riveting blue eyes.

She knew them, she'd decided, just simply couldn't name them. "I'll have to wait until midnight to see if I can say the same about yours." The Phoenix teased in response, keen to see if she'd be given a clue, a hint, something that would explain why she simply hadn't excused herself from him for some made up duty she needed to attend to.

The soft brush of his knee against her outer thigh and the gentle pressure of his guiding hand quickly dashed all want or need for escape. She was caught, held by the mystery and genuinely smiling at the irony that she, of all people, had been sucked into the trope behind a masquerade.

He’d chuckled a little, unable to keep up any sense of the fiction he may have projected through his intricate costume. After all, they had the same artisan crafting their illusions. Noah had done him well.

The Dragon's hand had traced the lengths of fabric that spanned from her bodice to shoulder blade and continued down, coming to a rest at the small of her back. A few sleek inlaid strands of delicate fabric created a roost for the small holographic generator that projected her wings and gave him the perfect place to hold her.

Didn’t matter what he’d found.

The fluid cool of his eyes never left hers.

It was so effortless, falling into the motions with the Phoenix in his arms. He could feel her slim figure gliding among the threads of her gown as it began to wisp around him. The tempo was rising now, and the music seemed to fill whatever thin void was left separating them. Her hands held onto him with trust and care, allowing him to guide her. Holding the weight of her as she dipped and moved felt as natural as anything. It was an immeasurable sense of right, all the while knowing there was nowhere else he would rather be in the entire span of time and space.

Or so it had seemed.

The rest of the crew had slowly given space to the pair. Most of the remaining masked crew on the floor were content to recede away at least a few meters toward sidelines, allowing for the entranced Phoenix and her Dragon. They were locked onto one another; the only two in the galaxy.

Not a word. Not a hint. Not the faintest clue was given. Instead he trailed his fingers along the capped sleeve that clung precariously off her shoulder and down along her shoulder blade in answer. Rochelle swallowed hard, the feather softness of his touch as his hand worked steadily lower until it rested over the knot work of her gown's laced up bodice at the small of her back, claiming that last bit of territory and annexing it for himself. Annexing her for himself right there in front of God and everybody and she more than allowed it. For the briefest of moments they were pressed together, held practically heartbeat to heartbeat, the way she'd have agreed it was meant to be if only she'd known who it was behind that iron mask. It didn't matter that eyes lay on them, or that the quartet steadily played harder simply to watch how they'd adjust. For a singular moment she swore she felt time slow to a stop, but it was never meant to stay that way.

They both sensed the final crescendo flowing towards its conclusion, and the two mythical creatures came to an unspoken understanding. Her fingers had moved to toy with the cowl of his cloak, allowing the fabric to brush between them when the Dragon moved expertly to deflect and the Phoenix followed. With a tight whirl, the Dragon stepped out from a hold with her, and allowed the Phoenix to take flight. Her hair swept along as she spun, trailing his gauntlet, creating a ribbon of crimson fire. Her weightless motion danced like the licking flames which gave her her name, coming to finality when the end of their reach stopped her. The Dragon stepped up in one single, swift movement. In a flash he took her free hand, and she was caught. The spin she'd been in halted, and her wings snapped open with the motion, sending feather and a few locks of spun hair casting aloft in the rush of air.

His breath caught in that moment, she’d heard it over the music. She’d have sworn it.

The feathers of her wings were still unfurled as their bodies gently met, her impressive wingspan completely open and stretched wide as if to act as a brace and shroud.

Noah had done well to program the hologram to respond to her heart rate and motion, each action was liquid poetry. Rochelle shivered as the skirts of her gown caught up with her, surging back to sing past her legs and catch loosely around those of the Dragon. A single action had set the woman ablaze and brought her back from simply surviving to actually living step for precious step.

"Who are you?" She asked in a hushed and husky voice as her eyes once again studied his in question, her fingers fanned across his chest, the other held in his glove to keep her close and continue asking her for her compliance as they moved. Rochelle needed to know, the name, the face, the person who had begun to coax from her a taste of freedom once again.

Freedom... She'd once known it, briefly. Coveted the sensation that had drowned such fear and pain, one that had banished the threat of death and cushioned it with a promise of something far greater. She'd been told to live. By someone that was supposed to be Landon. Somehow who hadn’t been. But at that point, she hadn’t known that. Not yet… Not for another little bit.

In fact, the clock said two to midnight when the last note had been played and replaced by the sound of applause and chatter between guests. She couldn't focus on the words, didn't want to. Every highly tuned sense was tugged to her suitor as if he held them on string, captivated enough to momentarily hush the pain of loss and longing.

"You know the rules, Captain. No unmasking until Midnight." He’d said, letting her drift to her own footing as the song came to a close. Her magnificent gown flowing around her, settling after their final dance. It was something to behold, and there was no part of him that didn't want to peel the holographic mask from his features and reveal himself. Like his statement indicated, though, it wasn't time yet. "I could use a drink and some air, if you're free?" He extended his hand once again, inviting her to take it and join him.

Rochelle had huffed softly, her chin tipping in defiance against the rules she herself had set in stone in favor of tradition. Away from his touch, she was able to breathe and steady herself, able to clear the fog and bask in the slightly chilled ballroom "Touche." She’d countered with a bemused little grin, reaching to adjust her own mask.

Two minutes... The seconds were ticking down between them, stoking the flames of mystery that gleaned between them. She knew she could simply walk away and allow the secret to keep itself, never knowing and convincing herself that it was simply a dance and the atmosphere created by historical masquerades that had induced such a strong response. The straining of her ribs against her corset, as her lungs begged for the air necessary to feed her racing heart, said and demanded otherwise and the delicate little firebird found her hand once again fitting within the Dragon's gloved palm. "I don't drink, but I can gladly take up the offer for fresh air." She nodded, the fingers of her free hand once again shooing away from her face that random, persistent, irritatingly unruly lock of hair.

"Well the drink is for me, anyway." He teased, taking her hand once again. They moved toward the opulent double doors that led out onto the massive oval veranda on the far side of the ballroom. Thick curtains shielded most of the windows from the cool night air, even if it was all a projection, but a few tucked back neatly into woven bands of fabric to allow exit to the outside. As they neared, he plucked a glass from a passing waiter and took a swift drink.

A roll of her eyes would be her only response to his quip about his beverage of choice.

"You were hiding your own dancing skills, Captain." He’d rumbled as they passed the threshold, setting his glass down on a convenient surface. His voice played with her, teasing her for being modest, and still the Captain. She was hardly expected to be something she wasn't, but he saw no reason for her to play at the socialite while wishing to be a wallflower. Being glad for her burst of energy and willingness to let go, he was hoping to see more of that in her, no doubt.

Their eyes had looked up at the clock tower in the masquerade program’s fictional distance, immersed in the heavy late October fog, and underscored by the town lights below them. The thick haze was both beautiful and haunting. "It's almost time."

The chatter of the party goers slowly shed away to be forsaken by the sound of the silent night. Fog clung to the darkness, the first flurries of the coming winter season slowly trickled down, escaping the hold of the bitter night to cast yet one more token to the mystery. In less than 70 seconds worth of time the appearance of the first snow, however fictional, would seem quite fitting.

She’d rested lightly against a railing, her breath nothing more than frost teasing at her lips and nose. "I don't often have the chance to use them." She replied, looking over at him. "Admittedly you're the first I've ever had to really employ them with. You can gloat later." It wasn't her wish to be the center of attention, but it was her sense of honor and the need to be there for her crew that had lead her to make her appearance that night.

Tristan had long ago said that she was seen as a ghost, a shell of the bright, fiery woman they had come to know and love. It was disturbing to say the very least, and something she sought to remedy simply by being there and pretending to have found some sort of closure.

"Thirty seconds." Rochelle replied, and pushed away from the cold banister to bring her hands to the pins that held her elaborate mask in place, drawing at them as time ticked down the end ... and the beginning. However anticipated, the first chime of the clock made her flinch, the second brought about a chuckle, the third and her mask was off to reveal the soft porcelain features of the young Captain's face and she set the mask down on an empty table beside the discarded pins. "Your turn." She’d said, studying the still intact face of the Dragon's mask with almost childish glee.

There was no turning back from this now, not that he'd ever want to.

The possibility that there wouldn't be a shocking reaction to his unmasking seemed less and less likely as she truly thought about those last few moments.

In slow motion, or so her mind’s eye remembered it, he’d reached back up over his head with both hands and unhooked a false buckle on the back of the mask. Without having to say a word to the computer, he pulled the iron Dragon mask up before it shimmered and vanished into thin air. Left behind was simply the slightly ruffled image of Landon Neyes.

The first thing she saw as the mask disappeared were the spots lining up along his neck as the cloak fell away from the mask and its cowl rested down his back as a hood. Her eager eyes followed them to the revelation of his stubble covered chin and familiar lips, lips she'd only been allowed to taste during a time of tragedy - and they weren’t really his - but had often pondered what they'd feel like in happier times before. Next was his nose, the bridge of it attesting to having been broken a time or two, but adding an air of regal strength to the man's face... And then the eyes, the shape of them, the light of them tying off the rest of the picture as they lit with a smile and the mist of raw emotion.

This was a moment he'd later admit to having gone over in his fractured mind a thousand times. Not only while under the duress of the Romulans, but also after being rescued by her crew. He hadn’t wanted to imagine the swirling emotions or turmoil going through her head. Part of him had simply wanted her to be happy he was alive, and leave it at that... but he knew too much about what had actually transpired to believe she would be so removed from his 'death'.

(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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